More Than… A Prayer
Monday— And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
STOP ASKING JESUS INTO YOUR HEART! You won’t see that sentence in most Christian books because we assume “asking Jesus into your heart” is biblical. It’s really not. Neither is “the sinner’s prayer” we hear about. Each of those are tools we use to explain what it means to follow Jesus, but each can also be a device Satan uses to give us confidence without reason. Jesus never told anyone to “ask me into your heart.” Instead, He said we’re to love Him enough to leave our old life behind and pursue His new one. He said, “…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother…” (Matthew 12:50).
The idea of asking Jesus into our hearts has replaced Jesus’ true call of discipleship and it’s leading a lot of people astray. While most begin their new lives by offering a prayer of surrender, the prayer is only the beginning. Surrender means we’ve transferred ownership of our lives to Him. Future choices indicate whether or not a spiritual transaction has taken place. In other words, “the proof is in the pudding.” No transformation—no salvation. Buying an airline ticket does not equal a vacation; it’s only the starting place. We must then get on the plane. And praying a prayer does not equal salvation. It’s only the starting place. We must then pick up our crosses and follow Him. Only by dying to ourselves can we experience new life.
Final Thought: Salvation is far more than a prayer. It’s a transfer of ownership. Has such a transaction taken place in you?
Prayer: Father in heaven, have I relied on a prayer from long ago to save me? One prayer can’t save me if I never really let go of my life and my self-rule. I do so now. I receive you as my Lord in everything and I pick up my cross. Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first…” Luke 9:59
The tugging on her heart was almost more than Shyla could stand. “Follow me,” came the Voice again, but she clung to the chairback, her mind swirling with excuses. “What about my boyfriend?” she thought. “What about my plans for this summer? My career goals? What if God doesn’t want the same things for me that I want for me?” So she did what the men in Luke 9:57-62 did. She tried to negotiate the relationship. Like those men, she gave what she thought were good excuses. She wanted some of what Jesus offered, but on her terms. We think, “That’s probably good enough.” Jesus says, “Forget it.”
When we hear the phrase “relationship with God,” we instantly apply our own definition of “relationship.” In human relationships, we negotiate the terms: “I act this way, you act that way, and we’ll get along.” In a relationship with God, He has already negotiated the terms and they are not up for debate. He says, “I am the Lord God Almighty. You’re not. I have offered to forgive your sin, fill you with my Holy Spirit, and bring you to heaven one day because my Son has paid the ultimate price for you. Your only requirement is to trust and obey.” Still we balk. “Yeah, but…” we say. “I’ll follow you, but first let me…” What God hears is that we’ve already chosen a god and it comes first. Whatever excuse we make for our disobedience is our functional god. We may declare that Jesus in our God, but He knows the truth. And He doesn’t share His throne.
Final Thought: What excuses are you making for areas of disobedience in your life? Are they your real gods?
Prayer: Lord, am I lying when I call you that? Does my life indicate that you are my Lord? Please forgive me for making excuses instead of disciples. I surrender to you now in everything. I will follow. No compromise. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Acts 19:15
Demonic activity was at an all-time high in Judea and it had something to do with that renegade Rabbi from Nazareth everyone was talking about. So Sceva’s seven sons found a way to make a buck and a name for themselves by exorcising so-called demons out of desperate people. It was amazing what people would pay for the chance to be delivered if they thought they were possessed! Who cared if it was a parlor trick? It was a good gig. But then they encountered a REAL demon and the game changed. They tried “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come out!” but the demon only smirked. “Who are you?”
The demon knew Jesus and it knew Paul. But when the sons of Sceva tried name-dropping, they got a rude surprise. Those demons DID come out, but they beat up all seven sons and stripped them naked. Sceva’s sons had no power over Satan because they were not true disciples. They wanted power without lordship. Blessings without surrender. Religion without relationship—and the demons knew it. We do that too. We try name-dropping to get what we want from God, but we’re in for a rude surprise. We have no power over sin, over Satan, and over temptation. We profess one thing and live another and Satan only mocks. We’re no threat to his kingdom. We’re not even a challenge. Real disciples, however, are on Satan’s Most Feared List. He knows those who walk in the power of Christ, overcoming sin and rescuing others from it. Are you one of them?
Final Thought: A good test of your spiritual temperature is whether the demons know your name.
Prayer: Lord, is my name on Satan’s Most Feared List? As long as I live for myself, to please myself, I pose no threat to evil. So I surrender all. Bind my life so tightly with yours that demons are terrified to see me coming. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— “Repent and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Acts 2:38
“Raise your hand every week…Get sprinkled by a priest…Go to church…Read the Bible…” Those are answers we might give to the question “What should I do to be saved?” This verse, however, is Peter’s answer when people asked him. Repent and be baptized. Those are two sides of the same coin. Repentance is a heart change God performs on the inside. Baptism is the outward symbol of that change. They’re both important, so let’s take a closer look at what they mean.
Repentance is a Bible word we can stumble over. It’s not a “morning after” pill when a sin didn’t make us happy. It doesn’t mean saying “I’m sorry” over and over while knowing we’ll do it again. Repentance is the doorway into God’s presence. It means we change our thinking to match His. We see our sin the way He does, hate it like He does, and turn away from it. Romans 6 says we die to it. Baptism symbolizes dying to sin and being raised to new life with Jesus. But baptism without repentance has zero significance. It’s getting wet for no reason. Baptizing babies or little kids who are just going along with friends? Useless. They haven’t repented yet. Once we’ve truly repented, God erases our sin and gives us a clean slate. We then pursue holiness with the same passion we once pursued evil. Salvation is more than a prayer; it’s a lifestyle.
Final Thought: Have you repented and been baptized for the forgiveness of your sin? It’s more than a prayer.
Prayer: Jesus, I believe in you, but maybe I’ve stopped short of actually repenting and being baptized as a sign of my transfer of ownership. Belief alone isn’t enough. I need the kind that changes me. I repent now and I will obey you. Amen.
Friday— “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.” Matthew 7:21
This is the scariest verse in the New Testament. Read it again and let your hair stand on end. It’s scary because of who Jesus was addressing. His audience was not a drunken bum lying in the gutter or a prostitute handing her wages to a pimp. People like that didn’t call Him Lord. They had no illusions about their spiritual state. That’s why they responded so wholeheartedly to His love and forgiveness. No, Jesus was talking to the church people. The nice people. The ones who checked “Christian” on the survey form. They were members of the Rotary Club, the United Way, and the school board. They loved their church and weren’t the least bit worried about their souls. They had salvation in the bag. And they were as lost as the devil.
Jesus went on: “On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name’” (v. 22). They believed that their religious activity would translate into eternal security. “Not so,” Jesus said. “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”(v 23) So how can we know if we’re in that number? Consider this and answer truthfully: “Who is the undisputed boss of your life?”
Final Thought: Salvation’s litmus test is not “Do you know Jesus?” The real test is: “Does Jesus know you?
Prayer: Lord God, I need to know. I don’t want to be in that group of people who are deceiving themselves. Are you the boss of my life or am I? I thought knowing you was enough, but do you know me? I surrender now to your rule. Thank you, Jesus.