Pray This after Me: Is the Sinner’s Prayer Biblical?

If you’ve ever been to an Evangelical church, you’ve probably heard something along these lines:

If you want to get saved, if you want to accept Jesus as your Savior tonight, I want you to bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me: 

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, now you’re saved.

Such an invitation is so common that many people would not even give it a second thought. However, there are potential problems with this approach. First, let’s consider a question: what exactly is going on here?

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The Issue Behind Limited and Unlimited Atonement

I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t think the doctrines of limited atonement and unlimited atonement are all that different in the end. If you’re not familiar with the controversy, here are the basic ideas of each:

Unlimited Atonement

  • Jesus paid the price for the sins of all men equally.
  • Only believers have their sins completely and finally atoned for, as the atonement is made effective by faith.
  • Those who do not believe do not have their sins atoned for in the same way as believers, because the atonement is not made effective in them by faith.

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God’s Gift of Joy

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.

John Calvin

What If God Doesn’t Have a Wonderful Plan for My Life?

God has a wonderful plan. But it’s not for my life.

Well, to be more precise, the primary plan and purpose of God only includes me as a footnote. And I don’t know what my part in His plan actually is. In fact, to be honest, God’s plan for me might be, by all ordinary definitions, horrendous. Maybe in order to accomplish His ultimate plan God will send me to the jungles of Brazil, where I immediately contract a painful, paralyzing disease while my wife gets kidnapped in the woods, and then I die of torture at the hands of savage tribesmen before I even get to mention Jesus. No matter how much grace comes from that when I enter eternity, that is not what anyone would call a wonderful plan under normal circumstances.

This isn’t to say that things won’t work out right someday. After I die, and even more so after I am resurrected, life will be pretty sweet. I can’t wait to see what wonders of grace God has in store for me in the new creation. Even so, I must make a point.

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The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

No one knows who made this, but it is hilarious, especially if you are, as I, of the Reformed persuasion, at least soteriologically.


The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

  1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
    A: Each individual Christian’s chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.
  2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
    A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.
  3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
    A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord’n’savior.
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Repentance for Pickiness, or “Don’t Let Your Dislikes Become Sin”

I confess: I have sinned repeatedly for years about something silly and selfish. I am what they call a “picky eater.” I could almost be the poster child for that disease. Since I was young, with little or no regard for my family and acquaintances, I have refused to eat a large variety of foods, from cheese (the worst offender, except on pizza) to beans to fish and beyond. No food group escapes the wrath of my preferences unscathed.

Needless to say, this easily grew into a selfish monster. For years I have inconvenienced my poor mother, and insulted (albeit unintentionally) many others, with my disdain of all foods that do not acceptably please my palate. The sensations I felt on my taste buds trumped the well-being of those near me. If there was ever a persistent sin that knows how to disguise itself, this would be the one. After all, I’m just a “picky eater.” That’s normal. There are plenty of people like that, and I’m not really doing anything to anyone.

How much I was wrong.
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My Only Beef with Disney

In middle school and high school, I was a bit of a Disney geek. I admit this. I memorized every song in the first two High School Musicals and Camp Rock. I can jam out to the theme songs of Phil of the Future, That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Suite Life on Deck, Hannah Montana, Phineas and Ferb, Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sonny with a Chance, So Random!, and Shake It Up!, if not others as well. I have turned several Disney songs into Christian songs. Oh, and I still kind of am one now. I still watch every new Disney movie when I get a chance.
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