I’ll never forget my Sunday School teacher challenging us every week during class (after the flannel graph special effects show) to "let Jesus into our hearts."
Being the neurotic little kid that I was, I had this mental picture of Jesus desperately trying to no avail to squeeze into each ventricle of my heart. Somehow I was unknowingly blocking him from coming into my heart with some subconscious brain impulse that was impeding my salvation.
I must have asked Jesus to come into my heart a hundred times. Was he there? I didn’t know. If I remember my eight year old thought processes during these "gospel" presentations it went something like,
"Jesus, please come into my heart. Are you there? Over? Can you knock three times on my pancreas if you made it in? What if I have a heart attack, will you die? If I get a heart transplant will I lose my salvation? If I cough too hard will you go flying out of my mouth? Just in case Jesus, come into my heart again. Are you there yet? Over?"
These thoughts and more spinned in my tiny brain every time I heard the phrase "let Jesus into your heart." I told you I was neurotic. But part of my neurosis was my Sunday school teacher’s fault. Although she was doing her best to give the gospel she was unintentionally confusing me with a term that has been sacredly handed down from generation to generation of traditional American Christians.
I don’t know exactly where this term came from. Almost every time I hear it the teacher or preacher using it points to Revelation 3: 20 as a proof text, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If a man hears…." From this verse a picture is painted of Jesus standing outside the doorway to our heart knocking loudly to see if we will open it to him. Remember the picture hanging in your Sunday school class? If you don’t your parents do.
The problem is that this verse has nothing to do with salvation for the lost. Instead it is addressed to the church of Laodicea challenging them to quit locking Jesus out of their church services and their lives. This verse is not for the lost but for us! It is a call to have an open, loving, authentic relationship with the God of the universe.
Some well-meaning preacher generations ago probably misread this passage and coined a phrase that has confused a lot of children, teens, and even adults over the years. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure that tens of thousands of people have heard this same phrase and come to Christ as Savior. But for those of us who aren’t quite as sharp it is a confusing term.
That’s why I thank God for Pastor Claude Pettit. On June 23rd, 1974 he clearly explained to me that eternal life was a free gift that we receive when we simply believe that Jesus died for us on the cross and trust in Him alone to forgive us for all of our sins. When he explained this message to me the confusion evaporated and the neurosis disappeared. In a flash I had confidence in Christ and I knew I had eternal life. In that moment my life was transformed, my sins were forgiven, and, guess what? Jesus came to live in my heart!
The Sunday after I trusted in Christ I had a little "chat" with my Sunday school teacher about being clear in the presentation of the gospel. I have had that chat a thousand times since with youth leaders, teenagers, pastors and children.
What does this have to do with you?
Are you clearly sharing the gospel of Jesus with your teenagers? Do you unintentionally use terms that confuse or mislead when presenting this message? Are you as clear as you can be as you communicate the most important truth in the world?
Paul prayed in Colossians 4:4 that he would communicate the gospel as clearly as possible. That is my same prayer for me and for you.
Napoleon had three instructions for his messengers who braved the battlefield to deliver and bring back memorized messages from fighting front to fighting front. The first was "Be clear!" The second was "Be clear!" And let me be clear about the third. It was "Be clear!"
I think that this would be the same challenge of Jesus to us as we deliver his message to a world that desperately needs to hear it clearly. Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you trust in me you have eternal life."
Sounds clear enough to me.