Yvonne shared her story with me on the post a week or so ago “I said the Sinner’s Prayer – So, I’m Good with God. I’m Going to Heaven for Sure!” I believe her story may bless you. Thank you, Yvonne, for allowing me to post this. 🙂
I appreciate the focus here on faith in what Jesus did on the cross to save us.
When I was in elementary school I went to a church service in which the sermon ended with a tear-jerking story, followed by appeal after appeal for people to come forward to receive Christ. My brother and I went to the front with several other people; then we were taken into another room and counselled. All I remember was saying “yes” when someone asked me if I wanted to be saved. I had absolutely no understanding about why I needed a Savior; I just felt sad that Jesus suffered on the cross. Baptism followed, but of course there was no change in my life, because I was not a believer.
Time passed, and I reached eleventh grade. I was still attending the same church where I was baptized, despite that I lacked any peace that I would ever be in heaven. No wonder. The sermons consisted of very little scripture–just one or two verses at the beginning, and then a long diversion into speaking against alcoholism or other ills of society. There was little from the Word of God, so how could this preaching lead me to real faith?
My only faith was based on what I had done years earlier: I HAD GONE FORWARD.
One day my Sunday School teacher asked our class to close our eyes; then she asked us to raise our hands if we knew that we were saved. I kept my hand to my side, so the teacher asked me to meet her after the Sunday evening service. I did, and it was there that she pressured me into kneeling and praying the sinner’s prayer. I was resistant–even defiant, but I eventually knelt and repeated the prayer that she prayed for my salvation. Mrs. J. joyfully hugged me as she pronounced me SAVED, and she urged me to be baptized as soon as possible. I did.
The only trouble was that I wasn’t really saved! Although I recognized that I was a sinner (after all, I had some inkling that the cheating on tests, the use of Ouija boards, and hypnotizing my friends was not scriptural), I still did not understand that Jesus had actually suffered for my sin on the cross so that I could have eternal life. Every time I expressed doubts about my supposed salvation, my Sunday School teacher told me to focus on what I had done that night when I had prayed the sinner’s prayer. That was the whole problem! Everything was based on what I had done. I was trusting a prayer–NOT the Lord Jesus and the precious blood that He shed in my place. That’s why I continued to doubt. After all, how can we be sure that we have said EXACTLY the right words if salvation is based on a prayer? Every time I saw a prayer at the end of a tract, I prayed it in case it contained something vital that I hadn’t said.
Like so many people who are spiritually lost, I had reduced salvation to an abracadabra prayer, and expected that to be the magic key to heaven. What an affront to God, who paid for my salvation at such a tremendous price!
AS AN ADULT
Sadly, I spent the next 33 years looking for peace and assurance and showing no change in my life. Oh, I was no longer into hypnosis and that kind of thing, but I was still the same old me.
- I really didn’t want to read my Bible
- I could still be rude to my husband with no twinge of conscience
- I had little desire to meet with believers or hang out with them
- I had no real love for the Lord.
- All I had was a lingering concern about my standing with God and where I would end up when I died.
On one of those rare days when I was concerned about my soul, I started randomly flipping through my Bible, looking for something that would give me peace. When I reached the last few verses of Isaiah 52 and continued into Isaiah 53, my attention was suddenly riveted on verses 5 and 6: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities,: the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon HIM the iniquity of us all.”
I was there in that verse. I now saw that the Lord Jesus had been MY substitute. His back had been beaten, He had been bruised, nailed to a cross, and insulted in MY place, because He had taken my sin upon Himself. Saddest of all, God as the righteous Judge, had to pour out His wrath on His own Son, because Jesus was bearing the load of sin from all generations so that man could escape the hell that he deserves. I now knew a little of what my sin had caused.
Praise God! Now that I realized that my salvation is all based on HIM, I knew that, from that very moment, I possessed eternal life, as the Bible promises when it says “that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life” (I John 5:13). When we realize that salvation is all about HIM and what He did, we need not fear the future. Jesus’ resurrection, which was verified by hundreds of people, proves that God fully accepted His substitution for sinners. If He had not been perfect, with unlimited holiness, He could not have died for us. Only God was able to carry that weight of sin and thoroughly atone for it. All that we must do is simply trust that He finished the work that saves us.
Are you still trying to add to His work by thinking that you must pray a prayer, go forward to an altar call, or shed tears to show that you are sincere? WRONG. All of these things are DO. The Savior already completed all the work that was required. If you are not saved, seek Him with all your heart. Make that the top priority in your life. Then BELIEVE all that He did on your behalf. That is true faith.
Easy believism, on the other hand, reduces salvation to a subtle, deadly formula of DO, which will end in “I never knew you” when you stand before God.
True faith brings a change in life style, a change in focus; if the Holy Spirit is not guiding you, you probably have good reason to doubt.
My advice to anyone who is seeking like I did for so many years is to really immerse yourself in the Word of God, as you are doing here. God always speaks to a seeking heart in some way through His Word, as He did for me through Isaiah 53. Others find the truth through other portions of Scripture, but it is there that you will subsequently find peace, hope, assurance and joy!
