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the sinner’s prayer PART II

05 Aug

Okay, finally the long awaited sequel to my last post…okay, there is probably no one waiting on pins and needles, but here it is.  It has taken me much longer to find the time to write than I hoped.  If you haven’t read the original post, go read the sinner’s prayer and then come back.

Parenthood has taught me that trust is the key.  My son does not want to trust that my wife and I actually care and are out for his better good.  He can only see what he wants or thinks that he needs.  This leads to a lot of headaches.  However, if I remember that trust is the key to his heart, it makes the conversations and decisions that need to be had and made so much easier.

The stuggles with this combined with a personal soapbox of mine a month or so ago…and God used this to start a little revolution in my heart.

A friend on Facebook shared about an event at church or a camp (I don’t remember which), during which a large group of people “accepted” Christ and “prayed the sinner’s prayer.”  I don’t put these in quotes to belittle these two things, but I do it to emphasize what my issue is that has become a soapbox.

I grew up in a chruch tradition where getting people to “accept Christ” and “pray the prayer” was the ultimate goal.  There was acknowlegement of the need to disciple people, but the practice was that “coming to faith” was the greater goal.  Not that there is anything wrong with this.  But, I have come to having a growing uneasiness about the concentration on the “moment” of becoming a Christian that his leads to.

There are two by-products that can come from this, that I know can cause some major issues.  One is that some people think that if they go through the action of praying the sinner’s prayer, and even follow it up with a short time of religious zeal, that this is enough evidence that they are right with God and have secured their ticket to Heaven.  What is done the rest of their lives does not matter as long as they can look back to that one moment or short span of time.    They can live the rest of their lives however they want, as long as they know that at one point they “accepted Christ into their heart.”  They can go on living or thinking how they did before, as long as they have their Heaven pass and maybe go to church ever once in a while.   There are a lot of people that think that this is okay, and even people who really are Christians that look to this for comfort about loved ones that may not truly be.

I know I am asking for backlash as I get into this, but hear me out…please.

I do not think the Bible supports this.  There is eobviously going to be a moment in time when someone truly believes and the Spirit comes to live in his or her heart.  This is clear.  I just don’t think that the emphasis needs to be on that moment in time, but on the evidence that this change brings.  Jesus, in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), talked about the idea that not every heart that hears his message and accepts it will truly take hold of it.  There is the group of people that will hear it and not accept it and three groups that will accept it, but there was only one group that held on to it and changed.  The evidence was in the growth.

Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

The last sentence sums it all up…those who truly believe are those that produce a harvest.  The harvest, I believe, is the heart change that proves a new life in Christ…and when someone is truly changed, it will spread to others…and this spreading is when there is a harvest bigger than the seed that was planted.  One heart changed, and I mean really changed, will lead to the heart change of others.

Now, let me just do a quick side note.  I am not saying that what we do (good or bad) can change our standing with God.  We can never be good enough.  So when a person continues living the way they did before they “prayed the prayer”…what they are doing is not what keeps them from Heaven.  Going to church every time the doors are open and living a “Christian lifesyle” does not guarantee a right standing with God.  Only Jesus sacrafice on the cross can do this.  Jesus lived the life that we couldn’t…never breaking God’s law and living out of total trust in the Father…and then he died on the cross.  Jesus did not have to die.  He was not under the curse of death because he never broke the law that death is the penalty for…so dying at all was not in the cards for him.  This freed him up to die in our place.  To take our punishment…our curse on himself.

More than that, he died a gruesome death.  A torturous death.  He did this because he not only took our curse, but he also took the wrath of God in our place.  This was because we, as humans, have come up with a lot of ways to pervert God’s creation and the life he has given us.  This has led to God’s anger on top of separating us from him.  Jesus dying the way that he did, on the cross, took on the wrath of God for even the vilest of offenses.  There is nothing that we can do that is so bad that Jesus sacrafice can not covered.  He took the wrath and scorn for even the worst of things that humans can come up with.

And God accepted this sacrafice.  Jesus’s death was accepted as our.  His tortured murder fulfilled the wrath we deserve.  We know this because three days later, he came back from death.  The price was paid.  The jail time was served.  Once jail time is served, the prisoners are set free.  Jesus walked out of the prison, and it crumbled behind him.  For more on this, read Action Hero Jesus.

I said all of this to bold face the point that it is not what we do that saves us…but if we are brought back from the dead through what Jesus did, we will not be the same.  Our heart will change.  If we truly believe, the Holy Spirit…the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead…lives in our heart.  If the one whose power raises from the dead lives inside of us, we will not be the same.  We will love more, put others needs before ours, and start to live life differently.  This change is the first hint at the harvest.  It is the first few apples on the tree.  Then as you change, this will cause others to want to change.  They will want what you have.  They will want to go to Christ and be changed…which will lead to them having a harvest, causing Jesus’s harvest in you to grow and grow.

There has to be a change.  The change is the evidence.  Not the prayer you prayed.  Not the pastor’s hand that you shook.  Not the moment you came to faith.  It is the change that others can see.  You do not cause this change.  It is organic.  It happens because you can not be the same when you truly trust Jesus as your savior.

The second major problem with the focus on the moment and prayer is that those who grow up in church and a Christian family can confuse the values they grow up with is the change that being a true believer brings.  You prayed the prayer and live a Christian lifestyle, so you assume you are right with God.  BUT, again, it is about what you do.  This is my story.  I was not a Christian for most of my life, but I thought I was.  I never truly looked to Christ’s sacrafice as my saving grace.  My only evidence was the things that I did.  I did not have heart change.  Because I have gone long again, if you want to read about my story of life change go check out My Time Travel Testimony.

Once again, it is not about the prayer.  It is about the change in your heart, mind, and life.

Here I go again…never got to the lesson about the sinner’s prayer.  So I have to do a part three.  I promise.  The lesson is good.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please continue to teach me and help me trust in you alone.  your son, joe

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2 responses to “the sinner’s prayer PART II

  1. Joy

    August 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Man I cannot wait for part three 🙂
    But, seriously, you just nailed it! Well said.

     
  2. Chris Whisonant

    August 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Joe, good stuff. You alluded to it, but I think the Church needs to have a little more responsibility here as well. You mentioned when one says the prayer that can lead them to believe in their being right with God. But it goes deeper than that. When a church admits someone as a member based off of a profession of faith followed by baptism, at that point the church is also making a public profession that they believe the person to be “right with God”. I think in most churches this may be a process that it to quick to be completed. What’s the answer to that? Part of it is the going and making disciples (not converts and members). Back in the 4th/5th centuries, most churches would require new converts to be able to, among other things, recite the Apostles’ Creed (or it may have been Nicene) before being allowed baptism and membership. This, of course, could have some “problems” as people could just rote memorize anything, but the church was active in teaching the doctrines, etc… and not just interested in numbers.

     

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