A few months ago I was a newspaper columnist. Now I am an online columnist. Things change over time. As a pastor I am fully aware of the push and pull between traditional and progressive.
I am constantly being made aware of things that have been common practice in the church, things that many Christians would consider to be sacred or non-negotiable, that are now in question. And clearly there are times when I recognize my job as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to defend what God has declared. But there are times when there is room between what God has declared and what the church has adopted over time as its practice.
One of those that may surprise some of you faithful readers is the practice of reciting the “sinner’s prayer”. In the explanation of how we receive salvation it is clear that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And in order to receive salvation we must accept that gift of grace. Jesus instructs us to repent of our sins (to say that we are sorry and admit that we shouldn’t have committed the sins we committed). But nowhere in scripture do we find that actual prayer that so many of us were told we needed to pray. Praying that prayer sincerely certainly meets the qualifications that Jesus required, but the prayer itself is not sacred or commanded.
One of the elements of the sinner’s prayer is asking Jesus to come into your heart. I think we all understand the sentiment of having someone or something in our heart, but it is just a metaphor. Our heart is not the place in which our soul lives or the central component of our being. It is a blood pumping muscle. In fact, a study of scripture would find little or no mention of the soul itself, because it too is not really a thing. Probably the closest thing we could say is that we have a spirit (in some way similar to the Holy Spirit) that is our essence.
This week I heard a pastor say something just in passing that spoke to this issue in what I think is a perfect way. He didn’t say that we need to ask Jesus into our heart. He said that we need to ask Jesus to come into our lives. Our lives are certainly filled with our soul or our spirit, or our essence. And our lives go everywhere we go. One of the problems that has plagued the church for generations is that we can have this spiritual experience with our metaphorical heart, and then we go about our lives like nothing happened. But when you ask Jesus to come into your life the only way to go about your life without things being different is to go back on your request and to actually reject Jesus.
I believe that if all Christians adopted this idea of having Jesus in their lives instead of in their hearts the Kingdom of God would advance in a mightier way than it has! Are you ready for Jesus to move out of your metaphorical heart and into your actual life?
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. They meet in person and online every Sunday. You can also watch their services on Ruko, search for New Cumberland to find our channel. For more information please visit www.newcumberlandnazarene.com