[I wrote this post, and then debated whether to publish it. Why? Well, my blog is called “Enough Light” and while I do blog on various issues – a frequent focus is on “faith and doubt” and issues that can make people doubt or dislike Christianity. Well, I got to thinking that posts on evangelism might be a turn off – “those Christians are always trying to convert us and force the faith down our throats.” But then I thought of it differently: I think one reason people can dislike Christianity is they have only been exposed to poorly done, manipulative, or obnoxious evangelism. Some of the criticism is well deserved! So I finally concluded that…Some posts on more appropriate evangelism might be a good thing. Here is the first of several posts.]
Is Salvation a matter of urgency?
I appreciated this post entitled: Is Salvation a Matter of Urgency? and hope you’ll take a moment to read it. The author makes good points in a brief post. He lists times that salvation is urgent and times that salvation is not urgent.
There can be danger in always seeing the proclamation of the Gospel as urgent. There are times we need to be patient and wait for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. Crops need to be ripe before they are harvested. If a farmer harvests the crop before it is ready, they will have a useless and wasted crop. Pushing someone to make a decision that they are not ready to make can lead to an insincere, non-genuine, or ignorant profession.
I’ll share a personal story. My spouse and I were working with a family from an un-churched background that had expressed an interest in Christianity. We were doing lessons with them to introduce them to the faith. They were interested, yet something was missing. The Spirit had not yet given them spiritual perception to the truths of the Gospel. There was no personal conviction of their need of the Savior. Their minds were receptive, but their hearts were not moved. We were tempted to push or pressure them towards Christ, yet we did not feel it was wise and decided to pray and wait on the Spirit.
But then another believer went to see this family. This person had a more “urgent” approach and pushed the family to make a decision for Christ. Well, they did pray to accept Christ. For a short period of time this family attended church and had some interest in spiritual things, but it faded fast. We have since tried to encourage this family spiritually, but without success. All interest is gone. However, they seem to look back to when they repeated “that prayer” and consider themselves okay spiritually as a result. They seem to have a false assurance, as well as a resistance to further consideration of salvation because they think they have already acquired it.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I am setting myself up as judge or discerner of hearts. Only God can know for certain where this family stands spiritually.
My point is that…Repeating words to accept Christ does not automatically bring salvation. It is not a magical incantation. A prayer could be repeated for so many reasons, such as pressure or emotional manipulation. A prayer could also be repeated in ignorance, without a proper understanding of the Gospel. I’m sure we could all think of a time in our life where we made some type of non-genuine commitment for one reason or another. Certainly, the same thing can happen spiritually. But the spiritual consequences can be dire! People can feel assured of a salvation that they do not actually possess.
While we have an important role to play in sharing the Gospel with others, we can’t forget the critical and imperative role of the Holy Spirit. Take a moment to review John 16:8-11 or 1 Corinthians 2. Salvation is ultimately God’s work, not our work. We need to pray for spiritual discernment and sensitivity to know the difference between times of urgency and times of waiting.
Part 2 here: More thoughts on Salvation and urgency…
** Christianity Today had an interesting article this summer on a similar issue. Check it out here. It is entitled: “Should We Stop Asking Jesus Into Our Hearts? Doubting our salvation and false assurance are both exacerbated by the clichéd ways in which we speak about the gospel.”