THE SINNER’S PRAYER

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38 (ESV)]

anenome - Canada or meadowIn a book about evangelism I read, the author wrote of bringing a new believer into his office and the two of them saying the Sinner’s Prayer. After the new believer repeated the Pastor’s words, he was pronounced saved. While there is no official version, the prayer probably went something like this: “God, I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I do now receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you, Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen.” Since many evangelical Christians speak of saying some sort of prayer like this at the moment of conversion, I wondered if a specific “Sinner’s Prayer” is a requirement for salvation.

If a special prayer is required, we should find it in the Bible yet, while we find lots of prayers, there doesn’t appear to be a prayer prerequisite for salvation. Jesus told the sinful woman who kissed and anointed his feet that her faith had saved her, the woman with the bleeding disorder that her faith made her well, and the blind men that their faith gave them sight. When the 3,000 were converted at Pentecost, Peter told the people to repent of their sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. After hearing the gospel from Philip, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized. After speaking with Ananias, Saul regained his sight and was baptized. While Peter preached the gospel to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his Gentile friends, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they all were baptized. In none of these cases is there mention of a special prayer before conversion, asking for salvation or taking Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior. The people believed, repented, and were baptized. If a special prayer is required for Christ’s salvation, I’m pretty sure it would have been included in Scripture and it isn’t.

Nevertheless, it is Biblical to repentantly pray and ask for forgiveness; what’s not Biblical is to say salvation comes because of a prayer. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith. We are justified by faith, not by works and certainly not by words. Even so, there’s nothing inherently wrong with praying some sort of sinner’s prayer at conversion—unless, of course, the person praying isn’t called by the Holy Spirit and genuinely repentant. When empty of faith, that prayer is meaningless and gives the person praying it a false (and dangerous) sense of security. Merely saying a version of the Sinner’s Prayer isn’t like purchasing an insurance policy guaranteeing salvation and eternal life. Even repeating dozens of prayers can’t save us. We’re not saved by the words of a prayer but by the genuine repentance and faith behind the prayer. As Christians, we don’t put our trust in words but in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

In actuality, since we’re all sinners, every prayer we say is a sinner’s prayer. Nevertheless, our faith, hope and assurance should not be in the prayers we say but rather in the God who hears our prayers.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. [Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)]

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. [1 Peter 1:8-10 (ESV)]

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WITHOUT THE CROSS, THERE IS NO CHRISTMAS

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. [Luke 19:10 (NLT)]

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:28 (NLT)]

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. [John 12:46 (NLT)]

St. NicholasEveryone loves Christmas—in fact, in our extended family it is our Hindu relatives who seem to make the most of this holiday with copious gifts, family get-togethers, peppermint bark, visits to and from Santa, cards, lights festooned around the yard, a beautifully decorated tree, wreaths, candles, and holiday attire. While driving through a nearby neighborhood famed for its decorations, I couldn’t help but wonder what sleighs, Rudolph, reindeer, trains, inflatable snowmen, igloos, teddy bears, toy soldiers, Disney characters, candy cane arches, icicle lights, meteor shower light shows and blow mold Snoopys and Grinches have to do with Jesus. Yes, there were a few blow mold nativities but even they were surrounded by gingerbread men and polar bears.

In our secular world, Christianity has little or nothing to do with many of today’s holiday traditions yet Christmas means nothing without the cross. Unfortunately, we’ve become so accustomed to the holiday stories, traditions, and decor that surround this day that many people have forgotten its true meaning. Sadly, like my Hindu extended family, some people neither know nor care about it

Christmas isn’t about presents, tinsel, ornaments, or even family and it certainly isn’t about the birthday of a great moral teacher. Jesus was not a righteous man who came to make the world a better place. He was God incarnate and He came to seek and save the lost. He came not to be served but to serve. He came to give His life as a ransom for all mankind. He came to bring light into the dark world and save it. Jesus said nothing about jingle bells, stockings hung by the chimney with care, or elves on shelves. As the Apostle Paul said: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” [1 Timothy 1:15] That would not have happened without the cross.

