Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9 ). Which ponders the questions:
What is a peacemaker?
What does peace really mean?
And with whom does the peacemaker make peace?
Who is calling the peacemakers “sons of God”?
And what does this look like in real life?
Amazingly, the answer to these questions might very well change your world. To find out more, keep listening.
The following is a study on Matthew 5:9.
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One of the reasons the church is in the condition we now find it, is because many, if not a majority of those who claim Christ as Lord, are actually lost. They have their faith placed in something other than the true, Biblical Jesus. And their allegiance is usually to something other than Christ Himself.
But this really shouldn’t surprise us. For the mark of this church age is the simple fact that Jesus is on the outside of the church longing to come in. And His call is not to the group, the church, or the institution. It is to the individual.
Consider the following:
Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, (what) I (Christ) stand at the door (of His church) and knock. If anyone (personal) hears My voice (John 10:27) and opens the door (of His church), I will come in to him (personal) and dine with him (personal), and he with Me (personal).”
Could this be you? Could it be someone you know? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on True Salvation.
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When Jesus begins to close His public ministry He makes a statement that, if not understood correctly, casts the Father in the light of a cruel taskmaster, a petty ruler, or a cold, cynical, calculating Nazi. But when this same statement of Jesus is understood properly, in context, it shows the breathtaking love and grace of the Father in a way that will astound each of us.
We find the controversial statement in John 12:39-40:
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
“He (God) has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, (why) lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I (God) should heal them.”
Does this really mean what it says? Does God really harden people’s heart so they can’t believe in Him? Yes. And no. But you’ll have to keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on John 12:37-50.
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One of the greatest tightrope walkers the world has ever seen was a man named Charles Blondin— or, as he was known internationally, the Great Blondin. Charles Blondin was born on February 28, 1924 and rose to international fame by being the first person to tightrope across Niagara Falls. He was a master showman, highly skilled at his craft, and gifted with a unique, riveting flair for the dramatic. For the better part of three decades he entertained huge, mesmerized audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
But his greatest feat took place on June 30, 1959, when he became the first man to cross the great Niagara Gorge or, as we call it today, Niagara Falls.
On that day over twenty-five thousand people gathered on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls to watch the Great Blondin attempt the impossible. He was to walk on a thin rope only 2 inches in diameter and made entirely of hemp, stretched 1,100 feet across the gorge, and suspended 160 feet above the raging river— all without any safety net or harness. One small slip, one slight loss of concentration and focus, one unforeseen gust of wind, and the Great Blondin would fall 16 stories to his death.
The crowd watched with nervous anticipation and he slowly, carefully, step by step, one foot in front of the other, made his way along the swaying rope, crossing a distance of over three football fields in 23 minutes. When he finally reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a roar of triumphant applause.
But the Great Blondin wasn’t finished.
Over the next few days he walked across Niagara Falls many times and each time with increasing dramatic theatrics. Today’s walk, it seemed, must be greater than yesterday’s show. One time he walked across blindfolded. Another time on wooden stilts. Still another while wearing shackles and another while wearing a gunny sack. He crossed riding a bicycle, he crossed in the dark, and one time he carried a stove on his back and cooked and ate an omelet over the middle of the Falls. With each crossing he pushed the limit of what the audience believed he could do and each time they responded in praise and adulation for the Great Blondin. It seemed they believed he could do anything on a tightrope. “Nothing,” they said, “was too difficult for the Great Blondin!”
One day he walked across Niagara Falls pushing a wooden wheelbarrow. The audience enthusiastically cheered . Then he placed 350 pounds of cement in the wheelbarrow and made the return trip. When he arrived back at the American side, the crowds broke into thunderous applause.
Looking at a man who seemed to be cheering the loudest, the Great Blondin asked him, “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across in this wheelbarrow?” The man eagerly proclaimed, “Yes! I believe you can. In fact, I know you can!” To which the Great Blondin replied, “Then get in.”
The man refused.
Blondin then turned and addressed the watching crowd. “Do you believe I am able to carry a man across the Falls in this wheelbarrow?” They all responded loudly, “Yes!” And again, “Which one of you will get into the wheelbarrow and let me push him across?”
They all refused.
