Revive Our Hearts Podcast

More Than Praying a Sinner's Prayer

Leslie Basham: A woman once asked Richard Owen Roberts to pray that her daughter would be released from prison. So he asked:

Richard Owen Roberts: Well, why is she in prison?

Mother of daughter in prison, "Oh, she was arrested on prostitution and drug charges."

"No," I said. "I won’t pray for your daughter to be released. If I were going to pray for your daughter, I would pray that she be born again."

Mother, "Oh, there is no need to pray that. She was born again when she was a child."

"No," I said. "If she were born again, she wouldn’t have been a prostitute. She wouldn’t have been distributing drugs."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, September 28, 2011.

This week we’ve been hearing from Richard Owen Roberts. For years he’s been a student of revival. On Monday he showed us why holiness is a mark of genuine revival.

Yesterday, he and Nancy discussed regeneration, the process someone goes through when they become a new creation in Christ. We’ll pick back up in that conversation, discussing a problem: Many people think they’ve been born again but need to evaluate their hearts.

Nancy: I am thinking some of our listeners may be a little confused right now, saying, “Well, I’ve always just assumed I was a Christian. I prayed a prayer when I was four years old, or I joined the church and walked an aisle (whatever the way you do it in your church). I assumed I was a Christian, but now you’re making me wonder. Could I have been deceived? Have I truly been regenerated?” Talk to that person and help them walk through a process of knowing how to determine if they have really been born again of the Spirit.

Mr. Roberts: Yes, and we come back to the issue of holiness. A person who is born of God has the understanding that God is holy and that all of His children are holy as He is holy. There is that attraction, that beauty of holiness, that yearning for holiness.

I don’t mean to say that everyone who is born again is perfect. It has nothing to do with perfection. I am talking about the allure, the hold, the grip of holiness upon the life. One who is born of God has that grip of holiness. They may sin terribly, they may fall frequently, but every time . . . "Oh! That I might be like Christ. Oh! To be holy. Oh! To have that constant awareness of the beauty of holiness and to walk in it."

So, if you’re unclear from what has been said, “Am I really a Christian?” ask the question: What is the most attractive picture, the most glorious thing you can imagine? Is it to be like Christ?

Remember what was said in Hebrews 11 about Enoch. Enoch walked with God. How long did Enoch walk with God? Well, the Scriptures say 300 years. Imagine yourself walking with God 300 days. And any one of those days, the Lord could say, “You’re closer now to my dwelling than to your own. Come on home with me.”

We don’t know that is what happened in Enoch’s case, but when we’re trying to explain to a small child what might have happened, that is what we say. Well, you see, God and Enoch were on a long walk and they’ve gone so far the Lord said, “Why Enoch, just come on home with me now.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in such a way that any day in all your years, the Lord could say to us, “Just come along now with me. We’ve been walking together so long.” And if that is the burning desire of your heart, if that is who you really are—one who delights to walk in the beauty of holiness—then you have reason to believe you’ve been born of the Spirit of God. If you find holiness a bore, a chore, distasteful, then you have grave reason to doubt that you’ve ever been born of God.

Nancy: If somebody is wondering or they are being convicted by the Spirit, you’ve professed something you don’t really possess. You’re religious, but you’ve never been born of the Spirit of God. What to do?

Mr. Roberts: What to do? If you look carefully at John 3, I had indicated one could spend a great deal of time speaking about it, but Nicodemus comes and he testifies to Christ that he is aware nobody could do the miracles Christ is doing unless God is with Him. Now, a reason why we misinterpret that is because we fail to see the connections between chapter 2 and chapter 3.

If one were to open their Bible and to read the last three verses of chapter 2, they would see that in those three verses it says that a significant number of people spoke to Christ and said they believed in Him because they saw the miracles that He did. But, on his part, Christ did not commit Himself to them because He knew what was in their hearts,  and He didn’t need anybody to testify concerning Him.

Now it is unthinkable that we then move into chapter 3 and that Christ would accept a statement of a lone individual which was precisely the same statement that He had rejected on the part of a crowd. So when Nicodemus comes and says “I believe that You are of God. I am sure that this series of miracles that You’ve been performing has to be because of your relationship with God.”

Jesus said to him, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). And shortly thereafter, “Unless one is born again they cannot enter the kingdom of God” (see v. 5). Now many people who deal with John 3 think it is a glorious passage about a man who was born again, but the truth of the matter is that Christ ends the interview by saying, “If you don’t believe when I tell you about earthly things, how could you believe if I told you about heavenly things?” (see v. 12).

It is a tragic story of one who thought that they believed because of what they saw. The profound lesson of the passage is faith does not come by sight but by hearing. So to go back to your question, suppose one is facing the fact that they’ve never been born again. What hope is there for me? What can I do?

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Get your Bible out and say to your heart, “I am going to stick with this until it is crystal clear. I am going to know the mind of the Spirit. I am going to let God speak to me and either testify to my lostness or testify to my salvation. I’m not going to depend on anything I did or anything anybody said. I am going to let God settle this issue."

