Regeneration vs Decisionism

Paul Washer

When we look at Romans 1:16 we understand that the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes”

Now this might seem unusual to some of us that he has to make that statement, being an apostle; a principle carrier of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But in reality, Paul’s flesh has every reason to be ashamed of the Gospel because the Gospel he preached contradicted everything that was believed to be true and everything that was believed to be sacred in his culture.

Paul makes no attempt to be relevant to his culture. He makes no attempt to make treaty with his culture, adapt his message to the culture, re-package his message, or any of the other non-sense that has become so prominent in the evangelical community today.

To the Jew, the Gospel was the worst sort of blasphemy because it claimed that the Nazarene who died on that cross, a cursed thing in Jewish culture, was the Messiah and the Son of God. To the Greek it was the worst sort of absurdity, because it claimed that this Jew from some out-of-the-way place was actually God in the flesh.

Therefore Paul knew that whenever he opened his mouth to speak the Gospel, he would be utterly rejected and ridiculed to scorn, unless the Holy Spirit intervened and moved upon the hearts and minds of his hearers. This is what he knew and this is what you should know. If you are properly preaching the Gospel it will be scandalous and if you try to make it less of a scandal you no longer preach the Gospel.

I want to quote from some contemporaries of primitive Christianity:

Pliny the Younger writes: “After examining the beliefs of two Christian slave-girls under torture, I discovered nothing but a perverse and extravagant superstition”.

In the dialogue Octavius by Marcus Minucius Felix, he derides the Christians saying: “Their ceremonies centered on a man put to death for his crime and on the fatal wood of the cross”. He goes on to say: “Christians put forward sick delusions, a senseless and crazy superstition which leads to the destruction of all true religion”.

I know I may offend many on this but most modern-day church-growth strategies used in evangelical churches, their main focus is to get around the very thing I just read.

An oracle of Apollo, preserved in the writings of Augustine, in response to a man’s question about what he can do to turn his wife away from the Christian faith says this: “Let her continue as she pleases, persisting in her vain delusions, and lamenting in song a god who died in delusions, who was condemned by judges, whose verdict was just, and executed in the prime of life by the worst of deaths, a death bound with iron.

Lucian, who is basically the Voltaire of antiquity, mocks Christians in his De Morte Peregrini as poor devils who deny the Greek gods and instead honour that crucified sophist, and live according to his laws.

In Origen Adamantius’ work, Contra Celsum, Celsus declares: “What drunken old woman telling stories to lull a small child to sleep would not be ashamed of uttering such preposterous things”.

In our day, the primitive Gospel is no less offensive, for it still contradicts every tenant or “ism” in our culture: relativism, pluralism and humanism.

Let us look at these now for a moment.

We live in an age of relativism; a belief system based on the absolute certainty that there are no absolute certainties. We hypocritically applaud men for seeking the truth but call for the public execution of any man who believes he has found it. We live in a self-imposed dark-age. Why? The reason for this is clear: natural man is a fallen creature, he is morally corrupt, and he is hell-bent on autonomy (or self government). He hates God because God is righteous, and he hates God’s laws because they censor him and restrict his evil. He hates the truth because it exposes him for what he is, and troubles what is left of his conscience. Therefore fallen man seeks to push the truth, especially the truth about God as far from him as he can possibly remove it. He will go to any extent to suppress the truth, even to the point of pretending that there is no such thing as truth or that if it does exist, it cannot be known or have any bearing on our lives.

Realize this about the Gospel: it is never a case of a hiding God but of hiding man. The problem is never the intellect, but the will. I do not believe that the Bible gives any room for atheism! There are liars and God-haters who push the truth out of their minds but there are no such things as “atheists”. For although they knew him…(Romans 1:21). Like a man who hides his head in the sand to avoid a charging rhino, modern man denies the truth of a righteous God and moral absolutes in hopes of quieting his conscience and putting out of his mind the judgment that he knows must come.

The Christian Gospel is a scandal to the man involved in relativism and his culture because the Christian Gospel does the one thing that man most hopes to avoid. It awakens him for his self-imposed slumber to the reality of his fallenness and rebellion and calls him to reject autonomy / self-government and submit to God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

We also live in an age of pluralism: a belief system that puts an end to truth by declaring everything to be true. Do you understand what I am saying? When everything is true – when contradictory statements that are diametrically opposed, when both of them are labelled as true – you have the death of truth. It may be difficult for contemporary Christians to understand what I am about to say, but the Christians living in the first few centuries of the Christian faith were marked and persecuted as atheists. And you will be too! If a revival does not break out in this country, this is one of the reasons you will go to jail.

