What does it mean to receive Jesus? Is it like receiving a blow to the face? Is it like receiving a gift you need, but don’t want: “I’ll take it because I need it, but I don’t want it”? Is it like receiving help from someone you’re so glad to receive, but you don’t like the person who’s giving it? Is that receiving Jesus? “I want your salvation. I want your forgiveness. I want out of hell. I want into heaven. I want health, wealth, and prosperity. You, Jesus, can be absent.” Is that receiving Jesus?
Is it like receiving a package from a postman? You don’t even know him — you don’t even want to know him — but you want this package. “I don’t give a hoot who brought it.”
Christian Hedonism presses into this experience of believing and receiving, and insists on knowing what that means. What do you mean by receive Jesus? In the Bible, there are lots of ways to believe and lots of ways to receive that are not saving. We have to know the difference between saving believing and unsaving unbelieving, and saving receiving and unsaving receiving.
“There are lots of ways to believe and lots of ways to receive that are not saving.”
For example, in John 6, they were so eager to receive Jesus and make him king, and he walked away. He wanted nothing to do with their desire to receive him and make him king (John 6:15).
Or, in John 7, Jesus’s brothers believed that he was a miracle-worker and said, “Come on, go up to Jerusalem and do your works” (see John 7:3–4). And John comments that not even Jesus’s own brothers believed in him (John 7:5).
Or, in John 2, many believed on Jesus, but he did not entrust himself to them because he knew what was in man (John 2:23–25). This was not saving believing.
Think of Simon in Acts 8: “Oh, I want the Holy Spirit. Whoa, you men are powerful. I will pay you for this.” And do you know what Peter said to him? “You and your money can go to hell” (Acts 8:20). That is not a receiving of the Holy Spirit that has any saving quality to it.
This is not simple. So much language is bandied about in the church today. People hear, and it just goes in and out. What do you mean? Would you please help me know what it is to receive Jesus so that it is a justifying receiving? Would you please help me?
My answer, based on what we’ve seen so far, is that Christian Hedonism presses into the actual experience of receiving until it discerns what this receiving really is. And what it finds in the Bible is that receiving Christ is a saving receiving if Jesus is received, not only as a rescuer and a master, but also as a treasure — a supreme treasure, an all-satisfying treasure.
Do you think you can have Jesus or do you think you can receive Jesus in a justifying, saving way because he’s rescuing you from what you don’t want to experience, and he’s telling you what you ought to do, and you’re doing your dead level best to do it, but he’s not your treasure? He’s not your exceeding joy? No way. That is not saving faith.
Matthew 13:44 describes the encounter with a king: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Or, in Matthew 10:37, Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” That’s not duty. That’s not obedience. That’s the dearest affections on the planet becoming the measure by which we are his. And if son, daughter, mother, father, or anything else in all creation is more precious to us than Jesus, we don’t have saving faith.
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8) In other words, receiving Christ in a saving way means preferring Christ over all persons and all things. It means desiring him, not just what he can do for you. It means being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.
“We don’t receive Jesus in a saving way when we receive him as a ticket out of hell or into heaven.”
We don’t receive Jesus in a saving way when we receive him as a ticket out of hell or into heaven. He’s not a ticket; he’s a treasure. He’s not a ticket to heaven; he is heaven. He’s what makes heaven heaven. It’s a devastating question when I go around and ask groups, “What if you could go to heaven someday, and you would have perfect health, perfect mental presence, no depression anymore, all the friends you want there, and every kind of leisure you can imagine, but Jesus is not there. Would that be okay?
And it’s scary how many people think, “That’s kind of what I thought heaven was.” That’s not what heaven is. Jesus is heaven. If you are trying to receive Jesus as a way to get what you want — but not him — you’re not receiving Jesus. You’re using Jesus.
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