It is scripturally well supported that there remains a journey – upon God’s first call to us – expected for the called to walk in, with God and towards God. It is also scripturally clear that God will judge how we have walked this journey, and He will be justified in whatever He judges.
This is applicable in the case of Israel, when they were called “out of slavery” in Egypt, beginning a journey, with a goal of “entering their promise land.” This physical-literal description is also symbolic of the spiritual journey God expects of Israel then, and of all Christians today. Unfortunately, the Moses generation didn’t fulfil what was prophesied and promised to them, because of disobedience and faithlessness.
Similarly, with respect to individuals, like how Abraham was tested to sacrifice Isaac; Daniel was tested in his civil disobedience to king Darius – and was thrown into the Lion’s den; God expects all who are called to journey faithfully. We also read of how the unfaithful like Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, fell short, because they would not surrender to God, but chose options that betrayed – and lied to – God. These are New Testament examples, and they are completely consistent with Old Testament ones, like king Saul etc. In Revelations too, the churches are expected to “overcome” or they will be judged by God.
But many of us subscribe to a salvation doctrine that is based on a one-time prayer made. I had written on this to explain why easy-believism is erroneous. As much as we like to comfort and encourage one another, salvation is a core doctrine we need to preach it right.
Hyper Grace Error
One doctrine that has caused confusion to large groups of Christians is the hyper grace doctrine. Hyper grace draws a distinction between New and Old Testament times, claiming that God of the OT saves by obedience to the law, while God of the NT saves effortlessly by grace.
This claim is wrong. God has always saved men by grace, even during the OT times. For example, God instituted the feast of atonement, and ordered the high priest of Israel to make atonement for all Israel through animal sacrifice. Choosing to forgive the sins of Israel by animal sacrifice is an act of grace.
Truth is, men can never be saved purely by their works and their obedience to law. Even in the OT, we are all saved by God’s grace. So hyper grace draws a wrong analogy between OT and NT by comparing works vs grace.
But there is something that changed with the coming of Christ. (Hebrews 8:13 says that the first covenant is made obsolete and the new covenant is better) So what changed? The thing that changed, is that the “fulfilment” that the OT’s temple rituals foreshadowed, or symbolised, is finally here – Christ Himself! The perfect Lamb of God!
And since Christ has come, temple rituals in the OT are now obsolete. You no longer have to wait for the high priest to physically make atonement in the Holy of Holies once a year, but you yourself can enter into the throne of the Father in spirit, intimately and freely, with confidence you have through your relationship with Christ! Isn’t this a better covenant?
But this isn’t a change of God’s character. This is a fulfilment revealing of His character in greater measures!
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? – Hebrews 9:13
God is unchanging. He has intended, since the beginning, to have Himself made known in fuller measures through Christ. So we certainly are reading about the same God, of the same character, and we should draw lessons from the Old Testament, as how we learn from the New.
Jesus Himself, only had the Old Testament as Scriptures. The New Testament was not yet written during Jesus’ time on earth; much less – canonised.
So God did not have have a major brain surgery, or a Dr Jerkyl and Mr Hyde shift of character, between the Old and New Testament, as hyper grace doctrine seems to imply. God is consistent throughout. He is love. He is patient. He is kind. He is merciful. He gives grace. He forgives. He expects us to surrender and obey. He expects us to have faith in Him. He is jealous for us. He likes us to wait on Him. He judges. He saves. And the standard by which He judges and saves is consistent, clear, just – and revealed.
My Journey towards Lordship
My journey with God began even before I know Him or had ever made any prayer to God. I was 13 years old. One day, on my way home, an older teen stopped me and shared Christ with me. Because of that, I missed my bus. Later, I found out that bus got crushed by a huge tree – where my favourite seats were.
I did not “give my life to Christ” then. Not till when I hit 21 years old, where I prayed to “accept Christ as my Saviour” at a rally. I did it half-heartedly to “give God an opportunity” to show me He is true. After saying the sinner’s prayer, I continued to smoke. I had no desire to follow God, to pray or to read His word. I consider this phase of my belief in Christ “exploratory”.
It wasn’t till God gave me a dream that my faith turned “serious”. I stopped smoking.
Nevertheless, I struggled with relationship issues and had difficulties surrendering relationships to God. After months of struggling, I fell and lit up a cigarette from a newly bought pack. God intervened and spoke to me halfway through my smoke. I cried and threw that cigarette away – along with the whole pack and my lighter. I prayed to God to make my faith 100%. He did and at some point, I became fully “convicted” in my faith.
