To be a Christian, in North America, is often to have said a certain prayer. This prayer is sometimes called The Prayer of Salvation, The Prayer of Repentance, The Prayer of Acceptance. One example of it is given in the illustration. Another example, below, is taken from Larry Hutton. On his website, Larry Hutton says that if you pray this prayer you have entered God’s family:
“Dear God, I want to be a part of your family. You said in Your Word that if I acknowledge that You raised Jesus from the dead, and that I accept Him as my Lord and Savior, I would be saved. So God, I now say that I believe You raised Jesus from the dead and that He is alive and well. I accept Him now as my personal Lord and Savior. I accept my salvation from sin right now.
I am now saved. Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is my Savior. Thank you, Father God, for forgiving me, saving me, and giving me eternal life with You. Amen!”
This prayer may have credit as a starting point on the Christian life. However, it is a starting point and not a destination. It can also be prayed with an insincere heart, and God looks on the heart. What kind of life is a new convert committing to?
When they become a Christian, a Christian knows very little of what comprises enduring faith, true doctrine, and godly love. However, to become a Christian means to commit to growth in these areas. We lack information, we lack understanding and we lack will-power at the outset of our faith. A mature Christian needs to be better informed, more wise, and more loving than someone who has just reached out to Jesus to save them from sin. This maturity is the result of a life lived in repentance, a repentance which was stated in the Salvation prayer.
Christian in North America often lacks any sense of maturity. Christians get saved to take care of sin, but often not with any distinctly Christian life in mind. This falls short of God’s ideals.
Marriage provides a some good illustrations. As anyone who is married knows, you do not know your spouse before you are married as well as you do afterwards. You are often committing to spend life loving someone you hardly know. On dates you provide some information to each other, but it is limited. A proposal of marriage is usually made on somewhat limited information. We hope the intel is a fair representation of everything we do not know. Life together is about exploring the other person and committing to the pursuit. What if we got married just for the wedding day and not for the life it brings? Marriage was not designed to save us from celibacy. Marriage was given to us to do life in a different way than we can alone. Salvation is give to us, not just to save us from sin, but to raise us with Jesus into a new life. In this new life we grow in maturity and become more like Jesus. Because Jesus is perfect, and we are not, we are always growing. We always lack love, knowledge, and wisdom. God provides his Word, he provides pastors, he provides churches, and he provides Bible colleges to help us to grow. We need to learn in fellowship with each other. We were not designed to learn in isolation. The Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word, guides us into learning experiences, and counsels us in our troubles.
If we have stagnated in our faith – if we feel like there is nothing more to learn about Christian belief – we deceive ourselves. This life is a quest. We need to understand how little we understand and we need to press on to more.
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, wanted to return to the church and give them so much more. They were saved, but salvation is just the beginning. There was so much they did not know and he wanted to be their teacher. Who are you doing life with? Who is doing life with you? Who are you teaching? Who is teaching you?
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.