“You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride, You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side, You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair, You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
[Gotta Serve Somebody Bob Dylan]
“All the way my Saviour leads me; What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His faithful mercies, Who through life has been my guide? Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him do dwell; For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”
[All the Way My Saviour Leads Me Fanny J. Crosby]
A few friends and I were talking about friendship evangelism a few nights ago. I knew we were all committed to friendship for friendship’s sake. We made friends because we enjoyed their friendship, period. We want to bless our friends and that includes introducing them to Jesus. But we would always care for them whether they accepted Christ or not.
And then someone said, “at some point you still need to try to close the deal.” We laughed but we knew what was meant. At the risk of offending our friends, we need, at some point, to call them to a decision. Will they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ or not?
We call people to a decision because Jesus calls them to decide. He calls us to follow Him (Mark 1:16-17). We have to decide ‘yes’ (Mark 1:18) or ‘no’ (Luke 18:18-25). When we call our friends to decide about Christ we are merely messengers on Christ’s behalf.
Many of us can remember the moment we “closed the deal” with God. It was probably through the recitation of some “sinner’s prayer.” At that time we “invited Jesus into our hearts.”
Trouble is, I can’t find any teaching on the sinner’s prayer in the New Testament. You demonstrated that you were going to repent and place your faith in Jesus by undergoing water baptism.
Check out verses like Acts 2:38:
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” TNIV
Which is not to say that converts in the time of the early church didn’t pray when they converted. It’s just that one’s decision to follow Christ was very much a public event. You were either in or out.
Following Christ was not something to be done in half measures. If you wanted to be in Christ, you took the plunge.
Water baptism was therefore some form of enacted prayer. There would be no ambiguity in the mind of the baptized, the baptizer, or the on looking public as to your new status as a follower of Jesus. You had testified to your new faith and allegiance. You had been baptized.
Am I talking about baptism as a means of salvation? No, one is saved by faith and faith alone (Ephesians 2:8). But a biblical mindset would be hard pressed to divide faith from its expression. Faith was not just mental assent to some facts. You were choosing to follow a Lord.
I am not advocating doing away with the “sinner’s prayer.” Surely there is a place to verbalize to your new Lord that you have decided to follow Him. It’s just that the sinner’s prayer in most of the forms that are around today are just too wimpy.
They are all variations of inviting Jesus into your heart. I get the picture of Jesus as some pathetic salesman knocking on your door, and you as the boss, deciding whether to let the poor chap in.
I suspect this “inviting Jesus in” thing is based on an erroneous reading of Revelation 3:20. There the reference is to Jesus asking for a chance to help a church deluded by their spiritual blindness. Therefore it is a church, the church of Laodicea that is in mind, not an individual. And there Jesus is talking to Christians, not to an unbeliever.
And even if you wanted to borrow the verse for evangelistic purposes, bear in mind that Revelation 3:30 comes after Revelation 1:4-8, where Jesus’ glory and power are clearly established. No danger of confusing Jesus with a pathetic salesman here.
If we continue to perpetuate a wimpy prayer for salvation, then let’s not be surprised that often it produces Christians who are not clear as to who is Boss. This confusion is evidenced by countries who have large numbers claiming to be Christian but whose moral and spiritual climate is far from the heart of God. Or in places where, when push comes to shove, murderous tribal loyalties take precedence over brotherly love.
I am not disputing that various forms of the sinner’s prayers have been used as indications of a genuine heart change. In the end the Lord looks at the heart and not just at the words. I am suggesting that we use words that might better represent what should be happening in the heart.
Instead of “inviting Jesus into your heart” I suggest we go back to Jesus’ own words. And Jesus gives a stirring captain’s call: “Come follow me.” See for example Mark 8:34-35:
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.'”
No confusion here. We choose to follow Him as the Lord of our lives, the Captain of our souls.
I therefore propose a prayer to help express the desires of those who have decided to follow Jesus. Not sure what to call it. Perhaps a prayer of allegiance.
I have decided to make the prayer open source. Anyone can improve on it. (Yes I also use the Mozilla Firefox browser.)
Here it is: ===================================================================
I have decided to follow you.
I admit that I have sinned. I admit that by ignorance or by deliberate choice, I have done things I shouldn’t have done and I have left undone things I should have done. I have failed others, I have failed myself, and I have failed You in various ways. And I have tried to live my life apart from you. Forgive me.
I now choose to leave behind my life without you and choose to follow you as my Lord and my Saviour for the rest of my life. I renounce all previous spiritual loyalties. I now worship you and you alone as God.
With Your help, I want to stop doing all the things you deem wrong, and start living my life in the way that you want.
By faith I receive your offer of life, a life with meaning and love. A life that extends beyond the grave. A life lived in the power of your Spirit. A life made possible by your death and resurrection.
As an expression of my decision to follow you I will undergo water baptism.
Yea I know. It’s a bit long. But if the Holy Spirit is really stirring up a soul what’s an extra line or three. Might as well get it right going in.
So let me know what you think. Use it to close a few deals if you think it is useful. Happy fishing, Christ follower.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan