I’ve heard this comment several times. At times in reference to me. At times in reference to others.
But it’s such a contradictory term.
Many often view the act of becoming a Christian as one of saying a prayer, or framing a conscious decision along the lines of “I am a Christian”. They then proceed to start reading the Bible, pray at mealtimes, surround themselves with Christian friends, and sprinkle the word God into their conversations.
“I think God wants me to…”
“I feel really close to God…”
“I believe God is…”
Now don’t get me wrong. Becoming a Christian may involve saying a prayer. It will certainly involve making a conscious decision. It will definitely lead to habits of Bible reading, prayer, getting connected with the local church, and will almost certainly result in Godward thoughts and attitudes.
But perhaps the nature of that ‘conscious decision’ requires further introspection.
The devil is clever. If he can keep our concepts, our realities, our truths, our beliefs vague, they will never become concrete enough to weigh on us. And so he keeps us in the realm of jargon.
“Are you a Christian?”
“Yes, I prayed the prayer. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.”
Pretty jargon. The question remains whether these are hazy hoo-has, or concrete convictions. If you truly understand the depth of our fall, the weight of our sin, the terror of divine wrath, and the futility of our situation, and then and only then are you driven to lay everything down at the foot of the cross, then and only then can you see the wonder of the cross, the sufficiency of His blood, the newness of life, and the glorious love of the Heavenly Father.
That is the essence of the ‘conscious decision’. This is what it means to put our faith in Jesus. This is what it means to be Christian. A Christian is not one who merely claims he is one. Or one who goes through the motions of Christianity. It is the person who, by the grace of God, has his eyes open to the reality of imminent destruction, and, by the grace of God, clings to his only means of rescue – the cross of Christ, where the love of God was made manifest to us. And he clings to it. He does not just stop by and then move on. He keeps clinging on to it, tighter and tighter and tighter.
And the saving grace that comes to us does not result in a life of continued rebellion towards God. That the grace of God may abound more and more in our lives will be the result of increasing obedience to God. As Luther put it, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
if you are truly Christian, one who clings to the cross as the source of His righteousness before God, as the place where God’s favour, His grace, was irrevocably secured for us, able to sustain and strengthen and empower us for the rest of our lives, you will by definition be ‘devout’ – one eager to please the God who loved us first. There’s no such thing as a devout Christian. Our desires may weaken, but the cross is solid rock.
You either leave everything in your hands at the foot of the cross so that you may cling to it, or be merely content to stand in its shadow. Perhaps you might have relief from the scorching sun for a while. But be certain when this world crumbles, the only thing that remains standing will be the cross of Christ. And unless you’re clinging to it, you too will fall into destruction.
And it is this inevitable future that causes me both sadness and much rejoicing. I rejoice because I am saved from the destruction to come. But I am sad because not everyone is. And so it is my eager prayer that you would consider these things more. That you do not leave Jesus as some vague person, the Bible a vague collection of stories, the seriousness of our sin as something to laugh about, the cross of Christ as some symbol in a church. But wholehearterdly seek the truth. For the Bible considers our relationship with Jesus as a matter of life and death. Treat it then as a matter of life and death.