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I can remember as a young boy whenever I was told to “ask Jesus into my heart,” that I thought I was inviting Jesus to be a part of the emotional aspect of me. After all, what child believes that his heart is the seat of his thoughts, desires, will, life, etc.? The heart in contemporary western English vernacular is largely the seat of the emotions: “I love you with all my heart.” In the Scriptures however, the heart is the seat of the mind, will, desires, emotions, etc. Virtually, everything that makes a person a person, is what the Scriptures mean when they point to the heart; for, the bowels, not the heart, were the primary seat of the emotions in Scripture. As a result, although I had “asked Jesus into my heart” at a young age, I was no more a Christian than the Devil himself.
Concerning this danger, Paul Harrison Chitwood in The Sinner’s Prayer: An Historical and Theological Analysis, writes,
At the same time, explaining the concept of inviting Christ into your heart is not always an easy thing to do. For children, who have not yet developed abstract thinking skills and struggle to understand symbolism, the idea can be most confusing. Even for adults the notion may seem obscure, even unintelligible. What does it really mean to ask Jesus into your heart? By simply staying true to the biblical requirements of salvation (calling on the name of the Lord, belief/trust, repentance, and confessing Jesus as Lord) this confusion can be avoided (pg.94-95).
Pastors, teachers, parents, etc., instead of telling your children to “ask Jesus into their hearts,” let us instead stick to the Scriptures, and tell our children to call on the name of the Lord, trust in Him alone, turn from sin, and confess Christ as Lord. Not only should we tell them to do this one time, but we should tell them to continue doing this for the rest of their lives. Also, we shouldn’t assure our children of their salvation, for this is God the Holy Spirit’s job. If they have truly trusted in Christ, then God the Holy Spirit will make this evident through transforming them instantaneously, progressively, and finally. NOTE: If we assure lost people that they are saved when they really aren’t, we make them twice as much sons of hell than before they professed Christ.
Furthermore, in my ministry I have spoken with countless people that believe they’re Christians simply because they prayed a prayer one time in their life. When asked what “asking Jesus into your heart” really means, I have found that few professed Christians that have done this, could explain to me what the symbolism meant. Thus, the church and primarily the world, are full of professed Christians that wouldn’t know the gospel if their eternal lives depended on it (and they do).
Finally, I have no problem with making the gospel as simple as the Bible does; however, we sin when we seek to make salvation easier than God does. Symbolism is only as good as its symbol; and if you are not telling your hearers the Symbol, then you are sinning regardless how many people you get to repeat a prayer or ask Jesus into their hearts. Teach the gospel, not a formula.
What are your thoughts about this article? Do you agree? Why or why not?