Free for Preachers: Sermon Maker
Preaching Articles

A Wedding Parable

Imagine you are officiating a wedding. The flowers and decorations have been set out; the guests arrive to fill out the pews dressed in their finest; and you stand next to the anxious groom, who is awaiting the big moment. Finally, it's time, and you lead him to the altar where he awaits his bride. The wedding party marches out, but everyone really is waiting to see the bride in her finest.

Finally the mother of the bride stands, followed by the rest of the congregation. Then everyone sees the bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. They meet at the altar. You preach your carefully crafted sermon, pronounce them husband and wife, and send them down the aisle. Although everything has gone according to the script so far, you are shocked to see the bride get into the limo, which peels out, leaving the groom standing there in disbelief.

Hours go by without any word from the bride. Hours turn into days, and finally you give the bride a call to see what happened. You find out she has not seen or spoken to the groom since the ceremony—no honeymoon, no setting up of a home together, no common life at all—so you ask why she has abandoned her husband and get the perplexed response, "Abandoned? No, we're married! You preached the sermon, I felt moved and said I do. How dare you question my love for him?"

A Wedding Parable Explained

It might seem to be a strange story for a wedding. Unfortunately it's a common tale related to the altar call. The congregation gathers. You preach the sermon you've labored over all week, and then you give an altar call. You might ask the congregation to repeat after you a prayer similar to "Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I know I am not where I want to be, and I want Your forgiveness! I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for my sins. Please wash me clean from all sin, shame and guilt. Come into my life, Jesus, to be my Lord and Savior. Amen!" Everyone walks out the church doors with a smile on their faces, and you rejoice that there is another soul bound for heaven.

Yet if you were to check up on this person later in the week, you might be surprised to find that despite a verbal claim that Jesus as his or her Lord, the person seems to be living exactly as before. Similar to the woman who said "I do," continued to live the way she did before she married her groom, many people continue to live the way they did before they prayed for salvation. His or her prayer life does not change. He or she doesn't pick up a Bible. Views and practices of morality do not change.

He or she is not serving in the local church. The person certainly is not living as a radical disciple of Jesus who has picked up a personal cross to follow Him. If you were to question such a person's Christian commitment, he or she might be shocked and appalled that you would question the commitment. After all, you were standing right there and heard an "I do" issue forth!

Where Did We Go Wrong?

There is nothing wrong with praying to welcome people into the faith. However, we often err in failing to explain the commitment that's being made. We have not unpacked what the terms mean or how life in the kingdom looks after asking Jesus to be Lord and Savior. Therefore, they end up saying, "I do," with little comprehension of what and to whom they are pledging themselves. We need to explain what Lord andSavior really mean, as well as how life after conversion looks.

Explaining Lord and Savior

We seem to understand what it means for Jesus to be Savior. People generally understand they need Jesus to save them. Yet if this is the lesser of two misunderstandings, we still need to be diligent in letting people know that because of original sin we gain at conception, we justly deserve to bear the wrath of God. God's wrath is for all of us; but because God loved us, and we could not escape His wrath by our own merits, He sent Jesus as a substitutionary atonement who bore the wrath on the cross that His people deserved. Praying for salvation is asking that His death stand in for our own, thereby extending salvation to a sinner. We are saved from eternal separation from Him. We are saved from a life of rebellion against God, to a life of obedience to Him.

This is the segue between Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord. Too many people have a cultural conception of heaven as a place of unmitigated luxury, where they get everything they want. They do not understand that citizenship in heaven is about following God as our Lord and our Savior. So the idea of following Him as Lord here on earth is entirely foreign. We must not neglect to explain that if we are to become Christians, it means we live out the oldest of Christian creeds: "Jesus is Lord." We follow Him as Lord the moment we become Christian, and though that never works out perfectly in this age with our stumbling and repenting, in the age to come He will change us to be able to follow Him perfectly. This is precisely what is so appealing about the Christian faith.

Explaining Life After "I Do"

We need to explain that following Him as Lord means a daily following after Him, not because it is a work that gets us into heaven, but because we desperately want to follow Him as our Lord. We can turn to Acts 2:42-47 to help display the true marks of the church. We need to explain the necessity of following the teaching of the church, as well as learn how to learn on our own through daily Bible study to understand His commandments more clearly so we can continue to live a lifestyle of repentance. We do not repent one time and move on; we go every day to repent of what we have done and what we have left undone.

