I can’t even count how many times (especially at teen events) I’ve heard “If you have not been saved, say this prayer with me…” These words fill me with excitement, because it may mean that I will be gaining a new brother or sister in Christ, but I also feel a twinge of worry for those who are saying it along with the leader. Do they really understand the words they are saying? Do they know where they are going from here?
I believe we’ve got a real problem. I know that there are people living their lives in whatever way makes them happy, remembering that they said “the prayer,” so they’re fine. Repentance is not preached enough, at least in the salvation messages that I have heard. We tell people that if they “say these words,” then they are saved. There’s no dedication in that. There’s no change of heart in that. Heck, there may not even be true
belief in that (“I’ll say the words just in case these crazy people end up being right”)! I’m not saying that a person needs to have a changed life to be saved. John 3:16 says, plain and simple, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The thief on the cross next to Jesus believed, was saved, died, and went to Heaven, without any chance for a changed life. But, the Bible also says that we need to repent from our sins. We should see a changed life as a result of a changed heart, if we are given the time after salvation.
If a person believes in Jesus and that He sacrificed for his sins, how can he not begin giving up his sinful habits for Jesus’s sake?? Has a person truly given his heart to God if he does not repent? Christ’s sacrifice and mercy are meant to bring us to repentance. Romans 2:4 says “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” So, repentance is not vital to salvation, but if one is truly saved, we should see a positive change in that person’s behavior.
But why would someone start to change after salvation if they know they are forgiven for their sins? When we become saved, we accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Spirt does a lot for us, including convicting us of sin. We will recognize our sins and feel guilt for them (no one likes guilt). We feel the desire to please our Savior! Look at John 16 and Romans 8 for some evidence of what the Spirit does in us.
I really think that when we are witnessing to people, especially in a non-personal setting (where people will likely not be asking questions), like a sermon, we need to make people aware that they are truly giving their life over to God. They are giving up their worldly lifestyle. They should know that saying specific words does not save them from Hell, but that believing in their hearts that Jesus Christ is the son of God, who came to save us, and that they are making a decision to follow Him for the rest of their lives will save them! They will change, and if they do not change, maybe they will need to take a second look at their testimony.
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