Your Heart (and Other Organs)
In 2013 J.D. Greear (a Southern Baptist) wrote a book entitled, “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.” In this book he says the popular method of evangelism is faulty and leads to confusion. Why? Because it’s not the method described by Jesus or his authorized apostles in the Bible. Some might even say it’s been the devil’s most successful tactic, providing false assurance of salvation to people who fail to truly comply with the straight and narrow way of the New Testament.
It has always interested me, even provided some slight amusement, to think of this “Invite Jesus into your heart” in a different but accurate way. In ancient times many thought a person’s “bowels” or their “intestines” were the seat of emotions and desires. There is some logic involved since the condition of our “gut” does impact how we feel in a major way, an apt metaphor. This is illustrated with wording of the King James Version of Colossians 3:12 where it says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” Bowels of mercies? Intestines of mercies? Sounds strange to us, doesn’t it?
Here’s what sounds strange to me. “Want to become a Christian? Then invite Jesus into your bowels.” Blasphemy, you say? Hey, to the ancient, it’s basically what we would be saying today with “Invite Jesus into your heart.” It just uses a different bodily organ for the metaphor. But it illustrates the point. This is not the best way to describe becoming a Christian!
Here’s the flip side of the coin. There’s nothing wrong with inviting Jesus into your life, however you want to illustrate it. If you’ve done so, great. Just don’t stop there. Don’t think that it equals salvation. Rather, respond as the Bible instructs through the words and examples of Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament pages.
Jesus provided the “great commission” before he returned to heaven, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) On the first day of the church age, the Apostle Peter stood in Jerusalem and preached the first resurrection sermon. Those who heard him preach Jesus’ death and resurrection asked, “What shall we do?” Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37-39) That includes you and me, friend.
The message and method haven’t changed since Jesus and Peter uttered those words. You see what Jesus and Peter proclaimed practiced and taught repeatedly in the book of Acts and reinforced in the letters (you’ll see baptism consistently in the examples of conversion in Acts, never do you find someone saying a prayer to become a Christian). When we truly accept Jesus as Lord and are immersed (baptized) into him, we are surrounded by him, we are filled with him, he clothes us (Galatians 3:27) with himself, and this covering is what saves us! God looks at us for judgment, and he sees Jesus! Meanwhile, we rise out of baptism, resurrected to a new life (Romans 6:4)!
Isn’t this better than inviting Jesus into some nondescript bodily organ, such as the heart or intestines? Doesn’t this make sense, identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus when we accept him (baptism) while leaving our selfish and sinful life (repentance) to follow Jesus in faith. We are disciples! Not just a person who said some non-biblical prayer. As we follow in the shadow of Jesus, his grace and mercy provide the benefits we need!
Cross Point: In Noah’s time, water separated those lost from Noah’s family who was saved. The Apostle Peter tells us, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).