What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 16 – Premature Birth 16 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

As with the altar call, the practice of having someone repeat a prayer with the minister probably originated from the best of intentions.  And no doubt, there are those who have “followed through,” continuing to pray and walk with God, entering into the path of  righteousness through God’s infinite grace. But also, like the altar call, the so-called “sinner’s prayer” is one of those tools that make it  alarmingly easy for someone to consider himself a Christian, when he has absolutely no understanding of what “counting the cost” (Luke  14:28) really means.

The greatest reason I believe that God can be grieved with the current use of such tools as the “altar call” and “sinner’s prayer” is  because they can take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit prematurely, before the Spirit has time to work repentance leading to  salvation. With an emotional splash that usually doesn’t last more than a few weeks, we believe we’re leading people into the Kingdom,  when really we’re leading many to hell – by interfering with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in a person’s life. Do you hear? Do you  understand that this constitutes “spiritual abortion”? Can’t you see the eternal consequences of jumping the gun, trying to bring to birth a  baby that isn’t ready?

We are so afraid that we’ll see a “big one that got away,” that we’d rather rush someone into a shallow decision, and get the personal  gratification of seeing him “go down the aisle,” than take the time to fully explain things to him, even if it takes long hours and nights of  travailing prayer for his soul. We just don’t “have the time” to do things God’s way anymore.(In contrast to this, look at the amount of time and effort Jesus took to explain salvation to one mere Samaritan woman – Joh 4:3:42)

But God would rather see one true convert than an ocean full of “decisions.” Oh, can’t you see what a mess we’re in? What we’ve done to  the Gospel? And when those “converts” no longer want to fellowship with us, when they want to go back to their old friends and their old  way of life, we have the nerve to call it “backsliding,” when we stood in the very way of them ever “front-sliding” toward the cross! Oh, it  breaks my heart to think of that awsome day when God will judge those who have “stumbled one of these little ones.” (Mar 9:42)


(Tomorrow I’ll post the 17th section)


What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 15 – The Sinners Prayer 15 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

Can you also try and imagine this scene where Jesus is leading some new “disciples” in the “sinner’s prayer”?

“Wow! There are so many that came forward for salvation tonight!” (The multitude applauds.) “Now, it is very simple. You just repeat  this little prayer after Me, and then you’re a Christian! Now it doesn’t really matter whether you fully understand the prayer . . . it works  just the same. Now ready? Repeat after Me… ‘Dear Jesus… Come into my heart…'”and so on …

As you can see, when we try to picture Jesus Himself using our modern methods of evangelism, it seems completely foolish. I think this is  a very good test for any method. “Could I see Jesus doing this?” or “Could I see Jesus preaching or teaching this?” Since the Bible tells us,  “Walk in the manner that He walked” (1Jo 2:6), we should always try to compare our actions and message to the Master’s.

It is obvious that there is no “set” sinner’s prayer. There are many variations, with different lengths, different wordings, different  endings, etc., but the contents are usually the same. The prayer usually includes phrases like, “Dear Jesus,” “Come into my heart,” “I  admit I have sinned” (at least the better ones contain this last statement – there are some who do not even like to mention sin in their  “sinner’s prayer”), “Fill me with Your Spirit,” “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Extremely harmless . . . nothing wrong with a prayer like that,  right? Wrong! It isn’t the wording that’s important, it’s the state of heart of the one saying it.

I believe that a true “sinner’s prayer” will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Mat 5:6)  The very act of “leading someone in a prayer” is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the  writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me)  brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have His disciples “repeat after Me,” I believe He wants them to follow  after Him!(Mat 4:19; Mat 8:22; Mat 9:9; Mat 16:24; Mat 19:21; Luk 9:59; Joh 12:26; Joh 21:19; Joh 21:22: 1Pe 2:21; Rev 14:4)

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 16th section)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 14 – The Gradual Altering of “The Altar Call” 14 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

Believe it or not, the altar call was invented only about 150 years ago. It was first used by the American evangelist, Charles Finney, as a means of separating out those who wanted to talk further about the subject of salvation. Finney called the front pew “the anxious seat” (for those who were “anxious” about the state of their souls) or “the mourner’s bench.” Finney never “led them in a prayer,” but he and a few others would spend a great deal of time praying with and giving specific instruction to each, one by one, until finally, everyone was sent home to pray and continue seeking God until “they had broken through and expressed hope in Christ,” as Finney would say.

