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!