I have heard a lot through the years about accepting Jesus as savior but not as Lord. This never made sense to me as I always had the unspoken conviction that when you give your life to Christ, you get the whole package or nothing. Then I came across Dietrich Bonheoffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” and others who articulated what was in my heart. They spoke of the notion of Optional Lordship, and cheap grace. This helped to form my conviction at a young age about what it means to be saved.
The question of Lordship is this: Can Christ save those who will not follow him but just go to Him to get cleansed from their sins? Can you separate Him saving you from Him being your Lord? That’s like getting married because you can’t stand being alone but never giving your heart to your spouse.
Imagine a nine year old boy who tends to stray too far from his family farm. His father has warned him many times, “Son, I don’t what you going beyond the fence. There are dangerous animals and holes you can fall into”. His son says (like most boys), “OK dad,” but when his father turns his back, the boy wanders off and ends up falling into a well. His father goes seeking for him, calling out his name. He hears a faint cry and begins to answer as he follows his son’s voice to the well. As he gets closer, he could hear what his son is saying. “Daddy would you forgive me? Daddy would you forgive me?”. Over and over again the boy pleads. His father answers, “Yes, son, I will forgive you, but I have to deal with why this happened”.
The father will forgive the boy but he still has to get him out of the pit. The two actions go together. It would not make sense for the father to pronounce forgiveness and walk away.
Peter helps to explain how salvation is intertwined with Lordship when he spoke to the exiles in his greeting:
The people chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus, the Messiah, and to be sprinkled with his blood.
1 Pet 1:2 ISV
Notice that being chosen (saved) is inseparable from being sanctified by the Spirit resulting in obeying Jesus.
To believe God only for your sins is a sign of immaturity and incompleteness. This is why the term “accepting Christ” is limited as an expression because it implies that you can bargain for whatever you want. Jesus never used the term, but instead said, “Follow Me”. When you follow someone, you cannot negotiate the terms.
Many Christians are stuck in a sin-repentance or pass-fail relationship with God. The question of who owns the throne of their hearts has never been settled, so they live their lives focused on sin not on the overall kingdom.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God
Hebrews 6:1 ESV