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Is “Asking Jesus into your heart” an unhelpful Christian cliche?


J.D. Greear of Christianity Today has written an interesting post which asks pertinent questions on cliches that Evangelicals use and how these cliches have muddied the waters (caused many to doubt their salvation and led countless to have false assurances) …

If there were a Guinness Book of World Records record for “amount of times having asked Jesus into your heart,” I’m pretty sure I would hold it.
By the time I reached the age of 18 I had probably “asked Jesus into my heart” 5,000 times. I started somewhere around age 4 when I approached my parents one Saturday morning asking how someone could know that they were going to heaven. They carefully led me down the “Romans Road to Salvation,” and I gave Jesus his first invitation into my heart…
So I prayed the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. Each time trying to get it right, each time really trying to mean it. I would have a moment when I felt like I got it right and experienced a temporary euphoria. But it would fade quickly and I’d question it all again. And so I’d pray again.
I walked a lot of aisles during those days. I think I’ve been saved at least once in every denomination…
A 2011 Barna study shows that nearly half of all adults in America have prayed such a prayer, and subsequently believe they are going to heaven, though many of them rarely, if ever, attend a church, read the Bible personally, or have lifestyles that differ in any significant way from those outside the church.

If the groups described in Matthew 7 and Luke 8 are not referring to them, I don’t know who they could be referring to…
I have begun to wonder if both problems, needless doubting and false assurance, are exacerbated by the clichéd ways in which we (as evangelicals) have learned to speak about the gospel. Evangelical shorthand for the gospel is to “ask Jesus into your heart,” or “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,” or “give your heart to Jesus.” These phrases may not be wrong in themselves, but the Bible never tells us, specifically, to seek salvation in those ways. The biblical summation of a saving response toward Christ is [“repentance” and “faith or trust in Jesus alone”].

Isn’t it easier to ask heathens and pagans to simply “repent and put their trust” in Jesus? I do agree cliches just simply cause more confusion.
Besides my heart has just little space in its ventricles…and I am thinking about being an organ donor!


9 responses to “Is “Asking Jesus into your heart” an unhelpful Christian cliche?

  1. Althea July 16, 2012 at 20:39

    I understand what you mean, but I think that there are worse things we can confess. The intent was right. I am assuming that 5,000 is an exaggeration (it does seem excessive), but even so, I would prefer asking Jesus into my heart that number of times, than becoming bedfellows with the devil. You mentioned doubt, and I must say that I am a bit curious to know why it took so many times. I myself gave my life to Jesus about 5 times, but then I wasn’t attending an evangelical church and really didn’t understand the full ramification of the ‘process’. Some people know the date when they became born again; I don’t, but it doesn’t matter, because I am 100% sure that I am now, and am also glad to say that I have been attending a dynamic church with lots of Word, and sound teaching for almost 5 years.

  2. ChurchSalt July 16, 2012 at 21:00

    Not to sound like an alarmist, but I think the cliches are far from harmless. They deny the very core truths of the Christian faith and completely gloss over why our Savior came in the first place. I recently wrote an article on all the trouble and danger associated with this quasi-christian terminology and evangelism. I hope I’m not being rude or intrusive by posting a link (please delete if not appropriate).

  3. Pieter Stok July 16, 2012 at 22:45

    My wife often reminds me that for young children who can be quite literal, asking a grown man to reside in your heart (physically) is a scary concept. For all of us. It would be good if we used words the Bible used. “Repent and believe” “Come to me (Jesus) …” etc.

  4. Andrew July 31, 2012 at 04:54

    You said: ‘Isn’t it easier to ask heathens and pagans to simply “repent and put their trust” in Jesus?’ However, we are saved by grace through faith, not by repentance or even trust.

    • Acidri July 31, 2012 at 06:03

      The bible commands us all to repent of our sins and put our faith in the completed work of Christ. Even then repentance is a gift that only God can grant…it is his goodness that leads us to repentance. Yes, His grace is shown to us when he regenerates a man dead in sin and brings him to respond to the gospel call.

  5. gary July 17, 2013 at 00:48

    Isn’t it odd that if the Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?

    Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

    If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”

    It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

    Maybe it’s because…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT the manner in which sinners are saved!


    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  6. gary February 19, 2015 at 22:24

    I am a former Christian (as you can see from the last comment) I loved being a Christian. I loved Jesus and I loved the Bible. I used to love witnessing to non-believers and loved defending my belief in (the Christian) God and orthodox/conservative Christianity. Then one day someone challenged me to take a good, hard look at the foundation of my beliefs: the Bible. I was stunned by what I discovered.

    1. The Bible is not inerrant. It contains many, many errors, contradictions, and deliberate alterations and additions by the scribes who copied it. The originals are lost, therefore we have no idea what “God” originally” said. Yes, its true—Christians can give “harmonizations” for every alleged error and contradiction, but so can the Muslims for errors in the Koran, and Mormons for errors in the Book of Mormon. One can harmonize anything if you allow for the supernatural.

    2. How do we know that the New Testament is the Word of God? Did Jesus leave us a list of inspired books? Did the Apostles? Paul? The answer is, no. The books of the New Testament were added to the canon over several hundred years. Second Peter was not officially accepted into the canon until almost the FIFTH century! So why do all Christians accept every book of the New Testament as the word of God and reject every non-canonical “gospel”? Answer: the ancient (catholic) Church voted these books into your Bible. Period.

    There is nowhere in the OT or the NT where God gives men the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word. If Second Peter was really God’s Word, the entire Church should have known so in the first century.

    3. Who wrote the Gospels? We have NO idea! The belief that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is based on hearsay and assumptions—catholic tradition. Protestants denounce most of the traditions of the Catholic Church but have retained two of the most blatant, evidence-lacking traditions which have no basis in historical fact or in the Bible: the canon of the NT and the authorship of the Gospels.

    The only shred of evidence that Christians use to support the traditional authorship of the Gospels is one brief statement by a guy named Papias in 130 AD that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel. That’s it! Papias did not even identify this “gospel”. Yet in 180 AD, Irenaeus, a bishop in FRANCE, declares to the world that the apostles Matthew and John and the associates of Peter and Paul—Mark and Luke—wrote the Gospels. But Irenaeus gives ZERO evidence for his assignment of authorship to these four books. It is well known to historians that it was a common practice at that time for anonymously written books to be ascribed to famous people to give them more authority. For all we know, this is what Irenaeus did in the case of the Gospels.

    The foundation of the Christian Faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If the story of the Resurrection comes from four anonymous books, three of which borrow heavily from the first, often word for word, how do we know that the unheard of, fantastically supernatural story of the re-animation of a first century dead man, actually happened??

    Maybe the first book written, “Mark”, was written for the same purpose that most books were written in that time period—for the benefit of one wealthy benefactor, and maybe it was written simply as an historical novel, like Homer’s Iliad; not meant to be 100% factual in every detail, but a mix of true historical events as a background, with a real messiah pretender in Palestine, Jesus, but with myth and fiction added to embellish the story and help sell the book! We just do not know for what purpose these books were written!

    I slowly came to realize that there is zero verifiable evidence for the Resurrection, and, the Bible is not a reliable document. After four months of desperate attempts to save my faith, I came to the sad conclusion that my faith was based on an ancient superstition; a superstition not based on lies, but based on the sincere but false beliefs of uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants.

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