“Getting saved” or becoming a Jesus follower?

After the last post I wrote on the Roman Road pattern of leading someone to Christ, Jared commented:

"I wonder if we should be encouraging people to confess the "Romans Road", or focus more on following Jesus. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but which ever we lead with will (purposefully on inadvertently) be the end goal. This leads me to a second thought. I don't believe at all that following Jesus and a salvation experience are separate, but I'm concerned that if we focus first on the salvation experience and second on following, we inadvertently communicate that salvation is an end. I've seen a person's choice to accept Christ celebrated in such a way that one might wonder if a person had crossed the finish line rather than jumped at the starter's gun. I guess I'm asking: How do we make sure to emphasize discipleship and following Jesus so as to make sure that salvation is the key part of discipleship but not the sum total?"

I totally agree with what Jared says.

Several years ago, a friend of our daughter, Becky, attempted suicide. A group of about 10 from the public school she attended visited her in hospital, and it became apparent that of this group, only two of them, both from Christian families, had never made some kind of suicide attempt–or at least seriously contemplated it. As a result, Becky pulled together a group of kids at our home to discuss this.

This evolved into a group of around 15 kids who came together weekly. Each week we had one of them tell the story of their spiritual journey, and then we would spend time in the word and prayer. We played games with them or sat in our hot tub putting the world to rights until midnight or so.

Gradually we noticed changes in their lives. The kids would tell us they had stopped doing drugs, cussing, sleeping around. When they asked if they could get baptized, we would make sure they really understood the implications of following Jesus and if necessary, lead them through to an understanding of salvation and the Lordship of Christ using something like the Roman Road.

A "prayer of salvation" may be a beginning step in someone's spiritual journey, as it was in mine. But I would have been spared years of challenge if I had understood the implications of Jesus as Lord right from the start.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus is far more than raising a hand in a meeting or praying the sinner's prayer. The gospel of the Kingdom involves surrendering to the King.

 

Hot tub

 

16 thoughts on ““Getting saved” or becoming a Jesus follower?”

  1. As I have matured in my walk with Christ and seen too much confusion resulting from a focus on “salvation”, I have tended to talk more in terms of The Kingdom – the “Good News” is that we all have the opportunity to transfer our citizenship from The Kingdom of The World to The Kingdom of God. Being part of God’s Kingdom grants its citizens certain rights (salvation, access to God’s presence, etc.) but as with citizenship in any country it also involves certain responsibilities (obedience, etc.). Thinking in these terms takes the focus away from the one-time event whose consequences are in the future and puts focus on the ongoing process of living out our new citizenship while still residing as aliens in this fallen realm.

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  2. I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. Spirit is alive and drawing all of us towards the Father, it is up to us to discern where each person is at in this dance. Often in talking with people I ask myself, where in this person has Christ’s saving salve not touched. Sadly many of those who have followed Jesus long term have not really moved from the initial first steps of commitment. Daily Jesus applies salve to my soul, PTL.

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  3. @Steven: I definitely agree. Having been a pastor,this was my sin as well. However, I’m still unsure how to present the gospel any other way! Felicity, do you know of any book or examples of how to present a proper gospel?

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  4. This is a very difficult issue. I am speaking from experience in “leading” several children, teens, and adults to Christ. I stress repentance and within the meaning of that word we find that it is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. So, in “giving our lives to Christ” I stress deliberately, intentionally changing our thinking (doing away with a life of sin) and that naturally leads us to STRIVE for a change in action or behavior. I stress to live a faithful life to Christ. I stress the meaning of the word Lord, in reference to making Him the Lord of our lives. I stress living the surrendered life. I stress the need for spiritual disciplines that put us on the path where God can give us spiritual growth (prayer, Bible reading, giving, fellowship, etc.). People need to hear the Good News (Romans Road) and they will not always initially understand the implications of calling Jesus our Lord (persecution, insults, trials,etc.), but all we can do is communicate that it will not be easy. The Good News is that Jesus promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matt. 28:19 ff). I appreciate this conversation!

