Fourteen months ago, my friend and I first got acquainted. We have spent much time together during those 14 months getting to know one another.
When I first mentioned that I was a follower of Christ, the defensive wall went up. He didn’t want to talk about spiritual things.
But as I continue to mention Christ my ordinary conversations, he has softened his hostility and moved to curiosity.
In the 14 months, I’ve watch his spiritual thirst shift from nothing to thirsty. We regularly talk about all sorts of topic, and my faith in Christ is one of them. He shared with me his religious upbringing, which taught him well about the basics of the gospel. He knows the message of the Bible, but he would not call himself a Christian.
A shift in his journey
Several weeks ago, my friend expressed his curious desire to know a little more about my relationship with Christ. Each week, I’ve made sure that we have at least one serious conversation, though we’ve had more than one most weeks.
We’ve talked about the gospel, the claims of Christ, and discussed how Jesus was more than a good teacher.
The more we talk, the more answers he gets.
The more we talk, the more thirsty he becomes.
He’s even come to church with me a few times.
My friend is on a journey to faith
My friend with a religious background has a level of spiritual thirst that has moved beyond intellectual curiosity.
Thus, we are having regular conversation about Jesus, about the nature of God, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. My friend is on a journey towards Jesus and I get the joy of helping my friend discover grace.
I hope you encounter such people on a regular basis and pray for such conversations regularly.
I’m living out the phases of the spiritual conversation journey that my friend Don Everts describes in his book (I once was lost):
- Distrust to trust – trusting a Christian
- Complacent to Curious – the shift of spiritual thirst.
- Closed to change to open to change – hardest threshold to cross (personal life)
- From Meandering to seeking.
- The actual conversion to the Kingdom of God (surrender).
Gary Rohrmayer’s book (Spiritual Conversations) maps out a spiritual journey to Christ in descriptive phrases
- Actively Seeking
Kevin Harney uses this same metaphor as the basis of his book: Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally.
The spiritual journey is illustrated by the funny stories in Strobel and Mittleburg’s book The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus, where they share lots of stories in a daily reading format that demonstrate this principle.
My friend is almost at a point of surrender
His most recent question to me is:
How do I grow closer to Christ this year? I want to do something to grow spiritually.
In my workshops on personal evangelism, one core teaching is the understanding the person’s journey to faith. My friend is on his.
Becoming a Christian is not an “on/off” proposition.
Most people don’t wake up one morning and decide to become a Christian without prior reflection, consideration, or thinking. Conversion is the culmination of a journey.
In the beginning, my formerly religious friend was not ready for a gospel presentation. I could not help him a Christian after a 3 minute memorized presentation. Evangelism doesn’t work that way.
When my friend asked how he could start growing this year, I offered him a beginning point: a prayer of surrender.
The sinner’s prayer of surrender
Since my friend has a religious background, he knows the basic gospel story.
He would even say that he believes it–but that is simply an intellectual agreement.
We’ve talked a lot about the difference between belief and follow and my friend now realizes that he is not yet a follower of Christ.
My friend has asked: “How do I grow closer to Christ?”
I suggested a prayer of surrender as a starting point – a sinner’s prayer, if you will.
I know that a sinner’s prayer doesn’t save a person, but I do believe that it is an appropriate response to God’s drawing you to Christ.
Since my friend has a background where he has been taught the theology of the cross, but never applied it, I have a different prayer of surrender I like to suggest. I’ve written it out using some of the words we have talked about.
Lord Jesus, since I was a kid, I have known the truth that you died for my sins. I’m thankful that my parents taught me this truth and that the church had an early influence in my life.
However, during my life, I have chosen to wander in my own way and try to make it on my own. I have not been a faithful follower of you, even though I say I believe in you and acknowledge the work You did on the cross.
I recognize that I have not allowed you to be the Lord of my life, nor have I chosen to follow you.
Today, I repent. I offer myself to you as a new follower, a new disciple. Please enter into my life and begin to teach me your ways according to your word.
Today I choose to intentionally follow you. Fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit so that I can start to experience the blessings of knowing your grace. Even though I don’t feel worthy of what Christ did, I accept that he died for my sins and calls me to live for Him.
A prayer like this is a response to how I see the Holy Spirit drawing my friend into a relationship with Christ. My friend is wanting to respond, but has asked me for help. A prayer like this becomes a way my friend can respond.
I really enjoyed reading this article Chris, especially how you took us through the journey of your friend. I’ve read somewhere that on average it takes seven witnessing attempts for the non-Christian to become a Christian. I think that definitely helps to keep a fresh perspective on things.
Thanks for writing this great article!
Thanks Peter. It has been a fun journey to watch and pray into.
“SINNER’S PRAYER” BY STEVE FINNELL
There are those who advance the position that, by saying, the Sinner’s Prayer your sins will be forgiven and you will be added to the Lord’s church. The question remains, can saying a prayer save anyone? Let us investigate that supposition.
The typical sinner’s prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you have died for my sins and arose from the grave. I now turn from my sins and invite You into my heart and life. I receive You as my Lord. Amen.”
The birth of the church of Christ was A.D. 33 the Day of Pentecost. How were they saved?
Acts 2:22-41…..36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The events on the Day of Pentecost that lead to salvation.
1. Peter preached the death, burial , and resurrection of Jesus.(Acts 2:22-35)
2. Peter proclaimed Jesus as both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
3. Men believed the message and were convicted of their sins and ask what they should do. (Acts 2:37)
4. Peter told them to repent and be baptized (immersed in water) so their sins could be forgiven and they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
5. How were they saved? Act 2:40-41…”Be saved from this perverse generation” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Notice they were not saved until they were baptized).
PETER DID NOT TELL THEM TO SAY THE “SINNER’S PRAYER” IN ORDER TO BE SAVED.
What did they have to do to be saved?
They needed to have faith: John 3:16, Mark 16:16
They needed to repent: Acts 2:38, Acts 3;19 (repentance means to make a commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God).
They needed to confess: Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:36-37.
They needed to be baptized: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:20-21.
The apostles never taught the sinner’s prayer as the terms for pardon.
No one is questioning the sincerity of those who recite the SINNER’S PRAYER, the question is, can the SINNER’S PRAYER SAVE ANYONE?
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Well articulated Steve. I’m 63, and I grew up in a strict evangelical baptist home. At age 40, I left evangelicalism for many reason you’ve sited. The vile filthy Jack Chick tracts, seething hatred of Catholics, “if you died tonight what would you say to God”?, or the Romans Road with a combative twist. I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and never looked back. The young evangelicals are abandoning their faith and becoming deists and atheists, converting to older faith traditions, or reinventing themselves and extricating themselves from much of what the older evangelicals taught.
God bless You.