Friday, May 11, 2012

Is it Biblical to Ask Jesus into Your Heart?

Is it biblical to ask Jesus into your heart? Recently, some evangelicals have argued that it is inappropriate to encourage lost people to ask Jesus into their hearts. Dr. Steve Gaines, the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, responds that it is quite biblical to encourage a sinner to ask Jesus into his or her heart.

From a systematic perspective, we note that although Scripture speaks more often of our being united with Christ--or as Paul repeatedly states, to be "in Christ"--Scripture also speaks of Christ and the Spirit being in us. Dr. Gaines pointed to the use of lambano (to receive or to accept) in the Gospel of John and to the description of the transformed heart in the promised new covenant of Jeremiah. In a beautifully orthodox Trinitarian vein, Dr. Gaines also appealed to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as conveying the presence of Christ. In further support of Dr. Gaines' evangelistic thesis, one may wish to consult the biblical witness to the mutual indwelling of Christ, the Spirit, and the believer found in Romans 8:9-11, Colossians 1:27-28, and Galatians 2:20. It is quite necessary to speak of "receiving" Jesus Christ "in" your "heart," which is to "believe" in Him, because it is quite biblical!

Historically, the early church fathers, especially in the East, emphasized the Christian's fellowship with the Triune God. Some medieval Trinitarian theologians emphasized the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. The Reformers, from Luther to the Anabaptists, also emphasized union with Christ. American evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists, would do well to heed Dr. Gaines' clarion call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ passionately, calling for lost people to invite Him into their lives. To encourage lost people to invite Jesus Christ into their hearts was once the primary emphasis of Southern Baptist evangelism. It should be so again.

Please take a moment to hear Dr. Gaines' eloquent and irenic call to return to a biblical outlook on the place of Christ being received into the heart of the believer. And, if you have never asked Jesus Christ to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior, I beg of you to hear the apostle Peter in the first Christian sermon ever preached, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). In other words, believe in Christ and He will give Himself to you.


5 comments:

  1. Great post. While I agree with David Platt's position on this issue, at 7:28 in the video above, Gaines makes a clear distinction. A call to "invite Jesus into your heart" after an emotional rant disguised as a sermon is not Biblical. However, encouraging someone to invite Jesus into their heart after edifying, expositional and exegetically accurate preaching of the Word of God is entirely Biblical.

    Well done, Dr. Gaines, for presenting the need for strong Biblical preaching that exposes God's love and salvation and our need to respond to Him in faith.

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  2. It seems that Scripture speaks more of Holy Spirit filling our hearts. While it is true that Holy Spirit points to Jesus - would it not be more Biblically faithful to speak of receiving Holy Spirit. (despite pentecostal baggage with the term)

    My fear is that we are attempting to 'save' a phrase that we are comfortable with instead of seeking out more Biblical language that accurately reflects our union with God through Christ by Holy Spirit.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  3. Great post. I think that one of the main reasons the terminology of "asking/inviting Jesus into your heart" is that in some contexts, it is preached/taught/encouraged either completely apart from an exposition of the Gospel (e.g., the justification of a guilty sinner by God's grace through faith) or far enough removed from it that it effectively is understood apart from the Gospel.

    Second, there is danger in using it when speaking to children (since they often understand this terminology in a literal sense and equate salvation with asking Christ to physically enter your heart). But this danger can be circumvented simply by knowing your audience and giving either further explanation or just use different terminology.

    Of course, regardless of the context or the intent of the person witnessing, the understanding found in the heart of the hearer/reader always is important to keep in mind. If that person's will is changed to accept Christ on the Gospel's terms according to the Gospel's definition, then that person is immediately justified.

    Again, great post with pertinent points.

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  4. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Thank you for preaching these truths. I was begining to think that I was the only one who believed these things on this subject. Tahnk you. Ken Qualls

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  5. Thank you for your clear presentation! May I include a link to your article and video on my blog post at God's Pure Love for You (godspureloveforyou.com), entitled, "Omnipresence: God is Everywhere"? Upon receiving your email address, I would be happy to send you a preview of my post, as I await your approval to include your link.

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Edifying comments are appreciated.