04 Jun

10 Surefire Ways to Fill Your Church with False Converts

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar the evangelism ministry called Way of the Master led by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, but I am learning so much and being challenged in great ways toward better gospel ministry. There’s a good chance that this ministry is broadcast into your living room every week, and you’re not even aware of it. Here’s their channel listing and schedule. If you watch it, you’ll in no way be disappointed!

The other day as I was watching an episode, Kirk and Ray gave a most important list for us as gospel ministers and churches to consider. It was their top 10 ways to fill our churches with false converts. Now, a false convert is somebody who goes through the motions externally (i.e., praying a prayer, walking an aisle, crying), but nothing happened internally. We’ve all seen this happen before. A person comes forward in a service, supposedly repents and trusts Christ, and soon goes back to their lifestyle of godlessness and unbelief. They made a “decision,” but they were not converted.

You see, we can do all sorts of things that can influence or push somebody to make a “decision.” In fact, we can manufacture in people almost any response we desire by the use of certain methods. But if we manufacture it, is the “decision”real? I think not. For this reason, our churches are full of false converts.

Here is their top 10 list (my additions are in italics, and yes, I’m being sarcastic). Please remember as you read these that these are things we should seriously avoid:

  1. Don’t mention anything about future punishment or tell the sinner to flee the wrath to come. (We wouldn’t want to offend anybody.)
  2. Instead, preach the love of God with the promises of peace, joy, love, and fulfillment. (Jesus is just like Santa Claus.)
  3. Appeal to the emotions rather than the will and the conscience. (Let’s just get happy in the Lord!)
  4. Gloss over the serious nature of sin, spreading it around so that none feel personally guilty. (Everybody has sinned. Don’t feel bad about yourself. God wouldn’t want that.)
  5. Neglect using the Law of God to bring conviction. (The Law has nothing to do with the gospel.)
  6. For your invitation, use the old “while every eye is closed and nobody’s watching you, just slip up your hand” method. (Don’t worry, we’re just helping you take baby steps to a “decision” for God.)
  7. Have counselors gently pull hand-raisers to the altar. (We saw that hand!)
  8. Sing Psalm 119 three times as you make your final appeal. (Sometimes you just gotta wear them down until they finally give in.)
  9. Use light dimmers. (It’s easier to stand up for Jesus when nobody can see you.)
  10. Build your church with the floor sloping to the front. (That way gravity might just help pull them down to the altar.)

We’ve all seen these methods (or as Charles Finney called them “new meaures”) used in churches. When we go to these sorts of ploys, we’re basically saying, “God and the gospel are not enough. We’ve got to do something more.” But I don’t want what man can manufacture. I want what only God can manufacture.

May we with boldness and conviction demonstrate to people through the Law that they are guilty of sin and without hope in their own righteousness. A sinner cannot be saved unless he first realizes he’s a sinner. But then let’s tell them their is only hope for forgiveness is found in repenting of their sins and believing on Jesus Christ alone. Let’s passionately plead with them, but let’s not go further than that in an attempt to manipulate them into a “decision.” Let’s leave the converting up to God.

Is it possible that we have so many backsliders today because they never truly slid forward in the first place? I think so. False converts are a reality of living in a fallen world, but let’s not work to make the situation worse by man-centered methods of evangelism.

03 Jun

Is Jesus the Only Savior?

Recently I’ve been challenged to think about whether or not Jesus is the only way to salvation. Are there many saviors, or is Jesus the only Savior? Theologically, this question touches the doctrine of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Man can certainly come up with his own opinion, but the authority over all truth is the Scripture. Therefore, our beliefs must be formed and based upon the Word of God.

As for the exclusivity of Jesus Christ (i.e. – Is Jesus the only Savior?), let’s look at what the Scripture says. We’ll look at only four passages, though we could look at many more.

John 3:14-17, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

The Bible says here that explicit belief in Jesus is the only way to obtain eternal life. Every person who does not believe in Jesus will not be saved from eternal perishing in hell. It doesn’t matter how sincere the person is. Even the sincerest of the Muslims and the Buddhists and the Jews and every other religion will die and go to hell if they do not repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Jesus is the dividing line between eternal life and eternal death according to Scripture.

Jesus says that He is the door to salvation. He’s not just one of the doors. He alone is the door. If anyone goes through another door, they will not be saved.

John 10:7-9, “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.’”