The culture surrounding the Christian was immersed in theism. The world was filled with images of deities and religion was a booming business. Men not only tolerated one another’s deities but they swapped them and shared them like baseball cards. The entire religious world was going on just fine until the Christians showed up and declared that the god’s made with hands are no gods at all. They denied the Caesars, the homage they demanded, refused to bend their knee to all other so-called gods and they confessed Jesus alone to be LORD of all. Therefore they were labelled atheists. The entire world looked on such jaw-dropping arrogance and reacted with fury against the Christians. Intolerable: intolerance to tolerance.

I want you to look at something. Look at these words: jaw-dropping arrogance. The same scenario abounds in our world today. Against all logic we are told that all views regarding religion and morality are true no matter how radically different they are or contradictory they may be. The most overwhelming aspect of all of this is that through the tireless efforts of the media and academic world, this has quickly become the majority view. However pluralism does not address the issue or cure the malady. It only anesthetizes the patient so that he no longer feels or thinks.

The Gospel is a scandal because it awakens man from his slumber and refuses to let him rest on such an illogical footing. It forces him to come to some conclusion: how long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God then follow Him. If Baal then follow him. The true Gospel is radically exclusive. I never thought I would have to say this in front of a bunch of evangelicals! I never thought there would come a day where I would have to say such a thing to evangelicals: that the Gospel is radically exclusive. I never thought that we would begin to loose Christ as the only way.

The true Gospel is radically exclusive, Jesus is not a way, but the way and all other ways are no way at all. Now listen to this very carefully because this is what is happening today. If Christianity would only move one small step toward a more tolerant ecumenicalism and change the definite article “the” (in the Saviour), for the indefinite article “a” (for a saviour), the scandal would be removed and the world and Christianity could become friends. Do you realize that? If we would simply say that: “Yahweh is god”, we would have no persecution on our hands. If we would simply say that: “Jesus is a saviour”, I would be on the Oprah Winfrey show! Do you realize that? All the scandal would remove if we just said He is our saviour. You have yours we’ll have ours, were not going to impose anything upon you, were not going to wrangle in dialogue, nothing. If that’s your way, you go with that way and I’ll go with mine. If we would only do that then we would never be persecuted. But if we do that, Christianity ceases to be Christianity, we cease to be Christian, Christ is denied and the world is without a saviour.

We live in an age of humanism, over the last several decades man has fought to purge God from his conscience and his culture. He has torn down every visible alter to the One True God and has erected monuments to himself with the zeal of a religious fanatic. This is not secularism against religious mind-thinking, don’t think that. Because the secularist has a religion, and often times he is much more fanatical in his religion than any Christian ever pretended to be.

Man has managed to make himself the central, measure and end of all things. He praises his own inherent worth, demands homage to his self-esteem, and promotes his own self-fulfillment / self realization as the greatest good. Now if you think that hasn’t crept into Christianity, then you have not read the book: Your Best Life Now, because that is exactly what that’s about. He explains away his gnawing conscience – see you cant get rid of that, it’s there to stay – as the remnants of an antiquated religion of guilt. He excuses himself from any responsibility for the moral chaos surrounding him, by blaming society, or at least that part of society that has not yet attained to his enlightenment. Any suggestion that his conscience might be right in its testimony against him, or that he might be responsible for the almost infinite variations of maladies in the world, is unthinkable.

For this reason the Gospel is a scandal to fallen man because it exposes his delusion about himself, it convicts him of his fallenness and guilt: this is the essential first work of the Gospel. This is why the world so loathes true Gospel preaching. The true Gospel ruins man’s party, rains on his parade, exposes his make-believe and points out that the emperor has no clothes.

The Scriptures recognize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block and foolishness to all men of every age. It’s not just a scandal, it’s supposed to be. Who was one of the old revivalists that said: “How could the world not get along with the holiest man who ever walked on the planet, but it can get along with us”. We’re supposed to be a scandal. Now we don’t have to live like a bunch of fanatics, we don’t have to do a whole bunch of crazy things to be a scandal, just be faithful to this one proclamation: Jesus is LORD of all!

To seek to remove the scandal from the message is to make void the Cross of Christ and its saving power. We must understand that the Gospel is not only scandalous, but it’s supposed to be. Through the foolishness of the Gospel God has ordained to destroy the wisdom of the wise, frustrate the intelligence of the greatest minds, and humble the pride of all men. To the end that no flesh may boast in his presence, but just “as it is written, let him who boast, boast in the LORD” (1 Cr 1:31).

Paul’s Gospel not only contradicted the religion, philosophy and culture of the day but it also declared war on them. Not a political war, not a military war, but a spiritual war of truth. It refused truce or treaty with the world and would settle for nothing less than culture’s absolute surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Even to every thought of our mind being held captive to Christ. We would do well to follow Paul’s example. We must be careful to shun every temptation to conform our Gospel to the trends of the day or to the desires of carnal men.

One of the things about missions, there’s all kinds of missions in this world, we don’t need more missions, it’s just most of them aren’t Biblical missions. Let me share with you something, those of you who are budding missionaries. Missions are to be defined by the exegete and the theologian; the student of Scripture, not by the anthropologist, sociologist and those who are experts in the new cultural trend. We do missions and evangelism according to the sacred writings of Scripture and we need no help from Wall Street.

