We’re born sinners. That’s what some Christians think. (Or is this what many Christians think? It appears so.)
Most evangelicals say our sin nature is total depravity and the only thing that can save us is the grace of God.
A common belief is that you “accept Christ,” and then you are saved.
“Jesus offers us the gift of eternal life,” they say, “and we must accept this gift by repenting of our sin and believing in Jesus as our savior.”
“I’m a sinner,” Franklin Graham said, “but I’ve been forgiven, and I’ve turned from my sins. For any person that’s willing to repent in turn, God will forgive.”
Graham inherited the family business from his better known father, Billy Graham. Both of them would encourage people to say “the sinners prayer” which goes something like this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.
(Christians who are created by saying this prayer can often have a faith as deep and complex as the page of a phone book, and as theologically sound.)
The sinner’s prayer obviously isn’t in the Bible, but it has origins in this scripture Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” You’ll notice it says nothing about Jesus dying for our sins.
You must “come to Christ,” is another popular term.
After the sermon, the minister invites people forward to profess their faith and “come to Christ.” An alter call, is the phrase. We sinners are moved to step beyond our sin and into the waiting arms of Jesus.
We are drowning in a world of sin and the Lord offers us a life preserver in the form of Jesus. All we have to do is reach out and take hold of the life preserver.
You can take the metaphor a step further and say we are already drowned by our sin and only the life preserver can save us.
That’s the prevailing thought in much of mainstream Christianity.
Accepting Christ and saying the sinner’s prayer puts all of the responsibility on us. After it’s been firmly established that we are sinners drowning in a life of bad choices who really shouldn’t be trusted.
The idea of accepting Christ is as ridiculous as the idea that we are “born sinners.”
It’s not Biblical.
The Bible says we are created in the image of God.
“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” – Gen. 1:27
It’s right there, in the first chapter of the Bible. Basically the first page, and Christians get it wrong. Admittedly, people got it wrong subsequently, that’s why Jesus came to Earth – to try to straighten out the humanity created in God’s image. Humanity so caught up in the legalities of scripture that it lost contact with the God of creation. (Does that sound like some Christians you know?)
Later in Genesis, Adam is banished from the Garden, but there’s no mention of sin, or Adam’s so-called fall affecting the rest of humanity. Go look for yourself.
Three hundred years after Jesus, Augustine of Hippo latched onto a few lines of Paul’s letters and developed the idea of “original sin.”
“Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable for God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls “works of the flesh” [Gal. 5:19]. And that is properly what Paul often calls sin. The works that come forth from it such as adulteries, fornications, thefts, hatreds, murders, carousings he accordingly calls “fruits of sin” [Gal. 5:19-21], although they are also commonly called “sins” in Scripture, and even by Paul himself. . . . For, since it is said that we became subject to God’s judgment through Adam’s sin, we are to understand it not as if we, guiltless and undeserving, bore the guilt of his offense but in the sense that, since we through his transgression have become entangled in the curse, he is said to have made us guilty. Yet not only has punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment.”
And there you have it. A theology of sin that ignores the fact that God created humanity in the image of God.
Our view of a “sin nature” and the perceived need to “accept Jesus” reflects our personal view of other people more than it reflects the message and ministry of Jesus.
It’s through this view of others that we look for a sin nature where it isn’t. It isn’t in the teaching of Jesus. (Notice how John Calvin had to quote Paul’s letters, and not the words of Jesus.)
Jesus said “. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10. Jesus goes on to say, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” – John 10:17. Nothing there about dying for our sins. More like Jesus died, so that he made be resurrected. Which is what happened. And even after the resurrection, there was still no talk from Jesus about him dying for our sins. Or our need to accept him. Jesus being the Son of God is not influenced at all by humanity’s acceptance of that fact. So why would he demand that we accept it for our sins to be forgiven? Jesus doesn’t.
Repeatedly Scripture tells us that God doesn’t remember our sins.
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Paul quotes this scripture in his letter to the Hebrews, and interjects Christ into the mix.)
God doesn’t remember our sins, but we do.
Some well-meaning Christians think the only way we can be free of these sins is by going back to them, remembering them, repenting of them, and asking God to forgive us of our sins – sins God has already forgotten.
During his state-sanctioned execution, Jesus is asked by a fellow prisoner, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:42-43
No sinner’s prayer. No baptism. No inviting Jesus into his heart.
The thief on the cross with Jesus was assured paradise, before Jesus died.
God created the thief and you and me in God’s image, because God loves us.
There’s nothing we can do to not be forgiven and loved by God. Even denying Jesus three times before the sun rises isn’t enough for God to forsake you.
Jesus rejoices when we have faith and he weeps when we don’t. But he loves us all the same.
It’s true, whether you accept it or not.