Thursday, July 28, 2016


December 15, 2010 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)

Since attending in Bible School in the 1970s, I have gone through several evangelistic courses and they contain many helpful things. 

But something is wrong with the standard technique taught in these courses, because all too often they produce a host of empty professions, and surely we all know that an empty profession of faith that doesn’t change the life is not biblical salvation. 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

I read about a pastor who reported 4,000 professions in five years of ministry, but the church only grew from 98 to 100. Those are interesting “professions,” to say the least. 

I read about a first-year missionary who reported over 700 professions of faith and 25 baptisms. 

One evangelist comments: “How could you even pen those words without asking yourself if there isn’t something wrong with that picture? I seem to remember 3,000 saved at Pentecost, and 3,000 baptized! The most refreshing missionary that I have heard in a long time gave his update to our church recently. He has been in Poland for 14 years and to date knows of only five people who have been saved under his ministry. Just like at Pentecost, he only counts the ones who have been saved, baptized, and are in the church. Most of our ‘one, two, three, pray after me’ fellows would have dropped his support a long time ago! Myself, I would drop the guy with 738 saved and 25 baptized and shift the support to the fellow from Poland!”

After I graduated from school and moved back to my home town before we started missionary deputation, my pastor asked us (my wife and me) to follow-up on the church’s Foster Club outreach. Each week the ladies would report a good number of salvations, but no one was following up the “decisions.” We were given a stack of cards and began our follow up, but we quickly found that these “saved people” wanted nothing to do with us and had no interest in the church in particular or the things of Christ in general. Most wouldn’t even let us into the home.  I thought to myself, that is not the type of salvation I got. 

While visiting a large fundamental Baptist church in California, a friend went on visitation with the most notable soul winner in the church. A lady answered the bell at one house and stood impatiently behind the screen door while the soul winner went hastily through the plan of salvation. She wanted to attend to her child, who was fussing in the background, but he begged her to listen to the presentation. During the entire time, she was looking back into the house, severely distracted. At the end of his presentation, he boldly demanded that she open the door partially and take his hand. She seemed shocked by this request, but she cautiously did as he said. He then asked her if she wanted to go to Heaven when she died. When she answered in the affirmative, he asked her to pray after him the sinner’s prayer, which she did. He announced her gloriously saved, and she immediately closed the door and went about her business. 

This lady, and millions like her, have prayed the sinner’s prayer without Holy Spirit conviction of sin, clear understanding of the gospel, or repentance toward God. Such empty “decisions” are the sad products of a faulty soul-winning technique. 

The churches that have adopted this method of evangelism have produced millions of false professions. There are many churches that can show only a handful of new creatures in Christ for every hundred converts they claim. There is something extremely wrong about that picture. It is a great confusion. 

For nearly 40 years I have observed the sad fruit of this technique: multitudes of false professions, confusion about salvation, indifference to biblical truth, agnosticism, reprobate living, and blasphemy against God. In many communities across the land a large percentage of the population has prayed a sinner’s prayer under the ministry of churches practicing quick prayerism. Vast numbers of these have never been born again and they are now almost inoculated to biblical salvation. When challenged about their lifeless spiritual condition, they commonly reply, “I have done that,” meaning they have prayed a prayer and have been given assurance of eternal life. They are assured that they have a ticket to Heaven. Those who observe these things are made to think that salvation means little or nothing in relation to one’s manner of life, and Christianity appears foolish and powerless. This technique also tends to populate churches with unregenerate people who are trying to act right without having experienced genuine spiritual conversion.

There are many helpful things in the standard soul-winning programs, but they are missing some things and they are wrong about some things, and I believe that if the following changes were made we would see fewer empty professions and far less confusion. 

The following points would add  scriptural correction and balance to the typical soul winning program. 

1. The typical soul-winning program neglects repentance (Acts 20:21).

Repentance was preached by John, by Jesus, and by Peter. It appears 68 times in New Testament, 10 times in the book of Acts alone.

Repentance was a major part of Paul’s message (Acts 17:30; 20:21; 26:19-20). 

The Bible teaches that repentance is not same as believing (Acts 20:21). Sometimes repentance is emphasized (Luke 5:32; 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 3:19; 5:31; 17:11; 26:20; 2 Peter 3:9); sometimes faith is emphasized (John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; etc.); and sometimes both are mentioned together (Acts 20:21; Hebrews 6:1). 

Repentance is not a change of life; it is a change of mind that results in a change of life (Acts 26:20). It is a surrender (1 Thess. 1:9). “Believing” without surrender is not salvation.

Repentance is an assassin laying down the knife. Evangelist James Stewart wrote: “The hand that clutches the assassin’s knife must open ‘ere it can grasp the gift its intended victim proffers; and opening that hand, though a single act, has a double aspect and purpose. Accepting the gift implies a turning from the crime the heart was bent on, and it was the gift itself that worked the change. Faith is the open hand, relatively to the gift; repentance is the same hand, relatively, not only to the gift but more especially to the dagger that is flung from it” (Stewart, Evangelism, pp. 48, 49).

