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.