The early Salvation Army, going a bit further on Finney’s innovation, developed what they called “the penitent form” or “the mercy seat.” After a rousing time of singing and preaching, they would invite any sinner present who wanted to confess his sins to God and repent, to come to the front, and they would be prayed for individually. I have met a few older Christians who used to attend some of these early meetings, and they said that sometimes people would stay there all night, and on a few occasions, even a few days, weeping and confessing their sins with broken hearts. There were always some who would stay right there to instruct them further, encouraging them to make a clean sweep of sin from their lives.

This is what the early “altar call” was like. But gradually, it began to become a fixed part of every meeting, and like all other traditions, it began to lose its original spirit. The “coming forward” part started to be more important than the “sorrow, confession, repentance, and instruction” parts. Eventually, anyone who would “come down the aisle” was excitedly proclaimed “a new believer in Christ!” No matter how they felt, they still were told, “Your sins are forgiven, brother! Rejoice in Christ!” How many a miserable, defeated, and confused person has come away from a meeting like this? (Jer 6:14)

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 15th section)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 13 – The Altar Call 13 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

Imagine if you can, Jesus having people bow their heads after hearing the Sermon on the Mount, and then very slowly and softly (while Bartholomew plays “How Great Thou Art” on the accordion) saying to the crowd, “While your heads are bowed and your eyes are closed, if you really want to be My disciple tonight, if you really want to show My Father and I that you truly mean to follow this sermon I have given, then I want you to slip your hand up slowly, so that I may see it. There now… yes… yes… I see that hand … and that one … and the one way back by the fig tree … yes! Now, please, while Bart plays another chorus, I’d like you to start moving down through the center of the crowd … yes, those who raised their hand. I want to know if you really mean business. I’d like to lead you in a prayer …

I realize that there are some who will see such an illustration as sacrilegious. And that’s just the point. They think that making fun of the “altar call” is making fun of God. But it isn’t. Traditions die hard, because they take so long to form. Once I received a very intense letter from the pastor of a church who had sponsored me in a city-wide concert in his area. He was upset that I had “let several hundred souls go ungathered” because I had not given an altar call. He said, “It seems you have no burden for souls.” (Nothing could be further from the truth.) But because I had not given the recognized “official invitation,” this pastor could see no value in my presentation of the Gospel. Or as Tony Salerno, (director of “The Agape Force”), once remarked, “If you don’t give an altar call, they think you have committed the ‘unpardonable sin!'”

* I discovered I had miscounted the number of sections. My apologies for any confusion.

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 13th section)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 12 – Inventions of Man Now Part of Gospel 12 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

The Term and Concept of “Personal Savior.” I find it very disturbing when something unnecessary is added to the Gospel. The use of the  term “Personal Savior” isn’t very harmful in itself, but it shows a kind of mind – set that is willing to “invent” terms, and then allow these  terms to be preached as if they were actually found in the Bible.

But why must we do this? Why must we add needless, almost meaningless things to the Gospel? It is because we’ve taken so much out  that we have to replace it with “spiritual double talk.”

That’s right, double talk! Would you ever introduce your sister like this: “This is Sheila, my personal sister”?! Or would you point to your  navel and say, “This is my personal bellybutton”? Ridiculous! But nevertheless, people solemnly speak of Christ as their personal Savior,  as if they’ve got Him right there in their shirt pocket – and as if when He returns, He will not have two, but three titles written across His  thigh: King of kings, Lord of lords, and PERSONAL SAVIOR! (See Rev 19:16.) This is only one example of how a non-biblical term can be  elevated to reverence by the Church, as if to say, “Well even if it isn’t in the Bible – it should be!”