Repentance is the thief returning the stolen property. The late Lester Roloff said: “I believe we ought to make right what we can make right. What if I was staying with a group of preachers and one of them stole my wallet while I was sleeping? The next day he comes up to me and tells me he is terribly sorry and asks me to forgive him. I would be glad to hear that he is sorry for stealing my wallet, but I would certainly want and expect more than that from a repentant thief. I would want my wallet back! I don’t believe he has really repented unless he brings my billfold back. I DON'T BELIEVE YOU HAVE REPENTED UNTIL YOU GET RIGHT AND SAY, ‘LORD, I’M GOING TO LIVE DIFFERENT FROM NOW ON,’ AND BY THE GRACE OF GOD YOU WILL LIVE DIFFERENT” (Roloff, Repent or Perish).

The question is how do we use repentance in soul winning? 

First, we must not skip over it. We should explain that the individual must be ready to surrender to God, and not give him the idea that it is possible to be saved without this (Lk. 13:3; Acts 17:30). Of course, we explain that God will do the changing, but the sinner must be ready to accept God’s working. If the individual is not ready to do this, he is not ready to be saved. I have dealt with many people who understood and believed that Christ died for their sins and that faith in Christ is the only way of salvation, but they simply were not ready to surrender to God. They refuse to repent. 

This is often the case with people who grow up in Christian homes. Repentance was the thing that was missing in my life when as I grew up in a Baptist church. I don’t recall a time when I did not believe in Christ. I had no doubt that He died on the cross for my sin. I made a public profession of faith at about age 10, but it was empty because I had no intention of surrendering my life to Christ. Bowing before Him as Lord was the farthest thing from my mind. The course of my life did not change one iota. 

When my wife and I first began our missionary work in South Asia in 1979, our landlord began coming to our house to have Bible studies. He was a wealthy middle-aged Hindu and had a concubine with whom he spent most of his time, though he was married and had grown children. After we went through the gospel a few times, he told me he felt that he understood what I was teaching and that he was interested in receiving Christ, but he wanted to know what he would have to do about two specific things in his life--his shady business practices and his illicit relationship with the concubine. I could have said, “Don’t worry about those things. Just pray to receive Christ and those things will work themselves out later”; but I don’t believe that would have been scriptural counsel. I don’t believe he could receive Christ and be saved unless he repented of his immorality and his dishonesty. Salvation requires surrendering. I explained to him that if he would turn to Christ, God would change his life and he would have different desires, but he didn’t want that. The power to change one’s life is from God but the sinner must surrender to God’s working. 

Dealing with sinners according to repentance is often neglected today. There was an Independent Baptist church campaign in Maine a few years ago in which the people were taught to go house to house and say, “If I were to tell you today that you can be saved and go to heaven and you won’t have to change anything, would you be interested?” 

That is not biblical soul winning or biblical gospel preaching. That is cheap religious salesmanship. 

Consider Christ’s dealings with the woman at the well in John 4. He faced her squarely with the immorality that had controlled her life. He also faced the Rich Young Ruler with his sin of self-righteousness and covetousness (Luke 18).  

This is the way God always deals with people, and this is the way we must deal with them, too, if we want to follow the Bible in our gospel work. To preach repentance means to deal with glaring sins that people are holding onto and to tell them plainly that they must repent of sinning against God; they must yield their lives to Him; they must change directions; they must surrender. God will do a new work in their lives but they must be ready for that to happen. They must have a change of mind about God and sin that will result in a change of life.

It appears that many soul-winning programs try to “slip the gospel by the sinner” and get him saved before he really knows what is happening! That is not possible. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). There is no salvation without repentance, and it is a Holy Spirit-wrought change of mind that results in a change of life. 

To tell sinners that God demands that they repent might cut down on the “decision” statistics, but it is the only honest and scriptural path. God has commanded that they repent and Jesus said they can’t be saved without it, so how can we fail to tell them this? 

One afternoon I accompanied a pastor to knock doors in a part of a city that was populated with university students. A few times in one afternoon he shared a five-minute Romans Road plan (i.e., all have sinned against God, the wages of sin is death, and Jesus died for our sin and those who believe can be saved) and then immediately asked the people three questions: “Does that make sense to you?” (All of them said it made sense.) “Do you have any questions?” (None of them did.) And “Would you pray to receive Christ right now?” (None of them did.) The pastor didn’t even hint to the people that there would need to be a change in the direction of their life, a turning, a surrender. 

This is not a pastor who is into the numbers racket or who is trying to impress some preacher’s fellowship or perhaps get his name in a national magazine. He is a man that I respect, a mature Christian leader who has been in the ministry for many years and who has taken a bold scriptural stand on some unpopular issues. I believe the problem is that he is simply following a program of soul-winning that he has been taught and that is standard fare for a large percentage of fundamental Baptists. The program simply isn’t questioned.

Second, it is not necessarily the word “repentance” that always has to be used; it is the concept and meaning that the soul winner must get across. We must make the individual understand that God requires surrender. 

Third, we need to deal with each case individually. Paul preached repentance directly and forcefully to the Athenians because they needed to be confronted with God’s requirement (Acts 17:30). On the other hand, he didn’t have to preach repentance to the Philippian jailer, because the Spirit of God had already done a great work in his heart and he was ready to be saved (Acts 16:30-31). 

