Pray this prayer. Ask Jesus into your heart. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Does any of this sound familiar? These are what you tell someone who wants to be a Christian, right? The vast majority of evangelical Christians would answer that question with a resounding, “yes.” Yet, none of these questions are found in the Bible. Not only are they not specifically stated in Scripture, but they even sound somewhat superstitious. They may be outright unbiblical and anti-Gospel.
Allow me to explain. First, let’s be clear that simply because something is not specifically stated in Scripture does not mean that it contradicts Scripture. Indeed, an idea can be clearly taught in Scripture without being specifically mentioned. For example, the Bible does not state, “God created dinosaurs.” But we know that dinosaurs were land-dwelling animals and that God created land-dwelling creatures on the sixth day. We don’t need a specific statement to tell us this. It is an easy inference. We can also see things that are clearly taught in Scripture, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, without there being any specific wording there to sum it up. So we never read, “God is a Trinitarian being;” we can reach that conclusion, as Christians have, as evidenced by statements such as, “God is One” and “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We can see clearly that God is one being, and yet three persons, without the word trinity ever popping up in the Bible.
We should be careful not to reject phrases or ideas, simply because they aren’t laid out in black and white in the Scriptures, but we also don’t want to embrace something simply because it is prevalently taught or accepted. Everything must be weighed against Scripture. So when we read a book on evangelism that says people need to accept Jesus so they don’t go to hell, or hear someone say that people need to ask Jesus into their heart, I wonder if maybe we’re missing something.
Let’s take a look at a few familiar passages of Scripture comparing them to this easy believe-ism concept to see if we see a pattern taking shape. For example, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:16-18, 36).
This is an interesting passage for a couple of reasons. First, the appeal of Jesus here is not that God has a wonderful plan to make us healthy and wealthy. He says that if we believe in Him we are given eternal life. Those who do not are condemned. Jesus didn’t come to solve all of our problems. God gave us Jesus so that His just condemnation might be removed as He becomes our propitiation (Romans 3:25) and our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In verse 36, both the NASB and the ESV say that whoever does not obey the Son does not have life. This connects belief with action. It is not mere acceptance of Jesus as Savior or an intellectual assent that He is Who He claims to be. It requires a submission of one’s life to His commands. This makes sense because in the Great Commission Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). He continues to explain that we are to do this by, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Being a disciple implies not only a public acknowledgment of Christ’s Lordship, but also a life of learning and obeying His commands. As He tells us, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:37-40). Receiving Jesus isn’t merely to pray one time and ask Jesus to come to life in your heart. It means to trust Him and embrace Him as more valuable than parents, spouse, kids or our very life. This trust comes through faith and may not always look like it should, but salvation doesn’t come by saying a few words if we then refuse to depend on Christ for anything else.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” We see a man here who is so overjoyed at finding the treasure—the kingdom of heaven—that he is willing to give up everything else to gain it. Is the point of this parable that we have to give up everything we love in order to somehow buy our salvation? No. The point is that a heart that truly loves Jesus will be so filled with joy over knowing Him that all else seems so much less valuable. Things like work, family, money, status and power are nothing. Nothing compares to the glorious richness of knowing God. Don’t settle for a God that is easy to believe in and easier to follow. Jesus makes a hard, radical call to His followers to give Him alone their allegiance. Wide is the gate and broad the road that lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13), but that narrow road, that hard road, that single road to His kingdom is infinitely more satisfying in the end.