False conversion

Baptists usually believe in eternal security or persistence of the saints. That is, once you are saved, you’re always saved. Yet a Baptist prison chaplain says that he finds the same percentage of Baptists in jail as out of jail. Same percentage of Methodists, same percentage of Catholics.

So what’s the problem? A Baptist preacher once said, “We’ve spent too many years telling people they can never lose what they never had.”

Americans like formulas. We turn everything into formulas. So we have turned conversion into a formula. We can tell you how to avoid hell, guaranteed, if you follow these four easy steps. Or assent to four easy statements.

But the “steps to salvation” or the “Romans road” are not easy steps to take. We’ve fooled ourselves because we wish they were.

For example, Romans 10:9 says “…If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved.” But can you make yourself do that, whenever an evangelist tells you that you should? You may have better reasons for believing that Jesus was raised from the dead than for believing that Osiris was raised from the dead. But I don’t think you normally believe that dead people can come back to life. Wouldn’t it take a miracle to change your mind?

Should you believe the gospel because your church tells you to? You can’t. You literally can’t. That isn’t faith, it’s assent — deciding to accept doctrines and not argue about them. Should you believe in the resurrection of Jesus because the brilliant apologetics of someone like Josh McDowell? No, in his final debate with Ahmed Deedat, even Josh McDowell responded to Deedat’s Muslim arguments by telling the story of what God had done for his alcoholic father.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And faith is a gift.

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