Christians often proclaim joyfully: "Jesus accepts everyone" and "does not judge anyone". Although these assurances are certainly true, I see that they are given a variety of different meanings. Unfortunately, some of them deviate from the revelation of Jesus as proclaimed in the New Testament.
In circles of the Grace Communion International the phrase is often used: "You belong to it". This simple statement expresses an important aspect. But it can also be interpreted differently (and it will). What exactly do we belong to? Answering these and similar questions requires care because we must believe in faith to exclude comparable issues so that we remain accurate and faithful to the biblical revelation.
Of course Jesus called everyone to himself, he gave himself up for all those who turned to him and gave them his teaching. Yes, he promised all those who listened to him that he would draw all people to himself (John 12:32). Indeed, there is no evidence that he rejected anyone, turned away from someone, or refused to meet someone who approached him. Rather, he also paid attention to those who were considered outcasts by the faith leaders of his time, and even dined with them.
It is particularly striking that the Bible knows how to report that Jesus also welcomed the lepers, the lame, the blind, the deaf and the dumb and communicated with them. He maintained contact with (in some cases questionably beleaguered) people, men and women, and ignored the beliefs of his time in the way he dealt with them. He also dealt with adulterers, Jewish tax collectors under Roman sovereignty and even with fanatical, anti-Roman, political activists.
He also spent his time with Pharisees and Sadducees, leaders who were among his most bitter critics (and some of whom were already secretly planning his execution). The apostle John tells us that Jesus did not come to judge but to save and redeem people for the Almighty will. Jesus said: "[...] whoever comes to me, I will not push him out" (John 6:37). He also instructed his disciples to love their enemies (Luke 6:27) to forgive those who wronged them and to bless those who cursed them (Luke 6, 28). When he was executed, Jesus even forgave his executioners (Luke 23, 34).
In all these examples it is expressed that Jesus came to the benefit of all. He was on everyone's side, he was "for" anyone. He stands for God's grace and salvation, which includes all. The remaining parts of the New Testament reflect in condensed terms what
we see in the gospels in Jesus' life. Paul points out that Jesus came on earth to save the sins of the ungodly, sinners, those who are "dead by transgressions and sins" (Ephesians 2: 1) were to atone.
The Savior's attitude and actions testify to God's love for all people and his desire to be reconciled with and bless them. Jesus came to give life and this "in abundance" (John 10:10; Good News Bible). "God was in Christ and reconciled the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5, 19). Jesus came as the Redeemer redeemed in their own sin and from the evil of other prisoners.
But there is more behind this story. A "more" that is by no means to be regarded as contradictory or in tension with the light that has just been illuminated. Contrary to the view of some, there is no need to assume that there are conflicting positions in Jesus' innermost, in his thinking and in his destiny. It is unnecessary to want to recognize any kind of inner balancing act, which one day strives for one direction and then correcting the other. One does not have to believe that Jesus was trying to reconcile two different aspects of faith, such as love and justice, grace and holiness at the same time. We may think such conflicting positions in our sinfulness, but they do not dwell in the heart of Jesus or his Father.
Like the Father, Jesus welcomes all people. But he does so with a specific request. His love is pointing the way. He obliges all who listen to him to reveal something that is usually hidden. He came to leave a gift in particular and serve everyone in a trend-setting, goal-oriented manner.
His welcome to everyone is less an end point than a starting point for a continuous, permanent relationship. That relationship is about giving and serving and accepting what he offers us. He doesn't offer us anything out of date or serves us in a traditional way (as we might prefer). Rather, he only offers us the best that he has to give. And that is himself. And with that he gives us the way, the truth and the life. Nothing more and nothing else.
Jesus' attitude and welcome action call for a certain response to the onwardness of himself. Essentially, it requires the acceptance of what he offers. In contrast to this, his gift of grateful acceptance, stands that which rejects it, which is tantamount to rejecting oneself. As Jesus draws all people to Him, He expects a positive response to His offer. And as he gives to understand, that positive response requires a certain attitude toward him.
So Jesus announced to his disciples that in him the kingdom of God was at hand. All his blessed gifts were ready in him. But he also immediately points out what reaction that so real religious truth has to entail: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" of the coming celestial kingdom. The refusal to repent and believe in Jesus and his kingdom is synonymous with the rejection of himself and the blessings of his kingdom.
The willingness to repent requires a humble attitude. It is precisely this acceptance of Him that awaits Jesus when He welcomes us. Because only in humility can we receive what he offers. Note that we have already received his gift, even before such a response has come on our part. It is, in fact, the gift we have received that evokes the response.
So, repentance and faith are the reactions that accompany the acceptance of Jesus' gift. They are neither a prerequisite for it, nor do they decide who it does it. His offer should be accepted and not rejected. What use should such a rejection also serve? No.
