Friday, June 13, 2008

1 John 1:5-10 - Part 2 - The Modern Deception

We ended the last study with the statement that John's audience was confused about what it meant to have Fellowship with the Son of God. My point here will be that John's words are relevant today, as people still are mislead about what it means to be saved.

If you are a Christian, if you are saved, how do you know it?
Take the time to answer that question. Your response will be important in a moment.

Now, let me ask you this: Does Baptism save someone (this is called "Baptismal Regeneration")?*

For a Baptist, the answer is an easy "No." Why is this such an easy response? Because this battle was fought during the 19th century for us. But how does this relate to our conversation?

The idea 150 years ago was that at Baptism a person "received Jesus Christ." This sounds ridiculous to a modern Baptist, but today we still follow a strikingly similar practice.

The modern theological fad is "Decisional Regeneration." We never think of it as such, but essentially, most of us believe that when we "make a decision for Christ" He saves us. But this is not Biblical at all. Did Jesus ever ask someone to pray a prayer? What about Peter or Paul?

Most of us don't know it, but the invitation at the end of a sermon is a practice that is only around 200 years old. The Altar Call has its roots in Revivalism, and was made popular by, among others, Charles Finney, an (in)famous lawyer-turned Evangelist. Now, I'm not going to take the time to bash Finney. I'm just noting that the Invitation is a relatively new development in Christianity (and I'm also inviting you to question why you do what you do every week in church).

The point here is that a Decision doesn't save a person any more that Baptism does. So, if the Decision, and likewise, Baptism aren't the mark of a true Christian, what is? This is exactly what John tells us in this First Epistle.

    A Believer is someone who...
  • Admits they are sinful (1 John 1:6-10)
  • Keeps Christ's commandments (2:3-5)
  • Loves his brother (2:9-11)
  • Does not love the World (2:15-17)
  • Confesses the Son (2:23)
  • Abides in Him (2:28)
  • Practices Righeousness (2:29)

...And this is only a cursory reading of the first two chapters. This book is filled with the description of a genuine Believer. Did you catch the main point? It is all about action. These things are all about how one lives his/her life.

If you told most modern pastors that you weren't sure if you were saved, they'd probably ask you if you ever prayed to receive Jesus. I don't think that would be John's response. He'd ask you to check your life. Are you fighting sin in your life? Are you loving those around you with action (see 3:18)? Finally, do you have His Spirit (4:13)?

Take some time to question your salvation. It's okay. In fact, it's encouraged by both Paul and Peter:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?[2 Corinthians 13:5] out your own salvation with fear and trembling...[Philippians 2:12]

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure... [2 Peter 1:10]

In fact, ask your congregation to test their salvation. John Piper, speaking to pastors, said this:
Catch on to the affectional nature of Christianity, conversion. It is not merely a decision to believe a fact. It is a heart treasuring Christ and His glory more than football, sex, money, power, play, toys. You gotta make this an issue Sunday after Sunday so that they feel scared that they're not saved.

You know, I think some pastors are so afraid that somebody might walk up at the end of the service and say, "you really jostled my assurance this morning." If we don't jostle people's assurance when they're not saved, we send them to hell.[Watch the Video]

There is a great article about the connection between Baptistmal and Decisional Regeneration Here.

Tim Challies has an old article on this topic as well.

This article was the one I read many years ago that first opened my eyes to the problem of how we use the Invitation. If you only follow one link on this post, click this one.

NOTE: I'm a Baptist, and to keep things simple I'll assume that I'm writing to Baptists. We believe that Baptism is not essential to salvation, but rather, it is a public display of one's faith in Christ. If you disagree, that's okay with me (for right now). I don't want to turn this into a debate about a side issue. My point here is not to argue Baptismal Regeneration. Cool your jets and stay with my main point: How do we know we are saved?