Is This The “Great Apostasy”
The “Altar Call” has been a main stay of the modern day Evangelical evangelistic strategy for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, there are few if any alive today that remembers using any other strategy to lead someone to salvation but by “Accepting Christ”, “Making a Decision for Christ”, “Give Themselves to Christ”, “Choosing Christ”, or “Making Christ Lord of Their Lives.” These buzz phrases have become the norm in describing the Salvation experience in this Emergent Church age.
This practice of urging people to step out into the aisle and take the “Decisional Walk” for Jesus has produced numbers of profession Christians not seen in human history. Or, has it!
I have found very few Pastors/Church Leaders/Teachers who know very much at all about how this strategy began and fewer still who are willing to listen to a critical argument on its effectiveness. In fact, most I question about its effective and is it scriptural, they get very angry with me. These two critical questions and one more, how has “Decisional Evangelism” affected Christ’s Church, were the ones I had to find the answers to.
The debate between man’s free will and the sovereignty of God is not a new one. Both sides have battled it out almost since the moment Christ’s Church was formed in Acts. I don’t pretend to think that I can add anything new or overly insightful to this debate. What is new to Christ’s Church is the usage of the Altar Call to urge people to come to Christ. Where your convictions fall in the debate will largely determine your thoughts and convictions. I pray we can lay aside our love for tradition and take a critical and Biblical look at how we evangelize the lost.
The Bible warns us of a “Great Apostasy“, a turning away from the faith in Christ’s Church in the latter days before the AntiChrist is revealed and Christ returns: “Now; brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit, or word, or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
I believe there is little doubt we are, right now, witnessing the great reality of Christ’s Church falling away!
Is Decisional Evangelism the great lie Satan is using to effect a lesser gospel preached so as to deceive many and cause them to fall away from the faith? I believe it is! It has been my main focus to write about how today’s gospel has been watered down and is powerless to change the course of our once great “One Nation Under God.” Instead of the Church influencing its world, the world has influenced the Church. I believe it is all a part of God’s perfect plan to usher in the final period of man’s history.
God gave us many warnings! We have not heeded them very well, preferring instead to focus our attention on the positive things, like…God Is Love! We ignore the fact that God is also…A God of Wrath; A God of Jealousy; A God who is Just and will not overlook sin with His Righteous judgment!
“It would have been well for the Church of Christ, if the warnings of the gospel had been studied as much as the promises.”
~ J.C. Ryle
“If Jesus preached like most preachers today, He never would have been crucified.”
~ Leonard Ravenhill
Since it is scripture that make us wise unto salvation, it must be scripture alone that defines salvation for us!
Paul warns Timothy to hold fast to what Paul has taught him about scripture: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Paul warns Timothy to: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul tells Timothy of two that have strayed from the truth. Then Paul warns Timothy: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.” (2 Timothy 2:20). These two had corrupted the doctrines of Christ. In a time when so many are saying what you believe to be true about God and Jesus Christ is not important (Doctrine), here we have Paul warning us of the corrupting influences of the world upon Christ’s Church even then.
Paul finally warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 that “Perilous times will come” and describes well what they will be like. He praises Timothy: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine” (vs. 10). Paul then ends by telling us what scripture is for: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The pivotal question in all of this is…Do we have a right understanding of what man’s role is in salvation?
To answer this question well, we must understand better these seemingly two opposing Biblical truths…God is sovereign over all things and man is accountable to the laws of a sovereign and holy God! No matter what our Christian label is or what label others might want to put on us, we must get the gospel of Jesus Christ right if men are to hear and believe it unto salvation. And, scripture alone must teach us! The truth does matter and what we believe to be true about God and Jesus Christ matters (Doctrine).
God has given man “Free Will” and of his own free will, Adam chose to break God’s law: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). Have we rightly understood this free will that was given to man? Does that mean that man has the free will to respond to an altar call and accept Christ as his personal Lord and Savior as Christ’s Church has been doing for almost 100 years.
This is not a study on Predestination and Free will, but all these Biblical truths must be married together. Each of them by themselves, none of them stands alone. They are inseparably linked and we must try to understand them as a whole and not build a gospel out of one or the others by themselves.
This is just the introduction! In Part two, we will begin taking a look at “The Great Falling Away/God Has Done It!”