I get around a bit. I have all sorts of conversations with all kinds of people. This morning (Wednesday) I was chatting to an old acquaintance over a coffee and he was talking about how praying to Mary (he is a Roman Catholic) is so important. Of course, this is not biblical. I didn’t argue the point … But, I have heard many things communicated by Christians and even preachers lately that I consider unbiblical. Many of these teachings are common now and have seeped into the church so slowly over time such that they are believed. Your average Christian embraces many of these without examining the Scriptures to check if they’re true.

I thought I’d list a few of these over the next few editions of The Vibe.

1. Salvation and a decision for Christ at an altar call are the same thing.

They’re not. One of the most common misconceptions I observe amongst Christians today is the fact that many think that if a person repeats “the sinner’s prayer” or responds to an altar call (preacher’s invitation), they are “saved.” This is problematic, since we may be giving false hope to the respondent by reassuring them of their salvation, when in fact they may not really be saved.

Also, nowhere in the Bible does it say that merely saying words ensures salvation. Furthermore, the altar call is a modern development in the evangelical church that arose out of the methodology employed by evangelists who appealed to the masses to come to the altar to receive Christ (or to “walk up the sawdust trail”). Though there is nothing wrong with this approach that identifies those who want to give their life to Christ (so people can get their names, pray with them and follow them up), it is not the same as salvation. Here’s why. Scripture is clear that both the heart and the mouth have to confess Jesus is Lord (see Rom.10:9-10), and the apostle Paul regularly echoed the words of John the Baptist when he said to bring forth fruit proving your repentance (see Acts 26:20, Matt. 3:8).

Hence, making an emotionally motivated “decision” to ask Jesus in your life is a good step, but a truly converted person will bear fruit, proving they really gave their life over to Jesus. (See also 1 John 3:9.) I have heard pastors say that ‘hundreds got saved tonight” when referring to an altar call response of a crowd of people. Whereas, in fact; “hundreds made a decision for Christ” since, after all these years, I am now very careful to distinguish between a “decision” and a “conversion” experience.

2. Worship is just singing songs.

I have learned that the mere singing of words to a song doesn’t amount to worship. Jesus also said that people can honour Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him (see Mark 7:6-8). True worship includes blessing the Lord with all your soul (see Ps. 103) which implies that your whole heart, mind and soul—your whole being—is willingly bowing before the lordship of Christ while adoring and worshipping the Godhead. (See Rev. 4.)

True worship also implies obedience which is why Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments” (see John 14:15). I have known many persons either on worship teams and or people in churches who—during the worship segment of the church service—displayed exuberant praise and worship, yet their private life was anything but submitted to God.

3. Repentance is crying at the altar.

I have seen many people responding to “altar calls” week after week, crying as they came forward. The average believer thinks that this is a sign of repentance; however, the word “repentance” has to do with a mindset change, a change of thinking, more than an emotional experience. I have learned that unless a person changes the way they think about God, their hearts will never be transformed by His power. Even Esau could not find repentance, even though he sought it with crying and tears! (See Heb. 12:17.)

4. We should say prayers.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to merely “say” prayers. But everywhere, in both Old and New Testaments, is a command to “seek God”. God discloses Himself to the seekers—not just to the casual inquirers. (See Ps. 42, 63; Matt. 6:7,33; Heb. 11:6.)

5. God only expects us to give a tenth of our finances.

Tithing is only a principle handed down from God to Adam and to his offspring, which is why Abel gave God a first-fruit offering (see Gen. 4) and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all gave God a tithe. This was reiterated again in the Law of Moses (Lev. 27) and in the prophets (Mal. 3) and taught in the New Testament (see Matt. 23, Heb. 7.) That being said, when Jesus came He did not focus on a mere tithe — he commanded his disciples to surrender everything they had to Him (see Luke 14: 26-33.) This passage alone should dispel the notion that God only requires a tenth.

Nothing less than a total heart surrender of everything we are and have is expected by the Lord Jesus Christ (see Phil. 3, 2 Cor. 5:15). Consequently, although it is still important to set at least 10 percent aside to give to God, it doesn’t mean you can do what you want with the other 90 percent. The earth is the Lord’s, and He demands proper stewardship and obedience regarding what we do with 100 percent of our finances and possessions—not merely 10 percent.

Hoping you are the same.

Ps Milton