* I discovered I had miscounted the number of sections. My apologies for any confusion.

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 12th section)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 11 – Section 2: “The Added Parts”, Introduction 11 of 21*

Keith Green

Keith Green

In each generation there have been various ways and means used to secure the attention of sinners so that they may be shown the truth  and then led into a saving knowledge and true relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a fact that man is a creature of habit. He loves form, doesn’t like things to change “too quickly,” and he clings to tradition.  Unfortunately (for man), God is no such person. Though something has never been tried before, God simply does not care. His only  concern is that it is the wisest and most direct way of accomplishing His desire.

This of course, threw the children of Israel into many a panic. “What’s God doing now?” If there was a big sea in the way, no problem, He  just split it. If there wasn’t any water, snap! A drinking fountain from a rock. Food running low? Presto! It’ll rain bread in the morning.  And Jesus had the same way of dealing with things. When His disciples were far from shore, it didn’t matter, Jesus just strolled over the  waves. Problem with the weather? “Shut up wind!” And so it went . (Exo 14:21-22; Exo 16:4; Exo 17:6; Mat 14:25; Mar 4:39)

Now as you can see in the Bible, God had a lot of problems with man and his traditions. Just take a look at the Jews – how they loved their  temple, their sacrifices, their Sabbath – too bad they didn’t care much for their God. And Jesus ran up against the whole stubborn lot of  them. “Did you see that? Why, He healed on the Sabbath!” (Luk 13:14) At every turn, Jesus tried to show them the truth, using the  wisest reasoning and the best examples, but they kept getting hung up on His methods – touching lepers, raising the dead, hanging out  with sinners, whipping moneychangers – it scared them to death!(Mat 8:2-3; Mat 9:11; Joh 2:15; Joh 11:43-44) Their religion was basically peaceful, very solemn and quiet. But  Jesus… why Jesus had the whole town in an uproar at least once a week! You can see why He bothered them; He disturbed their nice  little religion… with the truth! (Joh 8:44-45)

It is obvious that God anoints men and women who are completely yielded to His Spirit. He also anoints methods and tools that we use –  meetings, tracts, books, music, witnessing, preaching, etc. – when they are also fully submitted to Him in faithfulness. But there is a great  danger when man (or even God) designs a tool to be used for God’s glory, and then as time passes, people’s attention starts to be fixed on  the tool itself, rather than on the glory of God (which it was originally designed to promote).(See 2Ki 18:4 – Because it had become an idol, King Hezekiah had to destroy the same bronze serpent that Moses had made in Num 21:8, which was used to stop the plague of death among the Israelites. This is the same bronze serpent refererred to by Jesus in reference to Himself, in Joh 13:14 !)

The following is a list of just some of the tools, methods, and concepts that I believe have become so much a part of presenting the  modern gospel, that they have become just about inseparable from it. In fact, they are to such an extent considered necessary, that if  many of them are left out of an evangelistic meeting, Christians can hardly believe that anyone can be saved there.

* I discovered I had miscounted the number of sections. My apologies for any confusion.

(Tomorrow I’ll post the 12th section)

What’s Wrong With The Gospel? By Keith Green – 10 – What’s Specifically Wrong With Modern Gospel? 10 of 15

Keith Green

Keith Green

It’s Me-Centered Instead of Christ-Centered. First and foremost, it is the gospel that appeals to the selfish. Instead of honoring God, it  places the sinner at the center of God’s love and plan. But the Bible places Jesus at the center of God’s plan, not the sinner.

One of the most well-known phrases of modern evangelism is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” But the sober,  biblical truth that needs to be presented to the sinner’s mind is “You have made yourself an enemy of God, and in your present state of  rebellion there is absolutely no hope for you.” In fact, God’s “plan” for the sinner at this point in his life is to separate him from His  presence forever, in hell. However unpopular or unlovely that may sound, it is the only truth and reality about anyone who is an enemy  of God through sin.

