For example, will you be saved if you accept Jesus as your Savior because you are afraid of going to Hell and not because you love Jesus? Is accepting Him out of love better than accepting him because of testimony and evidence?
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Years ago, I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior because I was told I could wipe my sin slate clean and I really wanted that. However, I didn't want any more. I expected Jesus to "understand" a particular sin weakness I had and make an exception for me. Seven years later, this same sin weakness brought me to my knees, totally broken. It was then that I knew I needed to fully submit to Jesus and through deep tears, I recommitted my salvation prayer and fully gave Jesus my heart and life. He started the healing process and step by step led me out of my sin bondage into a life of calm and peace. So, how does my experience answer the question? Here's how: My motive for praying the Salvation prayer was to erase the past and fool myself into thinking that I could make my life better without His help. I just fell back into my worldly sinful lifestyle. Would I have gone to Heaven if I died while in that state? Only God himself knows, but I have doubts that I would have. But I don't have doubts today. I know that when I fully submitted and wanted to cast off my sinning lifestyle, He helped me do that. I desired the Holy Spirit, I wanted Jesus to live in my heart. My family watched me transform from a swearing,yelling, have the last word, know it all, to a soft and compassionate woman. They started to seek and some are saved. Praise be to God. So, I believe it does matter why you accept Jesus. Just saying the sinner's prayer to stay out of hell but not giving Jesus your heart, limits what He can do for your life and impact on others.
Our reason for accepting Jesus as our Saviour is personal, yet must be based on faith. Having faith means we trust in certain things: we trust that the Bible is truth, that Jesus is who He says He is and that Jesus is the only Way to get to Heaven. Some people are more emotional than others and may feel love towards Jesus immediatedly when making their decision, while others may be more intellectual and come to a conclusion based on evidence and testimony. Being afraid of Hell means we believe the consequence for sin is Hell. Being afraid of God is a good place to start. Romans 6:23 teaches the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We must repent: Jesus talks about those who don't in Matthew 11:20-24. Romans 10:9-10 says nothing about loving Jesus but says, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord & believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For one believes with the heart & is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." And I John 4:19 says "We love because He first loved us."
Let's look at the example of those who heard the very first Gospel sermon in Acts 2. After Peter made his impassioned speech to the multitude, verse 37 tells us "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.'" What we see is a response that takes two things into consideration: 1. guilt at being a part of the death of the son of God, and 2. a desire to avoid the consequences of that guilt. They show no love for Jesus at that point, only the recognition of guilt. We also see here that Peter says nothing about "accepting Jesus," only what they were to do...repent and be baptized. In Acts 8, we see a different scenario with Philip and the eunuch. It only states here that Philip "told him the good news about Jesus." What he told him must have impressed on the eunuch that Jesus was the way to salvation, because the eunuch desired to be baptized while still on his way back to Ethiopia. He did not wait until he got home, but stopped the chariot at some water and Philip baptized him. The Eunuch's response, likely, was not one of guilt, but one of a man that desired to be pleasing to God, no matter what route he had to take. Philip was obviously consenting to his reasoning because he agreed to baptize him. Paul was no lover of Christ when he repented of his evil persecution of the church, but his love came later with continued service for God.
First one must realize that love is defined differently by everyone due to circumstances they have experienced in life. Secondly, the manner in which they have sought God's salvation also will dictate how they accept Jesus into their heart. For example, a scientist or a doctor sees something that is unexplainable, and realizes that this must be of God. He realizes there is a salvation and accepts it out of seeing something unexplained in action. Thirdly, when someone is in crisis and broken in spirit, he seeks comfort. If Jesus is revealed to him at this time, and the Holy Spirit reveals himself to him, and he feels this love in his heart and accepts Him this way it is through love. So, there is no set, definitive answer to this because God created each of us uniquely and will seek each of us uniquely; whether it be emotionally, literally, or physically. What an awesome loving God we have!
First of all, I do not believe that a person can accept Jesus as Savior because fear for Hell's punishment; that person is not saved, is trying to buy fire insurance. Motives and a person's heart matters very much to God (Luke 6:45). God is our creator and redeemer, he loves us more than we can imagine and want us to love Him back, to obey him out of love not fear (John 14:15, 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18). Yes, in Proverbs 9:10 Solomon tells us that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" The Bible is talking here about respect and reverence for our Creator, not the type of fear or terror that people have for punishment. Parents can understand the difference between fear and respect. Although there are situations when parents need to discipline their children, any parent would like to be loved rather than feared. Any normal parent want their children to obey out of love not because fear of punishment. God, our heavenly father, is no different. For example, the IRS doesn't care if we pay our taxes out of patriotism or fear; all they want is our money regardless of motivation. God cares why we do things, and He wants us to obey Him out of love. The frontal lobe of our brain is the center of decision making process. The Creator equipped us with the capacity to love Him or reject Him, to obey Him or disobey Him; we call that free-will. God could have programmed us like robots, to sing Him praises daily and act in every situation just the way He wanted. For a time, a person out of fear might be able to do and say things just to avoid negative or painful consequences. However, sooner or later, that person will show their true felling. Imagine a marriage where one of the spouses stays in the relationship out fear. No normal person would accept such arrangement. It is impossible to be saved out of fear and 1 Corinthians 13 is the best explanation of why we cannot be saved without love; "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). In John 13:34, Jesus tells: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" and in Mark 12:30-31 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." Fear can never do that. In Heaven, where all the saved will be with their Lord, there is no fear, only love.
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