Jesus: Heart and Soul

Have you ever invited Jesus Christ to come into your heart? I’m sure you probably have and maybe you have encouraged others to do the same. Today, most evangelists use something called “the sinner’s prayer” to help those responding to the Gospel. I use such a prayer all the time and, as part of it, I encourage people to invite Christ to come into their hearts and lives. It is very useful and puts into simple words quite a complex theological occurrence: the renewal of a person to God through Christ.

What concerns me, however, is the level of importance sometimes placed upon this concept – of inviting “Jesus into your heart,” as opposed to the more biblical norm of people being sorry for their sins and, therefore, “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The change and repentance that occurred in many of the biblical characters was dramatic and, as far as we can tell, life-long. In the early church, there was no such thing as saying “Abracadabra” and then going back to the bars and the porn, with a “Get out of Hell Free” card and a catchy charismatic tune stuck in one’s head. Times have changed.

I recently chatted with a non-Christian lady after an evangelistic meeting. She hadn’t responded to the Gospel in the service so I took the opportunity over the post-crusade custard creams to ask her why she was there. She hardly ever attended church, she revealed. She gets tired from working and honestly admitted to me that if it weren’t for a bit of arm twisting from a family member, she wouldn’t have come! Concerned, I asked if she thought she was going to heaven or hell when she died. “Heaven!” she replied. When I asked how she could be so sure, she told me, “I invited Jesus into my heart when I was a child!” Wonderful sentiments indeed, but this lady did not seem like a New Testament Christian to me. If Jesus had come into her heart, He was hiding very well.

The truth is that we will produce whatever it is that we preach for. People will not change unless our message demands it of them. When Jesus said, “Those who believe and are baptised will be saved, but those who don’t believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16), he wasn’t talking to the lost, He was talking to the evangelists. What is preached is eternally crucial, so we have to get it right. If a surgeon must study and show extreme diligence in the saving of a person’s life on the operating table, how much more should the heavenly ambassador be sure that he or she is saying those things that can change eternity?

You may have heard that Jade Goody had herself and her children “christened” so that they could all be together in heaven after her tragic death. Of course, we might dismiss this kind of ritual, especially without knowing what was going on inside their souls. But have we, conservative evangelicals, who regard infant baptism and special ceremonies as powerless without repentance, have we created our own charismatic version of christening? One can only speculate how many millions of people there might be in Britain today, not in church but believing themselves to be born again because they invited Jesus “into their hearts” years ago. They may even have offered a superior prayer, whereby they “gave their hearts” to Jesus. Wonderful! But unfortunately, they did not also give Him their body, mind, soul, time, morality or obedience. If we seriously think that all of these folks are saved, we should hear the “Family Fortunes” wrong answer buzzer loud and clear. And maybe we are partly responsible for this, as we were the ones who applied our faulty Gospel, like a doctor trying to save his patient with broken equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, it is good to invite Jesus inside. He stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20) and wants to come in and sup. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). Paul said so. But He lives there by His Spirit when we put our faith in the blood of His cross and turn our backs on the world. His entrance is always through the tears of sorrow and repentance, not a magic prayer on a Sunday night. Enough of this cheap and easy fire insurance policy. It won’t pay out on the Day of Judgment. God requires change and if we believe, we can be saved. In all gentleness and love, let’s preach that with all of our heart!

Originally published in JOY Magazine, July 2009

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