In which the Gospel we preach is too often incomplete

by Craig on June 3, 2011

Right now I am digging as hard, as I can as fast as I can, through the entire Bible because I have a burning desire to know the whole relationship between works and grace.

I normally have lots of pictures – but this is a “pour your heart out” kind of post. Juts a story – no pictures, just words today.

It springs back to a time when I received our Lord.

I was suddenly surrounded by Charismatic, Nondenominational Christians, and one Lutheran, who told me all I had to do was make a confession of faith, accept the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, and all my sins would be forgiven, and I would live forever.

It all sounded too easy to believe.

I asked them again and again, “This is all I have to do, just ask, and receive?”

Again and again I was told, “Yes – it is that simple.”

They gave me tracts, and I read them, and most of the verses were from Romans, focusing on sin being the wages of death but salvation being a freely offered gift of God.

I then shared this gospel with my family.

My brothers and sister heard my words, the words I was told,
accept the free gift of salvation,
because you can’t be perfect,
and heaven requires perfection,
so believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,
ask him to forgive your sins, and he will.

It was as simple as accepting a free gift,

that’s what all the tracts said,
that’s what all the people said,
that’s what I told my family.

My family all accepted the free gift.

25 years later none of them has a deep relationship with our Lord – none of them ever has. I’ve asked them about this and they’ve all referred me back to the conversations that I had with them 25 years ago. “You told me that all I had to do was believe that Jesus was God, accept the sacrifice on the cross, ask him to forgive my sins, and my spot in heaven would then be guaranteed.”

The thing is,
that’s kind of what I said,
because that is all,
as a new Christian,
that I was hearing.

I knew, instinctively there was more to it than that.

That’s why week after week I kept appearing at the altar call, and then following someone back to a room, and they all explained the gospel to me again, the same. exact. way. Pray the prayer – and it’s done.

It never felt done.

Only those of us who stick with it end up realizing that the “sinner’s prayer” is just the beginning point. How many people get stuck right there at the beginner’s point – never go any further – and never experience life with Christ? They end up falling away – all the time thinking they had done what was necessary because that’s what they were told.

I know at least three – the ones I wanted most to live a life with Christ…

This exploration of salvation,

finding all of the pertinent verses,

finding what the relationship of works is in the realm of grace,

it’s more than an intellectual pursuit.

It has a heart behind it,

a heart that is burdened that at least these three, my siblings,

they got stuck on that original message,

never went further because they trusted my words.

A little more on this to come before I really plunge in deeply…

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora June 3, 2011 at 9:20 am

Wow! Craig, we walked the same path. With the same people. So often, I have been asked about my salvation experience(s), and I have had to say, I was “saved” at LEAST 1,000 times. It never felt like it. And the words afterwards, on the way home in the 1950 Plymouth, were like a reprimand, with boney fingers pointing at me, saying, “Can’t you just get it right and be done with it?” No, I couldn’t get it right. On Monday, I usually did SOMETHING that told me I got it wrong. By the time I was in my early 20’s, my sin list was soooooo heavy, and no one seemed to have the answer. “Fruit checkers” pointed out my lack of spiritual fruit. “Ground checkers” pointed out that the seed had fallen on rocks. “Mouth checkers” said that out of the mouth flows the matters of the heart, and my words weren’t right. “Foot checkers” said I wasn’t on the right path. And so, I left it all for a while. But HE never condemned me. He just kept after me and kept after me. My heart knew, as did yours. And like you, I now deal with family the same way and with all the same reasons. Thank you for this!!!! Thank you for listening to HIM!

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Cora, I never got the bony finger thing – my “born again experience” occurred around a bunch of very love filled born-again Christians. But none of them gave me the answer that I needed. That this prayer is the first step – you may not feel any different – and now you begin developing a relationship with God – read the Word – pray – exercise your faith. There is just so much emphasis on that “prayer”. I heart all your terminology – this is two days in a row that your terminology made me smile. Thank you, Cora, and God bless.

