Hey Jim,how's it going. I just have one question for you and probably about the most important subject,salvation. I had a conversation with my dad last week about how the Bible doesn't say directly but in general the usual line that Christians say you have to say before you are saved. "Jesus I believe in you,forgive me for my sins and please come into my heart." And just the concept of having to do something to be saved , even if it's simply asking or believing, just doesn't make sense, when we all know that nobody can earn their salvation. Don't get me wrong I know I'm saved, you know, I just know, but how do I tell other people how. It really pushes me to believe in 100% predestination. Pat
Sherri and Christy still think of you as "Paddy" ... I'm sure it doesn't bother you anymore than I am by being called "Jimmy". Actually, for years I liked it when the girls would call me "Jimmy". And then once your dad started calling me Jimmy it became a very special name once again (I was called Jimmy all during my childhood years). :)
Your question is an excellent one. Ah, yes, what do we do with the "sinner's prayer"? We can't ignore it because it is such a big issue in MANY religious groups. Nor can we deny the connection between words and salvation since we have something written in Romans 10:6-10
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:"DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down), or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).'' But what does it say? 'THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart' that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.'' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ""WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.''Romans 10:6-10
The real question here is: What is the connection between WORDS and REALITY?
The answer is SIMPLE, in that it is NOT COMPLEX ... but it IS confusing when you attempt to explain it by the rules established by religion. Did that make sense? What I'm suggesting is that you have to step back from the confusion found in the RELIGIOUS arguments, "Does a person have to say anything in order to be saved?" and/or "Which words must they say?" These are BOGUS arguments from the get go, and the Bible never suggests anything of the sort (as you have already concluded).
Start with Jesus. Before he was born through Mary and before he was called "Jesus" ... he was "the Word". The word is the expression of the being. "The Word" was the exact expression of God's being which is why when he took on flesh he was:
the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature Hebrews 1:3
Now, we know that a man's words do not express his own thoughts and nature ...AT FACE VALUE, that is. Intentions are usually hidden for one reason or another. This conflict between our words and reality is called hypocrisy. But even with man's insincere words Jesus said,
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. Matthew 15:12-13
Even though men speak lying words those words will give them away ... you just have to listen long enough to hear it. Evil can be spoken in the midst of "nice" words, which is deception ... which is the way the devil operates. We have learned to listen to words very carefully because we just don't trust the sincerity behind them. And we have to make "contracts" and then to hire lawyers when someone breaks the contract. You've probably heard the joke, "How can you tell when a politician is lying? ... When his lips are moving!" I can TRUST that a person's words do NOT express the person's real thoughts.
When the Spirit came into us something changed. We will still often fall back upon the old mindset and it will show in the same old ways, BUT there is something that we CANNOT hide for it will come out. And it comes out in our words, too. "The Word" is IN us ... and it expresses the life of God, even when we are trying to hide it.
Do you know why we don't usually hear it? Because we have made our formulas based on what we think it will sound like when the life of Jesus is expressed through us. This is why we have MADE UP "the sinner's prayer". It is the formula that we use to "make" a person "confess Jesus". But "confessing Jesus" has nothing to do with repeating a pre-formatted "prayer" ... that is the way the world operates. The fact is that the one who is born of God cannot help but to "say the same" (confess) as the Father about His Son. The words may sound all wrong, but it makes no difference. And when the words EXPRESS (not simply REPEAT or QUOTE) that Jesus came from the Father it testifies to the reality of one who is also born of God.
The words don't make it happen - they don't cause the life to come - but they express the life that is there.
How do you tell others? Just tell them of Christ, and the freedom he has brought ... his Spirit takes care of any results.