J.D. Greear. Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing 2013. 128 pp. $12.99

Tomorrow, the much-anticipated book Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear lands on a shelf near you. This little book packs the punch and is one of the best pastoral and practical treatments I have seen on how to know whether or not you are a Christian.

In the church today, scores of pew-sitters are confident they have eternal life because of a few words they prayed when they were five years old. Others sincere believers battle tooth-and-nail wondering where they’ll end up after their last breath. In this helpful book, Greear biblically, wisely, personally, practically, and humorously helps us understand what conversion and salvation are all about.

Greear primarily writes to two main people: 1) those who think they are going to heaven simply because they prayed a prayer; and 2) those who wonder if their “sinner’s prayer” will really be enough for them to walk through heaven’s gates. The problem, says Greear, is that evangelical shorthand for the gospel is, simply, not gospel. Telling someone to “ask Jesus into  your heart” or “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior” is simply not how the Bible points us to seek salvation (7). Hold your horses, however, if you think the book is a 128-page rant against the “sinner’s prayer.” Greear does not think the sinner’s prayer or saying, “ask Jesus into your heart” is heretical, and he even admits it might be one correct way to speak of salvation. Yet, his “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” in Jesus (9). In other words, the “sinner’s prayer” is not a ritual transaction between us and Jesus to get our names on heaven’s attendance list.

Contrary to popular opinion, God does want people to have assurance (ch. 2), and in order to obtain assurance, we must honestly examine our response to the gospel. Those who trust in the finished work of Christ as their only hope have eternal life. Cased closed. “If you base your assurance on what you do or how well you do it, you’ll never find assurance,” Greear writes. “If your assurance is based on what Christ has done, however, you can rest in His performance” (38).

The proper, saving response to Christ is summarized as “repentance” and “belief” in the gospel (see Acts 2:38). Greear spends a chapter each unpacking belief and repentance. The key to assurance is that the person who has truly been saved by God’s grace lives in a posture of repentance and belief in the gospel. “Repentance and belief” and “asking Jesus into our hearts” are not interchangeable, he states (41). Therefore, just because you prayed a prayer doesn’t mean “you’re in,” and just because you haven’t prayed a prayer doesn’t mean “you’re out.” Perhaps you ask yourself, “Did I pray the prayer?” or “Was I sincere enough?” or “Did my life change after praying?” Greear reminds us that the solution is not to invite Jesus back into your heart. The solution is to sit in a posture of repentance and faith, transferring the weight of your hopes of heaven off of you and on the finished work of Christ (43). The only question that really matters is, “Are you resting on Jesus today?”

The final three chapters cover the use of Scriptural warnings, the evidence of true faith, and what to do when you continue to doubt. But I won’t spoil any more. Get this book. Read it. Be convicted by it. Be encouraged by it. Be motivated by it to repent and believe in the glorious gospel! Then go find someone (because we all know someone) who struggles with assurance and give them this book. Neither of you will be sorry.

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11 thoughts on “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart Review

  1. I’d love to win a copy of this book because it navigates the treacherous waters taking its readers from pew filling to active gospel living. It answers a very basic question and from what you say, it sounds good.

    Oh, and I’ve followed you on FB, Twitter and get this blog’s email for quite awhile now.

  2. I’d love a copy of this book because I’d like to lead a group of high school students through a discussion of it. Sounds like it would be a tremendous resource for students…. especially those who doubt their salvation often. So, pick me, James… pick me!

    I did just subscribe (via email) to your blog! (can’t believe I hadn’t done that before)…. And I already follow you on Twitter. :-)

  3. I would love a copy of this book: First, to create a greater depth in my own heart in regards to the Gospel. Second, to share the wisdom with the college students and young adults that I work with that either don’t have the assurance that is grounded in Christ or are standing on the significance of a prayer they prayed. And third, I’d like to pass it along to a family member that I am aware of who clings to a prayer and not Christ.

    Thanks James for the opportunity to get a free book from you. I have already subscribed to your blog and I’ve been following you on twitter for a while.

    Very encouraging post and I am always encouraged by your blogging ministry.

    -Moe

  4. I’d love a copy of this book because I have no income to buy it, and am often approached by non-believers or those in the position detailed by the book, having prayed sinner’s prayers, about their standing with Jesus and struggle to respond with grace and wisdom.

  5. At the age of nine I prayed to ask Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior. I loved being a Christian. I loved Jesus and I loved the Bible. I used to love witnessing to non-believers and loved defending my belief in (the Christian) God and orthodox/conservative Christianity. Then one day someone challenged me to take a good, hard look at the foundation of my beliefs: the Bible. I was stunned by what I discovered.

    1. The Bible is not inerrant. It contains many, many errors, contradictions, and deliberate alterations and additions by the scribes who copied it. The originals are lost, therefore we have no idea what “God” originally” said. Yes, its true—Christians can give “harmonizations” for every alleged error and contradiction, but so can the Muslims for errors in the Koran, and Mormons for errors in the Book of Mormon. One can harmonize anything if you allow for the supernatural.

    2. How do we know that the New Testament is the Word of God? Did Jesus leave us a list of inspired books? Did the Apostles? Paul? The answer is, no. The books of the New Testament were added to the canon over several hundred years. Second Peter was not officially accepted into the canon until almost the FIFTH century! So why do all Christians accept every book of the New Testament as the word of God and reject every non-canonical “gospel”? Answer: the ancient (catholic) Church voted these books into your Bible. Period.

    There is nowhere in the OT or the NT where God gives men the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word. If Second Peter was really God’s Word, the entire Church should have known so in the first century.

    3. Who wrote the Gospels? We have NO idea! The belief that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is based on hearsay and assumptions—catholic tradition. Protestants denounce most of the traditions of the Catholic Church but have retained two of the most blatant, evidence-lacking traditions which have no basis in historical fact or in the Bible: the canon of the NT and the authorship of the Gospels.

    The only shred of evidence that Christians use to support the traditional authorship of the Gospels is one brief statement by a guy named Papias in 130 AD that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel. That’s it! Papias did not even identify this “gospel”. Yet in 180 AD, Irenaeus, a bishop in FRANCE, declares to the world that the apostles Matthew and John and the associates of Peter and Paul—Mark and Luke—wrote the Gospels. But Irenaeus gives ZERO evidence for his assignment of authorship to these four books. It is well known to historians that it was a common practice at that time for anonymously written books to be ascribed to famous people to give them more authority. For all we know, this is what Irenaeus did in the case of the Gospels.

    The foundation of the Christian Faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If the story of the Resurrection comes from four anonymous books, three of which borrow heavily from the first, often word for word, how do we know that the unheard of, fantastically supernatural story of the re-animation of a first century dead man, actually happened??

    Maybe the first book written, “Mark”, was written for the same purpose that most books were written in that time period—for the benefit of one wealthy benefactor, and maybe it was written simply as an historical novel, like Homer’s Iliad; not meant to be 100% factual in every detail, but a mix of true historical events as a background, with a real messiah pretender in Palestine, Jesus, but with myth and fiction added to embellish the story and help sell the book! We just do not know for what purpose these books were written!

    I slowly came to realize that there is zero verifiable evidence for the Resurrection, and, the Bible is not a reliable document. After four months of desperate attempts to save my faith, I came to the sad conclusion that my faith was based on an ancient superstition; a superstition not based on lies, but based on the sincere but false beliefs of uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants.

    You can pray to ask Jesus into your heart 10,000 times, but if there is no evidence for his Resurrection, then odds are that he is dead. And if he is dead, he can’t hear your prayers. Sad, but the truth.

    1. Gary, I’m sorry that after just 4 months you came to all those conclusions. Normally I would engage with you in a debate on these things, but you already seem convinced. There is more historical and archeological evidence for the reliability of the Scriptures than any other book, religious or not. You either see that or you don’t.

      I’ll say one thing, related to one of your last comments: if you think the people who wrote the Scriptures were uneducated peasants, you are sorely mistaken. Luke and Paul, the two men who wrote most of the NT, were highly educated (a doctor and a Pharisee respectively) reasonable, logical men. Being an uneducated, gullible fool is not a prerequisite for being a Christian.

      Ultimately, this is not an intellectual problem you have. It’s an affection problem, a heart problem. You have desired something above God–something other than Jesus has seized your affections. I pray God changes your mind–and your heart.

  6. I do have evidence. There is a lot of evidence. Pick up any evangelical NT survey. Of course, you may say, “They are biased.” I would respond this way: so are the liberal scholars.

  7. I thought it would be interesting to look at the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus from the orthodox/conservative/evangelical Christian stand point, excluding, however, baseless assumptions. I am excluding fundamentalists in this discussion because fundamentalist Christian views are so extreme that it would be hopeless to try and reconcile them with the actual evidence. Some fundamentalists would probably believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sat down and wrote their gospels within ten minutes of the Ascension.

    A. The Gospel of Mark

    So, let’s start with the first gospel written, as almost all scholars agree: the gospel of Mark. Most scholars believe that it was written sometime between 65-75 AD. So let’s accept an earlier date for the writing of this gospel: mid 60’s, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.

    1. Who wrote Mark: the gospel itself does not tell us. No clear assignment of authorship is given until Irenaeus in the late second century. Yes, Papias in the early second century mentions that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel, but Papias does not identify the gospel.

    2. Where was Mark written? We don’t know. Most scholars do not believe that Mark was written in Palestine, but let’s just say that it was. So the gospel is written 30-35 years after Jesus’ death in 30-33 AD. Historians tell us that the average life span of people in the first century was age 45. How many people would still be alive in 65 AD who had been old enough to witness the crucifixion of Jesus? If you were fifteen in the year 30 AD, you would now be fifty in 65 AD, above the average first century life span. And I would bet that even most fundamentalist Christians would believe that the disciples were older than fifteen at the time of the crucifixion. So let’s say that the disciples of Jesus were between twenty and thirty years old in 30 AD. That would make them fifty-five to sixty-five years old in 65 AD, if they were still alive! We have no proof that any of the disciples were still alive in 65 AD.

    3. Even if Mark were written in Palestine, 30 years after the death of Jesus, and there were still people alive who witnessed the resurrection, how soon was the gospel put into public circulation? Maybe the author wrote it for just one wealthy benefactor. Maybe he wrote it just for his small group of Christians, none of whom were old enough to remember the crucifixion. Maybe the gospel was not put into public circulation until after 70 AD. If true, the entire city of Jerusalem has been destroyed, most of its inhabitants are dead or carried off. If there had been a tomb of Jesus, who would now be alive to point out where it was. Remember, all this is assuming that the gospel was written in Palestine or at least circulated in Palestine in the 60’s or 70’s. For all we know, the gospel of Mark was written in Rome and copies of it did not arrive in Palestine until after 100 AD or later! Who would still be alive to say, “Hey, that’s not what happened!”?

    4. Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple.

    Even if Jesus did prophesy/predict the destruction of the Temple, is this proof that he is God? If someone living in Europe in the mid 1930’s had predicted that Europe would be devastated by a second world war, that Germany would lose, and that Germany would be partitioned as punishment for starting the war, would we believe that this person was God? Just because someone predicts something that comes true is not proof that they are divine.

    5. Was the author of Mark an eyewitness to the Resurrection?

    The author of Mark never claims to be an eyewitness. He even writes in the third person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the author was not an eyewitness but to say he was is simply a guess.

    B. The Gospel of Matthew

    1. Who wrote Matthew? The author does not tell us. The assignment of the apostle Matthew as author of this gospel is not mentioned until the late second century by Irenaeus.

    2. Most scholars believe that Matthew was written after Mark and that one can find 70% of the content of Mark within Matthew, often word for word.

    3. Where was Matthew written? We have no idea. Again, for all we know, it could have been written in a foreign country, far away from any eyewitnesses to the crucifixion. We have no idea when it was first circulated in Palestine for any elderly eyewitness to say, “Hey. That isn’t what happened!”

    4. Was Matthew an eyewitness to the Resurrection?

    The author of Matthew never claims to be an eyewitness. He writes in the third person. Again, not proof that he was not an eyewitness but to say he was is no better than a guess. The author of Matthew could simply have been writing a story he had heard third, fourth, or twentieth hand.

    C. The Gospel of Luke

    1. Who wrote Luke? The author of Luke does not say. No clear assignment of authorship of this gospel is given until the late second century by Ireneaus.

    2. Where was Luke written? We have no idea.

    3. The author of the Gospel of Luke also borrows heavily from the Gospel of Mark. Approximately 50-55% of the content of Mark can be found in Luke, frequently, word of word.

    4. Was the author of Luke an eyewitness?

    Luke very clearly states in the first few verses of chapter one that he is not an eyewitness. He states that he carefully investigated the writings of others (Mark and “Q”?) which he didn’t seem to find satisfactory, and that his sources had given him eyewitnesses testimony. However, he does not identify his sources. Were his sources eyewitnesses themselves or were his sources associates of eyewitnesses giving him “eyewitness” testimony from their source or sources, which would make Luke’s information, at best, second hand information.

