I believe it was in the 1960s that we began seeing the bumper-stickers on cars which read: “Question Authority.” It symbolized the mood of the day. The stickers may have disappeared from our vehicles but the rebellious mood remains with us. While it is certainly true that there is a time and place to “Question Authority,” it is also true that there is some authority that should never be questioned.
Jesus Christ made a bold claim of authority for Himself. Shortly before His ascension to the right hand of God He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Then, immediately after making this claim, He instructed the apostles saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Would anyone tamper with what Jesus said? Surely not! Yet many evangelicals today do just that – at least in their practice. Consider this: Whereas Jesus said teach… baptize… teach…, the common practice today is to teach…lead in the Sinner’s Prayer…teach… Baptism has been removed from the prominent place Jesus gave it and replaced by the Sinner’s Prayer.
Is it really right to tamper with Jesus’ instruction?
The apostle Paul was concerned about divisions in the church at Corinth and so he wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you.” He went on to say, “But that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) How can we do this? How is it possible for a group of people with different temperaments, backgrounds and circumstances be the same in mind and in judgment?
In answer, I guess the first thing that should be pointed out is what is not meant. This is not about which ball team we prefer or the make of automobile we drive. Nor is it about our political views. Rather it is about religion and morality. It’s about our service to God.
But still, how is it possible for us to be of the same mind and judgment even in religion and morality? Well, there is only one way. And that way is for us all to have the same mind and judgment of Christ. As each of us draws closer and closer to the mind and judgment of Christ, we will automatically become of the same mind and judgment with each other.
Paul in the book of Romans writes: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) One might very well ask, “Why?” Why should we offer such a sacrifice of ourselves to the service of God? Why should we strive for holiness of life differing radically from the world around us? Well, Paul gave the answer when he said, “the mercies of God.” There you have it – an understanding and appreciation of the mercies of God in our life is motivation enough.
The Psalmist David wrote of God’s mercies in these words: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2-5)
Perhaps you can identify with the Psalmist’s list. For example, the forgiveness of iniquities – while not all men enjoy divine forgiveness, it is open to all. Then there is the healing of diseases – Is there anyone who has not been sick and experienced the relief of recovery. Next, the Psalmist speaks of life redeemed from destruction – How many of us have survived a near fatal accident or life threatening surgery or a bout with cancer, etc. And the list goes on but than each of us can make his own list of the “lovingkindness and tender mercies” of God in his own life.
It would be good for us all to occasionally stop and think of all the mercies we have received from the hand of God and let this motivate us to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”
It is not uncommon to hear a person tell his story of conversion. Once, while sitting at the counter in a restaurant, a man told me his story. He was in a barber’s chair, felt convicted of sin, got down on his knees and prayed the Sinner’s Prayer. And from that moment forward he considered himself a saved man. How different, I thought, this was from the Bible stories of conversion.
The Book of Acts is the history of the first thirty years of Christianity and in this history we have the record of the Bible stories of conversion. The first is of the conversion of 3000 on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. Upon hearing the gospel message people were convicted in their heart and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were told, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) On that day those who “gladly received the word were baptized, and there were added unto them about three thousand.” (Acts 2:41) But there was not a word said about the Sinner’s Prayer. No one was told to pray the Sinner’s Prayer and no one led them in the Sinner’s Prayer.
There are many other stories of conversion found in the Book of Acts but not once is the Sinner’s Prayer mentioned. The Samaritans believed and were baptized. (Acts 8:12) The Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized. (Acts 8:35-39) Cornelius and his house were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord. (Acts 10:48) Lydia was baptized. (Acts 16:14-15) The Philippian jailer believed and was baptized. (Acts 16:30-34) The Corinthians “hearing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8) Saul of Tarsus was told, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) Not a single time in the Bible stories of conversion was anyone told to pray the Sinner’s Prayer. Conversion by the Sinner’s Prayer is just not found in the Bible.
Recently, many major conservative news outlets reported about chaplain Lt. Col. Wes Modder who was removed from duty and threatened with expulsion from the military. An office assistant, a young lieutenant junior grade officer, showed up last December with two “Equal Opportunity representatives and a five-page complaint documenting grievances against the chaplain.” The officer, who turns out to be homosexual, had constantly drilled Modder with questions about his views on the matter. The ensuing handling of the case appears very unfavorable for a person in a position of spiritual guidance trying Biblically guide people on such matters.
It appears that one of the more unconscionable crimes against society is to promote an objective standard of right and wrong which dares to call specific behaviors and lifestyle choices “sinful.” Hateful speech is, by biblical standards, sinful speech. Scripture speaks against it (Gal. 5:20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). It also exalts godly speech: “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Pr. 16:21), “Let your speech always be with grace” (Col. 4:6), “In speech…show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12), and be “sound in speech which is beyond reproach” (Ti. 2:8).
But, when we let the world—without knowledge of what the Bible actually teaches—define “hate speech,” we will often get things turned upside down. We will have evil called good and good called evil (Isa. 5:20). Nothing could be more hateful toward a person than to have the opportunity to tell them God’s truth but instead speak lies, whether to comfort, avoid offending, or validate. We must reach out to anyone who rebels against the will of God in love, but what could be more hateful than encouraging anyone along a path that leads away from Him? Any word of false comfort and hope is the ultimate hate speech!