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JACKSONVILLE (FBW)—Delivering a sermon based on his provocative new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, J.D. Greear told the Jacksonville Pastors’ Conference there is a “corruption” of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and “that corruption is reducing justification by faith alone to the praying of a sinner’s prayer.”
Greear, lead pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., said “there’s nothing wrong with the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’” but he wrote the book because he believes there is an “epidemic problem of Christians” who think, “Did I pray it right? Did I repent enough?”
In a main session of the 26th annual conference Jan. 24, Greear, said he personally has prayed the Sinner’s Prayer “no less than 1,000 times” and was baptized four times. He wondered aloud if that should earn him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“So there’s nothing wrong with the Sinner’s Prayer, in fact, there is everything right with it, but for many in our churches, the Sinner’s Prayer has become something like the Protestant ritual, the ceremony that you go through to get your ticket punched for Heaven,” he said. “But conversion in the Bible is never presented that way.”
Greear said God saves when a person repents and believes the Gospel. “You can express repentance and faith in a prayer, but it is not the prayer itself that saves; it is the repentance and faith behind the prayer that lays hold of God’s offer of salvation,” he said.
Further, he said “it is possible to repent and believe without praying a prayer and it is also possible, very possible, to pray the prayer without repenting and believing. And reducing salvation by faith alone by recitation of the sinner’s prayer has two tragic effects.”
The book came about as a result of his struggle for assurance of salvation, Greear said, and as he became aware of “how many people in my church are falsely assured to comfort the unnecessarily troubled and to trouble to unjustifiably assured.”
An unknown number of people in congregations struggle with assurance, Greear said, and “for the sake of souls” this needs to be clarified lest “people’s spiritual life will never take off.”
Confronted by his 9-year old daughter who she said wondered about the book’s title, Greear said he tried to explain to her the “elevator speech” of the book. When he told her it was a 120-page book, she said he could have said the same thing in 10 pages.
“We have to get this right,” Greear said, offering four points on salvation. “We have to make the way of salvation clear; that is what God charged us with. We have to be clear and precise.”
Preaching from the Book of Hebrews, Greear said:
Saving faith is a posture not a prayer;
Saving faith endures to the end;
Assurance comes from your posture in the present, not the memory of a prayer in the past; and
Saving faith produces a new nature.
“Faith is not a prayer that is said , it is a posture,” Greear said, referencing the New Testament, which he said teaches that conversion to Jesus Christ “means that you lay your hand, you lay your hopes for heaven on the head of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Quoting Hebrews 3:12, Greear said the writer tells the believers “to continually be speaking the Gospel to each other because they will only be saved if they maintain that confession and they continue on until the end.”
This is an example of saving faith that endures to the end, he said.
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