“How can anyone know, beyond all doubt, that they are saved?”
That’s the question J. D. Greear tackles in his latest book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Published by B & H Publishing officially on February 1, 2013, Greear’s handy book will quickly become standard issue in discipleship and young converts classes across a wide swath of Evangelical churches.
It brings straightforward and thoroughly Biblical answers to that vexing question of assurance of salvation that unnecessarily haunts far too many authentic followers of Christ.
Weighing in at just a little over 100 pages, the book is small enough to slip in a purse or computer bag for an easy read at lunch, on the bus, or subway. The compact size and the fun, brightly colored hardcover let the reader know the ride isn’t going to be as daunting as chucking a volume of Edwards, Calvin, or even MacArthur into the back of the pickup. Not at all.
It’s the kind of book you can pick up, put down, and keep handy as you ponder its challenging contents.
But what it lacks in physical size, the book makes up in ample treatment of the question at hand — how to know if you are saved. Although easily read, Greear’s latest is a doctrinally rich, authentic look at what is often both a divisive and personally troubling issue.
Something Like a Book, But More Like a Chat
Having never read or heard of him prior to this review, I found J. D. Greear’s approach to be winsome and eminently readable. It felt as if I were enjoying an intriguing chat about God and our relationship to Him with a new friend over a steaming cup of mocha.
The more we “talked,” the more I found that we had in common. Although I wasn’t baptized four times, as Greear was in his own journey of wrestling with assurance of his standing with God, I confess that I did “re-up” occasionally, just in case I had gotten it wrong the first few times. Greear confesses that he probably asked Jesus into his heart about 5,0000 times. He wins.
You’ll never give up your life in a radical obedience until you are radically assured of his radical commitment to you. ~ J.D. Greear
Greear displays a pastoral heart by deftly weaving his own life stories throughout the systematic answering of the questions at hand. Some of them are deeply moving, most are downright hilarious (his comparison of Jesus to the GPS, British-sounding woman in the dashboard is worth the price of the book). He’s a gifted story-teller who sees truth throughout all of life. I kind of like that. One of my favorite illustrations is one Greear gives to help resolve the apparent conflict between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. (Hint: it involves a man who thinks he’s a bird.)
Readers who share his traditional Evangelical roots will chortle often, as I did, when he recalls the days of Chick tracts, summer camp life transformations, and his encounter with a heavily tattooed “Christian” who is now a once saved, always saved atheist.
O the Deep, Deep Doctrine
Although not previously familiar with Greear, I am quite familiar with the different positions, arguments, and passages of Scripture pertaining to the question of assurance of salvation. So I had my doctrinal guard up — as we Christians are so want to do — ready to call “Foul!” if he made any missteps. I didn’t find many.
Oh, we might disagree on a word or two here and there — and certainly in his treatment of the baptism of children of believing parents where he follows Baptist thinking rather than the traditional teaching of most of the Church — but for the most part, both his reasoning and wrestling with Scripture seem Biblically orthodox.
His key question? How can anyone know, beyond all doubt, that they are saved. His answer?
Here’s the short answer, one I’ll spend the rest of the book unpacking: he cannot. Salvation does indeed happen in a moment, and once you are saved, you are always saved. The mark, however, of someone who is saved is that they maintain their confession of faith until the end of their lives. Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life. ~ Greear, pg. 5
Greear does indeed spend the rest of the book unpacking that answer with chapters such as “Jesus in My Place” — excellent, simple presentation of the gospel — “What is Belief?”, “What is Repentance?”, and “If ‘Once Saved, Always Saved,’ Why Does the Bible Seem to Warn Us So Often about Losing Our Salvation?” among others. I particularly enjoyed how he framed true salvation as a “heart posture”and his especially helpful section on what repentance is not.
This recognition that Jesus is Lord is called “repentance.” It is the only right posture toward God. ~ Greear, pg. 55
He displays a breadth of theological knowledge from Finney to Spurgeon, from Bunyan to Whitefield. He quotes from Martin Luther perhaps more than any other popular, recent evangelical author, though not in a stodgy fashion. (Luther, after all, was anything but stodgy.) I thought I even detected some influence from R.C. Sproul in some areas, though I could be wrong.
And Scripture? The book is brimming with it. In fact, there’s so much of it directly quoted that it stood out to me. By my count, Greear directly quotes more than 55 Biblical passages to support his answers. At a little over 100 pages, the book has on average at least one verse on every other page. But he also references at least four times that number by simply citing the reference and leaving some of the leg work to the reader.
Strangely enough, in spite of all the Scriptural quotations, the book still didn’t feel preachy to me. I think that’s good thing.
Greear Gets Real
Another thing I appreciated was Greear’s willingness to say what might not win him popularity contests. For example, he tackles the issue of semantics in the salvation message, an problem that has vexed me for many years in discipleship efforts. Greear challenges our use of these extra-Biblical phrases — “ask Jesus in,” “give your heart to Jesus,” or “accept” Jesus — and proposes better, more Biblical words.
I especially loved Greear’s penchant for keeping it simple. A few examples from the book:
- There are only two categories of people in Scripture: those who believe and those who do not.
- This is the summary of the gospel: Jesus in my place.
- What makes a person a Christian? Repentance and belief.
- Religious activity is not genuine repentance.
Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed at the first. ~ J. D. Greear
Through it all, Greear maintains a self-deprecating humor that lends authenticity to his congenial voice. By sharing his own failures as a person, father, and husband, Greear reassures us that we have not stumbled across some super-saint who found a secret formula, but someone just like us who simply believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
I leave you with some of Greear’s final words: “[W]hat saves sinners is a posture of repentance and faith toward Christ, that and that alone.” (Greear pg. 110) If you need the comfort those words bring or if those words cause a little discomfort, this book just might be right for you.
Get your copy now with a click from Amazon: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Follow Greear on Facebook and Twitter, #sinnersprayer.
Get the Book for Free
I’m also giving away a free copy of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved to one of my awesome readers. Here’s how to be eligible for the giveaway.
- Share a link to this post via the social media of your choice. We’re on the honors sytem here but remember, “I’m watching. Always watching.”
- Leave a comment on this post with your own story of how you’ve wrestled with this issue of salvation assurance or sharing the confidence you now have about your relationship with God.
- After Feb. 8, I will choose the best comment based on my judgment alone. And we’ll send that person a copy of the book. Easy enough.