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"Jesus, come into my heart!"
- Jacob Ninan
The story of the repentant criminal on the cross is truly amazing (Lk23:32-43). Mathew and Mark called the two of them robbers. But they might have been guilty of much more than robbery. One of them was hurling abuses at Jesus and the other one rebuked him saying that while they deserved their punishment Jesus was innocent. This second one turned to Jesus and asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus replied immediately that he would be in paradise with Him that same day. What a sudden transfer from sin and hell to eternal life and heaven!
This story illustrates how simple salvation is, and how even the worst of sinners can come into eternal life in a moment when they repent and believe. But many times people stretch the point beyond its validity, applying it without understanding the root principles. In an attempt to simplify things for sinners they tell them, for example, to just say, "Jesus, come into my heart."
God who always looks at the heart (2Sa.16:7) saw something in the second criminal that made Him to give salvation to him on the spot. This criminal acknowledged that he deserved his punishment. Remember that God exhorted the backsliding people of Israel to at least acknowledge their sins (Je.3:13). This was the minimum response that He wanted from them, and this was what He found in this criminal. This criminal also expressed his knowledge of Jesus and his trust in Him. He probably did not know much more theology or the doctrines of salvation. But he repented from his heart at the point of death and placed his trust in Jesus, and that brought him his salvation.
Nowadays many people who repeat, "Jesus, come into my heart" may know many things about Jesus. But if they neither acknowledge their sin nor commit their lives into Jesus' hands, how do they get saved? Many times it is not their fault, because that is the only thing that the evangelist asked them to do! Wherever the fault may lie, when God looks into their heart and does not find repentance and faith there, how can He go ahead and offer them salvation? As a result, what happens is that the sinners continue to be sinners, living just the same lives they used to live, but now imagine themselves to be Christians! Perhaps the only difference in their life is a little touch of religion--church, Bible, prayer, etc.
Our God is so largehearted that He does not wait for people to study theology and get their doctrinal issues right before He would accept them, if He sees a repentant heart and faith in His Son. They can grow in knowledge and understanding later. But at the same time, He cannot accept people who may have their theology and religious forms right if they lack the right heart--repentance and faith. Will you please examine your own experience to see where you stand? Will you preachers or those who share the gospel please check whether you are showing the right way to people you deal with? Better be extra plain than subtle.