Weekly Devotional 4-3-23 But is That Necessarily So?
Many of us Christians in our ministering to the unsaved try to lead them to a point where they will recite the sinner’s prayer presupposing that they correctly understand that they are sinners and separated from God. Even though our efforts are well meant many times we do an injustice to God and to the person we are ministering to by getting him or her emotionally worked up, exciting them toward recitation of such a prayer. A short time ago for instance I heard a Christian Televangelist brother deliver a powerful message on salvation and at the end of his presentation he asked if there was anyone who was listing to the broadcast if they wanted to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. He went on to lead them in the sinner’s prayer and then said, if you prayed that prayer you are now a Christian. But is that necessarily so? If in that prayer the hearer truly understood that He was a sinner, separated from God and that he needed to turn away from (repent of) his sinful lifestyle and turn to God, and did so, then yes, a spiritual transformation occurred in his life.
The danger though of saying to his listeners that because of the recital of a prayer he, or she, is now a Christian does them a great injustice as it does God. Maybe a true transformation did not take place, but maybe it did not.
In our witnessing we should keep in mind Jesus’ parable of the seeds and the soil. Consider Luke 8:5-15 “5 A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘What does this parable mean?’ 10 And He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.’”
It would be wonderful if ever person we witness to would truly come to faith. That should be our hope, but it is just not realty. To say of any person that because he or she said the sinner’s prayer he or she is now a Christian can be very harmful. Such persons may place their faith in the prayer and not the object of the prayer, Jesus Christ. This reminds me of a person who when asked if he was a Christian, said yes and cited John 3:16 which says: “16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But when asked what it means to believe, he cited various facts about Jesus but did not realize that the word “believe” in John 3:16 means much more than just believing certain facts about Jesus, it means believing to the point of commitment, a surrendering to His Lordship. It was evident that he did not under-stand this. His lifestyle did not match his words. And there in lay the danger. A true spiritual transformation leads to a true spiritual transformation. Citing the sinner’s prayer may involve a true spiritual transformation, but it may not, we just cannot know. The proof of a spiritual transformation will be evidenced by changes, gradual or swiftly.
A great example of such a true transformation occurred in the life of those who heard two messages given by Peter on the day of Pentecost. Three thousand were truly spiritually transformed having heard his first message and another five thousand were spiritually transformed upon hearing his second message It is written of them “41 those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2-4:4) However, there were also hundreds that heard Peter’s two messages, who heard the same invitation to believe in and commit to Jesus, who were also caught up in the excitement of the moment, who may also have voiced such a belief and commitment who were not truly transformed. Today this is called an accent of the head but not of the heart.
The point is, verbally reciting a prayer does not necessarily mean that a true transformation of spirit has taken place. A true transformation is reflected in repentance, a change of attitude and lifestyle. As mentioned, this may be gradual. or it may be swiftly, but a change will be evident.
Us Christians certainly should hope and pray that the person(s) we are ministering to, truly understands our message, that he, or she is a sinner separated from God and that salvation and restoration is found in Jesus Christ. Yes, we should lead a person in the sinner’s prayer (so called) but instead of saying to them that because of that prayer they are now in the family of God, they are now Christians, we perhaps should thank them for their response and ask if we could follow up with them in some way or another, one on one discipleship, or correspondence by mail or electronic, etc.
Lord help us Christians in our enthusiasm to remember that the transformation of a soul from spiritual death to spiritual life is the work of the Holy Spirit. That such work will be affirmed by a life that manifests change. Help us to never mislead someone in to believing that they have been transformed by simply reciting a prayer when they may not be, but also help us to be an encouragement to them. Please give us discernment.
email@example.com / stevelampman.com
Transforming Power, the Work of God on Behalf of Man