Written By Brook A.
I am very perplexed today as I sit and ponder upon the present-day church. I am not speaking of its mere definition, which simply means “congregation” (or an assembly or group of people) as we first see in Psalms 22:22 (KJV). Note there are many words in the Bible that when they first appear are defined in the next sentence or few sentences thereafter if you were not aware. I am talking about what is happening in church buildings all across America. Honestly, this message is sure to ruffle many feathers. Some will become downright angry with me upon reading this, while others will be in complete agreement. Nevertheless, I am called to write it as I see it and that is precisely what I intend to do.
A wide spectrum of issues involving the church has deeply troubled me for quite some time now. From issues such as end times events that are daily unfolding at a rapid pace, to no word on our economic condition and how to prepare for what lies ahead; the pulpits are silent. While the majority of sermons are considered a “good word”, it is disturbing that most Shepherds are keeping their flocks in the dark and in a complete area of comfort. I feel one reason is to not “rock the boat” per say, since being upfront with these critical issues may reduce attendance numbers. God forbid that ever to happen! Churches are outfitted like a modern day Starbucks, and many even with the adjoining small restaurant. Yes, many will say, “But this is an important addition for fellowship.” Well, what happened to having this type of fellowship in the comfort of one’s own home? (I am not speaking of fellowship lunches and such). I myself have been guilty as charged, but while I sat week after week through service sipping on my latte, I could not help think of the words in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed [die] for lack of knowledge.”
Though all of the above issues have long been troubling to me, the greatest is in the dealings with new Believers that has kept me up at night, mainly having to do with salvation. I do not necessarily mean in the prayer itself (unless you attend a church that is not presenting the salvation prayer in accordance to scripture), but I am speaking of the manner it is presented in so many churches today. This is the reason I continuously ask myself, “How many people, after reciting the prayer of salvation, ARE actually saved?” This is extremely bothersome for me, and in the distant past, I never walked out a church service with such a question on my mind.
You may be wondering what it is about this part of the service that has my spirit so very uneasy – let me try to explain. Granted, if you are not attending a church to have witnessed what I am about to explain, be thankful. I am about to shed some light on a huge area of the present crippled church. I am speaking of this silent, “hidden” salvation, for lack of a better way to put it. The sermon is given and in closing, the Pastor then invites all who have not made Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior a chance to do so. Hopefully he will spend some time explaining what salvation actually is and back it up with sound scripture, especially since this IS, or should be, the most critical part of the entire service. Unfortunately, I have found that even the explanation is minimal at best these days. Then, it is what comes next that had me so uncomfortable in my seat, that an array of emotions always swept over me. He asks to see a show of hands of all those who desire salvation, but BEFORE this is done, he instructs everyone in the entire building to bow their heads and close their eyes, (emphasis added). He acknowledges that he sees the hands lifted and states, “with every head bowed and with all eyes closed, everyone repeat after me.” The congregation follows instruction and after all eyes are again opened, everyone claps and yells out praises for “God only knows who”, that just were saved.
Many of you may not have a problem with this, but I have a BIG problem with it. I have sat and taken part in this one too many times while I was still attending church, and the sheer emotion in that something about this is very wrong only grew to a point I can no longer contain it, which has led me to write about it, wondering if I am not alone in what I feel.
First, I need to quote the scriptures given to the apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit which he so eloquently explains to us how to achieve salvation in Romans 10:9-10:
“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.”
As I stated earlier, the prayer itself should line up with scripture, and if done any other way at the church you attend, then get out of there for good. The discontent within my spirit derives from the “every head bowed and every eye closed” part. I have to conclude that the only plausible reason for doing this is so attention is not drawn to the person in need of salvation, thus making it more comfortable for them in order that they will be more inclined to raise their hand. Is THIS truly where the state of church has now come to? It is my deepest belief that when a person comes to the knowledge that they are without doubt in need of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, it will not matter who is looking. My King was stripped NAKED, beaten beyond recognition, spat upon, mocked, and was made to die in a most humiliating manner by being nailed on a tree, in front of MULTITUDES of people, and the church is concerned that people need to be invisible in order to attain everlasting life? There are hardly words to describe how this makes me feel. It also makes me think of how Jesus must feel.
