As I talk to people I often here the terms “accepted Jesus” or “made a decision for Jesus” or “invited Jesus into my heart” when referring to salvation. Whenever I hear it, you’d think as a pastor I would celebrate, but the reality is, it saddens me to some extent.
It saddens me first of all that we use unbiblical terms to teach people about salvation in Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to “accept Jesus” or “invite Him into your heart”, but in our attempt to make salvation as easy as possible, modern evangelism has come up with these terms which do great harm to the church. There are many problems here. First, to accept Jesus puts man on the judge’s seat. We evaluate Jesus, we examine the evidence and determine if Jesus is acceptable to us. The Bible teaches just the opposite. He is the judge, and we stand before the court of His authority. “Invite Jesus into your heart”, well how do you know He accepted your invitation? How do you know He came in? This is why we see people rededicating their recently rededicated lives to Jesus with what seems to be no effect on them.
It also saddens me because through teaching like this, we have filled the church with people who have “made decisions” but who do not truly believe. We have filled the church with tares rather than wheat. We have people representing Jesus to our world, for this is what a Christian is, who have no idea who Jesus even is. Easy believism is so harmful to the church, and sadly, I’m not talking about liberal churches here, but evangelical churches that are supposed to be the pillar of truth to the world around them.
Decisional Christianity always points back to a time when… back to that day you said the prayer. That occasion when you raised your hand or walked the isle. That moment gives people a sense of security knowing they have “done it”. The New Testament never exhorts us to look back to a moment in history to see if we are saved, instead, it always points us to look at the present moment. Not “did you believe”, but right now, at this moment, do you believe. It doesn’t say examine your past, it tells us to examine ourselves now to see if we are in the faith. “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever “believes” (present tense) shall not perish”. Do you believe right now? This is the question. But alas, the majority of churches in our day don’t preach these Biblical truths, but rather invite people to make a decision.
Leonard Ravenhill, one of the great preachers of the 1900’s said this regarding decisional Christianity: “The sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than all the bars in the world.” I think he is right. People that have a false sense of security don’t need concern themselves about their eternal destiny, and many pastors around the world are totally happy to allow these in their churches to live believing themselves saved, when they are not.
In a conversation this past week with one man I know, speaking on this very topic, the man said to me, “but wait, aren’t people saved through ministries that teach these things”. The answer is yes, in spite of our lack of faithfulness to the Word, God does still save people through these ministries where pastors teach such things. In spite of our teaching. What if we were faithful to the word of God? What if we preached His word like He gave it to us? Is it possible that He would no longer have to work in spite of us and instead could bless our ministries?
So rather than teach people to make a decision for Jesus, let’s just stick to using Biblical language. Let’s call them to repent. Let’s present the real Jesus to them, the High and Holy Jesus, the Jesus that died to make propitiation for sin, and let’s call them to believe. To believe is so much more than just to agree with the principle. It includes the idea of trust and submission. To believe includes the necessity of not just believing anything, but believing in who Jesus is. I mean who He really is. Belief in anyone other than who He really is won’t save. So who is He? He is Savior, Man and God, redeemer, rescuer, King. He is Lord. There is no belief where these truths are not received and kept. If we stick to this, the church can’t go wrong. And when you hear people make references to this decisional Christianity, make sure they know the truth of the Gospel by sharing the true nature of saving faith.