We have no right to water-down the Gospel’s offense or civilize its radical demands in order to make it more appealing to a fallen world or carnal church members. Our churches are filled with strategies to make them more seeker-friendly, by repackaging the Gospel, removing the stumbling block and taking the edge off the blade so it might be more acceptable to carnal men. We ought to be seeker-friendly but we ought to realize that there is only one seeker and He is God. If we are striving to make our church and our message accommodation, let us make them accommodating to Him. If we are striving to build a church or ministry, let us build it on a passion to glorify God and a desire not to offend His Majesty. To the wind with what the world thinks about us. We are not to seek the honours of earth, but the honours of heaven.

Another thing I want to point out before we go to the preaching; our message is not only scandalous, it’s unbelievable. I want you to know that. It is an unbelievable message. As we have argued, Paul’s flesh had every reason to be ashamed of the Gospel he preached, yet there is still another reason for fleshly shame; the Gospel is an absolutely unbelievable message, a ludicrous word to the wise of the world. As Christians we sometimes fail to realize how utterly astounding it is when anyone believes our message. In a sense, the Gospel is so far-fetched; that it spread throughout the Roman Empire is proof of its supernatural nature. What could ever bring a Gentile – completely unaware of Old Testament Scriptures and rooted in either Greek philosophy or pagan superstition – to believe a message, such a message about a man named Jesus.

He was born under questionable circumstances, to a poor family in one of the most despised regions of the Roman Empire, and yet the Gospel claimed that He was the eternal Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of a virgin. He was a carpenter by trade, an itinerant religious teacher with no official training, and yet the Gospel claims that He surpassed the combined wisdom of the Greek philosopher and the Roman sages of antiquity. He was poor and had no place to lay His head and yet the Gospel claims that for three years He fed thousands by word, healed every manner of illness among men, and even raised the dead! He was crucified outside of Jerusalem as a blasphemer and an enemy of the state, and yet the Gospel claims that His death was the pivotal event in all of human history and the only means of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God. He was placed in a burial tomb yet the Gospel claims that on the third day He arose from the dead and presented Himself to many of His followers, and forty days later ascended up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high. Thus the Gospel claims that a poor Jewish carpenter, who was rejected as a lunatic and a blasphemer by His own people, and crucified by the state, is now the Saviour of the world, the LORD of lords and the King of kings, and at His name every knee shall bow including Caesar’s. Do you have any idea how impossible it is for anyone in Paul’s time to believe this message. It is impossible!

Who could ever believe such a message except by the power of God? There is no other explanation. The Gospel would have never made its way out of Jerusalem, let alone the Roman Empire, and into every nation of the world, except that God had ordained to work through it. The message would have died at its birth had it depended on the organizational abilities, eloquence, or apologetic powers of its preachers. All the missionary strategies of the world and all the clever marketing schemes borrowed from Wall Street could have never advanced the Gospel, the foolish stumbling block of the Gospel.

Martin Hengel writes on the ancient scandal of the cross: “To believe that the one pre-existent Son of the one true God, the mediator at creation and the redeemer of the world, had appeared in very recent times in out-of-the-way Galilee, as a member of the obscure people of the Jews, and even worse, had died the death of a common criminal on the cross, could only be regarded as a sheer sign of madness!

Now this truth brings both encouragement and warning to those of us who preach the Gospel. First, it is an encouragement to know that the simple faithful proclamation of the Gospel will ensure its continued advance in the world. Secondly, it is a warning to us that we not succumb to the lie that we can advance the Gospel through brilliance, eloquence, or clever church-growth strategies. Such things have no power to bring about the impossible conversion of men. We must cast ourselves with hopeful desperation upon the only Biblical means of advancing the Gospel. The bold and clear proclamation of a message, that we are not only unashamed, but that we believe in, and glory in, because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

I want to finish by saying this: we live in an unbelieving and skeptical age. Our faith is ridiculed as a hopeless myth, and we are portrayed as either narrow-minded bigots or weak-minded victims of a religious ruse. Such an attack often puts us on the defensive and we attempt to fight back and prove our position and relevancy with apologetics.

I agree with apologetics. Although some forms of this discipline are quite helpful and necessary, we must realize that the power still lies in the proclamation of the Gospel. We cannot convince a man to believe any more than we can raise the dead. Such things are the work of God’s Spirit. Men are brought to faith only through the supernatural working of God and His promise to work not through human wisdom or intellectual expertise, but the preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead.

We must come to grips with the fact that our Gospel is an unbelievable message. We should not expect anyone to give us a hearing, let alone believe, apart from a gracious and powerful working of God’s Spirit. How very hopeless is all our preaching apart from God’s power. How very dependent is the preacher upon God. All our evangelism is nothing more than a fool’s errand unless God moves on the hearts of men. However, he has promised to do just that, if we faithfully preach the Gospel.

