Some evangelicals of this day like to describe their union with Christ as having a “personal savior”. The problem, of course, is that they also own a personal computer, manage a personal life, and reserve certain amenities for themselves as their own personal pleasures. And, herein lies the rub. If we imagine Jesus, or more generically, our salvation, as something we own, manage, or see it as something “about us”, then God can’t own us. However deeply committed to this flawed thinking you may be, I invite you now to dispense with it.
You may be thinking, “No real Christian, at least none I have ever known, consciously regards Christ as a possession.” Exactly! No Christian would ever think this consciously. This thinking operates on a sub-conscious level, and is therefore all the more insidious.
I do not say that you are aware that you think this way. If a christian’s relationship to his “personal savior” is much the same as to his personal computer, he is in a bad way. See, this same Christian goes to his personal computer to do his work, enjoy his intellectual or social pursuits, or, for simple entertainment. He does these things at his leisure, according to his desire, and without regard to any responsibility he may or may not have to the personal computer. Many of us go to the Lord (our personal savior) with the exact same attitude. We look to Christ as we look to the virus cleaner on our PC, something of great value and necessity, to be used at need (then dispensed with) and forgotten until the next emergency.
As long as it is convenient (or, I feel like it) I will pray to my own personal savior. As long as it doesn’t cost me anything I don’t wish to go without, I will stand up for God’s truth. As long as it doesn’t conflict with my social pursuits or affect my status, I will confess the name of Jesus. After all, He is MY personal savior. But, oh boy, when I’m in a scrape, I can pray with the best of ’em. He’s my personal savior. This thinking is juxtaposed to Paul’s assertion that we ought to be “slaves of Christ.”
Slave. Does that word offend you?
There is a way in which familiarity breeds contempt. The all too human temptation to minimize or de-claw God, is just as alive in the Christian church as it was on the pagan alters. Humans want a safe, predictable, servile deity, to whom they can pray and placate with dervishes and lip service. None of the Greek poets ever once conceived that the pagan gods would want to know if their worshipers were sincere, only that they were prompt, pious, and paid the proper temple fees.
Humans invent gods, to make The God, more tolerable. We do not love goodness, nearly so much as we suppose. What we actually love is convenience. (Thankfully, it is inconvenient to live in a world totally dominated by our evil desires. This is why we get as close as we possibly can, without going over that precarious line that would totally cripple society. Having some sin in our society lets us get things done, but too much would be the end of civilization.) We create petty Gods, because we are petty. We created Cupid, because we ourselves are possessed of obscene cupidity. We want the gods to bless our crops, keep us safe, save our souls, and, beyond that, stay out of the way. The god we seem to like the most, is called the “Life Force”. The Life Force gives us all the personal and intellectual benefits of having a deity who creates the world and loves us unconditionally, without all the pesky nonsense of morality, judgement, or lordship.
Dr. Peter Kreeft argues that the gods of our society are really the canaanite deities reborn. These are Molech, upon whose alter we sacrifice our children, babies and unborn; Ashtereth, a fertility goddess whose easy sexuality we drool over during every film, sitcom, and magazine; and, of course, Mammon. Who can serve two masters? No one!
The God of the Bible sees through the religious detritus, and commends us to worship him in “spirit and in truth”. Mere sacrifice does not assuage his wrath. No muttered mantras or rehearsed prayers will forestall His promised judgment. He is not one to be managed, minimized, or pacified with trinkets. And that is why He is not the kind of God we’d invent. No one asks for the kind of God which He is. (Not, of course, at first) The kind of God He is, is like a taste which one develops over time.
When I was a child I hated green beans, peas, and broccoli, all foods I enjoy as an adult. They didn’t change. I changed. I grew up. Now that I am a man, my tastes have matured and developed. I can stand, somewhat, the intense savor of the salt of holiness.
Oh, sure, we like certain of His attributes, for instance, His love and His mercy. But, we like much less His steady demands on our time and insistence on our moral behavior. We like even less His pressure to conform our hearts and minds to that of His son. Our hearts shout back at Him, “But, why should I have to change? Why can’t you take me as I am?” Frankly, it is offensive to us. Frankly, that is what He means it to be.
So I ask you to consider: When you say that Jesus is your personal savior, do you mean that what He did on Calvary He did for you. Do you mean that He is the God you serve? Do you mean that you have accepted Him? Do you mean that Jesus is going to take you to heaven? Do you mean that His demands on you are perfectly natural, and you delight in His commands?
Our reformed brothers like to say, “God saved me,” rather than, “I accepted Jesus into my heart”. It violates their sensibilities to put oneself in the driver seat, and render Jesus as a passive participant. The phrase “God saved me,” expresses that He is the active doer, rather than the one being accepted. And, on this point, I have to agree with them. God is not in need of our acceptance, nor is He a passive party to my justification. Jesus is Lord regardless of whether or not we obey Him. God is praiseworthy, even when He is not being praised. He is admirable, even when no one is admiring Him. God is God. You don’t accept or reject Him, He accepts or rejects you. And, He doesn’t come to you with hat in hand hoping you will choose to do His will. He is no supplicant. But, He is humble, gentle, and lowly of spirit. That God saved me proves He is humble, a proud God would have nothing to do with one such as I.
If, the statement is true that, “I accepted Jesus into my heart.” It is a far lower, baser, and less complete truth than, “God saved me.”