And if you pour over His Word, you’ll know whether you’ve been born again or not. It is such a crucial issue. It would be most unwise simply to shrug it off or to say, "I’ll tend to that later." Why not set your heart now to be absolutely certain and to do so with the understanding that it is the Word of God that brings one to regeneration. That as the Word of God breaks through to the heart, God brings life through His Word.

Nancy: And you may be one whose heart God is shaking up today, and He is drawing you by the power of His Spirit. He had you tune in to this program today or log on to the Internet and this is not what you were expecting, but the Spirit of God is speaking to you today. And could I just add my voice of appeal: Don’t delay! The Spirit is drawing your heart. Respond to Him. Say, “Lord, I want to know.” Get into His Word. Let Him give you faith.

You say, “Are you trying to make me think I might not be a Christian?” Listen, if you’re not really a Christian, that is exactly what I want you to think. That is what the Lord wants to convict you of. It would be a great sin and offense against you if I were to say, “Just continue feeling good and thinking you’re fine if, in fact, you really aren’t fine.”

So God has spoken to many hearts today, and I pray that you will be among those who will respond to  Him if He is bringing conviction to your heart about this matter of true regeneration, true salvation.

Mr. Roberts, do you think if we were to experience a true movement of revival in our day that there would be a lot of people in our churches who would realize that they’ve never been born again?

Mr. Roberts: Absolutely.

Nancy: And who would come to true faith in Christ?

Mr. Roberts: I don’t think that the estimates that I hear are far off. I am confident there are churches, some of the large churches where at least 70% are unregenerate.

Nancy: But don’t realize it.

Mr. Roberts: And don’t realize it. When there is a profound movement of the Spirit of God in revival, I expect that millions will come to realize that they’ve never been born of God.

Nancy: You and I were talking earlier today about a gentleman that I met recently, but somebody you’ve known for a couple of years, who actually had a similar experience. Just tell the story. Mike is his first name.

Mr. Roberts: This man was very active in his church. Basically as a youth and as a young married man and on into middle age, always supposing that as a result of something he did as a child he was a Christian. Always in sin, never a time apparently when he was not engaged in some grievous conduct. And then the Spirit of God suddenly laid hold of his heart, and he became keenly aware of his lostness and was truly born of the Spirit of God. He was radically transformed and is now deeply stirred and moved to try and help so many others like himself in the church, but lost.

Of course, we get all kinds of accounts. After my book on repentance had been published, a young woman who we’ve known for some time came into our office one day and asked if I remembered who her brother was, and I did remember him indeed. She said, "I’ve just discovered that my brother has been living in adultery. Can you think of any way that he might be helped?"

After a few moments I thought, “Well, I know that he doesn’t like me but he respects me,” and I think that is not uncommon. People don’t like us, and yet they know that we know that what we’re saying is right. So I said to her, "What if I were to inscribe a book on repentance to your brother and you were to carry it to him and ask him to read it. Do you think he would?"

Nancy: Now for our listeners who aren’t familiar with this book, how many pages is this tome?

Mr. Roberts: Well I’ve forgotten, but somewhere in the range of 300 pages.

Nancy: It’s a long book, small print. It would have to be the  Spirit of God that would get somebody to want to read that book.

Mr. Roberts: So she took the book and gave it to her brother. After the passage of a relatively brief time, this man called me and said, “Could I come and talk with you?” And he came. He said, "I have read through the book three times. I accepted Christ when I was a child. My father was a pastor. My father assured me I was a Christian. I never lived any other way than in sin—up to my neck in sin."

Nancy: So that is what you’re calling decisional regeneration.

Mr. Roberts: Yes, yes. So he said, "You know, I was the elder who gave you such a hard time in our church." He said, "I’ve come first to thank you for writing that book; to thank you for urging my sister to give it to me, and to tell you that I have been born again as the result of reading it. And then to ask you to forgive me for the hard time I’ve given you," which naturally I was delighted to do.

But I take those two examples of just samples of millions of stories similar to that, where someone has been deceived. I’m thinking as well of a woman who approached me one day and said, "Would you please pray for my daughter?” I asked her what is there that you wish me to pray for your daughter, and she said, “She is in prison. I want you to pray that she’ll be released.”

"Well, why is she in prison?"

Mother of daughter in prison, "Oh, she was arrested on prostitution and drug charges."

"No," I said, "I won’t pray for your daughter to be released. If I were going to pray for your daughter, I would pray that she be born again."

Mother, "Oh, there is no need to pray that. She was born again when she was a child."

"No," I said. "If she were born again, she wouldn’t have been a prostitute. She wouldn’t have been distributing drugs."

Mother, "Well, she certainly was! I was there. She prayed at my knee. I know that she is a Christian."

Finally I had to say, “My dear woman. The worse problem your daughter has is a mother who doesn’t know the difference between truth and falsehood. You need to pray that you have an understanding of what Christianity is yourself and that your daughter be born again." She went way, it appears, in a huff.

