Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Q&A: A question about the Gospel

The Question:

Hi sir, I have a quesiton. I am a pretty new believer, close to two years now, All glory to God for it was His work in me and His great love. I have found a church here where i live; i just recently started attending (about 3-4 weeks). They are a baptist church, however, they preach salvation as accepting Jesus into their heart via the "sinner's prayer". My question is, will this theology if you can call it theology mess up the true gospel? In my opinion this belief makes the gospel very puny and weak, and makes the rest of our relationship with God focused on ourself. What do you think? and If i am to be concerned, how should i handle this situation? Should i do anything since i haven't been there that long? To me its frustrating because every church i can go to around here holds that type of belief.

It appears that they have the right thinking in that we are sinners and are in need of God's grace, but idk what to think or if i should even bring it up and maybe keep searching for a new church. It took me a long time to get into this one.

Thank you sir for any imput in this.

My Answer:

Well you are dead on correct that it distorts the Gospel. It makes it look like Jesus somehow needs our acceptance in the saving of our soul. He's God... He doesn't need our acceptance. We need His. A great illustration would be the Prodigal Son account. That Son came home and did not need to accept his father. The other way around. He came home (repented) and needed forgiveness from the Father. He came home to trust that his father's household and rules and such was truth and everything else false.

How should you handle it? Well the sad thing is that you WILL find this in many churches these days. But rewind 50 years ago and you won't find it anywhere. I think that the Biblical prescription is to go to one another and confront the issue in a loving manner. (Matthew 18)

I think you need to prayerfully lay out your case and do the leg work to find Scripture backing your position and then take it privately to the pastor. If he is a true man of God who truly wants to shepherd his flock towards Christ and not just a man concerned about getting "decisions" for Jesus then he will at the least listen to what you have to say.

A few pointers to remember in this. Please be sure you use Bible verses and approach him humbly. He is your pastor and an elder so you want to do as Paul admonished Timothy and be respectful. At the same time, you have scripture on your side and you have the authority of the Word of God to stand on and need not feel any reason to back down or give in to a faulty way of thinking. Consider these verses.

Galatians 2: 20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 6: 14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

the sinner's prayer puts the focus back on man, not God's amazing kindness in Salvation. It steals a portion of His glory.

Also, look at how 'evangelism' was done in the Bible. One of my favorites is Jesus and the rich young ruler. When that man asked about eternal life did Jesus say... 'Well just pray and receive me into your heart and if you really mean it I mean REALLY mean it... you'll be saved.'

NO, He took Him to the Law and brought the knowledge of sin to the man. the man went away sad because He didn't want to forsake his wealth for the sake of Christ. He wanted eternal life with no change in his mortal life.

Can someone be saved by praying the sinner's prayer? Sure they can, God can save anyone anytime in spite of our pathetic attempts at relaying the message. But when you play on the heart strings and dumb it down with a 'repeat these magic words and you're in' type of thing you severely increase the possibility of a false conversion.

No where in scripture will you find the sinner's prayer. Someone who is truly feeling conviction of their sin by the Holy Spirit will not have to be led through a prayer of repentance. Once they know of their sin, its consequences, and what is required to be saved. They will figure it out pretty quick.

A great friend of mine will tell in his testimony how his prayer for salvation when he came to that point was simply 'God save me.'

The question of saved or unsaved isn't one of whether we have prayed a prayer at some time in our life... it is a matter of whether or not we are still living for Christ from that point. Are we praying with David in Psalm 51 that God tear out any sin and create in us a new heart! Are we growing to hate the sin we once loved.

Truly a pastor or teacher ought not to push the sinner's prayer but to explain the Gospel and then explain the the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13 that we need to EXAMINE ourselves to see that we're in the faith.

No where in Scripture am I given Pope-ish authority to lead someone in a prayer and then declare them forgiven. That's God's role... not mine...

Here's a link to a great article by A.W. Tozer. Give it a look if you have time.

After speaking with your pastor and praying for him, he may or may not change. God has to convict him of his error before he'll change. So don't leave discouraged if he maintains his position. Isaiah 55 says that the Word of God will not return void where it is sent out without first accomplishing that which God intends. You will have defended the faith (Jude 3) and that's all you can do. The results are up to the Lord.

What should you do if he doesn't change? I can't tell you that you should or shouldn't leave. I can tell you we are called to be a part of a God-fearing, Bible believing church. We are NOT called to go in and make a stinky church better. You have to determine what your church is and whether or not it is a place you can serve and worship God and stand behind the doctrine taught from the pulpit and the classrooms... If you can't, then you should leave because it will only cause you to be bitter and resentful and ultimately stumble.

Good on you though man for seeing the serious issue with all of this. I hope this was of some help.

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