The problem is that many people cling to the symbol but never understand the reality it is intended to represent. Most likely, tens of thousands of people have “invited Christ into [their] hearts,” thinking that a mystical experience is what saves them. Then, they go on their merry way, living their lives as they did before. If you were to ask them, “How do you know that you are going to heaven?” they would respond, “Because I invited Christ into my heart.” But if you probe, there is nothing beneath the shallowness of that reply. They did what someone told them to do, but never really embraced the Savior.
What then should we say when we are trying to lead someone to Christ? I think a better picture is simply what the New Testament uses as its normative word – πίστις/πιστεύω. The noun form (πίστις) can be translated “faith,” “belief,” or “trust.” The verb can be translated “I believe,” “I have faith,” “I trust.” In some contexts the object of belief is emphasized (namely, Christ); in other contexts, the kind of belief is emphasized (namely, a genuine trust, an embracing). Thus, πίστις has this twofold force of content and conviction. To be saved, one must have the right object of faith (content); and one must truly put his trust entirely in that object (conviction).