I called my dad the other day on my way home from work. We had a good conversation about a couple things that got me to thinking. And usually when I think about things, I write about it. Anyways, my dad is a pastor and has been for 50 years. That’s right, 50. I’ll never make it that long. I admire my father’s faithfulness to preach God’s Word faithfully. He and I disagree on some things but there is much we find in common.
Anyways, my dad is preaching this weekend. I asked him what text he was preaching and we began to discuss that. He was preaching from Isaiah 6 on giving proper worship to a holy God. I asked him if he was going to talk about the regulative principle (messing with him ‘cause he’s old school dispensational Baptist). He didn’t know what that meant so I defined it. Once I defined it, he said, “Oh I agree with that.” I said, “Better be careful or people might think you’re reformed.”
We both got a laugh out of that.
Anyways, that led into a theological conversation about salvation. Cause that’s how my dad and I roll. Some fathers and sons talk about football. My dad and I talk biblical theology and exegesis.
I decided that, this year, during my private devotional Bible study time I wanted to really drill down deep into one book of the Bible. I chose Romans.
I may need to spend two years in this book rather than just one. There is so much depth. My dad and I agreed that we could probably spend the rest of our lives studying this one book and never really plumb all the depths.
So I’ve spent a month in Romans and have managed to cover 17 whole verses. Verses 16-17 of the first chapter of Romans is widely considered to be the central theme of the entire book. I would agree with that assertion. Anyways, I’m circling back around to what my dad and I talked about.
At one point in the conversation I made a statement something like this: “One thing I really wish American evangelicals would take out of their vocabulary is “invite Jesus into your heart.” I don’t think that is even biblical and it is not helpful at all. Not even Jesus said that He needed to be invited into someone’s heart. The writers of the New Testament never used that terminology. Instead they said repent and believe.”
My dad agreed with my statement that the NT never uses that phraseology but had a little push back on the whole invite Jesus into your heart thing. Not in the sense that faith is not partly private but likes the terminology.
I don’t like that terminology. I think it sends the wrong message to those who are outside the covenant people of God. Some of you will push back on me by saying that it helps people to understand salvation.
I disagree completely. There is great danger in using words like that.
When we say things like “invite Jesus into your heart”, we are proving that we have no real concept of what occurs in regeneration and that we really don’t believe what God has said in His Word. I have three specific problems with this terminology:
1. It is unbiblical.
As I said above, this is terminology that is not found anywhere in the entirety of the Scriptures. Nowhere does the Bible command us to “invite Jesus into our heart” in order to be saved. Rather, the Bible expressly says over and over, ‘Repent and believe.’
Let’s make sure that, if we are going to call ourselves biblical, we use the words that Scripture itself uses. Words have meaning.
2. It implies the wrong things.
For example, one implication of this “invite Jesus into your heart” is that, if we can invite, we can also disinvite. In other words, you can always kick Jesus out if you don’t like him. Another thing it implies is that Jesus Himself comes to dwell in your heart. This is simply not true. The Scriptures are clear that it is not Jesus Himself (God the Son) that dwells in us but rather the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit). Some of you will say I’m splitting hairs but I’m not. Even Jesus said He was going away but “the Helper” would come. It is the Spirit who lives in us, not Jesus.
3. It leads to man-centered salvation.
If we have the ability to invite Jesus in, that also means we have the ability and power to dis-invite Him. In other words, it puts us in charge of our own salvation. That is absolutely false and even heretical. You can no more control your salvation than you can the sun rising and setting. It is God who acts on our behalf to save us, not us acting on our own behalf. The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that makes it necessary, as the saying goes.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t things we must do in order to express our salvation. We must repent and believe. But that is all we do. Even the very act of repentance is a gift of God by faith. He gives faith to believe.
Salvation is first and always about God and His actions toward us. May we never forget that and give God all the glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!
For pretty much as long as I can remember I’ve been an outspoken guy. I tend to opine on pretty much anything and everything at will. Sometimes I know what I’m talking about but honestly, often I don’t. I just feel compelled to run my pie hole in some situations in which I should probably be quiet.
I was a police officer for a long time as many readers of mine know. During that time, I came up for promotion three times. I was passed over twice. The first time you get passed over for promotion it’s not really a big deal. At least it wasn’t to me. I mean, I had only been policing for about 4 years and didn’t really expect it.
The second time was different though. I had been on the job for around 6 years and felt like I was ready. Looking back on it now I can laugh about my youthful arrogance in assuming I’d be ready for that kind of responsibility. But, I got passed over again. This time I was upset. I felt like I’d earned it and was pretty much a badass of a cop. I mean, I was chasing bad guys, locking ‘em up; I was a SWAT guy (we called it SRT) and I had a college degree. I thought I was pretty cool so I was pretty mad when I got passed over again.
And I let my displeasure be known.
My captain called me in his office one day. He asked, “Know why you got passed over again?” I think I knew but didn’t really wanna hear it or accept it so I said, “No.” He kinda gave me that look.
You know, the look that says ‘Stop being stupid,’ and he said, “Your mouth dude. You shoot your mouth off too much. There’s a way to say what you wanna say.”
I was like ‘whatever.’
Fast forward now to my 40s.
I am now a manager for a fitness company, I’ve owned a gym, attempted to plant a church and several other things. I’m not really sure I’ve learned my lesson yet in keeping my pie hole shut.
I’ve recently had a series of confrontations with a young man that works for me. I tend to be a straight shooter when I speak. There are few frills; I just kinda come straight at you with what I say. With most men around my age or older this seems to be okay. With the younger generation, this kinda works and kinda doesn’t. So in this conflict with my employee, I’ve been really aggressive.
My boss was talking with me about it the other day. He said something to me about this conflict that made me really do some hard thinking and praying and even repenting. He said something like this:
It matters less what you say than how you say it.
Now look, I know this. This has been said to me more times than I can count over the years, mostly ‘cause I tend to be a bull in a china shop most of the time. But this made me think and reflect on how Jesus interacted with people.
There was one particular thing that Jesus said that the Spirit brought to my mind in this situation. We find it in Matthew’s gospel in chapter 12, verses 33-37.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers: How can you speak good,when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Now I’m not going to get into an exegetical exercise here and talk too much about context and such, but rather take these words at face value. Jesus was pretty clear here.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
You will give an account for every careless word spoken.
I mean, I don’t see a way around this. When I say things that are harsh and unkind, that is the abundance of my heart speaking. My attitude, even in confrontation, even if I’m right, matters. My words and how I use them matter because what I say and how I say it says more about me than about the person I’m confronting.
Don’t misunderstand. Jesus had some harsh words for some people. But His harshness was reserved for unrepentant religious control freaks whose god was their power and position. But when Jesus dealt with others, He was kind in His speech. His words may have cut but His delivery did not.
Words have meaning and Jesus understood that. More than the words used is the heart behind the words.
Here’s my problem and maybe it’s yours as well:
My heart is dark without Jesus. Without Him, the abundance of my heart is pure evil.
But thanks be to God for His great mercy! Because of Jesus, because I am in Him and the Spirit lives in me and is sanctifying me, I can speak the truth in love and not be harsh or unkind. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t always succeed in that.
But God has accomplished His salvation in my life and He continues to accomplish His purposes and sanctification in my heart.
Be encouraged, friends, that God will accomplish what He has set out to in your heart. He cannot fail to sanctify you. He will help you do as Paul commands us in Colossians 4:6,
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
May God be glorified in our speech.
Soli Deo Gloria!