“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21)
Relate: The preacher preaches a great sermon. He has you laughing, he makes you cry. He stretches your mind and forces you think. In one direction after another his eloquence and the Spirit’s conviction has been pulling at your emotions. Now the end of the service draws near. The musicians have gone back up front and the preacher has asked for “every head bowed and every eye closed.” With “no one looking around” he has asked for those who would like to begin a new life with God to “slip up your hand”. Almost of its own accord your hand went up. The preacher begins calling out those hands that he sees and you’re pretty sure one of those was for you. The hand goes back down you’re praying desperately that no one around you noticed your hand going up. After a few more minutes of cajoling, the preacher asks that those who have raised their hands, along with everyone else, to “pray after me”. You repeat the “sinners prayer” along with almost everyone else in the room and feel good clapping with the rest when welcoming the new children into God’s family.
For a week, maybe more, you try to do better. You read your Bible in the morning a couple times. You try to stop cussing at work and you even told your wife you loved her on your way out the door yesterday. Soon, though, you’re living just the same as you always have. Once a month, if that, when you’re not too busy fishing or golfing, you head out to church with your wife and kids. You claim to be on God’s team now, just as you claim your political affiliation, and just as you claim to be a Yankee (or a Real Madrid, or a Giants) fan. It’s OK, though, you’re a Christian. Because you have said the sinner’s prayer you have your heavenly fire insurance.
Relate: Or not? This might come as a surprise, but from a theological standpoint, Jesus was a Pharisee. What he believed and what many of the Pharisees of his day believed was not that different. The difference was how it was fleshed out. They focused on rules, He focused on the lifestyle. They focused on understanding doctrine, He focused on knowing God. They focused on knowledge, He focused on application. According to him not all who cry out to God (in our day not all who say the “sinners prayer”) will enter the Kingdom of heaven. It’s not about the shape of your belief. It is about how that belief shapes you.
Please don’t let my knowledge of You be something that only stays in my head. Help me to live it out. Don’t let my faith be just words. Help me to walk. Help me to walk towards You. Help me to walk away from sin. Help me to walk out, and not just say, my sinner’s prayer.