Calvary Road Baptist Church


Some people are creative. Other people are imaginative, which is not exactly the same thing. I am neither, so I admire and appreciate the creativity and imagination of those whose minds are more flexible than my own. I love to watch artists teach painting on Public Television. I enjoy listening to writing coaches who help budding authors improve their craft on Public Television. In short, I really do admire creativity and imagination.

On another related subject, it should always be kept in mind that the Apostle Paul wrote Second Corinthians 4.7, which reads, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” That sentence is Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians, who you may remember were once quite susceptible to the cult of personality, this notion that my preacher is better than your preacher. In First Corinthians 1.12, he observed “that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” Until Paul corrected them, they were bound up in Christian hero worship. Paul’s reminder in Second Corinthians is that we are all earthen vessels, and that we all have feet of clay. Therefore, no matter who the preacher is, or how successful he seems to be in his speaking ability, in his grasp of scriptural truth, or his skills in organizing and administering a growing congregation, he is still an earthen vessel, with the best of us still being living pottery. This is to say that we are all flawed, and I am certainly a deeply flawed individual. It should not be thought by anyone that this preacher is not capable of disappointing you, of making a mistake, or of sinning. Those who know me best know this most certainly. I make no claim of superiority concerning any aspect of my ministry, though I will not apologize should God graciously illuminate my understanding of spiritual truths. When I stand before you and proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, I seek not to contrast myself with anyone who is in error or who misguides others. Rather, I seek to demonstrate that our allegiances should lie with God’s Word, with the clear and unadulterated gospel message, and with the foundational truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, when I state, for example, that some well-known person is wrong, I am not suggesting that I be compared to him and be found superior. My point entirely is that he is at variance with God’s Word, not that I am in any way better than he is. It is to that end that this poor preacher stands before you today in the hopes of clarifying your thinking, to distill your thoughts, so the gospel will by the end of the service be seen by you even more clearly than you see it now. I do so by calling attention to creative and imaginative approaches to presenting the gospel. When I said, moments ago, that I admire people who are creative and imaginative, I meant what I said. Mankind, and particularly our culture, has benefited greatly from the creativity and imagination that God in His wisdom has instilled into the creatures who bear His imagine and likeness. Thus, though men are certainly fallen, they are not without the capacity for genius.

To add to what I have already said, I love going to art galleries and museums. I stand in awe when I visit the Huntington Gallery, Library and Botanical Gardens. Whether it is God’s creation in the form of beautiful flowers, or men’s genius in the form of paintings and sculptures, I appreciate what goes into it . . . as much as my limited grasp makes possible. That said, I think there are places where imagination and creativity are not only not positively helpful, but are downright harmful and tragic. One such area is the preaching of the gospel, where men posing as ministers of the gospel have demonstrated their creativity and imagination in seeking to bring sinners to Christ.

May I suggest to you that creative, inventive, and imaginative ways to declare the unsearchable riches of Christ are unnecessary? May I go even farther and openly decry the rewording to sinners of the gospel message? I do not oppose the creative and imaginative use of technology, just the creative and imaginative alteration of the gospel message, however slightly, and for whatever reason. Allow me to be very specific. I wonder why sinners are told to do other than what Jesus told them to do, other than what the Apostles Paul and John and Peter told them to do. Though I may sound reactionary, what is wrong with the scriptural injunctions? In Matthew 11.28, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What is so terribly wrong with continuing to urge sinners to come to Christ? Can that directive be improved on in any way? In John 1.12, we read, “But as many as received him.” In John 3.16, we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What can possibly be wrong with urging sinners to receive Christ or to believe in Christ? In Acts 16.30-31, the Philippian jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” What, pray tell, is wrong with urging sinners to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? In Ephesians 1.12, Paul writes, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Thus, Paul sums up his own conversion, and the conversions of others, as being by means of trusting Christ. I like that, don’t you? What can be wrong with such an admonition as that?

These are certainly not all the descriptions or illustrations or directives from the Savior or the Apostles that can be used when dealing with sinners about their own need of Christ and what is to be done by faith. However, these examples are enough to show that we have a multitude of illustrations, directives, and descriptions provided for us in God’s Word, so that we have no need of creating or imagining new approaches to how we think sinners should proceed when they want to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, I stand against the notion of asking Jesus into your heart, as being nowhere found in scripture, but also as being closely akin to the erroneous Roman Catholic notion of salvation by means of an infusion of grace. However, that is another sermon. I want to address the very common contemporary evangelical practice of urging sinners to ask Jesus to save them. I recognize more than most of you do that there certainly are wonderful Christians who testify that they asked Jesus to save them, He did, and they have gone on to live a fruitful and productive life in service to God. As well, I recognize that many who have claimed that they came to Christ, who claimed that they believed on Jesus, who insisted that they trusted Christ, as the Bible teaches, ended up no more saved than the man in the moon.

