Too Many Steps
Have you ever tried to share the Christian message with someone using one of these "three easy steps" type methods? What happened? Typically, either the person does not respond at all, or if they do respond, they do not experience the kind of lasting change that characterizes true conversion.
The "Roman Road to Salvation," for example, is constructed by cherry-picking a sequence of verses (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10) and interpreting them in a way that we hope will convince someone to become a Christian and teach the person how to do so. However, in years of using such tracts, I saw few genuine conversions. It was much more effective to live a godly life before the person's eyes, being sure to share with the person the reason for your changed life. It takes longer, and you'll need to continue to work with the person to help them grow in their Christian walk, but the result is better.
Another handy-dandy plan I've seen is the A-B-C plan.
Once we begin to use these plans, it is a short step to the self-improvement trap. What self-improvement trap, you may ask. The self-improvement trap that consists of three to ten steps to a better [whatever it is you want]. We want, or should want, to be the best that we can, but depending on these plans to mechanically make things happen in your life is a kind of control that we have to be careful with. An occasional self-improvement plan may be a good thing, if you find one that works for you. The problem comes if and when you begin to trust in the steps to bring about the results you desire. Next, you begin to think of ten steps to overcoming sin, and five steps to a larger congregation, and before you know it, you are no longer even thinking about dependence upon God.
Once that happens, you are in trouble.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
This tells us that salvation isn't something that we can earn or deserve. Instead, we must acknowledge our own inadequacy to do for ourselves. That, in my experience, is one of the hardest things about salvation. We are totally dependent upon Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf. We have to trust that God really meant it when he said that this was sufficient. Romans 6 continues on, speaking of us becoming slaves of righteousness instead of being slaves of sin. But it contains no three-step plan on how to experience this. We have to struggle onward to begin actually living out the things of which we speak.
But wait! There's more. Romans 7 continues by saying that even the great apostle Paul found that he had not reached sinless perfection. That's an awful thought to a three-stepper, because it means that our human plans do not work.
Finally, we come to Romans 8, where we see that God understood that we could never be perfect on our own, even after we pray the abracadabra in the back of the tract. He has made provision for us, but only if we stop trying to do things in our own strength. We need to depend upon him and trust him for the results. This is the beginning of the life of faith that should characterize believers.
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