Again, Jesus is the exclusive way, the only way. Any other way except through Jesus is a way that leads to lies and death. Nobody gets to God except through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

If you’ll read the context of this statement by Peter, he is talking about the name Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no one else except Jesus Christ because God has not given another name to us for salvation. Jesus is it. Unless a person calls on the name of Jesus and Jesus alone, they will not be saved.

Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

So in conclusion, it’s certainly a reality that many religions exist in this world. Although they are very interesting to study from a cultural or sociological or anthropological viewpoint, from a theological standpoint I believe it is a sad part of reality that there are other religions in this world. It’s sad because repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way for a person to be saved. You see, Jesus is not just “our” savior. He is the only Savior for the entire world. Unfortunately, these other religions are leading people to hell. That might seem judgmental, but that is what the Scripture teaches. I would argue that the most loving thing that I could tell a person is that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved and that if they continue to deny God’s existence (as atheists do) or worship any other god except the God revealed in Jesus Christ, they will spend eternity in hell.

03 Jun

Are People Good?

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been challenged to think about whether or not people are good. Theologically, the question would be best stated this way: what is the moral nature of mankind? Man can certainly come up with his own opinion, but the authority over all truth is the Scripture. Therefore, our beliefs must be formed and based upon the Word of God.

As for the moral nature of people (i.e. – Are people good?), let’s look at what Scripture has to say:

Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

Notice that Isaiah says that even our righteous or good deeds are dirty to God. It’s not that we can’t do good things. It’s just that without repenting of sin and trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior, these good deeds are soiled. Why is that? It’s because God’s not just concerned with our actions. He’s more concerned about our hearts. The deed might be good and the motives not be. I could do a lot of good deeds for selfish reasons. But let put it another way. The deed might be good and the motive not be the best. In other words, I could do a lot of good deeds for good reasons (i.e. – I want to see starving people be fed, or I want to see people in tattered clothing clothed well), but these are not the best motive. The best motive according to Scripture is to please God who is revealed in Jesus Christ and bring Him glory. And when we do good things without having our ultimate desire being to please God and bring Him glory, it is like a filthy garment. Outwardly, the deed might be good, but morally it is corrupt, and therefore bad. That’s the situation people who have not repented and trusted in Christ find themselves in. Morally according to the Law of God, they are bad.

Isaiah 53:6, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way.”

Every single person has gone astray from God. We’ve all rebelled against God and turned to our own ways. That means that morally according to the Law, we are not good.

Romans 3:9-18, “ What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. 13Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; 15Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17And the path of peace they have not known. 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

This passage describes the moral nature of a human before repenting of their sin and trusting in Christ. None are righteous, not even one. There is none who does good, not even one. That includes you and me and every other person before we are born again in Jesus Christ. What a bleak picture of humanity, but it’s the biblical picture. Therefore, it should be our belief.

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

This is so important. Notice who Paul says we are to be compared to when determining our goodness. It is not to other men. It is to God. Compared to Hitler and the Hillside Strangler, I look incredibly good, but compared to God, I look terribly bad. The only way for me to look great when compared to God is for the righteousness of Jesus Christ to be mine. That only happens through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Ephes. 2:1-3, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Verse 3 is key. We are “by nature children of wrath.” In other words, we are born with a sin nature. It’s our nature to sin. I like to think about it this way: I am not a sinner because I sin; rather I sin because I’m a sinner. My nature is the cause of my action. I am by nature morally corrupt, and the only way to have my nature changed is to be born again in Jesus Christ. Then and only then is my nature changed from morally bad to morally good.

Mark 10:18, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’”

In the context of this verse, a man comes up to Jesus and says in v17, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” V18 is Jesus’ response. In this response, Jesus is saying 2 things. First, He’s saying that if you are calling me good, then you are also calling me God because only God is good. Second, He’s saying that only God can be called good; man cannot be. This truth ties right into the rest of Scripture, but particularly Romans 3:23. Man cannot be called morally good because every man, woman, and child has sinned and fallen short of the God’s glory. Only God can be called good.

So in conclusion, I believe that the biblical teaching is that no person is morally good because all persons are guilty of sin, which is breaking God’s revealed moral law. This truth includes every man, woman, and yes, child. Therefore, if we are to preach the gospel to people, we must help them to see this truth. We must help them to see that they are not good according to the law. It’s only then that they will see their need for Jesus Christ as a Savior. That’s why Jesus came to die—so that our sins would be forgiven. I would argue that this is the most loving thing that I can do for them. I am not judging them. Scripture is. I’m so glad that somebody took the chance and demonstrated to me that I am a sinner in need of a Savior.