2. The typical soul-winning program doesn’t emphasize the importance of patience and thoroughness.

The typical soul-winning plan is far too hasty and shallow. We need to deal with people more carefully, more thoroughly, and more patiently so that they understand the gospel and are able to make a proper Spirit-led decision. 

Consider the previous example of giving a quick Romans Road presentation to a stranger at the door and then actually expecting him to be ready to be saved and encouraging him to pray a sinner’s prayer. 

On one visitation outing in Oklahoma City, my soul-winning partner knocked on a door and it was answered by a woman from South America who could only speak a few words of English. She invited us into the house (her teenage children were there) and told us that she was Roman Catholic. Though it was obvious that she couldn’t understand English, my partner went quickly through the Roman’s Road and then asked her if she wanted to pray. At that point I intervened and suggested that we find someone from the church who spoke her language and send them by to visit with her and also that we try to get her a Bible in her own language. How could an individual possibly understand the gospel and be saved when they are being dealt with in a language they don’t understand? Further, as a Roman Catholic, it appeared to me that what little she did understand she was re-interpreting in light of her false religion. 

This is a gross example of failing to deal with an individual properly. 

My partner that day was a humble, sincere man of God. He was not trying to make a name for himself or have some cause for bragging; he simply wanted to win people to Christ, but he had been influenced by the standard soul-winning program and had not thought beyond it.

Many people in America today are as Bible ignorant as the Hindus in South Asia. Many believe in evolution, and evolution is as far-fetched as any Hindu myth. If we tried to use the aforementioned soul-winning technique in South Asia, we could get half the people to pray a sinner’s prayer “so they could go to Heaven one day.” But in the vast majority of cases, what they would be doing would be adding Jesus to their other gods, which, typically, is the first thing a Hindu tries to do. It is quite another thing for the Hindu to turn to Jesus Christ ALONE as Lord and Savior and to turn FROM all of his other gods, as we see in 1 Thessalonians 1:9: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” But this, and this alone, is biblical salvation.

I have never met a Hindu who understood the gospel the first time he heard it. There probably has been some, but in the 20 years I have been a missionary among them I have not heard of it. 

We have found that in the vast majority of cases, the Hindu has to hear the gospel over a period of time. He must be dealt with very carefully and very patiently.

Someone might argue that people in the Bible got saved the first time they heard. Yes, some did. The Philippian jailer is an example, but he had also been listening to Paul and Barnabas’ preaching and we don’t know what other preparation he had received before that night.

Some Important Scriptures about Being Careful in Gospel Presentation

In light of dealing with sinners in a patient and thorough manner, consider the following Scriptures:

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).

Though we know that 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost, it is also important to observe that they weren’t saved on the basis of a five-minute gospel presentation. Further, these were Jews that were already steeped in Scripture and had a foundation of spiritual and religious knowledge that most people don’t have today. They knew about the true God. They understood the concept of the fall of man and sin. They had the testimony of the sacrificial system. They had the Messianic prophecies. And many of them had heard the preaching of Christ Himself. 

Consider another passage:

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few” (Acts 17:11-12).

The conversion of the Bereans did not involve a five-minute Romans Road presentation. It occurred over a period of time during which they heard Paul’s teaching and searched the Scriptures. 

Consider two more Scriptures:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17).

In these passages Paul describes salvation as coming to the knowledge of the truth and as believing a form of doctrine. Salvation requires knowledge. This does not mean that the sinner must learn systematic theology. It means that he must know and understand the content of the gospel. He must know what it means when the Bible says that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scripture, that he died, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-4). He must know what sin is and recognize himself as the type of sinner that the Bible says he is. He must understand who Jesus is and the significance of His death. He must understand what saving faith is. 

In light of this, it is obvious that the soul winner must patiently teach sinners these things and try to make sure that they understand. 

Don’t Forget the Law of Sowing and Reaping

Consider the fact that soul-winning is likened to sowing and reaping. Typically, these two aspects of farming don’t happen at the same time. There is sowing, following by watering, fertilizing, weeding, etc., then there is reaping. 

Soul-winning programs too often create the expectation that the sowing and reaping will occur at the same time. But when this does seem to happen, it is usually because the sowing had already been done, perhaps by godly parents, perhaps by a co-worker or friend, perhaps by personal Bible reading. 

The Preparatory Work of the Law

In light of dealing with sinners properly, consider the make up of the Bible. The reason why such a large percentage of Scripture is devoted to presenting the Law is to prepare the way for the gospel. The Law is the schoolmaster that leads sinners to Christ (Gal. 3:24). The Law shows man how holy God is and how sinful man is. Until a person understands his great guilt before God, he will not flee to Christ in a scriptural sense (Heb. 6:18). 

Preachers used to understand that the ground of the human heart must be plowed up with the Law before it can bear the sweet fruit of the gospel. Some of the old evangelists would hold meetings and not even preach the gospel for the first few days, preparing the way by preaching hard on sin and judgment. In the 1960s Oliver B. Greene preached 25 radio messages in a row on the wrath of God. I doubt he could even get away with that on any of the national Christian radio stations today. 

Everything is quick and shallow today, and we have all been affected by the spirit of the times.

