Part 2: Outcome-Based Conversion:
By Man's Machinations or God's Ministration?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Jesus, Matthew 7:21, KJV
Many people live in false hope
the same false hope that casinos employ to make their dirty money and scam artists use to lure their victims to make investments in fraudulent schemes. The sad thing is that victims are as much to blame as the con-artists who tempt them. While it is terrible to see people deceived by some vague hope that their ten dollars will suddenly multiply into thousands, it is even worse to see people gamble with their souls and eternity. Victims who put their trust, hope and confidence in a religion that cannot save them are to be pitied. But false prophets who assure people that everything is well when it is not, are to be condemned.
Most of us have been to funerals where the preacher assured everyone that the departed has gone to “a better place.” Many of us have also known deep down in our hearts that it is more likely that many of the poor departed have gone to Hell because of the evidence of their lives (Galatians 5:19-21). (I know that God alone is the judge [John 5:27], but the Bible also teaches that we will know men by their fruit [Matthew7:18-23].) No matter how much the preacher wants to comfort the grieving family, to provide false hope about the deceased's state of soul in the afterlife is inexcusable, especially when those preachers, by their inference that the fruitless dead have gone to Heaven anyway, provide a false hope to the fruitless living that they too will go to Heaven despite their unrepentant and sinful living.
But an equally false hope is often provided by thousands of preachers who view the mission of their ministry as soothing unrepentant sinners of the “assurance” of their salvation despite there being no evidential spiritual fruit that they have been “born again” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; John 3:3,7). I clearly remember as a young preacher, how my elders taught me to point people to certain “pet” verses in the Bible (i.e., John 1:12) that will give them an assurance of salvation. Many Bibles that contain lists of Scriptures appropriate for different circumstances also contain a list of verses that will give the reader assurance of salvation. It seems every preacher has in his arsenal a bunch of sermons that will assure people that they are saved, when in fact they might not be. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. 2 Corinthians 13:3-6, KJV
The typical conversation with someone who is uncertain usually goes something like this:
- Enquirer: “I don’t feel I’m saved.”
- Counselor: “We don’t go by feelings but by faith. Did you ask Jesus into your heart / pray the sinner’s prayer / respond to the appeal?”
- Enquirer: “Yes.”
- Counselor: “Then you are most certainly born-again – just believe it and quote John 1:12.” (“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”)
I’m sure this conversation takes place many times a day in various locations in the world. But is this the truth?
No, it can be a false hope. How can anyone assure someone that they are saved when the sinner continues in his sin? As the Apostle John wrote:
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God . . .
1 John 3:9-10a, NASB
In light of John’s statement, is it our responsibility like a priest to make people feel comfortable and secure in their salvation despite their “un-Christian” lifestyle, or is it to try and snatch souls from the flames (Jude 1:23) by ministering to them the Gospel of the grace of God which is His power unto salvation? (See Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.)
I know these are strong words, and some may well take offense because of them. But are we interested in the truth, or what has become an Evangelical tradition? The truth is that many of the criteria that counselors use to judge whether an individual is born again or not, are thoroughly unbiblical and false.
Where does it say that we are born again because we asked Jesus into our heart, prayed the sinner’s prayer, slipped our hand up at an invitation, or responded to an altar call? These responses may be written of in evangelistic manuals, but they are not in the Bible. And before you rush to remind me of what John 1:12 says—(“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God”), and that this statement of John surely covers inviting Jesus into your heart—know that “receiving Him” and “asking Jesus into your heart” are two totally different things. By “receiving Him” John means we believe on Him as our Savior, Lord and Master, and that we submit to His lordship in our lives. As Jesus questioned the professors of His day as well as ours, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, KJV).
I question whether many, perhaps most, of those who presume they are Christians are indeed so. Because, without genuine repentance for sin on their part, they invited Jesus into their lives without comprehending the meaning of His being Lord over their lives and that they would obey Him even as they sought out His righteousness. Salvation does not come via invitation, but by regeneration, as the next verse states, those who receive Him are those “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). This clearly says that to be born again is not something we can do for ourselves, but it is something that God has to do.
Where on earth did the idea come from that salvation depends upon something—receiving, inviting, raising a hand, walking an aisle, etc.—that I have done?
The New Testament provides no glib or easy assurances of salvation, but rather instructs us to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Again, and “let each one examine his own work” (Galatians 6:4). And “since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1); and to look “carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).
Can we not know for sure that we are saved? Yes! We can. Paul says “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). John says “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1John 5:13). But such assurance must derive from two things:
First, there needs to be an internal witness of God’s Spirit that we are indeed His. Romans 8:16 says: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”; 1John 5:10 says: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness [the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit] in Himself.” How dare we tell people they are born again when God bears no witness in them that they are? The problem is that there are far too many people in our evangelical subculture who claim they have the witness of God simply because they have been deluded into believing the lie that they are saved because once-upon-a-time they invited/received Jesus by some decisional evangelistic mechanism.