No one was willing to get into the wheelbarrow. No one was willing to place their life in the hands of the Great Blondin. No one was willing to have him push them across the Falls, yet they all firmly believed he could do it. In fact, they’d just seen him push 350 pounds of cement across in that very wheelbarrow but refused, to the man, to get into the wheelbarrow themselves. Why? What’s the disconnect between faith and trust. What’s the difference between simple belief in something or someone and trusting them with your very life?
Simply this: It’s the difference between saving faith and non-saving faith. It’s the difference between true salvation and being deceived into thinking you belong to Christ. It’s the difference between the wide road of destruction and the narrow path of eternal life Jesus warned about (Matt. 7:13-14). And it’s the difference between a living eternity in heaven with Christ and all that means, or a horrid eternity of dark torment in hell.
It’s the difference between life and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell.
No Wheelbarrow, No Salvation
Are you one of the ones that believe the Great Blondin can do what you’ve seen him do, yet you refuse to place your life in his hands, you refuse to get into the wheelbarrow?
You see, eternal life with Christ does not come from simple, cognitive belief. Just believing is not enough. You might believe in Jesus. You might even believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for your sins. You may even believe He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. You may even go so far as to believe Jesus will someday come again to defeat Satan and bring in eternal righteousness. You may even believe that day is coming soon… but none of that belief alone leads to salvation. None.
Why? Because Satan also believes the same things about Jesus (James 2:19). In fact, Satan doesn’t just believe, he knows Jesus is the Son of God. Satan knows He rose from the dead and he knows Jesus is coming soon to judge the living and the dead and that thought makes him tremble (1 Tim 4:1). Yet Satan defiantly refuses to bend his knee to the Lordship of Jesus (Rom. 10:9) and Satan will spend eternity in “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Do you believe like Satan believes?
It doesn’t have to be that way. Your life now and your future eternity can be different. But please know, your time is running out.
Head knowledge, mental assent, is not enough for salvation. Believing the Great Blondin can take a man across Niagara Falls in a wheelbarrow is not enough— unless you are willing to be that man. You’ve got to be willing to get into that wheelbarrow. You can’t watch from the sidelines and think you’re saved. You’ve got to place your faith and trust, your entire life into the hands of the Lord Jesus, for salvation to take place. You’ve got to surrender your will to Him, everything.
Jesus’ terms are simple: It’s all or nothing. Jesus gives you all that He is for all that you are. It’s called the Great Exchange: His Perfect Life for Your Broken Life. You give Him your life, all of your life, the good and the bad, and He comes to live in You. Permanently. Forever.
You must die for Him to live. It’s called being born again and it’s the most amazing thing this side of heaven (John 3:3-4).
Not What We Say, But What We Do
If you claim to be a Christian, you’re probably pretty mad right now that I would be so bold as to “judge” you and your spiritual life. And I know that if you had a Facebook page, you would probably put “Follower of Jesus” or “Christian” or something like that as your religion tag. But look at your life. Look at the fruits of your years of living. How much of it has any eternal value or significance? How much of what you do every day gives glory to the God you claim to serve? How much of your actions and deeds are good, holy, just and righteous? Jesus called them fruits, “spiritual fruits” that the Holy Spirit alone gives those who belong to Him (Matt. 7:16-20). In fact, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Did you get that? It’s not those who say they believe in Jesus that will enter the kingdom of heaven, it’s those who “do the will of the Father.” It’s not our words, but spiritual fruits that only the Holy Spirit gives.
Examine yourself. Are these the spiritual fruits you have manifest in your life? If not, be honest with yourself. You know you’re not a Christian. And if you would let yourself think beyond the immediate, you know you’re not going to heaven.
And that breaks my heart. I know we, the church, have failed you many times and haven’t lived the Christ-like example we should before you. I ask for your forgiveness for our failures. But I also ask you don’t judge Jesus by me or any other Christian. We’re a poor example of who He is. He’s all love and, as you know, we’re not. He’s gracious and forgiving, and we’re not. He’s more than I can describe and more than you’ll ever need or want— but you must put your trust, your entire life into His hands and let Him change you from the person you are into His own image, the person He created you to be. He doesn’t want to make you better, He wants to make you new.
All you have to do is ask— and then get into the wheelbarrow and let Him take you wherever He wants. You must put your entire life into His hands and hold nothing back.