May the Lord lead you to peace, if that is lacking in your life! God bless you, dear friend in Christ.
Praying a prayer and going forward can be good things. They can be results of our belief in Jesus and our faith in what He did for us. But the prayer itself and the going forward or being baptized do not save us. It is faith in what Jesus did for us that saves us – and that kind of saving faith will always produce changes in our attitudes, behavior, speech and motives. We do things later because of our gratitude for all Jesus has done for us. The things we do are the fruit, not the cause of our salvation. I hope that makes sense!
Of course, once we decide to follow Christ as Savior and Lord and we decide to love, honor, please and obey Him, and to receive all that He has done for us on the cross – we are not suddenly perfect. There is a process of maturation – much like a baby learning and growing slowly to become an adult.
JUSTIFICATION is what happens when we receive God’s gift that Jesus extends to us. It is when we realize we are wretched sinners and that we need Jesus’ death on our behalf because we can never make ourselves right with God. At that moment, God puts all of the riches, holiness and goodness of Jesus into our account. Justification is an accounting term. I am now justified with God, made right with Him, my account is forever settled, because although I owed Him “billions of sin dollars,” Jesus has now satisfied my debt. His infinite resources are now in my account and when God looks at me, He sees Jesus. This happens when I open up my life, heart, soul and mind to Christ as Savior and LORD.
SANCTIFICATION is the process of us learning to live out all that Jesus has done for us and bringing God’s promises and our faith into reality. This is the process of God refining us and making us more and more like Christ. It is a lifelong journey. We will never be perfect until we reach heaven. But, we do learn to allow Jesus to live in and through us and we learn to allow God’s Spirit to have control instead of self. Then, the fruit of His Spirit fills our lives in increasing measure (Gal. 5). During this process, I may stumble and sin at times. But, I don’t want to sin and I want my fellowship to be restored with God as soon as possible. I am grieved that I grieve God when I sin against Him. I don’t ever want to abuse His grace. I don’t dare say, “Oh, I can do whatever I want and just ask for God’s forgiveness later. No big deal.” NEVER!!!!!!
I treat God and Jesus with honor and reverence and want to learn, grow, and understand more. I am no longer a slave to sin. I can choose to allow God’s Spirit to be in control of my life now. If I realize I have sinned, I want to get rid of all traces of sin, and I want God to change me and make me more and more like Jesus. I cannot live happily in sin anymore. I can tell when SELF is in charge of my life because sin reigns in my life (Gal. 5:18-21). I can tell that God is living in me when I see the fruit of His Spirit overflowing in my life (Gal. 5:22-23).
GLORIFICATION happens when we enter heaven. We receive heavenly bodies. We become perfect and sinless and faultless before God.
I have a spiritual appetite when I belong to Christ.
- I WANT to know God more
- I want to be in His Word
- I want His Spirit to fill me.
- I don’t want to sin.
- I want to love Him with all that is in me.
- I want to love others with His love.
- More and more, I hate things of the world, sin, and ungodly things and I long for God to make me more holy and more set apart for Him.
- I want to be closer to God.
- I want His will and His glory in my life, even if it costs me.
- Worldly things become less and less important and Jesus and His Word become more and more important to me.
- I want to get rid of any false ideas or lies or wrong teaching about God in my heart, mind and soul. I want to build my life only on Christ and the truth of His Word in the Bible.
People who don’t have any appetite for physical food have a big problem. They may be very sick. Very sick people often don’t want to eat. Of course, dead people have no appetite for food either. If I don’t have a spiritual appetite for God, the things of God, His power, His presence, His Spirit, His Word and His people, something is probably wrong. Either I don’t know God and am still spiritually dead, or I have cherished sin in my heart that is hurting my fellowship with God. Or I have a lot of lies in my life upon which I have built my faith that need to be corrected. If I have lost my spiritual appetite for God and the things of God, I need to ask God to do a heart check on me to see what the problem is. Most likely, there is sin somewhere choking my appetite for Him. But He can show me if I need to come to Him for the first time or if I simply need to admit my sin, turn from it, and receive His forgiveness and restored fellowship.
Here is another good test. Do I really want Jesus or would I be happy with heaven even if Jesus weren’t there? If I can be content without Jesus in this life and I don’t care if Jesus is in heaven or not, I need to look at my faith. Something is very, very wrong. What is my motive? Do I really understand who God is, who I am, and what Jesus did for me? Am I willing to live with Jesus as Lord? Do I see that He is truly the greatest Treasure there is in the universe? Do I see that He is worthy of everything I could possibly ever give?
Sometimes it can be really difficult for us as humans to accurately judge whether someone else has saving faith in God or not. My prayer is that we will not judge others, but that we might long for God to empower us to have increasing faith in Him and that He might continue to refine each of us and make us holy in His sight for His glory. I pray God might use each of us to point others to Christ and the love, truth, and power of His Word.