If you grew up in the church or have ever taken a traditional discipleship course, you’re probably familiar with the so-called, “plan of salvation.” It’s interesting to note while the Bible shows us how to find salvation in Jesus, it has nothing to do with the 20th century man-made “plan of salvation”. There is a way to eternal life with Jesus, but it involves a lifelong commitment, not a two-minute prayer. The plan of salvation can be useful in helping someone understand their need for Jesus, but it does nothing to prepare them for the sacrifice and difficulties they will encounter because of their decision to follow Christ.
We are doing a grave disservice to untold numbers of people who, upon being presented with the plan of salvation and praying the sinner’s prayer, think that’s all there is to it and it saves them for eternity. We’re creating people who think they know Jesus, but that same Jesus may cast them from His presence if that prayer is all they ever do for Him (Matthew 7:22-23).
For those unfamiliar with the plan of salvation, it walks someone through what sin is, how we all suffer from it, how a Holy God cannot tolerate sin, and ultimately sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty of our sins. All we have to do now is pray a simple prayer to receive Christ and He will save us from Hell. Now, there’s nothing wrong with most of this. But we must always be cautious when we add something to Biblical truths. In the plan of salvation, we’ve added the simple prayer to save us. We’ve also eliminated the scriptural requirement of obedience to the commands of Christ as we work out our faith in Him (John 14:15).
The plan of salvation turns the lifelong process of following and obeying Jesus into a moment in time conversion event. Following Jesus is never be about a onetime commitment. To be a disciple of Jesus means dedicating your entire life to Him. Every thought, every word, every action, and every dream now belong to Jesus. Salvation is something we work out through our entire lives (Philippians 2:12-13). Many who accept Jesus through the plan of salvation teaching do nothing else for the Lord because they never understood that they had to.
The plan of salvation aims to create converts, to maximize the number so we can measure how well we are doing as a church. A well-known pastor likes to say, “We’re all about the numbers”. Jesus never seemed concerned about the number of people following Him or getting baptized in His name. If anything, He seemed intent on always whittling down the number of those who followed Him (John 6:60-66; Luke 9:57-60). Counting conversions and baptisms is a rather recent phenomenon rooted more in the success culture of the Western world than in the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps worst of all, the plan of salvation results in a passive Christianity instead of the active one demonstrated by Jesus. A disciple of Jesus obeys the commands of their Lord. This often means doing things that will be entirely counter cultural. It means letting go of our dreams and success and surrendering every ounce of our life to Jesus. We must live our lives in total obedience to Jesus from this moment forward. The plan of salvation is not a moment in time decision. It’s a lifelong commitment.