In Romans 10:9-10 we read how to attain salvation, but immediately after that in verse 11 Paul continues by saying,
“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”
I find it very interesting that this was the immediate statement made by Paul directly following how to achieve eternal salvation. The word “ashamed” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace; feeling inferior or unworthy; restrained by anticipation of shame.” Is it not reasonable in saying that pride is directly correlated to being ashamed? Is this how the church should go about leading the lost in what is to be the very beginning of their newly transformed life? With this in mind, let us look at a few more passages:
“Whoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
“Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
Years ago, I attended a church where those who were in need of salvation had to raise a hand, step out of their seats, and walk up to the front. These actions, while unspoken, declared to the world, “Yes, I am a sinner and in need of Jesus as Lord and Savior.” It openly stated that the person is done living in and of themselves, and surrendering their hearts to the Lord. It is a public declaration that they are now a part of the kingdom of God from that day forward. If a person is not expected to publicly confess that they are in need of Jesus before all men, how in the world will they be able to follow the Great Commission and take the gospel out into the whole world as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20?
Previously I mentioned that I have questioned whether some of the newly saved people within the church are truly saved. One reason stems from witnessing the sin that remains in their lives. I fully understand that it can take some time to rid our lives of the habitual sin that took place before salvation, but I am talking about those who have experienced this “hidden” salvation and the fruits they display never seem to change. For instance, I personally know those who have repeated the salvation prayer in the “hidden” salvation setting, and month after month, the same sin has remained. What is even more distressing is they do not see what they are doing as wrong, and are by no means convicted by it. It is important to understand that we do not have to rid our lives of sin before we come to salvation, for that would make it a works based salvation rather than salvation by the grace of God. Therefore, repentance is not a requirement to obtain salvation. However, once we give our hearts to Christ and the Holy Spirit begins to reside within us, we are then expected to abolish and eliminate sin from our lives and begin living in righteousness. In order to be saved from the righteous judgement of God, we must honor our Father by repenting and turning away from sin. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says,
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stoney heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.”
Another very powerful passage can be found in Luke 13:3,
“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
My biggest apprehension is that many people may be unaffectedly repeating the prayer of salvation- that it is not coming from a deep place within the heart. If there is no transformation that takes place, I have to conclude that it is solely just words spoken by the mouth. Immediately after I became saved, I knew something huge had taken place. There was an undeniable newness inside my spirit when I woke the next day, and even the trees seemed to sing His praises as the wind blew through the leaves. As the days and weeks passed, I began to remove and repent of all sin I had long taken part in. I had such a longing for righteousness and to please the Lord from that day forward, for the Word says in 1 Peter 1:16 to “Be holy, as I am holy.”
I charge you, if you have said the prayer of salvation and nothing in your life has changed, or if you were relieved to be able to “hide” while reciting it in a church environment and walked out the doors no different than when you arrived, then you are treading on dangerous ground. If you remain best friends with this world, or the fruit you are producing does not line up with any of the characteristics of the fruits of God’s Spirit, then it is time to get serious about the condition of your heart. I am not speaking of the occasional sin, for we all fall short at times and must repent and move forward, knowing that Jesus removes our sin as far as the east is to the west. I am talking about living in a constant state of rebellion and sin, even after speaking the salvation prayer. If you receive salvation but continue in sin, using every means to justify it or feel there is nothing wrong with living in the same sins you enjoyed before you spoke the prayer, then this is a problem. I really believe that some people think that if they just speak the prayer, their eternal salvation is set. What is worse is that the church they attend is the one giving this false impression. People deceitfully believe that eternal salvation rests only in repeating a prayer, and they can go on in life just as before. There seems to be more focus on announcing the NUMBER of hands that go up on a weekly basis rather than giving sound doctrine and instruction on how one is to live after the new birth takes place.
It is past time for the church of Christ to wake up and get real. The times that are coming upon the Earth will become unlike we have ever seen. We cannot afford to live teetering on the fence between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. If you have not wholeheartedly given your heart to Christ, then I implore you to do so. Remember, nowhere does the Bible tell us that salvation is unconditional.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
“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)