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Dawn June 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Dear Craig,

“[They] never went further because they trusted my words.” You can’t own this. This is one of those negative voices telling you/ACCUSING you of misleading your siblings. You know where that comes from. Don’t let the Evil One in!

We have all given our testimonies as babes in Christ. Our imperfection can not squelch His Divine Majesty or the power of the Holy Spirit working on another’s heart during our most feeble attempts at a testimony. We also can not know another’s motives for saying the sinner’s prayer or the state of their heart at the time of the offering up of the testimony. There are just so many (too many) variables, Craig. Don’t think yourself indispensible to the process, smile.

May you know peace,
Dawn

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Dawn – thank you – I gave the message I received – I think maybe the thing is we need to be a little more careful with the message we give. Kind of like every writer needs an elevator pitch – you know the one you give to someone if you’re trapped on an elevator for three floors – and you have a 30 second pitch and a 1 min. pitch and that three-minute pitch and a five-minute pitch depending on the situation – and then even on the one line pitch – maybe we need to think in terms of the gospel and that way – then also there is the life pitch – all about relationships. And I know that you are right – it is the Holy Spirit that draws people to our Lord and they need to make a few moves on their own as well. Complicated subject. But thank you for trying to make me feel better – and Amen for the reminder that I am not indispensable to the process :-) God bless you.

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thefisherlady June 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

Craig, I so agree with Dawn here… you were faithful to share your heart and the life changing experience… a seed was planted, not every seed germinates together and some may lay dormant for many years until all the circumstances are just right. Just believe God for a miracle in their lives too.
We are God’s workmanship, faith comes by hearing the word of God and unless the Spirit ‘draws’ a man (literally, ‘drags’) he cannot come to the Father. The Tapestry of each life is for the Father’s unveiling …wait patiently for it, with thanksgiving.
Your heart is tender and Our Lord loves a tender heart; Rest in Him and believe Him for the life changing experiences he has planned for the people he brings into your life. I love that we are simply a vessel to hold ‘His’ life… the life of Christ… May He shine brilliantly that others may ask the Hope that is in us.
Blessings Craig; I love to visit here with you all

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Craig June 9, 2011 at 11:45 am

hi, first things first :-) Dawn left comment the other day and told me about a post that you had written – and called you by the name Susan – I found this strange because for some reason I’ve always called you “Tina”. Have I been calling by the wrong name? It would be good for me to straighten this one out :-) she said I should read you – but I already do :-)

And thank you – although I still think we have to be very careful about spreading a “cheap and easy” gospel – one that doesn’t require a person to stop for a minute and count the cost – we need to be careful with that. Still, even just a “sinner’s prayer” is probably enough of a “seed” for someone to grow from. My family, and I love my family,they have all had at least a seed. And I think it was Dawn who reminded me that it’s God who does the saving, not the messenger. And I heart what you wrote about only being a vessel to hold “his” life – I heart that! Blessings to you – the one I used to call Tina, but now I think your name is Susan :-)

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thefisherlady June 10, 2011 at 1:39 am

You are so right, Craig; the Gospel is never cheap as Christ gave everything… our Father gave everything.
I find it such a wonderful thought, that, we pass on all that Christ means to us, just so, as we grow, we pass on more of what we have learned of our Awesome God. Though sometimes it seems that He is being offered cheaply, our lives can bear witness that He is worthy of all that we can give and we learn day by day to offer our lives as a living sacrifice. In Revelation it speaks of how the church of Ephesus had left her first love and must repent and do her first works…I wonder if in being so sure of what was evil and who was evil they took their eyes off their beloved Saviour and stopped radiating that first love that is content to just sit at the feet of Jesus…no judging, just resting in Him and sharing this new found faith, just as you did. Remember that Jesus had many followers and when he told them the cost of following, many slipped away… Those though that stayed knew there was nowhere else to go …Faith is a gift from God; may we always encourage those of little faith to trust God, as it is trusting which is accounted as righteousness.
your Susan friend

