Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by J.D. Greear, a book review
Monday, March 4, 2013
Romans 4:5 – “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
If there was an award for the most offensive title of a Christian book released this year, J.D. Greear’s book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart would probably be the winner. It is a title that instantly gets your attention, in fact when I saw it on the shelf for the first time I was somewhat offended. Why would anyone stop asking Jesus into their heart? What is the purpose of the book? Why would any pastor give a book this title?
When you read the book however it becomes very clear that Greear’s reason for writing is to clear up misconceptions concerning salvation. He says that the book was born out of his own personal struggle with knowing whether or not he was saved as a teenager and young adult. He says he had prayed the sinners prayer at least a hundred times but still he had no assurance when he prayed it that he was saved. He was following Jesus, he was trusting him in faith, he was repenting of his sins, but still he wasn’t sure if he was saved or not. He wondered when he prayed the prayer was he serious enough, did he really mean it? When he repented of his sins was he sorry enough for those sins? How could he be sure he was saved.
So he began to search the Scriptures and what he found was something that might surprise many people in the church today, that being saved had nothing to do with praying a prayer but instead with following Jesus everyday in repentance and faith.
We certainly can begin following Jesus by praying the sinners prayer, but it isn’t necessary. There is no record in Scripture of anyone praying the sinners prayer to become a Christian nor is there a “sinner’s prayer” contained in Scripture. In the Bible when someone began to follow Jesus they repented of their sins and the began to trust Jesus in faith. Paul says in the book of Romans that the way that we become “righteous” (read forgiven of our sins) is through faith not work. In other words salvation is a gift that we simply need to receive in repentance and faith.
He cites a study by the Barna group that says that as much as 50% of the population of America have prayed the sinner’s prayer, or something similar to it. And yet do we really believe that half of our country is Christian? By looking at behavior it certainly wouldn’t appear that way. The point that Greear is making is that praying a prayer doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you are a follower of Christ. A person can pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask Jesus into their heart and still be lost, while a person can just simply follow Jesus in repentance and faith without praying the sinners prayer and be saved.
Greear says that in the church he pastors, a Southern Baptist church in Raleigh, NC, that he doesn’t discourage someone from praying the sinners prayer, but that he realizes that it is not necessary as well.
He goes on in the book to talk about how we need an assurance of salvation if we are really saved because that assurance frees us up to live and to follow Christ because it lets us know that we are loved unconditionally. He also devotes a some time to looking at what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He went there in our place.
One of the most helpful chapters is the chapter on belief. In that chapter, Greear unpacks John 3:36 that says, “he who believed in the son has everlasting life; while he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Notice the 2 words believe and obey. If we believe we have eternal life, if we don’t obey we don’t. In other words, true belief is more than just words it comes out in our actions. If we believe we will obey.
Jesus says in Mark 1:15 that the kingdom of heaven is at hand so we should “repent and believe the good news.” True belief leads to action and it leads us to repent when our actions or our attitudes or our words fall short. Salvation comes not from a ceremony but from truly believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and following Him each and every day. Will we do that perfectly? No way! We will stumble and we will fall, make no mistake about it, but when we do we know that we have an advocate who picks us up and gives us forgiveness and that that advocate is Jesus Christ. He gives us His righteousness when we are saved, and there is no way that we can lose that. So again we should have an assurance of our salvation, knowing that if we are truly saved, we are truly saved and we don’t have to be baptized 10 times, or pray the sinners prayer 100 times to make that truth a reality, it is already a reality.
Greear’s book is a book that all Christians should read. It is filled up with humor, with stories, with great quotes from the leaders of the Protestant reformation as well as some of the Puritans but most importantly it is filled up with the truth of the Bible.
The truth that says once we are saved we are saved. But the truth that lets us know that salvation is more than just praying a prayer and then going and doing your own thing. Salvation is placing your faith in Jesus and repenting of your sins and be assured each and every that He loves you no matter what.
Greear’s book is practical yet theological. Filled up with words that all Christians, whether they are new to the faith or whether they are seasoned pastors or theologians, need to hear. It is a short but life changing read that reminds us of what is important, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers from the 1800s says that “the most important daily habit that we can have is to remind ourselves of the Gospel.” To that I say amen.
8 out of 10 stars. Don’t let the title scare you away.