In American evangelicalism we often hear various phrases when people present the gospel to unbelievers. With a little reflection, what we find is that these phrases are not found in the Bible. We can look at a few as examples. With minor changes, one such phrase is: “Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. Invite Him into your heart.” Another one is: “Make Jesus Lord of your life.”
While these phrases are not found in the Bible, those who use them often cite certain verses to support the use of such phrases. In the first example, in Rev 3:20 Jesus says He is standing at the door and knocking. If anybody opens the door, He will come in. The problem is that Jesus is not speaking to unbelievers. He is speaking to believers in Laodicea. He wants to have fellowship with those who already have eternal life. He is not telling people to invite Jesus into their hearts in order to be saved from hell.
In the case of making Jesus Lord of your life, people will often appeal to Rom 10:13. There, Paul says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Once again, as the context shows, this is a message for believers. Believers call upon the name of the Lord in order to be saved from the consequences sin brings into their lives.
As we consider these common ways of presenting the gospel, we soon realize that people often just make these phrases up as they go along.
But the king of the “making up phrases as we go along when we present the gospel” prize has to go to a very common phrase. It is “surrender your life to Jesus.” We hear it all the time. But what makes this one stand out is that we can’t even find a verse taken out of context to support it!
Obviously, the key word here is “surrender.” Using the NKJV of the Bible as a base, the word only occurs eight times. All of them are in the OT (Deut 32:30; 2 Kgs 7:4; 15:16; Jer 38:17, 18, 21, 22, 23). In every instance it refers to surrendering to an earthly enemy (usually Babylon).
Here is the kicker. The word never occurs in the NT. In other words, in the Bible the word “surrender” is never used in a verse dealing with how a person receives eternal life. We can’t even find the word in verses addressed to believers, unlike other bad phrases used to present the gospel. That has to make this common gospel presentation the king of bad presentations.
My guess is that most people who use it are not aware of these facts. (I have to admit that as many times as I have heard it, I thought it occurred somewhere in the NT.) They are fortunate that nobody challenges them by asking where in the Bible the phrase occurs. I would think that would be embarrassing.
Once again, we see that when we hear the gospel presented in the US, we are hearing presentations that are not Biblically based. But I am nominating “surrender your life to Jesus” as the king of unbiblical gospel presentations. Not only is it not found in the NT at all, when we hear that phrase nobody knows exactly what is required of him/her. What does it mean to surrender your life to Jesus in order to receive eternal life? I surely don’t know. Neither does the unbeliever.
Of course, the Bible tells us how to avoid this problem. The Gospel of John is the only book whose purpose to tell us how to receive eternal life. Even though the word surrender is not found in that book, the word “believe” occurs 100 times. Instead of making it up as we go along, why don’t we tell unbelievers what the NT tells them they need to do in order to receive eternal life? Whoever believes in Jesus for eternal life receives it as a free gift (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-27, etc.). When it comes to the word “surrender,” I call on all of us to dethrone the king. After all, just in the Gospel of John alone, the king loses 100 to nothing.