The Sinner Typically Reinterprets the Gospel according to His Religious Background

Furthermore, it is important to be careful and thorough in presenting the gospel because people tend to interpret it in light of their religious background. When a Roman Catholic first hears about being born again, for example, he naturally thinks about baptism. When he hears about “receiving Christ,” he thinks that it is something that is done repeatedly through the sacraments. When he hears about sin, he thinks that there are different categories of sin and that only certain types of sin have eternal consequences. He might tell the soul winner that he understands these things and he might say that he has no questions about what has been presented, but in reality he doesn’t understand at all because of his previous false training.

This is why ecumenical evangelistic crusades are so insufficient. When Billy Graham or Luis Palau preach to Roman Catholics, they might preach a sound gospel message, but that message is interpreted wrongly by their Catholic hearers, and the ecumenical evangelists refuse to make things plain by preaching AGAINST false doctrine. To be understood, the truth must often be contrasted plainly with error.

A course that carefully presents the gospel is called SALVATION BIBLE BASICS by Doug Hammett, Lehigh Valley Baptist Church, Emmaus, Pennsylvania. It consists of four lessons on salvation. A strong foundation is laid by defining sin from God’s perspective and helping the sinner to see his lost condition before God. In Lesson Four, Repentance and Faith are carefully explained. It is very unusual for an evangelistic Bible study course to go into repentance as thoroughly as this one does. A simple chart helps to illustrate the Bible truths. 

In no wise am I saying that confrontational evangelism is wrong or that we should not seek to win people to Christ right where we find them, if possible. If God is convicting the individual and if he understands the gospel and is ready to repent and believe, then nothing else is necessary. 

I am simply saying that one of the best ways to avoid false professions is to avoid shallow, insufficient presentations of the gospel. Even the most careful presentation of the gospel will not avoid all false professions, but it will greatly cut down on them in contrast to a shallow presentation. 

Someone might protest, “But time is short and you never know if you will see that person again.” That is so very true, and oftentimes we only have one opportunity to give the gospel to any certain individual. In such a case we must do the best we can and leave them a gospel tract. But it is one thing to give a quick word of testimony or even a quick Romans Road plan of salvation, while it is quite another thing to use that hasty presentation as the basis for manipulating someone into praying a sinner’s prayer. 

Someone might protest that it is not possible to be thorough when people won’t even open the door and let the soul winner in the house. That is true, but if a person is not willing to listen to what God has to say, there is no hope for him beyond praying that God will give him an interest. The gospel cannot be forced upon the heart and it cannot be snuck in some side door. 

We must ask God to lead us to people who will listen, who will let us into their homes to have a series of gospel Bible studies, who will attend classes at church, etc.

Whatever the problem might be and whatever protests might be offered, being too hurried and plucking the fruit before it is ripe is not the solution! 

3. The typical soul-winning program doesn’t emphasize the importance of answering sincere questions

This could go under the previous point of taking the time to be thorough and to deal with the sinner carefully, but I want to cover it under a separate point because of its importance.

At Bible College I was taught NOT to answer most questions during soul-winning situations. I was taught to stay with the verses of the “Romans Road” plan and to say, “That is a good question and we will get back to it later, but right now I would like to show you…” 

I believe there is a time for that approach, if the question would truly sidetrack the issue and if it is not necessary to answer it, but I also believe that there are many questions that need to be answered before the person can properly understand the gospel and before he is ready to be saved. 

The man that led me to Jesus Christ spent three or four entire days with me, patiently teaching me the Scriptures and answering the myriad of questions and arguments that I had, such as whether reincarnation is true or why a man can’t simply follow his heart or why God would send people to Hell who have never heard the gospel or how Hinduism is different than the Bible way. If he had put off my questions in the manner in which I was taught at Bible College, he would not have gotten very far with me. My questions reflected what I believed at the time, and they needed to be answered. The fact that he could give me Bible answers for questions I considered unanswerable impressed me greatly. And the fact that he could turn right to the relevant Bible passages was doubly impressive. I realized that this was a man who took his religious faith seriously and had made the effort to educate himself in it, and it was one of the main reasons why I was willing to listen to him.

In this context, it is important to understand the difference between a question that should be answered and a “foolish question” (2 Tim. 2:23; Titus 3:9-10). A foolish question is one that is asked insincerely with the objective of confusing the truth rather than finding it. It is something that is practiced by hardened rebels and heretics. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are often trained to ask foolish questions about such things as the Deity of Christ, death, heaven, and the bodily resurrection. They aren’t interested in your answer; they only want to push their own heresies, which are twisted out of context. 

4. The typical soul-winning program is too formulaic.

>From my experience with soul-winning courses, they are typically too formulaic. The soul winner is taught a simple, pat plan that he uses in every case. 

While it is good to have a plan and to know how to present the gospel, there is no soul-winning formula taught in Scripture.

Christ is the pre-eminent Soul Winner and His dealings with people followed no set pattern. His dealing with the Woman at the Well (John 2) was dramatically different from His dealings with Nicodemus (John 3) or the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 19) or Zacchaeus (Luke 19) or the Pharisees (Matthew 23). 

