There is one verse in the Bible that uses similar terminology to the phrase “accept Jesus” and interestingly enough, immediately defines what it means.
“But as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Another way to translate “received” is “accept.”
What though does that mean? The verse continues “to those who believe in His name.” In other words, it’s an explanation of how you “receive” Him—by believing in His name.
Believe has the idea of “placing your confidence in, relying upon, or trusting in.” God is asking us to come to come to Him as sinners and recognize that Jesus Christ—God’s perfect Son—paid for our sins on a cross and rose again the third day. Our penalty paid we need only “believe in His name.” In other words, we place our trust in Christ alone as our only way to heaven. The moment we do God gives us the gift of eternal life.
Unless we understand the meaning of the word “received,” we might accept Christ as a person the way I accept you or you accept me. But I am not trusting you to get me to heaven, and you are not trusting me to get you there.
There are those who similarly accept Christ as a person, but are trusting their good works, baptism, or church attendance to get them to heaven. That is not what the word receive means. To receive Christ in the biblical sense is to trust in Him alone.
Once we do so, we can claim the promise that we are forever His child: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”