Is it Biblical to Ask Jesus into Your Heart to be Saved?
Updated: Jan 28
People that use this language do not understand what true conversion is, since no one in the Bible was ever saved by “asking Jesus into their heart,” a phrase noted frequently in evangelical and Baptist and Protestant bible preaching, for instance heard in preaching in the denomination of Evangelical Bergthaler Mennonite Church (EBMC): “We called out to Jesus and invited Him into our hearts and lives and He accepted our invitation.” (Sermon by Peter Goertzen). Did everybody do that at EBMC, since he uses the words “We” and “our hearts” and “our invitation.” All have been placed into this little nutshell but there is absolutely no place in Scripture that describes salvation in such a fashion. Not even remotely close. There are no commands or examples in the NT of Christ telling people to invite Him into their hearts and lives, and when they do that, He will accept their invitation. Nor are there any examples of the Apostles telling anyone to invite Jesus into his heart and Jesus waiting to accept the invitation. Someone who simply reads the Bible would never conclude that inviting Jesus into his heart is the way the lost are forgiven of their sins. This is a false gospel that damns souls to hell, and has made many a person a two-fold child of hell.
Consider some of the reasons why this teaching is false and no person can be or ever has been saved through asking Jesus to come into our hearts.
1. This false teaching is not the Biblical way to be saved and denies the absolute necessity of repentance and surrender.
Since the plain truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that sinners become the children of God by repentant faith alone (Gal. 3:26; Jn. 3:16, 18, 36; 6:47; Lk. 3:1-16; 5:31-32; 13:1-5; 14:25–15:32; Rom. 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Ac. 2:38; 3:19 & 4:4; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:21; 26:20; etc), the teaching of Scripture makes it clear that you do not invite Jesus to come into your heart in order to be saved. When a repentant lost sinner (Ac. 16:29) asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle did not say, “Pray, invite Jesus into your heart and life, and He will accept your invitation, and you will be saved.” No, Paul said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Ac. 16:30-31). Saving faith involves diligently seeking Him, understanding the gospel, assent to it, coming to Him in true repentance and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:6, 13; Is. 55:6-7; Mk. 1:15-20; 5:31-32; Matt. 21:28-32; Ac. 3:19 & 4:4; Jn. 3:3-21; etc), but inviting Jesus into your heart does not require any of these things. Scripture commands the lost, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac. 3:19), and warns that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3,5). Those that did “repent” in godly sorrow and turned from their sin and self and stuff, the meaning of “convert” here (Ac. 3:19), “heard the word” and “believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (Ac. 4:4). Absolutely nothing even remotely close to inviting Jesus into your heart and life. True faith is founded upon true repentance but inviting Jesus into your heart does not require either.
2. This false teaching is an insult to the OT sacrificial system.
The OT sacrificial system set forth the gospel in picture and pointed forward to Christ’s redemptive and substitutionary work on the cross. God gave Israel many extremely detailed instructions concerning the sacrificial animals and ritual so that the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work would be properly pictured. Never once was there a command or a suggestion that any Jew was to invite into his heart the sacrificial animal or the coming Messiah the animal pictured.
The picture of saving faith employed by the Lord Jesus in Jn 3:14-16 of the Israelites looking to the brazen serpent (Num 21:6-9) is a beautiful picture of saving faith — the moment the Israelites looked at the serpent, they were healed, and the moment a sinner looks in faith to the once-crucified Christ, he is eternally made whole. The “asking Jesus into your heart” idea does not work well at all with the OT typology. Did the Israelites ask the brazen serpent (or the sacrificial animals they brought to the tabernacle and temple) to come into their hearts?