The same thing can be seen in Paul’s ministry. Consider his dealings with Lydia (Acts 16:14), the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-32), and the philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts 17). 

The soul winner must be in fellowship with the Lord so that he has God’s wisdom to discern people’s spiritual conditions and needs. Some questions should be answered and some ignored. Sometimes we must deal tenderly and sometimes sharply. Sometimes we must hammer the need to repent and sometimes this is unnecessary, as in the case of the Philippian Jailer. Sometimes we must spend a lot of time showing the person that he is a sinner and making him understand what sin is and removing his self-righteousness, while sometimes God has already shown him this. 

5. The typical soul-winning program promotes the error of giving assurance.

I have often cringed as I have observed a soul winner giving assurance to someone who has just prayed a sinner’s prayer, even when there was no evidence that the person was truly saved or that he was more than vaguely interested in what the soul winner was talking about. 

What is wrong with assurance, you ask? Nothing is wrong with it, but it is only for those who are saved. 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28). 

God promises eternal life to those who are born again, but He certainly does not promise eternal life to those who merely pray a sinner’s prayer. Verses 27 and 28 in John 10 are connected. Verse 28 says Christ gives eternal life to His sheep, but verse 27 says His sheep follow Him. Verse 27 is the evidence of salvation, while verse 28 is the eternal blessing of salvation. You cannot take the promise of verse 28 unless you display the evidence of verse 27. 

Consider also the following passage:

“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Colossians 1:21-23). 

Those who are reconciled to Christ and who therefore have eternal life are those who continue in the faith and are not moved from the gospel. Those who merely pray a sinner’s prayer and do not continue in the faith demonstrate that they have never been born again. 

Consider Hebrews 6:9-11:

“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” (Hebrews 6:9-11). 

Note that there are “things that accompany salvation.” An empty profession is not biblical salvation, and those who have an empty profession, who do not care about the things of God, do not have eternal life no matter how many prayers they have prayed or how many times they have been baptized and no matter who has given them assurance. True salvation is accompanied by works and labours of love, which are the products of the indwelling Spirit. Hebrews 6:11 reminds us that full assurance is only for those who give evidence that they have been born again. 

Consider 1 John 3:2-3:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).

Verse 1 tells us that those who are born of God have eternal life and will be like Christ in Glory. Verse 2 goes on to warn that those who are truly born of God purify their lives. The purifying is not the means of their salvation; it is the evidence of their salvation. 

All of these passages teach that we must be careful about giving assurance of salvation to those who have merely prayed a prayer. 

We can tell them that IF they have repented toward God and exercised faith toward Christ they have eternal life, but if they have merely prayed a prayer, they are still lost in their sins. To tell a person dogmatically that he has been saved and now has eternal life when we do not know if he has been saved is unscriptural and harmful. 

The Bible gives us many examples of those who were interested in the things of God and were even zealous for God and who appeared to be saved but were not. Judas is a prime example. Those in Matthew 7:21-23 who prayed “lord lord” and who did many wonderful works were not saved. The Jews mentioned in Romans 10 had a great zeal for God but they were not saved. The false teachers of 2 Peter chapter 2 professed Christ but were not saved. Those mentioned in Titus 1:16 professed that they knew God but they were not saved. 

A sinner can have many false motives for calling upon the Lord other than for salvation from his sin. He can call upon the Lord because He wants help with some immediate problem in his life, or to get rid of the soul winner, or because he wants a ticket to Heaven when he dies (though he has no intent to know or serve God in this life), or because he thinks that the sinner’s prayer is another of the many religious things he must accomplish in order to be saved eventually, etc. 

It is one thing to tell a person that he can have assurance from God and from the Scriptures if he is truly saved; it is quite another thing for the soul winner to give a stranger assurance and promise him a home in Heaven simply because he has prayed a sinner’s prayer. 

Yes, Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” but that verse cannot be isolated from the rest of the passage and from the rest of the book of Romans and from the rest of the Bible. It must be a certain kind of calling upon the Lord, a calling from the heart, a calling that is based in sound repentance toward God and proper faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In the final analysis, giving assurance to a sinner is not the soul winner’s job; it is the job of the Holy Spirit and He accomplishes this through God’s Word. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16).

We conclude with the testimony of an evangelist about the danger of multiplying false professions through faulty soul winning techniques:

“Many years ago, in order to answer the criticism of the mounting number of false professions, I heard a brother say, ‘I would rather lead 100 souls to Christ, knowing that 95 of them were false professions, and see five of them go to heaven, than to not attempt to be a soul-winner.’ The first tragedy of that statement is assuming that those are the only two options: either to rack up false professions while winning a few, or to not witness at all. How about the option of being a witness within the guidelines of scriptural teaching, which produces very few false professions! The second tragedy is the flippant attitude about the 95 people to whom you gave assurance of salvation that will one day wake up in hell! Most of them will not allow a genuine witness to approach them about their souls, because they’re banking on that false assurance that you gave them.”


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pulled Out of The Fire

As a preface to this writing, I am posting on this date for a reason.  It was 21 years ago today, October 22, 1992, that my Mother, Lois Brown Chastain accepted Jesus Christ as her Saviour.  On March 07, 1997 she entered into her promised rest.  For this knowledge I praise God.

