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It’s Sunday morning. You rise up and put on the coffee. Grabbing the remote, you switch on the television. Music is playing softly in the background and the denominational preacher is pleading with those listening to him, “Receive Jesus! Receive Jesus into your heart, all you who are burdened and heavy laden!” The televangelist pauses for a moment and says, “Jesus is standing at the door! If you hear His voice and open the door, He will come in and will dine with you! Receive Jesus into your heart, and you will be saved! Be forgiven! Do it today!” Sound familiar? It’s an all too common scene with those statements being made across the airwaves and in many churches in America today. The idea of receiving Jesus, and Him waiting at the door, is taken from a couple of passages: Mark 9:37 and Revelation 3:20.
So, is it true? Is that what those passages teach? Well, let’s be like the Bereans and “search the Scriptures … to see whether these things are so” (Acts 17:11). According to Mark 9:37, if you read just a few verses before and after the verse (which is what you should do in order to learn the context), you will find that this is dealing with the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest among themselves in the kingdom. Jesus admonished them with a direct statement of, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (V35). He then uses an object lesson to help them see their misguided pride. He takes a small into His arms and says, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” (V37)
The context of Mark 9:37 makes it pretty clear that this isn’t about salvation (directly), it is teaching about submitting to Jesus as Lord and Master. It is about accepting Him and His teaching. His teaching (and the Apostles also) is that we must come to Him (Matt 11:28; Acts 3:19). It doesn’t say anything about salvation coming by “just receiving Him into your heart.” In fact, it doesn’t say anything about the heart. Instead, there is something we must DO – be trusting and obedient like a little child (cf. Acts 2:37-41, 10:6).
Now, consider Revelation 3:20. Again, reading the verses before and after, we learn that the context is about Jesus speaking to a wayward congregation, Laodicea. They had become lackadaisical in their faith. Jesus even calls them “lukewarm” (V16). He then rebukes and chastens them, commanding them to repent (V19). This is followed with, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The context proves that this has nothing to do with the salvation of non-believers. Jesus is talking to Christians who had become lazy and indifferent. Their souls were in danger if they didn’t get their hearts right with God. Jesus was waiting, but they had to repent. In both cases, these verses do not support the idea of just accepting Jesus into your heart. The truth is, there are no verses that say or teach that. When it comes to salvation, Scripture clearly states that we are to hear (Rom. 10:17); believe (John 3:16), repent (Luke 13:3); confess (Rom. 10:9) and be baptized (Acts 2:38).