Many professing Christians are troubled today by a life of sin. As a result, they doubt whether they are even saved. This is particularly troubling when you see family members or friends that you have “lead to the Lord” who show no evidence that they are saved. What is the matter with them?
Let’s examine a case where an individual “asked Jesus into his heart,” but he never grew to love Jesus, never desired to read the Bible, never quit any of his sins, etc. In this case, the person PROBABLY never got saved in the first place. It is so easy to put your faith in a “prayer” and not in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This problem generally arises when a preacher or a soul winner is so anxious to get a sinner to bow his head and pray that they skip over some very important preaching. After all, since most people do not want to go to hell, they will likely jump at the opportunity to get out of hell by praying a simple prayer with you. Catholics are very prone to do this because they are used to repeating any prayer their priest tells them to pray.
To get past this problem, you need to be more thorough in your presentation of the gospel. You have to deal with the fact that the person you are trying to win is a sinner (Rom. 3:23; 3:10; 6:23). You don’t need to explore their individual sins. The Holy Spirit will do that (John 16: 8). You just have to help them “see” that the whole reason they need to get saved is that they have a problem with “sin,” and the consequences of sin.
Remember from 1 Corinthians 15: 3 -4, the first part of the gospel is, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Did you get that? He died for our sins! When Jesus was crucified, God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21).
When the angel of the Lord told Joseph what to name Mary’s son, he said, “and Thou shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 21). When John the Baptist manifested Jesus to Israel, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which take it away the sin of the world,” (John 1: 29). When Paul told Timothy why Christ came, he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” (1 Tim. 1: 15). When John explained what breaks our fellowship with God, he said that the problem is sin (1 John 1: 6 -2:2).
Do you see what’s going on here? Salvation is not just a prayer to get out of hell. You can get many people to go along with you on a deal like that. Salvation is receiving a man called Jesus who died to save you from your sins (John 1: 12, 1 Tim. 2:5). Sure, he saves you from the consequences of your sins, which is hell (John 3:18); but he also saves you from a life of helpless bondage to sin (Rom. 8: 10-15; 6:11-14).
When you deal with people along the lines of Christ’s payment for our sins, you are helping them to see that Jesus abhors what they are (Rom. 3:10-19; Isaiah 64: 6) and the sins they are doing (Proverbs 6:16-19; Isaiah 59:2).
Listen, Jesus bore every one of your “sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Pet. 2:24). He paid a cruel penalty to appease God’s wrath against you. Don’t think he wants you to go on living in all of those sins, enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, right on up until you die.
Now, if your convert got the idea that his life of sin was all right with God as long as he just prayed “the magic prayer,” then you got a convert but God didn’t. He is still lost!
However, if your convert understood the part of the gospel that deals with his sins and he has just turned back to the world by yielding his “members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin,” then he is “backslidden,” (Rom. 6:14). He has been choked by “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in,” and he has become unfruitful (Mark 4:19). Sin has got him in a grip!
In conclusion, we do not want to “retread” real Christians who are just losing the battle with sin. If you get a chance to deal with them, help them see their problem with sin (Rom. 6:13). Neither do we want to pretend that someone who never did anything with Christ is saved just because they “prayed the prayer.”
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder