Distortion #7 That simply saying the words of a “sinner’s prayer” makes you a Christian

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It is true that no matter what we do, God is there, ready to accept us back right up until the day we die – should we repent.

But understand that true salvation though is not just saying some ‘sinner’s prayer’.

Anyone can speak words without meaning them. You can even teach a parrot to say them.

In fact, the earliest concept of a “sinner’s prayer” is less than a few hundred years old and really did not catch on as a (false) ‘theological doctrine’ until the era of Billy Graham.

The Billy Graham organisation invented the ‘sinner’s prayer’ as a way of handling mass crusade conversions the easy way.

Around the same time in the 1970’s the phrase ‘ask Jesus into your heart/life’ came into being – probably as a way to explain to children.

Peter and the other Apostles managed 3,000 salvations on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) without the Billy Graham organisation’s ‘sinner’s prayer’.

As I have often preached, and taught in evangelism seminars, I could teach a parrot to recite the ‘sinner’s prayer’ – and it would mean nothing to the parrot.

I am sure that we all know people who have recited the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and then turned their backs on God to the point of basically giving God a certificate of divorce?

Likewise, I readily admit, some people have prayed a ‘sinner’s prayer’, meant it, and gone on in their Christian faith.

When Biblically leading someone to salvation I trust the Holy Spirit to do His job.

So, what happened between the time of our Lord’s death and the late 18th/early 19th century?

Was no-one saved because they did not pray a ‘sinner’s prayer’?

Of course people were saved!

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is in the world to: “convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8).

When you read the Bible, you will not find a single verse or passage whether in a narrative account or in prescriptive or descriptive texts, regarding the use of a “sinner’s prayer” in evangelism. Not one.

True salvation is: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person BELIEVES, RESULTING in RIGHTEOUSNESS, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

So, when I lead someone to Christ:

a) I ask them if they have ever done anything wrong (sinned), and allow them to think about it as the Holy Spirit convicts them.

(Many people who would have gone on with Christian growth perhaps do not do so because satan still had a hold upon areas of their lives. This is most probably because sins that the Holy Spirit would have revealed were not confessed and repented of, and therefore dealt with, because of the ‘one size fits all’ approach of a ‘sinner’s prayer’.)

b) Then I tell them to just speak to God in their own words like He was a trusted friend, and confess to God their sin(s), and then

c) surrender their life to Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and invite Jesus to take full control of their life.

Because Biblically there is only one way for people to gain salvation:

1. Repent and be water baptised (Acts 2:39-39)

(Water baptised immediately, or as soon as possible after salvation)

2. Confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)

At that point you are saved.

To be empowered to live a Christian life, and to move in the 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ‘gifts of the Spirit’, you should also be baptised in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11 ; Acts 1:5,8 ; Acts 2:4 ; Acts 8:12, 15-18 ; Acts 10:44-48)

If baptism in the Holy Spirit did not occur at salvation and/or water baptism it should be sought as soon as possible afterwards.

The Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, in the first Christian sermon ever preached answered the question “what must we do to be saved”.

Note also that the listeners were ‘cut to the heart’ with the conviction of their sins.

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39)


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