We must explain how fellowship with other believers in the local church is critical, and something we do optionally when our schedules allow. We must teach about the breaking of bread we take together as a community, as well as our corporate and personal prayer lives. Teach Matthew 8:19-22, "And a scribe came up and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' Another of the disciples said to Him, 'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' And Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'" They need to know that when they commit to following a persecuted Lord, they join in His persecution.

Application

I know you may be thinking a lot of things. One may be, "That's an awful lot to preach when I could give a two-sentence altar call." However, when you consider the gravity of the situation, the difference between someone being eternally saved and someone thinking he or she is eternally saved is worth the effort.

You may also be thinking, "Wouldn't that kind of a commitment scare a lot of people away from the faith?" Yes and no. Yes, it will scare a lot of people away who think they are making a commitment to Jesus when really it's their own version of the gospel to which they are pledging. No, preaching the gospel as it actually is will not scare off anyone God has called to believe the one, true gospel.

Finally you may be thinking, "What do I do about those who already have bought the easy believism lie?" Unfortunately, you're going to have to offend them, because the gospel is offensive to all of us. It calls us out as sinners and tells us that we are hopeless without Jesus as our Lord and Savior. You are going to have to explain that even though they went to a youth camp or concert, listened to a particular minister's sermon, or responded to an altar call from a legitimate and well-meaning Christian, they might have believed a lie if what was presented was anything other than God's truth.

The gospel is not a matter of declaring repentance and believing but is a matter of actually repenting and believing. Remember, not everyone who says "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven. The good news is that it's not too late. While we still have breath in our lungs, we can repent from the false gospel of easy believism and thankfully accept the true gospel which Jesus Himself preached.

Dustin Leimgruber is a contributor to Preaching.com. 

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Karl Frank

commented on Jul 9, 2014

While I completely understand what you are writing about, J_sus gave us the example, which I failed to read in the article, to follow - discipleship ! And there are ever so FEW body of believers that HONESTLY do practice it.

John Jacobs

commented on Jul 9, 2014

This sounds like "Lordship Salvation". How much of a commitment? What if we don't follow through with the commitment? what if we are committed for a while then slack off for a long time? Is Romans 10:9 enough to be saved? Seems like a slippery slope here.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 9, 2014

John, not at all. The Gospel that the disciples preached throughout the Roman Empire was, "Jesus the Messiah is Lord" (the text in Romans 10:9 which you cited, says precisely that). Baptism, the entrance into the Christian life, was a renunciation of all other allegiances--a death to oneself and to the systems of this world--and a confession that ones allegiance was now exclusively reserved for the Kingdom of God. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." And because it is Christ who now lives in me, it is Christ who sustains me in the Christian life, not myself. I can't do it myself--I'm dead! Ephesians 1:6 says, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." The good work must be done in me. My life must be transformed to reflect Christ's image. But that work is both begun and completed by Christ, not myself. So, no, there is no slippery slope. The Gospel demands that all accept Christ as Lord. We cannot ignore the demands of the Gospel.

John Jacobs

commented on Jul 9, 2014

Bill, thanks for the reply. I guess I'm confused. I agree with all you say as far as discipleship is concerned. Yes, there should be life change, self denial,and bearing of fruit. But, I thought to be saved all one must do is to acknowledge their sinfulness and need for a Savior, understand the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4, Romans 6:23) and believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31). I just want to be careful not to "front end load" the gospel. Does this make sense?

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 9, 2014

I think I get what you're saying, but could you please elaborate a bit on what you mean by "front end load" the gospel? Thank you.

John Jacobs

commented on Jul 10, 2014

Sure. What I mean by "front loading" is by raising the entrance requirements for Heaven. The way to salvation is by believing not by commitment, obedience or perseverance. That is all part of the discipleship process. The danger is people start evaluating their assurance of salvation based on works.

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 11, 2014

I get what you're saying, and I don't necessarily disagree. I do think there is always the temptation to base our salvation on our own works, and we need to resist that temptation actively. On the other hand, when we talk about "entrance requirements," the Bible is clear. The only entrance into the Christian life is by dying to self, and being raised again to life in Christ. That is why in the book of Acts, when people believed in Christ, they would be baptized. Not that the act of baptism itself had any salvific power. But baptism represented the reality that the believer had participated with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3ff). So, I agree with you that we must not present salvation as a list of requirements a person has to accomplish. On the other hand, we do have to explain to people that when they believe in Christ, life as they know it, is over. They are new creations. The old things have passed away, all things are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). People need to be conscious of the implications of what it means to believe in Christ (even if they may not understand it fully at first), that it means that I now live not by my own life, but by the life of Christ within me. We do people great harm if we allow them the impression that they can believe in Christ, and continue to live life as normal. That's the point, I believe, the article is making.

