Let’s Keep the Gospel Clear!

“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way that I ought to proclaim it.” Colossians 3:3-4

During my drive from Nebraska back to our home in Iowa recently, I noticed a billboard along the interstate that read, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” with a phone number on it to call. I thought to myself, “I wonder what they are telling callers they must do to go to heaven?” Knowing I had about two hours left on my drive home, I knew this would probably be an animated conversation that would keep me wide awake. So, I decided to give them a call. I will try to convey the main ideas communicated in this call, acknowledging that my quotes are not verbatim.

When a young man answered my call, I told him I noticed their billboard sign and wanted to know what I must do to be sure I would go to heaven in the future. Immediately he told me I must repent and then quoted from Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I asked, “What does it mean to repent?” He said it means to turn from your sin and follow Jesus. To which I replied, “You mean I must turn from all my sins?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you done that?” I asked him. “No,” he responded, “But if I do sin, the Bible tells me I must confess it to the Lord, and He will forgive me.”

In addition, he quoted from Romans 10:9-10 which says, 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To make sure I understood him, I tried to repeat back what I heard him to say, “So you are telling me that to be sure I will go to heaven, I must repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord.” He said, “That’s right.”

Next, I told him my mother taught me John 3:16 when I was a child. After quoting the verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” I said to him, “Jesus is saying all I must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him.” Quickly he retorted, “We do what we believe, right?” I said, “Of course. But Jesus is saying all I must do is believe in Him for eternal life. So, if I will do what I believe, I will believe in Jesus to get me to heaven, not do good works to get to heaven.”

This man, whose name ironically is John, liked the book of Matthew, so he directed me to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

I said to John, “Christ is teaching that confessing the Lordship of Jesus and doing good works in His name is not what gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It is doing the will of the Father. And what is the Father’s will for entering His kingdom? Jesus tells us in John 6:40, ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ According to Jesus, all we must do to enter the Father’s heaven, is see and believe in His Son to receive everlasting life. The apostle John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (20:31). Ninety-nine times the apostle John uses the word ‘believe’ in his gospel. He never uses the word ‘repent.’”

The John on the other end of the call said, “Believing is not enough. Listen to what the apostle John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes in I John 3: 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’”

I responded by saying, “First John 5:1 says, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ The apostle John makes it clear that believing Jesus is the Christ is all that is necessary to be born of God. “

John responded by turning to I John 1:3-4, 7-10, 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full… 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I thanked John for turning to these verses because verses 3-4 explain to us that I John was written so we may have fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. So, when John talks about walking in the light (1:7), confessing sin (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3), abiding in Christ (2:6), not sinning (3:6, 9), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving others (3:10), he is providing conditions for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. The gospel of John tells us that the only condition for entering the Christian life is believing in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; et al.). But I John provides many conditions for having fellowship with God.

I told John on the other end of the call that I was very disappointed that he was preaching a different gospel than what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. I quoted from Galatians 1:8-9 which says, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians that the only condition for being justified or declared righteous before God was to believe or have faith in Christ alone. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe/faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone.  

When John on the other end of the call tried to interrupt me, I asked him to wait until I was finished explaining the clear gospel. John hung up on me before I finished talking.

Unfortunately, what John and others with that ministry are doing to the gospel of grace is not uncommon. Rarely do I hear individual Christians or churches use the words God uses the most in New Testament evangelism – the verb “believe” (pisteuō) 1 and its noun form “faith” (pistis) 2 – as the only conditions for salvation. This is devastating because it dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we start replacing God’s Word with our own cliches or verses taken out of context, we are making it more difficult for sinners to be saved from hell by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If John had not hung up on me, I would have told him that he is the one who needs to repent. The word “repent” (metanoeō) in the New Testament means “to change one’s mind.” 3 John and others who distort the gospel need to repent or change their minds and return to the original gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Jesus said, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15; cf. Acts 10:43; 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to finish paying the penalty for all our sin when He died in our place (John 19:30) “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). If the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him keep the gospel clear, then how much more do you and I need this kind of prayer support from others!?! Satan wants to deceive Christians not to use the words God uses most in evangelism (“Believe” and “Faith”) because he knows that these are God’s terms for salvation from hell (cf. Luke 8:5, 12).

God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians. If you would like to learn more about how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear evangelistic invitations, please view our training video at https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/lesson-1-part-5-avoiding-unclear-gospel-invitations-video/.

May the Lord Jesus be glorified as we seek to keep His gospel clear by using the words He uses the most in evangelism: believe and faith.

ENDNOTES:

1. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9, 22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

2. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 640.

How do I overcome doubt? Part 4

“And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” John 20:28

In John 20:24-29, we are learning how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Redirect our wills toward believing (John 20:25b-27).

