Our modern church today hands out altar calls like they do bulletins. Every Sunday my church has an altar call. I sometimes look, and the people who do raise their hands (in about a 300-800) church service, their eyes, their faces, are filled with, not regret and repentance, but the same despair, the same sin, the same life. Life is changed in an instant, a lifestyle is changed over time.
~ My Friend
Actually, the change in my life (and the lives of many other people that I’ve talked to and heard about) was simply night and day. As my wife puts it, “(I) went to bed the same a–hole she has known for the last 5 years but woke up with the man she married”. Most people that I know who have had the transformational change that is provided in the Holy Spirit have had such a life altering experience that they experience a kind of culture shock as they don’t know how to exist in a world that’s as sinful as it is (like drawing away the curtains on what you’ve thought was always there) and are unrecognizable from the people they were 6 or 8 months later. Their old friends don’t WANT anything to do with them because they are so totally different and they don’t WANT to sin anymore because they see how much God hates it. In the same way that you would refrain from ordering foods that are repulsive to your wife or girlfriend (onions in my case), how much more would you run from the things that are repulsive to the God who created you?
The problem isn’t the message, it’s usually stemming from one of two sources: Either a low view of God (ie: God wouldn’t really send people to Hell, God didn’t really create all of this or if He did it was influenced by evolution, God isn’t really a “good judge” because he can’t possibly send “me” to Hell, I’ve done “good things”) or a low view of Scripture (ie: “God isn’t powerful enough to keep the Bible free of errors in the hands of man”, ” The Bible is impossible to interpret so who knows what it means”, “It’s a storybook with good morals, like Aesop’s Fables – no one can trust their lives to it”, “Constantine really created the Bible so who knows if anything in that is true”). All of those claims are justifications that people use to walk away from the text and to walk away from God, but under closer examination, each of those claims are easily dealt with. After that, the sinner has no recourse other than to take the text as it is (exegesis (interpret it for what it is), not isegesis (take your preconceived notion and cram it into scripture)) – the 10 Commandments for example – and compare themselves to God’s Holy Law.
The purpose of the Law in the old testament was to provide the same promise that was granted to Eve in the Garden – that there would be a Savior to come. In that time they had the Adamic covenant whereby God promised to take care of His people as long as they held to worship of Him (He DID create them, after all). The people grew exceedingly sinful and thus produced the flood (which radically changed the landscape and buried about 2 billion people + animals and plants which we now use as coal and oil – God provides). Next was the Noahic covenant which allowed for the eating of meat and still served the same purpose as the first – there is a Savior to come, do what is good and hold fast to the teachings of the law that are imprinted in the conscience. Shortly after the great divide of the people at the Tower of Babel (more a temple to worship the “sun god” than a tower to reach heaven) there was the Abrahamic covenant that God made with Abraham (a pagan man from Ur who did as God asked him to – most of the time). God said that He’d give him a nation that was above all nations IF they put God first. We can see in history how those who DID put God first have prospered greatly. Is that WHY you should put God first? NO! Because then you’re using God to get at what you really want and that’s not really putting God first. But I digress… After the Abrahamic covenant, when God saw that the people were just NOT getting it – he made the Mosaic covenant which gave the people the 10 laws to show God’s requirement of perfection. If you’re short of that at all then you’re not going to Heaven. It was meant to show that NO ONE is good enough to get in on their own merits. Hence the need for a Savior. Then there were the rest of the 613 laws that came under the Mosiac covenant which allowed for the “People of God” to be separate and different – “holy”. They weren’t working their way to Heaven as they were to hold fast to the 10 commandments AND lean on the Lord to provide a Savior. The rest of the laws were civil and ceremonial laws which set them apart and made the rest of the world take notice that “Hey! These people aren’t like us!”. Now we’re in the NEW covenant set forth by Christ who was promised in the Garden to Eve. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the messianic prophecies of the old testament short of those that talked about the impending judgement of the world which is to come at his “second coming”, after the rapture and after the tribulation and after the 1,000 years of peace where Christ is the King.
Our salvation comes from Christ AFTER a full understanding of who God is and AFTER we understand how totally wicked and sinful we are in the light of a perfect and holy God. Only after we realize that can we know that we are in the need of a Savior – not before. That’s why altar calls fail to work and why people week after week give their “lives to Christ” without giving up anything at all. If there’s no transformation, there’s no change at all.