Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20; ESV)
Today the gospel distortion I want to examine is the slogan to “ask Jesus into your heart.” This is usually used at the invitation portion of sermons or during the altar call when the pastor makes an impassioned plea for you to ask Jesus into your heart. We also use this language often with our children and encourage them to ask Jesus into their little hearts.
This popular gospel distortion is the result of a misinterpretation of Revelation 3:20, which reads:
So many times I’ve heard this verse used to make the plea that Jesus stands at the “door of my heart” desperately wanting to come in. This is a complete misunderstanding of this verse. First off we need to get the context of this passage. This is the letter Jesus writes to the church of Laodicea, the “lukewarm” church in Revelation. The church had effectively kicked Jesus out, and Jesus, as head of the church, demands to be let back in; otherwise, he will spew them from his mouth. The door isn’t the “door of our hearts,” but the door of the church. Jesus isn’t begging to be let into our hearts, but demanding to be let back in the church. To take a letter of warning and judgment and turn it into an evangelistic appeal is a gross misuse of scripture.
Now maybe you’re asking the question, “What’s wrong with asking Jesus into our hearts?” Plenty! It’s unbiblical for starters. Nowhere in scripture are we encouraged to ask Jesus into our hearts; it’s a completely foreign concept in the bible. It places the emphasis in salvation on our choice to open the “door of our hearts” rather than on the sovereign Creator of the universe who demands our repentance and obedience. The gospel is always presented in scripture as a command (“Repent and believe the gospel!”).
The biblical picture of our relationship with God is one of rebel servant and angry master. Our sin and rebellion stokes the wrath of God against us. The only way that relationship is reconciled is if we repent and submit to our Creator. This gospel distortion places Jesus (God incarnate) in the role of the ‘jilted lover,’ and it places the rebel sinner in the driver’s seat of being the one who has the choice of opening the door.
Another thing wrong with this sub-biblical gospel distortion is it assumes (incorrectly) that the rebel sinner can, or even wants to, let Jesus into their hearts. In other words, not only does it present a distorted picture of God, but a distorted picture of our depravity. All heresies and distortions of biblical truth involve a distorted picture of God and a distorted picture of man in relation to God. The rebel sinner does not seek after God, but rather suppresses the truth of God (that is plainly made known to them) in wickedness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20). The truth of the situation is if we knew Jesus was knocking on the door of our hearts, we would either sneak out the back door or shoot him to death for trespassing on our property!
It is vitally important that we get the gospel message right. Failure to do so is not only a violation of our mission as a church, but it is also a surefire way to fill the church with “tares” (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).
Soli Deo Gloria!