I grew up hearing the language of “inviting Jesus into your heart.”
It is very cute, and I’m sure Jesus appreciates it, but it’s not exactly biblical.
What we see most commonly in Scripture is not that we invite Jesus into our hearts, but that HE invites us into his story. The language of being “in Christ” is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament (appearing an approximate 83 times in the Pauline Epistles alone), pointing us to the reality that Christian humans (I think I prefer being identified as such, since I am primarily a human, then a Christian), enter into the story of Christ; a story marked by the cross and the resurrection, and resulting in a new life.
Conformity to Christ crucified, which one authors calls ‘cruciformity’ (‘cruciform’ literally means ‘shape of the cross’), is an ongoing reality in the life of the believer, beginning at the first moment of faith, expressed in baptism, and continues on throughout life. About baptism, Paul writes,
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
So what does the cruciform life look like? It’s characterized by faith, hope, and love. Faith is fidelity and loyalty to God, patterned after Jesus’ life of faithful obedience. Hope is the confidence of God’s future glorification in the life of the believer despite present suffering and tribulation. Love, patterned after the cross, is the costly covenant fidelity toward others within the ekklēsia; also taking the shape of cruciformity.
This life is only possible through the empowering of the Spirit; which enables fidelity to God by connecting believers to the cross and thereby creating individual and corporate newness.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
1 Cor. 5:17
This points us to an even grander story: the story of God’s plan for New Creation. God promised, through Isaiah that God would one day re-create creation: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; cf. 66:22). For Paul, this has already begun in the resurrection of Christ, but will only finish in the future. The community who is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1) has the “first fruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23), and exists and lives as result of and anticipation for the New Creation (8:23-25).
Like an author who loves his story so much that he will include himself in it, God enters into his story as the Rescuer – inviting us, and our story, to join his, into the cruciform life of faith, hope, and love, looking to the promise of a New Heaven and New Earth.