In the realm of bad evangelistic presentations, there are many things that I have heard said that are troubling. Perhaps the worst in this batch would be a person encouraging others just to try giving their lives to Jesus. The evangelist, with a genuine heart, called on people to just give Jesus a try and see if he did not give them life and peace and the rest. Just pray this prayer, believe, and you’ll get better.
Friends, this is not the way to share a genuine gospel. In fact, it is dangerous for the person to whom you speak. See this warning God gave in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 14:1-5 – 1 Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the Lord came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? 4 Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.
In the days of Ezekiel, the people of the land were miserable. The Babylonians had come in and taken over. The people wanted to be returned to Judah from their foreign captivity. And they were willing to try anything to get home.
In this passage, God is responding to something that was apparently going on. IT seems that some of these people, the leaders of the captives, were approaching Ezekiel to ask him to inquire of God on their behalf. IN general that sounds good. But there is a problem.
The Lord tells us that the people coming to Ezekiel have taken their idols into their hearts. You see, these people coming to Ezekiel were dedicated to idol worship. IN earlier chapters, we saw that these folks were bowing to idols, fashioning pictures of animals on the temple walls for worship, and were even bowing to the sun. They were not turning to the Lord as the one true God. They were simply giving a nod to the Lord to try him out to see if he might help them out of their calamity.
God is clear in that passage that he will not be one among many. God will not be an experiment for a wayward, idol-worshiping people. HE will especially not be merely an option for a people who had agreed to a covenant under which they would obey his law and he would be their God. These people were brazenly violating the terms of their agreement with God, and then turning to God to see if he might work as a solution to their political problem. And the Lord is having none of it.
While you and I are not Old Testament Israel, there is still a lesson for us to learn. God will not be one option among many for people. God will not be an experiment for you. God will not give a sweet answer to a person who turns in his direction all the while having a heart full of idols. The gospel does not promise eternal life and hope to people who are willing to mouth a prayer or get wet in a pool but who are not really willing to surrender to the lordship of Christ.
Salvation is a free gift of God. We receive it by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We do not do any sort of works or ceremonies to gain salvation. But, true salvation includes our repentance. And repentance includes our turning from all our idols and our full-scale surrender to Jesus Christ as our ultimate and eternal King. Those who turn to Jesus have been born again. Those who are born again have changed hearts. Those who have changed hearts follow Jesus and reject idols. But no person is saved who is merely turning to Jesus as one option among many to try.