Once we have proclaimed the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done for us through His death and resurrection, we should invite people to believe on Him and His promise of eternal life.
A) The invitation must be clear
A clear gospel explanation can be undone by an inconsistent or unclear invitation. Remember Jesus did all the work to secure our salvation. When we explain that Jesus Christ has done everything necessary to provide us salvation, we do not want to give any impression that anything else must be done. Only by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life do we have salvation.
B) Some invitations and practices confuse people who need only to believe
Give your heart (or life) to God.
The issue in salvation is not what we give to God, but what He gives to us, which is eternal life.
Joh 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
Giving your heart (or life) to God has to do with sanctification not justification. It should be directed to the believer. It is a good exhortation to the Christian on how to live for and serve God. But it will confuse the unbeliever.
Make Jesus the Lord of your life. Put Jesus on the throne of your life. Surrender (or commit) your life to Jesus as Lord.
These invitations recommend something commendable for the believer, but they do not speak to the non-believer.
-They assume that an unbeliever understands enough about God’s will to make a decision to give Christ control of all areas of his life.
-They do not address the issue in salvation, which is believing in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior from the consequences of sin and that He is eternal life and the giver of it.
-To believe is not to surrender, yield, or commit one’s life to Christ; it is to be convinced that Christ’s promise to give eternal life on the basis of his death, burial, and resurrection is true for the one who trusts Him for it.
-These invitations fall short of what is required for eternal salvation. They also offer no assurance of salvation because of the impossibility of knowing if Jesus Christ is indeed the Master of all of one’s life.
-The Bible teaches that our obedient surrender to God is a response to God’s saving grace, not a requirement for it.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Tit 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Ask Jesus into your heart. Open the door of your heart. Invite Christ into your heart (or life).
These three invitations reflect a misunderstanding of:
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
-Jesus doesn’t say he is knocking at the door of one’s heart. It says Jesus is knocking at the door of the Laodicean church to whom this letter is addressed.
-Because they are a church, the issue is not eternal salvation, but restoration of fellowship between Christ and the church, or individuals in the church.
“I will come in to him, and will sup with him”
In the Bible eating together was a common example of fellowship.
Act 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Act 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
-Though invitations like “Ask Jesus into your heart. Open the door of your heart. Invite Christ into your heart (or life)” recognize the heart as the essence of our being, the issue of believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life is not well communicated.
-The issue in salvation is not us inviting Jesus Christ to do anything. Rather, it is He who invites us to believe in Him.
-Finally, the imagery of a door to the heart or the concept of Jesus dwelling in the heart organ could easily confuse young children who tend to think in concrete terms.
Repent of your sins.
While it is true that when one believes in Christ he repents (changes his mind) about a number of things (e.g., his sinful condition, who Jesus is, what Jesus offers, that the offer is true for him), repentance in the sense of turning from all sins is not a condition for eternal salvation. Not only does this confuse the root (change of mind) with the fruit (change of conduct), but it makes one’s conduct a condition for salvation. We are not saved by what we do or no longer do, but by believing. A person could clean up their life (turn from their sins) and yet not be saved because they have not believed in Christ.
Confess your sins.
This can be very confusing to an unbeliever. How many sins need to be confessed? What about sins which cannot be recalled? Some might even think they would have to go to a priest.
The word, confess, means to agree with. One can agree with God that he has sinned, but that is not enough to save him. The sinner must agree with God that He has provided for his sin’s penalty through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, and that He will then give him eternal life. And that is exactly what it means to believe in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior.
Receive (accept) Jesus Christ as your Savior.
There is some biblical support for this language.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
But receiving Christ in these passages describes the result of believing in Him, as the contexts show. “Accept Christ” is not used in the Bible for believing in Christ.
Pray this prayer.
This can give the impression that a certain prayer is necessary for salvation. But prayer is not the condition for receiving eternal life. If someone is willing to pray a prayer that expresses their belief in Christ as Savior, then it stands to reason they have already believed in His promise of eternal life.
A prayer expressing this faith or thanking God for His gift would be appropriate, but the distinction between this and what it means to believe should be made clear. No prayer or any other practice or ritual can save.
At least two false impressions can be left by an invitation to “come forward” in a church or Christian meeting.
-One could think that the physical action of coming forward is what saves.
-One could think that the public confession of Christ is what saves.
Neither one is the biblical condition for salvation. If someone is willing to go forward in a church or publicly confess Christ as their Savior, then they have obviously believed in Him already.
So how are we to give an invitation? We must stick with the language of the Bible. In the scriptures one is invited to believe the Gospel, the good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ, for forgiveness of sins and eternal life. After explaining who Christ is and what he has done for us we should ask the unbeliever, “Will you believe upon Jesus now to save you from your sins?” We may have to explain to him or her that to believe means to be convinced or persuaded that what God promised is true and that it is true for him or her. Remember, the faith which saves is not a mental consent to a string of propositions; it is living confidence in a personal Saviour.
We ask them to believe. It is only “Believe” nothing more. Praise God, salvation is so simple and clear that it can be had by a young child with simple faith or the aged in the throes of death who believes the sweet story of Jesus. Jesus Saves!
What does gospel mean? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
“Your best life now” would be considered what type of gospel? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
When Paul gave the good news what 4 facts did he use? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What does the word Christ mean? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who was the Christ? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is the single greatest proof of who Jesus was? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Write the Gospel in a sentence or two. ___________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
After proclaiming the Gospel we should invite the lost to ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What does it mean to believe? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Should we ask the lost to give their heart to God? _____ Why or why not? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Should we ask the lost to pray this prayer? _____ Why or why not? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
(Note: I make no claim of originality for all of this material. It is at least in part that which I have gleaned over the years from tens of thousands of Bible teachers.)