Monday, April 4, 2016

Christianity is More Than Saying a Prayer

How many of us have known or heard of pastors, evangelists, and churches who try to get people to say a prayer just so they can count tally marks of the people they have "led to the Lord"? Pushing people to make a choice isn't necessarily a bad thing. In Joshua 24:15 Joshua told the people of Israel, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve ...” Jude 23 says, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” But unrepentant people who say a prayer are just going through the motions, whether it’s because their emotions have been stirred or to just get someone to leave them alone. Saying a prayer without repentance, a true life changing choice to obey Christ, does not make you a Christian.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His first sermon to the crowds was, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat. 4:17) The Greek word for repent is metanoeō (met-an-o-eh'-o). It means “to think differently or afterward, that is, reconsider.” In other words, it means to change your way of thinking to God’s way of thinking. We cannot pray a “sinner’s prayer” – or for that matter, be baptized – and keep living a life of sin. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we cease living for ourselves and become His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). Titus 2:14 calls Christians “a peculiar people.” It says, “(Jesus) gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” God chose us to show Jesus to the world and we can’t do that if we are no different than the world.

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” Again in John 14:21 He said, “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” James tells us, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, ‘Thou hast faith, and I have works’: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18) Though works do not save us, they show the change that Jesus makes in us. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” However, verse ten says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are not saved by good works or by our own merit, but after we are saved “by grace through faith” in Christ Jesus, God plans for us to do good works for Him. We are His representatives and therefore must act like it. First John 2:6 puts it this way, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”

A simple sinner’s prayer says, “Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and have broken Your laws. I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my life. I choose to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.” No matter how many times we may pray this prayer, if we don’t follow through by surrendering our will to God’s will, by being obedient to Christ’s commands, by allowing God to turn us 180 degrees, we are not Christians. This prayer must be followed by a surrendered and obedient life or it makes no difference at all.