Can Christians “make Jesus Lord”? In The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort (with Foreward and Commentary by Kirk Cameron), they make the claim that to move from being a ‘lukewarm’ ‘false convert’, you must “make Jesus Lord” (see below). Further, it seems they believe the high mark of “making Jesus Lord” is to proclaim Jesus to every living creature. So much for the sweet elderly saints that help to serve in other ways in the Body of Christ, they must just be lukewarm. And forget about Christ giving gifts to His Church according to his good pleasure (see Ephesians 4, I Corinthians 12). Note that Ephesians 4 speaks of our Lord giving His gifts to His church while calling for unity in the Body of Christ and a diligence in fighting our sin.
Certainly, in the body of Christ, there are false converts that place their hope in another object besides the person and work of Christ on their behalf. This can exhibit itself in various ways including unrepentant moral impurity or self-righteousness that does not readily confess hope in Christ alone. As Christians, we always stand in need of God’s grace in Christ both for our original sin and our continuing struggle with indwelling sin during our Christian life.
Reformed Christians freely confess that we sin daily in word, thought and deed. Why? Because we take the nature of original sin and the ongoing struggle with indwelling sin in the Christian life seriously. We know enough theologically of its effects and ongoing remains. It is not pretty. And yet, exactly due to the awfulness of our sin, we do not find the answer of our hope in being more diligent in what we do let alone our “evangelistic zeal”, but rather in Christ. Certainly, we are to fight and hate our own personal sin, yet the foundation of our hope is not in how much we fight our sin nor our zeal for evangelism. We do not place our hope in moving beyond being ‘lukewarm’ to now having a ‘zeal’ for sharing Jesus.
Before moving forward in this discussion, it is important to understand the doctrine of justification and set forth the ground of our comfort and hope. In the Westminster Standards, the Larger Catechism states the following:
Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.
Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.
The Heidelberg asks –
91. What are good works?
Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.
The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort (Foreward and Commentary by Kirk Cameron is available online here: http://assets.livingwaters.com/pdf/way_of_the_master.pdf To provide the fullest context of ‘making Jesus Lord’, I quote at length the section titled ‘Sinning Converts’ from pp. 271-272.
The direct result of the Church being confronted with biblical teaching on God’s immutable Law would be that “sinning converts” would no longer be consoled in their sins. Instead of dealing with the symptoms of sinners’ non-accountability lifestyles—their fornication, pornography, lack of discipline, lack of holiness, theft, wife beating, adultery, drunkenness, lying, hatred, rebellion, greed, etc.—pastors would deal with the cause. They would say, as Scripture does, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18, emphasis added), and “No spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 3:12). They would gently inform their hearers, “It sounds as if you have had a false conversion and you need to repent of your lawless deeds and make Jesus Christ your Lord.” Then, using the Law of God, pastors should show the “exceeding sinfulness” of sin and the unspeakable gift of the Cross. This should awaken the false converts, put most Christian psychologists out of business, and cut counseling to a minimum.
A clear understanding of the reality of true and false conversion would give light to church leaders who are horrified at the state of what they see as “the Church.” One respected leader said: In survey after survey, researchers find that the lifestyles of born-again Christians are virtually indistinguishable from those of nonbelievers. The divorce rate among Christians is identical to that of nonbelievers. Christian teens are almost as sexually active as non-Christian teens. Pornography, materialism, gluttony, lust, covetousness, and even disbelief are commonplace in many of our churches.
Such teaching would also stop the insanity of modern evangelism’s zeal without knowledge by showing that the category of lukewarm “converts” doesn’t exist. There is no division in the kingdom of God for those who are tepid. We should be either hot and stimulating or cold and refreshing.1 Lukewarm “converts” are not part of the body of Christ—they merely weigh heavy within the stomach of His body until He vomits them out of His mouth on the Day of Judgment (see Revelation 3:16). Because they didn’t pass through the jagged-edged teeth of the Law of God, they remain hard and impenitent. They were never broken by the Law that they might be absorbed into the bloodstream of the Body of Christ, to become His hands, His feet, and His mouth. They never felt the heartbeat of God, so their hands didn’t reach out in compassion to the lost, their feet were not shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and their mouths didn’t preach the gospel to every creature. This mass of converts is like the “backslider in heart” who is “filled with his own ways” rather than the ways of God (Proverbs 14:14). Their “Here I am Lord, send him,” doesn’t come from a fear of man but from rebellion to the revealed will of the God they call Lord and Master.
I was guilty of being lukewarm. My desire for the lost was sincere, but I resigned myself to tasks other than evangelism because I didn’t feel comfortable or effective in sharing my faith. God has since turned up the heat, bringing me to an understanding of the Law, and now I’m on fire. —KC [end Comfort and Cameron quote]
In The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World by Michael Horton, pp. 93-94
Commenting on “Making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior”, Michael Horton writes “This is another expression that is not found in Scripture. In fact, the Good News is so good precisely because it is simply an announcement ofwhat is already in fact the case: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he poured out that which you now see and hear…. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32–33, 36, emphasis added).
We all want to be and to do something rather than to be made and to receive our identity from above. It is a blow to our spiritual ego to be told that everything has already been done. Yet that is the glory of the gospel! That is why it is Good News. Imagine what would have happened if God had waited until Israel made God Lord and Savior before he liberated them from Egypt! It was because he had elected Israel, set his love on her, and had mercy on her as he heard her cries under severe oppression — in other words, because he was already Lord and Savior—that he fulfilled his promise. “Lord and Savior” is simply who God is, not something that we make him to be for us. In fact, he was reigning and saving us while we were “ungodly,” “while we were still sinners,” even “while we were enemies” (Rom. 5:6-10).
Faith receives; it does not make. Only God’s declarative word creates. When God created the world, he did not say, “Let it be possible!” He said, “Let there be light! And it was so.” It is certainly true that we must receive Christ. Yet it is because he has first received us. “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
To be sure, there is more to the Gospel than salvation from hell. The cross is not simply God’s way of forgiving sinners, but of conquering the demonic forces and structures that yield oppression and violence. And it’s certainly true that the gospel has often been reduced to a simplistic and individualistic message that misses the sweeping grandeur of Christ’s redemptive historical achievement. It is not just “fire insurance,” but the way in which the Triune God fulfills his promise of a new creation in spite of human rebellion. However, this broadening of the Gospel extends today, to include not only the fuller aspects of Christ’s work, but the work of believers as somehow redemptive. We hear a lot these days about our being “coredeemers,” completing Christ’s work of redeeming love in the world. As the meaning of “gospel” expands to anything and everything that flows from the gospel (and perhaps many things that do not), the meaning of “the ministry” expands to include virtually any activity of Christians conducted under the auspices of the church or in the name of Christ.
In this case, Christ becomes primarily a moral example rather than a Savior. Whereas the gospel makes us receivers who then become actors, this emphasis on making Christ master and extending his redeeming work in the world renders us agents of rather than witnesses to God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ. [end Horton quote]
So the question remains for Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron and those they have influenced. What righteousness is good enough before God? God commands a perfect righteousness and what he commands, he freely gives in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and if we accept such benefit with a believing heart, all His righteousness is ours, through the instrument of faith.
Several questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism are helpful again here to remind us of Christ in the Gospel for us.
21. What is true faith?
True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.
60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.
62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God, must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?
The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.
If the expectations of others are burning you out, remember Christ in the Gospel for you and for me. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV), “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”