Is the phrase “I have accepted Jesus” biblical? If not, what’s wrong with it?
Giving God Our Heart
There are so many ways we express faith in Christ but use the wrong terminology or words, and I know because I have done it, but we do want to be biblical when we tell others how we were saved. If we fail to mention repentance and faith, then we’ll leave out the fullness of the gospel that Jesus Himself brought (Mark 1:14-15). New believers (like I did) often say, “I gave my heart to Jesus,” but would He really want our hearts? I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust in Christ, but we can only bring one thing and that is hands full of sin which makes us run to God and plead for His forgiveness and mercy, but when God brings a person to repentance and faith, there is no way they can lose what they have not gained, no matter what language they use to describe it. I’m not saying someone can’t be saved if they don’t say the right things, I am only saying we ought to use language that is clear and understandable and that reflects Scripture. To give Jesus my heart would, in my opinion, not be enough. Besides, God’s Word says the human heart is deceitfully wicked and so much so that we can’t even know how corrupt it is (Jer 17:9), so until we understand our nakedness before God, we cannot see that we are sinners, and until we see that we’re sinners, we’ll never know what it means to be saved, so what are we saved from? From God Himself! God saves us from Himself and His holy wrath which abides on all who disbelieve (John 3:36b), but that’s good because God’s wrath makes God’s mercy highly relevant!
Believing in Him
Whoever believes in Jesus will be saved, and many state that very same thing: I believe in Jesus, therefore I am saved (John 3:16), and that is just what Jesus said is required, but the word “believe” is a lot more than head knowledge and the word “believe” has so many other connotations to it. I can believe my team will win the World Series but they have the lowest salary cap. It’s not likely they’ll even win their division, so what I believe does not make something true or cannot make something happen, just as what I believe doesn’t make something not be true. I can say “Gravity doesn’t exist” but a fall from a ten-foot ladder will prove I’m wrong. In other words, I can believe, but until I act on that belief, my words are just that; words! Words without action are like the winds in Kansas. They can blow up a lot of dust, but not much good comes from it. The Old English word “believe” literally means to “hold dear, love,” so to believe in Jesus means to love Him and to hold Him as the dearest thing there is. We seek the King of the kingdom above all things (Matt 6:33). It’s like being in a room. You can see a chair. You see it’s capable of holding you up if you sit on it, and so you believe in the chair…but you show you truly believe when you sit down and rest on it because you act on that belief. That’s trust! Believing in the chair means nothing until we sit down on it! Remember, even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19), but they surely don’t “hold dear” or “love” Jesus. I like to think of believing as “to be living” or “to be living in.” Now that’s faith with feet on it .
Come as you Are?
The old hymn, Come as You Are says just that, “Come as you are,” but we cannot stay as we are, because we are called to repentance and faith. A lot of people claim to know Christ, but the bigger question, is “Does He know you?” That’s where many will be rejected by Christ (Matt 7:21-23), so to say you believe but to live no differently than before, may mean you don’t have authentic, genuine saving faith, and you’ve got to get that right this side of the grave! Anyone that says they believe but lives in a way that is contrary to God’s Word cannot have any peace or assurance of their salvation. Those who live like the world will have no peace, perhaps because they’ve never made peace with God through Christ, so again, we can come as we are, but if we stay as we are, something’s terribly wrong (1st John 3). The born-again children of God have been remade into new creations (2nd Cor 5:17), so the old things should be slowly passing away, but from my experience, it does take some people longer to overcome certain, besetting sins than others, so we must be patient with others and also with ourselves.
I do not believe the phrase “I have accepted Jesus” is biblical. It’s almost as if we say, “Okay, I guess I’ll accept You Jesus,” but we should rather say, “God, thank you for accepting me because of what Christ has done.” It’s not that we must accept God but that God must accept us, and He will only accept us if we have trusted in Christ. Otherwise, we are all unclean before Him and unacceptable to Him. We are altogether a people of unclean lips, as Isaiah the Prophet wrote (Isaiah 6:5). We need to be made acceptable and the only way that’s possible is through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). All we can do is “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1st Pet 2:5), and not through our own selves (Eph 2:9). I believe if there is anything we can say about “accepting” is that the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, otherwise, as I said before, we are totally without merit or cause to be saved. It is solely an act of a sovereign God that rescues us from the pit of destruction, so if I accept anything, it is accepting His teachings and following Him. I know I am not acceptable with Jesus (2nd Cor 5:21).
No one has to have the “exact words” or know the right thing to say concerning salvation, because we all make many mistakes in our thinking, myself included, but to use words that are biblical are better because others can learn what it really means to be saved. You can say the wrong words, but thankfully, God sees into the heart and overlooks our inferiorities (of which I have many), so I don’t want anyone to think that just because they haven’t worded it right, they are not saved. That’s not the point of this article. It is an attempt to use biblical language when referring to salvation, and help us to better understand our call. You can use unbiblical language and be saved, but it’s better to be biblical in case someone else thinks about how they too can be saved. The “seeker” does not exist. It is God Who calls and elects (John 6:44; Eph 1). To say, “I found God” is to insinuate that He was missing. The Bible teaches that we were dead and needed quickening (Eph 2:1), and like Lazarus, we couldn’t raise ourselves from the dead, so it’s always, all about Jesus, and a personal, saving relationship with Him which comes by repentance and faith, just as He said (Mark 1:14-15). Have you come to that point in your life? It is my prayer that all who read this either trust in Christ, or that they will come to Him  today so that they might be saved.
Related reading for you: What Does it Mean to Be Saved by Grace? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.