Today we learn that the fourth way to overcome our doubts is to RENEW OUR CONFESSION OF FAITH (John 20:28). After Jesus gave Thomas undeniable evidence that He was alive and invited him to believe (John 20:26-27), “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” ( John 20:28). A personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus caused Thomas’ doubts to vanish. He then makes one of the greatest confessions in all of the Bible. “My Lord and my God!”

When you hear the word “confession,” it may have a negative connotation to you. You might have this image of sitting in a booth in a church. It is there that you confess your sins to this guy you cannot see sitting on the other side of a partition. Or you may have an image of a windowless room in a police station somewhere with a bright light on you and you are being asked to confess a crime. I understand how these first two images can be unnerving. But the kind of confession we are talking about in this verse is a positive confession where we say the truth about someone or something. In this instance, we say the truth about God. 1  

The apostle John uses Thomas’ confession to connect us back to the prologue where we read, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.(John 1:1, 14, 16-17). At the beginning of his gospel, John wanted us to know that the Word, Jesus Christ, “was God.” He also tells us that Christ’s glory consists of being “full of grace and truth.” Jesus extends “grace for [after] grace” to His doubting disciple. Thomas knew that Jesus was God and also that Jesus was “full of grace” toward him despite his sinful unbelief. And now we see Thomas soaking up the riches of Christ’s grace as he worshiped his risen Lord and God.  

This confession by Thomas is the high point of the gospel of John. Here was a skeptical man, confronted by the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. He announced that Jesus, the Man of Galilee, is God manifest in the flesh. Thus the truths in the first chapter were realized personally in this apostle (1:1, 14, 18). The Resurrection (a) demonstrated that what Jesus predicted about His being raised was true (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34; John 2:19), (b) proved that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) and was sent by God (‘vindicated by the Spirit,’ 1 Tim. 3:16), (c) testified to the success of His mission of salvation (Rom. 4:25), (d) entitled Jesus to a position of glory (1 Peter 1:11), and (e) proclaimed that Jesus is the ‘Lord’ (Acts 2:36).” 2

“John’s other witnesses to Jesus’ deity were John the Baptist (1:34), Nathanael (1:49), Jesus Himself (5:25; 10:36), Peter (6:69), the healed blind man (9:35), Martha (11:27), and John the Apostle (20:30-31).” 3

“The thing that God used to make a believer out of Thomas is the same thing God wants to use to make a believer out of any skeptic – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 4 Atheists have tried to disprove Christ’s resurrection only to be persuaded of its truth. People of other faiths have tried to dismiss this most important event in history only to be converted to Christianity.

There are several things we learn from this confession. The impact of this confession is underscored when we look at each word contained therein. 5  The first word is “my.” This is a personal word. A word of ownership. It is saying that faith does not belong to someone else. It belongs to me. It is mine.

The next word is “Lord” 6  which refers to one who is in a position of authority.  It can mean “Master” and is a common designation for God. 7  When Thomas says, “my Lord,” he is declaring that Jesus is his Lord God. When I say Jesus is “my Lord,” I am saying that He is the One I look to for advice, direction, and guidance. He is my Boss and my Manager.

The third word in this confession is “and.” It is such an easy word to skip over. But in this confession it reminds us that one cannot contain the Person of Jesus Christ in one word. Jesus is “my Lord,” but He is so much more than that, isn’t He? He is not only my Lord, but He is also my Creator (John 1:3), my Master (Luke 6:46), my Friend (John 15:14-15), my Savior (Titus 2:13), my great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), and my King (I Timothy 6:14-16). He is so many more things. It is amazing that this former skeptic now recognizes the greatness of Jesus Christ.

Then Thomas uses the word “my” again when he says, “my Lord and my…”  That tells us how incredibly personal his confession of faith in Jesus Christ is. It also reminds us how personal our confession of faith in Jesus needs to be. Yes, we gather together and sing together as the family of God. And yes, we need to draw from one another’s faith. But no one else can have faith for you or for me. No one else can trust in Jesus Christ for you or for me. It has to be your decision and my decision. 

The final word in this confession is the most powerful word – “God.” Thomas looked at Jesus and says to Him, “my Lord and my God.” The Man Thomas has been walking with for over three years is so much more than a mere man. Thomas sees the truth about Jesus. Perhaps he sees it better than the other disciples. He says, “Jesus, You are not just a Messiah sent from God.” In some miraculous way that Thomas may not have totally understood, he said, “Jesus, You are God. You are the Creator. You are the One Who made me. You are the One Who is in charge of everything. You are the One Who is worthy of all my love, my devotion, and my worship. My Lord and my God. The Director of my life Whose Being cannot be contained in mere words. You are the One I look to for my very existence and purpose.”

Throughout the Bible, we observe that worship takes place as people encounter Who God is and at that same moment, they see who they are in His holy presence. For example, when the prophet Isaiah saw God on His throne encompassed by angels proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3), Isaiah immediately cries out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5). For Isaiah, that was a moment of overpowering worship!

