About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Decision Or Discipleship


One of the more popular words spoken in the Evangelical Christian gospel during the 20th century was the word "decision."  You would routinely hear it at an altar call, which by the way, only came into existence in the later half of the 1700's.  Charles Finney (1792 - 1895) was a well known Presbyterian preacher in the American north east during the period known as the Second Great Awakening.  He popularized altar calls with his fire and brimstone preaching. 


I was raised in the world of Evangelical Christianity where I sat in on hundreds of altar calls.  They were conducted at the end of a meeting, usually accompanied by inspirational music and singing.  The preacher would ask, plead, or even scare the unsaved into making a decision for Jesus at an altar of prayer.  Here is the question. Does such a decision actually save a person?  


Becoming a Christian is not merely a matter of our decision.  It's actually more a matter of God's decision.  No one can come to Jesus, not even at an altar, on his own accord.  He must be invited or drawn to Him by God the Father through His Spirit (John 6:44).  If one decides to approach an altar to get saved based on his own decision, or, based on an emotional plea, fear of hell's fire, or anything else, one does not get saved.  If, however, one decides to accept the Holy Spirit's invitation to turn from sin, trust his life with Jesus, and receive the Spirit of God into his life, he is saved.  Without the Holy Spirit's involvement in the process of salvation, there is no salvation.  It's that simple.   


A good preacher and a well tuned worship team can generate sufficient emotion to lure many people to an altar.  We can't confuse such humanistic invitations to an altar with the genuine invitation of the Holy Spirit to repentance, faith in Jesus, and a new life in the Spirit.  The two are light years apart.            


I'm not suggesting that people have never been truly saved at an altar of prayer.  I am saying that an individual's decision alone saves no one.  Besides, there is a more important New Testament word than the word "decision."  It's the word "discipleship."    


Jesus did not command His apostles to go into the world to invite people to make a decision to get saved.  He commanded them to go and make disciples from all nations (Matthew 28:19).  One who makes a decision isn't necessarily a disciple.


As it relates to Jesus, a disciple is one who turns from sin, trusts his life with Jesus, and receives His Spirit which enables him to live what he learns from Jesus.  A disciple is more than a decision maker.  It's a sad commentary on the western world church, but from my vantage point decision makers seem to outnumber disciples.  No wonder the western world church is not the effective witness for Jesus it is meant to be.  Even more serious is that the decision maker is deceived into thinking he is saved when he isn't.  In other words, a watered down gospel does not only do disservice to Jesus, it does a disservice to the decision maker who should be a disciple.     


So, the next time you find yourself in a service where the preacher tells everyone to close their eyes while the unsaved secretly slip up their hands so no one can see their not so public confession of Jesus, remember what Jesus said in John 6:44.  "No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draw Him."

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