If you don’t choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you won’t go to heaven. That’s right. I said it. A sinner must choose Christ by faith in order to become a Christian.
I don’t know if you’ve been in some of the circles I have before, but there are pockets of people out there that get upset when you say that people must choose Christ in order to be saved. I commend them for their love of God’s sovereignty, but I also seek to correct anyone who has an issue with saying a sinner must decide to repent and believe the gospel.
In my book, From Death to Life: How Salvation Works I said
No one who truly seeks Christ is denied Him. So we can passionately exhort unbelievers to believe on Christ. We must tell them to come to Him now. We can encourage them to ask God to help their unbelief so they may draw near to Him through Christ. Any understanding of how salvation works that denies either the necessity of God’s sovereign initiative, or the reality of sinners sincerely choosing Christ through faith, is deficient. (page 82)
Seek the Lord
The Bible is replete with exhortations to seek God (Jeremiah 29:13, Isaiah 55:6 for example). So, since God tells people to seek Him, why shouldn’t we tell people the same thing?
Now, I get it. We do understand that no one comes to Christ unless God draws them (John 6:44). And that the Spirit is responsible for giving life as the flesh is no help at all (John 6:65). But, you see, we don’t have control over the sovereign realm of God. Our responsibility is to implore sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
And the reality is, when God brings life to a person’s heart, they then choose to follow Christ. Like Lazarus decided to get out of the tomb when he was resurrected, so too do sinners sincerely choose Christ by repenting and believing the gospel once God imparts spiritual life.
Furthermore, let me be clear here that left to ourselves, the only thing we will choose is sin and death. In our natural state, no one seeks God. Nothing we can say or do will make Jesus compelling enough for sinners to choose Him. They are dead in their trespasses and sins.
But God’s grace works in such a way that when He draws a person to Christ, He does not do so while the person is kicking and screaming. His grace effectually conquers all resistance, giving spiritual eyes and ears, so that the person sees the heinousness of sin, finds the gospel compelling, Christ lovely, and runs to Jesus as his or her only suitable and all-sufficient Savior.
A Choice to Make
It’s ok to confront people with a choice. They must see Christ as King or themselves and there is no in between. And they must choose the broad way or the narrow and there is no third road. Sinners must enter through the narrow gate or there is no eternal life. They must count the cost and surrender. And if they do, we know the grace of God was at work.
It’s amazing how Satan can take a wonderful doctrine, like the sovereignty of God in salvation, and distort it whereby brothers and sisters in the Lord are afraid of words like “choose” or “decide.” Just because we say someone must decide to follow Jesus, doesn’t make us proponents of decisionalism (which idolizes human autonomy).
It’s wonderfully true that God’s grace alone is what brought me to Christ. And His grace worked in my heart in such a sovereign and miraculous way, breaking down my hostility and showing me the glories of Christ in His blessed gospel, that:
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.