Is the act of choosing Christ necessary for salvation? Be careful how you answer that—a great deal depends on who is asking. You see, if you say that no personal choice is necessary, you quickly find yourself with one of two groups. You will be either with those who say that God chooses some to be saved and others to be condemned (no matter what the individual would like) or with those who say that everyone has been chosen and all are or will be saved.
However, if you say that personal choice is necessary, you may find yourself accused of believing that the work of the individual is required for salvation. In the minds of some, choosing Christ is the one work that sets the saved apart from the unsaved. The spiritual effort of repentance and acceptance becomes the way we earn salvation. No longer is salvation fully the work of the Savior. Now it appears to be part His and part ours.
So how do you answer that question? You could mumble and quickly change the subject. You could jam something into your mouth to avoid having to answer (like in the TV commercials). You could call your pastor (after all, that’s what he is paid for). Or you could simply admit the truth—that the sovereign choice of God in salvation and the personal responsibility of the individual are both true. Both are taught in the Scriptures. However, let’s be very clear: only God does the work.
It helps me to think of this as the execution of a will. Let’s say that you are the long lost child of J. D. Moneybags. You have lived your life without knowing this until someone arrives at your door with the news that J. D. Moneybags has died and you are his heir. Throughout his life, J. D. Moneybags has tried to find you, to bring you back into the family, but you managed to elude him until the end. There are other heirs who are quite happy that you have been found. They look forward to welcoming you into the family and sharing everything with you. There is plenty for all.
Now, at long last, you are faced with a simple choice. Do you acknowledge your father and receive your inheritance or do you remain fatherless and poor? You can stay outside the family or enter in. The choice is yours. But you have done nothing to create the identity or inheritance that has been offered. Accepting the inheritance takes nothing but a willingness to belong.
This analogy isn’t perfect. In fact, it lacks in several ways. But the idea is much the same. Yes, you have to open your heart and want to belong. You have to choose the Savior. But that choosing is not a good work, not a saving effort on your part. All the work is God’s.
The Father loved you and sent the Son. Jesus went to the cross for you. The work is done, the inheritance is yours, you are welcome to enter the family. It doesn’t matter who you think you are or what you have done. But if you refuse the love, you get nothing. All this is yours . . . if you want it. If you don’t want it, it won’t be yours.
The transaction is not complete until you accept it. You cannot be part of the family until you enter in.