By then, I decided I would put God first regardless of whatever struggles I have, and found that God speaks through my pain and obedience. I never touched cigarettes again. This is when I believe I begin to actively partner God in all He is doing for me and wants to do for me, who then justifies me because of my obedience. I truly became a disciple (Jn 8:31), and I began to know His truth and experience true freedom. I never looked back. God’s word says,
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – Jn 8:31-32
The prerequisite for freedom in our soul is to “continue” in Christ’s words. To “continue” means we are already living out His word in the past, and we continue to do so, and we will keep on at it. ONLY IF we do this, Christ says, “then you are truly disciples of Mine.”
Sinner’s prayer begins a process of exploration; don’t stop short of Lordship
Hence, I am more than aware that this is a journey which has an element of pursuit by the King; yet, there needs also a willingness on my part to submit. Throughout the journey, I could turn away, give up on God, as per the parable of the sower:
- Seed along the path: Before I decided to “explore” the faith, I was like the seed that fell along the path and the devil took it away. E.g. Despite the bus incident, I didn’t begin my journey with Him. (Luke 8:12)
- Seed on the rock: Even after I began “exploring”, I could still fall away in times of testing as I have no root. E.g. I continued to live in deliberate sin, e.g. smoking, even after I had prayed to receive Christ. (Luke 8:13)
- Seed among thorns: Even as I became “serious” in my faith, I could still be choked up by cares, riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14) – and my fruit does not mature – if I do not surrender these idols to Him.
- Seed in good soil: But because of God’s great pursuing love, I did decide to surrender to Him and became “convicted” in my faith. From then on, He helped me on hearing His word to keep it – in a good and honest heart. And with patience, I began to bear fruit (Luke 8:15).
Sinners’ Prayer and Salvation – what Christian Leaders should clarify
Therefore, beginning a journey with God isn’t a sign that we have arrived, nor is there scriptural substantiation that one is saved the moment God calls us – and when we respond with the sinners’ prayer. Yes a journey might have been initiated, but this is just the start of a new relationship that we can still choose to close our doors to, though the goal of this journey is that we would become His disciple. (In the first instalment, I explain how discipleship really is about Lordship).
With this laid out, God will judge us attitudinally, and He alone knows whether we are faithful to obey all that He has commanded us (as per Great Commission; Mat 28:20).
That said, I did start out my journey in becoming a disciple with the sinners’ prayer, which began the “exploratory” phase of my Christian faith. Did the “sinners’ prayer” moved me somewhere away from my hardened heart to a closer place to Jesus? The answer is yes. But do I believe I was saved with this prayer? The answer is no. Could I have left the Christian faith at that point? Absolutely.
In fact, I had then declared to my church mates if God still doesn’t reveal Himself to me substantially in a month’s time, I will revert to my previous religion. Regardless of what hyper grace doctrine advocates, God’s grace certainly won’t be able to save me if I had fallen away, even though I had prayed the sinners’ prayer.
But where God’s grace is not applicable yet, God’s love is. God pursued me even before I had believed in Him. God answered me even when I was haughty and proud. God patiently waited for me while I was in sin and reached out to me when I became lost, weak and in need. God loved me unconditionally while I was still wilful. In spite of all this, we retain our free will to love and embrace, or hate and reject Him.
Thankfully, I did decide to become His disciple, which according to Jesus’s definition, is someone who loves Him above everything else. And this is the only time when once saved always saved is applicable. If I truly love God above all things else, wouldn’t that mean I would never ever be swayed away from my King? Literally, it implies that. However, even if true, only Christ knows. For my heart is deceitful. And from my position of man, I know I have to stay alert and watchful, and keep on continuing in His word (Jn 8:31).
But not everyone will end up making Christ as their King in this journey. Scriptures warns that many self professing “Christians” will be surprised when they are turned away by our Lord in the end, for they do not seek His will like how a disciple will.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’– Matt 7:21-23
In closing, while easy-believism and sinner’s prayer are not the essence of Christ’s call for discipleship, it nevertheless, might be a useful step to draw sinners to Him. However, it is imperative that ALL Christian teachers must – even if not at the start, then at least at some point – teach Lordship as the goal for all who are in the journey of knowing God. Ultimately, salvation belongs to God. We can never say for sure when a person is saved. But it is our responsibility to teach wholly and faithfully according to Scriptures. To this end even the great apostle Paul emphatically declares,
“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” – Acts 20:26-27.
Note: This is Part 2 of the Salvation Series by VOW. Part 1 can be found here: