Friday, September 19, 2014

Should We Be Encouraging The Reciting Of The Salvation Prayer?

I was perusing one of my social network news feeds today when I came across a post from someone I've been following for a while. One click brought me to his web site. The main portion of this page consisted of his version of the "sinner's prayer." At the end of this prayer were words similar to the ones I've used in the past myself. To paraphrase: "If you prayed this prayer with a sincere heart, then congratulations!!! You are now part of the family of God!!!

In the past, I had included my own version of the sinner's prayer and a congratulatory word of encouragement on my personal blog sites and in a self-published booklet I created. At the time, I believed it was a necessary part of witnessing. One day, when reading my own version of the sinner's prayer, doubt hit me and the questions came...

What is the "sinner's prayer?" If someone's repeating what I say they need to pray, is it coming from their heart or is this individual looking at this prayer as some sort of "magic spell" to be cast that will assure him/her of their salvation? Why do Christians feel that this prayer needs to be recited when you become a born-again believer? Is it scriptural, or is it a Christian tradition that has crept into the church? 

These are the kinds of questions that ran through my mind in the past and were once again triggered when I read my Christian brother's web site post. What I had once taken for granted was true had become something that I began to distance myself from.  

I haven't made a big deal out of this when fellowshipping with my Christian brothers and sisters. I sometimes keep these things to myself because I feel as if I'm perceived as someone who is trying to rock the boat or someone who has "the spirit of division" (yes, someone actually said that to me concerning another issue). Since it has once again been thrust upon me, I guess I need to share what I see as an unnecessary addition to witnessing for Christ.

What is the "sinner's prayer?"

I've been instructed since I was a young Christian that one of the most important acts you can perform is to recite the sinner's prayer or to lead someone in the sinner's prayer. It's not a prayer of specific words like those recited in other religions, including Catholicism, but is rather an expression of your acknowledgement of your sinful state, and an acknowledgement of who Jesus is and what He has done for you. It's also a confirmation of our repentance and our decision to lay our lives down, take up our cross and serve Him for the rest of our days, being lead by the Holy Spirit. 

That's what it's supposed to be, anyway. But what is the sinner's prayer, really? Since the words aren't written in stone, they can vary from person to person. Oh, the basic concepts are there and the key words and phrases are used, but the "formula" for this prayer is pretty loose. To the person repeating this prayer, it would seem that his/her salvation is resting on reciting just the right words that will complete this transformation from sinner to saint. You and I both know, it doesn't work that way.

What the sinner's prayer really is, is a rehashing of what the repentant believer already knows. It's useless because what it's meant to do has already taken place. The heart has already changed. The individual has already believed and repented. So what's left to do? If not the sinner's prayer, then what???

Let me give you an example of what I have found. Here is a portion of scripture where Philip witnesses to an Ethiopian, who then receives Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

An Ethiopian Receives Christ
26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”

"The eunuch answered Philip and said, 'Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?' 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?' 37 And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing." Acts 8:26-39 (NASB)

Look at verses 36-38. Then focus on verse 37. Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." Then the eunuch made a confession of belief, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," and Philip baptized him in water. There was no sinner's prayer, only a confession of belief... of faith. This reminds me of another portion of scripture that says, "that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)

With the heart a person believes and repents, resulting in righteousness (a transformation of the heart) and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation. It's the outward confession of the inward change that completes the transformation from lost sinner to newly born saint. Confession of our faith in Christ is important. Why? "And I say to you, anyone who confesses Me before men the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God" Luke 12:8 (NASB)  When we confess our faith in Christ before men, Jesus is then able to confess our name before the angels of heaven, declaring us as one of His adopted children. Oh, and such a moment that is! "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7 (NASB)

I can find no example in the New Testament where anyone was lead in a form of sinner's prayer leading to their salvation. Sinners were instructed to believe and confess. Belief is followed by repentance and confession of Jesus as Christ. There is no other standard set down by Jesus or the Apostles by which we are to include in this most personal act between the repentant sinner and God. To say that there is something more to do in order to receive salvation would be to add to the word of God something that just isn't there.

