What Has Led to So Many False Professed Christians? What is a False Christian? This is a long read, but worth it.
What does the bible say the church is? What are the churches truly like? Many, many people in the churches in the Western world today who say they are Christians are not. What is a false Christian? how can there be such a thing? This is a contradiction in words because a false Christian is not a Christian, but the term is used for ease of understanding. Someone who thinks that they are a Christian when they are not.
Philippians 3:17-21 is the true situation. The theme runs through the bible, Vl8-19 "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." The context is that these professing Christians were in the church in Philippi and in other churches that the apostle Paul was writing about. This is a biblical thing, but the scary bit is that in V18 it says that there are "many" The word "many" in Greek means "altogether common" and Paul weeps "wails out loud" because it is a terrible thing for the church of Jesus Christ, and a terrible thing for those who think that they are Christians when they are not. There are some who disagree with apostolic doctrine, they serve their own desires, and this is seen in their disobedient lives. If there were many like this in the days of the apostles, surely there are many more in the days when the apostles are gone. The question then is, what has led to so many false professed Christians?
In the 1860s Charles Spurgeon said these words: "Their life is not consistent with the great things of God. I do fear that the evil (of false professions) instead of having decreased has multiplied and grown in danger. We have more professions now and consequently we have more hypocrisy." Spurgeon said that because when Spurgeon was a boy a man called Charles Finney who was then a famous evangelist in America was evangelizing. He didn't believe in original sin, he believed that sin was a choice, that we were not sinners by nature, free will.
When Spurgeon was a boy Finney created what is called "the invitation system" that is not found in church history. Later the exact system was use by Billy Graham and it is still used in many places today. Finney created what is called the "altar call" from the pulpit and that is not in the bible. When you look in your bibles try and find one example. The appeal never comes from the pulpit, it comes from the congregation: "men and brethren what must I do to be saved." (Acts 16:30) It comes from the people when they are convicted of sin. But the appeal that Finney created is this: he would preach and then he would say "if you want to receive Christ raise your hand, come to the front" sometimes it was "get down on your knees, repeat these words after me." the sinner's prayer. If those three or four steps were followed, the person was told that they were saved, they were converted, they were told go and read your bible and pray. They were pronounced Christian if they did those things. Today it is called Decisionism. These things are not in the bible. Jesus and the apostles in their evangelism and the founding of the new covenant church did not employ those methods. If you look at what the Lord Jesus preaches in the gospels, you have to say that when people came to him and said "what must I do to inherit eternal life" Jesus made conversion more difficult than easy because the Lord Jesus didn't hide the price you have to pay once you are converted.. "except you deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me you cannot be my disciple" The Lord didn't hide the price. He was up front with the commitment needed. Rather than make Decisionism an easy thing, he made it a solemn and difficult thing.
Finney was a very clever man and he knew that the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and the apostles did not use these methods so Finney calls these things "the new methods" because he knew that they were new, and he knew also that they had no biblical warrant nor evidence for using these methods. They were unbiblicial methods, not in the bible. So Finney says "God taught me, I was not taught by man but by the Spirit of Christ himself. I was divinely directed from God" Finney said that for these new methods, God, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him directly from heaven. He says "God the Holy Spirit" gave him these instructions, these things that are not in the bible, but contradict what the bible says about evangelism. He says he got direct authority from God to bypass scripture and add these new methods. God the Holy Spirit never does that because God the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures in the first place, he doesn't come and later contradict himself. Have you heard of Joseph Smith? the founder of the Mormon movement? he said the same thing as Finney, that they got extra-biblical revelation, outside the bible, telling men to do these things. However, even though the cult leaders say that, they are all wrong, they didn't get extra-biblical revelation because you are not to add to or take away from the bible. Our stand if something is wrong is if it contradicts what the bible says. Charles Finney was wrong, there is no extra-biblical revelation.
