The story you’re about to read is fictional but represents a reality that continues to play out again and again. Well-meaning Christians present the gospel and then offer their listener immediate assurance of salvation via the incantation of a prepackaged prayer absent serious discipleship. Left in the wake, we often find two types of professing Christians. We’ll call them Keith and Katie.
“If you don’t know for sure that you’d go to heaven if you died today, then nail it down right now. Bow your head and pray this prayer sincerely in your heart.”
As small children, Keith and Katie prayed the prayer of salvation and continued to attend church throughout their childhood and into their teens. But their roads eventually took two very different directions.
Two Different Roads
While in his 20’s and armed with a steady confidence in his heaven-bound status, Keith began to shift away from the church having found greater pleasure outside the faith family. Despite his strayed path, Keith was at peace regarding his status with God thanks to a prayer and the promise of a pastor.
Katie also began to turn away from her evangelical upbringing in her early 20’s but then something began to draw her back. A deep anxiety developed within her, manifested by lingering doubts about her status with God. In the quiet moments of night, she secretly worried that her childish prayer of salvation lacked the full scope of understanding. Weighed down by past sins and present temptations, Katie finally began to attend a local church.
Their Roads Collide
One afternoon, Keith was driving home from work when suddenly the car in front of him slammed on its brakes. He swerved to the left to avoid a collision but was soon careening into oncoming traffic where Katie was also on her way home from work.
Their Roads Diverge
Neither of them expected to be facing eternity so early in life but there they were. Keith was first in line and anxious to hear those words he had been so confident were coming. Yet in a horrifying twist of fate, the sound Keith heard resonating somewhere from the depths of heaven was this, “Depart from me you worker of evil for I never knew you.”
Katie was next in line. Her heart raced with fear that the prayer she prayed long ago was insufficient to save her. The countless sins weighing on her conscience reminded her that God was probably not pleased. Then in a glorious burst of grace, Katie heard these words resonating somewhere from the depths of heaven, “Enter into glory, child of God.”
A Call for Clarity
When offering the good news, it’s of central importance that we lead people to daily embrace the Savior instead of the sinner’s prayer. If we fail in this, we will continue to create these two types of professing Christians:
Keith the Counterfeit Christian – People like Keith are wrongly convinced of their salvation by the work of a prayer and the reassurance of a preacher. Void of the Holy Spirit and now inoculated to the true message of the gospel, Keith will be shocked when he meets the Savior he never really cared to know.
Katie the Quivering Christian – People like Katie live in a constant state of fear wondering whether their simple prayer was sufficient to save them, not understanding that Christ did the work while the prayer was the first of many desired effects.
My heart hurts for people like Katie because for many years I was just like her. With the Holy Spirit quietly residing in me, I was daily convicted of sin; a conviction that was meant to drive me deeper into the joys of grace. Instead, I was paralyzed into secret shame and deeper insecurities over my doubts over a past prayer. If not for a faithful pastor coupled with serious discipleship, I might still be a quivering Christian waiting to be surprised by a glorious burst of grace.
[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to add value to our newer readers.]