I am becoming more and more convinced that it is a problem in our day when we say to people, “Are you saved?” And they say, “Yes, I went forward at such and such a church” or “I did this.” And I would suggest that that problem is indicative of exactly what I’m talking about. They’re in a mindset about salvation that focuses on some point in time and decision that they sealed the deal with God.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Coming to Christ is and does involve a decisive point. My point is that the way we’ve communicated the gospel in the last 150 something years, has tended to focus on that transaction more than “How do you know you’re saved?” Someone talking about the finished work of Christ or his righteousness or we talk about the transaction. Because to many in our day, their only actual assurance of salvation is that they did something.
It’d be akin to if I walked up to a corpse and I said to you, “Is this guy alive?” and you pulled out a birth certificate and said, “Yeah, I’ve got his birth certificate right here.” And I didn’t say to you, “Was he born?” I didn’t say, “Does he have a birth certificate?” I said, “Is he alive?” And we’ve tended to do the same thing spiritually. We go “Are you alive?” And they go, “I was born.” They don’t say, “Yes.” They don’t show the marks of regeneration as the assurance of salvation. They go back to a decision.
Decisions or Disciples?
Last week, I mentioned a message by Dr. Doran called “Decisions or Disciples?” from the 2004 Mid-American Conference on Preaching. In the message, he disagrees with the idea that salvation and discipleship are two different steps in the Christian life. He also says that the concept is foreign to the Scriptures, noting the “make disciples” of Matt. 28:19-20.
He makes a good point there. Have we emphasized the birth aspect of the new birth so much that we forget what it is supposed to accomplish? I think these thoughts deserve some careful thought and prayer. The way we handle the gospel is vitally important.
Interesting. I have noticed when speaking to others on their way of giving the Gospel, they focus on the 3 “R’S”:
1: The sinner needs to “Realize” he/she is lost, then,
2: The sinner needs to “Recognize” Christ is the only way to get to Heaven, then,
3: The sinner needs to “Repent” of his/her sin, and turn to Christ, then,
4: The sinner needs to “Receive” Christ as his/her personal Lord, and Savior.
The only other thing missing is “Regeneration through water baptism”, but then we would be Church of Christ! The sinner does not have to “do” something to be saved because then we would be talking about a type of “works” salvation. When Christ reveals Himself to the sinner, that sinner will accept Christ as his/her Savior!
Another thing that bugs me is the way those same people witness to the sinner. I like to use this as the illustration:
A man passes away, and is buried. While alive, he tells his friends his favorite car is a SAAB (Actually, the man to whom I am referring loved Cadillacs, but…). After his death, a friend of his pulls into the cemetery in a brand new SAAB. He pulls right next to the man’s grave. Once he has parked the car, this friend of the dead man starts to tell the dead man he can have this car at no cost, and that it is a FREE GIFT forever! All the while this “conversation” is going on, the caretaker of the cemetery walks over thinking the man is just “telling” his friend about the new car that was just purchased (I have gone to gravesites to “tell” my grandparents how things are going for me, knowing they don’t understand, but we all do it). After listening in on this “conversation”, the caretaker asks the man, “Why are you trying to tell this man that the car you bought can be his, only if he accepts it”? “What do you mean? I cannot understand why my friend won’t accept this free gift”! “Well, sir, you should understand why your friend cannot accept your free gift. Your friend is DEAD”! So, why is it a “shock” to people who try to witness to the lost that the lost don’t understand a word you say? In a word, they’re DEAD! So, people witness to the lost as though they can convince the lost of their need of Salvation, forgetting it is God alone Who saves!
R + R + R + R = 3R’S?
I’m not necessarily against those steps, Doug. And if you listen to the message, you’ll find that Dr. Doran isn’t either. He’s against leaving out repentance.
As to the quote, I wonder if another question should replace “are you saved?” Perhaps “have you been regenerated by God?” would work.