“I Do” Always Implies “I Don’t”

Posted: October 13, 2010 in christianity, theology

This past weekend, Lindsay and I had the privilege of going to Main Event, an annual conference with the Navigators in Kansas City.  In a discussion on what it really means to “say yes” to Jesus, Norm Hubbard likened our commitment to Jesus with the commitment made when two people marry.  He spoke of his own wedding day, and how he was overjoyed and stunned by the simple realization that in saying “I do” to his wife, he was saying “I don’t” to every other woman on the planet – all 3 billion of them.  His commitment to his wife inevitably implied and entailed a rejection of all others.

But how often do we not think this way when it comes to our relationship with Jesus!  We think that we can say “I do” to Him and then go on our merry way, living the way we want, doing the things we want to do, saying “I do” to anything and everything that suits our fancy.  But in reality, our commitment to Jesus is (or should be) very similar to the commitment made in marriage.  In saying “I do” to Jesus, we should be saying “I don’t” to everyone else.  Acceptance of Jesus implies a rejection of all others.  Just as it would be ridiculous and reprehensible for a man to say “I do” to his wife and then mess around with another woman, it is more ridiculous and reprehensible when we Christians think that we can “say yes” to Jesus and other things (primarily ourselves).  True faith implies fidelity and submission to Jesus, the Christ, the Lord.  True faith should be radically self-denying and wholly God-focused.

Theologians call this “lordship salvation” – the doctrine which affirms Jesus cannot be our savior without being our lord.  John Piper writes,

The Bible makes it plain, I believe, that people who persistently refuse the command of Jesus’ lordship have no warrant for believing that they are saved. Such people should not be comforted that they are saved simply because there was a time when they “believed” gospel facts or walked an aisle or signed a card or prayed a prayer. In fact, Jesus seems far more eager to explode the assurance of false “professions of faith” than he is to give assurance to people who are intent on living in sin. Where does he ever bolster the “eternal security” of a person unwilling to forsake sin?

About faith (or “saying yes”), Piper writes,

[Faith] is not a simple mental assent to facts—not lordship facts and not Savior facts. It is a heartfelt coming to Christ and resting in him for what he is and what he offers. It is an act of the heart that no longer hates the light but comes to the light because a new set of spiritual taste buds have been created and Christ now tastes satisfying to the soul.

John MacArthur also has some helpful points when he notes,

The prevailing view of what constitutes saving faith continues to grow broader and more shallow, while the portrayal of Christ in preaching and witnessing becomes fuzzy … Faith has become merely an intellectual exercise. Instead of calling men and women to surrender to Christ, modern evangelism asks them only to accept some basic facts about Him… The gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority. This, in a nutshell, is what is commonly referred to as lordship salvation.

Of course, we all fail, constantly, to submit to Christ.  We struggle with saying “I don’t” to all the other things that vie for our worship and affections.  Just as temptation to adultery is a common struggle in marriages, so too the temptation to adultery against Jesus is a constant struggle for true believers.  However, understanding that saying “I do” to Jesus implies saying “I don’t” to all others, and yet struggling to live out that truth, is fundamentally different than thinking that we can say “I do” to Jesus plus anything else that looks appealing.  Lordship salvation doesn’t demand perfect obedience.  Rather, it simply affirms the dual call of the Gospel: repent and believe.

God, enable us to be faithful to you, to not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can say “I do” to all the things that our sinful hearts would worship above you.  Grant us true repentance and the grace to passionately pursue full submission to you and you alone.  Amen.


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