Over A Billion Served
Quantity does not mean quality. This is just as true for ministry, as it is for anything else. It is safe to say that the Gospel become one of the most watered down doctrines and messages in all Christianity, becoming more about numbers gained, than lives saved. Many in the Christian community have taken this precious, heart changing, life altering doctrine and turned it into spiritual fast food. Just as fast food restaurants like McDonalds take food, which once possessed some form of nutritional value, and turned it into mass produced, empty sustenance, Christian’s have done the same with the Gospel. Similar to McDonald’s or any fast food chain, the modern day interpretation of the Gospel, may provide quick and easy nourishment in the moment, but long term is not a source of significant fulfillment. A high cost for cheap food.
What does it Cost to Ask Jesus into Your Heart?
One of Christianity’s key components is salvation. Unfortunately with wide spread evangelization and the desire to reach all people, as fast as possible, the doctrines of salvation have been misinterpreted and skewed in the process. The motives can be anything from the desire to give the Gospel to all people, quickly and concisely, to the quota of a number driven church; whatever the case, the idea of cutting corners has found its way to the Gospel. The method of salvation in which one asks Christ into their heart is as ineffective as it is erroneous. The idea of asking Jesus into your heart, is a reality and problem within the Church today. In the book Seven Reasons Not to Ask Jesus into Your Heart, Dennis Rokser argues against the method of salvation in which a person asks Christ “into their heart.” Spread the Gospel through means of “asking Jesus into your heart”, does not fully or effective represent the Gospel, and is not conducive for genuine acceptance of salvation. First of all the method establishes no history, background or understanding of God, prior to the Gospels. Instead of God’s message and plan being presented as whole, all the hearer is given is a miniscule segment. This is dangerous because, not only does it leave one without a proper Biblical foundation, but is misleading regarding the Christian life, which could also lead the recipient to eventually, walking away from the faith. Because this methodology is at times emotionally driven, some may believe the moment of salvation, emotions and all, is an accurate depiction of the Christian life in its entirety. Eventually the high will hit a low, and a large percentage of new believers, (if they ever even accepted Christ to begin with), will be at risk of returning to their life, prior to belief. The solicitors of this Gospel do not take into account the many variables pertaining to people when using the into ones heart message. Not only does a person’s culture effect their perception and ability to receive the Gospel, but also the worldview they possess is a huge factor. As a result those whom this poor presentation of salvation is bestowed upon, may have nothing more than confusion, and lack clarity added to their already existent beliefs. Rokser in his article had many valid points, but there are also a few additional points to be considered. The core of Christianity has undeniably been attacked by a strong watering down of both, the Word of God, and the message of Christ within it. Asking Jesus into your heart provides no firm basis of faith leaving a large portion of salvations context missing. Viewing salvation in such a shallow manner, turns Christianity into a lifestyle, not a life.
That’s What Bonhoeffer Said
The problems expressed in the article regarding the Gospel, parallel observations made by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book the Cost of Discipleship. In the chapter Costly Grace, Bonhoeffer describes concepts of grace which he labels as “cheap and costly.” To define the terms, cheap grace allows the believer to do whatever they please, with no change in character or action. On the other end of the spectrum, costly grace places the believer in a position, in which they diligently and consistently pursue God, sacrificing the life they once lived, in order to live life in Christ. What Bonhoeffer and Rokser both observed was Christianity abandoning the depth of salvations proper doctrine, in order to pursue a simpler, shallower version of it.
Salvation without Foundation
The idea of asking Jesus into your heart provides little to no foundation for salvation. Scripture is intended to function as a whole and not in bits. When one asks Jesus into their heart they are given no context as to why or even how they should. Ken Ham an author, apologist, and creationist says regarding the alarming attack on Christianity’s foundation “If one stands back and looks at the big picture, there’s no doubt that this culture is becoming less Christian every day. Whatever the church is doing doesn’t seem to be working. There is something fundamentally, in fact, foundationally, wrong.” Imagine you were in space and could see the Earth. While you may understand the scale of the planet or even some major details that compose the Earth, you would have to actually enter the atmosphere and explore the world to get the full picture. Details are essential when it comes to laying the foundation of a person’s salvation. Understanding essentials like the creation of man, why man needs a savior, the events leading to that savior, and who that savior even is, contextual foundation is necessary to the establishment of a firm faith in Christ. Man’s eternal salvation is only partly the point of Christ’s death. Bonhoeffer states what is missed when accepting Christ in such an empty fashion “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living incarnate.” He could not make it any clearer, without a proper foundation in salvation, the message of grace is sold short. While I am not saying that people cannot come to Christ without a proper foundation, however my argument is that, they should and could come to faith through a more effective means. Just because a system works, does not mean the system works well, and we should not refrain from improving it. Understanding scripture and the character of God is a necessary to effectively and genuinely accepting Christ.
