“The Christian practices the righteousness that is shunned by the unbeliever and shuns the sin the unbeliever continues to practice” (124).
into the kind of trees that do so (223).
Part two warns empty confessors—the unconverted professors of Christ—and those who preach a false gospel, using exposition from James 2:19 and Matthew 7:13ff. In part two we see that, perhaps, the popular and trendy methods of presenting the gospel may be misguided at best and deceitful at worst.
This is precisely what comes into play when we consider the discomforting elements of Washer’s conversion claims. When we look at statistics— like the growth or decline of evangelical Christianity, depending on your reading of the recent Pew Report or Barna Groups research on Millennials, who walk away from the Christian faith— we sense great concern and discomfort over the present and the future of the church.
Washer argues that modern practices of evangelism are practically and theologically contrary to both Scripture and the historic practice of Christians. He says we’re asking the wrong questions today. “Millions of people sit in church pews who are unconverted yet assured of their salvation because at one time they gave right answers to wrong questions” (159).
Could it be that these people didn’t walk away, but never entered into the Way? Could it be that they were those who still traveled down the broad path because they were never called to the narrow gate? Washer says, “We enter into the kingdom by passing through the narrow gate, but the evidence that we have passed through this gate is that we are now walking in the narrow way” (189).
Are you a sinner? Do you want to go to heaven? Will you pray with me? These are insufficient questions to ask as we discern God’s powerful work of election and regeneration. Rather, we should look for fruits like faithfulness, perseverance, submission to Scripture, and a longing to know and be known by Christ.
Washer essentially argues that American Evangelicals need to trade their Styrofoam doctrine of assurance and return to fine china: a doctrine of assurance built on testing and examination. They must not only be concerned about a past conversion story of praying a prayer, but with an ongoing story of sanctification, marked by obedience, submission, fruitfulness, and faithfulness to Christ.
One of Washer’s most potent remarks regarding true conversion is this: We decide to bear fruit because we desire to bear fruit, and these desires flow from our new natures. God does not make us willing by manipulation or coercion, but by the act of recreation. It is certain that we will bear good fruit because he has transformed us
Joey Cochran Pastor of Middle School Discipleship and Communications Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois
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