Many people have taught and believed that once a person prays the Sinner’s Prayer that they are safe from Hell. The most famous one was used by Billy Graham to lead people to Christ. It is:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and 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 heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.
Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) has a slightly different version, which is:
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
And there are plenty more. While Billy Graham led people to Christ through this prayer, something is missing. The Cru version both simplifies and expands on the famous Billy Graham version. Do you see the biggest difference? Look to the end. The Billy Graham version goes, “…I want to…” The Cru version says, “…Take control…Make me…” Billy Graham firmly believed that relationship with Jesus was not, “say the prayer, and you are done.” Yet, many Christians, using Billy Graham’s prayer, believed exactly that. Many responded (related) to Jesus and lived (or live) a life of daily transformation. Others, sadly, said the prayer, did not change (nor submit to being changed), went on the way they already lived, but assumed they were saved.
The Cru version is better in that there is an identification that God will be doing the work, and the person will be doing the submission/inviting/surrendering. The Cru version gets closer to the heart of the matter. Salvation isn’t just a series of words, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 2 we read, “You are my son; today I have become your Father.” This a relational transformation. This is the next step of salvation. Both passages of Isaiah consist of relational transformation, you were this, you are now this. Relational transformation is not new to Christ. Through the prophets, God was saying it constantly. It is not the rules, it is the living.
This past Sunday, we heard about Jesus having difficulties of being a 12-year old boy, and doing things as a 12-year old boy would do. Part of the teaching was how after the event of being lost (okay, left behind) and found (at the Temple), Jesus was obedient, and increased in wisdom and stature. This too is relational transformation. There is a tidbit that wasn’t discussed, as it would have distracted from the message: the question of Jesus’ response.
There are 2 common translations of Jesus’ words, “…being about my Father’s business…,” and “…be in my Father’s house…” There is a continuity in Jesus’ words, and that is the relationship to God the Father. While we might take it for granted (especially, since it’s Jesus), in the context of the day, Jesus was connecting his identity (and his inheritance) to God the Father, not Joseph his father. Culturally, this is similar to saying, “you’re dead to me,” to Joseph. While this, of course, wasn’t Jesus’ intent, we can take a lesson from it.
When we pray the sinner’s prayer, make the commitment to allow ourselves to be transformed, and choose to be in relationship with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we are telling the death, the powers of darkness, the world, and our sin, “you are dead to me.” We then take on the mantle of a child of God.
- If Jesus is the Savior, the Lord, why is the temptation so strong to just “get it done” with a prayer? How should the knowledge of that temptation inform your life with Jesus?
- Regarding your spiritual life (church, life groups, devotional reading, bible reading, prayer), are you tempted to just, “get it done,” so that you can check it off the list?
- Why does “get it done” work against a relationship?
- [FD] Why do you want a relationship with Jesus? What is a relationship?