My dream and prayer is for you to know and experience Jesus for who He really is and not who you think He is or who the church has portrayed Him to be. He’s far more than anything you can imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). In fact, my prayer for you has been the same as Paul’s prayer for those he loved. He says to those he loves the same thing I want to say to you:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:17-21).
Don’t wait. Get into the wheelbarrow. Give everything to Him. Ask Him, beg Him to be the Lord of your life and watch the transforming power of His Spirit change everything about you and make the rest of your life a blessing to many.
Ask Him today.
All throughout Scripture we see examples of people who have faith, but it’s non-saving faith. After all, everyone of us have some type of faith and we exercise faith every day. We have faith a car will stop while we cross the street, we have faith our prescriptions will actually do what our doctor told us they would do, we have faith a chair will hold us up when we sit down in a crowded restaurant, and we have faith the sun will come up in the morning as we prepare to go to the job we have faith we still have. We all have faith— but we have faith at different levels and in different things. And not all faith is the same.
For example, we have a certain type of faith in our government or in our economic system or in the media. But that faith is not as strong, nor of the same substance, as the faith we have in the sanctity of our marriage, or in the trustworthiness of our best friend, or in our ability to keep a promise to those we love. Each of these kinds of faith are as different and varied as the objects of that faith. And none of these reaches the level of faith or trust or dependence we would expect to have in Christ. Hence, we would call these examples, non-saving faith.
But what happens when a seeking person, just like you or me, comes to Jesus for salvation with nothing more than non-saving faith? Would that person be saved? Or would they be deceived into thinking what faith they had, bordering on intellectual curiosity, was sufficient for salvation?
The Deception of Non-Saving Faith
The Scriptures repeatedly warn about the deception of non-saving faith. In the Parable of the Sower, seventy-five percent of the seeds sown did not lead to salvation (Matt. 13:3-9). Those who sowed in the shallow soil and in the thorny soil were deceived into thinking mere growth, without corresponding fruit, equates to salvation. Or, to put it another way, faith, without corresponding fruit, leads to salvation. And the Scriptures clearly state they don’t.
Additionally, the Scriptures talk about having a “form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5). We see people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, both lost, serving as prominent members of the church (1 Tim. 1:20). There are those who come to the wedding feast dressed in clothes of their own righteousness. The end result? They were bound, hand and foot, and “cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13). We have the warning from the Lord about the wide road that leads to destruction and the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). And, in the book of Hebrews, there are those who were “once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift” but never fully drank of the living waters of salvation (Heb. 6:4).
Remember, Jesus said He “did not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). How? Because our commitment to Christ must be greater than our love and devotion for those we hold most dear, even our own family. Jesus, when asked “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” said of His own family, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50).
The sad truth is many people come to Christ but never fully partake, or drink, of Him (John 7:37) and are deceived into believing they are truly saved. Many people, most in fact, go part of the way towards Christ and end up short of true salvation. They feel and recognize their need for Christ and acknowledge He is the only One that can satisfy their deepest longings, yet they fail to appropriate Him into their lives on His terms. They thirst, they come— but they fail to drink. They create their own gospel, their own way of salvation, and their own standards of righteousness, holiness and sanctification. Yet they are deceived— because a man-made Gospel does not lead to Christ.
Thirst, Come and Drink
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, approximately six months before Jesus was to celebrate His last Passover in Jerusalem and was later betrayed and crucified (John 13:1), He stood in the midst of the crowd and gave the following invitation: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Jesus gives His gospel presentation to a group of people who have very different views about who He is. And whenever Jesus presents us with Himself— He always forces us to chose. We are forced to either accept Him on His terms or to reject Him outright. There’s no middle ground, no gray area, and it’s not open to personal interpretation. It happened to the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles and it happens today every time the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed.
The questions are always the same: Who is Jesus? What is truth? (John 18:38). Is Jesus who He really says He is? And, if He is, what does that mean for me? Is it really possible to have my sins forgiven? How can I be reconciled with God? Tell me, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 2:37).
In this passage, three key words describe the path of true salvation. The words are thirst, come, and drink. And the promise, of course, to those who thirst, come, and drink: eternal life with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit, the living water Jesus talked about (John 7:39).
