Asking Jesus Into Your Heart
I do not believe that the Scriptures teach, nor that we should lead people to believe, that sinners are saved by “asking Jesus into their hearts.” Yet in making this point it is easy to create a number of misconceptions. What follows are six points I shared with the church last night to put this issue in biblical perspective.
1. Throughout Scripture, the biblical response to the gospel is to repent and believe.
From the preaching of Jesus, to Peter, to Paul, our proper response to the gospel is always centered upon faith/repentance. Jesus said in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (cf. Matt 4:17; Acts 2:38, 16:30, 17:30; Rom 10:9).
2. The Bible never commands anyone to be saved by “asking Jesus into his heart.”
On several occasions we see people called to respond to the gospel. In some instances, the hearers directly ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?” As Jesus and his apostles address this issue, we see people called to repent. We see people called to believe. We never see anyone told to “ask Jesus into his heart.” Never. Not even once.
3. Nevertheless, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, does come to live within us.
Although we are never commanded to ask Jesus into our hearts in order to be saved, it is true that Christ does come to dwell within us through his Spirit. Paul said in Galatians 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” We would not want anyone to conclude that a caution against a formulaic prayer to “ask Jesus in” is in effect denying the reality of his presence in the life of a believer.
4. It is a good and right desire to long for the presence of Christ within us.
Even more so, I would argue that the desire to commune with Christ and experience his work in us is a good and biblical thing. Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit.” We should desire and seek his ongoing work in us through his Spirit.
5. However, the way in which Christ comes to dwell within us is through faith.
I believe this is the key issue. The point is not to say that Jesus doesn’t give us his Spirit, or that we shouldn’t desire to have him in our life. The main issue at hand is how does this happen (not to mention the importance of stressing the objective nature of what Christ has done outside of us)? How is it that Christ comes into a person’s life? The answer: through faith. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”
6. Therefore, our emphasis in calling people to respond to the gospel should be not on a particular prayer, but biblical faith.
Believe me. I want Jesus in my people’s life. I want him to commandeer their hearts and set himself up on the throne of their thoughts and affections and actions. I want them to know the internal peace of Christ’s external work on their behalf through his life death and resurrection. I want them to love the Holy Spirit and the fruit he would produce. And for these reasons, I must do what the biblical writers do. Set forth Christ in all of his glory and grace, and urge everyone who has ears to hear to believe!