I have a friend—let’s call him John—whose first exposure to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young. During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry. What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.
The church man looked at John and said, “Well, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”
“No,” he responded.
“Okay, then,” the man said, “pray this prayer after me. Dear Jesus . . .”
John paused. After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, “Dear Jesus . . .”
“I know I’m a sinner, and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” the man said.
John followed suit.
“I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin,” the man said.
Again, John echoed what he had heard.
“Amen,” the man concluded.
Then the man looked at John and said, “Son, you are saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again.”
Surely what that man told my friend in church that day was not true. Surely this is not what it means to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Yet this story represents deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape.
Just ask Jesus into your heart.
Simply invite Christ into your life.
Repeat this prayer after me, and you will be saved.
Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer? Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into their heart” or to “invite Christ into their life”? Yet this is exactly what multitudes of professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they’ve been assured that as long as they said certain words, recited a particular prayer, raised their hand, checked a box, signed a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation is eternally secure.
It’s not true. With good intentions and sincere desires to reach as many people as possible for Jesus, we have subtly and deceptively minimized the magnitude of what it means to follow him.
We’ve replaced challenging words from Christ with trite phrases in the church. We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds, and the consequences are catastrophic. Multitudes of men and women at this moment think that they are saved from their sins when they are not. Scores of people around the world culturally think that they are Christians when biblically they are not.
Platt, D., & Chan, F. (2013). Follow me: a call to die. a call to live. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale.