I want to add my two-cents' worth to David Latham's balanced response to
Andrew Strom's "9 Lies of Today's Church."
First of all, I had intended to respond immediately when I first read
Andrew's article. Reading David Lathamís perspective has quickened me
now to follow through. I'll quickly summarize what I would have
I agree with much of what Andrew is saying, but find myself taking
strong exception to his number 1 "Lie." I've heard this argument a
number of times, and for the most part, it seems to be an exercise in
semantics. I realize that the New Testament does not specifically
instruct us to invite people to "ask Jesus into our hearts," yet is the
voice of Jesus, pleading in Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in
to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
Matthew Henry speaks what is generally understood here: "Christ is
graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the
heart of sinners;"
Further, a careful reading of John 14:23 is supportive of this
interpretation: "Jesus answered and said to him (Judas, not Iscariot),
"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,
and We will come to him and make Our home with him." The "home" the
Father and the Son make "in" us must be in the heart.
I agree that there is much surface, and pathetically thin theology in
today's church regarding the subject of salvation. In many places,
pulpits are absent any mention or teaching concerning the single most
important act a human can make. All across the U.S. and Europe I have
listened to believers who bemoan the absence of clear, emphatic emphasis
upon the word of God and its provisions for our souls.
Yet to castigate all who speak in terms of Jesus coming into one's
heart, in my opinion, misses the greater truth and point. God listens to
and receives all kinds of language by those whose desire it is to be
saved, or born again, redeemed, or whatever moniker one might put on the
whole doctrine of salvation. For the sake of brevity, with regard to the
act of entering into a living relationship with Jesus the Christ, the
whole matter is the heart.
As we have witnessed far too often, "talk is cheap," and a man or woman
may say nearly anything, repeat meaningless words, or even speak with
good intention while operating in the realm of the intellect rather than
the spirit, but the heart is the repository of the intent, the desire,
and core of our being.
Out of the heart emanate all manner of evil and wicked thoughts, deeds
and words. It is the heart which must be torn asunder, opened even
violently by the tender grace of God's Spirit so that it might receive
the merciful salvation God has provided through the Cross of Calvary.
The heart is also the place of appalling deception; the heart is the
home of every iniquity, and the heart is the very place created for the
abiding presence of Christ.
When I experienced the reality of salvation, I was not in a church and I
did not respond to an altar invitation. I was kneeling beside my
mother's bed on a Saturday morning without a spiritual thought in my
head. I was kneeling not to pray, but to put on a clean shirt. The house
was empty, save for me. In that moment, the Spirit of Jesus literally
appeared at the foot of the bed, and I heard a Voice that I immediately
recognized. When He had finished speaking, I could only respond with
simple words that issued forth from my heart: "I'm sorry."
That's it, that's all I uttered. But when I stood to my feet, I felt
that a dozen tons of weight had been lifted from my life. I felt supreme
joy, and not knowing what else to do, I drove to a park filled with
hippies (this was 1971) and began to preach! Meanwhile, and in that
self-same hour, God delivered me from a habit of smoking 3 1/2 packages
of cigarettes per day. That evening, God filled me with His Holy Spirit.
Within a couple of months, God called me to surrender the remainder of
my life to serve Him fully and with all my time, energy and heart.
No altar call, no church service, no plaintive organ music. Just the
Spirit of Jesus and a deeply felt "I'm sorry."
Since then I've seen my share of questionable salvation testimonies,
false-starts, and would-be followers of Jesus. I've also seen God
absolutely turn lives around, and through them, shake thousands more.
The weakness of the contemporary gospel, it seems to me is not merely in
the semantics, but is manifested specifically in the twin and
inseparable realms of lordship and discipleship. So
many ministries boast great numbers of "conversions" to Christ, but so
few are introduced to the realistic necessity and the act of submitting
their lives unconditionally to the Lordship of Jesus. So few are helped along by some mature believer into the deep waters of
discipleship - of becoming learner-followers of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 8:9, ".... you are not in the flesh but in the
Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does
not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." The question becomes, how
does one receive and "have" the Spirit of Christ?" Unless one
submit's to Christ's Lordship, in which he "does" what Jesus has
commanded, he only fools himself with regard to salvation. ". . .why do
you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say? (Luke
This, in my view is one of the greatest weaknesses of today's church.
Like many believers, I care not one whit about multi-million dollar
edifices, flat screen monitors, "faith boutique" ministries or
hip-looking preachers. What concerns me at the deepest level is whether
a generation of true lovers of Jesus possesses the ability and the will
to pass along their love for God and for God's word, their love for His
presence, their faith to believe against impossible odds, and in every
kind of opposition and in every adversity of the flesh.
There is much mixture in God's church today. We are challenged by myriad
false doctrines and teachings of the flesh and of the devil. Many are
asking, "Is there any word from the Lord?" Hearts are growing
increasingly hungry and impatient for the reality of the presence and
the power of the risen Christ.
I think that if we who know Christ in the bonds of His sufferings and in
the glories of His resurrection will determine in our hearts to teach
and to display through our own lives what it is to be learner-followers
of Jesus, to
disciple, to walk with and to teach by example those who have been
misled and mis-taught, we will do much to provoke a revival the likes of
which no living soul has yet seen.
With much love and humility,
Greg Austin, Th.D.