The Scriptural Method of Inviting the Lost to Christ

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Dear reader, have you ever considered King Solomon’s prayer, “Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law” (Psalm 119:29)? His assertion is that every way, other than the way given to us by God’s Word, is a false way. God’s Word is the “truth” (Psalm 119:160,163)! So, I ask you, have you ever considered the “truth” claims of Biblical Christianity?  Ruminating over this penetrating question is a necessity, especially in our postmodern age – an age where moral absolutes and objective truth have fallen on hard times. 

 

This is evidenced by how our generation has sought to remove any semblance of religion and morality that remains from our Judeo-Christian heritage – but, to no avail! Despite all of their efforts toward this dark end, nothing has changed God’s sovereign will over the truth (Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 14:27; Daniel 4:35; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)! For, Jesus Christ is still “the truth” (John 14:6). His Word is still “the truth” (John 17:17). His people – the elect – still continue to be set free by the truth (Revelation 5:9; Luke 18:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:8-10; John 8:32). His Church still continues to be built, because it is the pillar and buttress of the truth (Matthew 16:18; 1 Timothy 3:15). And His people still bear witness to the truth (Acts 8:1,4; 2 Timothy 4:2). 

But sadly, not all who are in the visible church, know and love “the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). This fact helps us to understand why error clothed in pragmatic garb rules much of what is called “local church ministry” today. Such ministries are most easily recognized by the “methods” that drive them. In this column, the last two weeks, we dealt with possibly the most erroneous of all of these methodologies, the invitation or altar call. In those brief studies, we observed that it serves (1) to convert the will, not the man, and (2) to measure the pastor or evangelist’s “success” through getting and recording decisions. The result is seen in the average American church, which shamelessly tolerates an inactive membership roll, preaches the heresy of carnal Christianity, ignores Biblical standards for selecting its church officers, and sees the doctrine of church discipline as unloving, even as evil (See Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14,15). 

However, the question for us to ponder this week is, does the opposite method really work – that is, the inviting of the lost to repent and receive Jesus Christ, throughout the sermon as well as at the end of it (Isaiah 55:6-7; Romans 10:13)? In other words, can the “elect” still be saved without the employment of an invitation? The answer is an absolute “yes” (See: Acts 2:37; 16:30-34)! 

Probably the most helpful example, is the great 19th century evangelist Asahel Nettleton of Connecticut, who was a contemporary of the famous New York evangelist Charles Finney – the author of the altar call. During Nettleton’s ministry, his preaching resulted in over 30,000 recorded conversions without the use of an altar call, but simply through preaching the gospel with urgency by calling the lost to repent and trust Christ alone for the forgiveness of all their sins (Colossians 2:13). 

Many pastors testified years later that Nettleton’s converts were still faithful, up to and beyond 90% of the total, after ten, twenty, and even thirty years! Rightfully, did the great evangelist George Whitefield (who also did not use an altar call), once comment, “There are so many ‘stony-ground’ hearers which receive the Word with joy (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21), that I have determined to suspend my judgment until I know the tree by its fruits.”

O Lord God, please send your Holy Spirit upon our pulpits tomorrow and raise the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)! For your glory ALONE!!

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