Mainly because of what I have been reading in The Forgotten Spurgeon, by Iain Murray, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the seemingly standard evangelical presentation of the gospel in terms such as: “The Bible says that if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9), without any mention of the awful predicament of the sinner under God’s just wrath, the nature of Christ and his death and its necessity, and what exactly is meant by “believe” (i.e. trust? obedience? mere mental assent?).
On the basis of this sort of deficient gospel presentation, Spurgeon suggests, “man may make a profession [of faith] without ever having his confidence in his own ability shattered; he has been told absolutely nothing of his need of a change of nature, which is not within his own power, and consequently, if he does not experience such a radical change, he is not dismayed. He was never told it was essential, so he has no reason to doubt whether he is a Christian. …If the same individual should gradually lose his new-found interests, the fault is frequently attributed to lack of ‘follow up,’ or prayer, or some other deficiency on the part of the Church. The possibility that these marks of worldliness and falling away are due to the absence of a saving experience at the outset is rarely considered” (105).
Granted, however, that over-simplistic presentations of the gospel abound, he offers these “marks” of a true conversion that I find remarkably helpful in their incisiveness:
- “When the Word of God converts a man, it takes away from him his despair, but it does not take from his repentance.
- True conversion gives a man pardon, but does not make him presumptuous.
- True conversion gives a man perfect rest, but it does not stop his progress.
- True conversion gives a man security, but it does not allow him to leave off being watchful.
- True conversion gives a man strength and holiness, but it does not let him boast.
- True conversion gives a harmony to all the duties of the Christian life…it balances duties, emotions, hopes, and enjoyments.
- True conversion brings a man to live for God. He does everything for the glory of God – whether he eats of drinks or whatsoever he does.
- True conversion makes a man live before God…. He desires to live as in God’s sight at all times, and he is glad to be there…. And such a man now comes to live with God. He has blessed communion with Him; he talks with Him as a man talks with his friend” (112-3).