When Peter had fished all night without catching any fish and Jesus, Who was in the boat later that same day, provided a miraculous boat-sinking, net-breaking catch of fish, Peter’s immediate response was to “fall down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,’ ” (Luke 5:8). Peter got a glimpse of Who Jesus was and spontaneously worshiped his Lord. Later on when Christ calmed the wind and the waves that threatened to sink their boat, His disciples were afraid and marveled. They said to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8:25). They witnessed the mighty power of Jesus which exposed their own weaknesses, and then they worshiped Christ.

Thomas has the same experience when he encounters the risen Lord Jesus, Who materialized behind locked doors (John 20:26). Thomas hears Christ quote what he had said to the other disciples when Jesus was not there with them (John 20:25, 27). Immediately Thomas realizes that Jesus is not only risen, but He is also all-knowing! Thomas also recognizes his own sinful unbelief in doubting the resurrection. He spontaneously cries out, “My Lord and my God!” He was now believing in the risen Lord Jesus and was worshiping Him.

Some skeptics, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim that Thomas was expressing shock like the common American expression, “O my God!” But that would violate the command not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain (Exodus 20:6), and Jesus would have certainly corrected Thomas. And, like Peter when Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him, Jesus would have rebuked Thomas and said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” (Acts 10:25-26). But instead of correcting Thomas, Jesus commends his confession and worship of Him as an example of the faith that all people are to have who have not seen Christ personally (John 20:29). All of us are to believe in and worship Jesus personally as “my Lord and my God.”

In the gospel of John, God wants us to believe specifically “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31). He wants us to believe that the risen Jesus is “my Lord and my God.” If Jesus is anything less than the eternal Lord and God of the Bible, it would be a terrible sin to worship Him. But if He truly is the eternal Lord and God (and He is), it would be a terrible sin not to worship Him.

What will be your response? Can you say that Jesus is your Lord and your God? If not, what is keeping you from saying that? Your bitterness? Your disappointments? Your family? Your guilt or shame? Your ignorance? Your past? Your pride? Your presuppositions? Your religion? Your unwillingness to move toward believing?

Thomas experienced the fullness of Jesus’ grace when He encountered Jesus behind locked doors. Have you experienced God’s abundant grace in Jesus Christ? He sends His Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin so we may see our need to believe in Jesus (John 16:7-9). He convicts us of our need for God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus instead of our own righteousness (John 16:10; Romans 4:5). He convinces us that we rightly deserve the same judgment that will be given to Satan in the lake of fire (John 16:11; cf. Revelation 20:10, 15).

But then God’s Spirit opens our eyes to the good news that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, including you and me (1 Timothy 1:15). And we realize that God does not save sinners after they have worked hard to clean up their lives and earn it. No, God saves sinners by His grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. A former persecutor of Christianity writes, “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (I Timothy 1:16). Eternal life is a free gift that we receive by believing in Jesus. No amount of our good works can earn this gift. It has already been paid for through the death and resurrection of Christ (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

But then after believing in Jesus, we still have doubts, just like Thomas did when he doubted the resurrection. What are we to do then? Like Thomas, we are to be honest with the Lord about our doubts. When we do this, we make a personal connection with Jesus so He can answer our doubts.

What doubts are you struggling with right now? Some of us may have doubts about God’s direction in our lives. Perhaps we doubt God’s ability to provide for our needs. If you have doubts, don’t hide them. Talk to the Lord Jesus like Thomas did. When you start to make it personal between you and Him, He can start to answer those doubts. That is the beauty of what Jesus can do.

Thomas teaches us some important principles about confessing our faith in the middle of our doubts. 9

1. Confessions are important. Without them faith can lose its vitality. If I am not telling God what He means in my life then my faith will be less alive. If I am just listening to others talk about God or someone else sing to God, then my faith is going to become dead or useless. But when I confess my faith together with other believers and personally to God, my faith will grow in vitality.

2.  Confessions are personal. Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.” The Bible’s idea of confession is a personal declaration of belief. You cannot live on borrowed faith. It doesn’t matter if it is your parent’s faith or your friend’s faith. It must be personal for you to overcome your doubts.  

3.  Confessions are visible. They are heard by others. We are to confess our faith with our mouths before other people. The Bible tells us, 9That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10). The “salvation” spoken of in these verses includes both salvation from hell and salvation from the power of sin after we become Christians. For this kind of “salvation” or deliverance to take place in our lives, you must first “believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” to receive God’s “righteousness.” After we are justified and reconciled to God through faith alone in Christ’s death (Romans 3:21-5:9a), we can then be saved from God’s present-wrath (Romans 1:16-32) or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (Romans 5:9b – 8:39). 

