Most of my life I have had a tendency to ridicule the expression, “accept Jesus as your personal Savior.” Probably I did it because it is not a scriptural expression, and it has long been my conviction that one of the best ways to express a scriptural thought is to put it in scriptural language whenever possible. However, it is my observation that most of us, though we give lip service to the above principle, frequently express what we claim are scriptural ideas in our own words rather than using only the exact words of the Bible. Practically all sermons, even those studded with scripture, as in days of yore, are an effort to express God’s ideas and words in human language, paraphrases, explanations, etc.

The second reason I ridiculed the expression, “accept Jesus as your personal Savior” is that, inasmuch as it was not a Biblical expression and therefore had no stable referent, no one could be sure what it meant to the one who was using it. For example, does “accept” mean “intellectually accept,” “emotionally accept,” “verbally accept,” or “practically accept.” When a person asks a girl, “Will you accept me as your husband?” and she says, “Yes!” has she? If she has, is he her husband?  If not, has she lied? Would it be any different if she accepted him as her “personal husband?” If you accepted Jesus as your Savior, is he your Savior? Has he saved you?

Does the person mean, accept the fact that Jesus HAS saved you, that Jesus CAN save you, that Jesus WILL save you, or what? In what way is “personal” used? Does it refer to your person, or to the person of Christ? Could you accept him as an impersonal Savior? If you did, would you be saved, but impersonally saved? If you were, what would be the difference in that and being personally saved?

I have my own personal wife. By that I mean she is mine and not yours. If I have my own personal Savior, does that mean He is mine and not yours? If not, what does it mean?

Or perhaps the person who uses the expression, “personal Savior” means that he understands that it is a person who saves, not some ritual. His act of dying for me was a personal act–not just something like offering a lamb on an altar.

We, personally, have no doubt that a large number of those who use the expression have no clear idea of exactly what they mean by it. It sounds if it should mean something good, so it is used. Having ridiculed the expression for almost half a century, it is still my firm conviction that one should do what the expression says, if he knows what he is doing.

For example, “accept” means “intellectually be aware of the facts of the gospel, emotionally respond to the message of the gospel (repent), verbally express acceptance of the Lordship of Christ (confess), and accept practically the salvation He offers by being united with Him in the likeness of His death (be baptized for the remission of sins). Anything less that that is not really accepting Jesus in any complete sense.

“Jesus” means the only-begotten, virgin-born, crucified and resurrected, historically valid Son of God, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, presently King of kings and Lord of lords, ruling and reigning over His people. If “Jesus” means some mythological, non-historical, unreal, imaginative, impersonal, subjective experience, then you have no Savior.

“Personal” means to me that I need to conceive of Him as a real, personal being–a flesh and blood man, who as the Divine Son of God actually, personally went to the cross because He had a personal concern for me–not merely an abstract wish that everyone might be nice and be saved. It is my opinion that a large number of those connected with the church of our Lord do not feel the proper personal relationship with Him. He is conceived of as a sort of impersonal (that does not mean non-person) Ruler who laid out some regulations, rather than a loving personal Savior whose purpose in giving regulations was to help us be more like Him–a real, authentic, living, joyous, loving, obedient person.

It is my further conviction that instead of merely ridiculing denominational expressions which may have no meaning, or a “fuzzy” meaning, or a variety of meanings, if we can take the living Word of God, express it and expound it in a positive, clear-cut, meaningful way, we will do more good. I still remember an expression I read many years ago from one of our smart liberal preachers: “It is not the virgin birth of Christ that made His message relevant, but His virgin life.” I thought it was a rather intriguing expression. If I had been able to figure out what it meant, it might have been worth something, but that is doubtful. After talking with him for some hours, I eventually concluded that he meant, “It does not really matter whether you believe what the Bible says about the virgin birth of Christ, if you believe that He lived a pure and holy life, you can be saved.” If he had said that in the first place, even my simple mind could have grasped and rejected it immediately.

At any rate, if you have “accepted” Jesus, you need to know for sure exactly what you have done, what “Jesus” you have accepted; whether you have personally accepted Him, or whether you have impersonally accepted. You need to know whether you have accepted Him, as a real person, or whether He is merely an impersonal sort of “story-book” figure.

I recognize that Napoleon Bonepart was a person, but I do not feel quite as personal about him as I do about our President. How do you feel about Jesus? And how would you respond if He were to stand in person by your chair, ask you to be baptized, or follow Him and be a fisher of men? Does the fact that we have so few fishers of men stem from the fact that we do not think of Him as personally inviting us? Would you turn down a personal invitation of your Savior to be present at services in His honor Sunday?

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