Decisionism Or Conversion?
Romans 10:8-10— “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Today, we are seeing the modern church moving away from God’s plan of salvation. Ministers in apostate churches have replaced traditional altar calls, which involve Holy Spirit conviction of sin, heartfelt repentance, and confession of Christ as Lord, with invitations for people to make a mental decision for Christ apart from a true conversion experience. This type of Cross-less salvation, which offers a false assurance of salvation, is actually no salvation at all and, as a result, many are being led astray.
CHRISTIAN DECISIONISM VS. CONVERSION
What is decisionism and how does it differ from conversion? Theopedia, an encyclopedia of biblical Christianity, answers this way:
“Decisionism in Christianity is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion. It is believed that a person is saved through the mere means of external decision and that performing one of these human actions also gives sufficient evidence of regeneration.
DENYING THE POWER THEREOF
“In contrast, conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.”
Sadly, modern preachers have watered-down the truth to such an extent that the message of salvation is not only lacking, it has literally been changed. Therefore, the blame for the acute and worldwide problem of deficient faith can by and large be laid at the feet of our preachers. Consider the following “conversion” steps practiced by many preachers today:
1. Focus on the “decision,” not conversion. Then most people will focus on their own “wise” choice, not Christ’s work on the Cross.
Church-goers believe such foolishness because that is what has been preached behind their pulpits. You see, untold millions opt for a church they find to be socially welcoming but never seem to realize that there is very little gospel, if any, being preached there. The very purpose for going to church, which should be the care of the soul, is little considered while other criteria take preeminence among many who search for a church home. Then people end up hearing messages on ethics, but there is no way listening to such sermons will cause them to know God.
2. Skim over the gospel and promote a “feel good” prayer. The actual gospel is often too offensive.
3. Satisfy your listeners with positive assurances; don’t confuse them with the whole truth. Tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.
4. Emphasize God’s goodness, not His justice or holiness. Talk about His love and forgiveness, not confession or genuine repentance. Let them think they are headed for heaven no matter what!
5. Describe Jesus as Savior, not Lord of our lives. Promise His blessing but, by all means, ignore His teaching about “counting the cost!”
6. Don’t mention guilt, hell or wrath. No need to offend them with the whole dreadful reason why they need the Savior.
7. Whatever you do, never mention judgment day. Too distasteful! You could lose both friends and supporters.
8. Add some humor or rousing music. Lighten things up. Don’t sound too sober or serious.
9. Don’t mention repentance until they’ve repeated a “sinner’s prayer.” Then your project won’t be aborted by sudden doubts or reservations.
10. After they pray “the prayer,” celebrate “their” achievement, not God’s grace. Be sure to praise the deceived sinner, not the God they don’t know that they don’t yet know. 1
In the meantime, the power of the Cross fades farther and farther from the minds of the people. The Bible predicted this very thing would happen in the latter days: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (II Tim. 3:5).
CHURCHES WANT GROWTH, NOT CONVERTS
A short time ago I read of one very large church in the United States. The pastor was relating as to how their church was built and explained that he simply preached nothing that could be considered “threatening.” So, anything about the Cross was out! Any songs that dealt with the Cross or the shed blood of Christ were also out. Nothing about hell or judgment would be mentioned either. Notice that what that pastor was really speaking about was growing his church, not saving souls from hell—two entirely different goals.
So, I would venture to say that even though that church runs 15,000 to 20,000 people in attendance, not one single person who attends that church is actually saved. There is no gospel preached for anyone to get saved. And the sad fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of churches just like that all over the world. In fact, for every good church, and by that I refer to a church where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, there are scores of churches where it is not preached. No wonder there are millions who erroneously believe they are saved! As someone has well said, “The worst thing of all is a false way of salvation.” It is of utmost importance that one knows the correct plan of salvation.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
The decision of where one spends eternity has to be made before death. You have until your last breath to choose—or not choose—salvation. After death, there will be no more opportunity to make things right with the Lord because your decision for heaven or hell will have already been made.
The true plan of salvation has to be done according to what the Bible teaches, and it only comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Any religion that teaches any other way of salvation regardless of how faithful some may have been to that religion will not see any of its followers saved.