John Jacobs

commented on Jul 11, 2014

Thanks for the posts Bill. I always enjoy friendly bible conversations. God bless!

Bill Williams

commented on Jul 11, 2014

My pleasure. I've enjoyed the conversation as well, and I've appreciated your insights.

John S. Marquis

commented on Jul 11, 2014

If all the scriptures said about salvation was Romans10:9 then you have an argument.

John Jacobs

commented on Jul 11, 2014

Well then please tell me how one is saved. Thank you.

Jim Wood

commented on Jul 9, 2014

I think what often is missing is the fact that so many people think because they acknowledge Christ as the Son of God they think they are saved. As we all know even satan knows the Christ as the son of God. Big difference between acknowledging God and committing to live your life for him. If you truly believe in the Lordship then your life should easily reflect it. As Jesus stated you shall know a tree by its fruit. No fruit must not be a fruit tree. Great word picture Dustin.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jul 9, 2014

Acknowledging Jesus AS Lord is different than promising to make Him the Lord of your life in order to be saved. Yes, we must believe that Jesus is Lord, God. That is certainly necessary for salvation. But we do not make deals with God in order to get saved. We do not promise to do ANYTHING to receive salvation, otherwise it is a work's salvation. We do not promise to follow Him the best we can, or to keep from sinning. Repentance means "a change of mind." It does NOT mean to forsake sin. When we repent we admit we are sinners, we change our mind (repent) about getting to heaven on our own by our good works or works of righteousness or church denomination and turn to Christ. Repentance is not promising God we will turn from sin because as James writes to Christians, "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." We are not saved by making a deal with God to quit sinning, that is works salvation PERIOD! Read the book of Galatians! No one will EVER be saved by keeping the law! Let me see the hands of those of you who have perfectly "forsaken" your sins. Please...get on here and tell us that you have. Do any of you love God perfectly? If not, then you haven't really "forsaken" your sin because "to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." I taught about this not too long ago at church on a Wednesday evening. I used Ray Comfort and Jack Chick as examples of the wrong biblical meaning of repentance. Read the sinners prayer on the back of a Chick tract. I read of a man who didn't get saved for years because the Chick tract taught he had to quit sinning to be saved, he knew he couldn't. Thank God for him, he was taught the right way in time. Remember, "All our righteousness is as filthy rags." We are saved ONLY through the righteousness of Christ. How proud of us to say to God, "I will promise to forsake sin." Not going to happen, and guess what, God knows it too."

Tracy Irvin

commented on Jul 9, 2014

Good post. Is this sentence missing the word not? "We must explain how fellowship with other believers in the local church is critical, and something we do optionally when our schedules allow."

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Jul 9, 2014

A wonderful article...Brother Dustin...thanks. As a Saviour, Jesus saves people and then becomes the Lord of every area of their lives. A genuine saving experience would result in love overflowing from the heart of the saved sinner (Romans 5:5), resulting in submission of every area of his/her life. If it is not a genuine transformation as borne out by a transformed life-style, then the Pastor/Servant of God has to confront the concerned in the way the Lord leads the former.

Motseki Motlatla

commented on Jul 10, 2014

I have accepted Christ as my personal savior, I am studying the word as often as i can but i am not sure if i understand what is faith. Can you help, How do i know that i ahve faith, what is faith?

John S. Marquis

commented on Jul 11, 2014

Well balanced article!

David Adams

commented on Jul 12, 2014

In John 1:12 the text talks about receiving Jesus (which seems to be synonymous with "believing on His name"). When a person by faith receives Jesus, they accept Him as He truly is. It's not like going to a smorgasbord and picking only the things you like. When a person receives Jesus, he cannot choose to accept only part of Jesus and reject the rest. When you receive Jesus, you receive a Savior, and you also receive a new Lord of your life. Receiving Jesus includes bowing your knee before Him and acknowledging Him as the only rightful Lord, God, Master, King of your life. If that is not the case, then you have not received Him as Savior.

David Adams

commented on Jul 12, 2014

John 1:12 talks about receiving Jesus. When a person by faith receives Jesus, he receives Him as He truly is. It's not like going to a smorgasbord and picking only the things you like. If you receive Jesus, you cannot accept part of Jesus and reject the rest. When you receive Jesus, you receive a Savior and also a new Lord. Receiving Jesus includes bowing your knee before Him and acknowledging Him as the only rightful Lord, God, Master, King of your life. Otherwise, you have not received Him.

