ACCEPTING CHRIST…HERE IS “THE HOLE IN THE BRIDGE where millions fall through,” warned A.W. Tozer. To the astonishment of a great many people, “accepting Christ” as a choice of wording cannot be found anywhere in the Bible—nor can the “heart invitation” which has captivated audiences. Those who wish to gamble their souls will not be bothered by this. Such a person treats the salvation prayer from decades past with the same air of assurance as a Catholic would his infant baptism. And yet it is this very doctrine—which asks us to invite Jesus into our heart—that has captured the evangelical’s attention over the last century and likewise has swept a great many untold and unsuspecting bystanders into the pit of eternal damnation. From this they happily conclude the Reformers cry of “sola fide!” or faith alone, grants the subscriber a license to sin without submitting to the Lordship of Christ as evidence of their salvation. The Reformers would most assuredly consider this a gruesome perversion. True faith in Christ will always lead to a changed life.
The good news is not necessarily hidden from us. But we shan’t see it as some leisurely stroll through a public garden or—quite similarly—a neighborly terrace enclosed behind a stone divider, which the common pedestrian must dreamily peer at through a locked iron gate, wishing, hoping, and praying to get in. Rather, the Gospel is a wide open, seemingly barren field. And though it is visible and known by all, perhaps even a bearer of heavy foot traffic—it is rarely dug into. Jesus told it like this.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”
We can only imagine the frenzied state of his mind as the man who discovered the treasure breathlessly scrambled home empty handed—in hopes of maintaining a calm demeanor, no less—and in such a way as to not tip off Satan, lest his plans be foiled. Learning of the empty lot—and observing that he’d husked the worldliness from his life in order to invest in it—his family and neighbors must have thought his final trip to the Escrow officer an incredibly rash and foolish mistake. If the devil showed up at his garage sale dressed for the part of a snake oil peddler, complete with the dubious credentials that no doubt foiled many, he could not shake off the persistent landowners nagging determination. Why should he think little of the kingdom he’d invested a lifetime building for his self? He dared to dig into the Gospel—that why. What he tasted there was a recipe of the delectable. With one final scoop of the trowel, he discovered the man behind the name. For the first time in his life, he pronounced Jesus with intimacy.
Maybe Christianity in America is dying because the field on the edge of town is boring everyone to death. The Easy-Believism of our day and age no longer instructs us to have reverence for the field, an obedience to visit it often, a duty to tell others about it. We are not expected from the moment we wake each morning to have our thoughts ravished by the treasure we once discovered below the dust and weeds. The field itself is socially obsolete, outworn fashion, sacred no more. We have replaced words like holy and sin or the mere mention of eternal punishment for such phrases as “friendship” and “tolerance” and “help” in hopes that the cross of Christ not inconvenience anyone. We are instructed to needlessly chase after the wind of “cultural relevance,” plagued with riddles as to why a ministry sometimes grows exponentially in number—at least by the count of heads—and yet miserably fails entire generations of hell-bound souls. Evangelicalism has dressed up the field with a new blueprint—the temple of the humanist mind—and therefore has only succeeded in burying the land with layer upon layer of fudge icing and sprinkles, a cherry and whipped cream and two-scoops of mint chocolate-chip ice cream, all in the vanity of capturing the apathy of mankind. Here on the once-empty field, the disease has become the remedy. Rather than show them the Gospel and only the Gospel, they have attempted to compete with the trending wisdom of this world and by doing so have criminally succeeded. They are stealing lost souls from the only truth which can save them.
