The series, “Butchered Bible Verses” continues today with a section of verses from John 14.  As we consider the importance of teaching and preaching Scripture, we must make sure we are always approaching the Word of God in the proper context rather than chopping it up and ripping it out as a proof text for our own “personal interpretation.”  As we study the Bible, we should always be reminded that each text of Scripture has one single meaning and it is our task to discover it and believe it.

Butchered Text

John 14:15-24 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments. [16] And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, [17] even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. [18] “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. [19] Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. [20] In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. [21] Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” [22] Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” [23] Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Explanation of how the text is misused

In many Christian circles, it is a very common thing to hear people explain repentance to God through the phrase “asking Jesus into your heart.”  It is so common for many evangelists, pastors, teachers, and children’s workers to approach repentance from that angle.  In fact, there is a hymn written by Rufus H. McDaniel titled, Since Jesus Came into my Heart. The chorus of that hymn reads:

Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Floods of joy o’er my soul
Like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart.

Apparently, Rufus had a son that died and he sat down to write this song soon after his death as he sought encouragement in Jesus Christ.  While I commend him for looking to Christ in the midst of such difficult trials, the phrase, “Jesus in my heart” is simply nowhere in Scripture.  If Mr. McDaniel had changed the line “Jesus came into my heart” to “Jesus came into my life” it would be much better theology!

Many children’s ministries and evangelists use the phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart” as a means of inviting people to trust Christ for salvation.  From small children to a crowd of mixed ages in a sanctuary, that phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” is used as if it’s sacred Scripture.  The reality is – it’s nowhere in Scripture at all.  Any search on one of the easy to use online Bible websites will render zero results for the phrase “Jesus into your heart.”

The danger in this phrase is that many children grow up hearing it on such a regular basis that it can lead to great confusion later in life when they realize that Christianity is much more than asking Jesus to come into your heart.  It becomes real shocking when those children discover that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever look at someone and command them to ask Him into their heart.  It is more troubling when no apostle or member of Jesus’ inner circle ever preached a sermon where they commanded people to ask Jesus into their heart.  Our evangelism and missions should be tightly connected to the Bible – not catch phrases that have tried to “dumb down” salvation to the level of a weight loss pill.  We must cling to Scripture rather than superstition.  We must be committed to the Bible rather than bumper stickers.

Explanation of the text

In John 14, we see that Jesus was planning to leave the disciples.  He was going to die on the cross, be buried, and then resurrect from the dead on the third day.  Following His resurrection, He would be preaching, teaching, and appearing for a period of 40 days, but then He would be ascend to the throne of Heaven.  Jesus was preparing His inner circle for what they were about to experience.  These people had left their occupations and devoted their lives for 3.5 years to Jesus’ earthly ministry.  What Jesus wanted them to know was that although He was leaving them, another Helper was coming to lead and guide them.  In John 13:33, Jesus referred to the disciples as “little children.”  Here in this text, Jesus wants them to know that He will not leave them as orphans.  He is sending another Helper or Comforter.  That Helper is the Holy Spirit.

In verse 17, Jesus speaking of the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit) says, “he dwells with you and will be in you.”  Notice the point that Jesus was making to His disciples.  The Holy Spirit would be in the believers after Jesus’ departure.  He would lead them as a Helper and provide comfort to them in times of need.  In verse 20, Jesus says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”  This is where it starts to get a bit confusing.  Was Jesus entering the disciples or was the Holy Spirit?  The phrase “In that day” is likely a reference to Jesus resurrection, however, many commentators suggest that it’s a reference to the “day of the Lord’s return.”  In either case, we must realize the point of Jesus’ words.

When Jesus is raised from the dead, the veil of partial knowledge would be lifted from the eyes of the disciples.  This would enable them to understand His words, promises, and preaching in a much better way.  On that day, they would understand the relationship between Jesus and His Father better.  The disciples would also understand the intimacy of Jesus and the disciples as well.  What this text doesn’t mean is that Jesus is going to be dwelling in our hearts.  We must be careful to guard against that idea and to interpret this text from that perspective.  At conversion, we receive the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and He leads and guides us to all truth.  We simply don’t see any place in Scripture where we are commanded to “ask Jesus into our hearts” as a means of genuine repentance.

Caution:  We need to explain repentance the way Jesus did in the New Testament.  To water down repentance to the level of “asking Jesus into our heart” is to miss the reality of genuine repentance.  We must seek to do better as preachers and as those who work with our children.

Clarification: If you remember praying a prayer where you asked Jesus into your heart and that was part of your act of repentance to God in salvation, don’t take my words to suggest that you are not a genuine believer as a result of “asking Jesus into your heart.”  I do believe we need to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith, but the evidence of our faith should not be based in the words we prayed in the past, but in the desire for God and our fruit of the Spirit displayed in the present day.

The same thing is true for those who have led Children to “ask Jesus into their heart.”  Many dedicated volunteers and children’s workers have done this through the years, but merely out of ignorance based on the way they were taught.  This article is not to condemn the children’s worker in the local church, but it is to help us think through how we should instruct people to believe the gospel through our evangelism and mission outlets!

Those who have tried to lead people to Christ by informing them to “ask Jesus into your heart” have honestly tried to demonstrate that the heart is involved in repentance.  That is evident from Romans 10:9-10.  However, the phrase itself was born out of an era of revivalism and emotional decisions.  Salvation is more than an emotional decision.  While emotions are used by God, our emotions can also lead us astray.  Therefore, it’s best if when leading people to Christ if we simply tell them what Jesus told people – repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15).  A good explanation of repentance and belief (faith) is always helpful, but the act of repentance is more than “asking Jesus into your heart.”

May God cause us to examine the Word closely and guard us from butchering the Bible that He has inspired!

For the glory of His name,

Pastor Josh Buice

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Article by Trevin Wax – “Mohler on ‘Asking Jesus Into Your Heart‘”

David Platt says “asking Jesus into your heart” is superstitious.  See the clip below:

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