Also See Is The Sinner’s Prayer Effective?
The most fundamental, vital question that anyone can ask is what must I do to be saved?...the answer to which is perhaps the most crucial point of the whole New Testament. Yet there are no end of well meaning Christians who, in answer to that life and death question, will inform you that You have to ask Jesus into your heart. In fact you will find this phrase liberally sprinkled through the Christian world... found in Christian tracts, preached from pulpits and taught by evangelists. While it is undoubtedly well meaning, and well intended, several questions need to be asked, and answered...
Is it Biblically accurate or just a confusing cliché?
Is it (like the prayer of salvation) a magic key into the kingdom, or meaningless jargon based on emotion, with little understanding of what is really involved in salvation.
Is someone who has simply asked Jesus into their heart saved?
Does the whole issue boil down to a matter of mere semantics?
Here are some reasons never to use this man-made phrase.
It Is Very Confusing
Although the expression is common enough, I am still unsure of what it is supposed to mean, even after close to twenty 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.
One can only imagine what a non believer must think when exhorted to ask Jesus into their hearts?. They must wonder how this works, and whether it is literal, or 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 in children who think in very literal terms, and who probably imagine a literal Jesus literally living inside their hearts. Lower ventricle anyone?
Bob Wilkin, of the Grace Evangelical Society, testifies of the far reaching implications this inaccuracy can have.
One day while randomly walking up to people sitting on a pretty hillside on my Southern California campus, I found a fellow student who was open to spiritual things. I shared the gospel with him and asked him to invite Jesus into his heart. I was delighted when he did just that.
A week later on our follow-up appointment, my joy turned to chagrin. He announced to me that upon reading the literature I had given him to study he had discovered that I was saying that Jesus Christ was the only way to God. He vehemently disagreed with that. He believed that Jesus was one of the prophets who pointed to God. He wanted all of the prophets in his heart, so on that basis he invited Jesus in.
It turned out that he was a follower of an Eastern religious sect. My ask-Jesus-in appeal clearly didn't work with him. He asked Jesus in sincerely, yet without trusting in Him alone for eternal life.
Shortly after the second of the above incidents occurred I stopped challenging people to ask Jesus in. I began instead to ask people to trust in Christ alone.
Years later I was teaching an evangelism course at a Bible College in East Texas. I had my students write out their testimonies after I had explained what I have recounted above.
I found that quite a few of the students went through years of confusion because someone told them as children that if they asked Jesus into their hearts they would be saved. They wondered if they had done it right. They wondered if they had been sincere enough. So they asked Him in over and over again for years. They couldn't gain assurance. Finally someone shared with them that to be saved they had to trust in Christ alone. Only then, by their own testimony, did they come to faith in Christ. Years of inviting Him into their lives had only confused and frustrated them.
I had one student whose testimony ended with him saying that he invited Jesus into His heart for eternal life. In conversation with him I learned that he had come to faith in Christ alone in my class that semester and that when he wrote his testimony he just wrote up what he had always written before. I explained to him that if he had just come to faith in Christ alone that semester, then he needed to rewrite his testimony. He lit up as it dawned on him that faith in Christ, not inviting Jesus in, was the real issue. [Bob Wilkin. Don't Ask. http://www.faithalone.org/news/y1991/91aug2.html]
It is NOT found anywhere in the Bible.
If you had never read a Christian book or tract, talked to another Christian, or ever attended a Christian service or evangelistic crusade, but had simply read the Bible from cover to cover half a dozen times, you would never have known that you had to ask Jesus into your heart to be saved.
Because it simply 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 their 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. [See The Salvation Message]
It Is Not How One Is Saved.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas the million dollar question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?", note that they did not tell him to Ask Jesus into his heart.. Nor did they tell him to recite the sinners prayer, read the Four Spiritual Laws nor any of the other contrivances we have since invented. Their answer was simple and concise… "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house." (Acts 16:30-31)
Here are a few examples of what the Bible unambiguously teaches [All Emphasis Added]
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:24)
[See The Salvation Message]
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 begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [Romans 5:1]
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of god: not of works, lest any man should 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 for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the 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 and say, " 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, no, 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 that question will tell you whether they are on track or not]
It Puts The Results Of Salvation Ahead of Salvation Itself.
The Bible tells us that on the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd to…
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38]
Note that the Holy Sprit came to those who had already repented. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the result of repenting and believing.
Other verses reiterate the message ..[All Emphasis Added]
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." [John 1:12]
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. [Galatians 4:6]
Therefore according to the Bible the Spirit of Jesus comes into your heart because you are already a son through repentance and belief. Telling an unconverted person to ask Jesus into their hearts is not only putting the cart before the horse, but is little more than an empty platitude. [See Sin and Repentance]
Furthermore the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit indwells and seals every believer at the point of salvation, when they believed… an automatic process that follows on the heels of repentance and faith.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise [Ephesians 1:13-14]
It Could Create a False Assurance of Salvation
It is to be again emphasized that there is NO instance of anyone in Scripture being saved by asking Jesus into their hearts. It is not possible for anyone to be saved by this fallacy.
