July 19 2013 by Micheal Pardue, Book Review
It was clear from before the first word penned by J.D. Greear that Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved was going to be no ordinary book. Five pages occupy the front of this little book – five pages full of endorsements from well-respected pastors, professors, and religious leaders. Within the endorsements it is clear that this book forces its readers to carefully examine the nature and doctrine of salvation.
Greear opens the book with, and subsequently weaves through, his own story of salvation. His story brings practical application to his thesis that assurance of salvation is found in our present posture toward Christ. Our faith and hope rests on His sacrifice. Greear jokes that he must hold the world record for “asking Jesus into his heart.” As a young man he was plagued by doubt and a lack of assurance. This book recounts his discovery of the wonderful assurance that Christ wants His people to have.
Stop Asking puts it very simply, either we believe or we do not. Everything else will flow out of whichever of these two postures we dedicate ourselves. In this, we accept we are dependent on Christ or we rely on ourselves.
Greear writes, “Truly admitting unworthiness and inability is difficult because we have spent our whole lives trying to prove we are anything but unworthy. Most people will admit they make mistakes and are not perfect, but far fewer will go on from there to admit their ‘mistakes’ make them unworthy of eternal life and worthy of utter condemnation.”
Understanding we are unworthy shows us we don’t deserve anything from, and have nothing to offer, God.
However, because Christ has died in our place and settled our account with God, “God’s forgiveness of us is not mercy, it is justice.” We have been given this gift of righteousness through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Greear calls understanding this gift a “key component in obtaining assurance.”
Moving further in his encouragement toward assurance, Greear spends two chapters dissecting the two pivotal words associated with salvation: repent and believe. Greear calls these two sides of the same coin.
“Jesus lived and died; we believe He lived and died for us and we choose to rest our hopes for salvation upon Him,” he writes.
“We believe not only that Jesus is Lord (as a fact of history), but that He is our rightful Sovereign as well, and we submit to Him (as an act of volition).”
This is a far cry from what we often make salvation out to be and gets to the crux of the point made in Greear’s title – “‘Repentance and belief’ and ‘asking Jesus into our hearts’ are not always interchangeable.”
So often, he points out, many people only have a brief moment in time, when they said a prayer or walked an aisle to hold on to as their hope for salvation and an eternity with Christ. This reality causes Greear to state boldly that, “your present posture is more important than a past memory.” For me that statement draws my mind somberly to the remembrance of so many funeral services I have conducted when the testimony of the one lying prostrate in front of me was solely based on a very distant memory.
Greear goes on to point out that belief is inextricably coupled with repentance.
Repentance is not simply outward actions, but it is “fundamentally a motion of the heart in which we abandon our posture of rebellion and adopt one of submission toward Christ. Repentance is evidenced by outward action, but it does not equal that.” Repentance is not perfection, partial surrender, becoming religious, simply confessing or feeling sorry for sin, or even praying a prayer. Repentance is a heart change where settled defiance is eradicated, Jesus is followed, and the Spirit changes our desires.
Greear closes the book by considering eternal security, and his explanation is concise, pastoral and sobering: “The full doctrine of eternal security is that once we are saved, we will always be saved, and that those who are saved will persevere in their faith to the end. It is true that ‘once saved, always saved;’ but it is also true that ‘once saved, forever following.’” The scriptures provide both assurances of salvation and warnings against falling away.
Greear contests it is vital for both to be present in pastoral ministries. For those still with questions, Greear lays out a simple observation: the Scriptures point to our love of God and our love for others as evidence of our salvation. These are present in the heart and life of the believer.
Paige Patterson, author of the book’s foreword, declares that Stop Asking is a book that he had needed recently to place in the hands of a “young man who was concerned about the state of his soul.”
I agree that it would be expedient to keep this close at hand as it is a most helpful tool to encourage those who are often heavily weighted down by doubt.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard.)