This second type of salvation requires confessing “with your mouth” and believing “with your heart.” God’s people could not ask for assistance (with the “mouth”) from Christ to obey God’s commands without first believing (with the “heart”) in Christ resulting in God’s righteousness. Verse 10 explains (“For”) this sequence: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We come to know Christ by believing in Him from the heart resulting in God’s righteousness (Romans 10:10a; cf. Romans 3:21 – 5:9a). We make Christ known to others by confessing Him with our mouths resulting both in salvation from God’s wrath on present-day sin (Romans 10:10b; cf. Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) and victory in our Christian lives (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). To believe in the heart resulting in God’s righteousness is justification. To confess with the mouth resulting in salvation is sanctification. 

This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe… call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord (confessing Christ) is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Corinthians 1:2). 

These verses tell us the importance of making our confession of faith visible so other people can know about our faith. Obviously there are people who can’t speak but they can make their faith visible in other ways. The key is to be willing to share my faith with other people. This is what makes my faith real. One of the reasons we may have doubts about our own faith is because we are not telling other people about it. But once you start to let other people know about your faith in Jesus, you will find out what Thomas found out. Confessions of faith are vital to having a faith that is alive and growing.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we must admit that there are times when we struggle with doubts. Although we may have fewer doubts now than we used to have, there are still things we are not sure of. Some of us may have doubts about a decision we need to make or uncertainty about Your constant love for us or even doubts about Your forgiveness. Like Thomas did two thousand years ago, we need to admit we are doubters and talk to You about it so You can answer our doubts. Because of Your radical love for us, You can transform out doubt into faith if we will simply be honest with You. Lord, we cannot figure it all out on our own. So we come to You confessing our need for You. Help us to hear from You now, knowing that You want to be personally involved in the doubts we are facing. You have a personal answer for each of us. Please fill us with Your loving answers to our doubts. Grant us the courage to make our faith known to others so that our faith is alive and growing. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 700.  

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Kindle Edition, pg. 383.

4. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1193.

5. Adapted from Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

6. In the Greek it is Kurios.

7.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 577-578.

8. Adapted from Steven J. Cole’s sermon on September 6, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 103: The Aim of the Gospel (John 20:24-31)” at www.bible.org .

9. Adapted from Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

Lesson 1 Part 5 – Avoiding unclear gospel invitations (Video)

This is the fifth video of our Lesson 1 discipleship training. It will review the gospel by which we are saved from hell. It also addresses how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear gospel invitations.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 3

“His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” John 9:22-23

As we continue to look at the man born blind whom Jesus healed (John 9:1-12), we will discover a third symptom of spiritual blindness. After the parents of this healed man testified that this was their son who was born blind (John 9:20), they would not tell the Pharisees how their blind son gained his sight. They said, “But by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” (John 9:21). They said nothing about how or by whom he received his sight because they were afraid of being excommunicated from the synagogue. They evade this issue by saying their son was an adult capable of answering for himself.

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ ” (John 9:22-23). The parents say nothing of Jesus. If these parents allowed their son to beg, then it was unthinkable for them to confess Christ before the Pharisees. Because no one could conduct business with a person who was excommunicated from the synagogue.

The Jews had three types of excommunication:

1. The Nezifah (“reproof”), the mildest formwas applied “when someone had insulted a prominent or learned person. It lasted seven days and the offender could not appear before the one he displeased. He had to retire to his house, speak little, refrain from business and pleasure, and manifest his remorse.” 1

2. The Niddui (“separation), was imposed when “the offender was first publicly warned three times at the regular service in the synagogue. During the period of discipline … (30 days according to the Jerusalem Talmud) no one except the members of his immediate household were permitted to associate with the offender, or sit within four cubits of him, or eat in his company. He had to observe all the laws that pertained to a mourner and could not be counted among the number necessary for the performance of a public religious function.” 2

3. The Barem (“ban”), “was the most rigorous form of excommunication. This extended for an indefinite period during which no one was permitted to teach the offender, work for him, or benefit him in any way. It meant exclusion from the religious community and intercourse with Jewish society.” 3

Whatever form of excommunication was enforced then, the threat was serious enough to keep the parents quiet about the identity of their son’s Healer. This is the third symptom of spiritual blindness – DESIRE THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TRUTH (John 9:21-23). The parents of the former blind man withheld the truth about Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) because they did not want to be excommunicated from the synagogue and lose the opportunity to do business with others. In other words, they wanted the approval of the religious leaders but not the approval of God.

How many people have avoided the truth to please others? Maybe you come from a strong religious background and if you embraced the truth about Jesus Christ, you would suffer persecution from your family and religious community. Believing in a generic God is safe, but confessing Jesus Christ as the Messiah-God will bring opposition ranging from ridicule and mockery, to possible torture and death.