Thirst – those who thirst recognize a deep longing, an intense craving, an unsatisfied need in their life. It’s those who come to grips with the reality that their life has no eternal purpose or meaning and they are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). They instinctively perceive there’s more to life than what they’re experiencing and, therefore, they try to fill the void they feel with all sorts of carnal sensations— sex, drugs, food, false religions and philosophies, immoral relationships, pride, selfishness, arrogance— until they finally admit only Jesus can bring light into their darkness.
Come – when the personal longings become unbearable and the promise of redemption seems so alluring, so captivating, and enticing, many come to Jesus for what He promises to offer. These understand who Jesus claims to be, the exalted Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, and they understand what He has done for them, redeeming them from the penalty and power of sin by dying for them on the cross. What they know and understand about Jesus is true. The problem, however, is what they do with that truth.
In other words, there’s more to salvation than simply coming to Jesus. You can’t just come and receive Him on your terms as some sort of trade or barter transaction. You must enter through the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13), on His terms, and His terms are not open to negotiation. His terms are all or nothing, total commitment, His life for yours. He doesn’t come to make us better or to enhance certain aspects of our life… no, He comes to put us to death and raise us to life again in His image, as His child, to do His will and not our own (Rom. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is the Lord, the Sovereign One, God Almighty (Phil. 2:10-11), and we are now voluntary slaves, bondslaves, of His. Remember the words from Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Note, it’s Jesus as Lord and nothing else. You cannot come to Jesus as Savior only. He is Savior, because He is Lord.
Most people never make it this far. They never move past simply coming to Jesus and they never progress to true salvation. Most view Jesus as an enlightened master or great teacher or the supreme moral example for all mankind, but never as Lord. They fail to take Him at His Word, or count the costs of salvation (Matt. 8:19-22), and to give their lives to Him in abject submission and humility. They want what He can do for them to make their life better, but they do not want Him as their Lord. So they say a prayer and try to incorporate some behavior, moral changes into their life and maybe even experience a deceptive sense of salvation, like a sensation of peace or contentment, but they have never yielded or surrendered their life to Him nor submitted to His Lordship. And, as sad as it may seem, they’re still lost. Why? Because their nature has not been changed (2 Cor. 5:17), redemption and conversion have not taken place, and the Holy Spirit does not indwell them as their deposit, their guarantee of their future inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:14). And then Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:23).
Drink – this is where true salvation takes place. You have a thirst and you come to Christ to quench and satisfy your thirst, yet simply coming to where the Living Water flows does not, in itself, quench your thirst. You must drink. You must partake. You must be engulfed, enveloped, saturated in Christ, the Living Water. He must be everything to you if you are to receive anything from Him. Salvation, being a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), requires more than reciting some prayer as a nine year old at VBS. It’s a radical, unconditional, total and complete, without reservation and with reckless abandonment, pledge, vow, promise, commitment, allegiance to Christ as Lord. You are no longer your own to do what you wish with your life (1 Cor. 6:19). You have been bought with a price, you now belong to Him, and you are to live to bring Him honor (1 Cor. 6:20). You are now pilgrims and strangers on the earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11), because this world is not your home (Heb. 13:14).
This is this kind of all or nothing relationship that marked the disciples, the early church, and every true believer since Pentecost until today. And, if you truly know Christ and are known by Him, it will mark your life also.
Those Who Believed Jesus… Kinda
The Scriptures tell us when Jesus finished His invitation to the unbelieving crowd to come and drink of Him and those who would come and drink would receive, in themselves, the flowing rivers of eternal life in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), the crowd was divided. Some believed His words, but only partially. Some didn’t believe at all, and wanted to destroy Him (John 7:44).
Nothing much has changed. As it was back then, so it is today.
Truly this is the Prophet
John 7:40-41 states: Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” Note, they said He was the Prophet, capitalized, and not a prophet. This first group was asserting that Jesus was the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,” For centuries this passage had be interpreted to prophetically speak of the coming Messiah, the Christ. However, by the time of Jesus, the Jewish scholars, from their understanding of Malachi 3, believed the passage spoke more of the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6). and not the Messiah Himself. Now the Prophet was someone who would show men their need for a Redeemer, for Christ, and then faithfully point them to the only One who could satisfy their need. But the Prophet was not the Messiah and could not, himself, satisfy their thirst, need or longing. He could just point the way or be a path or channel, but He had no power or authority to grant salvation.
