In 1996, Tricia had served us as a Sunday school volunteer under the Baptist Convention of Kenya for a year or two. She had a laid back demeanour and a full urgency in her expression of the Gospel. The coffee dates, pizza, chocolate and cakes made teens fellowship fun and worth the anticipation. In this year, my heart was convicted of sin and for the first time I desired to be a different person. Gathered in the field at Ruaraka Baptist Church, she engaged us and told us that we could receive Christ by crying out to him. She allowed us to pray by ourselves; then afterwards, she did a prayer of thanksgiving. At that time, I got saved! Hallelujah! But that was where the story began.
In later years I would still be caught up in stealing cash from Father’s wallet (I notably snatched the 20 shillings note for like five or six days). I even got hooked in pornography and vulgar, underground, hip-hop music; full of obscenity and indecency and cussing. What had happened a few years back? Was I truly born again? I questioned myself in Form 1 and 2 and concluded that I had not taken the conviction seriously.
The turning point
My heart started the journey of ‘making war’ on the flesh and sin. I had not been deliberate on this for many years. It was time to make the confession worth its cost- the blood! Did I need to rededicate myself to the Lord? Somewhat! But there was more than that- I needed to hate sin for what it was and still is. At this point, I started engaging in meaningful and deliberate discipleship. I needed to be genuine and not a hypocrite. The more I dug deep into the word, the more I realised just how messed up my heart indeed was. The more I realised the evil within, the more I wanted transformation. It became like the psalmist says, “As the deer pants for the waters, so my soul longs after you.” (Psalm 42:1). It would dawn on me as I started reading through the Bible, from beginning to end, that there was something called ‘put-off and put on’ for the believer (Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:1-9, Romans 13:12-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
All over in the scriptures, we do not see any reference to the ‘sinner’s prayer’ idea. Why? Well, because it is not there really. Words of men cannot hold fast the heart of men in this very pertinent issue of life and death. In my early years, it bothered me that some of my buddies would repeat the sinner’s prayer then go off into wild, worldly living. There was a divide between their confession and their life. They were whitewashed tombs mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 23:27-28. Jesus was not at all amused by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and told them off, warning them of hell as their destiny. Why? There had to be a connection when it came to confession and lifestyle. The emphasis on one minus the other is a recipe for being denied by Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).
Why should we not just focus on that element as our confidence of salvation? Because salvation is not a change of words but a change of heart. (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). It is the heart of man without Christ, that is desperately wicked beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). This problem cannot be undone by simply repeating words and going away, saying it is all done. For, the heart must be engaged fully and the mind jogged thoroughly, as we come to terms with the deadness of our situation. Now, I know there is evidence of those who repeated words and indeed, experienced the salvation effects- transformed life. And that is undisputed. However, that should not be a chain that binds a man to wait for a preacher for salvation.
The Biblical grounds
The scripture says in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Not anyone who repeats the words. Meaning that in scripture, we have been accorded and allowed, by ourselves, whenever the conviction comes, to cry out or call upon the name for salvation. I remember a conversation with a young man in a matatu (public transport) who got a conviction for salvation. We had been going a series of teachings for several weeks. The Gospel was ringing in his heart due to the conversations we had. On his way from school, he gets so provoked in his spirit that it was time to stop running away from the voice that was calling him. He calls me up and asks me what he should do. I referred him to Romans 10 and told him that I did not have the power to save him; neither do my words. I instructed him to do what the Bible says, affirming that the Bible is more solid confidence that Jesus hears him more than my pastoral presence. It was what I was a biblically taught to do- focus on the scriptures, and all will be okay.
The Biblical proof
Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” When the question goes out, “How do I know that I am born again?”, then Jesus would answer as usual, “Are you doing my Father’s will?” It is not the memory scriptures and youth camps; it is not the cell groups and Christian t-shirts and wrist bands; it is not the religious playlist and Jesus stickers. It is about doing the will of the Father in heaven. Are you doing it? 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that the will of God is sanctification; abstinence from sexual immorality and sensuality. Jesus said that his delight was in doing the will of His Father (John 4:34). He never did anything without His Father’s consent (John 5:19). Such is the heart of true Biblical salvation- it is a life evidenced with the transformation of the heart and life. Whether or not you repeated the words or not, the question is this, “Are you doing the will of the Father?” If you read the scriptures, you will not find proposals and suggestions but commandments. Do these things, and then you can start considering your walk to be legitimate.
There are many Christian sounding things introduced to us that are not necessarily Biblical. Your salvation is not as good as remembering a day that you repeated the words after a preacher man. No. It is only as good as the transformation brought by our surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is not an event but a lifestyle and a journey. Do the will of the Father as is recorded in scripture. Shalom.