Let us go to Ezekiel 37:1-10.

“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, {there were} very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, {they were} very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’ ” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.'”” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army”.

I have just described the conversion of men. When you go out to preach you are always an Ezekiel. You are always standing in a valley of dead bones, and behold they are very dry. In the time of Ezekiel there was no technique to bring life into lifeless bone. The marrow had completely dried out of these skeletons, they were nothing but dust. There was no technique, there was no persuasion, there was no power, there was nothing humanly-speaking that could be done to bring these bones to life. That is evangelism. And you do well to learn it now. That is evangelism.

Men are dead in their trespasses in sins. They are not only dead, they are in bondage to sin. What life they have, is only life to follow the prince of this air. They are haters of God. They are enemies of God. They are blind. They do everything in their power to restrict and restrain every bit of knowledge that they already possess about God. They work with all their might to close down their conscience so it will no longer speak to them. They would rather suffer in a devil’s hell throughout all eternity, than bow the knee and repent and believe in your God.

Now, go try and learn an evangelism technique to bring them to life. Give long, drawn-out alter calls, tell all sorts of soupy stories, manipulate their passions, their emotions, and the only thing you will have is a group of two-fold sons of hell. For men to be saved, there is only one way, and that is for one man like Ezekiel, to step out in the midst of that valley and preach the only message God has promised to bless: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

When we’re looking for missionaries, or when we’re interviewing candidates we want one thing: a man who knows that the ministry is an impossibility. That men can not be converted any more than the dead can be raised and worlds can be brought out of nothing. A man that realizes that he only has a few weapons of warfare but they are powerful. The preaching of the Gospel, intercessory prayer, and sacrificial dying to self-love. Give me men and women like that and we will see the Gospel advance in this world. But the more you depend upon the arm of the flesh, the more churches attempt to grow – not by being Biblical, but finding the latest thing to appeal to the greatest number of people – as long as we’re doing that we will never see the power of God.

The Church, in its desire to become relevant, makes itself look like a fool in the midst of its enemies. The church today in America looks like a six flags over Jesus. This is because if you draw people using carnal means, you will have to keep people using carnal means.

I want us to look at the basic invitation for men to come to Christ that is most prominent in America today. A standard contemporary invitation: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Do you know you are a sinner? Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart? Did He come in when you prayed? Were you sincere? You are now a Christian. Welcome to the family of God.

This is such a sacred calf, a golden calf in the evangelical community today that I am more attacked for this than anything else. But I assure you this is not Biblical language and it is not found in the greater part of Christian history. This method that we cannot do evangelism without, is neither Biblical nor historical and has led us to exactly what we’re complaining about. The greater part of the United States of America claims to be born again and they are not. The greatest field of evangelism today is found in church buildings – I don’t want to say it’s found in the Church because everyone in the Church is truly converted – but in church buildings. You say oh we have a lot of churches brother Paul. No, we have a large group of nice brick buildings on beautiful yards. But the glory of God has since departed from them and Ichabod (Hebrew for inglorious) has been written across the door.

Let’s look at this invitation. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Many times this is accompanied by an explanation of all that Jesus can do for the person; fix their life, their marriage, their finances, their self-esteem. So you walk up to – what we know about a sinner; he is self-centered, he is autonomous, he wants to do his own thing, he has his own dreams, and he is in love with himself – so you walk up to this man and say,

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”.

And he goes, “What! God loves me? That’s fantastic, I love me too! Well this is wonderful! And you are saying that He loves me more than I love me? Now that sounds impossible. How can anyone have such a great love? And God has a wonderful plan for my life? I have a wonderful plan for my life too! And you’re telling me that if I accept this Jesus he will help me with all my wonderful plans and that I can have my best life now?” “Yes!”

“Well then I’ll take a God like that! Do you got two of them?”

Do you see that? And you say brother Paul, we don’t mean it that way. But that’s the way it’s coming out. Now you are saying Paul, you are being very hard, full of satire. Yes I am. But look, everybody is lamenting the fact that this country believes it’s saved when it’s no more saved than a – it’s as lost, as they say in Alabama, as a ball in tall grass. But no one wants to point to what the problem is and the problem is even when we preach the Gospel correctly, then we go to this thing of how to invite men that’s not Biblical or historical. We get them to jump through a few evangelical hoops and say yes to the appropriate questions, and we “popeshly” pronounce them to be saved. They believe that false religious lie given by a religious authority – then when someone comes later and tries to preach the Gospel to them because they are living in the world, they wont listen – because a religious lie has so much power! Then the next question:

“Do you know you’re a sinner?” and often times it’s really not  given too seriously. It’s kind of like: “Hey, you know we’re all sinners, don’t you?” and if the person says “Yes I know I am a sinner” then the question is: “Do you want to go to heaven?” “Yea, I do” “Then would you like to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart? It will only take five minutes.”