Perhaps we might better frame the undeveloped anchorage of land not as a plot on the outskirts of town but as one surrounded on all sides by a modern Metropolis of gadgets and augmented wonders which commits itself to doing one thing only but doing it exceptionally well—filling every imaginable craving of the flesh. We have before us a land of billboards and fashion boutiques and a media-driven reality which delights in substitutions and the cult of violence amplified by product placement and cleverly timed commercials, each entitling us to the only real vacuum of space which is the American dream. Surrounding the lot we might further find the latest-greatest condominiums for bicycle riding hipsters conveniently located among strip malls and entertainment complexes, relaxation denominations and old warehouses converted into breweries and sushi bars and menus with overpriced crepes, not to overlook institutes of higher learning, Science-endorsed museums, and any number of monuments devoted to wealth and green-colored greed, “In God we trust,” and Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness.
How many sad-sap souls pass the sidewalks surrounding that empty lot, where fleshly magazine covers once ornamented newspaper stands, staring down at the far craftier diversion we currently call phones—begging for likes and followers on social media? How many will categorize themselves as Christian if asked—and may even seek to debate the issue once offended—because they’ve been fooled into the lifestyle which best exemplifies the damnable doctrine of Easy Believism?
They too perchance once committed the deed of “accepting” Jesus, or they are content “believing” in Him, and have bothered to embrace Him only so much as a casual fan might a popular sporting team come playoffs. He will most certainly wear his intellectual jersey when the calendar suggests he do so, and may have even convinced himself that Jesus loves gay marriage and transgenderism and abortion and any manner of social awareness issues sweeping the national media-driven consciousness—that His true morality was simply mistaken or suppressed by generations of bigoted zealots until the currents of this modern decade have held them to the light of clarity. Maybe he is a “Truther” and his eyes have simply done what Satan asked of Eve and woken. Every artifact—unless it guides him as an arrow through the road construction to the eye-sore he callously passes—is at best a beguilement which gladly reminds him he is now free now to remain in his vices.
Most will slight the Gospel because they only look upon the surface of the field and judge alone by its rocky dust and weeds in contrast to the magnificent city of Cain towering overhead. For most, there is no excellency in the institution of Christ above the philosophers of our world. And yet we must have no part in the run-around, nor should we attempt to dress up the works which the Holy Spirit has perfected.
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).”
We cannot simply ask each pedestrian: “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
Or: “Did you say the prayer—did you invite Him into your heart?”
At the risk of offending, we must hand them a Bible as an X on the map, tell of the treasure which might be dug up, discovered and delighted in there and—soberly knowing that hell awaits them—fundamentally demand: “Dig, man!”
This will prove offensive to most.
But worse, we will be labeled legalistic. They cannot fathom in their minds how the man in the field could possibly discover a love so unordinary that his knees simply buckled—so passionately engrossing as to jostle him home in a rabid fever—so breathlessly jealous that he would dismantle the kingdom he built for himself in order to possess a treasure so small—so inconceivably precious—that it, or rather He (being the treasure) once quivered and cried helplessly for the milk of His mother while lying in a feeding trough, and yet is somehow so eternally large at present as to envelope the beginning and the end of all eternity and creation, who holds the keys of Hades, and even now sits at the right hand of God.
The calloused pedestrians have sold themselves to the sort of faith which demands little to nothing of repentance; a faith which exemplifies a state of lifelong carnality without so much as batting an eye. They fail to see what the man in the field suddenly realizes of himself—that he was prompted as one whom God foreknew without deserving the courtesy (Romans 8:9). He understood in a moment of jubilation that—though being a wretched sinner—his salvation is freely delivered by the gift of Sola Gratia (grace alone), through Sola Fide (faith alone), in Solus Christus (Christ alone), to Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone), all of which can only arise through the field he invested his time in—Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). It is a faith which “cometh by hearing. and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).” Essentially, the essence of his Lordship Salvation doctrine derives from Ephesians 2:8-9, which states:
“For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
We can safely conclude of the man whom Jesus spoke a parable concerning that—by forsaking his worldly riches—he has turned in an about-face direction from his previous life of carnality (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47), a self-ownership which consists not of human work but a divinely bestowed grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25), imbued by the genuine sort of repentance which secures a recognizable change of behavior (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:18-20). Those who truly believe will love Christ (1 Peter 1:8-9; Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 16:22), and will therefore long to obey Him (John 14:15, 23), since obedience is evidence of one’s faith (1 John 2:3).
