In 1966, I began attending a "Bible-believing" church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island that taught that a person has everlasting life when they "accept Christ as their Savior". I had done this so I was convinced that I was a Christian.
However, I didn't really have any "assurance" of salvation. Also I was confused by the inconsistencies that I heard in some of the teachings of this church, radio evangelists, T.V. evangelists, writers of Christian books etc., etc.
So I started to read the Bible with the attitude "Let's see what it says by simply reading it, ignoring any ideas I had gotten from churches, Bible teachers, radio or T.V. evangelists etc."
Nowhere in the Bible could I find the words "accept Christ as your Savior".
I soon discovered that the message in the Bible is amazingly clear; and it has nothing to do with what I had previously been taught. Every message in the Bible that is preached to groups of unbelievers begins with the command to "Repent".
In the Old Testament, the word repent is a translation of the Hebrew "nacham" which means "to regret". In the New Testament, the word repent is a translation of the Greek "metanoeo" which means "to change your mind".
So the meaning of "repent" is "to be truly sorry about sinning and to make a firm decision to, with God's help, turn away from sin". This is clear when you read passages in which the word is found.
For a good example of the meaning of repentance, read Luke 19:1-10. In verses 8 and 9 we read Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
A passage that really made an impression on me was Acts 26:19,20 where Paul was explaining his basic message to Agrippa. He said, Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
This is what God says to do. Repent (change your mind), and turn to God (realize that you can't obey God's law in your own strength so turn to Him and ask Him for the power to do it) and do works that prove you have changed your mind.
When I learned this, I repented and immediately received true faith in Christ. This was when I became a Christian, NOT when I "accepted Christ".
I NEVER would have become a believer if I had stayed in a church that preached "Accept Christ as your Savior". I was deceived into thinking that I was a Christian when I was not.
In the Bible, the word that is translated as "believe" is a translation of the Greek word "pisteuo" which is from the Greek "pistis" meaning "to be completely convinced".
To "accept" something is like "accepting the fact that Air Canada will take me from Charlottetown to Toronto safely because they have never had an accident on that route". This is a calculated risk. It is not "being completely convinced".
Neither Jesus, nor those He appointed to preach, ever said that people were to "accept Him" or "accept the fact that He died for them", or "make a decision for Him" or anything similar to these ideas.
I am not questioning the sincerity of people who preach or write these things. Perhaps they have been biased by someone else. I don't know, and I don't have the authority to judge them. But I do know, from reading the Bible, that they are definitely wrong.
In Matthew 4:17, we read that ...Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
When He sent the twelve out to preach, "...they went out and preached that people should repent." (Mark 6:12).
A number of Bible teachers and preachers quote John 3:16 and then say "All you have to do is believe". However, if you read the entire 3rd chapter of John you will realize that Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus that the reason God gives a person everlasting life is because they believe in Him. But then He is very careful to go on and explain that it is not POSSIBLE for a person to believe unless they first of all repent. Note that He said "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:20)
Those who do not repent CAN NOT come to the light.
Some people claim that the message of the Bible changed after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and that all a person has to do now is accept the "free gift of salvation".
To support this, they quote passages like Romans 6:23 which says the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But Paul, in this passage, is simply saying that eternal life is a free gift because you can not buy it or earn it.
He does not mean that it is free for anyone who simply decides to accept it. If he said this, he would contradict the message that he and other believers were preaching.
After Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He taught His disciples that ...repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47)
Peter preached Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19)
In his second epistle, Peter says The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.(2 Peter 3:9)
The ONLY alternative to perishing is repentance.
The Bible makes it clear in many places that a person HAS everlasting life if they believe in Jesus Christ. But no unbeliever can understand this. It is meaningless to them.
The only message that will get through to an unbeliever is "Repent". And it is not possible for a person to believe unless they first of all repent. That is why it is the basis of every message in the Bible that is preached to unbelievers.
And this is why I became a Christian when I repented and turned to God, NOT when I "accepted Christ".