The sad part of this is people can end up in hell because they sought to preserve their own lives and livelihood like the parents of the man born blind instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. Let’s put this in perspective. Would you rather avoid temporary sufferings on earth by rejecting Jesus Christ and then experience eternal punishment and torment in the lake of fire after you die or would you rather endure temporary sufferings on earth now by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life to possess eternal bliss and joy in heaven with Jesus after you die? Is your comfort now more important than your comfort in eternity? Many people will be separated from God forever in the lake of fire because they sought the approval of people instead of seeking the truth about Jesus Christ. What will you choose?

The Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Heaven and hell are in the balance my friends. If you do not believe or trust in Christ alone as your only hope of heaven simply to avoid suffering on earth now, you will regret this forever as you suffer torment in the lake of fire. On the other hand, if you will transfer all your trust onto Jesus Christ, Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, for His gift of everlasting life now, you will enjoy Jesus’ presence forever in a perfect and problem-free place called heaven.

If you are a believer in Jesus, it is possible to have a reluctance to express that faith publicly for fear of persecution. For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others because they loved the approval of people more than God’s approval: 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43).

Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:7; 2:22-23; 4:15). When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (I John 4:15).

It is important to understand that confessing Christ before others is not a condition for receiving eternal life. Only believing in Jesus is necessary for salvation from hell (John 3:14-16, 36; 5:24; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). God can see our faith in Christ alone apart from any good works or outward manifestation (Romans 3:21-4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). But confessing Christ before others is necessary to grow in our Christian lives.

Romans 10:9-10 is referring to believing in your heart “unto righteousness” which is justification before God (Romans 3:21-5:9a) and confessing with your mouth for salvation from the present-day wrath of God (Rom. 1:16-32; 5:9-10) which is sanctification or growing in the Christian life (Rom. 5:9b-8:39). Failure to confess Christ before others now, will result in the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, particularly, the loss of ruling with Christ in the world to come (Matthew 10:32-42; 2 Corinthians 5:8-11; 2 Timothy 2:12). 

Let’s make every day count for eternity. As a Christian, live for the audience of One, Jesus Christ, and He will make your life eternally worthwhile (Colossians 3:23-24; Revelation 22:12).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding me that my choices now will determine what my eternity will be like. The most important decision anyone can make is what they will do with You, Lord Jesus. Will they believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life and enjoy eternity with You in heaven or will they choose not to believe in You and suffer torment forever separated from You in the lake of fire!?! I beg of You, my Lord and my God, to remove the blinders from those who are more concerned about their comfort on earth than about their comfort for eternity. Help them to believe that You, Jesus, are the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in Your name alone. For those of us who believe in You, Jesus, please enable us to live for Your approval and not the approval of people. In Your everlasting name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 177-178.

2. Ibid, p. 178.

3. Ibid.

Must I confess Christ to go to heaven?

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 is used by many sincere Christian workers to justify the use of this invitation in evangelism. By using these verses, believers are telling non-Christians they must believe in Christ plus confess He is Lord to go to heaven. Is this what these verses teach?

It is important to understand the argument of Romans before interpreting these verses. The key to understanding Romans is to look at the first use of the word “salvation” in 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” The words “saved” (sōzō) or “salvation” (sōtēria) refer to some type of “deliverance.” The context determines what one is delivered from. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed [present tense] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in righteousness.” The book of Romans is the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ which provides the power for deliverance (salvation) from the present-day wrath (displeasure) of God which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:18b-32). This salvation from God’s present-day wrath is two-fold (“faith to faith,” 1:17):

1. Justification-salvation before God through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (Romans 1:20 – 5:9a). This is what delivers us from the penalty of sin and gets us to Heaven. God wants to bring those back who have been given over to their own sinfulness. God sees all people as unrighteous and in bondage to sin (1:20-3:20). God comes to people and gives them His righteousness on the basis of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (3:21-5:9a). Twenty-six times Paul uses the words “believe” and “faith” as the only condition for justification (being declared righteous) before God in this section of Romans. Nowhere in this section does he mention the word “confession.”

 2. Sanctification-salvation from God’s present-day wrath (degradation of sin) through Christ living in us by faith (Romans 5:9b-8:39). The next time the word “saved” is used in Romans is in 5:9-10: “Much more then, having now been justified [past tense] by His blood, we shall be saved [future tense] from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled [past tense] to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled [past tense], we shall be saved [future tense] by His life.” The salvation being spoken of here is in the future tense and takes place after we are justified and reconciled to God. We were reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s death (3:21-5:9a). We can be saved from God’s present-wrath or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (5:9b – 8:39).  

