This book was written in order to help believers in Jesus Christ to (in the words of the author himself) “know, beyond all doubt, that they are saved” (p.3). In other words, it is about assurance of salvation. That is always a timely topic, as many sincere believers in Christ struggle with a lack of assurance for a whole host of different reasons.
The title grabs your attention right from the get-go (which is, no doubt, the intention). How many of us have heard a pastor or evangelist present the call to faith in Christ in terms of asking Jesus into your heart? It is an all-too-common formula. And, as Greear points out, it is nowhere to be found in Scripture. (Hence the title of the book.)
Ultimately, though, the author’s concern is not so much the expressions that we commonly use to articulate the gospel (although he is rightly concerned about that as well), but that such practices in evangelism often lead to problems down the road in the form of a lack of assurance for believers who find themselves questioning whether or not they ‘did it right,’ so to speak. The result is that many sincere believers (including the author!) have asked Jesus into their hearts over and over again down through the years.
The book is filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as any book on assurance worth its salt should be. He notes the biblical basis for having assurance of salvation (chapter 2), as well as the benefits of having it (strength & motivation for living the Christian life). He even emphasizes the active and passive obedience of Christ (although he does not use those terms to do so), and double-imputation (i.e. our sins imputed to Christ on the Cross and His perfect righteousness imputed to believers by faith alone).
He includes a whole chapter (5) entitled, “What Is Belief?” where he defines saving faith, followed by a chapter devoted to the topic of repentance (chapter 6). He clearly defines what it is, what it is not, and why it is necessary as part of saving faith. These chapters are very helpful.
A few points of criticism:
There are a lot of typos in the book (on p.12, 18, 21, 65 & 82 – find them for yourself if you care to do so). That is not a big deal in and of itself, but that is a lot of typos for such a short book (121 pages). Maybe his editor(s) needed more coffee that day? I found it to be somewhat distracting.
Also, there are a number of attempts at humor throughout the book that I found to be a little forced. The humor seems to be a part of his writing style, and no doubt reflects his personality (not a bad thing in itself by any means), but I found it to be a bit distracting at times as well.
Of a more pressing concern is his advice in Appendix 1 (“What About Baptism?”). The question that he is seeking to answer is what should you do about baptism if you become convinced that you were born again after you were initially baptized? His advice? Get re-baptized (p.113)! In other words, stop asking Jesus into your heart after the first time, but get baptized again?!?
As a Baptist, he does not believe in paedo-baptism (baptizing the infant children of believers), so he is just being consistent with his own view. The problem is that he addresses such an important topic as baptism in such a brief way (not even three full pages). In my opinion his readers would have been much better-served if he had either treated the subject at some length or simply ignored it altogether.
He flatly (and wrongly, I might add) states that “Every baptism we see in the New Testament . . .was a believer confessing his or her own faith” (p.113). There are a number of instances in the book of Acts where entire households were baptized (e.g. 16:15, 33). To simply assume that there were no children in those households seems more than a bit arbitrary. Not only that, but for the Apostles to suddenly and without any explanation abandon the application of the sign & seal of the New Covenant to infants when the sign & seal of the Old Covenant had been commonly applied to infants for about two thousand years (i.e. since the days of Abraham) would be strange, to say the least.
That being said, I did find the book to be generally helpful and would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with a lack of assurance of salvation. His words in the final chapter of the book are well-worth repeating here:
I’m simply saying that whenever you doubt your standing with God, the solution is the same: trust in the finished work of Jesus (p.107).
Very good advice! If you want assurance, don’t look primarily to something that you have done in the past; don’t even look primarily to what you are doing now; certainly don’t look to what you promise to do in the future. Instead, look to what Jesus has done on your behalf in the past in His death and resurrection. Look to what Jesus is doing for you even now – interceding for you at the right hand of the Father and preparing a place for you. And look to what He has promised to do for you in the future (come back for you, that you might be with Him forever). That is the primary way to assurance.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a lack of assurance, this book may prove to be very helpful and encouraging.
You can order a copy of the book here: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart