One conversation with Kim resulted in another conversation with another Kim. Confused? Allow me to explain.
Kim at the Corner of Harrison and Locust
A little more than a week ago, I met a man named Kim on the corner of Harrison and Locust, in Davenport, IA. I gave him a gospel tract. He lingered for a moment or two indicating he might want to talk.
At one point, I asked Kim why God would allow him into heaven if he were to die today. He replied by asserting God should forgive and forget.
Here’s the video:
Enter Another Kim
For five days, I engaged in a conversation with another Kim. This conversation, however, did not take place on a street corner. Rather, it took place in the comment section of the above video. Kim made the following observation:
Kim: I was waiting for the speaker to ask Kim if he wanted to pray right then.
What follows is my conversation with Kim. The conversation gave me yet another opportunity to decry the erroneous, unbiblical practice commonly referred to as the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
My Conversation with Kim
Tony: Since the “Sinner’s Prayer” is not found anywhere in Scripture and is an unbiblical practice that has resulted in countless false conversions, I never ask anyone to say a prayer or repeat a prayer.
Kim: Well, some people might want to or be ready to. Maybe they don’t know even how to pray.
Tony: No prayer needs to be uttered for someone to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. No one is saved because they pray a prayer.
Kim: Then how are they saved?
Tony: A person is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
You will not find anywhere in Scripture anyone ever being saved by praying a prayer.
The thief on the cross was not saved by praying a prayer.
The Philippians jailer was not saved by praying a prayer.
The Ethiopian eunuch was not saved by praying a prayer.
The blind beggar (John 9) was not saved by praying a prayer.
The woman at the well (if she was saved) was not saved by praying a prayer.
The demoniac of the Gerasenes was not saved by praying a prayer.
None of the apostles were saved by praying a prayer.
I was not saved by praying a prayer.
You were not saved by praying a prayer.
NO ONE has ever been saved by praying a prayer. NO ONE.
A person is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
Salvation is of the Lord. God does all the work in salvation. The only thing you and I contributed to our salvation is the sin that made our salvation necessary.
Kim: So God saves you even if you don’t want to be.
Tony: I’m grateful for our conversation.
I’ve yet to meet a Christian–saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone–who told me, “Ya know; I wish God had just left me alone to die in my sin. I would rather spend eternity in hell than spend eternity in heaven with Christ.”
When God causes someone to be born again (John 3:3, 7; Acts 13:48; Ephesians 2:4-9; 1 Peter 1:3), He changes his or her nature. He takes the person’s heart of stone and gives him or her a heart of flesh. He breathes eternal life into the person and fills the person with His Spirit (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
No one comes kicking and screaming to Christ. No one comes against his or her will. That’s because God changes a person’s will when He regenerates him–when He causes her to be born again. He gives the person He saves a new heart with new desires (Psalm 37:4; Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:24; Ephesians 2:3; 4:22; Hebrews 11:16; 1 John 2:16-17; Revelation 22:17).
As a result of God changing a person’s heart, regenerating him, causing her to be born again, the person willingly repents and believes the gospel.
Kim: i have never heard salvation explained like this. Not sure why because i listen to MANY speakers/preachers and they say you ASK Jesus to come into your heart, forgive you and save you.
Tony: I understand.
But nowhere does the Bible say, “Ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.” The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9; see also John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25; 14:1; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 John 5:13).
Sadly, many people have been led to believe that if they “pray a prayer and ask Jesus into [their] heart,” they will be saved. Sadder still is that people have believed this and have put their hope in the prayer they prayed instead of putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.
Kim, if you were to ask me where my hope lies; if you were to ask me why I have the assurance of eternal life; if you were to ask my how I KNOW I am saved, I would tell you this…
I know I am saved because Jesus died on the cross for my sins. My hope is not in anything I have done (including praying a prayer). My hope is in the finished work of Christ on the cross. My hope is in knowing that He forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. My assurance of salvation is in knowing that when I one day stand before God, He will not see my sin. He will see me clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. My sin has been washed away by the shed blood of Jesus Christ–blood that He shed for a sinner like me. This is what I BELIEVE, by faith (Acts 15:9; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:25, 28; 5:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:8, 11, 24).
My faith is in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. My faith is not in Jesus plus anything–a prayer prayed, a tithe given, a church attended, a good work accomplished, cleaning up my act, turning over a new leaf, or anything else. My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Kim: So when God saves a person, they don’t need to say they’re sorry for their sin?
