We’ve heard it all our lives. It rolls glibly off the tongue of the nominal Christian. “Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.” Of course, Apostolic understand that there is more to the new birth than a verbal assent to accept Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus to be born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Peter preached the first sermon at the inauguration of the church in which he called for repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
But, let’s go back to the personal part. This is the pill that gets stuck in the throat. We can talk all day long and into the night about the idea of sin, the love of God for the sinner, the pain of Calvary, and the efficacy of the blood of Jesus. We can argue over soteriology, redemption, atonement, propitiation, and the like ad nausea yet never feel the impact of opining on these very subjects. My contention is that anything that is no personal is not real.
Take the Kate Steinle case. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and repeat felon from Mexico who’d been deported five times, is accused of shooting Steinle, thirty-two-year old medical device sales rep, as she walked on a San Francisco pier. The shooting set off a heated, national debate over sanctuary cities, immigration policies, legislative proposals, illegal alien statistics, gun control laws, and endless rancorous arguments over ideas and concepts.
On and on it has gone, and nothing has been resolved as of this writing. On January 17, 2017, a judge did deny a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco saying it was not liable for Steinle’s death. The magistrate said the parents could sue the federal because the gun belonged to a ranger in the employ of the United States. But all this back-and-forth conversation does nothing to assuage the pain of Kate’s family.
For them, it is not a matter of statistics, social policy, or immigration laws. Disengaged people can banter these topics about as much as they want, but at the end of the day, they can go home and forget about it. It’s just talk. There is no impact on their personal lives. Things like this don’t become real until your personal life is blown to smithereens by a senseless act that causes everybody else to yawn and order their mocha latte with triple sugar.
They dismiss the matter as a routine entry in the daily log. So it is with sin and salvation. As long as sin is generic, as long as evil is theoretical, as long as guilt is hypothetical, then it’s not real. The fact is, however, if Jesus is not personal, He is just a bullet point for a Sunday School lesson. If sin and salvation don’t have real-time meaning they will never be fully appreciated.
If we can relegate salvation to far-away tragedy, at a distant time and place by someone who is legendary but unknown, then it will never be real. If we can confine the cross to the stale words of a memorized prayer, the rhyming lyrics of a song, the text of a clever sermon, or the seed though of an interesting article, then it will never be real.
How can Jesus be your personal Savior? When you make what He did personal to you. When you see that it was your sin that hammered the spikes into His hands and feet. When you recognize that your transgressions — literally — drove the spear into His side. when you fully admit it was your lying, cheating, stealing, fornication, abusive actions, pride, rebellion, greed, violence, slander, and so much more that crushed the life out of the Savior.
That is when it becomes personal. When it becomes becomes personal, you will experience an epiphany, a revelatory moment, a soul awakening that will propel you into a dimension you never thought existed.