A Question I Was Asked:

Is It Biblical to 'Simply Invite Jesus Into Your Heart Right Now'?

Here is the question:

"If salvation is based on what Christ did at the cross, and his righteousness I wonder why most pastors believe that 'If you invite Jesus into your heart you will be saved' - I find no place in the Bible about asking or inviting, just believing and confessing, but it seems to me that believing and confessing are much bigger things than asking. I think that if we 'ask' then we bask in our glory based on our performance and not on his, for 'by grace are ye saved through grace and that not of your selves.'"

My Reply:

Okay, first of all our salvation is indeed entirely based upon what Christ accomplished at the cross, for there is no other way in which salvation could ever have been possible for us human beings! But I won't go deeply into the theology of that here and now for I assume that that part is understood.

But regarding your specific question, I worry about this whole modern evangelistic approach of simply, 'Inviting God into your heart' To me this is just 'easy-believism'! NO! Biblically, genuine repentance must come first - that is, to genuinely and meaningfully make a decision to change ones entire life direction and deciding that, from henceforth, Christ will come first. It should be the responsibility of every single Christian minister to be convinced that such a person has come to a place of true repentance, not temporary remorse, and baptism should be delayed until one is convinced. I really do not like this 'Just invite the Lord into your heart' business and I would have to agree that that part is not biblical. I believe that this 'make repentance real easy for them' strategy mostly originated with Finney, as did certain other errors. So, in that sense, you are perfectly correct, "asking" is not enough, we need to believe and confess from the depth of our souls! To be frank, that cannot happen in just five minutes! People are told, 'Just repeat this prayer...' and people are given a group of words to repeat as if certain words are a magic formula to entering the kingdom of God!

So you are absolutely correct that to simply 'invite Jesus into your heart' seems to have very little to do with the deep and heart-felt repentance which the New Testament teaches. We are instructed to 'count the cost' before committing our lives to the Lord, carefully read Luke 14:26-35, and John the Baptist wanted to see fruits indicating that repentance was genuine before he would baptize! Matthew 3:7-8. See also Matthew 7:24-27. We always need to distinguish between temporary remorse, regret and disappointment (which are very human), and true Godly sorrow which leads to deep repentance,

'...For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you; what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done...' (2 Corinthians 7:9b-11a, NIV throughout)
The context is just slightly different there, but Paul still touches on the difference between 'worldly sorrow' and 'Godly sorrow.'

I also agree with you that for any to assume that it is all that easy, with the pain, anguish and trauma of genuine godly repentance carefully removed, then it becomes a form of self-righteousness and we just bask in our own performance instead of marvelling at what Jesus performed upon the cross. The trouble is that these errors snowball because a lot of these modern preachers never seem to have experienced deep and heart-felt repentance themselves so they are not able to pass the correct New Testament teaching on to others.

So let me finally underline that true repentance is a very hard experience and a man or woman will usually feel pretty broken up. He or she will not only repent of what they have done, but what they are: that is, a man or woman who has been walking through life without God. In my opinion, the reason that so many later walk away from their professed calling is because they never even went through this genuine, deeply-felt repentance experience. One reason for this is modern evangelicalism's enthusiasm for getting involved in a numbers game. A lot of these preachers want numbers, but they should forget about numbers and concentrate much more on individuals!

Robin A. Brace, 2007.