Ralph G Gillard

commented on Jul 20, 2014

The article raises an extremely important issue. I agree more with Denis Cocks above. Over about 40yrs I have tried to understand clearly the answer to the question "What does the Bible say I must do to be saved?" If anyone emails me at minlot@eol.co.nz I will send them by return email a free book that I have written. The book gives, with reasons from the scriptures, the conclusions I have come to.

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Jan 30, 2019

The Bible teaches, and the Reformers confessed, that our salvation life in Christ contains two elements, justification and sanctification. Ephesians 2:1–10 (ESV) 2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. The above passage takes us through both elements. Chapter 2 begins with our status as sinners, dead to righteousness, then declares what God does to deliver us because, in our dead state, we cannot save ourselves. We cannot raise ourselves from the grip of death. We cannot place ourselves together with Christ. God must do everything that is required, and He does at the cross. God then places us in the body of Christ, uniting us with Christ in His death through Holy Baptism and raising us to newness of life by the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. God then creates good works for us to do, placing us in those situations and bringing into our lives those people whom God has determined for us to serve. He also gives us gifts - the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - to equip us. We are discipled as they declare God's Law in order that we might learn how to serve Him whom we now love because His love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who works with the Word of God to nurture us in the faith. This is sanctification; it brings about the fruit that you have by grace through faith. Because we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, God provides us with the gift of confession and absolution, so that we might be reminded that we are saved by grace through faith, as we confess our sins and Christ declares our forgiveness through the mouth of the called and ordained servant of the Word that He has given to us. " There is a historic saying in Lutheranism that the Church stands or falls on the article of justification. To justify means “to declare righteous.” God’s sure and certain declaration that we are righteous in His eyes is possible only because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His life, Jesus satisfied God’s demand for perfect obedience. Through His sacrificial death, Jesus took God’s wrath and atoned for the sins of the world. The Holy Spirit, through the means of grace, works in us saving faith, which personally apprehends what Christ has done for us. Our justification before God, therefore, is brought about by the One who lived, suffered, and died for our salvation. We cannot merit God’s favor through our obedience; we cannot offer sacrifices to pay for our sins. But what we cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He is the solid Rock on which God builds His Church. On Him, and Him alone, we stand forgiven. (See also Ap IV; SA III XIII; FC Ep III and SD III.) 1 Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. 2 People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. 3 God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Romans 3 and 4 [3:21–26; 4:5]. Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 32–33.

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Jan 30, 2019

This page does not allow for editing: "We are discipled as they declare God's Law that we might learn how to serve him whom we now love by serving our neighbor, and God's Gospel that we might remember and cling to His exceeding great and precious promises through which we "become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lusts.""

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Jan 30, 2019

Finally, you are mixing Law and Gospel. It is the Law that convicts us as sinners. The Gospel offers us the justification that comes through Christ's righteousness.

