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Monday, June 03, 2013 | Comments (4)

by John MacArthur

One of the main problems with weak evangelistic methods is the risk of leading people to false conversions. Many sinners are thrilled to learn that “God has a wonderful plan” for their lives and are eager to tap into all the blessings that entails. It stands to reason if you evangelize solely on the basis of God’s gifts, everybody will sign up.

But there is a significant difference between simply wanting the benefits of believing in Christ and actually turning to Him for salvation in biblical faith and repentance. False assurance of faith is a deadly spiritual danger—confidence in shallow belief actually hardens a person to the truth of God’s Word. We have a responsibility to lost men and women to preach the gospel thoroughly and accurately, and to steer them away from empty professions of faith and shallow biblical understanding.

Often the key to breaking through the fog of false faith is confronting sin. Until a person understands the depth and weight of his sin, he can’t fully appreciate his need for a Savior. In fact, it’s usually not until a person learns to see his sin the way God sees it that he is able to truly repent and believe.

That was the case for the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. In verse 15, she seems ready to receive the benefits of the living water Jesus mercifully offered her. But Christ knew the true state of her heart and the sin she harbored. He graciously yet directly exposed her sin with a simple, abrupt command:

He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” (John 4:16-18)

Samaritans practiced a distorted, corrupted version of Judaism (we’ll look closer at their religious system next time). But they did accept the Pentateuch, so this woman would have been aware of God’s commandment against adultery (Exodus 20:14) and that the penalty for adulterers was death. Moreover, she would have inherently known she was living a sinful lifestyle (Romans 2:14-15). And as we’ve previously discussed, her pattern of immorality had made her an outcast within her own community.

But it’s not until she sees her sin in relation to the merciful blessings of God that she begins to understand its full weight. And it’s here that the nature and content of their conversation radically shifts. There’s no more talk of mercy, satisfaction, and blessing. This initially indifferent, ignorant, careless sinner has had her wretched immorality laid bare, and she must be brought to conviction and repentance over her condition before she can enjoy the living water Christ has offered.

It’s wonderful to present to the sinner all the glories of the gospel—all the soul-satisfying blessings of an eternity in the intimate presence of God. But it’s not enough to stop there. If all you do is spill out the tremendous benefits of knowing God and then ask for a response, you’re likely to lead him to a false conversion, deceiving him about the true nature of his heart.

It’s critical to bring the sinner face to face with the guilt of his sin—to lead him to measure himself against the holy law of God and feel the weight of divine judgment on his corrupt life. How else will he ever come to true repentance and faith?


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#1  Posted by Dustin Burdin  |  Monday, June 03, 2013at 6:55 AM

Thank you for this Dr. MacArthur. I have seen much evangelism done where the person is simply offered a better life of fulfillment and no mention of sin and wrath from a holy God against sin. This definitely leads to the seed that dies away when the worries of this world choke it out. I admire your post greatly as it is very true that when evangelizing I must share the Biblical truth to the sinner of how holy God is and how wicked they are before a holy and just God who must punish their sins. I am reminded of Jesus' words to Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50 where the woman was continually weeping and wiping Jesus' feet. Jesus said this woman was indeed a sinner, and her sins were many, but she knew how wicked she was compared to a holy Son of God. This drove her to tears and worship of Jesus over this. Thank you again Dr. MacArthur for reminding me that sinners must hear of God's mercy but equally know the truth of who they are (sinful and wretched) before God (holy and righteous).

#2  Posted by Mae Ella Jones  |  Monday, June 03, 2013at 7:06 AM

My desire to witness to others has been high, but, there was a part missing that I did not understand. That part is the need to talk about repenting of sins. During my studying with GTY I have felt a great need to confess my sins and felt the heavy weight of them.It was as if I had never been faced with them before. I have confessed and continue to confess any sins that I commit now. I have peace now about my salvation. I am eager to learn more about witnessing in the true way. I have had to unlearning many untruths.Thank you for this much needed study.

#3  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Monday, June 03, 2013at 8:27 PM

I have been reading a book given to me by a friend. The book is "Destined to Reign", by Joseph Prince. Prince says that the “Law” always condemns and keeps men away from God and we never again have to deal with guilt or sin because of the cross. Apparently I am a sinner because of Adam, it’s all his fault and I have no responsibility in this. This stuff is great, no sin, no responsibility, no judgment!!

#4  Posted by Randall Brookhiser  |  Thursday, June 13, 2013at 6:38 AM

This is a very important subject and I am thankful that it is being addressed. I work have been working in children's ministry for many years and have seen many gospel and salvation invitations. Many if not most do not confront sin head on. This is why when I have the opportunity to lead a child in a prayer for salvation I always first ask them about what sin is and have them ask the Lord to forgive them of their specific known sins and then to ask for salvation and to make a commitment to following the Lord. I have turned quite a few kids away because they are totally unaware of their sin and cannot even provide one example of sin in their own life. Some parents have been upset by my action in stopping their child from participating in the sinner's prayer in this situation, but I don't let it bother me. In much of the curriculum today for kids there is an emphasis on having the child believe this set of facts: "Jesus died on the cross for your sins and if you believe that and ask Him in your heart you saved." The authors of some curriculum also promote the idea of exercising a tiny mustard seed of faith as all it takes to get saved and then you spend the rest of your life growing your faith. Does GTY have available training resources for teachers in children ministries that helps teachers to get the child evangelism right to prevent false conversion?