In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the need of Jews to be delivered from God’s present-day wrath through justification and sanctification. Paul talks about God’s sovereign use of Israel in the past and His temporary setting aside of Israel in the present due to her rejection of His righteousness through faith in the Messiah (Romans 9:1-10:4). After being redeemed from Egypt by faith, the nation of Israel sought to obtain a sanctifying-righteousness by keeping the Law (Romans 10: 5). In verses 6-7, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:12-13 when Moses was challenging the redeemed nation of Israel to believe and obey God’s revelation (the Law) as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying God’s Law.  The people of Israel did not need to ascend to Heaven nor descend to the abyss to obtain the Law because God had already revealed it to them through Moses. Paul applies this truth to God’s final revelation found in the Person of Christ who had descended to earth (Romans 10:6) and rose from the dead (10:7). There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying the Person of Jesus Christ. In Romans 10:8, Paul prepares the way for Romans 10:9-10 by quoting Deuteronomy 30:14. Just as God’s Old Testament revelation was “near” to the Israelites in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:14), so God’s message of faith through Jesus Christ was “near” to deliver Paul’s readers from God’s present wrath when they believed in Christ (which takes place in the “heart”) and obey (which takes place in the “mouth”) His commands.

Paul explains the content of this “word of faith” (10:8) in Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Verse 9 refers to being “saved” from God’s present-day wrath (Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10). This type of salvation requires confessing “with your mouth” and believing “with your heart.” God’s people could not ask for assistance (with the “mouth”) from Christ to obey God’s commands without first believing (with the “heart”) in Christ resulting in God’s righteousness. Verse 10 explains (“For”) this sequence: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We come to know Christ by believing in Him from the heart resulting in God’s righteousness (v.10a; cf. Romans 3:21 – 5:9a). We make Christ known to others by confessing Him with our mouths resulting both in salvation from God’s wrath on present-day sin (v. 10b; cf. Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) and victory in our Christian lives (Romans 5:98:39; cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). To believe in the heart resulting in God’s righteousness is justification. To confess with the mouth resulting in salvation is sanctification. One does not have the power to acquire sanctifying-righteousness through public confession of Christ without first obtaining justification-righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone. 

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16, which took place during the Assyrian invasion, to assure his readers that they can openly confess Christ without being ashamed (Romans 10:11). One commentator suggests Paul may have quoted this verse to express “God’s desire to deliver the Jews from the wrath to come at the hand of Rome in A.D. 70.” Deliverance from this expression of God’s wrath begins with believing in Christ (10:11) and culminates in calling upon Him for divine assistance (10:12). The phrase “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (10:13) is a quotation from Joel 2:32. In that verse, the prophet Joel asks God to deliver Israel from His coming temporal wrath (cf. Joel 2:30-31). To be delivered from God’s present-day wrath requires both faith in Christ resulting in justification, followed by calling upon the name of the Lord for divine assistance. 

This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe… call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Cor. 1:2). 

In Romans 11, Paul praises God’s wise plans in extending mercy to the Gentiles now and to Israel in the future. In view of God’s great mercy which Paul has declared in Romans 1-11, Paul urges his readers to live a life of surrender to the Lord (12:1-2), which includes serving God by serving others (12:3-16:27).

Conclusion: Going to heaven is based on believing in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 3:22 -5:10a), not believing in Christ plus confession. It is believing in Christ plus nothing. However, if we want to experience a victorious Christian life and deliverance from God’s wrath on present-day sin, we must openly confess Christ and call upon His name for divine assistance to overcome the power of sin in our lives. 

Invitations to avoid in Evangelism

When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians.

God uses the words “believe” and “faith” more than any other words as conditions for salvation from hell in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 9:22; Mark 1:15; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 8:12, 48; 17:19; 18:42; John 1:12; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 4:10-14, 25-28; 5:24, 39-40; 6:35, 37, 39-40, 47; 7:38-39; 10:24-30; 11:25, 26; 12:36, 46-47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 11:14; 11:17; 13:39; 15:9, 11; 16:31; 26:18. Romans 3:22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30; 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22, 24; 5:1; 9:30, 33; 10:4, 10; I Corinthians 1:21;2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 8; Galatians 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26; Ephesians 1:13; 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9; I Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:12; 3:15; 1 John 5:1, 13; et. al). But instead of using the words that God uses the most in the New Testament to tell non-Christians how to respond to the gospel, many Christians have inserted other words or clichés to communicate the most important message given to humanity. 

When inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-6), avoid  invitations that do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he or she must do to get to heaven. We will evaluate some common gospel invitations according to what the Bible teaches. 

1. Accept Christ.     

a. The one verse that alludes to this possible invitation is John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” This verse makes it clear that the way to receive or accept Christ is to “believe in His name.” Receiving Christ is the result of believing in Him. 

b. The danger in asking people to accept Christ is that they may accept Christ as a Person (just as we may accept one another as a person) and still depend on their good works to get them to heaven without ever trusting in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.

c. This invitation can be very confusing especially for Roman Catholics who are more inclined to think of accepting or receiving Christ by partaking of the Eucharist. If you invite a Roman Catholic to receive Christ, he or she may think you are referring to receiving His body (bread) and blood (cup) in the Eucharist instead of believing in Jesus. In their minds, receiving or accepting Christ is done repeatedly.

