the more I get into it, the less I'm sure it matters how we say it.
Gospel: Good News. The power of salvation for those who believe.
I found this: “Ten reasons NOT to ask Jesus into your heart”.
I would submit that it's not the "asking Jesus into your heart" that's the problem. It's the leading an unbelieving person in "the formula" for the sake of following the formula.
The writer says that people who pray this prayer backslide.
I would reply...people who don't pray that prayer may backslide also. You would have a hard time convincing me that it was the prayer that did it, not the idea that perhaps (whatever they said at the time of their "conversion") it was the person that was at fault.
The formula, "I'm sorry for my sins, please forgive me and be my Savior" is just as much a "formula". And it can fail just as badly.
Reason number 10: People who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment.
The writer says that is "scary" to him. To me, scary is judging the salvation of another person based on the specific words they used on the day they turned to Jesus and not what is in their hearts.
There are a few things that I remember from my childhood...one of them is telling my mom that I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. She asked, "Why?". I was able to articulate that I was sorry for my sins and I wanted Jesus to save me.
And she led me in that "sinner's prayer".
Does that mean that I am not saved and I will perish on the Day of Judgment? Of course not and that's why I think it's important to look at the behavior, beliefs and reasoning of the person...not the formula that they're using.
Is it important to teach belief and repentance? YES! it is vital.
But to bluntly state that those who pray the sinner's prayer are lost...that smacks so much of 'everybody who doesn't do it just like I do are heathens' that it makes me very uncomfortable.
John Piper: It's not OK to simply make a decision for Christ
Yes...Piper is correct. But it not the prayer that makes Piper correct.
Because starting your Christian walk with a prayer of confession and dedication is not going to rule out salvation - it's the heart with which it's done.
That's why I said that "It’s the leading an unbelieving person in “the formula” for the sake of following the formula"
Piper is saying if you don't love Jesus, you are not saved.
The writer of the blog I quoted said that if you pray the "sinner's prayer" you're not saved.
If you have a person who comes to you and says that they know they sinned and that they want to turn to Christ,
Is there a better way of starting your walk with Christ than a prayer of confession? Or is it "pray without ceasing, but don't start that way?"
The "sinner's prayer" does not rule out loving Jesus, it does not rule out discipleship.
If a church does not disciple a new Christian, that's the fault of the church; it is not the fault of the words the new Christian used.
I agree that there may be a better way of explaining the process of salvation. But I don't think that it's "wrong" for new believers to confess their sin to God at their conversion.
And I do think it's wrong to make a blanket statement (as the writer of the blog did) that people who have prayed this prayer are going to hell.
Because I think it's a matter of the person's heart that gives them their standing before God, not the words that they use.
I want to make very sure that I'm using the right words.
If a believer prays this prayer, it does not exclude them from salvation. There are many different "conversion experiences" and to take one off the table is not correct.
(I'm not focusing on Paul Washer - I'm just writing to the content of the blog that I linked to.)
Does a person who does not have a true belief have a "false sense of security" if they prayed that prayer? Only if the church gives them one...and that's on the church, not the prayer.
For a person to decide "who's in and who's out" on the basis of whether or not they prayed the prayer is bad...either way.
A person is not excluded from salvation because they didn't pray the prayer or because they did pray the prayer. They're excluded because God looks at the heart and God excludes them because of what they do or do not believe, not on the basis of their conversion experience.
If the pastor that wrote that blog post chooses to train the church to lead people a different way, that might be a good thing, depending on the method used.
But don't exclude from salvation (the way the blog writer did) those prayed the prayer.
The "if you don't do it my way you're not saved" is a problem for me.
If you don't do it "GOD's" way you're not saved and while we don't see an example of the "sinner's prayers", we do see examples of people crying out to God in the conviction of their sin, asking for forgiveness.
In a way, excluding those who pray the prayer from salvation (fellowship?) reminds me of the "regulative principle"...if it's not in the Bible you cannot do it.