The grateful acceptance of his atoning sacrifice, which Jesus has always longed for, is expressed in a large number of his words: "The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10; Good News Bible). "It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick" (Luke 5, 31; ibid.). "Truly, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter" (Mark 10:15). We have to be like the soil that receives the seed from the sower, which “accepts the word with joy” (Luke 8, 13). "First seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness [...]" (Matthew 6:33).
Accepting Jesus' gift and thereby benefiting from his benefit means recognizing that we are lost and must be found, that we are sick and in need of a doctor who can heal us, that we can share with him without hope of a mutual exchange come empty-handed to our Lord. Because like a child, we cannot assume that we have something that he needs. That is why Jesus points out that it is those who are "spiritually poor" who receive the blessings of God and his kingdom of heaven, and not those who consider themselves to be spiritually rich (Matthew 5:3).
Christian doctrine has characterized this acceptance of what God in his generosity offers to all of his creation in Christ as a gesture of humility. It is an attitude that goes hand in hand with the admission that we are not self-sufficient, but must receive life from the hand of our Creator and Redeemer. Contrary to this trusting acceptance
Attitude is that of pride. In the context of Christian doctrine, the feeling of autonomy of God manifests itself in pride, a confidence in oneself, in one's own sufficiency, even in the face of God. Such pride is offended by the idea of needing something of God, which is of importance, and especially his forgiveness and grace. Pride then leads to that self-righteous refusal to accept from the Almighty something indispensable, which one assumes to be able to take care of. Pride insists on being able to do everything alone and deservedly reaping the resulting fruits. He insists that he does not need the grace and mercy of God, but that he can prepare for himself the life that suits his own interests. Pride fails to be committed to anyone or any institution, including God. He expresses that nothing in us really needs change. As we are, it is good and beautiful. Humility, on the contrary, recognizes that one can not seize oneself of life. Instead, it acknowledges not only the need for help, but also the change, renewal, restoration and reconciliation that only God can grant. Humility recognizes our unforgivable failure and our utter helplessness to bring about an innovation of ourselves. We need the all-embracing grace of God or we are lost. Our pride must be made to die so that we can receive life from God Himself. The open-mindedness to receive what Jesus tells us, and the humility are inseparable side by side.
Ultimately, Jesus welcomes everyone to give themselves up for them. His welcome is therefore goal-oriented. It leads somewhere. His destiny necessarily includes what requires the inclusion of himself. Jesus points out that he has come to enable his father to be worshiped (John 4,23). It is the most comprehensive way to point out the meaning of welcoming and accepting ourselves. With worship, it is made absolutely clear that God is the one who is worthy of our unbreakable trust and loyalty. Jesus' surrender to himself leads to the true knowledge of the Father and the willingness to let the Holy Spirit work in him. It leads to the sole worship of God by virtue of the Son under the action of the Holy Spirit, ie worship of God in truth and spirit. Because by giving Himself for us, Jesus sacrifices himself as our Lord, our Prophet, Priest and King. With this he reveals the Father and sends us his Holy Spirit. He gives away according to who he is, not who he is not, and also not in accordance with our wishes or ideas.
And that means that Jesus' path requires judgment. This is how to classify the reactions given to him. He recognizes those who revile Him and His Word, as well as those who reject the true knowledge of God and His right worship. He distinguishes between those who receive and those who do not receive. However, this distinction does not mean that its attitude or intentions in any way deviated from those we have discussed above. So there is no reason to assume that his love has decreased after these judgments or turned into the opposite. Jesus does not condemn those who turn down his welcome, his invitation to follow him. But he warns her of the consequences of such a refusal. To be accepted by Jesus and to experience His love calls for a certain reaction, not for any or any reaction.
The distinction that Jesus makes between the various reactions he receives is evident in many passages of Scripture. So the parable speaks of the sower and the seed (where the seed stands for his word) an unmistakable language. There are four different types of soil, and only one area stands for the fruitful receptivity expected by Jesus. In many cases, he goes into how he, his word or his teaching, his Heavenly Father and his disciples are either willingly accepted or rejected. When a number of disciples turned away from him and left him, Jesus asked if the twelve who accompanied him wanted to do the same. The famous replica of Peter read: “Lord, where should we go? You have words of eternal life" (John 6,68).
Jesus' basic words of introduction, which he brings to people, are reflected in his call: "Follow me [...]!" (Mark 1,17). Those who follow him differ from those who do not. The Lord compares those who follow him with those who accept an invitation to a wedding and contrasts them with those who refuse the invitation (Matthew 22,4: 9). A similar discrepancy is revealed in the older son's refusal to attend the festival on the occasion of his younger brother's return, although his father urges him to come (Lk15,28).
