When I was young, Mom used to take me on errands. She’d take me to the grocery store and we’d walk across that vast parking lot, stopping occasionally to refill our canteens and give the horses a rest. But eventually, we’d reach the doors of the store. We’d reach those automatic doors. We’d reach those automatic, magic doors. Now, a magic door is one of life’s simple pleasures when you’re five. But a magic door that obeys your command? Such things should be illegal when you’re that young. And I would refuse to let my mom into the store until I had intoned the ancient mantra: “open sesame”. Then those glass doors would slide apart, I would pump my chubby fist in the air, and we would enter like conquerors, welcomed by a subservient gush of conditioned air.
Now that I’m older, I’m well aware that automatic, sliding doors don’t obey my command. Even though they’re magic, it turns out that they scatter their favors to every customer, regardless of age or authority. Despite this, I was impressed with a very real sense of control. I still remember what it feels like to have the authority over some elemental power that is greater than me, outside of me.
I feel this same sense of entitlement and authority is implemented recklessly within the church. The church wields its own flavor of magic. It’s hard to catch because it’s dressed up like a Precious Moments doll. It looks very innocent and it looks very holy and it’s as harmless as a cobra in a petting zoo.
The cobra that hisses loudest is “the Sinner’s Prayer”. I think this is the clearest example of sorcery in the church today. Do you know what I mean? Let me lay it out for you.
You’re in a church youth group. It’s a Wednesday night. Some folks have their shoes off. The carpet has been stained many times over by ice cream and coke. You are sitting five rows back in a phalanx of metal folding chairs, elbow to elbow with church kids of various heights. If you don’t know what a phalanx is, stop right now and look it up. It’ll be good for you. Anyway, there’s a man at the front of the phalanx waxing long and passionately with an open Bible flopped over his palm. Suddenly, he looks concernedly into the rows of blank stares. In a whisper, he orders us to bow our heads and close our eyes. He then tells us to repeat these words, silently and to ourselves: “God, I know that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn from my sins and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. I invite Jesus to come into my heart and my life to become my Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
The speaker then informs those who repeated his prayer that they are now saved and that they will go to heaven and that Jesus is now living in their heart.
Now, aside from making Jesus out to be some sort of cardiovascular parasite, these repeated words (if said earnestly) guarantee salvation. Or at least, that’s what magic is supposed to do. The only problem with this is the Bible. There’s no mention of a sinner’s prayer in the Bible. And there’s certainly no evidence that the sovereign Lord, who is a law unto himself, is compelled, like a genie, to deal out eternal life because someone said a formula.
So, what is this? It is pure conjuring. It’s calling down a supernatural force by the means of a spell. The Sinner’s Prayer is nothing more than an incantation. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a set of certain words that arm wrestle the omnipotent Lord into dispensing salvation to the speaker. But for decades, Christians have chanted a spell to command the God of the universe to claim eternal life. Perhaps we should stop trusting in religious magic and start trusting in Jesus. Take a hard, long look into the Scriptures and look at how and why God extends salvation. Stick your head under those waters and see if you don’t come back up gasping for truth. Let me know how it goes so we can compare notes.
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