Most all the “crusades” and “revivals” from the 19th century to the present have promised a salvation that is based on false pretenses—and, boy, have people eaten it up!
You could watch them, by the hundreds, or even thousands, walking down to where the preacher was speaking, to pray a prayer, make a decision, or “ask Christ into their hearts”—there are myriad christianese euphemisms for it—but, none of it has ever been based on the truth.
While endless verses of “Just As I Am” were sung, the unwitting would succumb to the emotional appeals, thinking they might be killed on their way home if they didn’t, and they did what the preacher told them to do—to come forward and “get saved.”
They would then leave that meeting, just as lost as when they arrived, and some would start living like an “acceptable christian,” and others would change things up for awhile, but then just go back to the way they really were.
The false construct of this sort of evangelism is that a person is saved by his own decision—that, at the moment he does what he is told to do (usually some form of a sinner’s prayer), that the Holy Spirit enters him, and he is saved. It is usually proclaimed that the person has been saved, has been added to the rolls of the “church,” and the angels are rejoicing.
Sorry, but that’s just entirely false. It’s the equivalent of spiritual snake oil.
Man cannot make himself saved—he cannot decide himself to be born again—he cannot declare his own legal decree of adoption. Only a higher power can do that.
So, anytime a preacher or a teacher or a pastor tells people that they need to come forward and “get saved,” he is lying, whether or not he is aware that it is a lie. Those folks cannot show you a single instance in all of scripture where an “altar call” ever occurred—that’s because it’s a man-made invention used to sell the snake oil.
The path to salvation is to believe in Messiah Yahoshua, confess Him before others (to take a stand for Him even where it hurts, through relational division or rejection—all the way down to those in one’s own family), and then await the giving of the covenant. And, when one receives the covenant, he will be told, directly and personally, that he is a child of Yah.
That is the only way to be saved. Anything else is just a counterfeit of that, which is what the unsaved christians in Matthew 7:21-23 were misled by. Those folks, like most of the christians on the planet, thought with all their hearts that they were saved.
For more information: Top Five Christian Salvation Myths