Thousands today are being taught that there is more than one way to salvation. But, according to what the Bible teaches, Jesus Christ and what He did at the Cross is the way, and the only way. No Cross-less way of salvation, whether through a false religion or a mere intellectual agreement, will save your soul from hell. You must be born again and transformed by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Let’s recall the conversation between Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus Christ:
“Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, You must be born again” (Jn. 3:4-7).
THE FAITH OF FOOLS
A belief in God represents a type of faith that hundreds of millions hold on this planet call monotheism—belief that there is one God only—but of which no saving grace has been applied. And yet, on this bare admission untold millions are basing their soul’s entire salvation. Their lives haven’t changed, their ways haven’t changed, and their character hasn’t changed. Yet, they are led to think that they are right with God simply because they believe there is one superior God.
Scripture tells us, however, that this type of faith upon which they are depending is no different from the knowledge demons have of the Lord: “You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). This certainly should tell us something!
The phrase, “the devils also believe, and tremble” actually presents one of the sharpest and most severe reprimands in the New Testament on the whole subject of faith. James is trying to make it clear that he is not impressed by a man’s statement that he believes in God. This is not the type of faith necessary for salvation.
Actually, the only positive statement the Bible makes regarding such general belief is that it distinguishes a man from a fool: “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God” (Ps. 14:1).
The manner in which demons respond to God shows us that they are sincerely convicted of the fact of God, but their faith is not “saving faith,” for they are terrified at the very thought of Him. Their form of belief has brought them no peace with the Lord. Many may even “believe” that Jesus is the Son of God, but they still have yet to experience the saving power of His Cross.
In Matthew 8:29, the Holy Spirit once again shows us that this is not saving faith because even demons “believed” this way; they knew very well who Jesus was: “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with You, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Are You come here to torment us before the time?”
THE CORRECT OBJECT OF FAITH
When Scripture speaks of believing, it means to have a working faith whereby your old man has died with Christ, and the “new life” of Christ has come to live in your heart. It speaks of the born-again experience.
Let’s explain: All human beings are born sinners (Rom. 3:23), and because the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), a great debt was left upon all humanity—a debt that would send every man to hell. But, hallelujah, Christ chose to pay that price for us with His own precious blood! Jesus became our substitute so that upon identification with Him, a man may have his sin debt canceled and be rewarded eternal life.
“Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).
There is no feat of self or religious works that could have canceled your sin debt and brought about this necessary level of righteousness in your life. Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and this is where your faith must lie.
“Saving faith” is, therefore, totally different from everything else that we know as human beings. Our flesh cannot learn it; rather, God reveals it to us as spiritual truth. All we have to do is accept the provision of His Cross.
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28).
Salvation is not difficult to understand. The problem is that most don’t have the proper object of faith—the Cross of Christ—when they attempt to find it.
Repentance also plays a major role in the born-again experience. Repentance must come to the heart of the sinner for him to truly receive the benefits Christ bought for him at Calvary. Notice what II Peter 3:9 says about repentance: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Can one really receive God’s forgiveness of sin without repentance of sin? Absolutely not! The very nature of a new life in Christ grieves over sin. The child of God wants nothing more than to have all sin eliminated from his life. Yet the Lord knew that the enemy of our souls would try to deceive many into believing that they could be saved without displaying the fruit of a changed heart:
“Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).
Even in the Old Testament, the Lord pleaded with Israel over and over again to repent of her ways so that He would not have to bring judgment upon them: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezek. 18:30).
Ladies and gentlemen, the time is short; the rapture of the church is near. I urge every minister to preach the gospel under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and to ponder the types of altar calls once made by preachers such as C.H. Spurgeon:
“Before you leave this place breathe an earnest prayer to God, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner. Lord, I need to be saved. Save me. I call upon Thy name.... Lord, I am guilty; I deserve Thy wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord, I would have a new heart and a right spirit, but what can I do? Lord, I can do nothing, come and work in me to do of Thy good pleasure. But I now do from my very soul call upon Thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon Thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of Thy dear Son; I trust your mercy, and your love, and your power, as they are revealed in Him. I dare to lay hold upon this word of yours, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Lord save me tonight, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”2
2 Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons on Prayer. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2007.
3 Swaggart, Frances, “Man’s Purpose, Part V.” The Evangelist, April 2009.