Nancy: This is such an important word for parents. We have a lot of moms who listen to Revive Our Hearts who rightly long and pray for their children to come to true faith in Christ. But just a word to be so careful not to give assurance based on a prayer that is prayed or a decision that is made until there is evidence that the Spirit of God has done the work in convicting of sin and righteousness and judgment. Not to say that children can’t be born again, truly. I was; you were, but to wait until you know that it is a work of the Spirit of God.

Mr. Roberts: Yes. The children don’t need parental assurance, they need the assurance of the Holy Spirit through the Word. No parent is wise who places great emphasis upon a childish decision. When I was really young, I determined I was going to become a garbage man. I told my parents my life was going to be as a garbage man.

Nancy: You made a decision.

Mr. Roberts: I made a decision, but children make all kinds of decisions that no sensible parent would impress on that child in later life and say, “But you made a decision.” And why should we impress on them that they are Christian because of something they did as a child when there is no follow-up, no evidence from their life.

Nancy: I want to be clear that we’re not saying that children can’t be truly born again, but you want to watch for evidence that this is a work of the Spirit.

Mr. Roberts: It is lovely to meet a person, and I frequently do, who tell me about having responded to Christ—sometimes as young as three and four years of age. Then the testimony of their life is that they’ve lived for Christ ever since and the evidence is clear. So we rejoice in the reality of childhood conversion and grieve over those who have been misled.

Nancy: Mr. Roberts, I wonder if you would just close our program today by praying for listeners whose hearts have been pricked by the Spirit of God as we’ve been talking, and they’re not sure, or there is conviction that they’ve made a decision that they have never been truly born again. Would you just pray that God’s Spirit would work in their hearts and bring them to true faith.

Mr. Roberts: Lord, our hearts are heavy for that incredible multitude who have been deceived. We plead even now that by Your grace, You will step in and make these matters clear to them. I pray that any adult here who is dependent upon something they did for their salvation will gladly abandon their acts, their decisions, and may they be blessed with that which You do by way of giving them eternal life.

If they need to pursue You in seeking Your face, grant them the grace to pour heart and soul into seeking You until indeed they find You. Do a work of grace in their hearts we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Leslie: Richard Owen Roberts has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about what it means to genuinely come to know Christ personally. They’ll be right back with more of the discussion.

If you’ve never submitted your heart to Christ and sense that He is calling you to Himself, we’d like to share some literature with you about what it means to be right with Him. Just call us at 1-800-569-5959, and we'll send you the information at no charge.

If you are a regular listener, I hope you’ll consider helping Revive Our Hearts continue speaking about life and death issues like we’ve been doing today. We’re able to provide Revive Our Hearts on the radio and on the web thanks to the financial gifts from listeners like you. Your support also allows us to send materials to those who are new in their faith at no charge.

Today when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say thanks by sending you a book by Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. He was the founder of Life Action Ministries, the parent organization to Revive Our Hearts. His book is called Ablaze with His Glory. It will help you understand the heartbeat behind this ministry, show you what revival is, and give you a greater passion to see revival come to our nation.

Ask for Ablaze with His Glory when you support us by calling 1-800-569-5959. You can support the ministry by visiting and indicate that you’d like the book.

Tomorrow we'll hear from a woman who never planned on committing adultery, yet small choices added up to a large amount of pain.

Now, over the last few days Richard Owen Roberts has explained that holiness is a mark of genuine revival. He is back telling Nancy Leigh DeMoss a story about a man who gained a passion for holiness when God revived his heart.

Mr. Roberts: A little while back a man stepped up to me after a service and reached into his inside coat pocket, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me. He asked me to please read this. I read it. It was a receipt for $100 written by a veterinarian in another town about 400 miles away and dated that day. I asked what is the meaning of this?

Man in service, "I was here last night and I heard you speak about avenging a wrong. I said to myself,' I’m not going to let that old man get under my skin.' I went home and went right to bed determined to just simply dismiss what had been said.

"I tossed and turned and finally just after midnight I gave up. I got up, got dressed and drove 400 miles. I went into the office of a man that I used to work for. You see, I am a veterinarian myself now in this city. I went in; I broke down in tears. I said to him, 'When I worked for you twenty years ago, someone slipped in and paid a $25 bill in cash. I put the money in my pocket. I’ve come to make right a wrong; here is my $100."

Nancy: Twenty years later!

Mr. Roberts: He said, “I have been a professing Christian all these twenty years, and I’ve never had a single day of joy or victory until today.” He said, "I got there first thing in the morning and rushed to be back tonight. I have been singing and rejoicing and praising the Lord all day. I’ve got a brand new start."

Nancy: “When the Lord turned back the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, the Lord has done great things for them” (Ps. 126: 1-2 KJV).

Mr. Roberts: Amen.

Nancy: The Lord has done great things for us where we are glad. Psalm 126, a great revival song, and we see that connection between the presence of God and the gladness that comes. Mr. Roberts, thank you so much for giving of yourself over these last days to give us glimpses of the real meaning of revival and what it might look like and what it has looked like in the past. My prayer is that as a result of the things you’ve shared over these last days that God will put a deeper burden on the heart of many of our listeners to become part of that praying remnant until God really does rent the heavens and come down in true revival.

Mr. Roberts: Yes, we certainly pray that will be so.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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