Decision for Christ
From Notes of Addresses
It may appear a little out of place to deal with the subject of decision for Christ when the help of Christians is in view. This arises from the fact that the expression, as popularly used, has an unduly limited sense. It is applied simply to those who having listened to a Gospel address decide to forsake their old lives—they “make up their minds to be Christians.”
Here at the outset a word of warning is necessary. At the end of an evangelistic meeting decisions for Christ are called for, and a certain number respond. With far too many it seems to be just a question of “deciding to live the Christian life,” or, as one put it, “I have decided for the religion of Jesus Christ”; and there is cause to fear that it amounts to no more than a kind of reformation.
A man goes into a temperance meeting and hears of the horrors of strong drink. Influenced thereby, he decides at once—makes up his mind—to sign the pledge, and then he tries to live up to his pledge. That is all that happens. Another man attends a gospel meeting, and after hearing of the horrors of sin and sin’s judgment, and reviewing his own life in the light of that, he makes up his mind to live the Christian life, both as being a set-off to his past, and as being the noblest of all lives to live.
Then he tries to live up to his decision. Thus the mistake is made of thinking that all that has been wrong can be rectified by an alteration in the future.
This is a fatal delusion. Deciding to be a soldier will not make me one. If I learnt the drill of a soldier and had the deportment of a soldier that would not make me a soldier. To don the uniform of a soldier would not put me into His Majesty’s service, though it might put me into one of His Majesty’s prisons for masquerading as a soldier without being one.
When people speak of “decision for Christ” in this way there is a serious fallacy in their use of the term. It signifies nothing beyond a religious reformation, just as the signing of a pledge signifies a moral reformation. But then “making up my mind” to be anything does not accomplish anything. I decide that I will do something, rather than that He shall do something.
All this is a form of doing for salvation. You ask people when and how they were converted, and often they reply somewhat as follows:—“I went to hear Mr. — preach, and he made me feel more deeply than ever before that my life was not right. So at the end of the meeting when he called for decisions I rose to my feet amongst others, went into the enquiry room and there decided for Christ.”
This is all what they have done—you observe. I asked a young man in Sydney, “What did you think this decision was going to do?” “Oh, well, I thought it would clean my slate”—in other words, he had an idea that God would be so pleased with his decision that He would say no more about his past and help him to live a better life. Thus his “decision” would be accepted in lieu of “repentance” and the great “sin question” would be left untouched!
Do not overlook the fact that sin is an awful reality carrying a penalty with it; and that penalty nothing short of death. There is no “first offenders act” in connection with sin—no merciful letting off, in order to give you a fresh chance to do better in the future. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). “Death [is] passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). This is what makes Christ and His atoning death a necessity. Christ alone can meet that need.
True decision for Christ is the fruit of the discovery of my desperate need, and is not a mere bit of religious or moral sentiment. This is illustrated by the case of Bartimaeus as recorded in Mark 10. It was his felt need of Christ that decided him to seize his first chance to reach Him. This is what happened on the Jericho road. His blindness was a need that only Christ could meet. No alteration that he could produce in his own life could lift him out of his darkness into the light of day. But Christ crossed his path and no sooner did he hear His Name than he put his decision into action. He cried aloud for mercy, and being called he came, and so was saved from dying in darkness.
Bartimaeus had a need. He confessed it and coming to Christ it was met. Thus it is my need of Him that brings me to Him, and my coming is the confession that there is no hope in myself and that I recognize in Him my Saviour and my Lord.
Thus when I do really decide for Christ, I decide against myself and it is this that we are so reluctant to do—it cuts against the very grain of our natures. That means something more than deciding that the “Christian life” is something better than the life we have previously lived. The root of the matter lies deeper. Not only has our outward life been wrong, but we are wrong and hopeless ourselves.
I am, let us suppose, in the Australian bush, and I injure myself and blood poisoning sets in. I first try to meet my own case by using every remedy I have at hand. I get worse however, until a friend comes and urges me to give up all effort of my own and seek the advice of his doctor in the city, 100 miles away. What he says of his ability, which he has proved for himself, and what I feel as to the failure of my own efforts, bring me to the point of decision. I at last decide against myself and my own efforts: then I decide for the doctor as the one who understands my need.
True decision for Christ, then, involves a definite decision against yourself. Moreover it does not stop with a merely mental decision: it really brings you in faith to Christ, even as it brought Bartimaeus to Him. He had not tried “many physicians” as a certain woman, nor was he like the father of the demon-possessed boy, who had to confess, “I brought him to Thy disciples.” The father decided for disciples, as the woman for doctors before either of them decided for Christ.
Bartimaeus decided for Christ straight away. He was at a juncture, the seriousness of which he did not then know. If he had missed that chance he would have missed his last, for Christ never again went that way. He was at the parting of the ways—an opportunity for sight, or doomed to darkness. He seized his opportunity and, receiving his sight, he followed Jesus in the way. His decision for Christ meant that henceforth Christ was Lord and Master to him.
The authority of Christ as Lord will be established in all our hearts if we really have decided for Him.