by Chris Hohnholz
I have heard this story before. A young boy or girl attends VBS and at the end of the week, they raised their hand and said the prayer. Or maybe, when they were older they came forward at the altar call at church or at the local evangelist's crusade. No matter what the venue was, they were told to "ask Jesus into their heart," and they were assured that once He came in, life would get better. They were fully assured of being a Christian now, and they were told to never question it, no matter what. The initial spiritual high carried them for a time. They read their Bibles, went to church, and talked about how great it was to be a Christian. But in time, the buzz wore off. The feeling just wasn't there anymore. Other things, people or events just seemed more interesting. Or they began to be ostracized by their peers, so the compromises began. Before long, life was like it was before, or maybe worse because they began to look for other things to fill the void. But no matter how bad it might be, they were still a Christian...weren't they?
When it comes to the modern day evangelism of "asking Jesus into your heart" there is a very big problem in that it rarely, if ever, addresses the issue that a person is a wretched, vile sinner. A spiritual criminal deserving of God's righteous judgment. It avoids examining the life of the person under God's law. It fails to show that when we lie, steal, lust, hate, blaspheme God, every sin, every thought, word, and deed is called into account. And because God is a good and just Judge, He will condemn us to hell for eternity. It does not explain that the punishment is infinite because we have sinned against an infinite God.
When the church tells a person to, "just ask Jesus into your heart" there is very little weighing of the issue. Very little understanding of the severity of their sins. Consequently, many people will experimentally ask Jesus to become part of their lives without ever turning away from the sinful life they have had. In other words, because they didn't understand how wicked they were, they never obeyed the command to repent. They simply saw Jesus as a way to make their life better, or as some sort of "fire insurance." There was no genuine commitment or surrender of their lives. If that happens, that person is not genuinely born again. And if they are not born again, they are still slaves to their sinful nature.
Often times, churches today will ask people to repeat a prayer, sign a card, and get them baptized. Once that is done, they absolutely assure them that they are saved and tell them to never doubt it. And if they see that person returning back to worldly pursuits, they claim they are backslidden, a person who is a Christian, but is actively sinning.
Such an evangelistic program, while certainly adding numbers to church rolls, actually does more damage than good. The problem is twofold. First, the Bible tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. Both the books of James and 1 John help us examine our walk to see if we are actually producing fruit that is consistent with a born again Christian. That doesn't mean that once a Christian gets saved he is suddenly perfect, but what is the course of his life. If a person can look at their life and see that it is, bit by bit, growing in a God-honoring direction, then they can see true spiritual fruit that is consistent with being born again. But if they look like the rest of the world day to day, if there is no brokenness, no desire for true repentance, then it would become prudent to ask if they were ever actually born again.
The second problem with the modern day gospel presentation is that it ignores the truth of false converts. In the parable of the soils, Jesus taught about two groups of people who spring up as apparent converts upon hearing the gospel. However, in due time, they fall away either because of the care of the world or from persecution. The falling away demonstrates that they never were in the faith to begin with. So when the church baptizes someone and assures them they are saved without ever looking at the fruit of their walk, it can actually add numbers of false converts to the list.
So, what does it all mean for you, the reader? Well, the first question would be to ask yourself if you are truly saved. Examine your walk in the light of the Bible. Do you truly love the Lord? Do you desire to obey His commandments above all else? Do you hate your sin because you love the Lord and don't wish to sin against Him? Or do you care more about the things of this world? Is the only time you feel bad about sin when you have to suffer the consequences?
If it is the former, I would encourage you to dig into the Gospels again. Learn what it is that Christ did for you because He loves you. Gain assurance by preaching the gospel to yourself daily. But if it is the latter, then you need to repent of your sins and trust Christ now. You need to get saved for the first time. What happened before may have only been an experimental attempt, but one where, like so many others, you never truly repented and trusted in the Savior. If that is so, then examine your life, understand that your sins are an offense to God deserving of judgment. Yet know that His Son died to pay the price that you deserved. Turn away from those sins and trust in the Savior today.
DENNIS FISCHER MINISTRIES
Worldwide Chaplaincy Services