Second, there needs to be external works (fruit) of the fact that we are born again. Let me make it simple: If our lives are not changed to live in conformity with the life of God’s Dear Son, we are not saved (Romans 8:29). How can anyone profess to know Jesus when in fact they do not live like Him? How difficult is that to understand? Being born again will be evidenced by new desires, new habits, new lifestyles, new values, new language, new friends, new thought patterns etc. If the fruit is rotten, the tree is rotten. You can tell hard hearts as many times as you like that they are children of God, but telling them so will not make it so.
Should we leave people in a state of uncertainty? Yes—until they find their assurance from the only One who has the right to provide them with that assurance! I know that that means people may need to spend time on their knees and in the Bible. Since when has it become improper to seek God’s face in the midst of any wrestling going on in our souls regarding our salvation?
But in the midst of any such wrestling, let us remember that our salvation depends not upon any past decision we might have made, but upon the Father’s provision for us (“For he [God] hath made Him [the Son] to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21), the Son’s promise to us (“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” John 10:28), and the Holy Spirit’s presence within us (“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” Romans 8:16), a presence in us that will assuredly make a difference in us as the Spirit affects our lifestyles into conformity to Jesus Christ (“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me,” John 15:26).
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:10-11
3R’s OF SALVATION
Three Phases for Becoming Right with God
“R” 1 – Realize–Your sin before God and your need of God’s One Son and Savior, Jesus (Matthew 1:21), for Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16), and Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Because they compare themselves among themselves (“I’m as good as my neighbor.”), people live in denial that they’re sinners. They ignore God’s truth and develop their own religious systems. Jesus called this self-righteousness (Luke 5:32). Self-righteous people think man-centeredly, and in a spirit of feigned humility believe that, “All truth is God’s truth.” As individuals and a group, they refuse to recognize their need to get right with God on God’s terms. Such people need to shift their consciousness from off themselves to God. They need to get serious with God before it’s too late. They should . . .
“R” 2 – Repent–means to “change one’s mind” about sin and being indifferent to God’s way of salvation through Jesus (Acts 2:38). Sin is breaking God’s absolute moral Law (1 John 3:4). The obvious commentary on human sin can be found on daily newscasts which provide abundant evidence–child abuse, spousal abuse, robberies, fraud, lying, slanders, thefts, rapes, murders, wars, etc.–that people are spiritually separated from God’s kingdom rule in their lives (Ephesians 2:1, Isaiah 59:2; John 3:5). Our collective sin nature causes us to proudly disobey God in thought, word and deed. Regardless of how good we might happen to feel about ourselves–“I’m OK, You’re OK!”–God says we’re all sinners. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; See Isaiah 53:6.). The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Nobody goes to be with God who is not right with God. Therefore, people must scrap their self-righteousness, their good-works schemes for getting to heaven known as religion, and penitentially receive the gift of God’s righteousness through Christ by faith (Luke 18:9-14). God made Christ “Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s only provision for becoming and being right with Him is through the cross of Christ (1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18). If people refuse God’s gracious offer of His righteousness and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, they will spend eternity separated from God in Hell (Luke 12:4-5, 20). To avoid such an eternal state, people need to . . .
“R” 3 – Receive–God’s gift of salvation by believing the Gospel message, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In Jesus Christ, God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He stands ready to give the gift of His righteousness to us through faith in the Gospel message (Ephesians 2:8-9). God will not save those desperately trying to earn their salvation by doing good works, through “self-righteousness” (Titus 3:5). Only persons who believe Jesus died for their sins are saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. . .” (Acts 16:31; See Romans 5:1.).
COMMUNICATE YOUR HEART TO GOD
Prayer is simply talking with God. Believing on Jesus, not our praying, saves. But these words of prayer may help frame your thoughts about your sin, God’s Gospel, and His gift of forgiveness and righteousness in Jesus Christ: Dear God, I know I am a sinner and desperately need your forgiveness for my sins. I believe that your Son, Jesus, died as my substitute on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins, and that He was raised from the dead. I accept by faith your forgiveness and righteousness on account of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice for my sins. Thank you Lord Jesus, for forgiving me and placing the eternal life of Christ in my soul. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
To gain confidence of your salvation, you must cultivate the new spiritual life God has given you. You can do this by publicly confessing your salvation in Jesus Christ before other people (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9), by submitting to Jesus’ command to be baptized (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36-38; 1 Corinthians 1:16), by learning about your new found Christian faith from the Bible (1 John 5:13), by fellowshipping with God through prayer (Philippians 4:6), by attending and being involved in a Bible believing church (Hebrews 10:23-25), and by living obediently to God in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). From this time forward, if you fail to have an interest in these matters of faith, you will have no assurance you are saved, and should not presume the reality of your conversion to Christ. As the Bible says,
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you . . . for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
2 Peter 1:10-11