So many Christians today, both pastors and laypeople, think that all one has to do to be saved is say a simple sinner’s prayer. Or they think one must say he or she believes in the divinity and resurrection of Christ. The demons know this and tremble (James 2:19). Their knowledge won’t save them since they’re condemned to hell. Saving faith is something else. So is conversion.
In the old days, sinners confessed their sins and prayed through to conversion. Christians came alongside and helped them through prayers of intercession. This conversion is nothing other than submission to Jesus Christ as Lord and a spiritual knowledge that God the Father has accepted them as his children through the power and witness of the Holy Spirit. Most Christians today ridicule this process. Maybe their ridicule shows that they aren’t really saved.
Jesus compared the conversion of a sinner into the kingdom of God to two daily realities in first-century Israel: a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:23-24) and a woman having a baby (John 1:13, 3:3-8, 16:20-22). A third comparison, which comes first biblically, appears in the valley of dry bones vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
These analogies aren’t hyperboles. All three demonstrate the “praying through” or “push” concept: Praying Until Something Happens.
- In order to go through the needle-eye gate in Jerusalem, a camel had to be unloaded of its burden, crouch on its knees, and then pushed through from behind by a few people.
- In order to have a baby, a woman in labor has to be unloaded of external weight (i.e. most clothing), crouch on her knees to help gravity, and then use her muscles to push the baby out – with help from midwives and/or doctors.
- In order for the valley of dry bones (the nation of Israel) to become living people again, Ezekiel had to prophesy twice. First, he had to speak God’s word to the bones, saying they would come together as human beings. Then he had to speak God’s word to the wind, asking it to enter the dead bodies.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. In order to be converted by the Holy Spirit, sinners must approach the door of salvation in faith. They must then unload their burden of sins and humbly crouch on their knees before God. Christians, meanwhile, must help push them through in spirit-filled prayer and the prophetic word of faith – speaking both to the sinner and to God.
A camel’s entering a gate, the birth of a baby, or the breath of God entering dead bodies takes an instant in time. This is the moment of conversion that many Christians seek. However, a camel can take days to approach the gate and then hours to go through it. The creation of a baby takes nine months in the womb and then 12-72 hours in labor. Even the dead bones in Ezekiel’s vision took time coming together before the breath of God entered them. Likewise, a sinner’s approach to a symbolic gate, birth hole, or resuscitation usually takes weeks, months, or even years. None of these processes are instantaneous! Why should conversion be any different?
I fear that many Christians see a sinner symbolically approaching a gate or birth canal, or hear its dead bones rattling, and believe they’re saved. So they stop short of full conversion and make the sinner do likewise. The result is a hurt camel limping away from the gate, an aborted or stillborn baby, or a pile of bones. Likewise, a sinner carries the label of ‘Christian’ but isn’t converted. I fear many churches today are filled with “Christians” who are really dead babies and rattling bones. They make noise and look human but have no living breath of the Holy Spirit.
A confession of faith isn’t the end of conversion. It’s just the beginning of the end. If we want to see sinners truly converted today, we must preach saving faith as submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We must push – pray until something happens. We must pray through.