When the number one driving force of an evangelist or an evangelistic appeal is “receiving Christ” or “obtaining a decision” the potential for a false conversion is multiplied exponentially. This motivation governs how the presentation is made and what is said during such a presentation. The evangelist is then most careful to do or say nothing that might prevent the “target” from responding favorably.
When we fail to understand the true condition of a sinner we begin to develop means and methods that “enable” a sinner to respond with a positive decision for Christ. We have seen the gospel “sanitized”, dressed-up, modified, reduced, and made so palatable that it seems impossible to comprehend that anyone would ever turn it down. We cannot forget, however, the utter helplessness and even absolute impotence of an individual who is apart from Christ. We cannot forget Paul’s words, “…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…” (Ephesians 2:1-2a, ESV) We cannot forget that the unconverted man is “…not subject to the law of God, nor can he be…” (Romans 8:7)
Why do we see such faulty presentations of the gospel? We see such faulty presentations when we fail to remember that salvation is not in the hands of the sinner. We also see these faulty presentations when we become afraid to speak anything to the sinner that we feel might hinder the reception of our gospel presentation. The problem with this thinking is that it denies the true condition of a sinner. We cannot ask the sinner nor expect the sinner to do anything that relates to the work of God. We cannot ask or expect the sinner to come to life or to make a "decision." However, we can ask or preach that the sinner repent and believe for the salvation of his soul. If God has made the sinner alive, the sinner will be converted.
Salvation is not in the hands of a sinner. Salvation is not in the hands of an evangelist or anyone presenting the gospel to a sinner. Salvation is a work of God and it is a work that only God can do as He chooses to do. Remember, O evangelist, that a natural or unsaved man cannot understand and nor will he accept the things that are spiritual. (I Corinthians 2:14) Salvation or conversion does not come by the evangelist obtaining the sinner’s acceptance of his presentation.
Only God can make a man who is dead alive. Only God can cause a dead and impotent sinner to “hear” the words of truth and life and create life where there was none before. How does God do this? The Holy Spirit utilizing the word of God regenerates or give life to a spiritually dead sinner which enables the sinner to respond in repentance and faith. This is what we call conversion. A sinner is passive in regeneration yet active in conversion. Naturally, our gospel presentation must include scripture that explains the gospel in order for the Holy Spirit to utilize.
The goal or motivation of a gospel presentation then, O Evangelist, is not merely to see the “target” respond favorably with a decision, but it is to provide all the “truth” of the sinner’s condition, God’s condemnation and wrath, and the provision of an acceptable sacrifice. Our presentation must be bold, complete, and left to the Holy Spirit. It is He and He alone that can make such truth comprehensible to a dead and wicked sinner. Then, and only then (when the Spirit has made him alive-regeneration) is conversion guaranteed to take place
and the sinner responds by repenting of his sin and places faith in Christ Jesus.