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Craig June 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I think your example of what happened when so many walked away after the teachings of our Lord got a little tougher. Maybe that’s why the “sinner’s prayer” caught on. At least it got a foot in the door – and the people in the pews. But it’s not the whole message – just the one that sells better – we have to be careful of that. I really appreciate the way you walked through the subject hand-in-hand with Scripture. It was an awesome comment. I loved the exchange of thoughts. I know I learned :-) God bless you SUSAN :-)

Cindy Holman June 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm

It all comes down to “faith without works is dead” – life is a journey of trusting and allowing things to make us into better reflections of His work deep inside of us. If we just accept Him and do NOTHING else – what an empty life – what a wasted life when we could have been helping others – building people up – showing others how to live – how to overcome things like pain, hurt, frustration, set-back, betrayal and loss. I’ve had all of these as you probably have too. You can either lie down and give up – or you can learn from each set-back and find the lesson and what God is trying to teach through adversity. There is always a reason, though I may not see it at the time. I find God gives me a sensitivity to other people and a wisdom to share with others from what I’ve learned.

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Cindy, it really does come down to that – faith without works IS DEAD. I think ahead the thing will be – what is faith?. That answer needs to be a pinned down – and I don’t just mean the definition from the Bible – substance of things unseen, things hoped for– I mean, if we are saved by faith – what is faith? Gonna be on this topic for a little while I won’t let go until the questions are answered. Thank you so much for reading. thank you for the input – everything that gets said in the comment section gets kept in my heart – and in my head. One of my favorite things about blogging – learning from the comments :-) It is a joy to have you read me. And you are so right – to just say the words – but not have God inside – and God’s love flowing from us – that is not the way. God bless you Cindy. And thank you.

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Debra June 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

First, thank you for sharing these memories from your past. I can certainly identify with this one. Having been entrenched in what has come to be known as “charismania” I can relate. Except the group in which I was a part went beyond the simple salvation message to extol the works. Meaning that we were expected to do “greater works” than Jesus. Now I know that’s what Jesus said (John 14:12)…

But they took it to mean that there was no reason why we couldn’t just as easily heal the sick and raise the dead and put hospitals and funeral homes out of business. One woman even commanded an embalmed body lying dead to the world in a casket to “come forth.” Witnesses to the event claim that this actually happened (not that the body was resurrected from the dead but that she actually did this in the presence of all in the funeral parlor at the viewing).

I pray that your brothers and sister will hear Christ’s call to be his disciples, and that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth. For I know that to “only believe” is one thing. But to follow in His footsteps is quite another. May God continue to make you fruitful in all things as you abide in the True Vine, and may He use your wisdom to bring your family ever closer to His heart.

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Craig June 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm

gosh, such a simple message, the message of faith, and we imperfect people run all over the place with it. How is HE so patient with us? Thank you for your thoughts about my sibs – I wish I knew what was in their heart for sure – only our Lord knows that. If I could just have a peek though :-) thank you Debra, thank you for reading, thank you for adding your wisdom, just thank you, and God bless.

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A. June 5, 2011 at 1:42 am

Craig, I am really glad you are exploring this with us because this is an issue that crops up inevitably from time to time and it permeates my current situation.

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Craig June 5, 2011 at 6:53 am

A. To be honest I go back and forth worrying that a long study on this subject will send some people running for the hills. But I’ve started it. And mom always said finish what you start – so I better finish. God bless you A. – And thank you.

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Michelle June 7, 2011 at 4:47 am

The “sinner’s prayer” is just the beginning. And sometimes it is just so that ‘numbers’ can be counted. But the follow through of the relationship doesn’t happen, the explaining of who Christ is and who we are in Him, what He has called us to do as shown in the Scriptures.

But looking back (even though I myself have prayed it), it don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom; Paul taught that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Scriptures; and so on and so on and ….. (just throwing that out there 😉 )

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Craig June 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

you see, never having been “churched” I never knew things like the emphasis on “numbers”. That was the problem with me in a couple of different ways – I was the number who had to do the follow-up on myself – or rather with God. I think “the prayer” comes from the verse that says “confess with your mouth…”. It’s not a bad prayer – it’s a good prayer – it’s a good starting point – but like you say, it’s just the beginning. Thank you Michelle – I heart reading your comments. And God bless you.

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