Never the less, the Easy Believists will wildly dispute these facts in favor of their almost-alchemical “faith” formula—their eternal elixir, if you will. The story of Passover would have been comfortable, and dare I say sufficient enough for them, had the Israelite’s painted their door posts with the blood of the lamb but remained thereafter in Egypt without ever demonstrating the active faith which crossed them from one end of the red sea to the other. Having already warned of the “hole in the bridge where millions fall through,” A.W. Tozer redressed Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son in order to better accommodate the obstinate evangelist of Easy-Believism. He quotes the following:
“That prodigal son, look at him. A certain man had two sons and one of them said unto his father, “Give me the goods that falleth to me and he divided unto them, the two of them, the boys, his living. And after a few days the boy left – the younger – and went into a far country and there he spent his substance in riotous living. And when he became hungry and had nothing to eat he went and attached himself to a swineherd and he fed swine. And he was there in the swine-pen and he got hungry because his wages wouldn’t buy enough to eat. And it was a humbling thing for a Jew to feed swine. And one day a man appears – and here I depart from the Scriptures. One day a young man appears and this young man says to this boy who had gone away from home and was feeding swine – he had a bundle of tracts, this young feller, he was just out of Bible school – and he had been taught how to win souls in nine easy lessons.
And he goes up to this prodigal son lying among the swine and he says, “I have good news for you!” And he looks up and says, “Thank God, I need it. I need good news. What is it?” “Your father is ready to forgive you!” “Well,” the boy says, “thank the Lord!” “Your father is ready to forgive you; do you believe it?” And the boy says, “Yes, I believe it.” “All right now, thank God now, let’s bow our heads and you thank the Lord you’re saved. You believe the father forgives you. Yes, well, Amen! Now, we’ll thank the dear Lord that you’re saved. And now goodbye! Don’t forget to witness, and sometime I’ll be around again.”
So this swineherd stays right there in the far country and he gets zealous and missionary and he goes out and he starts to make converts among the other swineherds and pretty soon he has them all believing that the father forgives, and they all do, and say, “I thank God the father forgives.” Alright, and then they build a little tabernacle call it the First Tabernacle of the Converted Swineherds. And they all stay right there in the far country; nobody goes home. And that boy is still ragged and dirty and smelly and the people — the respectable people of the neighborhood – when they pass by elevate their nose and hurry by. And they say, “So persecuted they the prophets which were before us. It is the result of our holy living that they are giving us the cold shoulder.”
Then one day while they are singing choruses in this First Church of the Converted Swineherds in the far country a young fellow comes along and asks permission to speak and he rises and says to them, “Put away your sins, ye wicked! Put away your sins! Learn to do good; cease to do evil, be righteous and follow the Lord and do good and you’ll be saved.” And they pick him up and throw him out and say, “He’s a legalist!” and that he ‘doesn’t believe in grace.’ “Why, we’re saved by accepting the doctrine.” But this young fellow wanders off and time goes on and the fatted calf gets old and dies and the father passes away and the boy stays on in the far country.
Now that’s evangelism as it is preached a good deal today in America! It is, “Believe on Christ. Accept Christ and stay where you are!” Now that is excused and explained by a hundred different learned ways but it leaves the sinner in his sins! And the man in his sins will be damned as certainly as the sun rises in the east and goes down in the west!”
We must not be so gullible as to think the Gospel of Jesus Christ, often delivered to the so-called Christian, cannot go in one ear and out the other. The man who finds the true treasure—buried in the most undeveloped of human institutions—he will forever be a changed man. If this is you, then those of us who have discovered and conclusively accepted the free gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus must not stray so far from the field that those who pass with their hands slung in pockets and eyes hung lazily upon their shoes cannot hear the collective roar of our tearful pleas:
“Dig! Dig! Dig!”