“Do you want to be saved? Then just ask Jesus to come into your heart.” While this statement is not anti-biblical, neither is it expressly biblical. The wording generates a mental image that can easily lead to wrong impressions, especially among children, who tend to take things literally. Plus, the exhortation to “ask Jesus into your heart”—if that’s the whole message—leaves out some important things such as repentance and faith.
The Bible does mention the fact that, in some sense, Jesus resides in our hearts: Paul prayed “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). But Paul is writing to believers who had already received Christ. The parallel prayer in verse 16 is that God “may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” There is no evangelistic appeal in the context of Ephesians 3. Paul is not telling the Ephesians to “ask Jesus into their hearts”; he is simply elevating their awareness that Jesus is present within them through the Holy Spirit.
The verse from which the “ask Jesus into your heart” concept is usually taken is Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Notice, however, that the verse does not mention the heart at all. Neither does the individual ask Jesus to do anything; rather, Jesus asks us to do something. In context, Jesus is speaking to the church of Laodicea, who was in desperate need of repentance (verse 19). The Laodiceans had effectively excluded Jesus from their fellowship, and the Lord was seeking to restore that fellowship. The passage does not deal with a person calling on the Lord for salvation.
The idea of Jesus “coming into your heart” is nowhere used in any preaching in the Bible. The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Gospel presentations in the Bible exhort a proper response to that message: believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), and repent (Acts 3:19). We are to change our minds about our sin and about who Christ is, believe Jesus died and rose again, and receive the gift of eternal life by faith. None of the apostles ever told someone to “ask Jesus into your heart.”
Often, the exhortation to “ask Jesus to come into your heart” is used as a simple way to say, “Ask Jesus to enter your life” or “Allow the Lord to take control.” If this is done in the context of presenting the whole gospel, then there’s no harm done. But before a person is invited to “ask Jesus into your heart,” he or she should understand sin and its penalty, the payment Christ made on the cross, and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, referring to salvation as Jesus’ “coming into your heart” might even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). Still, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring at salvation.
When sharing the gospel, we should be careful what we say and how we say it. Even the word believe can be misleading if it is presented as mere intellectual assent (agreeing that certain facts are true) instead of as trust (relying on those true facts). Judas Iscariot believed certain facts about Jesus, but he never trusted Jesus for salvation. Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart. Salvation is about trusting in Jesus as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness He offers by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).