We are in the season of Advent: a season of both remembrance and anticipation. During these weeks, we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s first coming over 2000 years ago but we also prepare ourselves for His second coming, when He’ll return, not as a baby, but as a King. The first time, Jesus Christ came to save us; the second time, He will come to judge us. One of my little grands lost the Jesus from her nativity set. With all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas, let’s not make the same mistake with our lives. Just as there is no Christmas without that baby in the manger, there is no reason for the season without the cross.

Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!” [Charles Wesley]

I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. [John 12:47-48 (NLT)]

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LET ME BE YOUR SERVANT

And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. [John 13:14 (NLT)]

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. [Mark 10:43-44 (NLT)]

crab appleAs she sang, “Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too,” I reached over to take my husband’s hand. I contemplated the road we’ve traveled together for over half a century as the soloist continued: “We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road; We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” As I listened to the rest of Richard Guillard’s beautiful song, I thought it was the perfect choice for a wedding.

I will hold the Christ light for you, In the night time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow, Till we’ve seen this journey through.
[“The Servant Song” by Richard Guillard]

During last week’s worship, however, I realized Guillard’s song applies to Christian fellowship as much as it does to marriage. His words describe the church or, at least, what the church is supposed to be. We comfort and support, encourage and enlighten, pray for and serve one another. We share good times and bad, walk together, go the extra mile, and help carry one another’s burdens.

“Will you let me be your servant?” That’s what Jesus was asking when he stripped off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash the disciples’ feet. That servant, on his hands and knees and holding a wash rag, was God! When Jesus came to Peter, the man protested and only relented when told, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Whether Jesus meant that Peter’s sins had to be washed away by the cross or that Peter needed to humbly submit to Jesus, I’m not sure. Either way, Jesus taught a valuable lesson both about servanthood and accepting God’s grace.

It’s important to serve but equally important to graciously accept the gift of service that comes with Christian love. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet but He also allowed a woman to wash his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. Servanthood in Christ’s church involves both the giving and accepting of grace but, for many of us, giving comes far easier than accepting.

How can we wash one another’s feet if we won’t take off our shoes because someone might know we have athlete’s foot or see the ugly bunion, corn, bruised toe, or blister? Let’s not be afraid to share our vulnerability, expose our failings, acknowledge our doubts, admit our fear, or disclose our needs. Let us love and serve one another as did Christ and let us accept that love and kindness as did His disciples.

Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
[“The Servant Song” by Richard Guillard]

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. … When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. … Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. [Romans 12:9-10,13,15 (NLT)]

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THE BREAD OF LIFE – THANKSGIVING DAY 2018 

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. [John 6:10-13 (NLT)]

fresh breadIn all probability, you’re not having more than 5,000 guests for dinner today and, rather than sitting on the ground, they’ll probably all be seated at a table. Nevertheless, other than that, these words sound a bit like dinner today at any number of homes throughout our nation—there will be lots of people, more than enough to eat, and plenty of leftovers.

While some people will take a stroll around the block in an effort to make room for the next round of food, many will settle into comfortable chairs and probably snooze while watching football. Although “I can’t eat another bite!” will be repeated at tables far and wide, sooner or later, people again will wander into the kitchen for another morsel of turkey or piece of pie. We’ll get hungry again and overeat once more, if not today then tomorrow or the next day. No matter how much we eat this afternoon, today’s meal won’t satisfy tomorrow’s hunger.

Jesus, however, offers us a meal that is more than satisfying; one that will erase the hunger in our souls forever. We won’t ever feel stuffed or need to unbutton our pants to enjoy it. Totally calorie-free, we have no reason to worry about fats, gluten or carbohydrates. As you pass the basket of rolls today, be sure to remember that Jesus is the true Bread of Life!

