A few weeks ago, we looked at the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” in light of Scriptural teaching. Today, we will look at another popular phrase: “Ask Jesus into your heart.”
On the August 8, 2007 edition of The Albert Mohler Program, a called asked Dr. Mohler: “Could you inform me where the term ‘ask Jesus into your heart’ came from and is it the proper way to be converted?”
The following is an edited transcript of Dr. Mohler’s helpful response:
The phrase “Ask jesus into your heart” comes out of the emotionalism of Revivalism. Revivalism is a very important movement. I came out of churches very much affected by revivalism. There is much to be thankful for there; there is also much to be concerned about there in terms of their understanding of conversion as something that is more emotionally driven than is described in the Scripture in terms of the faith that justifies. The faith that justifies, the faith that saves is a faith that means trusting Christ and his promises and receiving the promises of salvation.
Let me tell you the danger in the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart.” Is it heresy? Absolutely not. It’s not heresy. It’s not a false way of describing the gospel. It does, for instance, on the positive side get to the fact that the heart must be involved. In other words, saving faith is demonstrated in the individual’s life coming to Christ when they do believe, and there is a decision made within the heart to believe. There is a yielding to Christ, a trusting that is a decision of the heart.
Of course, the big question is where does that decision come from? How does the heart become ready for that positive response, that trusting response to Christ? “Ask Jesus into your heart” is wrapped up in evangelical sentimentality. It’s not wrong. But it is not the best way of describing salvation.
The phrase comes back to a misuse of a biblical text in Revelation. “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” Is Jesus standing ready for all those who respond to him in faith? Absolutely. But he’s not just waiting and watching. The New Testament picture of Jesus, the biblical portrait of God is not just of a god who waits and watches but rather of a God who saves.
Is the heart involved? Absolutely. It’s emotional language. And we’re an emotional people. Especially in a movement like revivalism that became very adept at reaching people on an emotional level, it’s not wrong; it’s just not as right as it could be. It’s not wrong when someone says, “I became a Christian when I asked Jesus into my heart.” It’s not wrong. But you need to make sure they really understand what they’re doing there.
[Salvation is] not just saying yes to a relationship. That is the sad and minimal part of this that people don’t understand. It’s trusting Christ and his promises. You know in the New Testament, there is this whole idea of fiducia, faith – I love the way the Puritans put it when they said: “it is finally resting in Christ.” So it’s more that we are in Him than that He is in us. Of course, he does dwell within us. But it’s not as if we are the host and he is our guest. He is the Lord and we acknowledge him as our Savior.
posted by Trevin Wax