    D. The Gospel of John

    Many conservative Christians believe that the author of John infers that he is John, the son of Zebedee, by using the term “the beloved disciple”. I personally (and many scholars) do not think that the author of John is referring to himself as the beloved disciple but is claiming to be recounting the story of the beloved disciple. But let’s assume that the author of the Gospel of John does claim to be John, the beloved disciple. What evidence do we have to determine if his claim is true? Do we have any contemporary Christian or non-Christian testimony that states that John, the son of Zebedee, wrote the Gospel of John? No. We do not. The assignment of authorship of this gospel is not made until the end of the second century, again, by Ireneaus. Papias makes no mention of this gospel.

    So just because someone claimed to be John, the beloved disciple, recounting an eyewitness account of the life, death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus, should we take him at his word?? Many, many “gospels” were floating around the Mediterranean world in the late first and second centuries. The non-canonical Gospel of Peter may have been written even earlier than Mark! Yet, no one, including fundamentalists, believes that the apostle Peter wrote the Gospel of Peter. So, how do we know that the author of the Gospel of John, if he really was claiming to be John, was really John, the beloved disciple, son of Zebedee?? The fact is, that we have no more evidence that John wrote the Gospel of John than we do that Peter wrote the Gospel of Peter, other than Irenaeus’ declaration in 180 AD, in France, one hundred and fifty years after the crucifixion, that the four gospels we have today were written by the persons that he asserts, based upon evidence, that he never gives!

    E. What Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus do we have so far?

    We have four first century books describing the alleged facts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but only one, (maybe), claims to be an eyewitness testimony.

    Dozens of Romans senators claimed that the first Roman king, Romulus, was snatched up into heaven right in front of their eyes…but no Christian believes this eyewitness testimony.

    Thirteen men living in the early nineteenth century signed legal affidavits, swearing under oath, that they personally had seen the Golden Tablets delivered to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni with their own two eyes, and three of these men signed affidavits that they had seen the angel Moroni himself with their own two eyes…but yet no Christian believes this eyewitness testimony.

    Thousands upon thousands of devout, pious Roman Catholics have claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary, alive, often many hundreds or even thousands together in the same location, at the same time…but no Protestant or evangelical Christian denomination believes this eyewitness testimony to be true.

    Yet, Protestant/evangelical Christians will believe as absolute fact, that a first century dead man walked out of his tomb after three days of decomposing, ate a broiled fish lunch with his friends, and then levitated into outer space based on the testimony of…one…,possible, eyewitness’ testimony!

    F. But what about the Apostle Paul?

    The testimony of Saul/Paul of Tarsus is used by Christians as secondary proof of the Resurrection of Jesus. Christians do not allege that Paul saw a resurrected Jesus prior to his Ascension into Heaven. In I Corinthians Paul makes this statement, “Have I not seen the Christ?”

    But when Paul says he has “seen” the Christ, what did he see actually? Well, Acts chapter 26 tells us exactly what Paul saw, in his own words: Paul saw a talking, bright light that told him that it (the talking, bright light) was Jesus. And, Paul very specifically states, that he saw this talking, bright light…”in a heavenly vision”.

    Talking bright lights are not resurrected bodies and visions are not reality.

    Yes, Paul came to believe that Jesus had been bodily resurrected, but there is no evidence that Paul believed this due to seeing a resurrected body. Paul was a Pharisee, and Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection, so if Paul believed that the talking, bright light speaking to him on the Damascus Road was the executed Jesus, then he would of course believe that he had seen the (bodily) resurrected Jesus, even if he had actually not seen a body, but only a bright light!

    Conclusion:

    The belief that a first century dead man, named Jesus, walked out of his tomb with a new, superman-like body that could teleport between cities (Emmaus and Jerusalem), could walk through locked doors (the Upper Room), and could teleport into outer space (the Ascension) is based on one alleged eyewitness who wrote a book 40-60 years after the alleged event, whose authorship was not mentioned by any Christian or non-Christian until 150 years later, at the end of the second century, when it was finally called the Gospel of John…and…on the “heavenly vision” of a vision prone Jewish rabbi, Saul/Paul of Tarsus (who also said that he was teleported to the “third heaven”. What other writer of the Bible refers to the concept of multiple heavens?)

    And we are asked to believe that based on this “evidence”, Jesus of Nazareth now sits on a throne in the far reaches of outer space, ruling as our Almighty Lord and King of the Universe??

    The Romans and Mormons have better evidence for their supernatural tall tales than this tale! It is an ancient legend, folks. A fantastic, supernatural superstition. The chances that it is true are infintisimal.

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