February is usually the month that we think of decorating with hearts and sending Valentines to those we love. Have you ever said or thought, “I love you with my whole heart!”
With Christianity we are told, “In order to be saved, ask Jesus to come into your heart.” The problem with that statement is that it is not particularly biblical. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus mention coming into a person’s heart, nor is there any gospel presentation that uses the image of Jesus coming into a person’s heart. The scripture that is usually presented to “ask Jesus into your heart” is Revelation 3:20. But in the context of that scripture, Jesus is talking about intimacy with believers, not about a person getting saved.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20
When the New Testament gives a presentation of accepting Christ, it encourages people to believe (John 3:16), to receive (John 1:12), and to repent (Acts 3:19). To repent is to confront unbelief and change the way we think. Not just change our minds intellectually but to change in the inner person, the core of our being.
The ancient Hebrews understood that the heart is the inner person, the seat of emotions, thought and will. So when Peter stood in Solomon’s Colonnade after healing the crippled beggar and spoke to the people who gathered and said, “Repent, then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” they understood that it meant to change the way they think in the core of their being, They were to change in their very identity.
Most Christians are taught that “to repent” means to feel sorry and contrite and confess. But that is only a small beginning of true repentance. To actually repent means to allow change so deeply that there is a transformation that occurs from the inside out. Most attempts at “repentance” are attempting to change one’s behavior which is change from the outside in. Even Jesus chided the Pharisees calling them hypocrites and white washed tombs. They did everything right… on the outside with death on the inside.
So accepting Jesus is not about changing behavior. It is not about going to church more, reading the Bible more or praying more. It is not even about believing a new list of facts and rules. It is about allowing a change in heart, in the core of one’s being: changing identity.
So how does one change their identity?
We have to hand in the old identity, the one that we have been building since we were born. That is the inner healing, transformational journey. That is true salvation, being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).