3. This false teaching confuses the means of salvation with the result of salvation.
When a lost sinner repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is spiritually united to Christ, what Scripture calls being “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He passes from death to life (Jn. 5:24), from being unrighteous to being justified or declared righteous (1 Cor. 6:9; Rom. 3:24), from being without peace to having peace with God (Is. 57:21; Rom. 5:1), from having no access to God to having direct access to Him through Christ (Rom. 5:2; 1 Tim. 2:5), from having no hope to having a sure and secure and steadfast hope (Eph. 2:12; Heb. 6:19), from being a child of the devil to being a child of God (Jn. 8:44; Eph. 2:1-3), from being without Christ to having Christ live in him (2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20), from being without the Holy Spirit to being indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16), and so on. He now has “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). One of the blessings of being united to Christ is that He does indeed make the believer His dwelling place (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10), but that does not mean that a person is saved by inviting Christ to come in, any more than one is saved by asking to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit or asking to have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. No, the lost must forsake their selves and sin and flee to God in repentance and faith in the gospel, in Christs saving work on the cross alone, and when they entrust and submit themselves to Him, they receive every good thing on account of their union with Him, whether justification, a sure hope, adoption into the family of God, the indwelling presence of Christ, direct access to the Father, or any of the other glorious blessings possessed by the children of God.
4. This false teaching denies the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in true salvation.
All lost people are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1-3). Since sin has corrupted every part of their fallen nature (Jer. 17:9), they have blinded eyes, dull ears and hardened hearts and minds refusing to submit to God (Jn. 12:40; Rom. 8:7; 3:11). They are so utterly enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:17) and Satan (2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Cor. 4:3) that they are unable to repent or believe (Jn. 12:40) apart from God in His grace miraculously drawing them to Himself (2 Cor. 4:4). God must supernaturally give the lost the repentance (2 Tim. 2:25) and faith (Phil. 1:29) that they will never produce in themselves (Jn 3:6)—they will only believe “if God permit” (Heb. 6:3). The Lord Jesus explained: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (Jn 6:44). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit must inwardly “reprove,” “teach,” and “draw” the lost (Pr. 1:23-24; Jn. 6:44-45; 12:32; 16:7-11); the Son must supernaturally reveal the Father to them (Matt. 11:27), and the Holy Spirit must “renew” them (Heb. 6:6) and produce faith in them through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). Just as God took a world in darkness and miraculously and creatively spoke light into existence (Gen. 1:3), so believers can say, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). At the same moment a sinner is granted repentance (Rom. 2:4) and faith (Eph. 2:8-9) to believe by God’s mighty grace, he is born again (Jn. 3:5) and made a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). God miraculously shines His gracious light (2 Cor. 4:4) into his dark heart, enlightening him and giving him desire to come to Christ, granting him repentance and faith, drawing him to embrace Christ, and raises him from spiritual death to spiritual life in a miracle as real as the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus’ body from His tomb (Eph. 2:1-6; I Cor. 15:50-55). A lost sinner coming to Christ in repentant faith is an astonishing display of Divine power that brings the new Christian into living fellowship with God (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 1:3), removes his fundamental bent towards sin and creates a new bent toward holiness (Ezk. 36:26-27; 1 Pet. 2:13-25), and leaves him radically and permanently changed (2 Cor. 5:17). On the other hand, nothing miraculous or supernatural must take place for someone to invite Jesus into his heart. And the terribly sad thing is, rarely anyone among “evangelicals” would even come to be expect it.
5. This false teaching is without example in Scripture.
The OT records the father of the faithful, Abraham, being saved when he “he believed in the LORD; and [the Lord] counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6; cf. Rom. 4:1-5; Gal. 3:6). King David wrote: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps 2:12 — David’s salvation testimony is recorded in Ps. 32:1-6 & repeated in Rom. 4:5-8). The prophet Isaiah proclaimed salvation for those who believed in the coming Messiah, the virgin-born Immanuel, and warned, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Is. 7:9-14; 28:16). In Is. 55:1-3 he calls “everyone who thirsteth” to come to salvation, to “come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea come . . . without money and without price” to “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” and vv. 6-7 tells us how that comes about: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Nothing about “inviting Jesus into our hearts and live’s” — nobody in the OT ever invited the Messiah to come into their heart, promised blessing to those who performed this work, or warned of judgment on those who do not.