Unfortunately, many people still believe this about Jesus.
They believed Jesus came to point men towards the truth, but they would fervently deny He was the Truth (John 14:6). They would declare Jesus came to point men to someone or something coming to satisfy all their needs, but He was not that Someone and He did not possess the something they were looking for. The men who said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (John 7:40), recognized and affirmed the special status Jesus had as a one-of-a-kind religious leader who did things and taught things unlike any religious figure before (John 7:46). He was in a class all by Himself. They would even go so far as to say Jesus was sent by God and had a special relationship with God (John 3:2). But they would not receive Him as God or serve Him as Lord. They wanted Jesus and something else, anything else. These were those who thirsted and came, but never drank.
This is the Christ
The second group said, “This is the Christ” (John 7:41). This group recognized and believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of Israel, the One prophesied from the Old Testament (Luke 2:11). Yes, they knew these facts about Him to be true, but they defiantly refused, like the first group, to bend their knee to Him as Lord (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10). They refused to commit their lives and future to Him as the Sovereign One. The Scriptures do not indicate this group followed Jesus as Lord. They simply said, “Yes, I believe He is the Son of God and, yes, I believe He is the Messiah and the Christ. So what? What does that mean to me? Now, pass me the butter and biscuits. I’m hungry.”
This group confessed Jesus as something, but not as Lord (Rom. 10:9). They had non-saving faith in Jesus as the Christ.
This is the Christ… uh, but…
Then there’s the group that fully confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16), but would rather argue and bicker and debate over trivial matters of their own theology and reject Jesus because, in their mind, He didn’t meet every jot or tittle they thought He should (Matt. 5:18). These are the ones who argue saying, “He can’t be the Christ because He came from Galilee and the Christ is supposed to come from Bethlehem. Plus, the Scriptures teach the Messiah must come from the line of David, and I’m not sure where this guy comes from” (John 7:40-42). So they compared what little they knew about Jesus with their own limited and incomplete knowledge of the prophetic Scriptures and concluded He could not possibly be the Messiah because He failed to meet all their sincerely held convictions of what the Messiah would be. We have many in the church today who operate the same way. They smugly elevate their own statement of beliefs or denominational creeds or preferences to the level of infallible Scripture and use them as a litmus test for fellowship or, sadly, salvation, and even truth.
But if this group would’ve investigated further, they would’ve discovered Jesus was from the line of David (Matt. 22:42) and did come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah (John 5:39). But they were more concerned with being right in the eyes of each other and promoting their own theological brand or position than in knowing the truth. In their apathy and laziness, they failed to look for the truth because they arrogantly assumed they’d already found it. And in their pride and hypocrisy they missed their Messiah.
Again, just like the first two groups, they also missed out on eternal life.
Those Who Did Not Believe Jesus
The final group were those who hated the Lord Jesus and wanted to destroy Him. These were the ones who wanted to take Him by force (John 7:44) but were prevented because, from God’s perspective, it was not yet His time and His hour had not come (John 7:30). Needless to say, the people in this group did not understand Christ nor receive the gift of salvation He offered (John 7:37-39).
To What Group Do You Belong?
So where do you fit in? What is your response to Christ? Do you believe partially, somewhat, kinda, in Him? Do you say, “Yes, He was a good man, and yes, He was sent from God, and yes, He’s a great moral teacher and example, and, yes, He’s a path or a way of some sorts to God.” If so, that’s not enough. Your confession of Him or your profession of faith is severely lacking. Fatally lacking. For Jesus, He is all or nothing. There is no partial with Him. There’s no half way, no honorable mention, no consolation prize, and no kudos for trying. He’s all or nothing, totally in or totally out, through the narrow gate only, and on His terms without negotiation or compromise.
Remember His words,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53-55).
Or, in other words, Jesus gives eternal life to those who ingest Him into the core of their very being, as their strength, source of daily nourishment, their very sustenance. Jesus did not come to make us better, or to enhance or improve our fallen lives. No, He came to make us new, to put the old man to death and to raise the new man to life with Him. And what kind of life does He promise? It’s beyond anything we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). He offers a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). And He promises we will be children of God, and if children, then heirs, and if heirs, then joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Just think, all that Christ is and all He possesses becomes ours as a joint heir with Him— when, and here is the requirement, we give all that we are to Him. This promise belongs to those who exercise real, genuine, saving faith in the completed work of Christ.
