What is the number one thing on the mind of the Evangelical Christian? This simple question tells us a lot about the state of the Church and how she will fare in the days in the immediate future. The priorities of the average Evangelical Christian is salvation.
Ask anyone and you’ll soon find that everyone wants to be saved, and, because this is our goal, everything we do is streamlined to that end. We will have manipulative and emotional pleas for someone to come down the aisle because we want someone to be saved. We will lead children through prayers that they don’t mean because we want someone to be saved. As Evangelicals, we may even say things such as “If you speak in tongues you’re saved,” or “You can’t be saved if you wear that, are baptized this way, or shave.”
Does this seem good to you? Is it a good thing that all of this occurs? You may have said “yes,” but hear me out, because I think it is diabolical. The trouble is emphasis. We should all want each and every person we meet to be saved and come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. This cannot, however, be the goal of our ministry. If it is, we will be dejected, disappointed, and unbiblical.
So then, what should our focus be? The glory of God. Next week, we’ll be posting on the great Reformational doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria (The Glory of God Alone), but I want to touch on it here as well.
What is meant by this? We preach less about what the sinner in the pew wants, and more, more about Jesus! We make fewer emotional appeals and are instead overwhelmed by the magnificent grace God has shown us in making Himself known to us! We lead children through prayers, not to get them in the baptistry, but to show them reliance and dependence on the One whom they can trust with their lives in the hope that they will!
See, there is a large danger we face when the focus is on the salvation of sinners instead of the glory of God. It is called “pragmatism.” Pragmatism says that the ends justify the means. Many preachers throughout the centuries have adopted this view. They want (rightly) to see sinners come to Christ so they assumed that nothing was out of bounds as long as people made professions of faith. Preachers like Charles Finney would begin making emotional appeals to the crowd until someone would finally come down and “be saved.” The only problem with all of this is that the people who came down were increasingly just manipulated into doing so.
Let’s get a little deeper. John Calvin once said that “Justification is the principal hinge on which all religion turns.” Justification is the process whereby we can be made right before a holy God. This most wonderful doctrine has been the source of struggle, strife, and turmoil for centuries. This was the very thing over which the Reformation was started. Martin Luther had stumbled upon something marvelous in the Scriptures. He discovered that justification was by faith apart from works. (Romans 3:28)
If we are justified before God by faith, and not by works, then why, brothers and sisters, have we allowed preachers to lie to us and tell us that we can be saved if we “walk the aisle” or “repeat a prayer” or “speak in tongues?” If we truly believe that justification comes by faith alone apart from works of the Law, then we must preach a Christ so wonderful, so gracious, that people are drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit.
We are given one means whereby salvation comes: repentance and faith. (Mark 1:15) We are given one way to deliver this salvation to sinners: preaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Romans 10:17) If we try to change any of this, we will condemn people by giving them a false hope. Their faith will not be in Christ alone, but in their walking down the aisle, in their praying a prayer, and in their speaking in tongues. Nothing we do is good enough to put our faith in, so let’s trust only Christ and reform the way we look at salvation. Let us look to Christ and let His glory be the barometer by which we measure the success or failure of our ministries!
Stop Asking Jesus into your Heart, by JD Greear
Soli Deo Gloria.