“Some of our readers will probably be surprised to hear about the difficulty of saving faith. On almost every side today it is being taught, even by men styled orthodox and “fundamentalists,” that getting saved is an exceedingly simple affair. So long as a person believes John 3:16, and “rests on it,” or “accepts Christ as his personal Saviour,” that is all that is needed. It is often said that there is nothing left for the sinner to do but direct his faith toward the right object: just as a man trusts his bank or a wife her husband, let him exercise the same faculty of faith and trust in Christ. So widely has this idea been received that for anyone now to condemn it is to court being branded as a heretic. Notwithstanding, the writer here unhesitatingly denounces it as a most God-insulting lie of the Devil. A natural faith is sufficient for trusting a human object; but a supernatural faith is required to trust savingly in a Divine object.
While observing the methods employed by present-day “evangelists” and “personal workers,” we are made to wonder what place the Holy Spirit has in their thoughts; certainly they entertain the most degrading conception of that miracle of grace which He performs when He moves a human heart to surrender truly unto the Lord Jesus. Alas, in these degenerate times few have any idea that saving faith is a miraculous thing. Instead, it is now almost universally supposed that saving faith is nothing more than an act of the human will, which any man is capable of performing: all that is needed is to bring before a sinner a few verses of Scripture which describe his lost condition, one or two which contain the word “believe,” and then a little persuasion, for him to “accept Christ,” and the thing is done. And the awful thing is that so very, very few see anything wrong with this—blind to the fact that such a process is only the Devil’s drug to lull thousands into a false peace.
So many have been argued into believing that they are saved. In reality, their “faith” sprang from nothing better than a superficial process of logic. Some “personal worker” addresses a man who has no concern whatever for the glory of God and no realization of his terrible hostility against Him. Anxious to “win another soul to Christ,” he pulls out his New Testament and reads to him 1 Timothy 1:15. The worker says, “You are a sinner,” and his man assenting he is at-once informed, “Then that verse includes you.” Next John 3:16, is read, and the question is asked, “Whom does the word ‘whosoever’ include?” The question is repeated until the poor victim answers, “You, me, and everybody.” Then he is asked, “Will you believe it; believe that God loves you, that Christ died for you?” If the answer is “Yes,” he is at once assured that he is now saved. Ah, my reader, if this is how you were “saved,” then it was with “enticing words of man’s wisdom” and your “faith” stands only “in the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:4, 5), and not in the power of God!
Multitudes seem to think that it is about as easy for a sinner to purify his heart (James 4:8) as it is to wash his hands; to admit the searching and flesh-withering light of Divine truth into the soul as the morning sun into his room by pulling up the blinds; to turn from idols to God, from the world to Christ, from sin to holiness, as to turn a ship right round by the help of her helm. Oh, my reader, be not deceived on this vital matter; to mortify the lusts of the flesh, to be crucified unto the world, to overcome the Devil, to die daily unto sin and live unto righteousness, to be meek and lowly in heart, trustful and obedient, pious and patient, faithful and uncompromising, loving and gentle; in a word, to be a Christian, to be Christ-like, is a task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature.
It is because a generation has arisen which is ignorant of the real nature of saving faith that they deem it such a simple thing. It is because so very few have any scriptural conception of the character of God’s great salvation that the delusions referred to above are so widely received. It is because so very few realize what they need saving from that the popular “evangel” (?) of the hour is so eagerly accepted. Once it is seen that saving faith consists of very much more than believing that “Christ died for me,” that it involves and entails the complete surrender of my heart and life to His government, few will imagine that they possess it. Once it is seen that God’s salvation is not only a legal but also an experimental thing, that it not only justifies but regenerates and sanctifies, fewer will suppose they are its participants. Once it is seen that Christ came here to save His people not only from hell, but from sin, from self-will and self-pleasing, then fewer will desire His salvation.” (from Practical Christianity by A. W. Pink)