The whole line of reasoning in our modern gospel continues on and on in this mistaken way. “Sin has separated you from God, ‘and His  wonderful plan for your life.’ Jesus came and died on the cross, so that you may experience ‘His wonderful plan for your life.’ You must  accept Jesus now, so that you will not miss out on ‘His wonderful plan for your life!'” You, you, you, you!!! It’s all for YOU! I’m not sorry to  say this, but Jesus did it all in obedience, for His Father’s glory. (Phi 2:8-12) Of course, it infinitely benefits those who love, serve, and  honor Him, but that was a secondary consideration, not the primary one. (Please read Eze 36:22-32.) If people come to Jesus mainly to  get a blessing, or only to get forgiveness, they will ultimately be disappointed. But if they come to give Him their lives in honor and  worship, then they will truly have forgiveness and joy – more than they could ever imagine! (1Co 2:9)

It’s Shallow, Cheap, and Offered as a “Bargain.” Our gospel reduces the good news to a “come and get it while you can” sale. We make  every effort to take all the bones out – everything that might offend someone, might make them hesitate or put off their decision. Jesus  didn’t do this. He never lowered the requirements for anyone. One had to be completely sincere, totally humbled, having counted the  cost, willing to leave everything, family and property, “count all things loss” so that they might “gain Christ.” (Phi 3:7-8) When that same  rich young ruler “went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mat 19:22), Jesus didn’t go running after him shouting, “Hey, wait a  minute! Let’s talk this thing over, it isn’t as bad as it might sound. Maybe I was a little too harsh!”

Maybe we’re so eager to “see the converts,” to publish “how many got saved at our last concert” in the bulletins to our supporters, that  we’ll do anything to rush someone into a “decision” before he’s had a chance to really make one. The problem is, if you have to rush him  into it, he probably will change his mind later anyway. For as a friend of mine says, “If somebody can talk them into it, somebody can talk  them out of it!” (1Co 1:17)

Salvation is Shown as a Barter or Trade, Instead of the Result of Obedience by Faith. We offer forgiveness of sin like Monty Hall on “Let’s  Make a Deal.” I’ve even heard, “You give Jesus your sin, and He’ll give you salvation in return!” No one in the Bible ever thought so low of  the grace of God to talk about the gift of eternal life like it was for trade. It is a gift! You can’t earn it, or buy it, or give anything in return  for it. How it must offend the Holy Spirit to hear people talk of His Jesus so. (Act 8:18-23)

It Produces Selfish, “Blessed,” and Feelings-Oriented “Converts.” Anyone who is made to believe he becomes a Christian under such  preaching will seldom bring forth the true fruits of a real convert. He will remain just as selfish as he always was, only now his selfishness  will take on a religious form. If he wants something for himself, he will say he “has a burden” for something, or he will say, “It is the desire  of my heart,” or some other religious-sounding phrase like that. He will pray selfishly, desiring blessings for himself, and even if he does  pray for others, it usually will be for selfish reasons. After all, when he “accepted the Lord,” he was told how much Jesus wanted to bless  him and how much God had stored up for his account, and how the Bible was like “a checkbook full of promises, just waiting to be  cashed!”

Such a person always seeks to “feel” good about himself, his own church, his own pastor, etc. His whole world is built on feeling blessed.  He was never shown how he was created to bless God… God was not created to bless him. (Psa 149:4; Phi 2:13)

As you can see, the “converts” described above are not like those pictured in the book of Acts, when the Church was new and the fire was  hot. Take a look at Act 2:41-47 and Act 4:31-35, and you will see the tender spirit of love, and the mighty spirit of power that prevailed  among the brethren in those early days. I believe that one of the great reasons that “everyone kept feeling a sense of awe” (Act 2:43),  was because “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayer. “(Act 2:42) I believe that Peter and the  others made every effort to convey the whole message of the Gospel when they preached and taught, and that is why the Spirit of God  could anoint and bless the new converts so powerfully- God always anoints the truth! (Isa 55:11)


(Tomorrow I’ll post the 11th section)

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