One final thought, the seeds that fell on the path, in a shallow soil, and in the soil infested with weeds and thorns, did not produce fruit (Matt. 13:3-9). They did not lead to eternal life. Why? Because Jesus never said you’ll know My disciples by their profession, nor church membership, nor civic good works, nor non-profit activities, nor from the applause of men — you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16-20).
Fruits. And nothing else.
Do your fruits indicate you belong to Him?
Since we have established the fact that salvation is a spiritual experience and can also involve the emotions or feelings, the question to be asked is what happens when the salvation experience is devoid of any change in emotion or how someone feels? What happens when the person never feels anything, no change, nothing new, after they pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask Jesus into their heart? What does that mean?
I know, just the mention of the “sinner’s prayer” gives one pause, doesn’t it.
What is the sinner’s prayer and what does it mean? What is a proper “sinner’s prayer”? What specific words have to be spoken in order for true salvation to take place? How much of the actual prayer does the sinner need to quote properly in order to get saved? What’s a passing grade? And how much of the prayer do you really have to believe to make it into heaven? After all, we don’t want to miss the cut by just a few points.
See the confusion? Let’s take a look at the “sinner’s prayer” together.
The Sinner’s Prayer: What it is
In the church today, evangelism is often focused on simply getting someone to say a prayer or a formula that we believe always leads to salvation. Why? Because we have reduced the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to a short creedal statement of mere facts about Jesus, or redefined it as a set of steps or laws, much like a cake recipe, one must follow. If we can get the person to pray the formula or recite the facts, or just agree with us while we mouth the magic words, then our theology states salvation has taken place. Why? Because, we reason, they have “confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus”— and we assume “have believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead”— hence, we conclude they “will be saved” (Rom 10:9). And, to be fair, a casual look at this Scripture could give you that impression.
This prayer, popularly known as the sinner’s prayer, can vary widely in how it’s administered or recited, but always includes some required key elements in order to make it valid. It’s a prayer that fulfills the confession requirement in Romans 10:9. And we just assume that to confess means to pray and believe what we feel are key components about Christ and His nature and His atonement. It becomes a sort of short mini-catechism or dwarfed creedal statement.
One of the key requirements in the sinner’s prayer are some words that indicate the person understands they are, in fact, a sinner and in need of salvation. This is obvious. In this part of the prayer they would acknowledge their sin and guilt before the Lord and confess they have fallen short of what God’s intention was for them (Rom. 3:10, 23). There would also be an understanding of their eternal state apart from Christ and His forgiveness and a distinction between heaven, the desired place, and Hell, the default place (Rom. 6:23).
Another required component in the sinner’s prayer would be the understanding of what God has provided for them through His Son Jesus Christ in order to have their sins forgiven and forgotten. The prayer would include some words that acknowledge the fact that their sins were imputed to Christ and His righteousness was imputed to them and they are trusting in His completed work for the atonement for their sins.
The sinner’s prayer might go something like this: “Lord, I know that I am a sinner and that I have lived my life for myself and not for You. I confess my sins before You and ask that You forgive my sins because I believe that Jesus paid the penalty for my sins for me when He died on the cross. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was raised from the dead on the third day and I’m asking You to come into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. I renounce my life of sin and self and accept the healing and cleansing that only You can give. Thank You for hearing my prayer and forgiving my sins. For the rest of my life I want to love and serve only You. Amen.”
Then, as far as we know, we assume the person praying the prayer was sincere and, therefore, is now saved. But the Scriptures tell us the evidence of salvation is not a verbal prayer, no matter how sincere that prayer may be, but fruits that only the Holy Spirit can bring (Matt. 7:17-20). But as not to get sidetracked, we’ll look into the evidence of true salvation at a later time.
The Sinner’s Prayer: What it isn’t
The sinner’s prayer is not an incantation or mantra that always leads to salvation. More often than not, it leads to a false sense of security for the unbeliever and literally innoculates them from true salvation. It can function as the billboard to the wide road that leads to destruction Jesus warned us about (Matt. 7:13). Let me explain.