“Only five minutes?”

“Yes, because the Bible says: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name (John 1:12). That if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Rev 3:20). So would you like to receive Jesus, because that’s what the Bible says?

“It will only take five minutes?” “Only five minutes.” “Sure.”

Afterwards, after a person prays, or is lead in a prayer by the evangelist he or she is assured that if they were sincere then Jesus has definitely come into their heart because He promised He would and if He didn’t come in then He is a liar because they were sincere.

How many people do you know believe they are going to heaven because, they’re not trusting so much in Christ, as the sincerity of the decision they made a long time ago. Often times, after a few minutes of counselling they are immediately presented before the church and welcomed into the family of God. Now you tell me I’m wrong! They come down front, I’ve seen it so many times, they are given over to a counselor who has been trained in a packaged counselling form, they are talked to for about five or ten minutes while the invitation rolls on, and then immediately they are presented before the church; our new brother or sister in Christ. That’s the last most of them will ever hear of conversion counselling.

Then what will happen? If they never grow, or if they doubt their salvation they are taken again, back to that day when they prayed, and question regarding the sincerity of their decision. If they ever come to the pastor again doubting their salvation he’ll take them back to that day again and say:

“Well did you ever pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart?”  “Yes” “Were you sincere?” “I think so” “Then it’s just the devil bothering you.”

If they never grow in the things of God, their lack of growth is attributed to the lack of discipleship or the belief in the doctrine of the carnal Christian. One convention that I know of came to the conclusion that 60% of all its converts never attended church. Their answer for that malady was: we have to do a better job in discipleship. No! Jesus, His sheep, they hear His voice! They follow Him, whether you disciple them or not.

We ought to do discipleship. Back in the 70’s, discipleship became the big thing; personal discipleship. We have just as many people leaving the back-door of the church as entering into the front door of the church because we’re not doing personal discipleship. No! It’s because we’re not preaching the Gospel correctly and we’re pronouncing people converted who are not converted. They went out from us because they never were of us. You have to understand this. We deal five minutes with a person in their conversion and then spend 50 years trying to disciple a goat into a sheep.

I’m not saying this because I’m an angry person. I’m saying this because I’m angry because countless people are deceived. The problem is not liberal politicians, it’s evangelical preachers.

If they are ever challenged regarding their conversion because of a lack of fruit or overwhelming worldliness, they defend their hopeless salvation by once again, affirming the sincerity of their prayer and the confirmation of their religious leaders. If any counselling is done a person is usually admonished to turn away from his or her backsliding and to begin serving the LORD again. However the validity of their conversion is never examined or ever challenged.

For example: children evangelism. I would not let my child attend 98% of the Sunday school classes in Vacation Bible Schools in this country, and I’ll tell you why. A bunch of children are brought in and they are told wonderful stories about Jesus and then: “How many of you children love Jesus?” Except for the kid in the back with the leather jacket and the signs on his back that have been imprinted by a satanic cult, every other kid in that class is going to stand up and say:

“I love Jesus!” “Well how many of you want to go to heaven?” “I do!” “How many of you want to pray this prayer?” “I will!”

Then they are marched off to baptism, and a lot of the time the baptismal is dressed up like some kind of a happy party-time with graffiti so that they really enjoy it. Then when they are old enough to rebel against their parents, they do, and they live in gross immorality and sin. Then when they are about 25 or 30 after college, they decide they need to straighten things out because morality is really a better way to go, so they rededicate their life and they continue attending church once a week, having just enough morality to dim their conscience and send them straight to hell. That’s what’s going on.

Then when little Johnny wanders off the path and begins sleeping with his girlfriend, taking drugs, selling drugs, doing everything else, his mother and his father and his pastor goes to him and says, “you’re a Christian so you need to stop living that way”, instead of saying this, “you made the profession of faith in Christ, you were baptized in His name, and for a while it seemed that you did walk with Him but now you have turned away from the faith and you have proved possibly that you never knew Him and you’ve been reprobate from the beginning. Repent and believe the Gospel! Flee from the wrath to come!” That’s the difference.

I want to give you a Biblical alternative: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. What about instead, this modern mantra should be replaced by a proclamation of who God is? He is the Creator, Sustainer and LORD of all things. He is worthy of your honour and obedience. Now I want you to listen to this, in Exodus, God’s proclamation: “the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave {the guilty} unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). One of the greatest revelations of God in the Old Testament, everyone knows that. Moses hid in the cleft of a rock, God proclaims His glory to Moses, and look at Moses’ response: “Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship (34:8). So instead of saying God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, tell them who God is! Because if you give them a god made in their own image I guarantee you they’ll accept him, but he wont be the God who saves. You tell them who God is. You exalt God before them, and tell them that everything in their life is going to have to bend toward His will. He is not like you all men. Repent and believe.

