I Haven’t Made Jesus My Personal Lord and Savior

I grew up in a religious community in which making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior was a big deal. That phrase, or any of its verbal cousins, was thrown about almost as much as Lutherans talk of “law and Gospel” or “means of grace.” I suppose every Christian denomination has them—this ingroup speech. Though the church of my youth was Southern Baptist, they are far from alone in using this phrase. Making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior is the focus of much of the evangelism and preaching in Protestant Christianity.

The thing is, although I am a Christian, I have never made Jesus my personal Lord and Savior. I haven’t because I can’t.

Before I became a believer, I was in bad shape.

To begin with, I was dead in my transgressions and sins. I was like Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who lay lifeless within a tomb. The only way he rose from the dead and walked out of that grave was by the word of Jesus. Dead people don’t decide to live again. God decides they will live again. As Jesus called Lazarus from death to life, so he called me from my grave of sin into a new life of forgiveness. He gave, I received.

I say I was dead before Jesus called me, but actually, I was worse off than that. Imagine a corpse who is at war with life, who is an enemy of the Life-giver. That was me. I was by nature a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), an enemy of God (Rom 5:10), conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). I was as messed up as messed up could be. Not just dead, not just sinful, but an enemy of the only One who could save me.

But once again, God changed all that. He loved me not only into life, but into peace. He transformed me from a foe to a friend. His word traveled across enemy lines, found me, and carried me back as an ally. And once again, the only thing I did was receive. I didn’t decide to switch sides, to leave my rebellion and make peace with God. He did that for me in Jesus.

I am a Christian who has never made Jesus my personal Lord and Savior. I am a Christian because Christ made me His personal servant, friend, and brother.

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33 thoughts on “I Haven’t Made Jesus My Personal Lord and Savior

  1. Chad, I don’t know whether the content & timing of your posts is connected to the 3 year lectionary…BUT…thanks for the seeds that happen to be in sync with what I’m preaching on!

  2. Wonderful post! Thanks for putting so well into words what can be so hard to explain to many Christians.

  3. Clyde D. Ehlers on said:

    THE Lord is My Savior With out him their is no salvation John 3- 16-17 by
    Kimberly Ehlers Grandfather & Grandmother.

  4. Beautifully worded! Thank you!

  5. Junker Georg on said:

    Well said. However, just to be the persnickedy former Arminian-turned-Lutheran I am ;), one line I might amend to strengthen your excellent post is this one: “…And once again, the only thing I did was receive.” I might add a qualifier, “..and even that act of receiving, this receptive faith, was worked in me by God.” (ala “Fides Directus” from Pieper, who gets knocked for the weaknesses of his 3rd volume of Dogmatics, but boy does he have alot of great things to teach us otherwise).

    As you no doubt would agree, in light of the mystery of the monergism of grace (Sola Gratia) Luther lays out so well, especially in his 3rd Article relative to this topic, the act of receiving in conversion/regeneration can’t really be said to be our act in anything other than an utterly passive way, and even then this reception in a passive sense must still be said to be God’s act, worked by Him. When you think about it, you really can’t push Sola Gratia far enough in every aspect of our life, even down to our continued existence, moment by moment, where in a sense no action, at least no action towards what is good, can be said to be to our credit, by our power. Our whole life, down to our very continued existence, is one big act of passive reception, a reception worked by God no less. This is a great mystery which human reason can’t comprehend, but it is the truth which the Scriptures have revealed nonetheless.

    I mean, in the struggle of becoming a confirmed, die-hard Lutheran, the residual Pelagian in me (which arguably is what our old adam is by nature) had struggled with that very thing, that “need to receive”–somewhat tied up with that “Why some saved and not others?” ,i.e., the “crux theologorum” in Lutheran theology, ala Pieper, which runs back to Luther’s treatment of this 3rd Light yet to be revealed to us in his “Bondage of the Will”. And how one answered the “crux theologorum”, all the way back to how Luther and Erasmus treated it, explains much of how/why Protestantism became so fragmented historically. This struggle ended once I was taught that the nature of salvation by Grace alone, that “monergism of grace”, is a MYSTERY of faith, a mystery revealed by Scripture which is to be believed and confessed, rather than something that can be rationalized out in our minds and lives. There would be times where if I’d skip church and consequently struggled with guilt of such sin, I’d later think, “Well, if my reception is all by God’s doing, why didn’t He move me to go to church to receive?” Bonhoeffer, falling back on Augustine, helped, suggesting that we should act as if such reception were all up to us to do, but then pray to God, acknowledging the mystery that such action of reception is all His doing in us. So for example, I now get up and go to church and receive His saving gifts as if it were all up to me to do so, but then pray to God, confessing the mystery that it was all by His gracious acting that I exist and that I am here receiving His saving gifts, giving Him all the credit and thanks. So fwiw, I hope I’m not wrong in “working out my salvation” in this way, but that is how it’s worked for me.

    Sorry for the long post. Love your writings Mr. Bird!

    • Thanks for the additional (great!) thoughts! Indeed, sola gratia cannot be pushed far enough.

