Monday, September 21, 2009

The Prayer that Sends Many to Hell

Last week I received a link from a friend to a video entitled The Prayer the Sends Many to Hell.  Actually, it is a poem by that name followed by a short message condemning what is popularly known as "The Sinner's Prayer."  I listened to the message several times in order to transcribe it.  Here is the message in its entirety.
Every Sunday morning I'd wake up and go to church and participate in the greatest idolatry you could ever imagine. The place might have been called a church, had a pastor, and called the creator of the universe “God,” and even read straight out of the Bible. The fact was I believed in an idol, a false god that had me on the path to hell. I believed in a god that allowed me to live in bondage to my sins and still believe that he'd let me into heaven. I believed in a god that would allow me to backslide and that my faith be shipwrecked and still believe I'd ever been saved to begin with. I believed in a false god that said all I had to do was at one point in my life say a prayer and ask Jesus in my heart. I believed in a god where I didn't have to renounce everything in my life and follow after him. I believed in a god that said my emotional feelings were more important than what Scripture says. I believed in a god that disconnected all biblical threats from reality—a god that had me on a broad way to heaven, not a narrow one; a god that said to save my life for my sake and not lose it for his. The idea that all I had to do was say that prayer had me damned, had me living a lie. Eternity is a long time. I pray anyone who is truly saved will stop playing games with the human soul. The true gospel of Jesus Christ is not one to distort. It is a gospel that will clear out the pews from the churches for people love their sin and don't want to give it up. But if they do not, they will see nothing but hell, for that is why we must tell.

Do not play games with salvation. The fact that hell exists and people have an eternal torment there, will motivate anyone who's truly born again and regenerate to not pervert the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation Salvation is to be saved from what you were—a self-relying sinner who had multiple pursuits in life. If you're living in the darkness and relying on a prayer years ago to save you, then mark it in the book: you're damned. The evidence that you are saved is that you no longer rely on yourself; you no longer live in bondage to sin; that you'll seek God to be glorified in your life. You will love Christ more than anything, because he replaced that heart of stone; and he gave you that heart of flesh; and he caused you to obey and walk in his statutes. When you seek for God to be glorified, there will be a full-fledged war against all sin that is in your life, for nothing else will matter but Christ—nothing. Biblical salvation's simple. God saves you, and he becomes your very life.

Millions are on their way to hell, yet believe they're not because of the sinner's prayer. And that's what it is—the prayer a sinner says to deceive himself into believing he is truly regenerate and born again by the supernatural power of God. It is by false power from a preacher who learned his doctrine from a verse taken out of context.

Don't be deceived. Examine your lives, and test yourselves. Don't be deceived.
After the fourth time through I replied to my friend and the others receiving this,
The first time I heard it, I was skeptical of the presentation.  After the fourth time, I was certain that this clip is just manipulation.  The speaker gave no real biblical basis for his comments though he did quote John 3:8 and Romans 1:16.  Perhaps in a larger context it would make sense, but I am doubtful.

I understand that the intent of the clip is to halt the idea of what is called fideism, easy-believism, or cheap grace.  In that I wholeheartedly agree.  When a person truly believes, the biblical example is that he does so with the intent of following unwaveringly, however inconsistently that may happen.  But the speaker goes on to mix in the unbiblical idea that true believers cannot fail to grow in the faith or deny the faith or end up living in sin--concepts that can occur and that I think can be supported with Scripture.
I later gave some support.
Leaving the methods aside, I submit that it is possible for a Christian:
1)  To start but not grow for whatever reason (Matt 13:5-7, 20-22; 1 Cor 3:1-4; Heb 5:11-14).
2)  To backslide badly (2 Pet 1:8-9).
3)  To have no reward of service at the final judgment (1 Cor 3:10-15).
4)  To fall under the Lord's condemnation (1 Cor 11:27-32).
5)  To grieve the Lord to the point that he will take his life (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30).
6)  To deny (1 Tim 5:8) or abandon (1 Tim 5:11) the faith.
A good Reformed theologian would take issue with this based on the doctrine of Preservation of the Saints.  This is articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Section 17.1.—They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. [Phil 1:6; 2 Pet 1:10; John 10:28-29; 1 John 3:9; 1 Pet 1:5,9]

Section 17.2.—This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; [2 Tim 2:18-19; Jer 31:3] upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; [Heb 10:10,14; Heb 13:20-21; Heb 9:12-15; Rom 8:33-39; John 17:11,24; Luke 22:32; Heb 7:25] the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; [John 14:16-17; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 3:9] and the nature of the covenant of grace; [Jer 32:40] from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. [John 10:28; 2 Thess 3:3; 1 John 2:19]

Section 17.3. Nevertheless they may through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; [Matt 26:70,72,74] and for a time continue therein: [Ps 51:14] whereby they incur God's displeasure, [Isa 64:5,7,9; 2 Sam 11:27] and grieve his Holy Spirit; [Eph 4:30] come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; [Ps 51:8; Rev 2:4; Song 5:2-4,6] have their hearts hardened, [Isa 63:17; Mark 6:52; 16:14] and their consciences wounded; [Ps 32:3-4; Ps 51:8] hurt and scandalize others, [2 Sam 12:14] and bring temporal judgments upon themselves. [Ps 89:31-32; 1 Cor 11:32]
As this is taught, believers will continue to progress in grace and holiness until the final day or death, although there may be minor setbacks along the way.  This appears to be iron-clad, but look again at the last Scripture proof of the chapter.  The apostle Paul is explaining that the Lord will discipline his own to bypass condemnation, but the discipline being administered in this context is both sickness and death.  If we sin unto death, how can the Westminster divines claim that Christians will not make shipwreck of the faith and end that way?

Can Christians lose their salvation?  No.  The eternal life we receive has both durative and qualitative facets guaranteed by the finished work of Christ.  It is secure because of his work, not ours.  Our works after salvation add nothing.  We do them by faith in the Son of God and so grow to Christ-likeness.

Is there a real danger in making a false profession?  Yes, certainly.  There are some sitting in pews who have a false hope based on confidence in a prayer they gave once or in acts performed that looked correct.  But both of these have the wrong object of faith--themselves.  The true object is Christ.

Let us not resort to these emotional games played by well-intended preachers to stir people to true faith, but rather preach the truth of Scripture and allow the living Word and Holy Spirit to do its effectual work.

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