Asking Jesus into your heart is probably one of the most frequently used phrases by followers of Christ when evangelising.
There’s only one problem – this term is never used in the Bible. Nowhere – zilch – it isn’t there!
The book of Acts tells us of the spread of the very early church and exactly how and what people did to be saved and become Christians. Yet there is not one single instance of anyone asking Jesus into his or her heart. Jesus never said it – the apostles never said it. In fact, nowhere in the Scriptures is there even one example of any individuals ever asking Jesus into their heart. So if it is never found in the Bible, why use it? Especially when the Bible is very clear about how to be saved.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no ‘formulaic terminology’ prescribe in the Scriptures to describe a ‘process’ whereby one becomes a Christian. So what’s wrong with this phrase?
I need to state up front that I doubt that God is hindered by, nor dependant upon evangelical terminology. If a person truly repents of sin and expresses a belief in Jesus Christ, I am confident that God, who looks on the heart of men and women, will redeem that confessing sinner, regardless the words used. I suspect that from God’s perspective, terminology is somewhat irrelevant.
So why make an issue of this?
Well, words contain ideas, and ideas shape understanding. The concept of ‘inviting Christ into our hearts’ carries with it an incorrect, or worse still, a confusing picture of what takes place when one becomes a Christian. Although the expression is common enough, I am still unsure what it is supposed to mean even after over fifty years of being a Christian. If I am still puzzled by this cliché, I can only imagine the effect it has on a non-Christian adult, leave alone a child… any child.
I can only imagine what a non believer must think when exhorted to ask Jesus into their hearts? – How does it work? Is it literal or is this some kind of metaphysical/ supernatural experience? Is it symbolic? If so, what is it supposed to mean and what is it supposed to do? The confusion is completely understandable considering no good clarification of this phrase actually exists. Is it any wonder that so often presented with completely meaningless phrases that communicate nothing intelligible, much of the world dismisses us as a credulous superstitious bunch?
The confusion can only be intensified with children who think in very literal terms and who probably imagine a literal Jesus literally living inside their hearts.
It Bypasses A True Understanding Of The Gospel.
The biggest problem is not that we may phrase something a little differently, but that this ill-defined cliché, whatever it may mean, misses the point entirely. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to save lost sinners from the just penalty of their sins. That God releases us from the demands of eternal justice on the basis that someone else paid our fine.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
God has also instructed believers to proclaim the Gospel to others…
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
…and obscuring the primary issue is not how to do so. Anyone one, young or old, can ask Jesus into their hearts without the faintest idea that salvation is by God’s grace, based solely on Christ’s death on the cross and that it is received through faith in Christ alone. They could ask Jesus into their hearts without any knowledge of the person, work, and accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ, or the need to trust in and follow Him.
How exactly then can this popular phrase be construed as the Gospel? When speaking to a non believer the only issue is sin and the need for forgiveness… “Repent” and “believe” are the Biblical instructions given to any non converted person.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
“I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish..” (Luke 13:3)
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Perhaps the best way to realize someone’s understanding of the Gospel message is by asking them the simple question.. “If you were to die tonight and God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?”. The answer to this question will tell you whether they are on track or not.
Isn’t This All Simply A Matter Of Semantics?
The single most consequential decision a person will make is to determine where they will spend eternity..
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
Yet, when it comes to pointing a person towards eternal salvation we tolerate biblical inaccuracy and doctrinal fuzziness, yet in matter of considerably less importance we demand extreme accuracy and exact wording.
As has been shown above… trusting in Jesus Christ alone and asking Jesus into your heart are not necessarily saying the same thing.
Even believers in other religion may be willing to ask Jesus into their hearts as many of them believe that He was a very wise man and a great teacher. However trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation involves a basic understanding of the Gospel and that Jesus died for your sins. It involves believing He is the only way to salvation and forsaking all other ‘gods’ and following Him come what may.
Those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible ought especially to be concerned with accuracy in communicating the truth. Words are the means God chose to tell us the good news, and words are the means we employ to explain the Gospel to others. Therefore “a correct choice of words is important, even essential, in stating the Gospel well.” [Charles Ryrie. So Great Salvation. p. 24]
Is Gospel clarity really that big of a deal? Yes, it certainly is according to Paul …
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)
This post is a modified version of “Why Not to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart” by Carol Brooks.