. . . they would just “ask Jesus into their heart,” they would be saved. Don’t miss-hear me. I am all for people being saved. There is joy in heaven over just one sinner “who repents” (Luke 15:7). Did you catch that? There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.
Paul Washer says that the greatest heresy in the American protestant and evangelical church today is the widely preached idea that “if you ask Jesus into your heart, he actually enters in.” That might be a bit of an overstatement. I say might because I feel the burden that Washer has for the gospel of Jesus Christ which no where calls anyone to “ask Jesus into their heart” nor does it ever ground salvation on praying a prayer.
The message Jesus preached was this: “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15, cf. Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist’s message was similar, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Peter preached repentance at Pentecost and Paul called all of those he preached to on his missionary journeys “to repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 2:38, 26:20).
My issue with the “just ask Jesus into your heart” language is that at best it isn’t biblical and at worst it leads to false conversions.
You may think I am being harsh. You may be thinking, “isn’t it true that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as believers and so in a sense, Jesus dwells in our hearts?” Yes that is true, but the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers. Why would we go around telling those who are slaves of sin that all they need to do to be saved is invite Jesus into their hearts? That is easy to do, but it’s not biblical nor is it the gospel that the Jesus and the Apostles preached.
You might also be thinking if we preach repentance instead, aren’t we making repentance a work in and of itself? While it is possible to preach repentance such that we make it the key to salvation, that is not how we should preach. True repentance is a change of the mind and will. The Bible tells us that we are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:15-22) and dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1). Dead men don’t will themselves back to life! In fact the Bible tells us that the man living apart from Christ “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 1:14). Thus repentance is ultimately a supernatural work of almighty God to make dead men alive and to change men’s hearts such that they begin to love what they once hated and hate what they once loved (Rom. 7:9-25). Repentance is not a human work meriting God’s favor but a divine supernatural one that God works out in the hearts of sinners who have turned away from him.
So here is my suggestion: instead of telling people to ask Jesus into their hearts, tell them to repent and believe. And instead of asking whether people have ever prayed to ask Jesus into their hearts, ask them if God has done such a supernatural work in their hearts that they love God and the things of God and now hate sin and the things of the flesh. Ask them if God is making their dead heart alive to the greatest joy of all, the joy of knowing Christ and making Him known!
If there is one thing we are passionate about here at EE, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ, so if this post offends you please let me know why. My hope is merely to help people preach the gospel faithfully and biblically–the way Jesus and the Apostles did.
Anyone can pray a prayer, but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to bring dead men to life.