I liked the movie, Invictus, except for the phrase repeated by Mandela that says, "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." To be sure, it's the cat's meow to a society built strong on secular humanism and narcissism, but the Christian life is one of sacrificing that head position in my life to the One who loved me and died for me (Gal 2:20).
There are many debates one encounters at Bible college. Among the numerous debates in which I was involved at Moody, the one that always perplexed me was the lordship debate. What it entailed was whether one needed to seek to receive Christ as the Lord of his life, or just receive Him as Savior with the hopes of receiving Him as Lord at some time in the future. The issue was over whether one could actually be justified apart from turning away from a self-directed life. This is a debate conjured up by fundamentalists who don't seem to understand that grace has a means through which it comes. I had a professor who believed that one could say a prayer for salvation at one point in his life, and then turn to reject Christ for the rest of his life, and yet, still be saved. This, for sure, is a bit of an extreme position, and I doubt most non-lordship types would accept this. However, the fundamental issue remains that if one can be saved apart from submitting his life to Christ's direction, why does he have to obey Christ's command to believe? Isn't that an act of submission to Christ's Lordship? In any case, the non-lordship position ignores something that I think is key to the whole debate, and that is that God doesn't hear any prayer that is spoken by the unrepentant. He simply doesn't respond to it by giving what is requested. As such, a request for salvation is never granted to the unrepentant.
First Peter 3:12 states that "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
We are also told in First Peter that if a supposedly Christian man abuses his wife, his prayers will be prevented from reaching God's ears.
Psalm 66:18 states that "if I see rebellion [i.e., self-direction] in my mind, The Lord will not listen [to me]."
We are told in Isaiah 59:2 that God is able to save, but doesn't because "your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, so that He does not hear [you]."
In John 9, the Pharisees are arguing with the (now healed) blind man about Christ's holiness. The Pharisees argue that Christ is a sinner, but the blind man retorts: "We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He listens to him" (v. 31).
Again, look at the way God considers the prayers of the unrepentant:
I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress [and] anguish come on you. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me, Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the Lord. "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices. (Prov 1:26-31)
Now, you may think that these are all about people who have never entered into a type of relationship with Christ, i.e., they are unbelievers in the sense that they do not believe the gospel; but most of these are actually to people who are supposedly saved. In other words, these are statements about people who would consider themselves a part of God's community, who think themselves to be in relationship with God.
So what does this mean? Well, first, it means that prayers of those who are not seeking to live under Christ's lordship are not heard. These people have no access to God. Access to demons who pretend to be in God's place in order to further deceive the unrepentant? Yes. Access to the true and living God? No.
But what does this mean for the lordship/non-lordship debate? It means that any prayer for salvation that does not include within it the intention to turn away from a self-directed/self-centered life to a life under Christ's rule IS NOT HEARD BY GOD! (I thought that qualified well as an uppercase moment.) Please get that. A prayer to make Jesus your Savior without attempting to make Him your Lord is not a prayer that is heard by God. What does that mean? It means that your prayer of salvation wasn't ever granted. You're not saved (at least until you do repent). If you have never prayed such a prayer of repentance, then your "sinner's prayer" will not help you. You are not saved. This is yet another reason why telling people to say a sinner's prayer that does not include a true desire to turn away from a godless life to a Christ-filled life is a symptom of false Christianity.
Now, let me clarify something, as you may think that you have prayed such a prayer in asking God to forgive you of your sins; but that too is deceptive. The repentance described in these passages is a turning away from a self-directed life to a Christ-directed one, not just asking for individual sins to be abolished. So repentance is not just saying sorry for Sin X or Y, but a turning over of one's life to God's direction. Look at the text of Proverbs. Why does God not hear them: "Because they hated knowledge [i.e., the truth derived from God's revelation], And did not choose the fear of the Lord [i.e., to place themselves under God's authority]. "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof." So this is talking about what these people do, what characterizes their lives.
What does this mean for the rest of us, who clearly are not perfect and sin? Well, it means that our lives are to be lived in seeking God's direction, what is good and right, and when we fall, to seek God in repentance in order that His authority might be restored over us. In other words, the Christian wants to have God rule over them. They hate that they are continually duped into falling back under their own self-direction. They still do it, but when discovered, they seek God out quickly in order that He might be glorified and have the rightful place of the Director of their lives. The unrepentant just don't want to go to hell. The unrepentant just want to be forgiven, but don't want a life that is ruled by Christ, who is the rightful King of us all. It is their prayers that go unanswered.
Look at the example of the publican and the sinner. Both come to God to pray, but only the one who comes in repentance (as opposed to the one who thinks he's "good" with God already) is forgiven. Christ tells us that the other one is not. This is also why the Lord's Prayer contains a phrase to forgive others as we seek to be forgiven, because "if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive you." In other words, not forgiving is a symptom of a self-directed life that refuses to dismiss what God dismisses. It still clings to its own rights and wants its own justice. God is not king of that person.
So what does this mean for the debate? It means the non-lordship position isn't just wrong, it's a false gospel. It creates, and has created, millions of false Christians in our world, and it needs to be rejected. It has damned countless people, many of whom, no doubt, have already gone on to stand before Christ to hear the words, "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matt 7:23). Notice that these people were heavily involved even in ministry, yet, they never entered a relationship with Christ where He was their Lord, the One who sat as the authority over their daily lives, and apparently, according to this passage, that is the only type of relationship that Christ will accept as legitimate.
Now, perhaps, my saying that the non-lordship position is a false gospel sounds harsh to you, but let me just say this: We are dealing with people's lives. This isn't a game to be played, so that you can inflate your numbers so that you can feel successful in terms of God using you to save people. God's requirement of us is that we preach the real gospel and leave the rest to Him. We don't need to be Billy Graham. We just need to be faithful to the message that is actually going to save people as opposed to the one that will get more visible converts, but damn people in the end. We ought to be in the role of seeking to save, not seeking to damn by presenting a half truth as a whole truth, and that is what the non-lordship position is. Yes, Christ is Savior, but He is Savior because He is Lord. He saves all that He owns, because He is saved. What He does not own cannot be saved with Him. And one whose life is still self-directed is not owned by Him. That is why He says to the masses, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord', and do not do what I say?" Read Matthew 25 (the whole thing) and tell me if you think that all of those who consider Christ as their Lord, but have never repented to their lives directed by Him are saved? No condemnation of this gospel I could muster would ever be so loud as Christ's words that He never knew these people ringing out as the door slams closed.
So please don't consider yourself a Christian, i.e., one who is saved, if you have continued to be the "captain of your soul," and never intended in the prayer (or have since given up the intent) to hand over your life to the real Captain. That was a prayer given in non-repentance, and as such, was a prayer never heard or answered. And if not answered, what was requested (i.e., salvation) was never given.
If you find yourself in that position today, please consider giving over your life to Christ for the first time. Consider repenting and becoming a Christian. Place your life in the hands of Christ, your faith allegiance into the only One who has the right to direct you. Either way, know that the real Christian message that apparently you didn't hear, or disregarded, is, and has always been, "Repent, for the kingdom [i.e., rule] of God is at hand [i.e., set before you to receive].
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, `Thus says the Lord God, " Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. "For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and [then] comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, [as if] I the Lord will be brought to answer him in My own person. "I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the Lord. (Ezek 14:6-8)