Volume 8, Issue 3: Doctrine 101
Jesus in Your Heart
Most evangelical Protestant Christians today have heard the phrase, "Jesus, come into my heart." In fact, most Christians have probably prayed a prayer that used this very request as the basis for initiating their personal salvation.
In my pre-Christian days when I first heard the gospel and was asked if I wanted to become a Christian, my question was "How?" The response was to pray and ask Jesus into my heart. The basis for this reply, I was told, came from Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me."
I was assured that Jesus didn't force Himself on anyone, but rather, He was a gentleman who stood patiently knocking at the door of my heart, waiting for me to open it to Him and allow Him to come in. Based on the best information available at the time (and also the only information available to me), I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. Since Jesus was God, I was assured that He would not lie and that if I had sincerely asked Him to come in, then He did.
Not too many years ago, I met a Christian with whom I became close friends. I recall during one discussion over dinner that he mockingly derided Christians who testified to having become so by asking "little Jesus into the left ventricle of their hearts." Being an offensive-sounding comment, I was naturally offended.
Now we all know that it's not the blood pumping organ in our chest that Jesus really comes into anyway. Instead, the heart refers to the very core of our nature as Jesus exemplified in Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
I then began to wonder where in the Bible did any of the early church saints ever ask Jesus into their heart? Did any of the Apostles teach this as the means to salvation? Was there any explicit Biblical passage that taught this doctrine? Was there really any valid passage that even implicitly taught this doctrine?
But search the Scriptures as one might, there are no recorded accounts of Jesus, the apostles, or anyone else for that matter, telling someone they could become a Christian by asking Jesus into their heart. None. Neither are there any passages that plainly say that this is what one must do to be saved.
But what about Revelation 3:20? First of all, this verse doesn't even mention the heart! Second, it was written to the church of the Laodiceans. The church is comprised of those people for whom Christ died, according to Ephesians 5:25. In fact, in Revelation 3:19, Christ tells this church, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent." Cross referencing this verse with Hebrews 12:5-6, it is evident that it was His spiritual offspring in Laodicea that He was rebuking and chastening, not some godless heathens. Jesus was addressing disobedient saints, not unsaved men and women.
I was told by a mature Christian friend that Romans 10:9 was the biblical reference that supported this invitation to the Lord from unworthy sinners. However, the obvious qualification in this verse is that one believe in his heart, not ask Jesus into it.
Another friend suggested John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." This person argued that believing was defined as receiving in this passage, and asked, "How could anyone receive Jesus unless they invited Him to come in?" But the problem is that the verse defines receiving as believing, not the other way around. Receiving Christ, according to this passage, is demonstrated by believing in His name. And besides, heart is not even mentioned in this passage.
Belief also concurs with all of the accounts of salvation in Acts, the explicit teachings by the Apostles, and the very words of Christ Himself, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life. . . ." (John 5:24).
Since there is no biblical basis for this common practice, why is it still taught? One mature saint told me that it gives a new believer the opportunity to make a commitment of faith. If such a commitment is all that is sought, then what about baptism? This is the prescribed outward demonstration of faith that accompanied new believers in the first century (e.g., Acts 2:41; 8:38; 16:33, and 18:8).
Will the Church today continue to uphold this practice of having prospective converts invite Jesus into their hearts or will it conform to biblical teaching? I hope the latter, lest we who make up the Church receive the same stinging rebuke that Jesus issued to the Pharisees, "in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9).