I want to share the following excerpt from chapter 10 of From Death to Life: How Salvation Works. My purpose in doing so is to lay out some real-life examples on why it really matters that we understand how salvation actually works. Christianity is not a game. Real souls are at stake.
As you read through this excerpt and especially the question at the end, I hope you’ll give honest reflection and perhaps even comment below. I go into more detail in the book obviously, but in today’s post, I’d just like to get you thinking about what you should do if you interact with a person who says they want to become a Christian. How would you handle that? Read the following with that in mind:
“My son hasn’t been able to pitch well for three games!,” stated one of the members of our church as he burst into my office. Being confronted with such a complaint took me off guard. Having recently entered into the ministry, I didn’t realize that I would ever have to face such a criticism. Yet, according to this man, our church was responsible for his son’s poor pitching.
You see, prior to this young man’s pitching slump, our youth pastor had explained how sports can become an idol in our lives. This brought conviction to this young pitcher. He had already been under a measure of conviction, which his mother sought to dismiss by saying: “Honey, you are already saved!” Yet, apparently, these words were ineffective in easing the boy’s guilty conscience. And, learning that sports had become an idol in his life, his conscience became even more burdened. And with an uncertainty of his own salvation, it became difficult for him to sleep and to strike out batters at the plate.
For me, it seemed apparent that this young man needed spiritual counsel. His parents, however, did not agree. They were more concerned about his shaken confidence in throwing a baseball across a 17-inch wide pentagon than they were about his eternal security.
I share this story to convey that understanding how salvation works is a big deal. Applying it to real life scenarios is not always easy. What’s easy is to simply have people pray a prayer after us, never question it again and then move on. If they turn away at a point in their life we chalk it up as them being backslidden. Though that may be the easiest way to push our agenda on someone else, it is not how to evangelize the lost.
One of the main purposes of this book has been to eliminate that sort of mentality and replace it with a biblical approach. If our desire is for the salvation of the lost, we must do whatever it takes to proclaim the truth in love. Assembly line Christianity is much easier than biblical Christianity. Biblical Christianity is a real war, with real people, real sins, real wrestling, real apostasy, and real souls at stake.
And so, if a person comes to us wanting to be saved, how should we handle it? How do we lead them to Christ?
Understanding how a person gets saved isn’t something that belongs only in the theological realm. It’s not something better left to “trained professionals.” This ought to matter to all believers. Why? Because all Christians are charged with communicating the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world. Every single one of us is charged with sharing the gospel with those God providentially places in our life.
The church gathers on Sundays but scatters throughout the week. You will reach places every day that your pastor can’t access as easily as you can. You have influence over people he wouldn’t ever know—perhaps your boss, your coworkers, the librarian you know so well, your neighbor who borrowed your leaf blower, your cousin, Eddie. None of those people are in your life by chance. They need to hear the gospel. And so, after sharing the gospel, if a person wants to be saved, what should you do?
I don’t think there is a “canned” answer to this question. I think there are different appropriate ways depending on the scenario. But I do think there are some overarching principles for us to consider. Such as, do they understand the gospel? Do they know what repentance and faith are? Have they counted the cost? I understand these things will look differently depending on the age of the person we are dealing with. But what I’m trying to move us away from is to merely think “Well, if a person wants to get saved, I need to just get them to recite this prayer on a card.”
There will be time for prayer, no doubt. And I’m not advocating interrogating folks. I just want us to think biblically about how we show people the way to Jesus. Again, I do go into more detail in the book, but I hope I have helped get the wheels turning in your mind and heart to be ever more biblical in how we go about our evangelism. Understanding how salvation works matters.