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.