January 9 – The Sinner’s Prayer

the-sinners-prayer

“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)

Read: Genesis 20:1-22:24, Matthew 7:15-29, Psalm 9:1-12, Proverbs 2:16-22

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.

Respond: 

Dear Lord,
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.
Amen

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13 thoughts on “January 9 – The Sinner’s Prayer

  1. This is a very powerful post. I rarely get to church because of my health; however, I am in the word every day, have joined online bible studies, and reach out to other help others as much as I can. Some say I am not a good Christian if I can make excuses for not going to church. Yet some of these same people go to church every week but don’t live their faith the other 6 days. Thank you.

  2. Well done, thank you. I remember going to a Billy Graham crusade back in ’02 and wondering what happened with all the people who went forward. Yes, they talked to on-site counselors, but what about after that? I think we need to stress the need for discipling, tell them how important it is to a person’s walk, and burgeoning faith. Not to mention everything that goes along with it, such as church family, accountability, all that. A freshly cut bouquet of beautiful words and declarations of faith is not enough, and only the beginning. Anyway, thanks. I look forward to your posts.

    • I have twice been on a team for a Billy Graham Evangelistic crusade. They have someone who will come into a city more than a year in advance to begin working with and training local pastors and churches both how to use the crusade as an opportunity for evangelism and how to do follow up and discipleship with those who do make a commitment. That person will continue to be there after the main event has packed up and left town. The BGEA does everything in their power to make sure that what they are doing is not just a week long “hit-and-run”, but it is up to the local churches to take advantage of the training and resources offered and also to put in the leg work (and knee work) that is so essential for discipleship. I think Billy Graham… strike that. I *know* Billy Graham would be the first to say that getting someone to say a prayer of surrender is not the end goal but rather the beginning of a lifelong journey. If not, it was just wasted breath.

  3. Another fundamental difference to Jesus and the Pharisees… John 5:39, 40 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

  4. This is such a powerful post. Thank you. My husband and I go to church every Sunday, but I always felt something was missing. So I started my Scripture Writing, and that has done so much for me. I am intentionally in the Word at the beginning of every day, and it has truly changed my perspective. Lots of things are happening in our life and our marriage right now, and I always tell my husband to “have faith” and remind him that God has always been faithful. Sometimes it can be hard to live out those kind of statements–we all get weary. But the weary shall find rest in Him, and writing out one Scripture a morning has truly helped me find rest. Anyway, thank you again for a powerful post. God bless you.

  5. Perfectly said. My father used to say life was a long road and eventually it came back to meet us. As an adult I worked for an evangelist, that was a conman, crooked and evil. I saw first hand the need, and how easy it was to bend a hurting soul. I always felt that was my moment in life to make the right choice and direction, and when I left I never looked back. We are the ministry of life, our hearts should be an an open book, and the word of God should be what we preach through our actions. We are together in this life for a reason. Thank you!

  6. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.” Too often we focus on being a sinner and forget that we are forgiven and able to live freely, guided by God’s grace. Other times, we focus on being forgiven and live freely, doing as we like, and forgetting that we are sinful creatures, easily falling into temptation, needing God’s guidance and grace. We must remember that we are forgiven sinners who long for God’s grace for guidance everyday – even on the golf course.

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