Years ago, when my son was a teenager, I was beginning my serious relationship with God. That happened to me when he was in his teen years. I began to learn what it meant to be a Christian.
For my son, this was not the case. He was a “typical” teen, a “know-it-all” and he did things just to get a reaction out of his parents. At times, we were not happy with some of his life choices. Very typical teen-ager.
One night in a weak moment he and a bunch of his friends took me up on an offer to go to a local Nazarene Church to attend an Easter presentation called “Heaven’s Gate and Hell’s Flames.” I wanted to go so I invited them.
Scott and his rowdy buddies sat on the pew with me as the presentation began. For some of you who have seen this play, it is designed to make the point that you need to get “right” with God right now before it is too late. That’s the whole point. No one knows when their own personal end time will come and when it does, your dedication to God is very, very important.
The play was hard-hitting on that point. Over and over characters had to account for their actions and they went to heaven or to hell depending on how they lived their lives. I could tell “my crew” was getting the point. Visible squirming was going on. I could see one young fellow sweating. Several times the guys would cut their eyes toward me.
Finally, the play was over but then the pastor took to the stage.
He had a message, a message of redemption. Here was the catch. He wanted an instant response. He wanted people to get saved right then.
I remember that he asked if anyone was ready to confess their sins and find the instant peace of God. “Please raise your hand!”
I felt stirring beside me on the pew. I looked over there and all of “my crew” had a hand up. SCOTT HAD HIS HAND UP! I was excited.
Then the pastor said “If you are ready to make a commitment to your Lord and Savior, stand up!”
Again, as I looked at my guys; they all got to their feet.
I could not believe it. These “hardened criminals” were making a commitment here!
Then the altar call: “Come on down to the altar and kneel and we will minister to your needs!”
Every one of these guys went to the altar and I was elated. I really could not believe this and I went down there with them.
The pastor asked each of them to confess their sins and make a commitment. Each of them did and I was overjoyed because my unruly teen did repent of his sins and he asked for Jesus to come into his heart.
I will never forget the next morning when I went to his room and got him up to go to school.
The old rebellious teenager reappeared. I asked if he was ready to join the church and he said “No, why would I want to do that?” I asked if what had happened last night was forgotten. He said “no but there was no reason to change. Why should I want to join the church.” I pointed out that this was the usual next step.
“Not for me!”
That was the end of the story.
What had happened? My son was the victim of the emotional response to religion.
Paul Little says that this is a common problem with the Christian experience. Too often it is subjective and not objective. The heart is involved so much that the head just “checks out”.
Little says that some pastors seem to brainwash people into coming to Jesus.
Critics of Christianity say we use our Father God as a needed father figure, a crutch to lean on in a time trouble.
What happened to my son? When it came time for him to make a commitment to Christ, it took too much for him to get up in front of church and say the words that would make him a member. His heart drew up a contract at the play that he could not honor, the very next day.
After he had time to think, he could not do what he knew he needed to do.
What should the Christian experience be?
Well, the valid Christian experience should be a combination of heart and head. It is important to think about our Lord and Savior, not just feel Him. When we have intellect and heart combined, the result is a lasting relationship.
Paul Little quotes Dr. Orville S. Walters, a Christian psychiatrist, who said “the will is like a cart pulled by two horses, the emotions and the intellect. With some people, the will is reached more quickly through the emotions. With others, it is reached through the mind. But in every case, there is no genuine conversion unless the will has been involved.”