So, to answer my own question, "So what's left to do? If not the sinner's prayer, then what???" The answer is to request a confession of faith.  
You: "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent to save you from sin's curse?"
Them: "Yes, I believe Jesus is the Son of God."
You: "You don't know how happy I am for you. Now let's talk about baptism, my brother/sister."

I could go on about forming close ties and possibly mentoring a few of those who God has rescued by the work of the Holy Spirit through you, or I could get into the subject of baptism, but that's not what this post is about.  

I hope I've given you something to think about. It's never easy to have a long held belief challenged, especially when it comes to our Christianity. I'm speaking from experience. What is important is that we take what we think we understand and hold it against the light of God's word. Does it hold up? If not, it's rubbish and needs to be excised from your life and tossed in the bin.


Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Am I Good Enough To Go To Heaven?

"Am I good enough to go to heaven? Yes, I think I am. Only people like Charles Manson, Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood killer), those Islamic guys that are beheading people in the middle east, child molesters, rapists and the like actually deserve to go to hell. Those are the really bad people."

Sounds reasonable, right? But if that's the criteria by which we are comparing our own actions to in order to determine if we are “good enough” to go to heaven or “bad enough” to go to hell, then most people should be heading for the pearly gates when they die, right?

Image from planet-science.com
Qualification for entrance to heaven (or hell) is not based on how we compare to others or how we compare to the standards we set for ourselves. Your life may look pretty good through your own eyes, but what if you looked at your life through the eyes of One who is sinless? What if we were judged not just by our actions, but by our thoughts? If we're not going to be honest with ourselves and admit that our actions alone would condemn us, then how about the thoughts that run through our head. What about how that flash of judgment that crossed your mind, ever so briefly, when you saw that grossly overweight woman at Walmart dressed in those tight and revealing clothes, folds of skin spilling out of ever strained edge of clothing? What about the hate (and angry words) that rose within you when someone righteously judged you of living in sin? What about those thoughts of how you were going to get even with the one who just stabbed you in the back at work? How about seeing someone attractive and contemplating, just for a moment, what they looked like naked or contemplating having sex with them if given the chance? Am I hitting home yet? No? What about advertising the short comings of others in order to make yourself look good? What about flaunting your “wealth” in front of those who are surviving from paycheck to paycheck? What about contemplating what new possession to purchase next instead of figuring out how you can spend that money to help those in need? That's just the tip of the iceberg. Unrighteous thoughts stream through our mind on a daily basis. Can you honestly say that you are in complete control of your thoughts and emotions? I didn't think so. Our “goodness” when compared to God’s standard for “good” falls far, far short.

The biggest mistake we make is when we trivialize our sins. Have you ever lied? We may say, “Yes, but they were little white lies, nothing serious. I never intended to hurt anyone when I lied.” Have you ever stolen something? We may say, “I've taken some office supplies or shop supplies home from work, but no one's going to miss them. Besides, I didn't have enough time to go shopping for them myself. I live a very busy life.” Can you see what we’re doing? We’re trivializing our crimes. What we’re saying is that what we did was of so little consequence that we can’t actually call them sins, but the bible warns, “He who says he has no sin deceives himself.” (1John 1:8)

The truth is if you've lied, then you are a liar. If I catch you in a lie, wouldn't I be just in lowering my level of trust in you? If you have stolen anything (the value of the stolen item is irrelevant), you are a thief. If I was at work with you and caught you walking out the door with company property, should I believe that you would never steal something of greater importance or value if given the opportunity? Maybe even steal from me?  If you've looked at someone with lust, then you are an adulterer. If you constantly lusted after women, would I trust you to be around my wife when I wasn't there (or would I even feel comfortable with you being around here even if I was there)? These may seem like small indiscretions, but they hold serious consequences, not just on a human level, but even greater on a spiritual level.

What we need to hear is the Judge’s ruling for lying and stealing and adultery. The judgment is that those who commit those sins shall "have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." Revelation 21:8  

So, all liars, thieves and adulterers go to hell. You may say that you don’t believe in hell, but that’s just like a criminal saying that he doesn’t believe he'll ever be caught, tried and sent to prison. What we believe or don’t believe doesn’t change the outcome of God’s judgment.