Does our Gospel presentation make men excited about what God can do for them on this earth or about who God is?

Now let’s go to our questions: Do you know you’re a sinner? My dear friend, the question is not do you know you’re a sinner. The question is this: as you have heard me preach the Gospel has God so worked in your life that the sin you once loved you now hate? You go up to the devil and ask him if he knows he’s a sinner. He’ll say, “well yes I am , and a mighty fine one at that”. Someone says, “yes I know I’m a sinner”, do they know what that means? That’s like someone says, “I’ve accepted God”, but when you begin to hear their definition of the God they accepted you realize it’s not the God of the Bible. In the same way a person says, “I’m a sinner”, that could mean anything; I don’t have enough love for myself. You must use the Scriptures to teach them! The Holy Spirit using the sword to penetrate their heart and to show them what it truly means.

I was preaching years ago and they had counselors all prepared and everything and there was this lady leading up the counselling group and she did not like me at all. So one night I was preaching and there began a move of God. People over towards the left started weeping and then it went and started going across the auditorium; people were weeping, some almost convulsing. I hadn’t even finished the sermon and a girl ran up and was just laying across the steps, and another person, and started weeping. I looked up at the counselors, and the leader looked at me like…(do something, and I shook my finger) and I kept preaching. Finally after I got through preaching she took a step forward and I realized she’s going to bolt on me. So I went down there and I stood beside her and she goes…(do something and I shook my finger) and finally she just looked at me and took a step and I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Sister, don’t touch the ark of God. It is the God of Israel who is wounding these people with regard to their sin. Do not comfort the soul that God is breaking. Leave them alone to God”.

So you see the question is not simply: do you know you’re a sinner? But dear friend, do you know what it means, and has God so began to work in your heart that you’re beginning to see sin as God sees sin. Are their seeds of a divine attitude, of hating sin as God hates it. Your boasting over sin, has it turned to shame? Is God doing something?

Now, do you want to go to heaven, that’s the question. Do you want to go to heaven? Have you had anyone ever say, well no I rather go to hell? I’ve had a few people do that. But for the most part it’s, Yes, I would like to go to heaven. My dear friend, understand this, everyone want to go to heaven, they just don’t want God to be there when they get there. The question is not, do you want to go to heaven? The question is, do you want God? Political theory, this next election, it’s all about a utopia. It is all about making a wonderful place for men to live. Even godless men want a place where they get everything they want. But the question to the sinner, to whom you are witnessing is, has God done anything in your lifeIs there any treasuring of ChristAre you ashamed of the way that throughout the history of your life you have ignored Him, hated Him, been apathetic toward HimIs there a new desire to follow Him, seek Him, know Him, delight in Him?

Let’s look at some of these texts. If someone answers all the questions yes, then they’re asked, do you want to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart? We’ve all done it. Does it bother anyone that this formula or language is not found in the New Testament? We don’t have Mark chapter 1; Jesus coming to Israel and saying, the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand, now who would like to accept me into their heart? We don’t see on the day of Pentecost; Ok, I see that hand, I see that hand, how many of you would like to come forward now? Get them all forward, everyone sees you, you can’t go back to your seat. Now pray this prayer with me.

You say Brother Paul, you’re making a mockery. Yes I am. I don’t know any other way to say it. You say, but I got saved that way. You got saved in spite of that way, not because of that way.

But Brother Paul, we have all these wonderful texts. Ok, let’s look at them. “But as many as received Him…” (John 1:12). Do you honestly believe that means the sinners prayer? Do you honestly believe that means, if you don’t feel comfortable praying, repeat this after me? Is that what that means? Look at it. Where do you get that? One evangelist said to a guy who didn’t even want to follow him in a prayer, he said, Ok, I’ll tell you thisI’ll say the words and if it’s what you want to say to God, squeeze my hand. Behold the power of God.

To receive Him, I believe should be interpreted within the context of the theology of John. It means to open up one’s life to ongoing fellowship or communion with the risen Christ; John 17:3. To receive Christ or feed upon Him as the sustenance of one’s life, John 6:53: unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood. You see, a man is saved only by faith. Only by faith, believing what God has said, about God, about Himself, about the atoning work of Christ, the person of Christ – they’re saved. But in that moment of salvation, of belief, they are opening their lives to the person of Jesus. And, just because they prayed a prayer with a certain degree of sincerity, is no true evidence, because the heart is deceitfully wicked. How can you define the degree of sincerity in your own heart? You see the evidence in throughout all the New Testament it is this; you believe unto salvation, and the evidence you believe is this. You are saved only by faith in Christ, but if you believe in Christ your life will be open more and more to communion and fellowship with Him. It is not this (snap of the finger) flu-shot mentality of an invitation of the Gospel. We call men to repent and believe, and if they repent and believe truly in that moment they are saved in that moment, but the evidence is more than just the sincerity of a prayer. It is the continuation of the working of God in their life through sanctification.

Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”. First we must say something about the heart. It represents the core or essence of what a man is. It is the seat of his intellect, mind, emotions and will. Therefore it is absurd to think a man can believe in Christ, with his heart, and it not have a radical effect on the rest of his life.

Let’s look at the language, would you like to receive Jesus in your heart? What does that mean? Have you ever thought about that? Believe in your heart, but we’ve change it to, would you like to ask Him to come into your heart. Believe in your heart means to believe with the very core or the very essence of who you are. It doesn’t mean you open up some secret chamber and ask Him to come in.

It is the testimony of Scripture and the interpretation of all sound evangelical scholars that we are saved by faith alone, so why does Paul seem to add confession as a requirement of genuine conversion. Let’s look at the text again, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Paul throughout the entire book of Romans says salvation only by faith, so why is he now adding confession. Paul is not contradicting the doctrine of faith alone, but its teaching that our public confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ is the evidence of believing in the heart. If someone is truly converted, they will publicly confess Christ in word and deed. That does not mean the same thing as presenting themselves before the church the night of their supposed conversion.

If someone is truly converted, they will publicly confess Christ in word and deed. Why do I add word and deed? Because Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven”, not everyone who confesses Me as Lord, “but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven {will enter}”.

Now I am not saying that we are saved by faith in works, not at all. I am a grace preacher. What I’m saying is, that salvation involves a lost doctrine. It’s called regeneration. When God saves a man, He is regenerating his heart, turns him into a new creature and the evidence is this: he will live like a new creature. And he will confess Christ, that is, the man who has truly believed in his heart, his life will be marked by a Biblical confession of Christ in word and deed. You will be able to hear with his mouth and see with his life that his faith is a genuine saving faith.

I want to put this really quickly in a cultural perspective. Let’s say that we’re all a church, about twenty people, first century Roman Empire. You know, from the epistle of Romans, that these Christians are being put to death some of them. They’re dying like sheep. Let’s say that we have twenty of us and we all work construction. So we’re working on some kind of a building there in Rome, construction, no problem, beautiful day, it’s lunch time, we’re taking a break, Spring, we’re laying out in the grass, having a good time, resting. All of a sudden though we here this, we hear drums. We look up and we see soldiers coming. They are carrying a little alter and on that alter is a little bowl of incense and a little fire built and we become terrified. As all the construction guys come to their feet, most of them unbelievers, there we are, a little church in the midst of them. The soldiers rally us all together and they say, come forth, pay homage to Caesar. So the first guy, unbeliever, goes up there and gets a little bit of incense, throws it in the fire and says: Caesar is lord, walks off as happy as he can be. The next one and the next one and finally it comes to the first of us, the Christians. One of us walk up, soldier prods him with a spear, pay homage to CaesarIēsous estin Kyrios, Jesus is Lord, and he dies. And the next one of us, Jesus is Lord, and he dies, and the next one of us and we have taken that truth that Paul is teaching right here, that if you truly believe, you will confess Christ even though it cost you your life. We have taken that beautiful truth and reduced it down that if you pray a little prayer before a bunch of people in a church in America, you can be guaranteed you’re saved if you think you were sincere. That’s not what it’s talking about.

Again, the moment a person calls upon Christ in faith, they are saved, but the evidence of salvation is not that one time in their life they were sincere when they prayed a prayer. The evidence of their salvation is: is there genuine repentance, is there faith, and do those both evangelical graces continue on in their life and grow? In other words, the evidence of justification by faith is the ongoing work of sanctification through the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me”. First of all, this is not given in the context of a Gospel invitation, do you realize that? Christ is not knocking on the door of a sinner’s heart. Nowhere does it say that, but he is knocking on the door of a wayward church. That’s the context. This ought to raise some red flags for us. I said that to an evangelist one time and he said, I know Brother Paul but it works.

Secondly, I find it interesting that we use this text to give sinners the assurance that if they open up their hearts, Jesus will come in, even though, this text does not specifically or primarily address conversion or the opening of a heart. On the other hand, we do not use Acts 16:14 which specifically and primarily speaks about both conversion and the opening of a heart: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”. Why don’t we ever use that text?

Thirdly, instead of merely inviting the sinner to open up their lives, would it not also be appropriate to lovingly aid the sinner in self-examination, to evaluate what the Lord might be doing at that moment? Do you have any sense that God is working in your heart this evening? Has there been an increase in your understanding of the Gospel in the things of God? Are you more and more open to the person of Christ in the truth of Scripture and the demands of discipleship? Do you have a desire to respond to the things, about which you have heard, to forsake confidence and self in your life of sin, and trust in Christ alone?