Stephen Wendt

commented on Jan 31, 2019

Hey! Great article. I think the idea of Christ not just as savior, but as "LORD of our LIVES" is something that some people, ironically, unintentionally or intentionally, ignore. Not speaking really about pastors here, but more, Christians. We all struggle with sin... and that's a given, based on humanity. But we can't forget what "Repentance" really is. Repentance is trying our best day by day not to continue sinning, for we have "turned from our ways" and now strive for the Lord's way, even if we mess up-- we have to be trying. And it's not like trying is what saves us-- because it's not. The Lord does. And He will choose everyone he wants to save. But it is a CRITICAL part of TRULY accepting Jesus as Lord-- and you can't have the Savior, without the Lord part of it. Many people get scared by this line of conversation, because it can make all of us fearful for our salvation. "Oh no! If I can fall away when I sin, how can I ever feel safe?!" But in an honest reading of the Bible, we should know there is "A WAY" to "FALL AWAY" even after you "ARE SAVED". For you have been saved, will be saved, and are being saved. And should we go on sinning in our forgiveness in Christ? No. Many of us resort to "Once saved, always saved" as a natural defense mechanism against our fear of not being saved even while believing... and for many of us, this helps us "Not sweat the small stuff", and be healthy, normal, functioning Christians who live for God in all things, and are not worried about our salvation at every turn, should we make one slight mistake, even if it was not an obvious sin, but just a mistake against what God may or may not want in a circumstance. It is so important to understand that we DO NOT need to be worried about our salvation at every twist and turn-- we should be focused on our hearts, desiring them to want God's will no matter what, and then doing our best, trusting Jesus with the rest. To strip it down to the most basic level: We should not be LIVING in INTENTIONAL sin, acting as if all is fine or even admitting it is wrong, but yet doing nothing to attempt to turn away from it. E.G. Living with our unmarried partner, like it's all good. Cursing on the daily without trying to stop, if we believe all cursing is wrong. Being hateful to others, and saying "they deserve it", when in reality, we all deserve nothing. But we should be Living for Jesus, struggling with our unique struggles, being given support by our congregation to take it one day at a time, and continuing to fight the battle for righteousness in all things, as we rely on Jesus for forgiveness of where we failed and continue to fail-- despite our best efforts. Now, other than this, there are two things I would like to say (Which may or may not be of any importance whatsoever): The first is that Original Sin is a highly controversial, and as far as I know, unconfirmed biblically concept. To bring that into this discussion about us all deserving God's wrath is entirely unnecessary, in my opinion. To give any sort of accidental or intentional edict on a topic that has no black and white biblical basis, and could cause someone to go entirely wheels-off on a conversation concerning something much more important to them, doesn't seem wise. Because we HAVE to all agree that as adults and young adults, we have responsibility and are sinners. We must turn to Jesus for repentance and we all have failed and fallen short of the glory of Christ. But we really DO NOT all have to agree that from the moment a baby is born, it has sin. So while I'm not saying there's nothing to be said in a conversation about Original Sin, I'm saying save that conversation for it's own can--- unless you feel particularly convicted, avoid injecting a highly controversial topic into a much larger, critical point that we all really MUST understand. I'm not saying this is always the case-- I'm not saying never talk about controversial topics-- and some topics are controversial even though the Bible is BLACK AND WHITE. But some are not quite on the black and white level (that I'm aware of), and I'm just saying don't undermine your huge "Jesus must be LORD of our lives' point with a potential "distraction derailer"-- like "Do babies have sin or not?", something that could entirely take the conversation (or argument) into a territory that I think we both will agree, we do NOT even potentially HAVE to agree on, for SALVATION. The only other thing is a few typos: "Unfortunately it's a common tale related to the altar call." I normally shy away from comma quibbles, (your article, your writing style, and I'm not a grammar teacher) but this one really should have a comma after unfortunately, I think. "Similar to the woman who said "I do," continued to live the way she did before she married her groom, many people continue to live the way they did before they prayed for salvation." I believe here you to meant to say "who" after ""I do"". "We need to explain what Lord andSavior really mean, as well as how life after conversion looks." I believe "andsavior" should be two words. "We must explain how fellowship with other believers in the local church is critical, and something we do optionally when our schedules allow." I'm not sure if this was a typo... But I think you may have meant to say "NOT something we do optionally when our schedules allow". I suppose it depends on what you mean by fellowship, I was thinking of this statement as relating to attending church. Obviously, church attendance is not some mandatory strict standard, but I wouldn't say it's "oh, whenever I can get around to it", either. Which may have been what you were trying to say here-- oops! Or perhaps you meant fellowship as in, just meeting up with the church for different things and hanging out. Like those grill-outs, bowling nights, and drive-in movies. Or perhaps you just meant all fellowship in general... critical, but not really mandatory... in which case... yes! "Finally you may be thinking, "What do I do about those who already have bought the easy believism lie?"" Just a comma after finally. So anyway, great article, there's a lot of amazing points here I didn't even mention... and I think this article is a HUGE thing churches need to hear nowadays. Thanks for listening to my nonsense! All the best, Stephen

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Feb 9, 2019

The Bible does not call us to "accept Jesus as Lord." That is a false teaching. It takes justification out of God's hand and puts it in yours. The fact is, we don't know why there are few who are being saved, nor do we know why all do not endure to the end. We know that God cannot lie, and that He desires all men to be saved, not just some. The Law of God - the 10 Commandments - tells us what loving the Lord our God and loving our neighbor looks like. It cannot save us, because of our fleshly weakness. The Gospel - God's exceeding great and precious promises - enables us to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. It is the proper distinction of Law and Gospel that is the remedy. Like a doctor, we must both diagnose and treat. In order to do so, we must know the difference. Jesus IS Lord, whether we obey Him or not, and our salvation is completely in His hands. It is not a joint operation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" is the promise of the Gospel. If you believe that, preach it like you feel it. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ." Preach it so that we can hear it, and you will have done well.

Join the discussion