While "asking Jesus into your heart" is something we hear a lot in the Christian community, especially in children's Sunday school, that phrase is not actually used in the Bible. None of the apostles ever spoke of salvation in terms of "asking Jesus into your heart." To present the message of salvation in such simple terms is, at best, an oversimplification, and at worst, completely misleading. And it could really be misinterpreted by small children because they take things so literally.
"Ask Jesus into your heart" is usually linked to Revelation 3:20, in which Jesus says, “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.” But if you'll notice, this verse says nothing about the heart. Not to mention that it isn't about asking Jesus to do anything, but rather it is Jesus who is asking something of US.
To put Revelation 3:20 in context, Jesus was speaking to the church of Laodicea. The members of this church had become complacent in their faith—lukewarm believers—and Jesus was counseling them about how to change. They had already received salvation, but they were in desperate need of repentance and restoration of their fellowship with Jesus (verse 19). So Revelation 3:20 doesn't actually have anything to do with someone first calling on Jesus to accept the gift of salvation.
Absolutely! Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit "dwells with you and will be in you" as a helper for your faith (John 14:17). Romans 8:9 reminds us, "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." Paul prayed “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” in Ephesians 3:17. But having the Spirit of God in your heart is a result of salvation—not all there is to it.
The Gospel (or the message of salvation) is about the incredible news that Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins and then came back to life, which proved His sacrifice was sufficient. And because of Jesus' sacrifice, God offers us forgiveness of sin on faith (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In its simplest form, the Gospel message is this: believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), repent (Acts 3:19). Repentance is about changing the way we think about sin, understanding who Christ is, and recognizing how His story is an integral part of ours.
Saying "ask Jesus into your heart" is kind of a simplified way of saying "ask Jesus to enter your life" or "allow Jesus to take control of your life." If you use "ask Jesus into your heart" as a part of a wider, more complete explanation of the message of salvation, then sure, it's totally OK to use the phrase. But we don't want to oversimplify or mislead anyone regarding what salvation is all about. Someone who has never heard that phrase before (or had it explained to them) isn't going understand what it means.
The person you're talking to needs to understand what sin is, how there's a penalty to pay for sinfulness, how Jesus' death on the cross paid that penalty, and how He resurrected, proving His sacrifice was enough. Emphasize how we are made into new creations through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and God's gift of grace alone—not because we did enough or were good enough to receive it (Ephesians 2:8).
"[The Lord] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…" —Titus 3:5
We have a great blog post here on 412teens that talks about how to share your faith: Sharing the Gospel: A Beginner's Guide. May God grant you wisdom as you speak about your faith to those you love (James 1:5)!
Saying "ask Jesus into your heart" is kind of a simplified way of saying "ask Jesus to enter your life" or "allow Jesus to take control of your life," but it isn't actually used in the Bible. We don't want to oversimplify or mislead anyone regarding what salvation is all about, so a more detailed explanation should be used. Someone who has never heard that phrase before isn't going understand what it means. In its simplest form, the Gospel message is this: believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), repent (Acts 3:19). Make sure YOU understand what those terms mean as well so that you'll be ready when the moment comes to share your faith!
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.