Everybody who has grown up in the church has heard this at the end of the service; Everybody bow your heads, close your eyes, nobody looking around. We don’t want to embarrass anyone. If you want to accept Jesus in your heart raise your hand. Now everybody is going to say this prayer out loud with me. I can’t this concept anywhere in the Bible. I went to Biblegateway.com and entered the phrase ask Jesus in your heart and invite Jesus to live in your heart and come up with zero results in three different translations. That tells me we have turned into something that’s questionable in light of scripture I do read.
The first thing this closing tells me is the church has put a feeling of embarrassment on salvation. Why else would you tell everyone to bow their heads, close their eyes and quietly, anonymously slip your hand up? This is a time for celebration among the church for another one being added to the Kingdom. Luke 15:10 states that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. Why aren’t we! Applause at the end for the anonymous hand raiser is not rejoicing.
The second thing this closing tells me is they are ashamed to publicly recognize a need for Jesus to erroneously come live in your heart. Mathew 10:32 states “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will confess before My Father in heaven”. And in Mark 8:38 it states ” For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels”.
We have started the new believers Christian walk of with embarrassment and a sense of shame. How are they going to react when they get to work on Monday, or the gym family events, friends ask them to go out partying? If they get a sense that “making a decision for Christ” is something the church is ashamed of, how are they not going to be ashamed to tell their circle of influence?
What this closing, and many sermons, does not touch on is the aspect of actually following Jesus. The simple prayer of asking Him in your heart doesn’t touch on Him being Lord and Savior. It doesn’t address His commands to leave the old life behind and follow Him regardless of the cost. Asking Him in your heart give the impression that now that your saved you can live how you want with a few modifications. It implies no real committment.
The cost of following Him is not discussed. We have popularized the concept of Him living in your heart so much that people expect things to go great after “salvation”, how could it not, He’s in my heart. They are wholly uninformed and unprepared for the troubles that will come as a result of Jesus’ name. Not long after many lose heart and you would never know they made a decision for salvation, or did they? Can you make a decision for something so life altering if the truth is so distorted that it’s not recognisable next to the truth? Here’s what I find in the Bible concerning following Jesus and where He resides.
- Mathew 10:21-22 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My names sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved”. We think this is harsh and not literal, but world events tell a different story.
- Mathew 10:37-38 “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of Me”. And in Mathew 8:22 “Follow Me and let the dead bury the dead”. In light of just these two passages, how is someone to get the truth of what salvation is by the simple act of anonymously asking Him into their heart? Is it any wonder we have a nation full of disenfranchised church goers? Jesus said the cost is high and to count the cost.
The following verses tell me that Jesus doesn’t come live in your heart. They tell me He is in heaven at the right hand of the Father and it’s the Spirit that dwells with you. An oft neglected teaching today is the triune man made in the image of the triune God. What that means is we are made up of body ( the physical ), soul (the mental & emotional )and spirit ( the part that is dead until you know God through the Son then it comes alive in Christ. This is where His spirit dwells in you). God is made up of body ( Jesus ), soul ( Himself, God ) and spirit ( The Spirit, Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Holy Ghost, etc.. same names for same thing ).
- Romans 8:34 “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God”.
- Acts 7:55 “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”.
- John 14:20 “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you”. The preceding verses tell you He is talking about the Spirit being received in those who call on His name.
The other truth of salvation is forgiveness. A person must repent and ask for forgiveness and give it to those who have wronged them. Mathew 6:15 clearly states that “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will the Father forgive your trespasses”. That’s huge! We focus so much on receiving forgiveness from God through Christ, but we just about completely ignore this monumental truth.Going further with forgiveness we read in Acts 26:15-18 with the emphasis on v.18 “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me”.
The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus is Lord and should be viewed as such. Not the pasty-faced, hipster looking dude who wouldn’t hurt a fly. A Lord is someone you follow totally. His plans and will are above yours – always, then savior. How can He be your savior if He isn’t your Lord? It also tells us to keep His commands. We’re back to the Lord thing again. Keeping His commands implies obedience to Him as Lord, the head. These aren’t suggestions. Consider the following:
- Three times in John we are told to keep His commands.
- A very quick survey comes up with Jesus being called Lord and Savior eight times.
- 27 times in Mathew alone Jesus is called Lord or He acknowledged that He is Lord.
I firmly believe that there are many people in Western society that believe they are saved and going to heaven that have been tragically mislead. They are wondering through life thinking their future is secure when all along the church that is afraid to upset people has led them to death not light. It would do us all well to consider what we are allowing in our churches to avoid short-term hurt feelings and be more concerned with the long-term condition of souls.