Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Inward Witness and Outward Fruit Part 1

First, let me make it clear that most people's conversions are clear cut, defined experiences that they can point to and say, "that's when God saved me." This sort of conversion was the norm in the book of Acts. People preached, people heard, believed, and were baptized. What I am meaning to warn against is:

#1 Neatly packaged sinner's prayers that guarantee entrance into heaven, regardless of internal witness or outward fruit.

#2 Those who would question the conversion of someone who has both the inward witness and outward fruit of regeneration, without having a concrete date and event to point to.

Neatly packaged sinners prayers has done a great deal of damage to the church. These little rituals of salvation, as far as I can tell, only came into existence in the 20th century. It was a great way to hit all the bases of what a conversion to Christianity was all about, and do it in a very tangible way that people could latch onto in masses. To this day I believe that part of the reasons these are used is merely for the evangelist, personal or mass, to put notches on his or her belt. I remember visiting a Baptist church and seeing a bulletin board with children's names of those who made decisions for Christ during VBS. Great. But do these kids have the inward witness and outward fruit of salvation? Or did we simply lead them in a prayer and walk away, feeling great about ourselves and the numbers we reached?

Please, do not misunderstand. A sinner's prayer is an accurate way of walking people through the gospel and what they must believe about themselves and about Christ. But, taking people, especially children, through a "repeat these words after me" prayer, and then turning to them and saying they are a "new creation" and from that point on saying that they will go to heaven when they die, while they may not experience the inward witness nor manifest the outward works of salvation, is a terrible disservice to them. I have used sinner's prayers before, and may again in the future. The problem isn't the prayer itself. The problem is the assumptions we make about the prayer and the person praying it.

The other problem I mention above is evangelists who question the authenticity of Christians who have believed "ever since they can remember." As is the case of two young people that have come through our youth group, and must be the case for others. They have the inner witness, and the outward fruit, but can't point to a single event of the new birth. I have heard preachers say "if you aren't sure, pray this prayer after me." Why? Is there something magical about it? Is it a condition for salvation? As posted in the last blog, our faith/trust/belief/confidence in Christ is what saves us.

So, I haven't really put Scripture in this blog, so upcoming, I plan to post:

The Inward Witness and Outward Fruit Part 2 (What are they according to the Bible?)

The Godward and Manward sides of redemption.


  1. "I have heard preachers say "if you aren't sure, pray this prayer after me." Why? Is there something magical about it? Is it a condition for salvation?"

    That's my favorite part. I totally agree that for children who are raised by Christian parents and were always taught about Christ there is no clear time when they dedicated their lives to Christ.

    For me, the first time I can recall having a real faith in God was at 16. I was having to tell my dad and stepmom something very hard for me to tell them. I remember sitting in my bedroom and praying and asking God for comfort. I would flip through my Bible and God was bringing me verses and verses in the Psalms of comfort and his lovingkindness. The second time was after Seth and I had been married nearly a year. Before we had been married, I had walked away from the church about 2 years before. I remember thinking that I needed something more in my life and knew that what was missing in my life was the relationship that I had once had with Christ and started pursuing God again. Of course, He was already pursuing me and I just finally took my head out of my rear end and started listening.

    (This is just a glimpse of my actual testimony. This is like Cliff Notes to the Cliff Notes of my testimony.)

  2. And I hope that I am teaching my children well enough to not ever doubt their faith. I don't want it to be as hard for them as it was for me and their dad.

  3. Liked this. Sometimes Jesus, His love, and salvation are a lot bigger (and simpler)than our small, neatly-packaged box for Him.

  4. Good post. I'm one of those who can't point to a certain time and say this is when I became a Christian, I can point to certain turning points in my relationship with Christ but no specific "this is when it all happened" my wife is the same, however we both grew up in Christian homes.

    It was interesting to note that in our small group when the question of can you point to when you became a Christian came up it was, at least in our case, only those who didn't grow up in Christian homes that could say yeah back when I was 25, etc. etc. It was also interesting to note that those who could name a time, place, etc. were at least in their mid to late teens when they became Christians.

    What that means I don't know, perhaps nothing, maybe something.

  5. The last two posts have been very thought provoking and recall feelings that I have struggled with during my walk as well. I think I sort of remember a talk I had with my mom when I was little, but I don't know how old I was.

    Growing up in a Christian home, I have sometimes been jealous of the big testimonies of some of my friends. The earth shattering conversions with some kind of "horrible sinful life" always seemed more significant than my own testimony. I think the doubting thoughts come from Satan, and he would attack me even during a church service. The alter call movement that you speak of was also prevalent in my semi-baptist upbringing, and I would question the validity of my salvation. When a friend sitting next to me, who I thought was saved, would go up as well to be saved again, I would really question my own salvation.

    My prayer is for all my children to have the saving grace that I have experienced, but I do pray that they will be bold in their knowledge and unquestioning in their faith. I pray that their armor will be strong and fortified by the Holy Spirit as well as the body of Christ to uphold them from any doubts.

    Good opinions, even unsolicited.

  6. Erin, I love your comment about those who would "get saved" over and over again. I knew some people in high school who did this. Such a small view of God to think that we have to keep coming to Him over and over again, trying to do it right, or because we think we may have not done it right in the past. The belief of the gospel must be ongoing in the life of a believer, as a state of being, not a bunch of decisions/events.