The power of story is undeniable. As Christians we tell the story of Jesus by our sayings, our tone, and so on. Our sayings construct a metanarrative that we don’t wish to have misinterpreted or misapplied. Understanding what we say and how it is said in a cultural context, and how others interpret it, is critical to ensure our every word is seasoned with salt, so that we know how to answer people. We have an affinity for breaking down Greek and Hebrew words to examine their fullness of meaning; we ought to do the same with our “Christianese.”
In this 3-part blog series, I will try to pick apart three common Christianese sayings. I chose these three because, frankly, they rub me the wrong way, and I think we can say them better. In my previous post, I discussed inviting people to church. In the second I’ll talk about a favorite:
#1 “Just Ask Jesus Into Your Heart”
What We Say: We’ve bravely walked up to an (suspected) unbeliever, got them to listen to us talk about Jesus, and convinced them of the gospel. They ask, “Tell me what I must do to be saved!” (Well, maybe not in so many words but that’s the gist.) And we respond, “We’ll pray a prayer and ask Jesus into your heart.” Or, we’re in church, the message is over and, if we’re “seeker-friendly”, the pastor will wrap up with an invitation, saying “Ask Jesus into your heart”.
The Problem: In a word—metaphor. Someone
can’t be sure what we mean. We use metaphor only understandable in Christianesefor something we ought to be very clear about. It tells a person nothing about the essentials of the faith, lacks historicity, and frankly, is a bit childish. When we believe, Someone actually does come to live inside us, but it ain’t Jesus.
How We Could Say It Better: The Bible is matter-of-fact and without metaphor regarding how a person is saved:
“Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:37-38
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” Acts 16:30-31
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
We are saved when with our hearts we believe and confess with our mouths what’s in our hearts. Then, we repent, a word meaning to change our minds. We are baptized. The Holy Spirit moves inside us—our friend, counselor, guide, and permanent guarantor of our relationship with Jesus and the Father. The Spirit enables us to believe and gives us power to live as a believer. Don’t we think He’s worth mentioning at the outset?
How are we saved? It’s really quite simple but profound. Maybe we could say instead, “Change your mind and believe Jesus is Lord. Say it with your mouth and trust in him for your salvation and his Holy Spirit will come to live inside you. He’ll be your helper as you start to live like Jesus. Then we’ll baptize you, a sign that you are reborn—leaving the old person behind and becoming a new one.”
It worked really well for the Apostles. Maybe we should give it a shot again?