Many evangelicals use the evangelistic appeal to ‘ask Jesus into your heart’. The positive aspect of this is that the New Testament speaks of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col. 1:27); of Christ dwelling ‘in your hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:17); and the like. It speaks of the Christian as having ‘received Christ Jesus the Lord’ (Col. 2:6). But it also makes clear that Christ dwells in or among his people by his Spirit, for the bodily risen Jesus is in heaven. Furthermore, there are no examples of principles of evangelism or conversion in the New Testament involving the asking of Jesus into one’s heart. In many cases this practice represents a loss of confidence in faith alone, for it needs to resort to a Catholic style of infused grace to assure us that something has happened.
Now, when people are genuinely converted by asking Jesus into their hearts, and I have no doubt that there are many, it can only be because they have understood the gospel sufficiently well for this prayer to be a decision to believe that this Jesus is the one who lived and died for their salvation. Why, then, have I called this section ‘evangelical Catholicism’? An aspect of Catholicism that Protestants have rejected is the reversal of the relationship of objective justification to its subjective outworking or sanctification. Another way of putting this is that the focus on the grace of God at work in the historic gospel event of Jesus Christ is muted compared to the emphasis on the grace of God as a kind of spiritual infusion into the life of the Christian. The gospel is seen more as what God is doing in me now, rather than what God did for me then. The focus is on Jesus living his life in and through me now, rather than the past historic event of Jesus of Nazareth living his life for me and dying for me. When the legitimate subjective dimension of our salvation begins to eclipse the historically and spiritually prior objective dimension, we are in trouble. The New Testament calls on the repenting sinner to believe in Christ, to trust him for salvation. To ask Jesus into one’s heart is simply not a New Testament way of speaking. It is superflous to call on Christ to dwell in us, for to be a believer is to have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. In the same way, it is not the New Testament perspective that we should call on God to give us the gift of new birth.
Once again, we see that it is not always an outright error that we are dealing with. Rather, it is allowing something that is good and necessary (Christ present by his Spirit) to eclipse something that is of prior importance (faith in the doing and dying of Christ) and upon which the good thing we emphasize actually depends. The result can be disastrous. I believe that many people have made their decision for Jesus and asked him into their heart without really understanding the gospel and its demands for repentance and faith. These are spurious conversions, and the last state is worse than the first if the ‘convert’ becomes disillusioned and hardened against the real gospel.
A tendency that is encouraged by this evangelical aberration is a kind of Christomonism. This is a theological deviation from the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. If the centre of my concern becomes Jesus living in my heart (‘heart’ usually being undefined), then Jesus has taken the place of the Holy Spirit and is likely to replace the Father also. It undermines the bodily resurrection and ascension o Christ. It affects prayer, among other things, so that the New Testament perspective on prayer to the Father is lost. Its tendency is t oa docetic hermeneutic.
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 176-77.