On one of the blogs I read the subject came up about a local emergent church that places great emphasis on the number of confessions in Christ. This church uses the numbers game as proof that God approves of their church and evidence they are following Jesus. While we praise God for these confessions, some concerns were raised about possible false professions due to the liberal nature of this church. This church uses some very questionable antics by the pastor and staff which prompted me to be concerned about people buying into the church’s relevant “culture” vs. responding to God’s call to repentance. It’s not wise for any church to be overly concerned with numbers. It’s even more dangerous to use confession numbers as a poll to see if God is working in a church or not. This type of action can lead to problems like pride and arrogance. This error can grow into believing that if church “A” has more confessions than church “B” then God must be blessing “A” more than “B”. In other words, church “A” is excellent and pleasing to God. Church “B” is smaller; therefore church “B” must be doing something wrong in the eyes of God.

I do not advocate confronting people who profess Jesus Christ just because we have some disagreements with their church. As ambassadors for Jesus, it’s our job to fortify their faith by simply sharing Jesus in truth and love. What do I mean? Did I not just type that we should not confront or heckle them? Yes, I did. What I mean is we are to share with them our faith, God’s grace, and how we love Jesus because He first loved us. We share our repentance from sin, we define repentance in our walk as Christians, and how Jesus saved us by Grace. We should clearly define salvation in a manner that is both sound in the Scriptures and uplifting to Jesus by allowing the Holy Spirit to do His job in His time.

In the Bible we see this disturbing and frightening account by Jesus:

Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)
7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness .’

This is where the numbers game breaks down and has problems. If a church bases salvation on simply saying “Jesus,” repeating a prayer, and doing the works of the church then this frightening event described by Jesus Christ becomes very real. These people did wonderful works in Jesus’ name only to have Jesus say that He never knew them! In our human mind we are thinking, “This just does not seem right! How could they know about Jesus but not be saved? They did great things in the name of Jesus! They worshiped Jesus and did miracles in His name! These people knew Jesus, but Jesus did not know them? Why?” The answer is they never repented and accepted Jesus. It’s very clear in this passage that not everyone who says, “Jesus” is saved.

When we base serving/worshiping Jesus upon the numbers game, we are only hurting the church in the long run. The result of some confessions may be simply buying into a church culture, a youth program, a children’s program, peer pressure, entertainment, relevance, excellent music & worship, following a parent’s example, volunteering in the church, etc… anything other than the drawing of the Holy Spirit to repentance and salvation. It’s in this type of environment where the church culture might be drawing people to repeat the name Jesus vs. the Holy Spirit drawing people to Him. Can people truly be saved in this type of environment I described? Absolutely yes.

So what should we do? How can we know if everyone who professes Jesus is saved? The short answer is we will never know. We should continue to preach the Gospel and clearly define salvation as the Lord’s. We should make a great effort to define sin as sin, and explain the word “repent.” We should explain repentance from sin and how we once walked in sin. We explain that God laid a foundation for our new life. This foundation is in Him and not in the love of the world. We should always preach the whole council of God regardless the number of lost people coming to our church.

If I had a church of 15 people and if 10 of those people confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, I praise God and take their word for it! If my church never grew another soul beyond all 15 of my people professing Jesus, I would continue to preach the Gospel, salvation, repentance, and knowing that you are saved by grace. I would not consider this doubting their confessions, but rather fortifying their faith and walk with Jesus. I consider it helping them when they are in need, haunted by their past, tempted by their flesh, tempted by the world, and encouraging repentance when they sin. It’s a building block of assurance and teaching them about the Holy Spirit who lives within us. It’s not an attack or down play on their confession.

I have an 11 year old son who confessed Jesus. I praise God for his confessing Jesus Christ as his Lord . I take my own advice and try to encourage him in his faith by explaining repentance and salvation to him. I do not want to make him doubt his confession. I want to strengthen him in Grace. I want him to read his Bible, pray, and strive to follow Jesus. I want him to be confident in his faith and know how and why he is saved. I do not want to only focus on telling him about salvation because I want him to mature as a Christian, having confidence in Christ. I know he will experience hardships and may even doubt his salvation, but I want to plant the Word in his heart so that when doubts come the Grace of God takes control, giving him peace. This is not hindering him but leading him in walking with Jesus by example.

I’m not asking for an inquisition or any other type of legalistic manner of watching people’s actions to determine salvation. For those of you who want to do that, may I suggest you read about Lot in Genesis 19:6-8 in the OT, and then look in 2 Peter 2:6-8. God said Lot was “righteous,” meaning he was a saved man! When we see our brother/sisters in sin we should not question their confession. We should do the following:

1. Pray for them in private.
2. Encourage them in public.
3. Rebuke them in love and compassion.
4. Refrain from gossipping about them to others.
5. Lead them by example.
6. Always point them back to God’s grace by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Churches that do not preach repentance from sin after salvation are doing new Christians a disservice because the lack of teaching leads to carnality. Carnal Christians are weak Christians who are held captive by the lust of the world. This is where I believe many (not all) false professions are born and why we see in Matthew 7 Jesus saying,”I never knew you.” A child of God has convictions about sin because the Holy Spirit lives within him. I fear the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” may hold true because we try to do God’s job instead of simply doing what God told us to do. We try to add “culture” to God’s Word when God’s Word is enough.

I’m not just picking on this emergent church. I know this problem is in every type of church. Regardless of the type of church there maybe some false professions. I fully understand that legalism is just as deadly a venom as what I have discussed in this blog about the numbers game. Following strict man-made rules such as dress codes, men not wearing earrings, only using the KJV, repeating creeds, not drinking wine, not working on Sunday, etc… can and do lead to false professions as well. In the future I will discuss legalism and how it’s harmful to the church. I’m just writing about how I personally deal with these issues and expressing my concerns with the numbers game as a means to measure God’s approval.

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