2. Turn from or be sorry for your sins. 

a. No human being, Christian or non-Christian, can stop sinning (I John 1:8, 10). 

b. The word “repent” (μετανοέω) refers to a change of mind about whatever is keeping an unbeliever from believing in Jesus, and then believing in Him for everlasting life (Mark 1:15). The non-Christian may need to change his mind about the Person of Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38), God (Acts 20:21), idols (Revelation 9:20), sin (Revelation 9:21), or his works (Hebrews 6:1; Revelation 16:11) before he can believe in Christ alone for the gift of salvation.

c. Repentance cannot refer to sorrow for sin or turning from sin because in the Old Testament God repents (e.g. Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 32:14; Jeremiah 26:19; Jonah 3:9-10; et. al.). If repentance meant turning from sin or sorrow for sin, then God would be a sinner.

d. The gospel of John which was written to tell non-Christians how to get to heaven (John 20:31), never uses the words “repent” or “repentance” as a condition for everlasting life because when one changes from unbelief to belief, he or she has repented. Another possible reason for the absence of these words is they are easily misunderstood to mean something like “turning from sins” or “penance” which involve works. The word “believe,” however, communicates such simplicity that it is less likely to be misconstrued to include a works-oriented response.

e. The issue is not how you feel about sin; it is how God feels about sin. God is completely holy and perfect (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; 15:4). The Lord hates sin and demands that it be punished (Genesis 6:5-7;  Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9). Are you willing to agree with God that you are a sinner in His sight, who deserves to be separated from Him forever in a terrible place of  suffering called the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15)?

f. This invitation can confuse people into trusting in their own efforts (turning from sin) or feelings (sorrow for sin) instead of the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 19:30).

3. Confess your sins. 

a. Jesus never invited an unbeliever to do this (cf. John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 6:35-40; 11:25-27).  

b. This is what we do after we believe in Christ to restore fellowship or closeness with God after we sin (I John 1:3, 9).

c. The reference to people “confessing their sins” when they were baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:6) is referring to the self-righteous people of Israel recognizing their sin so they would see their need to believe in Christ. Acts 19:4 says, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (cf. John 1:6-7; 3:23, 36). 

4. Pray the sinner’s prayer.

a. Nowhere in the Bible is anyone told to pray a prayer to be saved from eternal condemnation. Jesus never invited an unbeliever to do this nor did the apostles. For example, when the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved from sin’s penalty, they did not say, “Pray this prayer” or “Pray after me.” They simply said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

b. The danger of using this invitation is that people may end up trusting in a prayer instead of trusting in the Person of Christ alone.  

c. Often times, people get saved before they ever pray the sinner’s prayer because they have already trusted in Christ’s promise of eternal life.

d. Before leading someone in a prayer, explain to them that praying this prayer does not get them to heaven; only trusting in Christ alone will get them to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God they are now trusting in His Son. 

5. Give your life or your heart to Jesus.

a. This is not what the Bible teaches.

b. The issue in salvation is not what we give to God, but what God gives to us. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (I John 5:11).

c. If we give God our life or heart to get to heaven, we will be very disappointed because our life stops at the grave. We need life that lasts beyond the grave. We need God’s everlasting life which we receive by believing in Jesus alone (John 11:25-26). 

d. This invitation is disturbing to children who think in more literal terms. 

6. Ask Jesus into your heart. 

a. Nowhere does Jesus or the apostles tell non-Christians to ask Christ into their hearts to possess eternal life.

b. When a person believes in Christ alone for eternal life, Christ comes to live inside of him as a result (John 1:12; Romans 8:9; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:27), so there is no need to ask Christ into his or her heart

c. Some will use Revelation 3:20 to invite unbelievers to “open the door of their heart.” But in the context of this passage we see that the Lord is speaking to believers who are in need of fellowship with Christ (Revelation 3:14-22). 

 – The word “heart” is not mentioned in Revelation 3:14-22. 

– The word “church” in Revelation is always used of believers (1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7-8, 11-12, 17-18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6-7, 13-14, 22; 22:16). 

    – Jesus is standing outside of the “church”at Laodicea which had grown lukewarm or half-hearted in their service to Christ due to self-sufficiency and deceit (Revelation 3:14-18). Christ spoke of “chastening” (paideuō) them (Revelation 3:19a). The word “chasten” literally means “child-training” and is therefore an activity of God toward His children (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). 