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  5. Thanks for these comments everyone. Steven, I’m not aware of any book in particular that focuses on the Kingdom and salvation (although I’m thinking of writing one) but I’ve blogged on it in the past: (http://bit.ly/dJ0POy; http://bit.ly/esXkJp; http://bit.ly/dSRxVA). In the past couple of years I’ve been studying the Gospel of the Kingdom and have been astounded by how few books there are on the subject.
    I’ve also written an article on the subject which is too long to post as a comment. I’ll make it my next post!

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  6. It seems to me the emphasis on ‘getting saved’ originates and continues to feed on a sinful tendency within Christendom at large to measure everything. We want to pat ourselves on the back by counting how many converts we have made. Unfortunately, over centuries that emphasis has become such a common part of the language that we use to communicate spiritual success. I completely agree with Jared (quoted above) and with StevenS. While the Good News starts to have an effect on us long before we decide to commit to Christ, we ourselves a disservice if we teach each other that entry into the Kingdom (salvation) is the end and not just part of the beginning of a lifetime adventure with God.

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  7. I too agree with what you say here, but I came to it from a slightly different direction.
    I have long been interested in understanding Jesus correctly within his historical and cultural context. (That isn’t all we need to follow him today, but I think it should be the starting point.) When I started to explore this, I found much that we do in western evangelicalism that is very different to Jesus. For example, he taught about the kingdom more than personal salvation, he called people to follow him as well as believe in him, he dealt with everyone differently and required different responses from different people – there was no evangelistic formula!
    I have pondered a lot on how this applies today, and I think (among other things) it means calling people to follow him in doing the works of the kingdom (i.e. the old warfare between faith and works largely disappears), we trust people more to the Holy Spirit instead of trying to direct their spiritual journey ourselves, we look for signs of life even in unorthodox places in people’s lives, and we see even small steps as signs that the Spirit is working. And we see fellow travellers as fellow members of the kingdom even if they disagree with us on some doctrine that isn’t really essential in the kingdom (which is many of them!).
    As for books which teach this stuff, I’ll make a slightly left field suggestion. Aussie historian John Dickson used to be a singer in a rock band and a youth evangelist, and has published many books on those topics. I don’t recommend them so much, but I do recommend his books on the historical Jesus, which blend the rigour of a historian with the heart of an evangelist. For this topic, I’d recommend “A Spectator’s Guide to Jesus”, which won’t give you the answers you want in detail, but will lay a foundation for working those answers out. At least, it helped me do that.

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  8. I am a Roman’s Road product and I personally would not use it to everybody I witness. When I got saved, a lady read through the scriptures listed abvove and I had questions, but all she cared was to ‘bring me’ to pray the sinner’s prayer. In regards to my questions, she said “you can ask those to pastor later”, she said and after I prayed, she counted me ‘saved’. Obviously and hopefully you and your group of people are not focusing on ‘bringing people to say the sinner’s prayer’, but there are too many of us that believe we are sharing the gospel when in all actuality they are only ‘going through the scriptures.’ I don’t doubt the power of scriptures. I believe it will plant the seeds in people’s mind. But there are many that ‘went through the scriptures and prayed a little sinner’s prayer and think they are Christians’. “I’ve done this before,” mamy have said to me when I was using Roman’s Road. To me, the key is what it says in Romans 1:18. A person must realize that he/she is under condemnation and the only way to get out of it is to depend upon the grace of Jesus. I don’t think there is one right way to share the gospel. There was a time I was satisfied with myself because I have memorized the Roman’s Road and believed that’s the way how you share the gospel. But I realized it doesn’t work that way. Every person is different. Every person is in the different situation, so I no longer wanted to ‘read off the scriptures’ to people. That is how I became wanting to know the Bible more so that I will be able to share ANY scriptures that the Holy Spirit speaks to me that the person needs.

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  9. The Gospel was first clearly explained to me using Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws. I prayed a prayer, but it wasn’t really the prayer that saved me, I later realized. The tract and the friend explaining it to me was just helping me connect the dots in my heart and mind I realize now. I currently get with a friend once a week to read through Acts. He’s already leaning on Jesus but his theology is a little iffy. I’m not sure he’s “saved” and have wondered if I should do some diagnostic questions or lead him through the Roman’s Road. And maybe I will, but i’m pretty sure my goal is not to get him to say a prayer, but rather to continue to point him to Jesus.

