A Simple Plan
How To Know You Are Born Again
A Sinner’s Prayer
The first and only effective prayer anyone who doesn’t know God
can make is often called the “sinner’s” prayer, which is
actually An Invitation To Christ. You should talk to God. Talk
to Him just like you’d talk to me. You don’t have to speak in
the King James and you don’t need to know a lot of fancy words.
It is helpful to get down on your knees. This isn’t for God but
for us as it humbles is. Kneeling is something many of us are
simply too proud to do. Humbling ourselves physically often puts
us in the right emotional and mental state to speak to God with
humility and grace.
If you've never prayed the Sinner's Prayer, or something like it, it's possible you've never formally invited Christ into your life. If you've never invited Him in, He's still waiting for that invitation. Your many years of service on the usher board or the van ministry are certainly appreciated, but works alone, church membership alone, will not get you to heaven.
If you've never prayed a prayer like this, or if you can't remember or aren't sure, you should take this time, this moment, to invite Jesus into your life. Use your own words, but a sinner’s prayer might be something like this:
I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life. Things I’m not proud of. Things I wish I could change. I’m sorry for those things I’ve done, and for those things I am now doing. Lord, I don’t want to live this way anymore.
I believe that You died for me. I believe that You rose again, according to the scriptures, and that You live today. I believe You want to be my friend. I want to be Yours.
You are welcome in my life. In my heart. In my choices. In my values. Please breathe on me and breath through me. Change me as only You can. Lord, I will let You lead the way. I will follow You and I will trust you.
I believe that, through You, I can have a new life. A better life. I’m tired of trying to make things better on my own. I want You to lead the way.
Thank You, Lord, for answering this prayer. For coming into my heart and my life. Please let your Holy Spirit lead me, guide and protect me as I spend the rest of my life, from this day forward, serving only You.
I count this done in the name of Jesus Christ,
There’s got to be follow-up. We are shamefully weak here, as well. New believers, new in the Word, are like lambs. They are, largely, defenseless against their old habits and old ways. Against demonic attack. Many if not most black churches here have absolutely no follow-up programs. These folks are simply cut loose and many, if not most, either fall back into sin or never escape sin in the first place.
After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he
said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your
miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.” Jesus
replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never
see the Kingdom of God.” "What do you mean?” exclaimed
Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother's womb
and be born again?” Jesus replied, “The truth is, no one can
enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the
Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy
Spirit gives new life from heaven. —John 3:1-6 [NLT]
This is more ceremonial than anything else, but God wants us to do this. He wants us to publicly proclaim our new life, our new relationship with Him. Whether you are baptized in the name of The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost (or Spirit), or baptized in the name of Jesus, is a matter for church folk to argue over. Just get baptized. Like a wedding, it is a public acknowledgement of your turn in the road. It changes your thinking and the way others see you, as you leave the Old Man or the Old Woman beneath the water, dead to this world, and rise above the water as a new person in Christ Jesus.
Get a Bible. Get a good one. I recommend the Zondervan NIV
Student Bible. It’s a collegiate Bible, good for high school and
college students, so it’s not a “kid’s” bible but an extremely
well-edited learning tool for new converts. Check out our
Introduction To The Bible sidebar below. Start in the Book of
Mark—the shortest of the four Gospels—and get acquainted with
who Jesus is. Whatever you do, don't try reading the Bible from
Genesis through Revelation right off the bat. Trust me, you’ll
get bored somewhere in Deuteronomy and you’ll end up putting the
Get a Prayer Partner. Somebody you trust. Somebody who’s not a busybody or a big mouth. Someone who will check on you and make sure you’re okay. Someone you can share your struggle with.
Don’t Skip Prayer Meeting. Prayer meeting is, typically, the least attended function of the black church. If there’s no choir singing, no preacher hooping, we’re exponentially less likely to set foot in there. But the prayer meeting is your power station. The prayer meeting is like a good workout at a health club. It helps get you focused and keep you focused. It brings you nearer and closer to God.
Bible Study is simply essential for you, for all of us. Find a good one if not several good ones and attend regularly. The more your learn about this great book, the stronger you will be.
Find A Support Group or groups for new Christians. People who can answer questions and pray with you—without judging you or your lifestyle or your choices. People who can be there for you during the exciting times and difficult challenges a new Christian faces.
Finally, Find A Good Church Home. You will note I place this last among my recommendations. Not that it’s not important—it really is important to belong to a church family—but that, in our tradition, church membership is the only thing we strongly advocate, when we should be strongly advocating Jesus.
When you find a church home, go slow. People will try and drag you into all manner of activities and recruit you to all manner of auxiliaries. A new Christian needs time and space to grow. A new Christian should not be standing on the door ushering the very next week or leading songs in the choir right away. A new Christian need support and patience and time. Church folk need to not turn up their nose at a new Christian who still smokes or parties, who’s still shacked up, who still has habits that need changing. Stop wagging a finger and let God do His job [John 16:13].
You, the new convert, should go slow and with great caution at your new church home. Like a new convict in a prison, you need time to figure out who’s your friend and who’s not. There are a great many emotional and spiritual cripples in churches. A great many people laying in wait to trip you up out of jealousy or resentment.
Ladies: there’s an enormous problem with men—even men in leadership, like deacons and pastors—looking to get you into bed. You’re new to the Word, you don’t know a whole lot, and they circle you like sharks. Dating should be the very last thing on your mind. In fact, dating within our churches is a bad idea for all of us. The church is not a night club. Worship service is not a Love Connection. And, for every happy ending of a couple meeting and marrying at church, there are at least a dozen train wrecks; people whose ability to worship is now hampered because they’ve seen that person ministering in the pulpit naked in the shower. Resentment over hurt feelings often breeds division and out-and-out warfare within the church. Even so, few, if any, black pastors warn against dating within your own church. It would be much wiser and much safer to seek companionship with someone from another church.
And, there you are: on the road to a new life and new experiences like one you’ve ever known. Learn to love and trust God, and you’ll find a life more full and rewarding than you’ve ever known. This is the most important thing you can ever do with your life.
And this is the most important message the black church—or any church—can give. It’s a criminal shame that so few of our churches ever give it.
Christopher J. Priest
13 February 2004
TOP OF PAGE
Next: An Introduction To The Bible