The idea that a decision is needed in order to become a Christian strikes many people as very strange. Some imagine that they are already Christians because they were born in a Christian country. ‘After all,’ they say, ‘we aren’t Muslims, or Jews, or Hindus, or Buddhists; so we must be Christians!’ Others think that if they have been brought up in a Christian home and taught to accept the Christian creed and Christian standards of behaviour, nothing further is required of them. But, whatever our background and upbringing, each of us as responsible adults must make up our own minds for or against Christ. We cannot remain neutral. Nor can we just drift into Christianity. Nor can anyone else settle the matter for us. We must decide for ourselves.
Even to agree with all that has so far been written in this book is not enough. We may admit that the evidence for the deity of Jesus is compelling, even conclusive, and that he was in fact the Son of God; we may believe that he came and died to be the Saviour of the world; we may also admit that we are sinners and need such a Saviour. But it isn’t these things that make us Christians. To believe certain facts about who Christ is and what he has done for us is a vital first stage, but true faith must turn such mental belief into a decisive act of trust. Intellectual conviction must lead to personal commitment.
I myself used to think that, because Jesus had died on the cross, everyone in the world had been put right with God by some kind of rather mechanical transaction. I remember how puzzled, even offended, I was when it was first suggested to me that I needed to take hold of Christ and his salvation for myself. I thank God that he later opened my eyes to see that I must do more than face up to the fact that I needed a Saviour, more even than admit that Jesus Christ was the Saviour I needed; it was necessary to accept him as my Saviour. This way of putting things is certainly prominent in the Bible:
- The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
- The LORD is my light and my salvation.
- O God, you are my God.
- The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
One verse in the Bible, which has helped many seekers (including myself) to understand the step of faith we have to take, focuses on the words of Christ himself. He says: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.’
John Stott, Basic Christianity, New edition. (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 155–156.
I have just finished a study of this fantastic book. In this study, I deal with seven chapters of Stott’s book. It is available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Question Subscription Service.