Jude 22-23  And of some have compassion, making a difference:  (23)  And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

            A few days ago Sharil, (my wife) and I were discussing the core of events that convicted our hearts for The Salvation of God.  (I had recently looked at my Mother’s Bible which we had given her at Christmas in 1979.  Within the front she had written the date she accepted Jesus The Christ as her Saviour, October 22, 1992.  She also wrote the date of her Baptism, November 08, 1992.  (Her Baptism date is the date we both remember as the first time we had ever heard The Gospel of Jesus The Christ.)
            (Also, I must confess the scripture and title for this dissertation was given to me at our Sunday evening Sermon preached by Dr. James Rasbeary, our Pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church here in Wiley, Texas.  His subject reflected on the thoughts I had in mind to write.)
            In order for my Mother’s Baptism date to be relevant to this discussion, I must back up a few months before that date. 
            Sharil and I were members of a protestant church, and attended “off and on.”  My Mother went with us occasionally, however she told Sharil and I, “I want to hear what I heard when I was a little girl.”   My comment was, “Mom, I wasn’t there, I don’t know what you heard.”  (Sharil, with much more wisdom told Mom, “Maybe you need to go to a Baptist Church.” Sharil had never been in a Baptist Church, but knew they were more conservative.)
            Later, Mom wanted/needed a hobby.  (Sharil introduced her to Kay Denson who taught her how to make porcelain dolls.)  A few weeks later, Mom related what Sharil had told her about a Baptist Church.  Kay said, “I have just The Baptist Church for you.” 
            Mom began attending Calvary Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas.  Bro Tom Huntress and his wife Vera led Mom to The Salvation of God, and her demeanor began to change considerably.  Mom asked Sharil if I would go to her Baptism, as she was afraid to ask me.   Sharil told her we both would be there.
            We attended Sunday School, (which I thought would include the Baptism, not, then in the 11:00 service, I thought it would happen, again not.)  Then they told me I would have to come back for the evening service.  Evening service? I didn’t know they went to Church twice in one week.  Finally she was Baptized at the end of the evening service. 
            (What I was not yet aware of was a Gospel seed had been planted, both in Sharil’s and my hearts.)
            In the early morning on November 22, 1992, (a day before Sharil’s birthday,) I asked her what she would like to do for her Birthday.  She was really reluctant to answer my question.  She kept asking me to decide.  I refused and finally she said, “I want to go to Church.”  She has since told me I said, “You Do?” (With extreme sarcasm.)  Then I asked, “Which Church do you want to go to?”  She answered, “The other Church.”  We attended both services that day, and except for sickness, we haven’t missed many services since.
            On January 19, 1993, Sharil and I both accepted Jesus as our personal Saviour at about 3:30 pm on that Tuesday afternoon.  The next Sunday we went forward for Baptism, and the following week January 31, 1993, we were both Baptized at the end of the evening service.
            All that I have described was God via The Holy Spirit, “pulling them [Mom, Sharil and I] out of the fire.”   Yet, it all began by the desire [Holy Ghost conviction] of my Mother wanting to hear The Word of God again like she remembered hearing when she was a young girl.
            God tells us how and what we must do to gain that Eternal Salvation.  He tells us He wants us to know we can have it.

1 John 5:13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

He wants your heart to rejoice in the knowledge of your Eternity with Him.  If you believe, Jesus will save you.

Romans 10:9  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.

There are three thing in this verse:   1.) If you will confess your belief in Christ Jesus to others, and 2.) Believe that God has raised Jesus from the grave, and 3.) God will save you from that everlasting death in The Lake of Fire.
            Amazingly, God saved a little old widow woman at age 70, Sharil and I both at age 51, and has done miraculous things within our lives.  God called me to The Pastorate, and Sharil to be a Godly Pastor’s wife.    All this comes from that one statement from my Mother, “I want to hear what I heard when I was a little girl.”  Have you ever heard a similar statement or question?
              “If you died today would your home be in Heaven for The Eternity, or would it be the flames of hell?”    Call on His name and receive him, repent of your ways, go to that Baptist Church, and obey Christ Jesus and be Baptized.

Bro John R. E Chastain
Baptist Evangelist
Wylie, Texas   Fundamental Thoughts

Friday, July 12, 2013

Take It To The Limit

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Psalm_106:1  Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

(As a preface to this devotional, I generally do not work with “Worldly” songs.   However, after eating the lunch I am describing below, I had to do this to clear the song out of my head. jrec)     

            Sharil, (my wife) and I were recently eating at our local What-A-Burger, and overhead the music of the old Eagles’ song, “Take It To The Limit” was playing. 
            (Do know, I no longer listen to that kind of music intentionally, but you must know that my toe “was a tapping.”)   Except for the chorus I had absolutely no concept what the song was about.  I mulled over some ideas concerning the chorus.  (Later, I downloaded the lyrics and found that it is a woeful song concerning lost or fleeting love.  In terms of context, I was a bit off base as to what it was about.   I have since trod down another venue.)
            I can relate this song to our sin.  “Still you're coming back, you're running back You're coming back for more.”  Isn’t this how sin works?  We “taste” a sin, will never try it again, but later just “one more time.”  But, we may go back many times.  (There can be a point of no return.)
            I was also thinking about “…take[ing] it to the limit one more time,” in relation to God’s Love and His Mercy for us.  Based on our Scriptures above, His Love and His Mercy is “everlasting” and “for ever.”  Our King James Bible teaches us God is infinite in His love for us, infinite in his Mercy on us.  Do know it is infinite for those who are saved by Faith in Jesus, God’s only Son, His only begotten Son.
            We are also taught there are limits to those who refuse His Son Jesus.  Peter asked Jesus how many time must I forgive, Jesus answered Peter:

Matthew_18:22  …I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

I cannot say that “seventy times seven,” is God’s limit but we must know a limit exists.

