What’s Wrong With Digital Decisions?

baptism, gospel, Sinner's Prayer No Comments

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.