Farmers everywhere provide bread for all humanity, but it is Christ alone who is the bread of life…Even if all the physical hunger of the world were satisfied, even if everyone who is hungry were fed by his or her own labor or by the generosity of others, the deepest hunger of man would still exist…Therefore, I say, Come, all of you, to Christ. He is the bread of life. Come to Christ and you will never be hungry again. [Pope John Paul II]

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. … I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. [John 6:35, 47-50 (NLT)]

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THANK YOU NOTES

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. [Psalm 107:1 (NLT)]

wild turkeyWhen I was a girl (back in the days of pen, paper and postage stamps), my mother insisted that I write a thank you note for any gifts I received. Whether birthday or Christmas, I was not allowed to enjoy my gifts until the necessary notes had been written. Moreover, each note had to be personal. I couldn’t just write a generic, “Thank you for the nice present.” I had to say something specific about the gift and, if it was money, I had to say how I planned on using it. Even if the present was something I really didn’t like or want (and we’ve all had those kinds of gifts), I had to express gratitude. My mother reminded me that, while I might not value the gift, someone else’s time, thought, love and money had gone into getting it for me. Therefore, I should take the time to properly acknowledge and show my appreciation for the giver’s generosity. The thank you note rule also applied whenever someone did something special for me. If a family took me to an event or I’d spent the night at a friend’s house, a note of thanks had to be written.

Eventually, once I was old enough to buy the gifts, do the good turns, and host the guests, I appreciated the time, energy, money, thought, and love that goes into those things. My mind set changed from “I have to write a note” to “I want to write a note.” Rather than an obligation, thanking someone became a privilege.

Whenever I get a note of thanks, I relish it, especially when it’s from a grand. Misspellings and poor penmanship don’t matter to me; I love knowing that they (and their parents) appreciate the gift and the love that came with it. Unfortunately, nowadays, people rarely write thank you notes or even thank you emails. We seem to take people, their gifts and kindness to us, quite for granted.

As rare as hand-written notes are today, how much rarer is it for us to remember to send our thanks regularly to our Father in Heaven? What if we couldn’t play with our toys, enjoy our health, use our talents, spend our money, live in our homes, hug our family, eat our food, use our intellect or accept God’s grace until we had properly thanked him? Thanksgiving is our national day of thanks but every day should be a day of thanksgiving. That means seriously thinking about our many blessings, specifying the gifts for which we are grateful, and then actually giving God our thanks and praise.

Tomorrow, when you take that walk in a vain attempt to work off those extra 2,000 or more calories, try listing your blessings and offering your thanks as you walk. You just might find you’re still thanking God for his gifts by the time you return home.

It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do. [Tim Keller] 

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone. [Gertrude Stein]

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. [Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT)]

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WHO’S IMPORTANT?

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. … Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. [Genesis 1:27,2:7 (NLT)]

SK8 Church Steamboat COOur family business makes products used in skateboards and many boarders are familiar with our name. After skiing one day, as my husband got on the bus, he was greeted by a boarder who spotted our company logo on his cap. “Yo, dude!” he called. Pointing to the cap, he asked, “You know those people?” When my husband replied he was “those people,” the fellow responded as if he’d met a celebrity and excitedly introduced my spouse to his pals. Soon they all were in an animated discussion of trucks, decks, wheels, and grip tape. The woman next to me, curious about the commotion in the back of the bus and not wanting to miss a celebrity sighting asked, “Is that someone famous? Is he important?” I replied, “He’s no one,” adding, “It’s just a skateboard thing.”

Later, I realized I’d given the wrong answer and not just because my husband is incredibly important to me. The better answer would have been, “He’s not famous but he is important.” Then, I should have added that she and I were just as important, as was everyone else on that bus, because we’re all important to God! I could have told her that real importance and value have nothing to do with fame, wealth, possessions or power. It has nothing to do with how we look, what we’ve done, where we work, what others think of us, or even what we think of ourselves.

Whether or not we were planned by our parents, we’re not accidents; God knew us all before we were born! Made in His image, we are God’s handiwork and precious in His sight. It was his breath that filled our lungs with life and His spirit that lives within us. Our names are etched on the palm of His hand, He’s promised to strengthen and help us, and He knows everything about us, including the number of hairs on our heads. If God carried an iPhone, our pictures would be on it and our numbers would be listed in His “favorites.” We are so loved by God that He sacrificed His only Son for us! As Christians, Jesus counts us among His friends and we’ve been adopted by God. As His children, we are recipients of a priceless inheritance. As followers of Christ, the God of the Universe has taken up residence in our hearts. Now that’s what I call important!

God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us. [Fulton J. Sheen]

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! [Psalm 139:13-18 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2018 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.