Is it OK to ask Jesus into your heart?

Posted by Pastor J.D. on May 16, 2012
19

I’m finishing up the manuscript for a new book I have coming out early next year called Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know For Sure You are Saved. But because of the recent controversy stirred up by my friends David Platt and Steve Gaines, I thought I’d put my .02 in now (for more on that controversy, read here). For the record, the book will cost more than .02. But that’s just because it’s hardback. The content value probably remains about .02.

This is from a section at the beginning called, “A Couple of Things I’m NOT Saying.”

I’m not saying “Asking Jesus Into Your Heart Is Heretical”

When I say “stop asking Jesus into your heart,” I do not mean to imply that “asking Jesus into your heart” is an entirely inappropriate way to express repentance and faith. When you get saved, Jesus “comes into your heart” (Romans 8:9–11; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27–28; Galatians 2:20). My concern is that quite often reducing salvation to this phrase obscures the primary instruments of salvation, repentance and faith.

There are lots of things that happen at the moment of salvation: we are washed in Jesus’ blood, sealed by His Spirit, guaranteed a home in heaven, grafted into the vine, our names are written in the book of life, Satan’s claims against us are nullified, and Jesus comes into our hearts… just to name a few. Asking Jesus to do any one of these for us is not inappropriate, but we run the risk of obscuring the fact that the only necessary instruments for laying hold of salvation are repentance and faith.

For example, if we were to go around telling people that if they want to be saved they should ask Jesus to “begin construction on their home in heaven,” that would not be wrong, per se (John 14:1–3), but it could be misleading. People with no remorse for their sin might still be excited about Jesus providing them with an eternal vacation home. Focusing on what Jesus promised to do after we are saved might obscure the one thing He said we must do if we are to be saved: repent and believe the gospel. Salvation is indeed a request for forgiveness of sins and for union with Jesus and with many other wonderful things, but the request is obtained not so much by the expression of a request but by faith in Christ’s finished work.

My concern in this book is not on what words we might use to express our faith, but that we understand saving faith and how we can gain assurance that we have it. Many Christians see salvation as a transaction one conducts with Jesus (signified by “inviting Jesus into your heart” or some equivalent) rather than the beginning of a posture they take toward the finished work of Christ.

I’m not saying “Pressing for a Decision When We Present the Gospel Distorts It”

Finally, I do not want (in any way) to discourage pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached. Preachers of old invited sinners to come forward and ask Jesus into their hearts if they wanted to be saved. While I may prefer neither the terminology nor the technique they employed, the gospel is indeed an invitation and each time the gospel is preached that invitation ought to be extended and a decision called for  (John 1:12; Matthew 11:28; Revelation 22:17). In fact, if we do not urge the hearer to respond personally to God’s offer in Christ, we have not fully preached the gospel.

I am calling on people to “stop asking Jesus into their hearts” because God has settled their salvation in Christ and wants them to rest upon that fact in repentance and faith.  Conversion is not so much a one-time ceremony you go through and that you’d better get right or else be eternally lost. It is a posture toward Christ that you begin at a point and maintain for the rest of your life.

Pastor J.D.

Posts

J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

19 responses to Is it OK to ask Jesus into your heart?

  1. As a former independent fundamentalist Baptist who regularly went “soulwinning” and prayed with MANY about inviting Jesus into their hearts, this issue is a confusing one for me. On the one hand, I know the only thing we “do” to be saved is to trust Christ in what He has DONE. That’s it. And certainly someone can trust, anytime, anywhere. That’s how my grandparents came to believe…by a pastor knocking on a door and giving them the plan of salvation. And they were completely changed after that. On the other hand, prodding someone to pray a “sinner’s prayer” and then shake his hand and congratulate him on his salvation with a “We’d love to have you come to church sometime” just seems to take the gospel frivolously . Ultimately, it’s not the prayer that saves, it’s Jesus, our faith in Him. So “asking Jesus into your heart” kind of infers that, salvation is something WE do.

  2. What about the phrase used to describe Jesus as your “Personal Savior?” I know a lot of preachers use that phrase. I personally do not because when I think of Jesus as a personal savior, I think of the Marlyn Manson song “Personal Jesus.” I also think of personal savior as a life coach to use when things in life go rough or direct you in a form of moralism. What are your thoughts on the phrase “personal savior.”

  3. VERY well put Pastor. This is something I have pondered on for years and years and I thought you worded it outstanding. Thanks for the clarity on this issue. Looking forward to the book.

  4. I have the same background as ‘Serene’ – This is something that I just wrote about here: http://wp.me/pElZC-oO

    God knows I’m NOT being judgmental or critical – let me just read a few vss and you tell me… Matt 7:13-14 says that salvation is a narrow path and few will find it. Matt 7:21, 23 continues: many unbelievers say ‘Lord’ (it’s easier to call Him Savior than Lord) and still be unsaved. Implying salvation is more than a confession / profession! THe parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:24-25, 30, 37) is about lost people in churches. Jesus said that there are some in your church and the Angels will sort it out and pull them from among us and throw them into Hell.

