Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Others' Views on 'The Sinner's Prayer'.

....and what they have to say 

I have included three responses I received from my last letter regarding “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Another detailed response (that I haven’t printed) included the idea that once you say “a prayer” the Holy Spirit takes over and new life begins. The person writing this is an esteemed colleague of many years experience and I know he has seen the Spirit of God at work in the lives of people who have cried out to God. And I don’t deny this can happen. Who are we to limit the Holy Spirit? But I have printed the shorter letters of people’s experiences to allow you to see what I believe are more typical of our journey to God.
Hi Jack
What you have written is so true and seems to me to be endemic in the institutional church. I’ve noticed that invitations to find out more about Jesus or Christianity are sometimes tacked on at the end of the Pastor’s message. We need genuine repentance not tickled intellects or appeals to our emotions. I remember the experience of a friend of mine who had become interested in Christianity after his cousin was converted. About the same time his father died and I remember my friend saying ‘if they give an altar call next time( the context was a Barry Smith series of meetings)I’m going up! Well, they did and he did, but he soon fell away. I met him a couple of times after that and his words betrayed the true state of his heart, still unregenerate. I don’t think the fault was necessarily the evangelist’s here, but my friend’s. I felt that after his father died he was looking for something or someone to replace his father, to fill an emotional hole. I thank God that I was not inoculated with the gospel but had gone through the real experience of being an awakened sinner;a convicted sinner; a repentant sinner and finally a converted sinner. May God revive us once again and may we see that’ apart from Jesus we can do nothing’ but what is impossible with man is possible with God.

Good morning Jack,
Thank you for sharing this.  I was wondering too, but unlike Angela (thank-you Angela) I didn't take the time to write.
In the early days of being 'saved' in the Pentecostal Church I struggled when people said you are not 'born again' if you cannot remember the day and hour when it happened. It took years to accept that my many small steps of enlightenment were genuine, and I can recall most of them, starting at age 6 when I accepted God as my Father as I had no earthly one.
Your explanation reminds me too of how different was/is Jesus' response and actions regarding people's healing. Every one being especially designed for the individual needing it.
So enjoying this email fellowship.
I love your response, Jack!

I've not been a fan of 'the prayer' for quite sometime myself. You explained it beautifully...
You hinted at this - but one of my other 'concerns' about 'the prayer' is that it is treated like a 'ticket to heaven' - say this prayer and you're good to go.

Now - I don't like to debate the whole 'once saved, always saved' topic - but I do believe that following Christ is a lifetime of making one decision after another. Some are more 'important' than others, but each one is a step in the journey with God. The prayer can carry with it the idea that you can take one step with God and then a thousand in whichever direction suits you...
I'm not one for formulas, but if we had to have one for 'salvation' - I would suggest that baptism is more scripturally sound as the 'monument' to a new life in Christ. But... I'm not one for formulas and I don't think Jesus was either. Relationship, relationship, relationship. ;)
What do you think? I’d love to hear! And so would others!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Does the 'Sinner's Prayer' do more harm than good?


....what do you think?

In my last SC Letter (JAS 2) I made a statement in my intro that elicited the following response.
Thank you Jack.  Interested in your comment re not being a fan of the
sinners prayer.  Have heard this spoken of before, could you elaborate
please.  Thanks.
Hello Angela (not her real name)
Thank you for your question. I appreciate you making the effort to ask.
First, I want to say that I love praying with a person who is genuinely
repentant. Who knows what they are embracing when they choose to become a
follower of Jesus. I believe prayer - the Christian praying and (hopefully)
the convert praying - sets a seal on their commitment. But, here's my
problem 'the sinner's prayer'....
In our country only between 3% and 5% of children attend a Sunday School.
So, we have a growing population who know very little about the demands of
the true Gospel. These Christianity-ignorant people are encouraged to repeat
this prayer - the so-called altar call - at the conclusion of many church
services. After repeating the prayer, the congregation claps and the
pray-ers are told they are now forgiven and on their way to heaven.
Now, for somebody who has faced the challenge of the changed life style that they
will face, who has been under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and who has
a genuinely repentant heart, this can be, and I'm sure in many cases it has
been, their moment of salvation. BUT, for somebody who has had no dealings
with God and no knowledge of the claims of the Gospel, it can be a disaster
(though of course the Holy Spirit's miracle power isn't limited). But disaster
in this sense.  When the 'glow' of the meeting fades or the evangelist adds
another notch to his belt, and the realities of life come face-to-face with
the disciplines demanded by God's Word there will likely be a spiritual
meltdown. Then, If the person walks away from their 'decision', their
understanding will probably be, "I've tried being a Christian and it didn't
work for me." Like being inoculated with a 'shot' of the Gospel that now
gives them immunity from embracing the real deal.
When we look at the people in the Gospels who became followers of Jesus,
there's a tremendous variety in the way they came to faith. Think of each the 12
apostles; Zacchaeus; the thief on the cross; blind Bartimaeus; Levi;
(Matthew) etc.. They all heard the 'call' of Jesus, but in each instance it
was very different. Not a one-size-fits-all pattern.
A survey in the UK of the amount of time it took from a person beginning to
consider the claims of Jesus, to the moment of true decision, was
approximately four years.  I believe this proves that, as Jonah prayed,
"Salvation is of the Lord." And we could add, it is not of man.
Angela, I hope this goes some way to answering your question. Please write
to me if what I have written is not clear, or you have
issue with.
I'm very interested in everybody's thoughts/beliefs/convictions
You're free to pass on this SC Letter