Shawn found out that one of my former seminary professors was speaking at a church near DFW airport. I went to the church’s website and found out that they have an interesting way to evangelize. They have a heading called Friendship with God. They invite you to click to find out how to become a friend of God. See here for their complete answer.
Here is a summary of their answer. You begin friendship with God by talking with Him. They write, “We continue the conversation by telling God, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m sorry I have not been living for You. I’m sorry that I haven’t prioritized You above other people and other things. I’m sorry for the sin in my life.”
They go on to say that we must start with an expression of our sorrow over our sin, which they call repentance.
They end by saying, “Friendship with God begins by telling Him you’re sorry. If you’ve done that privately already, your next step is to declare Him publicly through baptism and to become part of a Bible-based, Jesus-loving church.”
I have five problems with this approach.
First, it is wrong to equate friendship with God with being born again. Not all born-again people are friends of God. The expression friend of God only occurs twice in the NT, both in James. James reminds his readers that Abraham was called the friend of God after he willingly offered up his only son Isaac as a sacrifice, only to be stopped by God at the last second (Jas 2:23; compare 2 Chron 20:7). James applies that to his readers; he says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” and that “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). To be a friend of God one must cease being a friend of the world.
Second, one does not become a friend of God by simply telling God that he is sorry for his sins and then being baptized and joining a Bible-teaching church. One must actually live differently to be a friend of God. That is, one must be a mature believer in order to be a friend of God. Brand new believers (or those who have been believers for decades but who are still immature) have not yet attained friendship with God.
The Lord Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Abraham was commanded to offer up Isaac. When he obeyed, he was called a friend of God.
Third, this approach to evangelism is essentially a soft form of Lordship Salvation. We need to put God first in our lives. We need to decide to live for Him. This church does think that faith in Jesus is in some sense “the foundation for a friendship with God.” However, faith must be joined with repentance and a commitment to put God first in your life.
Fourth, there is no mention of an eternal relationship with God in this approach. Once they do mention that God wants to be with us forever. However, they do not say that if you tell God you are sorry and then are baptized and join their church, you will be guaranteed to spend eternity with God in His kingdom. Nothing is said about the promise of everlasting life, irrevocable salvation, guaranteed home in heaven after you die, or anything of the kind.
Fifth, not a single verse of the Bible is mentioned in this presentation. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.
It has become popular today to speak of a relationship with God rather than speaking of everlasting life, irrevocable salvation, once-for-all justification, etc. It sounds good to people.
That could be an acceptable approach if it included Scripture that proclaims 1) the promise of an eternal relationship with God which is, 2) based upon the condition for receiving that irrevocable relationship, i.e., simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus’ words to Nic at Nite were clear. Whoever believes in Him will never perish but has everlasting life. He told the woman at the well the same thing (John 4:1-26). And Martha (John 11:25-27). See also John 5:24, 39-40; 6:35, 47.
May we stay faithful to the message that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us to proclaim.