What’s Wrong With Digital Decisions?

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A recent article in Christianity Today (March, 2015, p. 17) related the success the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has had with digital decisions.   In 2014, the BGEA shared the gospel with almost 9.5 million people around the world.  Of those, only about 180,000 were in a live audience at a crusade, while 7.5 million were reached through BGEA websites.  Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they prayed “to accept Jesus Christ as (their) Savior” in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse.  Since the BGEA launched its family of evangelistic websites–which include SearchForJesus.net and PeaceWithGod.net–less than 4 years ago, more than 5 million people have indicated a decision for Jesus.
Digital Decisions and the Sinner’s Prayer
The digital decisions referred to in the article in Christianity Today are possible because of the Sinner’s Prayer.  In September, 2012, an article in Christianity Today by David Neff  described the Sinner’s Prayer as a “work of genius” (p. 73).  The Sinner’s Prayer comes in many different forms, but generally, contains two elements:  repentance for sin and trust in Christ’s redemptive work at the Cross for forgiveness.  A sample Sinner’s prayer is:  “Lord Jesus, I need You.  Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.  I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord.  Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.  Take control of the throne of my life.  Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”  The prayer consists of three elements: (1) absolute dependence upon God’s grace; (2) trust in Christ’s lordship; and (3) union with Christ.  The majority of Evangelicals accept the Sinner’s Prayer as the gospel message.  Often, whenever someone says that they “got saved” they mean that they have said the Sinner’s Prayer. The basic concept is “grace only through faith only resulting in union with Christ.”
Obedience to the Gospel is Essential For Salvation
The Sinner’s Prayer leaves out an important part of obedience to God.  The grace of God is essential for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9).  The personal faith in Jesus Christ of the individual is essential for salvation (Rom. 5:1; Heb. 11:6).  Repentance of sin is essential for salvation (Acts 2:38, 17:30).  Confession of faith that Jesus is the Son of God is essential for salvation (Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:9,10). Love for God is essential for salvation (Matt. 22:36-39).  Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6).  No one has ever been saved by faith alone!  The reason is that love for God is the greatest commandment and love for God involves obedience to Jesus Christ (John 14:15).  No person can be saved without loving God and His Son.  The Sinner’s Prayer leaves out baptism.  Baptism is an  essential element of salvation.  Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).  This statement was made as a part of the Great Commission.  In Matthew’s account of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Jesus teaches that individuals become disciples by being taught the Word of God and being baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is essential to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is the new birth (John 3:3-5).  If and only if we are born again (born of water and of the Spirit) will we enter into the kingdom of God.  Jesus taught this to Nicodemus and made it a part of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).  If we leave out baptism, then there is no entrance into the kingdom of God.  If we leave out baptism, then there is no discipleship.  If we leave out baptism, then there is no remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
What is the gospel?  The gospel is the good news of our salvation from sin through the atoning power of the blood of Jesus Christ.  The gospel is the story of our redemption.  The gospel focuses on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:1-3).  The gospel consists of the facts about Jesus’ life, the commands that He has given through His word, and the promises that God has revealed to us.  There is only one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9).  An anathema (condemnation, judgment from God) is pronounced upon anyone that changes the gospel of Christ.  Paul doubled this statement for emphasis.  Don’t change the gospel!  The Sinner’s Prayer changes the gospel by omitting the command to be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
False Doctrine Produces a False Hope
If the Sinner’s Prayer is really not the gospel of Christ, then it gives a false hope to many who embrace it.  In Matt. 7:21-23, Jesus spoke of individuals who call him Lord, Lord, but that do not obey His commandments.  These individuals claim a relationship with the Lord.  They do many mighty works in his name.  But, he will renounce them with these words, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  Jesus said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Disobedience to the teachings of Jesus is a manifestation of lovelessness.  When we do not love the Lord, then we reject His teachings.  Lovelessness produces lawlessness.
The Sinner’s Prayer omits baptism which is commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ.  It perverts the gospel of Christ and it gives a false hope.  As an evangelistic tool, it is a digital deception.

By What Authority?

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In Mark 11:27-33, an exchange takes place between Jesus and his detractors. The religious leaders among the Jews challenge Jesus’ authority. Earlier, Jesus had cast out the merchandizers in the temple area (Mark 11:15). The event triggered the questions, “By what authority doest thou these things and who gave thee this authority” (Mark 11:28)?
The Question
The question is a valid question. We must be concerned about the authority behind what we do especially in matters that pertain to religion. Jesus’ enemies supposed that He had no authority to do or to teach the things He did. They know that they had not given Him this authority. They were not sincere in their quest. They were looking to find a way that they might accuse Jesus.
Jesus’ First Response
Jesus answered their question with a question. He asked, “The baptism of John, was it form heaven or from men?” Jesus showed that there are really only two choices regarding authority. Either authority comes from God, or it comes from men. If from God, then they must obey. If from men, then they could disregard it. In regards to John’s baptism, their actions had already betrayed them. They rejected it. Therefore, they did not hold that John was a prophet from God. Jesus revereses the obligation to answwer. He exposed by what authority they acted in disobedience to God. They were in reality following Satan by following their own wills.
The Challengers Respond
The internal thoughts of these men are revealed to us in Scripture. This is an indication of the inspiration of the Scriptures. Jesus’ opponents recognized that they were impaled upon the “horns of a dilemma.” If they say from heaven, then why didn’t they obey God? If they say from men, then they feared the people because the common person held that John was a prophet from God. They answered, “We cannnot tell” (Mark 11:33). First, if their statement is true, then they should have confessed their ignorance and humbly asked Jesus to explain. Second, if their statement is false, then they identified themselves with Satan (John 8:44). How did the common person know what they professed they did not know? Their actions betrayed their true beliefs. They rejected John’s baptism. John witnessed to Jesus (Jhon 5:33). If they accepted John as a prophet from God, then they would have to accept Jesus as the Christ (John 1:29).
The Lord’s Second Response
Jesus replied to them, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Mark 11:33). Jesus said He would not tell. The answer was already apparent to the unprejudiced mind.
The Answer to the Unanswered Question
The gospel writers permit their readers to come to their own conclusions about the events of which they write. Jesus was sent from God and spoke for God (Heb. 1:1-2). He possessed authority because He was and is the Son of God (John 10:30). John writes that “these things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Jesus possesses all authority (Matt. 28:18). He does so because He is deity (John 1:1). This means that all of us are now in the position of the Jewish religious leaders. If Jesus is a prophet of God and speaks the word of God to men by what authority would we reject His teaching? If we have not obeyed Him, we have rejected God and are following the authority of men. Jesus also commanded baptism (Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16 and John 3:3-5). To reject the teaching of Jesus is to betray the fact that we follow men not God. The baptism of the Great Commission is it from heaven or from men?