Romans 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 

                    The context of this Scripture in Romans deals primarily with sodomy, (which is sin.)  So as a consequence of sin, God gave “…them over to a reprobate mind.”  What is a “reprobate mind?”  “Reprobate (n.) A person abandoned to sin; one lost to virtue and religion.”  In other words, abandoned, totally rejected by God. 
            Another phrase, “So put me on a highway” also intrigued me.   My thoughts went straight to The Book of Matthew.

Matthew 7:13-14  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  (14)  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The “highway” that came to my mind are the two mentioned in these verses, “the strait gate” and the “broad way.”  (These are our choices. One choice leads to life everlasting, (becoming a Christian,) whereas the other leads to destruction, (refusing Jesus.) The “broad way” is the path of the reprobate mind.  This is a dangerous slippery slope from which many never escape.) 
            After I became a Christian, at age 51, and received a clearer understanding of a reprobate mind, I was horrified to realize that had I taken “…it to the limit one more time” and followed that “broad way” I could now have that “reprobate mind,” totally rejected by God, a castaway, and very possibly burning in hell. 
            As Christians saved by The Blood of Jesus The Christ, (through our Faith in Him,) we are eternally secure.  The question that we must ask ourselves is:  “If I Died Today, Would I Go to Heaven or Hell?”

Romans 10:9  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.

This verse gives you the limited knowledge that you need to know.  God wants you to know that through Jesus, His Son, you can have eternal life.

1 John 5:13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

God loves you, and He wants you to know that.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Truly and honestly believe this and Salvation via your faith is yours eternally.

Hebrews 10:22  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

With a true heart, and a clean clear mind, Ask God Today. 
Step back away from “the limits.”  Stay forever within God’s Amazing Grace.

Bro John R. E Chastain, Evangelist
Retired Baptist Pastor
Wylie, Texas   Fundamental Thoughts

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Once Upon A Time

Titus 1:15-16  Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  (16)  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

            I remember many years ago, (prior to my salvation,) watching NBC News with Tom Brokaw.   He was upset that Dr. Jack Kevorkian was involved in assisted suicides.  (Mr. Brokaw was apparently appalled that a physician would do something that would violate The Hippocratic Oath.)  The next story showed Christians picketing an Abortion Clinic.  (Mr. Brokaw didn’t seem to be appalled, yet both physicians were doing EXACTLY the same thing, with one major difference.  The person who asked for help in ending his life made the choice.  The baby that was murdered had no choice.  (Prior to that newscast, I had NO opinion concerning abortion nor assisted suicide.)  I changed news channels and never went back.  Whatever status Mr. Brokaw had (in my mind,) was tarnished.
            Recently, our Texas Legislature has been working on a bill that will limit abortion.  (I am not sure of all the contents.)  I know that those who protested had a Senate Member Filibuster during the first attempt, with grievous protests interrupting the Legislative process.  Later, Governor Perry called a special session to grapple with this bill one more time.   (The protestors against the bill gathered along with Christians who were for the passage of this bill.)  The Christian group began singing, “Amazing Grace” and the “Pro-Choice” protestors chanted, “Hail Satan.”  (At least we know now affirmatively the “Pro-Choice” group is of Satan.  They called on their god, just like the people in The Democratic Convention booed God The Almighty.
            Think about Elijah.  (He called on God and fire came down.  He had the ability to kill all the Baal worshippers.  Now, I am not asking for that.  However, “Once Upon A Time” God judged severely those who called out a false god.)  Since the Roe v. Wade decision, we as a Nation have murdered more babies in the name of contraception than the number of Jews murdered by Hitler.
            It seems we have encouraged our daughters to become whores, our sons to become whoremongers. When the natural result of back seat copulation happens, a baby dies.  (Then our “children” can go back to doing what they desire.  It wasn’t a baby, it was just a fetus.)  Today a girl can even get a “Plan B” pill and perform her own murder.
            “Isn’t it amazing how the same people can “unload on gun owners” for potential deaths, but agree on killing more babies than have been killed (by all guns) since The Revolutionary War, maybe since the invention of guns?”  (I made that statistic up, just like those that oppose Americans their Second Amendment rights.)
            We as Christians must remember those who are for abortions and those who are performing abortions: “are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”  They “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
            “God never allows nor ever gives permission for any kind of abortion.  Christian, it is murder.  It is infanticide.  It is offering babies to false gods.  Abortion at any level MUST STOP.
            As I write, we are celebrating our 237th Anniversary of our Nations Independence.  When we sit back and look at our leadership, Our President, Our Judicial, and Our Congress, we find they have all failed our Nation morally and financially.  Then we wonder, what has happened to our economy, where are the jobs, where are our solid Churches that we had “Once Upon A Time?”
            We as Christians must get back to our First Love, Jesus The Christ.  We are walking more like the world, more like the Satanists who are proclaiming his name.  Our Nation must get back to the roots laid down, (with direction of God,) by our forefathers.  In order for our Nation to be spared, we the people of The Nation must change.

