What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart? A couple weeks ago I dealt with a young man about his soul. I asked if he knew where he would spend eternity, to which he replied, “I hope heaven.” I asked him a few questions to determine what he believed in regards to salvation. He became exasperated as he tried to explain why he would most likely spend eternity in heaven, finally it seemed he stumbled upon a phrase he once heard from his childhood. He searched my face for approval as he rehearsed the incantation from his youth, “I asked Jesus into my heart.” I asked one more question to determine if he was thoughtlessly trusting in this verbal charm or if he actually had understanding in regards to the way of salvation, “What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart?” He had no idea.
If you Google the phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart” you will find two extreme views. On one end of the spectrum are those that hold that if you use the phrase “I asked Jesus into my heart” then you were never really saved because that phrase is not found one time in scripture. On the other end of the spectrum are those, like the young man above, who use the phrase as a ritualistic formula without any idea as to what it actually means. The rigid dogmatism of the former leaves little room for the Spirit whereas the loose theology of the latter requires no understanding of the gospel.
So what does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart? It is true that the phrase is not found in the Bible and to be honest I have difficulty explaining it scripturally. The closest thing I can find is a passage in Revelation chapter 3 that records Jesus Christ saying, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (vs. 20). Now I agree this makes for a nice illustration regarding the Saviour seeking the lost, however, the context is Jesus knocking on the door of the church for fellowship with “any man” that hears his voice, not His knocking on the human heart for salvation. I certainly wouldn’t call a man a heretic for using the phrase but I do believe it lends itself to confusion.
A clear understanding and presentation of the gospel is crucial and as ambassadors for Christ we should strive to speak plainly and accurately when reasoning with souls about their eternal destination. In my humble opinion, the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” is not the best way to describe salvation. The danger lies in those that use the phrase as part of a magical formula without requiring any understanding of the gospel on the part of the lost person. (The same can be said about other labels we use to describe salvation without a proper explanation). I fear there are many people (especially as children) who have parroted words and have repeated a prayer but have had little to no understanding of what the Bible actually says about salvation, and therefore remain unconverted.
Asking Jesus into your heart confuses the means of salvation with the result of salvation. The means of salvation is heart belief. The result of salvation is Christ dwelling within the believer. In the Bible, heart belief refers to three faculties of the soul all working together in agreement: the intellect, the emotions and the will. Has the sinner consented intellectually to the facts of the gospel? Does the sinner know who the Jesus of the Bible is? When the emotions kick in and the sinner grieves for having offended a holy God and becomes afraid of going to hell the lost person has gone beyond the realm of factual belief and intellect. A sinner can know what he should do (intellect) and he can feel certain that he should do it (emotion), but if he is not willing (volition) he will die and go to hell.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). How can you tell that you believe with your heart? You can tell you believe with your heart when you rely on a thing: you trust it, you lean on it. The question is “what are you relying on to keep you out of hell?” Heart belief is when you go beyond the bare facts of the gospel and make them yours personally so that you are totally relying on what Jesus Christ did for you to get to heaven.
Generally speaking, when a man believes in his heart and receives Christ as his Saviour, it will come out of his mouth in prayer as he calls upon the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:10,13). The heart and mouth, spiritually, are connected for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). There is no set formula for calling upon the name of the Lord for salvation. I wouldn’t try to talk someone out of their salvation because they didn’t express themselves exactly as I would. I certainly wouldn’t try to convince someone they trusted Christ the wrong way because they used the expression “I asked Jesus into my heart”; even though I don’t think it is an accurate description of the means of salvation. The key is that the sinner has a clear understanding in his heart and has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection and is not merely trusting in a vain repetition of words. For our part, we should be as unambiguous as possible as we reason with men regarding the eternal destination of their soul.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9