I remember it clearly.
4 years ago, there was an altar call. The music was beautiful, the preacher was very charismatic, and the atmosphere felt right.
People were lining up praying, a lot were on their knees, and many more were crying.
That night, I got on my knees, and that night, I cried. That night, my conversion was not real.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I believe God can work mightily in altar calls (he worked through a donkey!), he can get his work done through anything! But I believe the fundamental difference once again is whether we believe that our salvation comes from the power of God or does it come from the choice of man? How we answer this question really determines our view on the altar call.
in the Gospels, we hardly see jews lining up in tears, filled with guilt, convicted of their sin and professing Christ as Lord. The amazement hardly happens when Jesus calls people to acknowledge their sins and repent. Instead, we see time and time again that the Gospel from the lips of Christ Himself was received with much more no’s compared to yes’s… People don’t like hearing that they need a savior. In fact, in John 6 everyone left Jesus, only His disciples stayed.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that often times we use human means to try and “help out” the work of God…. To fasten up results, to muster up numbers. A sort of “dope” that creates emotional hype, causing the person involved to thereby make an emotional decision for Christ. Nice music, dim lights definitely helps.
like a drug that makes us comfortable to make a certain choice we won’t actually want to be making when all things are considered equal…
But how many altar calls can we come back to? How many times do we actually need to be “saved”?
I’ve heard it so many times.
“That night in church was amazing, but my christian walk can’t last…”
“I long for that feeling of being so close to God again. I’ve never felt so good.”
Emotional hype creates emotional decisions.
Biblical teaching, on the other hand, nurtures and draws God’s elect.
A man cannot cause himself to be born again. It is not his choice to make. A miracle is required. God’s work is necessary, and we can only depend on His choice.
Furthermore, when our emotional “conversion” does not harness new desires and transformation in our lives, we can end up being drawn further away from God. if our salvation depends upon us hanging on and making ourselves righteous then we are already lost.
The Gospel must be preached. The Gospel is the only message, and method to preach. And only by it can a true convert be transformed by God.
Here is what a friend of mine wrote + the words of C.H Spurgeon: “”Ah! says somebody, ‘I fear that this kind of preaching will be very discouraging to a great many people.’ Well, how will it discourage them? ‘It will discourage them from trying to save themselves.’ That is the very thing I want to do. I would not only like to discourage them from attempting the impossible task, but to cast them into despair concerning it. When a man utterly despairs of being able to save himself, it is then that he cries to God to save him, so I believe that we cannot do a man a better turn than to discourage him from ever resting upon anything that he can do towards saving himself.”
And Spurgeon practiced what he preached (or should I say that his sermons constantly exemplified this principle)?
“Sinner” cried Spurgeon in a sermon on the new birth “I warn thee thou canst never cause thyself to be born again, and though the new birth is absolutely necessary, it is absolutely impossible to thee—unless God the Spirit shall do it.” And again, toward the close of an Exeter Hall sermon, he said “You who have not been converted, and have no part or lot in the present salvation—to you I say this much: man, man, you are in the hand of God. Whether you shall live to reach home today or not, depends absolutely on His will.”
Does that sound like a man who preached without confidence or hope? Well, it wasn’t that way at all. To the contrary. Spurgeon was mighty precisely because he saw the true source of hope.
“I know this,” he insisted, “if the Lord willed it, there is no man so desperately wicked here this morning that he would not be made now to seek for mercy, however infidel he might be; however rooted in his prejudices against the Gospel: Jehovah hath but to will it, and it is done. Into thy dark heart, O thou who hast never seen the light, the light would stream; if he did but say, ‘Let there be light,’ there would be light. Thou mayest bend thy fist and lift up thy mouth against Jehovah; but he is thy master yet—thy master to destroy thee, if thou goest on in thy wickedness; but thy master to save thee now to change thy heart and turn thy will as he turneth the rivers of water.”
Do you see why he abhored the altar call? It was simply because he knew something better—the Reformed faith””
The Gospel is here to tell you that you cannot save yourself. That you cannot make a choice for yourself. God must save you. It is only here, and not a moment sooner, that we will begin to seek after Him.
We do not preach the Gospel for numbers or rapid salvation. We preach it because its true – and it is the only message we have from God. Anything else is prideful, and human manipulation.
God transforms, God decides. He makes the decision. He regenerates, and that’s when we can respond. We do not control our destiny by tearing up for 15 mins on an altar. God decides before we were born, and He had decided that he would save some; that he would save you.
So let’s preach the Gospel. Let’s preach the Bible. Let’s put our trust solely onto Him – who is the sole author, finisher, and sustainer of our salvation. Only He can change hearts. Anything else is mere counterfeit. So let us be faithful.
Soli Deo Gloria.