   – Jesus also called them to repentance (3:19b). Then He says in verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in [eiserchomai] to [pros]  him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The Greek verb (eiserchomai) accompanied by the preposition translated “to” (pros) means “to come or go to someone.”The verse is speaking of entrance into a building toward a person, not entrance into a person. Jesus is saying that He will come in the church toward the person who repents (hears His voice and opens the door of the church) and eat dinner with him  i.e. have intimate fellowship with him. 

d. Why would Christians turn to the book of Revelation which was written to Christians to help them prepare for future events, when God has given us so many evangelistic verses in the gospel of John which was written to tell non-Christians how to get to heaven (John 20:31)? 

e. This invitation can be very confusing for children who tend to think in more literal terms and are easily confused or disturbed by the prospect of asking a literal Jesus to take up residence in their blood-pumping organ.

f. This invitation also gives people a false sense of security. They have sincerely asked Jesus into their heart, but they do not have assurance from the Holy Spirit that they have eternal life because they have missed the only requirement for it which is believe in Christ (I John 5:9-13).

7. Confess Jesus is Lord. 

a. One passage that alludes to this possible invitation is Romans 10:9-10, 9 That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will besaved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” But these verses are talking about being delivered from God’s present-day wrath (displeasure) which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:16-32; 5:9-10). To be delivered from God’s present-day wrath requires both believing in Christ resulting in justification (10:9b, 10a; cf. 1:20-5:9a) followed by confessing Jesus as Lord or “calling on the name of the Lord” (10:13) resulting in victorious Christian living (10:9a, 10b; cf. 5:9b-8:39). This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe…call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Cor. 1:2).

b. Confession involves effort and possible persecution (cf. Matthew 10:32).

c. When false prophets (Matthew 7:15) stand before Christ on Judgment Day (Matthew 7:21-23), they will confess the Lordship of Jesus and appeal to the good works they have done in Jesus’ name for His glory (“Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”) as the basis of their entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:22). But Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew  7:23). Why does He say this? Because they had failed to do “the will of the Father in heaven” as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21b). Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40;cf. 3:5, 15-16). Until a person is rightly related to Jesus by believing in Him for everlasting life, all their good works and words, including confessing Jesus is Lord, are “lawlessness” before  a holy God (Matthew 7:23; cf. Isaiah 64:6).  

d. The Scriptures give examples of secret believers who refuse to confess Christ openly with their words and lifestyle for fear of persecution (John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). They still have eternal life, but they will lose rewards for not identifying with Christ openly because of their fear of persecution (cf. Matthew 10:32-42). 

8. Follow or obey Jesus.

a. Some use John 10:27-28 to defend this invitation for salvation: 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” But in this passage the word “follow” is a figure of speech referring to belief. In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the Messiah (10: 24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you” (10:25- 26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe (10:26). What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd. They trust Him. 

b. Throughout the Gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith: receiving (1:12), looking (3:14-15), asking (4:10), drinking (4:14), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (6:35, 37), eating bread (6:54), entering (10:9) and following (10:27).

c. Following Christ through obedience is necessary to be a disciple of Christ (Mark 1:17-18; Luke 5:10-11; 9:23), not a possessor of Christ. For example, when you examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:14-18 had already believed in Christ for about a year (John 1:35-4:35). 

9. Commit your life to Christ. 

a. Jesus never invited non-Christians to commit their life to Him to obtain the free gift of everlasting life.  Many people have pledged to serve God in the hope that their commitment would persuade God to take them to heaven. 

b. Promising to commit your life to Christ can actually become a stumbling block, for to be saved from the Lake of Fire one must believe in Christ alone, not Christ plus your commitment (Acts 16:31). Making promises is a form of works-salvation and is foreign to God’s way of salvation (Titus 3:5). 

c. This cliché may be an appropriate challenge for Christians to follow Christ and to serve and suffer for Him as His disciple (Matthew 16:24- 27; Luke 9:23).

10. Submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master.

a. Submitting to the Lordship of Christ does not take anyone to heaven because it misses the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus alone for eternal life.

b. The term “Lord” in the name “Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31) refers to Christ’s deity and unique role in our salvation, not His control over every area of an individual’s life. Only Christ has the ability and authority to punish sin or pardon sinners. 

c. Submitting to Christ’s Lordship is a challenge that Jesus gives to people after they are saved, who then have the supernatural resources to enable them to surrender to Christ’s control as a part of the life-long process of discipleship (cf. Luke 14:25-35). Failure to submit to Jesus’ Lordship results in the loss of rewards (cf. Colossians 3:23-24), not salvation.

Conclusion: We are not suggesting that no one has been born again when these clichés are included in a gospel presentation. Evangelist Larry Moyer has said, “God can still use a crooked arrow to hit a target.” God can still use our unclear gospel presentations to help people come to Christ by believing in Him. But why use an unclear phrase or cliché which will do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he must do to obtain eternal life? Would it not be better to use the clearest presentation possible so that the unsaved person has the best opportunity to respond to the gospel the way God wants him to respond? Let’s keep the gospel clear by using the words God uses the most – “believe” and “faith” – when inviting non-Christians to respond to the gospel!