In my growth I have talked to several pastors, one of them calmly accepted my explanation that I never “accepted” Jesus as my personal savior as an adult. I grew up with that concept and it seems to me I have always known and accepted Jesus.
A second pastor left me with the impression that if I couldn’t point to a single epiphany of accepting Jesus that, in his opinion, I had not made a real and sincere acceptance. I suspect that the second pastor’s attitude was shaped by Acts 9:3-20 where Saul is confronted by Jesus who asked “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” And the passage continues with Saul’s journey to Damascus and his conversion with the help of Ananias.
This has become the model for many Christians, and far too many think that the single moment of epiphany is the only “true” form of finding Christ.
I believe that acceptance of Jesus takes place in the heart because you allowed Jesus in, recognized him if you will. Whether that took place slowly, little by little over years or in a single defining moment is immaterial and only God can judge the completeness and the sincerity of your acceptance. God dwells in the still small voice just as much as in the burning bush and just as not all of the Israelites were privileged to see the burning bush, they believed in God just as sincerely as Moses.
The simple declaration: “I believe in God and that His son Jesus died to cleanse me, personally and individually, of my sins” is to me a complete acceptance of Jesus in my life. While different churches may have special ceremonies to mark that declaration they are just that; commemorations of an event that happen long before within the celebrant’s heart.
The church I was raised in did not practice actual baptism but rather an ongoing spiritual baptism. In my early 50s I was baptized in the Lutheran church and I did it on faith, not really understanding why it was necessary. One thing that helped me decide to do it was a statement by the pastor that, at least in part, it was a public declaration of my faith in God and Jesus Christ.
I believed then and now that making that public declaration was a significant part of defining myself, of who I am and how God expects me to conduct myself in the world. I wear a small gold cross on a neck chain; not to tell other people who I am but rather as a reminder when I put it on and as I notice it during the day of who I am what God expects of me.
That cross is on my mind right now because I just had the bale, the part the chain threads through, fixed after several years of not having the money to repair it. In hindsight, I think I should have had it fixed and let something else wait. Now that I am wearing it again, I realize how much I just wearing it is a reminder to me to try and do what Jesus would in every situation.
As children we tried to act in such a way that our parents would be proud of us. As Christians, in much the same way, we should try to act in such a way that God our loving father will be proud of us. And it’s OK not to do that perfectly every time, God understands that you are a human being and sees your heart felt attempt to live that up to that standard as success!