However it is completely plausible that someone may fully understand the Gospel and trust Jesus as their Saviour when they ask Him into their hearts, in which case there is little doubt that they are saved in spite of this confusing cliché. But they are saved because they have been reconciled to God through their faith in Christ, not by asking Jesus into their heart. However, there is still no excuse for Biblical inaccuracy.
But the other side of the coin is very worrisome.. that someone may NOT have a clear view of the Gospel and may not be trusting Jesus’ work on the cross for their salvation. That they may not know Christ died for them, but are relying on an ambiguous, imprecise instruction to save them for all eternity.
"In inviting men and women to come to Christ, we must invite them to do what the Scriptures ask them to do trust Christ to get them to heaven. We must make that clear. And to be clear, we must avoid misleading and confusing phrases. Invitations such as… "give your life to Jesus," "pray to receive Christ," and "invite Jesus into your heart," are not only not used in Scripture but can result in a person's trusting in a prayer or depending on something he or she did instead of trusting Jesus Christ and what He did” [Larry Moyer, Free and Clear. p. 42].
While asking Jesus into your heart may be an expression of Biblical repentance and faith, it certainly is not synonymous with faith in Christ. The two may go hand in hand but are not interchangeable.
[See The Salvation Message]
The Counter Arguments
It Can Not Be That Bad If So Many People Use It
If the accuracy of what we believe is determined by sheer numbers, we would all be Catholics or Muslims. The issue is not how many people or even which people believe a certain thing, but whether it Biblical or not. And in this case the burning question is whether this phrase accurately communicates the truth of Scripture.
Don’t Romans 10:9, Revelation 3:20, and Ephesians 3:17, Support Asking Jesus Into Ones Heart?
The simple answer is.. No! They do notZ
Behold , I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Read the verse again and tell me where you find ask, Jesus, and your heart in it? In fact Revelation 3:20 does not even deal with personal salvation. The context is a letter from Jesus to the church of Laodicea, within the larger context of the seven letters, written to seven real churches, that existed at the time. The church of Laodicea was a particularly well to do church, but their material prosperity had somehow caused them to believe that they were spiritually rich as well. Jesus was warning them that He was still ‘outside’ of their church.
Using Revelation 3:20 to support this cliché is superimposing on the text a meaning that simply does not exist.
Incidentally Revelation was the last book of the Bible to be written, therefore not available to any of the earliest Christians. Apparently they did quite well without the benefit of sharing this verse.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Unlike Revelation 3:20, at least the context of this verse does deal with personal salvation, and is addressed primarily to the Jews who believed in God, but who fell short of believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, which is the cornerstone of salvation..
“believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead” simply means that if a person sincerely and truly believe this, so that the external profession of faith corresponds with real internal feelings.. the person shall be saved.
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, [Ephesians 3:17]
One has to consider the context of this verse. In other words, we have to read the entire chapter to understand what exactly Paul was saying the church at Ephesus.
The context of this verse is Paul telling the Ephesians that what in other generations was not known to man, had now been revealed to the apostles and prophets [Vs.5], that is... the promise made to Abraham was was also to be extended to the Gentiles, [Vs. 6]. He goes on to say that he, Paul, was given the grace to preach the riches of Christ to the Gentiles. [Vs. 7-10]. Paul then prays that God would, through His Spirit, strengthen the Ephesians with power in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith so that they may understand the great dimensions of His love shown for a lost world (which included both Jew and Gentile.. [Vs. 16-19-10] [Also See Context is Crucial]
Paul's wish that Christ may dwell in the hearts of the Ephesians has absolutely nothing to do with being saved (The Ephesians were already saved), but was another way of telling them that they needed to develop the mind of Christ.
Expressions like this often occur in the Scriptures, where God is said to dwell in us, and we are said to be the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. [John 14:23]
Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? [1 Corinthians 3:16]
Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; [1 Corinthians 6:19]
And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [2 Corinthians 6:16]
However, they are figurative expressions implying that the Christian is under the influence of God, and that he has the views, the feelings, the moral conduct etc. of a redeemed soul, who is obeying the command to "be Holy", and whom God is pleased with. As Charles Spurgeon once said, 'Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.' God can only be 'at home' in the lives of those believers who put Him first in their attitudes and activities. All of which only happens AFTER a person is saved.
[See The Myth of Faith Alone and What is Holiness?]
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 of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)
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, that Jesus who is God Almighty, took on human form and came to earth to die for our sins. It involves believing He is the only way to salvation and forsaking all other ‘gods’ and following Him come what may.
[See In-depth Article on The Deity of Christ and The Salvation Message]
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].
[See Section A Remarkable Book Called The Bible]
Is Gospel clarity really that big of a deal? Yes, it certainly is according to Paul …
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9)
There is an interesting verse in 1 Corinthians, which, although directly referring to the interpretation of tongues, is perfectly illustrative of the principle…
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)
The battle is on for the souls of men. If the sound of the trumpet is garbled and not understood by the army, the soldiers cannot know what is required of them.