Greear, J. D. Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: Teen Edition. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2018. 127 pps. $9.99.
When you wake up in the morning, do you feel like you’re saved? Do you ever question if God has saved you? When you struggle with your sin, do you ever think no true believer in Christ would deal with this?
If you answered in the affirmative, congratulations! You’re a normal Christian.
Now think back to your teen years. You had more energy than you knew what to do with. Your body pumped with blood and chemicals prone to alter moods and even physiology: hormones. You fought to keep your head above the swirling waters of geometry, US history, British literature, and trying not to embarrass yourself in gym class. And despite what you heard from that one nexus-of-overachievement senior, you regularly broke the laws of physics by being completely invisible to your crush. Or you fancied a close friend of the opposite sex who never would think of you that way in a million years.
And did you feel saved?
Many of life’s most confusing experiences happen to us between the ages of 12-18. Through them all, we feel alone, certain of one thing: no one ever felt this way before we did at this exact moment. If we speak with honesty, these feelings never truly go away, especially in the realm of doubting our own salvation in Christ.
Enter J. D. Greear’s book Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: Teen Edition.
Greear approaches his task in several ways.
First, the book has a personal touch to it. He shares his own experience, in what I imagine took a great amount of humility to write. He shares about undergoing baptism four times. The book came into being, in part, because of his own personal struggle with assurance of salvation. Given his position as lead pastor over Summit church and now at the helm of the Southern Baptist Convention, his words provide encouragement indeed. The struggle with doubt unto multiple baptisms need not make one feel alone.
Second, the reader receives a thorough theology of salvation. Does “thorough” mean he says everything one could ever say? Of course not. However, Greear’s presentation explains concepts such as justification by faith, propitiation, and penal substitution (if not always using those words). He speaks with abundant clarity when he explains 1 John 1:9, saying, “…the basis of God’s forgiveness of us is not mercy, it is justice.” (30). Greear does not assure one of salvation through a sort of existential feeling of love for God that God finds irresistible. Nor does he empty God of every attribute but kindness. One has salvation in Christ through his cross, and salvation in the given life of Jesus proves just! One has assurance in Christ because of his “gift righteousness,” not his own earned righteousness (37).
Third, Greear deals honestly with Scripture. I myself received God’s saving grace at the age of 16. I took years to become a serious Bible student. When I began to gain traction and confidence in my ability to study the Bible, I started a study of Hebrews. I realized I did not know nearly as much as I thought! I had no equipment emotionally or intellectually to help me understand the warning passages in the book; Hebrews 6 threw me for a loop! Greear addresses portions of Scripture such as these with honesty, integrity, and ability. He never shrugs as if to say, “Well, I don’t know what to do with this.” Rather, he admits their challenge, but does not treat them as impossible to understand. At one point, he remarks, “Does all of this make your mind feel like it is going to explode? Then you’re probably getting it.” (84). His humble and somewhat humorous candor keeps the reader moving through thick theological ideas without eyes glazing and brains entering into shutdown mode.
Finally, though the book handles an intellectually and emotionally difficult topic by bringing in some serious doctrinal and Scriptural content, it never becomes a burden to read. The whole book, including the three appendices, reaches only 120 pages. Chapter length exceeds 20 pages only once; most of them have a much shorter length, usually around 12 pages which one can read in one sitting. The reader does not have to set aside an entire season of the year to take in all of the book’s content. The student attempting to analyze a Shakespearean sonnet in English class would find Greear’s book much easier to understand.
Greear produced an easy-to-read and encouraging book which will bring security to the sensitive conscience and perhaps conviction to the counterfeit Christian. With the gospel clearly presented, I would imagine some readers find themselves expressing belief for the first time somewhere between the two covers of the book. If you know a student struggling with doubt despite a commitment to Christ, I recommend Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: Teen Edition as a starting place to care for the weary young soul burdened with a lack of certainty before his Creator.