Posted in theology

Reader question: Is Asking Jesus into Your Heart a Legitimate Method of Conversion?

By Elizabeth Prata

We’ve all heard this phrase. We may have even used it in Vacation Bible School with the kids, or youth camp after a poignant testimony or a lengthy musical interlude. It’s religious shorthand for the Gospel, asking someone to respond to what they have heard and to come into the kingdom of Jesus. But is it legitimate? Has the shorthand gotten TOO short?

“Asking Jesus into your heart” is a phrase that reverses the proper order of salvation. Jesus initiates salvation, not us. We don’t ask Him, He enters. We remember how He entered Saul/Paul’s heart on the Road to Damascus? It was without Paul ever ‘asking’.

In the Old Testament, too, we see that the LORD is captain of the soul, and does with a soul as He wishes. And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, (Haggai 1:14).

We see the initiation of the Lord in Lydia’s conversion, One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. (Acts 16:14)

We see the Lord active in the understanding of the scriptures in the two from Emmaus, They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

Paul Washer is a preacher that has much to say about the ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ mode of salvation. It’s also called ‘easy believism or The Sinner’s Prayer. Here is Washer on how to lead someone to Christ rightly, 3:14 min. Wretched: Paul Washer: How to lead someone to the Lord.

Here is Todd Friel on this topic: the specific phrase ‘Asking Jesus Into Your Heart’ is dealt with starting at 1:04
Should we lead someone in “the sinner’s prayer?”

Though the phrase is used earnestly by most people, and it started with good intentions, perhaps after a solid Gospel presentation, it has become a cliche that dilutes the meaning and power of the Gospel. The Gospel should include confession of sin, repentance, awareness of our due wrath, and the power of God alone to change our heart of stone to one of flesh.

Until the days of Charles Finney in the 1800s, such phraseology and such easy salvation was unheard of. It has led to the simplistic actions of walking an aisle and reciting a formulaic prayer, whereupon the preacher declares one saved. No one can declare one saved, except Jesus in heaven. Salvation is seen after time passes, by the life and the fruit one observes in the person. But remember there are tares mixed with the wheat, and ultimately, despite a preacher’s best sermons, right doctrine, stern Gospel presentation and eagle-eyed observation of a life of holiness, only Jesus knows if someone is actually saved.

‘Asking Jesus into your heart’ has sadly led to premature declarations of salvation and assurances of heaven, though the person was falsely converted. In this way, many people have not been truly saved, but are deceived into thinking they are.

Picture this. Lazarus is dead and in the tomb. Jesus is weeping outside. The crowd is gaping. Let’s say that Mary or Martha or one of the pharisees and teachers of Israel shouted, ‘Lazarus, ask Jesus into your heart! Ask Him’. Jesus is still outside the tomb, weeping, standing by. Can Lazarus ask Jesus? No. Lazarus is dead. He can’t do anything. (John 15:5b).

It is the same with all of us. We are dead in sin. We are unaware of our sin and our need for salvation because we are dead and blind to sin. Jesus is the Light, and when He turns on the light in our soul, then we see our sin. We go, ‘Ick! That’s gross! I AM depraved, and I DO deserve wrath and punishment!’ We then confess our sins and throw ourselves upon the mercy of the One on the Mercy Seat.

If you walked an aisle, or believed half the Gospel, that ‘Jesus has a great plan for your life and you just need him’, without the parts about sin, wrath and confession, here is an essay titled Is It Real? 11 Tests of Genuine Salvation Is It Real?

Jesus forgives sin and in no way will cast anyone out who confesses. But if you don’t think you have dealt with your sin properly, then I urge you to click on the Paul Washer link, the Todd Friel link, or the Genuine Salvation link.

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

7 thoughts on “Reader question: Is Asking Jesus into Your Heart a Legitimate Method of Conversion?

  1. Hi There, now I always thought that admitting that you are a Sinner was part of the Sinners prayer. Now did that change somewhere down the line?
    Until now, I did not see even as much of reason why it gets some people riled up!

    This I know, I invited Jesus into my life after He found me! The Holy Spirit now lives within me, and not just merely my heart, in which you are correct in that neither Jesus, nor the Apostles asked people if they had Jesus in their heart?
    So, that’s it, the Spirit of God lives in me, because he found me, realized that I was genuinely guilty, and then I asked Him to be in my life.
    Thank you for your posting and be blessed!

    Like

    1. Overcomer, the Sinner’s Prayer issue isn’t so much the content of the prayer, though that CAN be an issue if critical elements are absent. It is more that it can be formulaic, and give an assurance that someone is saved when they haven’t been justified by Jesus. It’s the “Now repeat after me…” prayer. Famously, one terrible example was from what became a hugely popular and influential book, Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” At the end of the book he wrote that readers should quietly whisper these words: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” And then Warren congratulated people for becoming a citizen in the kingdom of God! There was NO gospel in the book. The page that had the prayer simply said believe in Jesus and receive His forgiveness. NO mention of wrath in the entire book and no mention of being completely depraved and unqualified for life with God in His heaven, and no confession of our sins to Him. THAT is why the ‘Sinner’s Prayer ‘ is bad. ‘Believe & receive” ISN’T the Gospel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This happened to me.

    When I was five or six years old, we had a visiting speaker at our Sunday evening service. He mentioned having tracts on a table in the back to give out, and I loved tracts, so I asked my dad if I could go get one. He said yes and I was at the table trying to choose when the speaker asked me if I was saved. I replied no. I knew the basics of the gospel, as our Sunday evening services were gospel meetings every week, and my parents taught me and read to me. Then he asked me if I wanted to be saved, and of course I said yes, because I didn’t want to go to hell. So he told me what to pray. That was it.

    You can’t imagine the anguish I went through for years, especially as a teenager, when I tried to be good but always ended up failing miserably…when I tried to read my Bible and pray, but had absolutely no desire for either…I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I eventually decided Christianity just didn’t work for me, and I turned my back on it completely It only took a few short years to make such a mess of my life that when I submitted to teaching (under duress) about God’s holy standard, I could see very clearly how far from the mark I was and how absolutely hopeless I was, and Christ saved me. The funny thing is, I wasn’t looking to be saved and I never made a decision…He did it all. I was like Paul, driving down the road, minding my own business, and there He was, with His irresistible grace.

    I heard something years ago that I believe with all my heart…the transaction has already taken place before you bow the knee to confess your sin and your helplessness to do anything about it – that’s why you do so, because God’s grace already bestowed on you is the only way you could do any such thing.

    Like

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