Well intended as it may be, is having people say the sinners prayer at the drop of a hat a cop out? The evangelist in me has always desired to lead people in the sinners prayer. I have done so on several occasions. I really and earnestly thought I was doing God's will and had played a small part in God's plan for saving people from eternal damnation. Looking back I would say sometimes it has saved people and sometimes it has not.
Well, do a few words make the difference? We'll follow it up with saying things like, now Jesus has entered your life and everything will be different. Kinda like pushing the Staples easy button and poof your office supplies just appear. Is it really as easy as that? If it was then how come some of the people I've led are not visibly transformed? In fact they seem exactly the same as before.
Now, I do believe the sinners prayer is an important step in you connecting with God in a profound way. It has nothing to do with saying the words aloud but has everything to do what is in your heart when you say it. The well meaning benevolent ministry I work with HAS saved people. However I believe many more have been cajoled into saying the words not because they hope to spend eternity with Jesus but because they hope to receive a grocery voucher. I often wonder how many people get baptized because they feel pressured into it by their friends or family. How many people in my Church are just there but do not know God or they know God but don't implicitly follow him? They are in so deep that they feel there is no way to admit that they are frauds. I am certain that every church has some or Jesus would not have the parable of the Sheep and the Goats or the the Weeds sown into the wheat field. I'm at a large church so we could be talking about quite a few people. I'm reasonably sure that by and large my congregation are Christ followers but I'm even more sure that some are not. I don't mean I can name someone in particular at my church I know is not saved but as a generalization with a large enough sampling there must be some. Possibly more than I think but since we are a Bible believing Christ preaching church I have a fair bit of confidence that most are saved in my congregation.
Just admitting there is a God is simply not enough. As Jesus said even a demon can do that. In the literal sense I never said the sinners prayer myself. I have said and repeated the apostles creed many times and meant it each and every time. My baptism was only symbolically important and a public confirmation. Saying the sinners prayer and baptism in and of itself has never saved anyone. God only cares about what is in the heart of the person doing those rituals. I love Jesus and that is why I was baptized as an adult. I didn't think it would save me in and of itself.
I heard it said by many including myself that once saved, always saved. I do believe that to be true but I have to wonder when people walk away from Church, backslide into their past bad behavior and stop doing the things Christ followers usually do. Is it that they've lost their salvation or did they ever really have it. Were they following Jesus or was it just a human perception of Jesus. Only God knows that answer for sure.
I also wonder about the people I've had a part in leading through the sinners prayer. I talk to them a week later and ask how it's going. They will say things are good. Then I ask if they've read any of their Bible and they say oh yes. I ask them what they are reading and they give a vague answer. I know what that means. And that's only the ones I see a week later or a day later or whatever. I wonder about the ones that I never see again. Are they now hanging out at another benevolent ministry trying to get another few crumbs of bread from the table. Is dangling a meal or a gift card like a Carrot on a stick leading the horse. I really don't know a better answer but to feed the hungry and to help the poor even if they are just there for the food. Jesus didn't tell his men to feed the 3000 that believed the message but to feed the 5000. He didn't say to take care of the widow and orphan but only if they follow me.
I'm looking for fruit though. I'm tired of trite sayings and half baked sentiments. I want a big harvest but I want quality fruit because my LORD will only accept that. I may have to offend some of my fellow harvesters or we'll have a lot of very leafy plants that have fruit that never ripens.
Deeds don't matter with no love. Love doesn't exist without deeds. May you be fruitful and multiply. Some food for thought.