In these new methods, human actions overruled conviction, repentance and faith. They replaced them, in fact. In true conversion according to the bible, a person is convicted of their sin, they have an awful feeling of guilt before God, and then they repent of that sin, they turn from sin to God confessing their sins and there is trust and faith in Jesus Christ as their atoning sacrifice and sin bearer. These are biblical signs of conversion: conviction, confession of sin, repentance from sin, trusting in Jesus Christ. Unregenerate people that are not born again can't do that, only God can do that. I can't say to you to go away and be born again. It is something God does, unsaved people can't do that without the gracious presence of God the Holy Spirit convicting, giving the gift of faith and so on. Unsaved people can only do those things, the signs of true conversion if God is working in them, and when they do these biblical things you can see it, but the natural man cannot do these things. However in Finneyism human actions came to overrule and replace the biblical signs of conversion. The human action "raise your hand, come to the front, repeat these words"
Unsaved people who are not born of the spirit can easily do all those things, anyone can raise their hand without the spirit of God. Anyone can walk to the front of a building, you don't need the spirit of God to do that. Anyone can repeat words, you don't need God's spirit to repeat words. You know why? because those things are not the signs of biblical conversion. Biblical conversion is conviction, confession, repentance and faith in Christ. You can do those actions and not be saved at all. And that is the danger, and that is why there are so many false professing Christians. If you don't believe me, knock on a few doors and you will meet a lot of older generation people who will say "I am all right, I am going to heaven".. and if you ask them how they know, they will say "because I raised my hand at one of the crusades in the 1950s, or I came to the front at a tent mission in 1960" and I got down on my knees and repeated these words" that is what they say. They haven't been to a church since, don't follow God, don't read their bible. What they remember is the man-made actions they did that Finney created. They don't remember the biblical signs of conversion, they don't know about that because the man-made actions have overruled and replaced the biblical signs. They are sure they are saved because the evangelist told them so. Those things are totally irrelevant. But were you convicted of your sin by the holy Ghost? did you have a great burden you couldn't get rid of? Did you confess your sin and repent? are you trusting and believing in Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Because if you do not have the biblical signs, you are not saved. Doesn't matter if you raised your hand, or came to the front. Man-made actions do not replace biblical conversion. They only hinder biblical conversion. It is a sad fact that they have replaced the bible, and there are thousands of dear people who think they are saved because they obeyed the human actions that are not in the bible and they know nothing of true conversion. They are resting in a profession that is not in the bible.
The results of Finneyism and Decisionism: People still do these things, they are ignorant of history. At the end of Finney's ministry, they estimated 500,000 people professed to be made Christians under his new methods. However in Finney's quieter moments when he was older he admitted "a large fall away rate of those who had professed to be Christians" A supporter of Finney said "it is now generally understood that the numerous converts of the new methods have been in most cases like the morning cloud and the early dew. In some places not a half, not a fifth, not even one tenth of the converts remain." Why is that? Because the new methods were unbiblical and they led people astray into believing they were Christians when they were not. If you allow that 1/10 is true, what about the 450,000 who raised their hand and came to the front and yet were not saved but still think they are. They are twice as hard to win now because first you have to convince them that they are not Christians. What about them? The whole thing hindered more than it helped. That is what church history says. Spurgeon, John Wesley, Whitfield, they saw conversions and no one ever gave an altar call. To them between 85-90% stayed the course because they were biblical converts showing the signs of biblical conversions.
The result of Decionism is a drop in church membership and attendance. After all of the converts of Billy Graham crusades, there was also a drop in church attendance and church membership after the crusades. Tens of thousands were said to have professed Christ, but church membership went down, not up. What is that that causes a drop in church membership? a drop in church attendance? is that a new helpful method? or church damage? Its the opposite of true evangelism. When evangelism happens, people are added to the church, they don't disappear. Evangelism causes church growth, it causes an increase in church attendance. Acts 2:47 True evangelism increases biblically converted Christians.
They professed to know Christ with their lips but their heart was far from it, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Phil 3:18-19
They are poor deceived people who think they are alright because they followed man's unbiblical ideas, and they still need to be converted.
The above notes were made by myself from the sermon by Paul Dowling of Whiteabbey Congregational (Reformed) at Sermon Audio.