One of the most common things you might hear from people who claim the name of Christ is that they have received or accepted Jesus into their hearts. Or you might hear people trying to evangelize by asking people to do so. And while I think it is important that we must come to terms with Who Jesus is and we must acept Him for Who He is, I feel like saying what Inigo Montoya does here when I hear most people say this. I'd say that many people who say they have received Jesus mean it in this sense. And that type of thing is utter nonsense...I mean, the world has taken notice of that performance and it was even parodied on Glee. I'd offer that if people think that Jesus just wants to be our friend and just wants a lot more friends, then they really don't accept Jesus for Who He is...at least not from what I read in the Bible. This puts more of an emphasis on how we Christians portray and defend the name of Jesus. I can't lay out every way that this needs to and should be done, but I'd like to suggest three things that we need to do: 1) show Christ has changed our lives, 2) present the Gospel to people, and 3) defend the name of Jesus by confronting false notions of what it means to be a Christian.
The most important thing that Christians need to do is show fruit of bearing repentance of our sins. Look, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, it means that He creates a new heart with new desires. That doesn't mean we don't still struggle with sinful desires of the flesh, but we should be working through the power of the Holy Spirit to mortify our sin. If people can't look at our lives and see a difference between us and the world, then what are we telling them that it means to know Jesus and follow Him? I don't want to sound legalistic, but we need to take an inventory of the things that we are participating in and see what kind of witness we are providing to both believers and unbelievers alike. And let's remember that Scripture calls us to not love the world (1 John 2:15-17) or be friends with the world (James 4:4). Let's be clear here...it is not that we do not love the lost, but rather that we do not love the worldly system and the things of the world. Jesus said that we must even deny ourselves before we can follow Him...and when you look at what the original text means, He is saying that we need to have nothing to do with our former selves. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:20-24, we are to lay aside the old self and put on the new self. In fact if you read starting in verse 17 and go through to verse 32, you can get a sense of the difference between the old man and the new man. There are many other passages about Christian living throughout the New Testament and we need to be reading and applying them more and more every day. This is what we need to be doing in our own lives in order to really show Who Jesus is and how He has changed our lives. And this will only serve to make us more effective when we actually go to tell others about Jesus.
Which brings us to the next area in which we can make a clear presentation of Who Jesus really is...presenting the Gospel to people. A lot of people might say, "Well, duh", to this, but we can clearly see that many people who claim the name of Christ really don't know what the Gospel is. A lot of people have been told to pray a prayer and receive Jesus into their hearts or receive Him as their Lord and Savior. The problem is that nobody took the time to tell them what they needed to be saved from and what His Lordship entails. Somebody might have made them think of how something was missing in their life or that they don't feel like things are going the right direction for them. Both of these statments are true, but they don't get to the heart of the problem. The problem is that man was created perfect by God, Who is perfect and holy...there is no sin in God and He created man to glorify Him and allowed man to live in communion with Him. However, man sinned and we all carry this sin with us. This sin separates us from God and because He is just and righteous, He must punish that sin. And the punishment, just as He told Adam and Eve, is death. Not just death in our human bodies, but an eternal death in the resurrected bodies that will last forever. However, God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and accepted into His presence forever. Jesus came down from Heaven, where He had been worshipped by angels since they were created, was born as a man and lived a perfect life (in thought and deed) even though He was tempted in every way that all mankind has ever been (and to an even greater degree). Then He took on the wrath of both man and God and took the punishment that we deserve (and have earned) on the cross because only He could pay the price for us. And in order to be brought back into a right relationship with God, we must put all of our faith in Jesus and His work to save us (not our works) and repent of our sins. Repenting means that we must turn back from our sins and turn to God and follow Him. This means that our lives will undergo some drastic changes. Some people change quicker than others, but all Christians will bear the fruits of repentance. This is the true Gospel that we need to be presenting to all people. We need to stop assuming that people who claim the name of Christ have actually heard the Gospel. And we need to also make sure that we never present some watered-down version that doesn't show how bad our sin is because then we are showing a fear of man instead of fear of the LORD. Look at how the Apostles presented the Gospel in Acts. Peter didn't hesitate to tell the people that the Messiah had come and that they killed Him. Then he told them to repent and be baptized and many thousands were saved. Who are we to present the Gospel in any other fashion? There are many who will, but we don't need to follow them.
Instead, we need to defend the name of Jesus against such people. There are some who will say that God loves you for who you are. The problem with that is that we are sinful and God hates sin. We should not let people go on believing that God loves us for our sinful ways...the truth is that God loves us in spite of who we are. Then there are others who will say that God is love and thus, He can not punish good people in Hell forever. The problem with that is, as we stated earlier, God is just and righteous and can not leave sin unpunished. What would you think of a judge who let a murderer walk free because he was so loving that he couldn't bear to punish the convicted murderer? This "god of love" is merely an idol that people have made up in their own minds do that they can cling to their sins. There are still others who say that you can accept Jesus as Savior, but you don't have to accept Him as Lord. In other words, you can put your faith in Jesus without changing your life to turn away from sin. I don't see how that makes any sense, especially in light of what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 16:24-26. How can we try to hang onto our sinful lifestyles and still follow Him? It just doesn't work according to Jesus. We have to lose our lives for His sake...we have to deny ourselves...and only then can we follow Him. If we are unwilling to defend the truth against these types of false teaching, then I would say we are failing to show love to those who are following the false teachers. In fact, we're really just loving ourselves and protecting ourselves from having people dislike us and/or persecute/ridicule us. And then we're not sharing in the sufferings of Christ, as Scripture calls us to do.
So, dear Christian, let us please be living in a manner worthy of our calling. Let us present the true Gospel to people and let God work through us as we do so. And let us defend the name of Jesus and confront false teaching when we see/hear it. Then we might really see more people receiving Jesus and accepting Him as He is presented in the Bible.