Why A “Personal Relationship With Jesus” Is a Lie
The popular plea from evangelical ministers, “You need to have a personal relationship with Jesus,” has been around for years. This mantra tickles people’s ears, makes the eyes sparkle, and leaves the heart feeling peaceful and delighted. That’s all very nice, but…so what? Perhaps discovering where this phrase came from would provide an even more soul stirring enlightenment.
In 1913, Billy Sunday invented the phrase “A personal relationship with God.” This became the motto behind what became known as the Third Great Awakening. That would be a fine and dandy motto if the Bible was written in 1913, but it wasn’t. For Bible believers who value the Word of God to direct their lives (Colossians 3:17), this phrase does not make the cut. Phrases and doctrines that originated centuries after God’s word was fully and finally revealed (Jude 3) should rather stimulate indigestion before peace and delight are to be had. Keith Mathison speaks to this reality very pointedly in his book Dispensationalism: Rightly Diving the People of God?
Historical arguments are not the final test for the truthfulness of any doctrine. Scripture is our sole authority for both doctrine and practice. Yet the history of a doctrine can be highly relevant. We have much more reason to be confident of a doctrine such as the Trinity, which has been taught since the first centuries of the church age, than of a doctrine first taught 150 years ago. As a rule, Christians should be cautious about accepting any doctrine that has never been taught in the history of the church. (1995, R&R Publishing p. 12)
The reasoning expressed by Mathison is supported by nothing short of the Bible itself. In Acts 15 the Jerusalem church elders and apostles wrote a letter to the church at Antioch in order to address Jews who were binding circumcision on Christians. Speaking to this point, the church leaders said the following: “We have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ to whom we gave no such commandment,” (Acts 15:24). The last phrase in the quotation stands out. The fact of the matter was this: nowhere in the church’s history or in the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) was circumcision ever commanded or even hinted at as a practice to be followed. This example reinforces to importance of looking back to the original teachings of the early church, specifically the official delegates of Jesus being the apostles and prophets (1 John 4:6).
The phrase, “Have a personal relationship with Jesus,” is not found in the Bible. It is not a truthful reality. Rather, this mantra is a cunning lie, fit to attract and idolize man’s selfish construct of God; making God what man would like Him to be instead of what He is in reality. God is our not our “daddy” or extravagant lover. Jesus has not left the right hand of God in order to pet and coddle the Christian in his sin. God is greatly to be feared (Hebrews 10:31). Jesus’ mandates for salvation include leaving all to follow Him (Matthew 19:21-22) rather than Jesus leaving all to follow the Christian.