Last week I had the privilege of visiting my family in New York. It was an awesome visit to say the least and each day I was there my parents had planned some sort of activity. Last Sunday we went to the state fair. There’s a lot to do at the fair. You can eat overpriced food, walk through massive herds of people to reach the stables that hold farm animals, ride shaky portable carnival rides and my favorite, buy 25 cent cups of chocolate milk and drink copious amounts until you’re sweating milk under the sun. Who wouldn’t want to partake in these wonderful attractions?
So, while I was enjoying all these things and walking around, I heard a lady shouting “There’s three things that God cannot do!” Intrigued, I stopped to listen to what she had to say. She said, “God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18), He cannot be tempted (James 1:13), and He cannot let sinners into heaven (Ephesians 5:5).” She then asked me if I was sure I would go to heaven when I died. I said “Yes!” She then asked me if I had accepted Jesus into my heart, and I gave a lengthy response close to this: “I don’t know what that means so no. Although, I do believe that Jesus is the way, truth, and the life and that no one comes to the father except through him… That Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross in my place to atone for my sins, conquered death and rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. That Christ’s sacrifice imputes righteousness onto me, that covers me and saves me from God’s wrath AND that because I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that Jesus is God and turn from my sin (repent) I am forgiven and I have an everlasting hope and security that I will be in heaven with God after this life.” She was speechless after this because I caught her off guard. We then talked about “asking Jesus into your heart” and a better approach to presenting the Gospel.
So where does “asking Jesus into your heart” come from? Is it Biblical? There are two explanations for where this statement comes from in the Bible:
- Ephesians 3:16-17 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” At first glance it looks like it works. But in context, it means something else. Paul is not praying for unbelievers, he is praying for his fellow Christians. Paul is praying for indwelling power through Christ and that Christ would be the focus of these believer’s entire being. Paul is saying: put Christ at the utmost importance and center of who you are, to have power and to have a greater understanding of God’s love. So this one doesn’t work.
- Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Some could assume that this is the door to our hearts, but that is nowhere in the text and it superimposes a meaning that does not exist. In context, Jesus is knocking on the door of his bride, his church. He is waiting for his servants to open the door so that he can eat with them, which portrays friendship through personal fellowship. So not this verse either.
There aren’t any other verses in the Bible that come close to this Christianese phrase. Asking Jesus into your heart is not in the Bible. And this phraseology of what the Gospel is to us is: inaccurate, skewed and can be dangerous. Here are a few reasons why you should stop asking Jesus into your heart (other than the most important reason, it not being in the Bible as shown above).
- It Doesn’t Make Sense. What does is mean? Literally, the Spirit is in us, not Jesus. Jesus is sitting on the throne at the right hand of God. Figuratively it could mean making Jesus most important in your life. But it’s too confusing. People can give it different meanings and unsaved people don’t know what it means.
- Where’s Repentance? Asking Jesus into your heart leaves this qualification out. Once you ask Jesus into your heart you’re safe. No need to work out your own salvation through sanctification. The Bible says one must believe and repent (Mark 1:15, Acts 19:4). Belief to pray and ask God to save you, and repentance to turn from your old ways and continually be striving to be more like Christ.
- Sinner’s Prayer. The language can be ritualistic. Praying a prayer does not save us. God never promises to save someone because they pray magical words. It’s the belief and repentance behind the prayer that matters. The Sinner’s prayer is just the means by which we express that.
- Fire Insurance. Many people ask Jesus into their heart because they are afraid of hell or because they want to go to heaven. Asking Jesus into your heart does not guarantee genuine Christ followers. And any motive for salvation other than wanting to be with God is insufficient.
- False Sense of Security. One may have asked Jesus into their heart and think that they are saved, yet in reality are not. One can believe that he is safe with God and is truly not due to a false understanding of the requirements for salvation (it’s not just the prayer), especially when that person doesn’t really know what being a Christian means and what it looks like as a lifestyle.
Asking Jesus into your heart is a confusing and inadequate way to articulate the gospel. Asking Jesus into your heart will not save you. Salvation comes by believing that Jesus is who he says he is, and did what he said he did. Salvation also requires a life change, repentance and the desire to be more like Christ. With eternity right around the corner and the most important question in life being: who you think Jesus is and what did he do for you, we as Christians need to present the gospel clearly and completely.
For more extent reasoning and content see: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/01/31/stop-asking-jesus-into-your-heart-a-conversation-with-j-d-greear/