Tony: If a person is found guilty in a court of law, will the judge let the convicted criminal go because he says he’s sorry?
Saying sorry to God does not save a person. Of course, we should be sorry when we sin, because we have broken God’s law. But being remorseful doesn’t wash away our sin and it does not contribute to our salvation.
However, if/when God saves a person when He causes him or her to be born again when by faith he or she believes the gospel, one of the first fruits of that regeneration will be repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Again, when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ he will repent. He will not only have a new relationship with God, but he will also have a new relationship with sin. The sin he once loved he will now hate. And when he sins against God he will not merely have a worldly sorrow about it, but a genuine desire to turn from that sin (repentance).
Kim: I know that. I just think it is perfectly appropriate/natural to pray a prayer when you understand the gospel. Not to save you, but to express to God that you are sorry for your sin and want him to be Lord of your life. Like BE MERCIFUL TO ME!
Tony: It might be a natural response by a person who has been given a new nature; it might be a natural response by a saved person who is expressing brokenness over sin and thankfulness for salvation received as a free gift, but it is in no way natural–more important, it is in no way biblical–to lead someone in such a prayer.
Furthermore, it is unbiblical and harmful to tell someone that if he prays a prayer asking Jesus into his heart or that praying a prayer asking God to forgive his sin that, on the basis of uttering some prayer or repeating after me, Jesus will come into his heart and forgive his or her sin.
Again, the practice of the “Sinner’s Prayer” in American Evangelicalism and beyond has led to countless false conversions as people have been erroneously led to believe they are saved BECAUSE they prayed an unnecessary prayer found nowhere in Scripture.
“If you prayed that prayer and truly meant it, then you are saved” is not in the Bible and it is unloving to tell someone that and give him or her false hope and false assurance. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16), not a prayer.
Kim: I am sorry. This just doesn’t make any sense to me. My mind is boggled. Never mind. So you are not from America?
Tony: No, Kim. I’m from America. Born in Pennsylvania; lived in California for 42 years; the last five years in Iowa.
I will leave you with a few questions to consider. By asking the questions, I am not assuming or asserting the answers. I do not know your heart.
Could it be that this doesn’t make sense because you are trusting in a prayer you prayed for your salvation?
Could it be that this doesn’t make sense because you either don’t understand or don’t believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation?
Could it be that you want to take some credit, even a little bit, for your salvation?
The apostle Paul wrote the following to the Church in Corinth: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5)!
IF you are at all counting on a prayer you prayed as evidence or hope for salvation; IF you believe a person is born-again because they prayed a prayer and asked Jesus into his heart; IF you believe you did anything to either save yourself or contribute to your salvation (i.e. praying a prayer), then please consider whether or not you are truly in the faith.
If there is any doubt in your mind, then, by faith alone, believe on and trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and for salvation. Repent and believe the gospel while God has given you time.
Praying for you.
Kim: No, to all your questions. I feel misunderstood and I don’t really understand you. Sorry. I tried.
Tony: Sorry that you don’t understand me. I tried, too. I hope you have or will take the time to read all of the Scripture references I presented to you. Maybe that will give you a better understanding of what I am trying to communicate to you.
Kim: Thank you for your patience with me and for responding.
Tony: It’s been a blessing and a pleasure to chat with you, Kim.
I’m certainly not the best communicator. However, I did my best to answer Kim’s questions. There are a number of reasons why Kim remains confused (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Kim is a Christian who is new to the faith or immature or poorly/falsely taught (see Mark 7:7, 9, 13; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:2; James 3:1).
- Kim is a Christian who believes the “Sinner’s Prayer” is good and biblical and is wise in her own eyes (see Proverbs 3:7; 12:15; 26:12; Isaiah 5:21).
- Kim is a false convert and the truth about the “Sinner’s Prayer” and God’s sovereignty in salvation is foolishness to her (see 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14-16).
- I did a poor job communicating with her.
Which is it? What’s the answer? I don’t know. I have no idea who Kim is. I’m assuming Kim is a woman, but I don’t even know that. Is Kim a Christian? I don’t know. God knows.
If Kim is a Christian, she’s been wrongly led to believe the “Sinner’s Prayer” is appropriate, reasonable, biblical, and good.
If Kim is not a Christian, she’s been wrongly led to believe the “Sinner’s Prayer” is appropriate, reasonable, biblical, and good.
Pray for Kim.