Is it Biblical to “Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?”
In recent days I have read numerous articles by Southern Baptist leaders on the issue of a person “asking Jesus into their heart.” The debate is whether or not this is a biblical concept. Some younger, and more Calvinist leaning authors and church leaders have strongly renounced the notion. They claim that we never read about anyone in the New Testament saying the “sinner’s prayer” or “asking/accepting Jesus to come into your heart.” David Platt has gone as far as to say that “asking Jesus into your heart” is a “superstitious prayer” that is “dangerous” and “damning.” See Platt’s comments on the issue here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPhEEzjU8xQ
Of course, Platt’s argument is that leading others to believe they are saved and right with God just because they have said a prayer (and the fruit of conversion is void from their lives) is not a biblical response to the true gospel. In this sense Platt is correct.
However, in recent days, older and non-Calvinist SBC leaders have endorsed their approval of the terminology of “asking Jesus into your heart.” Most notable is the sermon by Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN where he defends “accepting Jesus into your heart” as a biblical teaching. Watch the part of his sermon where he addresses the issue here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQBduikVS5E
Gaines makes a pointed argument defending the terminology on the basis of the Greek word lambano (to receive or accept”) in the Gospel of John. Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Bapt. Theol. Seminary has written a blog post defending Gaine’s position and tracing through church history how the patristics would have been comfortable with such terms. Read Yarnell’s post here: http://baptisttheologians.blogspot.com/2012/05/is-it-biblical-to-ask-jesus-into-your.html
In short, I can see both sides of the argument. Trevin Wax, on the Gospel Coalition blog, has just written an excellent summary of the debate and draws solid and helpful conclusions. I highly recommend you to take a moment and read it here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/05/15/is-it-biblical-to-ask-jesus-into-your-heart/
Wax reminds readers that this issue really isn’t about who is Calvinist and who is not. The real issue is false assurance of salvation that can easily be generated through the “sinner’s prayer” and “ask Jesus into your heart” approaches. I wrote about this on my blog a while back in this post: http://etoddfisher.com/?p=680
To answer the question I pose in the title of this blog- I would say yes. Gaines gives a good argument from the biblical text affirming this. The problem is that we all too often fail to say what else the New Testament says about the gospel and what it means to be a true disciple. We should never encourage people to “pray to receive Christ” and then not tell them that being a disciple is dying to self, repenting of sin, and following Jesus as a King which means living life on His term, not ours. Because this is so abused today in emotional settings (such as the invitation on the last night of a youth camp), or by individuals trying to win another convert (perhaps for their own glory, not the kingdom), or churches trying to get another baptism (to pad their numbers for the annual yearbook) Platt is correct in saying it can be dangerous.
We need to be faithful to the gospel and a proper response to it that isn’t watered down and so drenched in the comfortable Christianity of our culture that it can hardly be recognized. Yes, people should accept/receive Christ into their lives. But temper that with a great statement I read by Russ Moore- “Don’t ask Jesus into your life- your life’s a wreck. Jesus invites you into his life.” Sounds like Gal. 2:20 to me- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”