    I think it’s important that we think about what it is that keeps people from Heaven? Rom 3:23 says sin is falling short of God’s glorious perfection. Praying a little prayer and believing in Jesus/cross as a historical person/event isn’t enough to undo that lack of glory and perfection. Salvation involves faith, yes, but in no way does it stop there. Salvation is more than believing… it is: confession (Romans), repentance (Acts), commitment (John), application (James). I’m not preaching works-salvation. It is not by works… I’m actually emphasizing grace more than most do. Many who say it boils down to a ‘sinners prayer’ will trust in that prayer and experience to get them to Heaven. But:

    Jesus + ANYTHING = False Gospel (leads to Hell). Jesus + NOTHING = True Gospel (leads to Heaven).

    How about a little test:If you plug your ears at talk of Hell you might not be a Christian! If you quit fighting against sinful habits and hold on you might not be a Christian. If you enjoy people of the world (unbelievers) more than family of God then you might not be a Christian. If you don’t feel conviction when you hear preaching / read God’s word then you might not be a Christian.

    Sorry if I sound like a know-it-all because I’m definitely nothing more than a student of the Word… nothing more. I’m very interested in your feedback! Thanks.

  5. May I throw this one in also: “Make Jesus Lord of your life.” We can’t “make” Jesus anything. He’s already Lord! thanks for clear thinking encouragement

  6. Asking Jesus to “begin construction on their home in heaven” is probably wrong anyway, because (1) the ‘home’ in reference just means in the context of John an “abiding place” – ie, a realm where believers will do for eternity what they have already practiced on earth (cf. John 15, etc.), and (2) because Jesus is probably no longer in the active process of “going” to make a place for us, but I think most exegetes would say that by “going to prepare” he means going to the Cross. By going to the Cross and being resurrected, Jesus has made a way, THE ONLY way, for us to be reconciled to God. We don’t have to ask for it anymore!

    In the same way, maybe it’s just me, but I think most of the overuse of “ask Jesus into your heart” comes from that letter to the church in Rev 2 (and also that terrible painting everyone trots out), which is probably a terrible understanding of what “knocking on the door” meant in those times (compare Luke 12:35-40) and also a terrible juxtaposition of commands to a church and an invitation to an individual.

  7. Patrick…those are terrible “tests”. I hate the doctrine of hell….actually that makes me compassionate, not “not a Christian. I thought Jesus +Anything=False Gospel….

    Does “fighting against sinful habits” not count as “anything”.

    We are adopted. We either accept His invitation to the family or not. King David was a member of God’s family the whole time he was messing up for YEARS.

    It is called Adoption.

  8. Your perception of this phrase is eerily similar to mine found at http://www.chad-logan.com. I go into the theological and pragmatic concerns.

  9. I think Pastor Greear makes very solid points here. He clarifies what has been very confusing for many people. I came to my faith in Christ in 1968 in a fundamentalist church where the “ask Jesus into your heart” terminology was common. Then I spent almost 20 years in pastoral ministry following the same patterns I learned early but was constantly plagued by questions about what was truly going on in the lives of these “converts” after seeing so few follow on to walk with Christ. Vance Havner always said that Christianity is a step AND a walk and without the walk was there really ever a true step? Even at an older age I have evolved in my thinking to the point that stressing a life of repentance and faith IS the way to Christ, not some secret set of passwords that grant us guaranteed entrance to the gates of pearl.

  10. This book is needed… my experience, along with many I have journeyed with have struggled with the assurance of their salvation. Often, it is because “asking Jesus into our hearts” puts too much emphasis on what we do, and too little emphasis on what Jesus does. As you rightly convey here, there’s so much more going on than Jesus residing in our hearts. Thank you for addressing this.

  11. JD, I totally agree. MacArthur calls this “easy believ-ism” Somehow we have separated “Lord” from “Savior”, repentance from forgiveness, and have ended up with a bumper sticker theology. Romans 10 talks about Lordship and Salvation as part of the same package. I also think that with the growing skepticism about the “church” (for all that entails), the days of altar calls are not over, but certainly waning, as a cynical world needs to hear more to penetrate hardened hearts.

  12. Is it OK to ask Jesus into your heart? Of course. What a waste of time and resources for this website to imply otherwise.

    Articles such as these do nothing more than serve as banter in these forums. They are filled with people full of knowledge while lacking any practical purpose for the person who actually just recently “asked Jesus into their heart”.

    While we have all come to a more full understanding of salvation, the convert who is just coming off drug addiction or slept with a prostitute last night is simply trying to “posture toward Christ” themselves.

    And for the record, such sensationalism is also unnecessary. “Asking Jesus into your heart is heretical”…Really? What’s the point of such a sensational headline? Doesn’t the WORD say to let our “yes be yes”? JD himself goes on to say that his concern is “not on what words we might use to express our faith”.

    Now, obviously, teaching a false Gospel would be heretical. This is not what is being done when somebody decides to “posture towards Christ” by asking Him “into their heart”.

    I was sent here by a friend, hopefully there’s more practical thinking than this to be found around here.

