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

“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

It Is Not Enough to Preach the Works, Life and Words of Christ

I believe that it has now become clear that it is not enough or in any sense “Christian” to preach the works, life and words of Christ…as if the knowledge of these would suffice for the conduct of life…Yet, this is the fashion among those who today [1500s] are regarded as our best preachers…and such teaching is childish and effeminate nonsense.

Rather ought Christ to be preached to the end that faith in Him may be established that he may not only be Christ, but be Christ for you and me, and that which is said of Him and is denoted in His name may be effectual in us.  Such faith is produced and preserved in us by preaching why Christ came, what he brought and bestowed, what benefit it is to us to accept Him…What person is there whose heart, upon hearing these things, will not  rejoice to its depth and when receiving such comfort will not grow tender so that they will love Christ as they never could by means of any law or work?

There are some who have no understanding to hear the truth of freedom and insist upon their goodness as means for salvation.  These people you must resist, do the very opposite and offend them boldly lest by their impious views they drag many with them into error.  For the sake of liberty of the faith do other things which they regarded as the greatest of sins…use your freedom constantly and consistently inthe sight of and despite the tyrants and stubborn so that they may learn that they are impious, that their law and works are of no avail for righteousness and that they had no right to set them up.

– Luther, Martin

as quoted by Brown, Steve; Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad At YouHoward Books;  New York, copyright 2012; Kindle Edition; Location 2493

They Were All Ears

Whenever Jesus tells them [the disciples] about the cross that they will bear, they are all ears; not really knowing what he is talking about, they nevertheless responded affirmatively.  They thought they could handle their own burdens.  “What Would Jesus Do?” is something that they thought they were ready to answer if anyone asked.  It is the work that Jesus alone could do for them – his death and resurrection – that they found beside the point.

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 86

Do You See a Pattern Here?

Do you see the pattern here?  In spite of the fact that Peter has offered a marvelous confession of Jesus as the Christ of  God and his repeated reference to his crucifixion, they are theologians of glory.  They do not expect danger, suffering, and peril ahead, but the inauguration of the King of the Jews, in regal splendor.  In his second coming, Jesus will come in glory and power, judgment and wrath, but now he comes in weakness, suffering, humiliation and a sin-bearing death.

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 86