If we are honest with ourselves, then we have to admit that we fall far short of God’s perfection. So what do we do? What can we do to make things right between us and God? Maybe church attendance or helping out the less fortunate. After all, good works must count for something, right? Maybe if the good things I do outweigh the bad, that will get me to heaven. No! Some religions may offer this destructive teaching, but nowhere in the bible does it state that we can do anything of ourselves to rid ourselves of the consequences of the sin in our life. Even ONE sin separates us from God. So what’s to become of us?

We must let go of our attempts to save ourselves and reach out to the One who can save us. The moment we cease our own attempts to sneak into heaven’s back gates and instead repent and believe in Jesus, depending on Him to save us, our life changes. The bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not works, lest anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

You may still wonder how a perfect and loving God could send anyone to hell. To put it plainly, He doesn’t. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. They, in turn, passed this sin nature down through their offspring, infecting everyone who would ever be born. God created hell for Satan and the angels who rebelled against God. Hell was never intended for mankind, but mankind fell, and that opened them to eternal separation from God in hell because sin cannot enter God's presence in heaven. Thankfully, God created a way of escape for those who choose to repent and give their lives to Him. The Jewish people brought their sin offerings to the Lord at the Temple of God to be slain, the blood offered to temporarily cover their own sins. God did something much more wonderful. He sent the Perfect Lamb to be a sacrifice for us all. His shed blood didn't just cover our sin, His blood eradicated them broke Satan's power over us.

Those who seek to have their sins covered in the precious blood of the Lamb of God receive the gift He offers... the gift of forgiveness and of a restored relationship with our Father as we go from spiritual death to a total rebirth... a spiritual resurrection... being born again and receiving the promise of eternal life with God.

Yes, those who surrender their lives to God and live for Him receive this gift, but those who do not make that choice remain in their sinful state and await the judgment that comes for all who die in their sins. Many who hear about this gift don’t take the opportunity to ask for it. They would rather complain and argue about why God would let mankind sin in the first place or why He made a man who was capable of sin, rather than stop, think and repent. Unfortunately, they would rather keep arguing, using human knowledge and understanding, making vain arguments all because they can't fathom the things of God.

Be encouraged, because just as God has continued to call out to you to repent, He continues to call everyone else who is unsaved, offering them this free gift of salvation. Most will scoff at the offer or outright refuse to hear anything about it. Will you be one of them or will you heed the call of Jesus and finally take that step forward, choosing Him and the eternal destiny He has for you? It’s your choice whether to spend eternity with God. YOUR CHOICE! To do nothing is to choose to stay the way you are.

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18

First published on June 3, 2010

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

For My Yoke Is Easy And My Burden Is Light

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"   2 Corinthians 6:14


These scriptures are staples of our Christian walk. Let’s look at this from a Jewish perspective.

From what I understand, during the time of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, a Rabbi's yoke was his way of interpreting the Torah.  The way to find out what a Rabbi’s yoke was, was to ask him what he thought was the most important commandment.

What was Jesus’ yoke?  Let’s see what His answer was when He was asked what the most important commandment was:
36Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38This is the great and foremost commandment. 39The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

So what is Jesus’ yoke? Love God/Love your neighbor.  If that’s the yoke, then what’s the burden we’re pulling along with us? The burden is keeping the word of God.

The yoke is used to make the burden lighter.  If the yoke is to love God and to love our neighbor, then love compels us to keep the word of God, making the burden of keeping God’s word easier... lighter.  

Being unequally yoked means you are unable to keep up with what you’re yoked to because of size or ability or because of walking in opposing directions.  If the yoke you've taken up causes you to walk beside someone other than Jesus, then you are automatically unequally yoked.

We can apply the yoke to different areas of our lives, like marriage, relationships, etc… but I believe the crux of this scripture is all about Jesus!  If we’re not yoked along side Jesus, then who or what are we yoked to?  Religion?  Self?  Poverty?  Stress?  Anger? 

We need to be yoked to Jesus.  He’ll never take us in a direction we shouldn't be moving in or travel faster than we are able.

