When a couple exchanges their marriage vows, what is said is short and to the point, but the consequence is life changing. Before the words are said in the marriage ceremony, the couple has met, fallen in love, and considered what it means to be married – among other things. But saying the vows is important.
If you have come to Messiah (the church I pastor) for awhile, you will have heard me preach on texts like Ephesians 2:1-10. This makes clear that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Being made right with God is all His work. A miracle. Even your faith in Christ is a gift from God.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father unites you with Jesus, so that you die with Him and rise with Him. In that uniting, a profound act of identification, substitution and exchange takes place. He dies the death you deserve and you receive His life. He suffers the doom you deserve, you receive the destiny He is worthy of. All this is from God. A free gift of grace. True regeneration. You become a new creation in Christ.
Kinds of conversions
Because we live in time and do not really know ourselves, this work of God can correspond to our lived experience in several ways. Some people raised in Christian families become Christians so young that they never really know a time when they did not trust Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
Some people pass from no-faith to faith in Christ without knowing the moment. One day they realize that four months ago they would have said they were not a Christian, but now they would say they are, but they are not sure when the change happened. For others, there is a clear moment when they gave themselves to Him and trusted Him as their Saviour and Lord.
The Sinner’s Prayer
In all three cases, encouraging the person to pray “the Sinner’s Prayer” is important. Read Romans 10, especially verses 8 and 9. Here is where the marriage vows analogy is helpful. The desire for marriage and knowledge of marriage and what it entails is already there – but the vows matter. Please note, I am not saying that without the words there is no conversion. I am saying that praying in this way is biblical, so it is helpful and wise. So, how do you talk to the person and what do you pray? I still find the ABCD outline helpful.
“A” stands for “acknowledge”. You need to acknowledge that you are far from God and you cannot fix this yourself. Of course there are many other scriptural ways to express your utter lostness.
“B” stands for “believe”. You have to come to know and trust that God has freely provided for your great need. Jesus, by His birth, life, death, and resurrection has done all that needed to be done so that you by faith in Him will be born-again; adopted as His child; saved; forgiven; made clean; filled with the Holy Spirit.
“C” stands for “consider”. You need to consider that if you call out to Him to come to you as Saviour and Lord, He will come and enter and your life will begin to change. He saves all of you by taking all of you – “all” means all.
“D” stands for “decide” and for “do.” Now is the time to make the decision and to pray to Jesus, asking Him to come into your life as Saviour and Lord and never leave you. In the prayer, acknowledge your lostness and confess your belief in Him. Thank Him for what He has done and that He is now your Saviour and Lord. The words are few, but His grace is great and life changing.