J.D. Greear. Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing 2013. 128 pp. $12.99
Tomorrow, the much-anticipated book Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear lands on a shelf near you. This little book packs the punch and is one of the best pastoral and practical treatments I have seen on how to know whether or not you are a Christian.
In the church today, scores of pew-sitters are confident they have eternal life because of a few words they prayed when they were five years old. Others sincere believers battle tooth-and-nail wondering where they’ll end up after their last breath. In this helpful book, Greear biblically, wisely, personally, practically, and humorously helps us understand what conversion and salvation are all about.
Greear primarily writes to two main people: 1) those who think they are going to heaven simply because they prayed a prayer; and 2) those who wonder if their “sinner’s prayer” will really be enough for them to walk through heaven’s gates. The problem, says Greear, is that evangelical shorthand for the gospel is, simply, not gospel. Telling someone to “ask Jesus into your heart” or “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior” is simply not how the Bible points us to seek salvation (7). Hold your horses, however, if you think the book is a 128-page rant against the “sinner’s prayer.” Greear does not think the sinner’s prayer or saying, “ask Jesus into your heart” is heretical, and he even admits it might be one correct way to speak of salvation. Yet, his “concern is not on what words or actions we might use to express our faith in Christ but that we don’t substitute those words or actions for repentance and faith” in Jesus (9). In other words, the “sinner’s prayer” is not a ritual transaction between us and Jesus to get our names on heaven’s attendance list.
Contrary to popular opinion, God does want people to have assurance (ch. 2), and in order to obtain assurance, we must honestly examine our response to the gospel. Those who trust in the finished work of Christ as their only hope have eternal life. Cased closed. “If you base your assurance on what you do or how well you do it, you’ll never find assurance,” Greear writes. “If your assurance is based on what Christ has done, however, you can rest in His performance” (38).
The proper, saving response to Christ is summarized as “repentance” and “belief” in the gospel (see Acts 2:38). Greear spends a chapter each unpacking belief and repentance. The key to assurance is that the person who has truly been saved by God’s grace lives in a posture of repentance and belief in the gospel. “Repentance and belief” and “asking Jesus into our hearts” are not interchangeable, he states (41). Therefore, just because you prayed a prayer doesn’t mean “you’re in,” and just because you haven’t prayed a prayer doesn’t mean “you’re out.” Perhaps you ask yourself, “Did I pray the prayer?” or “Was I sincere enough?” or “Did my life change after praying?” Greear reminds us that the solution is not to invite Jesus back into your heart. The solution is to sit in a posture of repentance and faith, transferring the weight of your hopes of heaven off of you and on the finished work of Christ (43). The only question that really matters is, “Are you resting on Jesus today?”
The final three chapters cover the use of Scriptural warnings, the evidence of true faith, and what to do when you continue to doubt. But I won’t spoil any more. Get this book. Read it. Be convicted by it. Be encouraged by it. Be motivated by it to repent and believe in the glorious gospel! Then go find someone (because we all know someone) who struggles with assurance and give them this book. Neither of you will be sorry.