First published on July 9, 2013.

Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Stop Casting Pearls and Start Shaking The Dust Off Your Feet Christians!!!

As Christians, we know how subtle the enemy (Satan) can be. He often dissuades us from pursuing a relationship with God and tries to convince us to take a break from Christianity for a while, hoping to separate us from Him and lead us to that wide and easy path that leads to death. What we don't expect from the enemy is encouragement to continue witnessing to the lost.

What???  Satan convinces us to continue witnessing? I believe that he does, and here is why I say that. He convinces us to continue witnessing to a resistant soul, someone who is so entangled in the enemy's web that the enemy is convinced he/she will never submit to God. Why would he do this? Think about it. If the enemy can get you to spend your time constantly witnessing to a resistant individual who does nothing but reject God and mock you, then those unsaved individuals out there who are truly seeking the truth will be, for the most part, ignored.  Great plan, don't you think?

There are those who eagerly accept the word of God, and there are those who reject it outright. The problem I used to have (and many Christians still have) is that I used to spend a lot of time trying to use the word of God to show people that God is real and that they need to repent of their sin. Unfortunately, the more resistant a person was to receiving the word of God, the more time was taken away from those who were urgently seeking someone to answer their questions about salvation.

Look, Jesus gave us the perfect example on how to deal with non-believers who totally reject who God is.
  • Don’t cast your pearls before them (they’re just going to trash the word of God). 
    • Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6
  • Shake the dust off your feet and walk away (if they’re not going to accept the salvation message, move on).  
    • "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet."  Matthew 10:14
  • Let the blind lead the blind (if they’re intent on continuing in the same direction, let them go).  
    • Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Matthew 15:14
We can’t neglect the rest of the harvest just because of one person. The consequences of that are just too great.  

Jesus taught those who wanted to listen.  I don’t recall any recorded incident in the bible where Jesus purposely sat down with those who rejected Him and tried to convince them otherwise. Everyone makes that personal decision whether to believe and repent or to deny and remain blissfully ignorant. Who were those who followed Jesus out into the fields and hills? While some were there to mock Him or test Him, the majority were those who wanted to hear what He had to say, to sit under this Prophet's teaching. They were those who thirsted after God.

We must understand that having a human nature means that we take on much more responsibility than God wants us to have.  We constantly have to battle that way of thinking.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to convict the sinner, to open his eyes and to change his heart.  It’s His responsibility to convince the sinner of who God is.  Our job is to share the word of God with those who will listen and to point people to Jesus.  If they truly don't have any desire to give their life to God, then we’re to move on, NOT double down and put a more concerted effort and increased time into trying to convince them otherwise.

"That's not loving... we need to fight for them until the very end... how can you call yourself a Christian if you're willing to give up on them so easily? Surely God didn't say... Can you hear the enemy's voice?  He's trying to make us feel guilty for abandoning someone to hell.  Don't listen to him.  The enemy uses this flaw in Christians to delay them from reaching those who the enemy knows are on the verge of repentance or who have opened their heart enough to begin seeking the truth.  He has convinced Christians that we can’t love the sinner if we’re willing to walk away, but that’s a lie.  We've been instructed by God to do just that.  

For those who have hardened their heart against God, our personal walk with the Lord is our witness.  That doesn't mean that we don't pray for all of those who have rejected Him.  Our prayers for lost souls is powerful, but let's us not be deceived into believing that our one-on-one witnessing is the only way to witness to these individuals who have a heart of stone.

So what do I suggest?  If someone doesn't accept the salvation message, offer to give them some information (tracts) or point them to a specific Christian web site.  If they won’t accept the information, then let them know that you’re there for them if they have any questions or if they need prayer.  Always share the love of Christ with them through selfless acts and a warm smile.   That is a wonderful witness.  


The most important thing is to allow God to place you in the harvest field to reap as much fruit as possible before your time here on earth is over.  We're called to plant, sow and reap the harvest.  We're not called to pull up the tares.  We need to leave that to God.  Continue to pray for those who have rejected the message of Jesus Christ, but continue even more in pursuing those who are hungry for Him.



Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!
TribulationHarvest.net