One of the most familiar expressions uttered within Christendom is: “Christ stands at the door of your heart.” Many have been the preachers who have urged their hearers to “invite Jesus into their hearts” in order to be forgiven of sin and made a Christian. Someone said if you repeat a statement enough times, people will come to accept it on the basis of sheer repetition and familiarity. The admonition that “Christ stands at the door of your heart” has been repeated so frequently that, for many, to question it is unthinkable. One would think that since this approach to salvation is so widespread, and the expression is so predominant, that surely the statement can be found in Scripture—even if only in so many words. How disturbing to realize that the statement is not found in Scripture and that the Bible simply does not teach this doctrine!
The phraseology is reminiscent of Revelation 3:20—the passage usually quoted to support the idea of Christ standing at the door of one’s heart. But observe the context. Revelation chapters two and three consist of seven specific mini-letters directed to the seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor near the end of the first century. At the outset, one must recognize that Revelation 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians on the verge of conversion.
Second, the verse is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus made clear that the church had moved into an unfaithful condition. They were lost. They were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He was on the outside looking in. He still wanted to be among them, but the decision was up to them. They had to recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language to say that they must repent (3:19). They would have to return to the obedient lifestyle so essential to receiving God’s favor (John 14:21,23).
This means that Revelation 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus will come into their heart and they will be simultaneously saved from all past sin and counted as Christians! The context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
“But doesn’t the Bible teach that Christ does come into a person’s heart?” Yes. But not the way the religious world suggests. Ephesians 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can be acquired only by hearing biblical truth (Romans 10:17). When that biblical truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22; et al.). So Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [i.e., when we repent of our sins] and our bodies washed with pure water [i.e., when we are baptized in water]” (Hebrews 10:22). Here is the New Testament (i.e., non-denominational) way to accept Christ.
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