"Now you could go through all the trouble of finding some basis to believe in God and studying the Bible to be convinced it is the Word of God and then receive the gift of eternal life by a faith that is fully convinced, but there's an easier way, just pray this prayer, just ask God for the gift (even if you don't believe in God) and see what happens. God will give you the gift of eternal life and you will have peace with God. What have you got to lose?"What is incorrect about this is that though eternal life is a free gift, it is not unconditional. Those who have any familiarity with the New Testament recognize that salvation is obtained by faith in Christ alone. However, there are three words in this statement that must be understood:
What does it mean by "salvation"?So what really are the conditions under which one obtains the righteousness that comes from God?
What does it mean by "faith"?
What does it mean by "in Christ?"
Which is contrary to the popular idea found primarily in the charismatic community that "one's faith is the object of one's faith". Such people put their faith in their own faith rather than their faith in Christ.
Once again, people often make up their own promises that they feel God is giving to them, rather than making the subject of their faith to be what God actually promised in the Bible. The above "Pascal's Wager" sort of gospel is an example of this.
Consider, for example, the following"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1Jn 2:19John recognized that those who "fall away" were never saved to begin with because "he who endures to the end will be saved" Matt 10:22
Consider the last judgement described in Matt 25 whereby there was a characteristic behavior associated with whether a person was indeed a sheep ("saved").
Consider also 1Jn 3:9 "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."
"Cannot" in greek indicates one has lost the ability (as opposed to merely permission) to go on sinning. The tense of "sinning" and "continue to sin" indicate "lifestyle" or "profession" as opposed to sinning in the punctual sense. Much of 1John affirms this concept.
"If you sense the oldness and deadness, the emptiness and vanity, the confusion and frustration, and the tragic destiny of the first life, you need Jesus. Only He can enliven you by bringing the life of God into you to give you a new birth, a new life. Only thus can you be born again to be a Christian, a Christ-man, an adherent of Jesus Christ, full of life, joy, peace, rest, purpose, and fulfillment in God.
Say to Him boldly, "Lord Jesus, I need You as my Savior. Save me from eternal death. Give me God's life. I want to be born again of God. Make me a Christian." Then you will receive the life of God to make you a born-again Christian."Notice the absence of any mention of sin and Christ's atoning work on the cross. The person is portrayed simply as a victim of circumstances rather than guilty of sin and worthy of condemnation as such. And there is no mention of the forgiveness of sins.
Yet this is quite common in the Evangelical community today. A gospel is preached devoid of mentioning sin or God's judgment. And the requirement to be saved is simply to pray a prayer or say some words. But so little is presented of Jesus in such messages, that the person is left to make up a "Jesus" in their own mind to put their faith in. But such a Jesus often turns out to be simply made in their own image.
At one such church I remember hearing it preached that the way you measure whether a teaching is correct is whether it makes you feel good. An in the more radical of such churches people make a big deal about emotions while suppressing any reasoning or thinking. Such people gullibly open themselves up to accept all kinds of wierd doctrines.
However, this gospel seems quite popular among evangelical preachers. I was first introduced to the gospel through the navigators the same way. I prayed some prayer and was added on to someone's "how many people did I save" list. I didn't actually believe until about a year later, which is when I actually received the gift of salvation. But does the "ends justify the means"? Is making false claims so as to attract one to one's church or Bible Study justified if inevitably one became a Christian?
Furthermore, those who consider themselves Christians under such false pretenses figure that they are already saved, so why change their behavior? They were not required to have any particular attitude towards sin, according to the false gospel, to obtain salvation. It's like getting married without the marriage vows.
And so we find modern churches not taking strong stands against sin within the church (Though they're quick to judge those outside the church), in contrast to 1Cor 5. "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you." Rather, people tend to do according to Col 2:6"As you have receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" And people do exactly that. They receive Him in disbelief without knowing Him, without knowing His attitude towards sin, and so they walk!