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

As Christians, we must begin acting and sounding like we did “Once Upon A Time.”  We have the information we need.  We must “Just Do It.”

Bro John R. E Chastain
Retired Baptist Pastor
Wylie, Texas   Fundamental Thoughts

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Carnal Christian

1 Corinthians 3:1-4  And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  (2)  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  (3)  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?  (4)  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

            The title in which I have chosen for this devotional is a relatively new phrase to me.  I have known of the context, (what the topic is,) just had never heard the phrase.  Many of you will liken this to the term “backslidden.”  However, they could be synonymous, but in the context of these verses, they are not.
            The actual definition from The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is: “1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure. 2. Being in the natural state; unregenerate.  3. Lecherous; lustful; libidinous; given to sensual indulgence.” 
            We as Christians generally define carnal as The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.  However, most Christians divide sin into many categories:  (It is just a white lie, a little lie.)  Yet, it is still a lie.  Carnality, in our minds, is as divided as our judicial system’s range of murders.  (Murder unintentional or intentional is still murder.  This is NOT a treatise against self-defense, or against the police officer, or soldier.)  God has never allowed varying degrees of punishment. We are the ones who want “Kings” to preside instead of God.
            Carnality is ANYTHING that you put between yourself and God with no intention of changing (repentance, unregenerate.)  Whatever is keeping you away from God isn’t necessarily sin.  For example, boating, fishing, or any other activity (in itself is not necessarily sinful) that keeps you from worshipping God, (but knowing what it is doing without any intention of changing,) is the problem.  (It is the location, which is the problem.)  Again, it is anything that you allow to get between you and God.  Consequently, you are a Carnal Christian.
            In pondering these things, it came to my mind that ALL Christians are Carnal.  There has been only One non-Carnal Christian on earth and that was Jesus The Christ.

Romans 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

(These verses tell us the truth.)  All Churches are carnal as all members within are “The Church,” and every member is carnal, some more, some less. 
            In the Parable of The Sower, Jesus defines the make-up of our average Church.    As a soul-winning Christian, (vv 3, 14) (“sower”) we present God’s Word: 

Mark 4:3  Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 

Mark 4:14  The sower soweth the word. 

As we preach, knock on doors, and hand out tracts, we will reach these four groups. The majority we meet are possibly those described below in (vv 4, 15.)   They are “by the way side” and are, (for the most part,) courteous, respectful, not saved nor concerned, a carnal worldly person, but not a Christian.

Mark 4:4  And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 

Mark 4:15  And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. 

The “stony ground” group (vv 5-6, 16-17) are those who gladly receive God’s Word.  They believe for a while, but later realizing the cost: of their tithe, their time, and teaching/learning, they become offended and leave.
Mark 4:5-6  And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:  (6)  But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 

Mark 4:16-17  And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  (17)  And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. 

The third group are those (vv 7-8, 18-19) who “fell among thorns,” hear God’s Word, but too much is going on in their lives to concern themselves with eternity.

Mark 4:7-8  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 

Mark 4:18-19  And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,  (19)  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 

The last group (vv 8, 20) that “fell on good ground” is the core of our Churches.  They are the tithers, soul-winners, musicians, and/or workers who keep the Church working under Pastoral leadership. 

Mark 4:8  And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

Mark 4:20)  And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

The first three groups described may be a part of our congregation, and for a period of time a member of our Church, but they are not necessarily Christians.  They may have professed, (as I did when I was nineteen,) but never had a personal relationship with Christ, just the head knowledge. 
            We must keep in mind as Christians:  we are all carnal to some degree, some more than others.  This knowledge must not be used as an excuse to walk in our iniquities.  

Romans 6:15  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

            My attempt in this brief dissertation is to get every Christian to look at his individual walk, and determine what he has placed between him and God.

Romans 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

We must strive to remove the roadblocks so we can receive God’s blessings and answers to our prayers.  We might even find fewer trials in our lives.  Jesus tells us:

John 14:21  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

“We as Christians have The Commandments of Christ Jesus within His Word, The King James Bible.  We claim Jesus as our Saviour, as our King.  So, what keeps us out of Church, out of reading our King James Bible, from tithing, helping, soul winning?” 
            I know the answer Christian, just as Paul knew, and as you know.  It is sin.    It is whatever you consider more important than God.
            Paul teaches in our verses (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) that we must continue to grow.  We grow from babes to children, and then to adults in The Lord Jesus. 
            “Where are you?  Do you still require the milk and Pablum™  (H. J. Heinz Company), or can you grow with the meat of God’s Word?”

Bro John R. E Chastain,  Evangelist
Wylie, Texas

Fundamental Thoughts