"All you gotta do is say this prayer."
Really? If you just say these magic words you're saved? Think again or, actually, read again…read the Gospels again, the book of Acts again and the Epistles again and guess what you'll find? Not once does Jesus or any of his followers ever lead one person through "the sinner's prayer" for salvation!
Saying a prayer never saved anybody. It's faith alone in Christ alone based on his finished work on the cross that regenerates the lost soul, nothing else.
I was once on a national radio show where a guy called in and wanted to know more about salvation. The host said, "Hey, just say this prayer and you'll be saved." I reminded the host that there will be a lot of people in hell who said the sinner's prayer but never genuinely believed the gospel message. He reminded me that he was the host…(INSERT AWKWARD MOMENT HERE)…But I didn't back down. Why? Because the way of salvation is nothing to be trifled with on the air or off.
Sure, if you want to lead someone through a prayer of thanksgiving after they put their faith in Jesus that is great. But don't ever insinuate to anyone that it is the quoting of a prayer of salvation that saves. We are saved by faith in Christ, nothing else (John 3:16,36; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31.)
"You must turn from your sins first."
No!!! If I could turn from my sins before I came to Christ then why would I need to come to Christ in the first place? We come to Jesus as totally depraved sinners who are totally deprived of the capacity to do good (Romans 3:10.) That means we couldn't turn from our sins if we tried!
In his classic book, On Christian Liberty, Martin Luther wrote, "…trees must exist before their fruits, and the fruits do not make trees either good or corrupt, but rather as the trees are so are the fruits they bear; so the person of a man must needs first be good or wicked before he does a good or a wicked work, and his works do not make him good or wicked, but he himself makes his works either good or wicked."
An unregenerate person is unable to turn from their sin (i.e. produce good fruit) until the nature of who they are is transformed through faith in Christ! When we make turning from one's sin a precondition of salvation we are asking a lost person to do the impossible. Why? Because a bad tree can't produce good fruit (Luke 6:43.) Only when we are made new in Christ can we begin the process of turning from our sins. And, by the way, we won't completely succeed at this process until we are dead (Romans 7:21-25.)
"Sure you're saved by faith in Christ BUT…."
Everyone preaching a damnable message has a big BUT…
…BUT you have to get baptized
…BUT you have to surrender all
…BUT you have to keep the 10 Commands
…BUT you have to _________________ (fill in the blank)
The unbelievable thing about salvation is that it is only through believing! We believe in Christ and we are saved. This simple act of trust transforms us from the inside out and puts us on a trajectory of transformation.
Paul puts it bluntly in Galatians 3:1-3, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?"
Adding a "BUT" to the gospel is an act of the flesh. It is corrupting a message. It is a virus that is spreading sickness faster than the flu.
It's time to wash our hands.
I have shared with you some things NOT to say when communicating the gospel. So what do you say? How about what Jesus said in John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Now that's good news…no if's, and's or but's about it.