I'm throwing a BIG BASH for everyone that I know...everyone is invited and the party is going to be awesome I want everyone to be there. This party is really important to me and it will be a uplifting and beneficial to everyone I know.
So...I send out the invitations - hundreds of them. The invitations tell about the party and how great it's gonna be, how much I want them to be there, how they will be glad that they came. It also tells them the date and time, the name of the hall and the directions to the hall...
Not exactly I tell them how to get within about half a mile from the hall, but the directions are missing the last bit - it gets them to the vicinity of the hall, but not all the way there. I figure that's good enough - I mean getting them close to the hall is better than them staying home and not going anywhere. Besides, I would confuse them with all those details - I don't want to scare them away!
Here's what happens:
1) Some of my friends read their invitation and realize the missing information, go to the phone book or better yet just hit the Internet and their favorite map site and find the specific directions themselves. They make the party without a hitch.
2) Some of my friends read their invitation and just know they'll figure it out once they get there and they do. They make the party.
3) Others take off for the party, get to the end of the directions and spend a while searching, stopping for directions, asking people on the street and just happen upon the hall by luck (maybe they just see all the cars parked around the hall and recognize my car) or the good-will of passers by. They make the party, but are confused why it was so hard to get there.
4) Others take off for the party and never make it. They wander around aimlessly, some give up - others (really wanting to make the party) spend the entire duration of the party searching... They don't make the party.
5) Others read the instructions and see something fishy and never even leave their house. They don't make the party.
My attempt to keep my potential guests from being confused or bogged down with details means that some never make it, some are smart enough to figure it out for themselves and others just eventually fall into place. Why not just give them the complete directions to start with!
Obviously, this fictional story has a real life connection... Enter the "Sinner's Prayer" (A.K.A. "A Simple Prayer", "Prayer of Repentance").
By itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the versions of this prayer I have read. It IS a simple prayer that recognizes Jesus as Savior, asks for forgiveness and repentance. These are all great things and a great start (just like my instructions above), but the prayer itself does not get us all the way. Some who commit themselves to Christ in such a way will read God's book (the Bible) and immediately see the missing piece, others will be shown the piece, others will eventually stumble on to it, others will never get there.
My question is this - why give a lost soul an incomplete road map to salvation when the complete directions are so easy to follow?
This is NOT about EXACTLY when we are "saved" - I realize that my belief on the subject of the exact point a person is saved is extreme to some and I don't force that understanding on others. However, even if you take the whole, "at what point are we really saved", discussion off the table "The Sinner's Prayer" is STILL incomplete. You don't have to look very hard to figure it out, start with the last instructions Christ told his disciples.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Another quick message from Jesus himself:
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned..."