My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart is pretty standard conservative evangelical Reformed Baptist material covering aspects of soteriology related to assurance. But it’s well and searchingly presented, so this is a great book to hand to a young Christian. It’s short and punchy, with appropriate contemporary (not worldly) feel. It also hews close to Scripture, quoting it directly, carefully, and frequently.
Greear seems to be speaking to his own Southern Baptist audience, particularly to those many who believe that they got their ticket to heaven when they came down an aisle and recited the sinner’s prayer. It’s not only Southern Baptists who think this way, however, so the book will help people across the face of American evangelicalism. He has both circles in mind when he writes,
A perversion of the doctrine of eternal security has become common in evangelical circles. This perversion presents salvation as a contract “signed” with God that God can never get out of, no matter what you do. Once you’ve signed the contract and prayed the prayer, you’ve got God trapped. (87)
I was particularly interested in the repentance chapter because I think I have a significant number of people listening to me preach every Sunday who have exactly the problem Greear (lovingly) attacks. They think they’re okay with God because they did something religious a while back. I did glean some helpful illustrations and rhetorical strategies for communicating biblical truth on repentance. Here’s one paragraph I recorded:
Repentance is not the absence of struggle; is the absence of settled defiance…. Repentance ushers us into a life of greater struggle, not out of one. While I’ve heard of some people who were immediately released from certain sinful desires, like alcoholism, anger, or same-sex attraction when they received Christ, as a pastor of 15 years I can say that this is not the normal experience of new believers. Christians, like the apostle Paul, continued to struggle with sin, often unsuccessfully, for the rest of their lives. The struggle is proof of their new nature. They fall often, but when they do, they always get up looking His direction. (64–66)
I found this to be sound and helpful counsel:
God gives both warnings and assurances because both are necessary for Christian growth. Both solidify us in the faith that saves. ¶ If you want to teach the Bible well, emphasize both, and in the same proportions the Bible emphasizes them. Trust that the Holy Spirit will use both for the purposes he intended. (92)
Among the very few little exegetical flubs I could possibly snipe at, there is just one that probably should be mentioned, the etymological definition Greear gives of repentance, calling it a “change of mind.” But this phrase in English does not, I think, capture what “repentance” is. That phrase—”change of mind”—is often used to mean precisely what Greear warns against, mere intellectual assent that doesn’t lodge in and fill the heart. People don’t “change their minds” about the divinity of Jesus as often as they change them about ice cream flavors while in the drive-through line at McDonald’s. But this is a minor point, because Greear’s explanation seemed to me to be dead-on even if his definition wasn’t.
He ends the book with two quick appendices. The first offers helpful advice on whether or not you should be rebaptized. The second very briefly argues against the (mainly, but not only, Catholic) idea that grace is infused into the believer to produce works which will justify him.
Greear in this book uses well his God-given gifts of communication. He draws helpfully and humbly from his own struggle with doubt. His work reminds me of Mark Dever’s: simple but solid Bible truth for a Baptist/evangelical audience that should probably know this stuff already.