  13. Tom, I would encourage to note that the headline says “Asking Jesus into your heart is heretical” is what I’m NOT saying. I don’t want simply to banter, either, and of course that means hearing what one another is actually saying. To be clear, I have gone back and added the words “I am not saying” again before each heading.

  14. It is ok to ask Jesus into your heart

    The heart is important in the Bible [762 in KJV, 541 in NIV not including plurals] and in our salvation and our relationship with God. Although the exact words “Ask Jesus into your heart” may not be found in the Bible the concept certainly is.
    It is with our heart that we believe and are justified (Romans 10:10). Calling on the name of the Lord saves (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Calling on the Lord can be as simple as thief on the cross: “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Paul had to be knocked off of a donkey and blinded by an extremely bright divine light before he called upon the Lord (Acts 22:6-16).
    Paul prayed that Christ would dwell in people’s hearts (Ephesians 3:16-17). So I see nothing wrong in a person asking that Jesus come into their heart. After all it isn’t the words a person says it is the intent of their heart. True confession, repentance and trust must accompany whatever words are spoken. “Anyone who trusts in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:13). “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

  15. I think the underlying problem is not so much terminology, but the tendency of some who employ the “ask Jesus into your heart” method to immediately proclaim or declare to those who have merely uttered words that they are saved. I am disturbed by reports of “salvations” by evangelistic and mission teams. We might hear “25 were saved at last week’s VBS” … how on earth can we presume to know the sincerity of even a single one profession? (I say, “on earth” because I believe the news of each and every genuine exercise of faith unto salvation is headline news in heaven). We are called, even having professed faith, to examine ourselves to see whether we are truly of the faith. As a pastor, or a father, or a friend, I have no right to relieve another of that solemn responsibility of self-examination. Sinners’ prayers are undoubtedly sweet to the Father’s ears, as how else would a repentant prodigal be made right without coming before the father to confess and be restored. However, the issue is not the wording of the prayers, but the genuineness of the cries of the heart. It seems the best response would be to continue preaching the one true Gospel as set forth in the Word and allow the Spirit of God to bring the lost to Him on His terms, teach biblical holiness as evidence of salvation, and calling upon those we seek to reach and those who are entrusted to us to examine themselves in light of such.

  16. The question was posed, as a believer in Jesus Chirst what would you tell a man who has been shot and has minutes to live that is afraid, because he has lived a sinful life, that he was bound for hell?

    Should you tell him to ask Jesus into his heart?

    I would say no I wouldn’t do that but I would tell him that God loves him and that He sent his only Son Jesus to die in his place for the sins he has committed and that He rose again on the third day so that he could live in heaven forever and if he believes this with his heart he is washed clean forever.

    But if I couldn’t say that much I would tell the man to call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to save him.

    But what about repenting? I would say that the man bleeding to death and afraid he is going to hell because of the sinful life he has lived has repented because he has acknowledged he is a sinner who doesn’t deserve to go to heaven.

    I believe this is the approach we should use as we never know when anyone will on any given day meet their maker.

    The thing is, it is about in who Jesus is and what Jesus did by shedding His blood on the cross and rising again on the third day 2000 years ago that saves us and it is not about what we do such as asking Him into our hearts or comging forward at some church.

  17. Follow up to my last post, interesting that I went to the altar at a church that I hadn’t attended before during the altar call to proclaim to the person up front that I have never asked Jesus into my heart but I knew I was saved anyway.

    The man asked me, “how then do you know you are saved?”

    I then told him that I am saved because I know I am a sinner who cannot ever save myself, that I believe Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God who came to this earth as the only perfect sinless man there ever has been, Emmanuel, God with us, to die in my place on the cross, and that I believe in my heart that He rose again on the third day.

    I also told him that He is in me and I am in Him as I believe that Jesus is the one and only Son of God. He responded by saying, “even the demons believe” ignoring the fact that I had just met the requirment of confessing to him the Lord Jesus found in Romans 10.

    I then qouted to him from 1 John 4 and I asked him if it sounded familiar.

    1 John 4:15

    15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

    Well it should sound familiar because it is in the Bible but asking Jesus into our heart is not there anywhere.

    Of course confessing Jesus is the Son of God goes hand in hand with believing in our hearts that He rose again on the third day.

    My point is it is all about faith in who Jesus is, what He did 2000 years ago on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead and it is not about what what we do such as saying some prayer or coming forward at some church service.

  18. I thought you might find the testimony of the Baptist pastor, who testifies that he was unconverted because he had confused the gospel by asking Jesus into his heart, of interest, here:

    http://faithsaves.net/the-other-jesus-the-gospel-perverted-by-asking-jesus-into-your-heart-ovid-need/

    as well as the resources here:

    http://faithsaves.net/soteriology/

    Best wishes,

    Thomas Ross

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Kidmin Thoughts » Blog Archive » The Gospel and Kids: “Asking Jesus into Your Heart” - May 23, 2012

    [...] out the many posts in blog world about using the term “ask Jesus into your heart”.  Here is a good post addressing the issue by J.D. Greear.  It has become quite the hot topic over the past couple of [...]

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>