What I want to address is the thinking that lies behind a preacher’s or witnessing Christian’s decision to urge a sinner to do something other than what the Bible very specifically encourages him in various ways to do. To provoke your thinking on this matter, allow me to set before you five straightforward questions:


Last Sunday, I preached from John 15.16, where Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” In that message, I established beyond reasonable doubt the timing of Christ’s choosing to be eternity past. Thus, it was the Lord Jesus Christ’s own idea to leave heaven’s glory, take upon Himself human flesh and nature, and to then provide for the salvation of sinful men. That reality is strongly reinforced by the Lord Jesus Christ’s pronouncement of His mission, in Luke 19.10. Referring to Himself as He frequently did as the Son of Man, He said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” There is no conflict here with what Jonah said in the belly of the great fish, “Salvation is of the LORD.”[1] Neither is there any conflict with what the Apostle John wrote, John 1.13: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” As well, reflect on the matter of Christ being “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Revelation 13.8.

Do you begin to see why I take issue with encouraging sinners to ask Jesus to save them? Salvation is the result of a plan conceived in the council chambers of the most high God in eternity past. It was the Lord Jesus Christ’s decision to leave heaven’s glory, to come to this earth, and to pay sin’s price. As we saw last week, it was even the Lord Jesus Christ who decided who He would save. Do you not, therefore, see the fundamental inconsistency with all that we have reviewed on one hand and asking Jesus to save you on the other hand? Why get anywhere near the wrong-headed notion that any sinner’s salvation is his idea, or that it was somehow conceived in his own consciousness? I greatly fear this frequently happens when sinners ask Jesus to save them, as though He was not more intent on saving them than they were on being saved.


What is terribly complicated about doing what you are told? When I was a boy, I remember being explicitly told to empty the trash, to make the bed, to fold the towels, to wash the dishes, to make a pot of coffee, and to mow the lawn. Those were not terribly complex instructions, and can be easily understood by the simplest child. How should a mom or dad react, then, when a youngster who has been directed to empty the trash says, “May I empty the trash?” The question simply does not make sense in light of the instructions that have been given.

With that in mind, consider Matthew 11.28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” A straightforward directive has been issued. It is not complex. Neither is it in any way mysterious. If you qualify as laboring and being heavy laden, Jesus commands you to come to Him. What possible reason, then, is there for asking Jesus to save you? In John 7.37, we are told that on the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Thus, recognizing that thirsting here is a metaphor for strongly desiring salvation, Jesus said to those of that desire, “let him come unto me, and drink.” Explain to me how a sinner desiring to be saved could have heard Jesus say that, or could have read that in the Bible, and then concluded that what he should do is ask Jesus to save him?

So you see, asking Jesus to do something He has told you to do does not make any sense to me. By my way of thinking, the surest way for a sinner to be saved is to do exactly what Jesus directs sinners to do in order to be saved, or to do what an Apostle of Jesus Christ directs you to do to be saved. Once again, the example of the Philippian jailor, Acts 16.29-31:

29     Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30     And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31     And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

We have not a whiff of a hint that the Philippian jailor did anything other than believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It would smack of insanity for him to have then asked, “Jesus, will you please save me?” after what he had just been told.


We know that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” Second Timothy 3.16. We also know that James 1.18 assures us, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Thus, the Bible is inspired and the Bible is used by God to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This corroborates what we find in the 119th Psalm.

·         Psalm 119.9: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

·         Psalm 119.41: “Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.”

·         Psalm 119.65: “Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.”

We know that we can have complete confidence in the testimony of scripture, since it is inspired and since God has testified in it that He uses it to bring about the salvation of sinners.

If that be true, where is the wisdom of conjuring up some formula for being saved that is not lifted from scripture, and does not seem to clearly reflect Biblical principle? Perhaps, if what the Bible said to sinners was overly complex, one could understand attempts to simplify the message for the young and for the unsophisticated. However, that is not the case here. In what way is believe on, believe in, or come to so complicated that it needs to be replaced by “Jesus, will you please save me”?


