This post is an expansion of my most recent podcast on the second chapter of David Platt’s book, Radical that can be found here: Radical Grace.
At my church, North Richland Hills Baptist Church, we are studying Radical in our Sunday Morning Bible Study (Sunday School) classes.
I’ve said this before – that we are studying Radical as a church family, because the commitment Jesus calls us to as his disciples is a radical one. Far too many Christians have forgotten that the calling of Jesus to be his disciple is a calling of radical abandonment to Christ.
Like any preacher worth his salt, Platt reintroduces the words of Christ – such as in Luke 14:26 – in a way that the words of Christ become uncomfortable again. In other words, we have become so familiar with many of Jesus’ radical statements that we overlook just how radical they are.
In chapter 2, Platt makes harsh statements about our contemporary practices in evangelism – particularly the sinner’s prayer. Here is an example from page 37 of chapter 2:
“Our attempt to reduce (the) gospel to a shrink-wrapped presentation that persuades someone to say or pray the right things back to us no longer seems appropriate. That is why none of these man-made catch phrases are in the Bible. You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to ‘bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me’…And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus. We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.”
First off, I said the sinners prayer when I was a kid – and I don’t question that I am a Christian. Also, I have lead others in the sinners prayer and I believe that many of those people are genuine Christians.
However, I do think that Platt provides a corrective to abuses found in evangelistic practices.
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul 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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Far too often the gospel message is twisted – albeit with good intentions. We hate thought of someone going to hell so we make it as easy as possible for someone to get into heaven. As a result, we gloss over the command to confess “Jesus is Lord.”
To confess Jesus as Lord means to totally abandon your life to Jesus Christ. In other words, I believe in lordship salvation – that one must receive Jesus as Lord in order to also accept him as savior.
On the other hand, I think that some do intentionally twist the gospel message in order to increase the number of people that “get saved” through their ministry. A cheap gospel is offered in order to artificially boost numbers of people who prayed to receive Christ.
Unfortunately, some preachers change the gospel into a mere invitation to accept Jesus as savior. Jesus is offered as a way to get into heaven, but he claim of ownership that Jesus has over the lives of every Christian is ignored. This is often referred to as “fire insurance” – accepting Jesus as savior only in order to avoid Hell.
Greg Ogden, in his book, Transforming Discipleship put it this way, “Reducing the Christian life to embracing the gift of forgiveness has made obedience to Jesus in daily life an irrelevance.” We cannot practice an evangelism that makes obedience to Jesus in daily life irrelevant – when Jesus is irrelevant, life is irrelevant.
Can we say the “sinners prayer” in order to “get saved?” Yes – but only if we also understand that in confessing Jesus as savior, we are also accepting his claim of lordship.