I began to share my faith regularly shortly after I became a Christian during my third year in college. For about a year, whenever I got to the invitation, I would challenge people to ask Jesus into their hearts to be saved.
Odd things began to happen. These things forced me back to the Scriptures and led me to stop challenging people to ask Jesus into their lives.
My policy became: Don’t ask. Or, more fully: Don’t ask, believe.
A devout Catholic to whom I witnessed came up with an objection I couldn’t answer when I challenged her to invite Jesus into her heart. She said, “In the first place, I ask God to help me all the time. He knows that my attitude is that I want Jesus in my life to help me. I can’t fathom that He would make me say the exact words ‘Jesus come into my heart’ when that is my attitude. In the second place, I take communion often and each time I do Jesus comes into my life.”
I knew she wasn’t trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life, and yet I couldn’t make the issue clear to her by telling her she needed to ask Jesus into her heart.
One day while randomly walking up to people sitting on a pretty hillside on my Southern California campus, I found a fellow student who was open to spiritual things. I shared the gospel with him and asked him to invite Jesus into his heart. I was delighted when he did just that.
A week later on our follow-up appointment, my joy turned to chagrin. He announced to me that upon reading the literature I had given him to study he had discovered that I was saying that Jesus Christ was the only way to God. He vehemently disagreed with that. He believed that Jesus was one of the prophets who pointed to God. He wanted all of the prophets in his heart, so on that basis he invited Jesus in.
It turned out that he was a follower of an Eastern religious sect. My ask-Jesus-in appeal clearly didn’t work with him. He asked Jesus in sincerely, yet without trusting in Him alone for eternal life.
Shortly after the second of the above incidents occurred I stopped challenging people to ask Jesus in. I began instead to ask people to trust in Christ alone.
Years later I was teaching an evangelism course at a Bible College in East Texas. I had my students write out their testimonies after I had explained what I have recounted above.
I found that quite a few of the students went through years of confusion because someone told them as children that if they asked Jesus into their hearts they would be saved. They wondered if they had done it right. They wondered if they had been sincere enough. So they asked Him in over and over again for years. They couldn’t gain assurance. Finally someone shared with them that to be saved they had to trust in Christ alone. Only then, by their own testimony, did they come to faith in Christ. Years of inviting Him into their lives had only confused and frustrated them.
I had one student whose testimony ended with him saying that he invited Jesus into His heart for eternal life. In conversation with him I learned that he had come to faith in Christ alone in my class that semester and that when he wrote his testimony he just wrote up what he had always written before. I explained to him that if he had just come to faith in Christ alone that semester, then he needed to rewrite his testimony. He lit up as it dawned on him that faith in Christ, not inviting Jesus in, was the real issue.
The issue in evangelism is trust. Who or what am I trusting for eternal life? Why should God let me into heaven? A person must place his trust solely in Christ. He must give up confidence in his good works, in his church attendance, in his baptism, in his desire to serve God, and in anything other than Christ. All of our trust must be in Christ and what He did for us on the Cross.
A mustard seed of faith in Christ alone saves. All the faith in the world in Christ-plus-something-else does not.
Don’t ask. Believe. In Christ and Him alone.
- “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
- (Acts 16:31)