Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a fantastic author and speaker. I met her briefly years ago when Del Fehsenfeld (now with the Lord) did a staff retreat for Kansas City Youth For Christ.
Her book Brokenness is great, but I want to provide some quotes from her Surrender - The Heart God Controls. Published by Moody in 2003, this small-sized book of only 175 pages is loaded with important...I'd say vital insights.
In an age where "decisions" are considered "vital" by most (as in "How many decisions for Christ at your meetings, Jack?"), prayerfully and seriously consider the following:
"The person who has never acknowledged Christ's right to rule over his life has no basis for assurance of salvation. He may claim to be a Christian; he may have walked an aisle or prayed the sinner's prayer; he may know how to speak 'Christianese'; he may be heavily involved in Christian activities; but if he thinks he can have a relationship with God by retaining control over his life and somehow trying to fit Jesus in with everything else, he is deceived and still at war with God.
"Sadly, for the past 150 years or more, evangelicalism has developed a theology that offers assurance of salvation to almost anyone who prays a prayer or 'makes a decision for Christ,' even though he may still be clinging to his rights, holding on to his sin, and bent on running his own life. The Scripture does not recognize such a profession as genuine."
DeMoss later shares insights from Josef Tson, a Romanian pastor exiled from his native country in 1981. He returned to Romania a decade later, having observed and learned many things during his sojourn in America.
Tson writes of a change that he believes occurred in the 1950s and 1960s; which he identifies as a "shift from the call to full surrender, to the call tocommitment."
He continues, "Christian surrender means that a person lifts his or her hands and says to God, 'Here I am; I surrender; You take over; I belong to You; You dispose of me!'
"But this is America, the country of the independent people! This is the place of 'Nobody should command me!...I belong only to myself!'
"A call to surrender, and even more, to full surrender, simply doesn't go well with such people. Therefore, the preachers who wanted 'results,' and wanted them in big numbers, felt (and gave in to ) the temptation to soften the demand, to reduce the cost, to make the message more 'palatable.' And they hit the word 'commitment.'
"You see, commitment means 'I engage myself to do something for you,' or, even lighter, 'I promise to do something for you,' but I remain myself and I may keep my promise or not. We can speak of weaker or stronger commitment, but be it as strong as possible, it is still my independent self that engages itself in a tentative promise."
Oddly, university professor Allan Bloom made a similar point in The Closing of the American Mind (1987) as he wrote, "Commitment is a word invented in our abstract modernity to signify the absence of any real motives in the soul for moral dedication. Commitment is gratuitous, motiveless, because the real passions are all low and selfish."
May I be bold enough to urge, beg, plead with you to re-read the above? This is vital. I've said often that the most terrifying passage of scripture is Matthew 7.21-23. If you don't know that passage, and if that is the case are too lazy/busy to look it up; that's just confirmation of the state of the professing Body of Christ in America.
All too often folks who would rail against anyone who lets some one tell them what to think won't put the effort into thinking themselves.
Messages that speak of God's love, but don't spend much time discussing and defining sin; messages virtually void of repentance; "Every head bowed, every eye closed"...music softly playing...a tearful pleading by a (probably) sincere preacher...and the all-important "decision count" (a.k.a. "body count") have produced baptized pagans. Surely the Spirit of God blesses some of these efforts in spite of the situation; but how many people who "think" they are saved will one day hear the horrific statement of Matthew 7.23?