In the NT, the Lord Jesus repeatedly told people who had repented and believed in Him, but who had never even thought of inviting Him to into their hearts, “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Lk. 7:50; 18:42). While Christ was preaching “many believed on him” (Jn. 10:42) and were saved without asking Him into their hearts (e.g. Lk. 5:1-11; 7:36-50; etc). In the book of Acts, the Apostles preached that “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” (Ac. 3:19) and “whosoever believeth in [Christ] shall receive remission of sins” (Ac 10:43; 16:31), and while they were preaching people would believe and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit without ever inviting Jesus into their hearts (e.g. Ac. 10:44-48). The Bible records the Apostle Paul’s conversion (Ac 9) and the Apostle giving his salvation testimony thrice (Ac. 22 & 26 & Phil. 3), but never gives the slightest hint that Paul invited Jesus into his heart. There are no examples in Scripture of people who were born again when they invited Jesus into their heart, and many examples of people who were saved but never did any such thing.
6. This false teaching leads to the eternal lake of fire because of the false assurance and security it parades with.
Since the Bible never promises salvation to a lost sinner if he invites Jesus into his heart, those who perform this human work and think that they are saved because they did it are almost surely just as lost as they were before. There are literally millions of people who have invited Jesus into their hearts instead of coming to the Lord Jesus in repentant faith. Yet they remain in the “congregation of the dead” (Pr. 21:16). They live spiritually dead lives because they are still spiritually dead, and then they spend their lives in the congregation of the dead. They don’t grow in grace, knowledge, wisdom and doctrine (Heb. 6:1-12), they just remain “stagnant” and followers of strangers (Jn. 10:1-5). They actually “backslide,” a term reserved in Scripture for lost but false pretenders, who slide away from the truth into apostasy, which the term actually means, and demonstrated in its use in the sixteen times found in Scripture, and illustrated in passages such as Heb. 10:38-39 and Jer. 7:23-24, a term used to described apostate Israel. They often become bitter towards the Lord Jesus (typically held inwardly) and His people (especially when someone questions and reproves their unbiblical testimony and/or unfruitful life), disillusioned with the Bible (which remains a closed book to them), and inoculated against the true gospel by the spiritual counterfeit they adopted, revealing they were the stony lost soil upon which the seed fell (Matt. 13:5-6, 20-21).
Some of them invite Jesus into their hearts over and over again, hoping that the prayer will finally stick and they will finally have freedom from sin’s dominating control. Others rely on the assurance given to them by the convert-maker (or their parents or someone else) who told them to ask Him to come in and conclude that they must be saved, although they are just as much in bondage to sin as they were before, because of the supposed Biblical promise that all who invite Jesus to come in will go to heaven (typically through the misuse of Re. 3:20). These often remain deceived and deluded embracing the false “hope of unjust men” until the day they perish and “in hell . . . lift up [their] eyes, being in torments,” hearing in horror from Christ, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Pr. 11:7; Lk. 16:23; Matt. 7:23).
Some invite Jesus into their hearts as little children and keep coming to church because their Christian parents enforce godly habits in their home. They continue to embrace Christianity through imitation and conformity, because of what must have happened when they were younger. They outwardly imitate true Christians and perhaps even go to Bible college and/or end up in the ministry, where they teach others to ask Jesus into their hearts just like they did—but having never themselves personally repented and trusted in the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, they are just as lost as were the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is not one gospel for adults—repentant faith in Christ for salvation—and a different one for children, inviting Jesus to come into their hearts. A person who invites Jesus into his heart is fearfully likely to always think they are saved because they did what their church leaders or parents told them. The fear of man compels them to continue to embrace their false and self-deluded hope. Unless he rejects his false profession and realizes that he is yet a hell-bound sinner who must come to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness by true Biblical repentance, he will be eternally damned (Lk. 5:31-32; 13:1-5; Ac. 26:20; 19:17-19; Matt. 3:1-12; 21:28-32). Neither children nor adults grow into salvation—they must repent and believe the gospel after first understanding the gospel, and conversion happens in one instantaneous moment of time only (II Cor. 6:2).
Those who do this may be sincere, but God warns:
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr. 14:12).
If you are interested in true salvation, how God truly saves sinners, please read my tract on How A Sinner Can Be Saved and Have Eternal Life