Is the Sinner’s Prayer the Gospel?

When people are given the impression that they are saved by praying, we can easily forget that it is the Spirit who gives us the faith to desire , much less to pray for, God’s mercy.  The focus shifts from the gospel itself, through which the Spirit gives us faith, to the act of faith itself.

The most important criticism of this definition of the gospel is that it is not found in Scripture.  No one is called in the New Testament to pray “the sinner’s prayer,” by asking Jesus to come into his or her heart.  God’s judgment is announced all people; the gospel is proclaimed as Christ’s fulfillment of the Scriptures and many, convicted of their sins and the Good News of salvation in Christ, believe, are baptized and are thereby added to the church.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 92

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“Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” Simply Does Not Answer the Problem

The gospel is that Christ has borne our guilt and has been raised for our justification and life, interceding now at the Father’s right hand.  It is this objective work of Christ outside of us, even now defending us in heaven from every accusation of Satan, that makes the gospel truly Good News even for us as we struggle in the Christian life.  “Asking Jesus into  your heart” simply does not answer the problem identified in the Scriptures.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 91-92

Is The Gospel an Invitation to a Personal Relationship with God? Hardly!

Nowhere do we find the apostles proclaiming the gospel as an invitation to have a personal relationship with God.  After all, they presupposed that everyone already has a personal relationship with God.  In fact, our major problem is that we do have a relationship with God: the relationship of a guilty defendant before a just judge.

Offering the gospel as a personal relationship with God assumes that one is currently in a neutral situation, lacking the joy of knowing God.  Or perhaps, if not neutral, this condition is thought of in terms of separation, a breaking of communication.  However, we have seen that all people know God, but suppress this truth in unrighteousness.  Our problem is not that we are not on speaking terms with God (or vice versa), but that God is declaring his righteousness and we are shaking our fists in his face.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 91

Does The Gospel Form the Central Content of Most of Today’s Preaching?

Although there are allusions to this remarkable story [the Gospel] in popular preaching and evangelism today, one wonders if it can be said that it forms the central content.  Even in conservative Protestant circles today, the gospel is popular summarized with formulas, definitions, and phrases that are not even implied in the New Testament.  In fact, these phrases shift the focus from Christ back to us.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 90-91

We Should Be Like the Disciples on the Emmaus Road

Only when we see Christ’s person and work at the center of this unfolding drama an we read the map of redemptive history right side up.  And with those disciples along the Emmaus road, we say to each other each time we gather to hear God’s Word, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 89

It Was Not Glory First, But Suffering then Glory

It was not glory first, but suffering and then glory, that the prophets foretold.  Jesus is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, who bears the sins of many and justifies the wicked.  First the cross, then the resurrection; first suffering in this age and then sharing in Christ’s victory as we enter the Sabbath rest in his train.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 88