Fourthly, if we take this text – even if we do take it and use it for evangelism – if someone has opened the door of their life to Christ, notice this, the evidence will once again be ongoing fellowship. Because He said, If I come in, I will come in to dine with him. The evidence that a person has truly opened their life to Christ is continued fellowship with Christ. But is it not true, and don’t tell me it’s not, countless millions of people believe, because of our preaching, walk around, they have no fellowship with Christ, no desire for godliness, no seeking of God, but they believe themselves converted because one time in one of our churches they prayed and asked Jesus to come in. That’s true!

Let me share with you, I have forty-five seconds left, one of the greatest moments of my life, was a few clicks south of Alaska, some of you may have heard this story. A man, soon as I had got up in the pulpit, about twenty-five people, a man walked in, giant of a man, saddest human being I’ve ever seen in my life, and he came in and he sat in the front row. I immediately just stopped and started preaching the Gospel. After I finished I went down I said, Sir, what’s wrong with you? What is wrong?He pulled out a manila envelope, and he just showed it to me and he said, I just came from the doctor, I’m going to die in three weeks. He said, I’ve lived out in the bush, working on a cattle ranch all my life, you can only get there by riding over them mountains or taking a float plane, or something like that. He said, I’ve never been to a church in my life, I’ve never read a Bible, but one time I heard someone talking about a guy named Jesus and I do believe there’s a God. I’ve never been afraid of anything in my life and I’m afraid because I’m going to die and I don’t know what to do. I said, Sir, for the last forty-five minutes I have preached the Gospel to you, the Good News of what God has done for sinners in Jesus Christ, did you understand it? He said, yes. Now what would have most evangelists done at that moment: would you like to pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart? But this is what he said, Brother Paul I understood it, I mean anyone could have understood it, but is that it? Is that it, I understand it now and I pray a prayer and that’s it? I went and started explaining repentance and faith. After several minutes he looked at me and said, I just don’t get it. I said, look, you have three weeks to live, I have to leave tomorrow morning. I’ll cancel my plane ticket and I’ll stay with you for three weeks until you die. Either you’re saved, or you die and go to hell. So let’s begin.

Listen to me, if you’re thinking about being an evangelist, don’t think you’re going to preach to a whole bunch of people, when they come forward, you pawn them off on everyone else to do the counselling and you go to Denny’s to eat. And glory and all the decisions, most of which were just decisions and no one got converted because most of those people won’t come back to church next Sunday.

Now you understand like Leonard Ravenhill used to say, “Now you understand why I preach in a lot of churches once.”

But I looked at that man and said, Sir, faith cometh by hearing, let’s go through Scripture. We went through Scripture for over an hour, every promise, Old Testament, New Testament, on and on, just labouring until Christ be formed. We prayed some more, we read some more, another hour goes on, it’s getting late I said, we’re staying here, this man is dying. And after I don’t know how long, we got back to one of my favourite verses in the Bible: John 3:16. I said Sir – I’ll never forget this because he had that Bible on his legs, my Bible, and those big ol’ hands of his – and I said, Sir let’s just read through this again. He said, we’ve read through it so much. I said, Sir, your life depends on it. So he looked down, that big ol’ man, and he goes, Ok, for God….so loved…the world…that…He gave – Oh…I’m…saved…..I’m…saved….all my sins are gone! I have…my hands are clean…I have eternal life…I have eternal life….I’m going to heaven! I said, Sir, how do you know? He said, haven’t you ever read this verse before!!

Do you see the difference? People say, are you against evangelism? I say, yes and no. I’m against your kind of evangelism. I hate it. They run men through, grab a little ticket, just like you were waiting at some government office for them to renew your licence. Grab a ticket and go to heaven. We will be responsible! We are called upon – when I preach in meetings, this is what I do – I don’t give big alter calls and stuff, I say, look, it’s over, if God’s dealing with your heart you come to me. We will sit here all night. And if someone professes faith in Christ then what do I do? I don’t go, Oh you’re saved, you’re saved! I tell them this, I say, listen, if tonight you have truly repented and believed in Jesus Christ, you have become a child of God, but this is going to be the evidence. If you have truly repented unto salvation you will continue repenting unto salvation and growing in repentance. And if you have truly believed, you will continue believing, none of this flu-shot stuff. I don’t want someone walking up to that person, ten years later, they’re living an ungodly life, and someone witnessed to them and they say, Oh don’t worry about me, I done did that, because that’s what most people do in the south isn’t it. Don’t worry about me preacher, I done did that. You done did what? I got my flu-shot. Ya, but you didn’t get Jesus.

You labour with them. Let everyone else go out to eat. You labour. You pray. You counsel them with many Gospel promises and many Gospel warnings. I’ve declared war. It’s like a little mite beating his head against a world of granite but I don’t care. I’m sick and tired of people being led into a decision, with very little knowledge of the Gospel. Trusting in a decision, rather than looking unto Christ. Living in ungodliness, and believing they’re saved because some religious authority in the evangelical community told them they were, and they’re almost completely insulated now from hearing the true Gospel.

Stop it.  Stop it!