Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by J. D. Greear

A few weeks ago, I attended the Advance13 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the conference, I was exposed to the pastoral ministry of J. D. Greear for the first time. Since I was really challenged by his message, I wanted to pick up one of his books to read. Since I was in the process of preparing a message for Easter called, "Jesus didn't die and rise again so you could simply ask Him into your heart"; when I saw the title of his new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, I knew I wanted to read the book.

To be clear, this is a book on assurance of salvation. His point with the title is that the Christian should get to a place where they know for sure they are saved. And because of that assurance, there is no need to continually ask Jesus back into your heart. This resonated with me. He thinks he set the world record at doing this when he was a kid. I am sure there are many like me who would like a recount. When I was younger, I was so scared of hell that whenever a bad thought came into my mind, I would ask Jesus back into my heart. I just did not really understand the concept of biblical salvation, as he explains he did not as well. I assumed that everything was based on that magical prayer I prayed.
"Ultimately, my concern is not on what words or actions we might use to express our faith in Christ but that we don't substitute those words or actions for repentance and faith. 'Praying the sinner's prayer' has become something like a Protestant ritual we have people go through to gain entry into heaven. As 'gospel shorthand,' it presents salvation as a transaction one conducts with Jesus and moves on from rather than the beginning of a posture we take toward the finished work of Christ and maintain for the rest of our lives" (9-10).
I believe the best parts of the book (and the main arguments) are found in his definitions of faith and repentance. I really appreciated how he articulated that faith is more than simply intellectual assent. Salvation is by faith alone, but that faith is much more than simply believing facts of Jesus. It is about a posture of trust in Christ. He says it in this way:
"The dilemma is resolved, however, by seeing salvation as a posture toward Christ and not as a ceremony. There is only one posture ever appropriate to Christ: surrendered to His Lordship, and believing that He did what He said He did" (48). 
The other side of the coin that he defines is repentance. Probably the most helpful thought he shares on the concept of repentance is when he said that "repentance is not the absence of struggle; it is the absence of settled defiance" (64). I appreciate that. This helps the thought of assurance. It is not that we will never struggle. We will. We do. But those that have truly repented will not hold onto an attitude of defiance in their heart toward some sin issues in their life.

This book is really helpful for those who have doubts about whether or not they are truly saved. If you are, this book will help you face the subject of your doubts. If you are not, this book will help lead you to the narrow way of salvation. I am sure I will pass out this book in the future to people. It is that helpful. It is easy to read, filled with practical illustrations to bridge the gap into our lives, and relatively short.

One last thing. Many years ago, I remember coming home from a camp with a high school student who shared with her parents that she had been saved at camp. She told them that when she was a kid, she "prayed the prayer" because her parents wanted her to do it, but it did not mean anything to her. She shared how she was ready now to submit her life to Christ and live for Him. Her parents response was disturbing. They said, "No, you didn't get saved this weekend. You were saved when you were six when we prayed together." I remember telling them that it really didn't matter when the salvation actually happened, but that what matters is present day reality of trusting Christ.

That is what this book shares. It is not about when, but about now. Are you trusting Christ now? There will be times in our life that we do not feel like we are saved. For Greear, those are great opportunities to lean again into the finished work of Christ. In those moments, he gives this wise counsel:
"The answer is relatively simple in that moment: keep believing the gospel. Keep you hand on the head of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how you feel at any given moment, how encouraged or discouraged you feel about your spiritual progress, how hot or cold your love for Jesus, what you should be doing is always the same--resting in the gospel. Rest in His finished work. That's all you can do. It's all you need to do. It's all God has commanded you to do. On your very best days, you must rest all your hopes on God's grace. On your worst days, His finished work should be your refuge. Your poster should always be one of dependence on His finished work and hope in His indwelling Spirit. Period" (105-106).

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