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  10. This is a great conversation everyone, and I think we are hitting at the heart of the problem within American Christianity today. Many people pray a prayer, but I personally question whether they are truly “saved.” At least they have never become followers of Jesus. And because there is no cost to becoming a Christian here, no persecution, no stigma, people can make a “decision” with no ongoing change in their lives. At least in the UK, we faced ridicule and mockery and so people knew there was a cost before praying. It’s maybe why the “Pensacola revival” had such an impact. We went there, and despite a day waiting in line, didn’t meet any non-church goers, and yet thousands committed their lives to the Lord at those meetings.
    Any suggestions as to what changes we make to avoid this? Should some of us be reaching out to those who think they are Christians?

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  11. Felicity,
    This doesn’t have to be an either/or question. In fact, you cannot be a “Jesus follower” until after one enters through the door–using the “Romans Road” or some other scriptures. The truth of the matter is that it is not our job to analyze a person’s heart nor their commitment; it is our job to present the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do His job.
    Yes, the scripture states that we are to make disciples–not “converts”–but only the Holy Spirit can do this through us. We do not do it without Him. Yes, He uses us but we need to depend on Him instead of trying to do His job. I made this mistake in my early years and it is not worth the embarrassment.
    Also, remember: man is a tri-partite being. His spirit is saved immediately but his mind must be renewed and his body brought into subjection as Paul did with his body.
    Since our spirits are already as saved as they will ever be, “discipleship” or “becoming a ‘Jesus follower'” is nothing more or less than renewing the mind and walking after the dictates of our spirit–which is already created in righteousness and true holiness.
    So, it isn’t one or the other…it’s both!

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  12. @Felicity wrote: “Any suggestions as to what changes we make to avoid this? Should some of us be reaching out to those who think they are Christians?”
    Felicity, I am sure your heart is right but I think you are going a little overboard on this point. If the Word of God is planted as a seed, and people believe and act upon that Word, it–and they–will grow. If a person believes the gospel then they are saved. They then have to continue on to know Him–and the Holy Spirit will move them in that direction.
    I think we are on a slippery slope to start questioning everyone’s salvation because they are not doing what we think they should be doing.
    One becomes a Christian by believing. They become a disciple by choice.

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  13. @Felicity wrote “We went there, and despite a day waiting in line, didn’t meet any non-church goers, and yet thousands committed their lives to the Lord at those meetings.”
    One thing about the Brownsville/Pensacola revival: it was repentance based–so much so that some members of the team came to a church I once attended and caused a church split. Why? Because all they taught was repentance, repentance, repentance…to people who were already saved!!!! The saved folk got tired of it and left. This church lost almost 80-90% of its membership.
    Maybe that is why you saw so many people “committing their lives to the Lord.” They were already saved but doing what they were told to do by the leaders of the “revival.”

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  14. Gary, interesting!! I was once asked the question, “Would you prefer a move of God with all kinds of miracles and wonders, or a slower, quieter move which ushered thousands into the Kingdom?” Personally, I would rather see the latter. (Having said that, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Most of the current church planting movements which are seeing huge numbers ushered into the Kingdom are seeing amazing signs and wonders, but it’s not their focus.)
    For some time, I’ve been pondering the question, why are some moves of God just a flash in the pan, but others last for decades (think, Moravians, Methodism, Korea, China)? The common features of the ones that last for decades, apart from obvious features like prayer that I’ve come up with so far are firstly, a small group structure to what is going on, and secondly, women have positions of leadership.

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  15. I am so glad that I stumbled across this post. I recently participated in the MasterLife study series on discipleship and one of my major lessons was that growth is a process and this walk is a life long battle. I often beat myself up for my failure to apply or sustain what I learned until I realized this. Honestly I’m still adjusting to the concept and that is why this is a great reminder for me as I minister to people. While it is great to concentrate on God being a deliverer and a restorer… I have to be clear that this is journey not a race.

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