Urgent warnings are given to those who not only refuse to follow Jesus, but even refuse his call insofar as they also prevent others from following, and sometimes even secretly prepare the ground for his execution (Luke 11,46; Matthew 3,7; 23,27-29). These warnings are so powerful because they express what should not be done according to the warning and not what will hopefully happen. Warnings are given to those we care about and not to those we have nothing to do with. The same love and acceptance is expressed both to those who accept Jesus and to those who reject him. But such a love would also not be sincere if it did not respond to the different reactions and their associated consequences.
Jesus welcomes everyone and calls them to oppose both him in an open manner and the one he has prepared - the reign of God's kingdom. Even though the network is widely spread and the seed is spread everywhere, the reception of oneself, the trust in him and his successor require a certain reaction. Jesus compares them to the encouragement of a child. He calls such receptivity faith or trust placed in him. This includes the regret of putting ultimate trust in someone else or something else. This faith manifests in the worship of God through the Son through the Holy Spirit. The gift is given to all unreservedly. There are no prerequisites that could exclude any beneficiaries. The receipt of this unconditionally granted gift, however, is coupled to an expense on the part of the recipient. This requires the full task of his life and his responsibility to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit with him. The effort is not to pay anything to the Lord, so that he is inclined to surrender to us. It is the effort to free our hands and our hearts to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. What we receive for free is bound to an expense on our part, so that we can participate in it; because it takes a departure from the old, corrupted ego to receive new life from it.
What we require to receive God's unconditional grace is carried out throughout the Scriptures. The Old Testament states that we need both a new heart and a new spirit, which one day God would give us. The New Testament tells us that we need to be spiritually reborn, need a new being, stop living out of ourselves, and instead have to lead a life under the reign of Christ, that we need spiritual renewal - recreated after that Image of Christ, the new Adam. Pentecost not only refers to God's sending of the Holy Spirit to indwelling his own, but also to receiving his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Life, receiving him, and being filled with him.
The parables of Jesus make it clear that the reaction he expects to receive the gift he has offered us will involve an effort on our part. Keep in mind the parables of the precious pearl or the purchase of a field that hides a treasure. The right respondents must give up everything they own to receive what they have found (Matthew 13,44:46;). But those who give priority to others - be it land, home, or family - will not share Jesus' and His blessings (Luke 9,59; Luke 14,18-20).
Jesus' dealings with people make it clear that following him and sharing in all of his blessings requires the task of everything that we might value more than our Lord and His Kingdom. This includes the renunciation of the pursuit of material wealth and its possession. The rich leader did not follow Jesus because he could not separate himself from his goods. Consequently, he could not receive the goods offered to him by the Lord (Luke 18, 18-23). Even the woman convicted of adultery was called upon to change her life fundamentally. After being forgiven, she should no longer sin (John 8,11). Think of the man by the Betesda pond. He had to be ready to leave his place there as well as his sick self. "Get up, take your mat and go!" (John 5,8, Good News Bible).
Jesus welcomes everyone and accepts them, but a reaction to Him does not leave anyone as he was before. The Lord would not love man if he simply left her as he found her at the first meeting. He loves us far too much to simply leave us to our fate with pure empathy or compassion. No, his love heals, transforms and changes the way of life.
In short, the New Testament consistently proclaims that responding to the unconditional offering of himself, including everything that he has in store for us, goes hand in hand with denying ourselves (turn away from ourselves). This includes shedding our pride, renouncing our self-confidence, piety, gifts and abilities, which includes our self-empowerment of our lives. In this regard, Jesus shockingly states that when it comes to following Christ, we have to "break with father and mother". But beyond that, following him means that we also have to break with our own lives - with the wrong assumption that we could make ourselves the lord of our lives (Luke 14, 26-27, Good News Bible). When we get involved with Jesus, we stop living for ourselves (Rom 14: 7-8) because we belong to another (1 Corinthians 6,18). In this sense we are “servants of Christ” (Ephesians 6,6). Our life is completely in his hands, it is his providence and guidance. We are what we are in relation to him. And because we are one with Christ, "in reality, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2,20).
Jesus indeed accepts and welcomes every single person. He died for everyone. And he is reconciled with all - but all this as our Lord and Savior. His welcome and acceptance are an offer, an invitation that requires a response, a willingness to accept. And this willingness to accept is bound to receive exactly what he, as he who he is, holds for us - no more and no less. That is to say, our reaction involves the ability to speak-the detachment of everything that prevents us from receiving from him what he offers us, and what hinders our fellowship with him and the joy of life in his kingdom. Such a reaction is costly - but an effort that is well worth it. Because for our loss of our old self we receive a new ego. We create space for Jesus and receive his life-changing, life-giving grace empty-handed. Jesus accepts us wherever we may stand to take us on his way back to his father in the Holy Spirit now and for all eternity as his fully became healthy, spiritually reborn children.
Who wanted to participate in something less?
from dr. Gary Deddo