Part IV of our series on Opening Your Home
Becoming a Christian is often described in terms of hospitality—e.g., “accepting” Christ or “opening your heart” to Christ. We read in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” and we add in the words, “at the door of your heart.”
The whole transaction is described as a private, personal experience—the “sinner’s prayer.” Here’s a sample version from www.sinner-prayer.com:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe you died for my sins and rose again. Please forgive me of my sins. I am trusting you, and you alone, to take me to Heaven when I die. Thank you for saving me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.”
In fact, people praying this kind of “sinner’s prayer” are often told to pray it “with every head bowed and every eye closed” so that the individual can focus completely on what is happening inside.
The problem is, such a concept is absolutely, completely, emphatically unbiblical. Nowhere in the Scripture is accepting Christ portrayed as something that happens privately, in your heart.
Remember the spirit/soul/body diagram? In the Bible, the way that you receive Christ into your spirit…is to receive him bodily. We receive Christ by hosting him and those who he sends in the real, live, flesh and blood world. (Remember: Christianity is a physical religion!) The Bible makes clear that if we do not accept Christ “in the flesh,” we cannot accept him “in the spirit.”
If we wanted to do a biblical “sinner’s prayer,” we’d do it something like this: We’d shake the person and tell them to keep their eyes open and say to them, “Now, stay awake! Be ready! You do not know the hour or the day he is coming. Stay awake! Be ready! For the Lord will be visiting you soon!” And through the Scriptures we’d show them the “guises” the Lord most often travels in, and the messengers he most often sends in his name, and we’d say: “Now keep an eye out for such, for to receive them is to receive the Lord personally. The Lord will be coming to you soon; be ready to receive him!”
In other words, receiving Christ is a physical act of hospitality that changes you spiritually, not a spiritual act of will that changes you spiritually.
Last week we talked about prevenient grace—how God surrounds his creatures moment by moment with his love, wooing them and creating within them the capacity to respond to him even through their spirits are dead and enslaved to sin. Well, the grace of justification is an extension of that prevenient grace. Christ comes to us “from the outside in,” and we are enabled to receive him, in real life, in the real world.
That’s what happened at Christmas: Christ came in the flesh! He didn’t come into the world through the spirit, but through the body. And it is the consistent witness of Scripture that this is the way Christ still comes to us today.
Are you awake and ready for the Lord’s visit today? You sure?