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The Emotional Appeal


The old hymn entitled ďJust As I AmĒ ends with the words ďI comeĒ.  For me these words were so real as a child.  Our church seemed to sing all seven verses of this song every Sunday as an invitation for salvation.  I usually responded to this invitation to appease my so-called feelings of guilt.  I now know that guilt is not a feeling but a position in which we stand before God.  We are either guilty or not guilty in the eyes of God our Supreme Judge, whether we feel guilty or not.


I came and I came and I came again.  I came so many times to the front of the sanctuary to get saved that I could have easily worn my own personal path in the carpet.  Getting saved every other Sunday made me feel good for a while but for one reason or another the feeling soon dissipated.  Within a day or so I wondered where my salvation went and I felt as lost as ever.  I now know that salvation has little to do with feelings and has everything to do with simply trusting Jesus with my life.    


I think the emotional appeal with the quiet soothing music playing along with the persuasive words of a pastor can produce an emotional response in a heart.  Itís the Biblical truth that says that what you sow you reap.  If you sow to the emotion, youíll reap an emotional response.  This emotion kept driving me to the altar.


What really made me sure of my salvation was a 5 second unemotional prayer to Jesus when I was all alone in my bedroom in Feb. 1970.  Iíve had absolutely no doubts since then.  Itís ironic that I spent so many emotional times in church and this 5 second prayer did more than all those times put together.     


Itís quite possible that the Holy Spiritís call on a life might get lost in all the extra trappings of our appeal.  Thereís got to be more than an emotional appeal to bring someone to Jesus.  Iím not against altar calls.  I just think that the one doing the calling should be the Holy Spirit, and we shouldnít do anything to hinder His work.   


I might even be able to successfully argue that an altar is more Old Testament thinking than New Testament thinking, but I wonít do that here.


What Iím talking about is an over emphasis on emotion. I donít want to discount emotion because I know Jesus can and does cause emotional reactions in us.  Thatís a given.  We are emotional people, but the emotional reaction isnít salvation.  Itís only one result of salvation and doesnít always manifest itself the same way with everyone.  Because I experienced some emotion at the front of a church building doesnít necessarily mean I got saved.    


The altar call is meant to be a public display of our commitment to Jesus, and so it is to a degree.  The University of Toronto just released a report concerning New Years resolutions saying that if one publicly announces his resolution, he is more likely to follow through and keep it.  So altar calls can be one form of  displaying our commitment to Jesus and may help us follow through with Him. But the altar call must not be based on a pure emotional appeal that takes the place of the Holy Spirit. If it is, youíll probably end up with converts like I once was, never really knowing where I stood with Jesus.  Jesus can touch our emotions as He often does, but to get us to come to Him based on emotion alone, well, thatís not Scriptural.       

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