You hear it on religious radio programming, and sometimes in conversations. Somebody relates an incident and says, “And right then I gave my life to Jesus.” Without doubting the sincerity of these people, when I hear that I immediately think of several questions.
One such question is, “You say you gave your life to Jesus, but did you really?” That may sound a bit harsh, but it is a valid question. What exactly does giving your life mean? Obviously, it does not mean that one has given his life in the sense of dying physically on another’s behalf. Therefore, most people would take it to mean giving every aspect of life to the Lord. Therein is the basis for the question. If you are giving everything of your life to Jesus, then why hold back anything? Most people who use this phrase are from a tradition that holds that all that one needs to do to be saved is to believe, and maybe say a prayer. My question, then, is, why would one who gives his life to Jesus hold back obedience? Why not follow the whole will of God, including (among other things) immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins? The typical answer is that these people believe in baptism, but that it is something that can follow later, and sometimes much later, than salvation. But is that what God says? “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added) “Arise, and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) If immersion is how one receives forgiveness of sins then giving oneself to Christ without immersion is equivalent to surrendering everything to him except your sins. If you hold back surrendering your sins to God, can you really say you have given all of your life to him?
Another important question is, did he accept your gift? People are often offering me free gifts. The offers come in e-mails, snail mail, or by phone. Most of the time I reject these gifts. Sometimes friends or co-workers offer me food. Usually I accept, but sometimes (especially if it is cheesecake) I reject the gift. Just because we have given our lives to Jesus does not mean he accepted the gift.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt 7:21-23)
Why would Jesus reject the gift of our life? It is not because it is not something he wants (like me and cheesecake). The reason he gives is that the giver is not doing the will of God. This relates to my first question. If we don’t give in the way God demands, or if we give just to demand our lives back, then he may reject the gift.
Maybe the most important question is, so what? The scripture speaks of Jesus giving us life, but never of us giving our life to him. It is not as important to say that I have given my life to Jesus as it is to say that I have accepted Jesus into my life. Is Jesus in me? Have I clothed myself in him? “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14) And how do we fulfill Paul’s admonition? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27)