Every Christian on the planet claims that they receive Jesus. But what does it mean to properly receive Him?
It seems to me that there are three key aspects involved in the proper reception of the Lord Jesus, all of which are often overlooked today.
1. To Receive Christ Is to Receive All that He Is
Some Christians receive Jesus as the Justifier but reject Him as the Justice-giver. By contrast, some emphasize His role of bringing justice to the world but downplay His role of justifying sinners.
But Jesus Christ is both Justifier and Justice-giver.
Some want Christ’s ministry of building up and deepening Christian community but reject His ministry of reaching the lost. Others reverse the order. To their minds, evangelism is essential while community is optional.
To receive Christ in this partial fashion is to receive Him on our own terms. It is to create a Jesus after our own image rather than welcoming Him for who He really is.
To properly receive Jesus Christ is to receive all that He is. He is a whole Person. We cannot take one part of Him and reject the other parts. As E. Stanley Jones once said, “A reduced Christ is the same as a rejected Christ.”
Bethany is the place where Jesus Christ—the whole Christ—was and is welcomed and received.
2. To Receive Christ Is to Receive All Who Are a Part of Him
Jesus said to His disciples, “He who receives you receives me.” Paul said, “Therefore, receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
To receive a person whom Christ has received is to receive Christ Himself. And to reject someone whom Christ has received is to reject Christ Himself.
This means that any Christian or church that welcomes some members of the Body, but rejects others, is rejecting Christ Himself.
Paul said as much in his first letter to the Corinthians:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.
In Bethany, all who have received Christ are received into fellowship. They are all welcomed.
To do otherwise is to say, “Lord, we’ll take Your hand and Your arm, but we don’t want Your foot or Your leg.”
To be exclusive in this way is to dismember Jesus Christ. This makes the healing of leprosy even more symbolically powerful when you consider the rotting away of limbs.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we should welcome people’s sins or empower them in doing evil. I’m talking about welcoming people while rejecting their sin. I’m talking about receiving all of those who are in Christ, all of those whom Christ has received.
The fact is: Jesus receives all who are His. And He welcomes all who are seeking Him.
Recall that when our Lord was on earth, He laid out the welcome mat to all kinds of shabby characters who were shunned by the pious, including prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, Gentiles, and Samaritans. In His day, eating signified communion, solidarity, and fellowship. Jesus welcomed sinners at His table as well as self-righteous Pharisees.
Exclusivism and narrowness betray the spirit of Bethany, and they expose the fact that the Lord has not been fully received.
In short, the Lord is looking for a people by whom He is completely received and fully welcomed. Not Christ plus something else, and not Christ minus a part of Himself. He is looking for a people who welcome Christ as all and in all.
As I’ve said and written elsewhere, sectarianism and elitism are like body odor. Everyone else can smell it except those who have it.
Sectarianism and elitism are religiously transmitted diseases that appear symptomless to those who have them. So be sure to take into consideration the testimony of others on this point.
Make no mistake about it: Jesus Christ does not feel at home in a Christian or in a church that is sectarian or elitist. And the root of both is self-righteousness, which trumps every other kind of sin.
3. To Receive Christ Is to Give Him First Place
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him … so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Ever since I became a Christian, I’ve met countless believers who treated their lives like the US government treats its various departments.
In the US government, there is the Department of Education, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, etc.
In the same way, I know many Christians who compartmentalize their lives into the department of family, the department of career, the department of hobbies, the department of entertainment, the department of religion, etc.
For them, Jesus is the head of the department of religion. And that department is separated from the other departments of their lives.
The “religious” part of their lives is what they do on Sunday morning. But the rest of their lives, including most of the books they read (for example), has nothing to do with Jesus. They get their excitement and zest for life elsewhere. For many, the goal of living is to make money, send their kids to college, and enjoy their children or grandchildren.
The New Testament, however, gives us a completely different picture. Jesus is Lord of all and Lord over all. That includes the totality of our lives. And for the devoted follower of Christ, Jesus and the things that relate to Him become their zest for living.
Making loads of money, sending one’s children to college, and having grandchildren—as good as those things may be—are not the hallmarks of the kingdom of God.
There is much more to life than living, bearing offspring, and dying. As Christians, we have a glorious destiny to fulfill that goes beyond ourselves.
God the Father has given Jesus the highest place—total supremacy—in all things. So the lordship of Jesus must touch every part of our lives, including what we read, listen to, talk about, and watch. His lordship must also inform the values that govern our day-to-day decisions.
In Ephesians, Paul wrote the following prayer:
… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith …
The Greek word translated “dwell” in this text does not simply mean to live in or take up residency. Rather, it means to make one’s home in and to settle down.
Jesus indwells all believers by His Spirit. But He seeks to make His home and settle down in our hearts. That is, He wants a Bethany. And that requires that we give Him the highest place in our lives.
Adapted from “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola, author.