During his high priestly prayer (as it is sometimes called), prior to his crucifixion, Jesus Christ prayed to his heavenly Father, ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’ (John 17:3)
In order to enter into that relationship which Jesus is talking about, a decision does need to be made. A person needs to ‘start’ that relationship. Now this is what the whole topic of evangelism is all about. It is about ‘pressing others’ to make a decision for Christ. A person does need to make a decision for Christ. Without that decision, a person is lost. There is a real dividing line — albeit unseen to many, but it is there. There are those who are ‘for’ Christ, and there are those who are ‘against’ Christ. Those who are ‘for’ Christ, would fall into the category of all those who have received him, as in John 1:12: ‘But to as many as received him, to them he gave the power to be called the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name.’ (John 1:12)
In this sense, and as God leads us to those individuals who are ‘ripe for the picking’ (which is central), we need to be continually ‘pressing others’ for that radical sense of committment to Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. (An example of this would be the encounter Jesus had with the woman at the well. She was ‘ripe’ for the picking — her heart was ‘wide open’ to receiving Christ as Lord.)
Now having said this, I want to also address what I believe is a current ‘need’ in our society (especially the west), where Christianity has been preached for years, but, somehow, it seems that many are not responding to the message. The question is, why? Why are some people so slow to believe, when presented with the message? How come their lives are not changed? What has gone wrong?
While there may be many good answers to these questions, I believe that one of them that beckons to be heard is that we, as Christians, have had it all ‘backwards’ when it comes to this whole idea of what it really means to have eternal life (which is why I chose the above verse).
Christianity is not so much making a decision, as it is knowing God. It is not so much ‘coming’ to Christ, as it is trusting in Christ. It is not so much believing in the message of the Bible, as it is, believing in the one whom God has sent. It is not so much believing in Christ as Lord and Savior as your life and trusting in him for the forgiveness of your sins, as it is coming to know him in a deep, and personal, and intimate, manner, as though you had finally met the very one you had been searching for all along. (Keith Green said it well when he defined a Christian as being someone who is ‘bananas for Jesus’.)
We have a lof of cliches (I use them, too) and a lot of expressions that we use when it comes to knowing God and trusting in Jesus Christ. Evangelists use them, I use them, the whole church uses them. But are we always getting at the heart of the message when we say, ‘Trust Christ and you will be saved’? Does our life reflect this reality? What indeed is motivating us when it comes to winning others for Christ?