This Space for Rent
Next we see that the Gospel via asking Jesus into your heart is doctrinally misleading resulting in many walking away simply because of an improper understanding of salvation.. Replacing faith with feeling, it does not take much for the believer to go astray. Obviously the argument is not about the expression “to ask Jesus into your heart” but the results of bad theological practice and implications, often accompanied with the approach. In regards to perversion of doctrine Bonhoeffer said “It is terrifying to realize what use can be made of genuine evangelical doctrine. In both cases we have the identical formula- “justification by faith alone.” Yet the misuse of the formula leads to the complete destruction of its essence.” Talking about cheap and costly grace, shows that while both have the same intention, the outcomes are very different. The misuse of the Gospel does more harm than good. Accepting Christ under the conditions of Him coming into your heart replaces faith with feeling. My goal is not to undermine feelings but to point out how fickle they can be and how faith should be established on fact coexisting discerningly with feelings. In high school my worldview consisted of a mixture of atheism and existentialism. On numerous occasions and in many denominations I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed, but He never did. As a result of not pursuing or being given proper understanding of what it meant to accept Christ I wrote what I experienced off as being, “nothing more than some hokey religion.” Once casualties of this doctrine lose the feelings many walk away from God and go back to their old lifestyle much in the same way I did. Christianity is not mysticism meant to be based off feelings, but one that takes understanding and exploration. For most it is sink or swim, with many going under like rocks. Being misled and leaving misunderstood, all those who asked Christ into their heart and failed to move beyond that moment, can do is walk away, from the tiny faith they had once accrued.
Taking the Roof Off
The “into your heart” method is not conducive when dealing with the barriers of cultural and religious worldviews. Being believers, it is our obligation to take the Gospel we ourselves accepted and bring it to others. Fifty years ago a mission’s organization known as New Tribes Mission revisited tribes on the foreign field where they had “presented the Gospel”. What they discovered shocked them. The tribal people had taken the Gospel, and intertwined it with their prior religious beliefs. Instead of a savior, Christ had been made into a pagan deity. It seemed incorporation of Christ into the tribe’s already existing religions was a common trend, and so the missionaries made the decision to reevaluate their methods. As a result they implemented survey of culture, religion, worldview, and so on in order to understand the people’s belief systems better. On top of that missionaries would learn the language and teach chronologically from Genesis to the Gospels, providing the full context and scope of Scripture and its redemptive plan for mankind. An article from the Answers in Genesis website presents just one of many stories from those who have practiced this method of teaching.
“One example comes from Don and Janet Schlatter, who ministered to the Lawa tribal people in northern Thailand. After many years of ministering, Don had the opportunity to attend a New Tribes leadership conference about the chronological approach. Seeing its value, he returned to Thailand and quickly put it into use. As he was going through the Old Testament, one of the Lawa elders told him, “Before you taught us from the middle to the top of the tree. Now we are hearing about the bottom of the tree. It brings into focus much which was confusing before.”
Our goal as believers should be to change the way we communicate the message and not the message itself. How we communicate the Gospel can either hinder or help. Bonhoeffer said “This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our own spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ it has closed it.” The Gospel should not be made into an obstacle for the unbelieving. Worldwide worldviews are warped because of particular Christian messages that are the Gospel in name only. With so many forms of “Christianity” and other religions in the world, all the method of asking Jesus into your heart does, is add confusion to already chaotic beliefs.
Would You Like That For Here or to Go?
The concept of asking Jesus into ones heart has become the fast food of Christianity. While readily available, it is not in any way nourishing. In a time when you can have anything you desire, whenever you desire it, our cultures cheapened lifestyle has infiltrated the Christian life. Getting quick results with no effort and little cost, believers are starving and walk away without any clue of what Christ was about. If a person is to genuinely learn, they must know the questions, before they can understand the answers. This is not 42, the answer to life, the universe, and everything, where you can never truly know the meaning. At the same time salvation is not supposed to be dumbed down and lacking in meaning. Instead of providing the answers we believe people want to hear, we must first teach the truths they need to hear. A proper understanding of salvation will set the tone for one’s entire Christian life. If you view salvation as the climax everything else is going to be anticlimactic. Becoming a believer is merely the start of who you are in Christ, the beginning of the journey, not the end and with the wrong foundation, vision, beliefs, or motivation, you will not be able to experiences the fullness of your position in Him.
“Firm Foundations –Lasting Faith – Answers in Genesis.” Answers in Genesis – Creation, Evolution, Christian Apologetics. Answers in Genesis, 14 Feb. 2008. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v3/n2/firm-foundations
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “Costly Grace.” The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959. Print.
Ham, Ken. “Why Wont They Listen?” Answers Magazine: Building Worldview 3.4 (2008): 46-62. Print.
Rokser, Dennis. Seven Reasons Not to Ask Jesus into Your Heart! Duluth, MN: Duluth Bible Church, 1999. Print.