For the past century or two we have been taught, both in seminary and from the pulpit, if a person says the sinner’s prayer they are saved. And, under that assumption, we quickly baptize them to somehow “seal the deal” without any observable evidence of their salvation— no changed nature, no redeemed affections, no spiritual fruit, nothing. We simply accept them at their word and on the authority of the prayer just prayed and forge ahead as if everything was fine.
But when warning sirens go off and they say something’s wrong, they don’t think they’re saved, or they begin to doubt the magic prayer worked, we ignore their pleas and chalk it up to Satan “just trying to make you doubt what God has already done in your heart.” We point to Romans 10:13— “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”— and say, “Did you call on the name of the Lord? Are you a whoever? If you did, according to this verse, you’re saved! So just believe it and don’t worry about how you feel. The feelings will come later.”
Really? So it’s more like the Amway slogan of “just fake it until you make it.” No, I believe salvation, as we’ve stated before, radically changes every aspect of your life, and so much so, that you would know experientially if you had truly died and been raised to a new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4).
Reciting or memorizing historical facts about Christ does not, of itself, lead one to salvation. For example, at the end of a Sunday service a young man walks down the aisle and tells the preacher he wants to get saved. The preacher would, most likely, say something like this:
“Young man, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”
“Do you believe He died on the cross, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in glory?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you asking Him to forgive you of all your sins and inviting Him to be the Lord of your life?”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“Great. Then repeat this simple sinner’s prayer with me and you’ll be saved.”
But Satan could also recite these same historical facts about Jesus. He could even pray most of the sinner’s prayer and still not receive the gift of salvation. How can that be if the sinner’s prayer saves?
“Satan, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”
“Absolutely! I know it to be a fact.”
“Satan, do you believe He died on the cross, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in glory?”
“Yes, I know what He did on the cross and all about His resurrection. And I also know, and dread the day, when He will come back in glory. I know all these things to be true.”
“Satan, are you asking Him to forgive you of all your sins and inviting Him to be the Lord of your life?”
“No. I will not bow my knee to the Lordship of anyone but me.”
As you can see, salvation is much more than a simple prayer, it’s an acknowledgment, a life-long commitment, a fervent trust, a submission, originating from the very core of our being, that Jesus is Lord. We focus on the confession part of Romans 10:9 because it’s easy, and not the object of that confession, the Lordship of Christ, because it’s so hard. Simple, yes. But very hard. For it’s only belief, or faith, in the object of that confession, Jesus is Lord, that brings about salvation and not the simple confession itself.
That if you confess with your mouth (the confession) the Lord Jesus (the object of the confession) and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
To restate, there’s more to salvation than just mouthing the sinner’s prayer. And we would all like to think by repeating the sinner’s prayer the seeking person is actually declaring to God their total reliance on Christ as their Lord and Saviour and trusting in His completed work on the cross as all sufficient. And we also understand there are no magical words needed to be said in order for salvation to take place. Why? Because salvation is by faith through grace in Christ alone, plus nothing and minus nothing (Eph. 2:8). But there’s more.
The Sinner’s Prayer: The Caboose of Salvation
The reality is that a believer is actually saved before they even utter the first words of the sinner’s prayer. Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be. It’s not the prayer that makes a sinner a Christian, it’s the prayer of a sinner, already now a Christian, giving God glory by testifying what He has already done in their life. And what has the Lord already done? Election, the effectual calling of the sinner to Himself, conversion, regeneration, and much more. Sound confusing?
Regeneration and conversion have already taken place by the time the sinner places His faith in Christ and, based on that faith, utters the words of the sinner’s prayer. Plus, the very faith placed in Christ is faith given by God for that very purpose. Why? Because Scripture states, “there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10-11). So the only way someone seeks for God is if God places that desire for Him in them. And the only way we can place faith in Christ, faith we don’t have in and of ourselves, is if God gives us the faith to place in His Son. Because on our own, as Romans 3:10-11 teach, we would not seek God and would not have saving faith to place in the work of Christ. It’s all a gift from Him, a sovereign act of grace.
From start to finish, from election to glorification, salvation is all God. And since this is true, then we’re saved before we even utter the first words of the sinner’s prayer.
Are you confused? Does it seem strange to you?
We’ll look into this topic in greater detail, next.