Who would claim to so understand the nuances of Bible truth concerning the salvation of sinners that he would dare adjust the directives given by the Savior or by the Apostles? For example: Does it not betray a fundamental misunderstanding for someone to speak of accepting Jesus as his savior, when in fact the only accepting that is discussed in the New Testament is the acceptance of the believer in Christ by God, Ephesians 1.6? I read Isaiah 55.8-9:

8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Based upon this passage, I hardly think anyone should have confidence that he knows enough of the mind of God that he can alter the directives to sinners found in the Bible.

Even the most astute and discerning among us is described as seeing through a glass darkly, First Corinthians 13.12. Therefore, is it not to our advantage, and to the advantage of sinners, to adhere as closely to biblical directives as we possibly can when guiding the lost to Christ? In many respects, the salvation of a sinner is a darkly clouded mystery in which great miracles occur. Therefore, when navigating through the mist and fog of evangelism in one’s dealings with a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, it seems wise to me to be as careful and cautious about mimicking the inspired message as possible. Why risk the possibility of advancing an unscriptural notion as a result of inventiveness or misplaced creativity? Is such a thing not precisely what happens when sinners are told to ask Jesus into their hearts, which is a denial of the many passages showing Jesus to be seated at the Father’s right hand, which is perilously close to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation by the infusion of grace, which ignores the scriptural proofs that weigh against the ubiquity of Christ, and which seems far afield of the Biblical exhortation to look outside oneself to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith?

When I was a design engineer, before God called me to the gospel ministry, a good rule of thumb for engineering the solution to a difficult problem was always thought to be keeping the solution as simple as possible. The acronym is KISS, keep it simple stupid. Methinks that approach is wise when dealing with sinners, since the gospel is supposed to be simple enough for a child to respond to. Therefore, why risk even the possibility of unnecessary confusion by urging upon sinners what the Bible does not urge upon them?


Jesus directed sinners to come to Him. The apostles directed sinners to believe on Him and to believe in Him. Paul indicated that he and his colleagues had trusted Christ. The Apostle John writes of receiving Christ, in John 1.12. I would ask anyone who feels compelled to deviate from such simplicity, is your approach better? Is it somehow improved? Are you sure that the way you suggest is not a departure from the gospel entirely? After all, Paul warned in Galatians 1.6, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.”

I am not suggesting that someone who asked Jesus to save him has embraced another gospel. I am suggesting that the only way someone could possibly embrace another gospel is by deviating from what is explicitly presented in God’s Word as the gospel. In other words, there are some areas where creativity and imagination are most definitely not recommended. Certainly, the Apostle Paul resorted to no creativity or imagination when he was handling the gospel, if Galatians 1.10-12 is any clue:

10     For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

11     But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12     For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I would encourage you to point out to anyone you know who does a lot of what I call “Jesus talk,” very loosely Christian verbiage that reflects no discipline when issues of sin and salvation are being discussed, that you prefer to adhere to Biblical terms and phrases. It is increasingly popular these days to talk about being a Christ follower. However, what is crucial for a Christ follower is that he be born again, that He be in Christ. Folks are fuzzy these days about the conversion experience. As well, people take liberties when talking about what must take place for one to become a Christian. They will say things like, ask Jesus to save you, ask Jesus into your heart, and things like that.

From what I have said in passing but have not dwelt on at length, you can see that what is commonly called evangelical Christianity, or conservative Christianity, is a veritable minefield of confusion and outright contradiction. I have chosen to address only a single practice that I find both offensive and dangerous, the practice of urging sinners to ask Jesus to save them. To address this practice, I have asked five questions. I ask questions because questions lead to answers, and if you ask the correct questions you are more likely to arrive at the correct answers. I have asked these questions because, while I am generally in favor of sinners asking questions, I am not in favor of sinners asking Jesus to save them, for a variety of reasons.

·         Why ask Jesus to do something that was His idea to do in ages past?

·         Why ask Jesus to do something when He has directed you what to do?

·         Why deviate from the biblical directives so clearly provided?

·         Why risk the possibility of confusion concerning so important a matter as salvation?

·         How can the biblical directives to sinners be improved?

My own opinion is that each of these questions evokes an answer that in itself is sufficient reason why no sinner should ever be encouraged to ask Jesus to save him. Together, the five questions lead to an overwhelming basis for abandoning any notion of teaching sinners to ask Jesus to save them.

My unsaved friend, Jesus is the sufficient savior of sinful men’s souls. He has already done everything necessary to provide for your salvation, and He will save you if you come to Him, if you will believe in Him, if you will believe on Him, or if you will trust Him. You do not need to ask Him if He will, since He already did. He will save anyone who comes, who believes, who trusts in Him. Won’t you do so . . . now?

Take Jesus at His word.

[1] Jonah 2.9

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