It was an interesting conversation. My husband and I were talking with a pastor who was sharing with us about the ministry of an evangelist he knew. This man made the statement that the evangelist had claimed to win hundreds of thousands of people to the Lord during his ministry. In defense of his ministry the evangelist said, “If only 50% of the conversions are true conversions, that’s still a lot of people. And if only 25% are true conversions or even only 10% are true conversions that is still more people won to the Lord than most.” I said to this pastor, “This may be true but my question is, What about the other 90% who live under a false sense of security? That is a lot of people who believe that they are saved and unless they repent they will die and go to hell.”
Judgment is a reality. And as a child of God and a disciple of Christ who is commanded to “go into all the world…” I sure do not want to be responsible in leading people astray. In talking with people about eternal life, I have found that it is easier to talk to ungodly people who do not claim any religion than to people who believe they are saved yet live unregenerate, unholy lives. These people are blinded because at one time they made a profession of faith, prayed a prayer, and joined a church. Now they rest alone in that false security.
Studies show that 80% of Americans will say they are Christian. Yet the same studies show that of those 80% only 20% believe that Jesus is the only true way to God. What is the problem? If we look deeper we would probably find that even less of those are living Christ-like. Our churches are filled with people who claim salvation yet have never repented. This fact plays out in their lives (Matthew 7:20). Again I ask, what is the problem? Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (or practice lawlessness),” Matthew 7:22-23. Jesus is saying that you live as though I have never given you a law to obey. A few statements before this one Jesus said that strait and narrow is the gate that leads to life and very few will find it (Matthew 7:14).
It seems as though the modern evangelical movement is facing a crisis. What makes it worse is that few are willing to acknowledge it. Part of the problem can be attributed to the unbalanced gospel that is so often proclaimed. What I mean by unbalanced is that only half the truth is taught. The modern message is that God is love, Heaven is waiting, and Christ wants to bring you joy, fulfillment, and happiness in this life. It appears as if fewer and fewer pastors, preachers, and evangelist will share the whole, unadulterated gospel anymore. While God is love; He is also perfectly Holy and Just. All sin must be accounted for. And while Heaven is waiting for the redeemed; judgment is waiting for the unrepentant. And while Christ does give peace and joy unspeakable to the saved; He also promises trials, troubles, and tribulation in this world. The unbalanced gospel is at best a misrepresentation and thus becomes man-centered and not God-centered.
The worse part of this out of balance gospel is that repentance is completely left out. The gospel has been reduced down to ABC’s of accept, believe, and confess. How many thousands have been told that if they would just believe in Jesus and repeat a sinner’s prayer that they would be saved? The problem is that belief will not save anyone. The devils believe (James 2:19) and they tremble before God. In addition, you cannot find the “sinner’s prayer” in Scripture. Interesting enough when the rich young ruler came to Christ (Luke 18) and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus did not give him the ABC’s of salvation. Some would say, what about being sorry for your sins. Isn’t that enough to save you? Try that in a court of law. “Judge, I know I robbed a bank 20 years ago but that was a very long time ago and I haven’t done it since. Plus, I’m really, really sorry. I believe that you are a good judge and I’m hoping you will let me go.” God is the perfect Judge and just being sorry is not enough. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said about being sorry. “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death,” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.
Sorrow brings repentance which leads to salvation. A person cannot be saved without repentance. Repentance involves a turning. To repent of sin is to turn from it and to turn to God. A truly repentant person will seek God, accept His grace, and strive to follow His will. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” 1John 2:3-4.
Why is it then that so many leave repentance out of the gospel message? John the Baptist’s sermon was, “REPENT.” (“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 3:1-2.) Perhaps, we should not worry about the prophet’s message and focus on what Christ said. But wait, His message was the same. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 4:17. When Jesus sent out his disciples he instructed them to preach repentance. “And they went out, and preached that men should repent,” Mark 6:12. And after His resurrection, one of the last messages Christ gave to His disciples was how they should preach repentance. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke 24:47.
Why is it that we think man’s plan of evangelizing the world is better than God’s? I believe the Enemy is rather satisfied when the unbalanced gospel is preached and false professions of faith are made. When our churches become filled with the unsaved they lose their effectiveness. They become powerless organizations that have been relegated to the corner of society. This gospel will produce numbers, but numbers can be very deceiving. On Judgment Day, just ask those 90%, who think they are saved, how deceiving numbers are.