    • thanks for the long reply. Junker Georg. I posted this article to my FB wall and it smoked out in a hurry two of my Arminian friends who are trying to avoid letting the mystery be the mystery by arguing the old “God gives us free will” line, even going so far as to say that we were dead in sins, then God enlivens/regenerates us so that we are able to make the choice. May God by His grace lead them to see the Truth you now rejoice in in this blessed mystery.

  6. I absolutely love this! Especially the last line. I am a Christian solely because of what CHRIST has done for ME!! What amazing grace 😀

  7. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as HE CHOSE us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

    AMEN TO YOUR POST BROTHER

  8. Chuck French on said:

    … Wow. “Imagine a corpse at war with life who is an enemy of the Life-giver.” Well spoken, written, whatever! :), that is Paul in Romans 7:24 “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” You have communicated this very well. “Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 7:25) Thank you. Great point. In a discussion with my seventh grade students in Biblical Studies, we were talking about how people have found their “way” to God, as individual as the person. I know John 14:6, reminds me of your point, “I may have lost my way…” Isaiah 53:6 but I am so happy and blessed and saved because “THE WAY FOUND ME!” Hallelujah for the cross, hallelujah for the empty tomb, the power of the resurrection of Christ, the firstfruits of them that slept. Glory, Glory, Glory to God alone in the matchless grace and power of Jesus. Oh how I love Him.

  9. Pingback: Two Must Read Articles | Concordia and Koinonia

  10. Jenna on said:

    There is no way my knowledge of theology is greater than yours, brother and there is no doubt I love your writing….but I want to share another thought.

    I believe Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior because I made a choice to receive him. Christ died on the cross for me as a gift. So 1. I recognize his plan (John 3:16) 2. I realized my sin separated me from God (Romans 3:23).
    3. Knowing how wretched I am, God still demonstrates his love for even me (Romans 5:8) and now I respond to the cross. 4. And finally I receive Christ when I ask/invite him into my life. I became a child of God and claimed his as my Personal Savior (John 1:12).

    Although I agree with you, ultimately we must choose Him or we will never receive what He has offered every one of us. Just as friends can offer you a gift you have free will to accept it or not. If you leave that gift on the table that is your choice.

    So, yes, He did make me His. I also made a choice to accept him as my Father.

    Love what you do, brother!!

    • Jenna,

      I addressed this gift concept on my own blog post regarding our faith not being our choice here: http://www.heartsonguard.com/2013/12/faith-you-didnt-choose-that.html.

      I think we all too often let our logic and reason cloud the issue here. We know faith and salvation is a gift, and many of us know we have the power to reject it, to choose unbelief instead. That logically extends to the idea that we also have the power to choose to accept the gift, to pick it up off the table.

      But worldly logic and reason don’t often apply to the mysteries of God and His amazing grace. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we can say Jesus is Lord — it is only by His power we can at all “accept” Him, so when we take that gift with open arms, it is not actually us who do it.

      🙂

      We make a choice every day on how we live in our faith, but ultimately our justification and our salvation is all His doing, His choosing 🙂

      Love and hugs to you!!!

    • Aaron Wolf on said:

      Jenna,

      I would say that you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith.

      In other words, you recognized His plan not because of your choice but because the Holy Spirit gave you repentance and faith when you heard God’s Word. That is, He created anguish in your heart over your sins and sinful condition, and created trust in your heart that Christ’s work on your behalf is gloriously sufficient to save you.

      You trusted in Him before any words inviting Him into your life ever crossed your lips. (After all, why else would you have said them?) That trust, that faith, was and is pure gift.

      Did Lazarus choose to accept that Jesus raised him up from his own tomb? Could Lazarus have chosen to stay dead? Don’t we have to say that he got up because Jesus told him to? I suppose we could say that Lazarus chose not to spurn the free gift by deciding not to walk out of the tomb, grab a knife, and plunge it into his own chest.

      • Jenna on said:

        Interesting thought. I appreciate you sharing. All I can do is thank Him for mercy. 🙂

  11. Sue Morris on said:

    God personally made me a Christian through the saving work of Christ! 😉

  12. Jesus you see, took me His personal sinner.

    From eternity His proper will is the life of mankind.

    From the cross in time and space Jesus’ death is the eternal transcendent atonement of mankind.

    Through the means of grace (absolving word, baptismal cleansing, and the feast), His will and atoning death are immanently and personally given me.

    I am made Jesus’ personal saint. He has made Himself my personal Sinner.

    Jesus, from eternity, in time, and personally, has run all the verbs of my salvation.

  13. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

    Salvation is unto the Lord, yet Jesus’ message is clear – it happens in repentance and faith.

    But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

    Respectfully, I must say it sounds like you reject repentance. But Jesus himself said in Luke 3, “And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.”

    Salvation is a work of God. Yes. God calls us to turn away from sin and toward Him. Yes. The Bible says both are true. It never calls us to be passive. Seek the Lord. Draw near to God. Turn from your sin. Trust in God. Action that arouses when we realize our sin and need for a Savior.

    The Holy Spirit initiates this action – “The wind blows where it wishes”. You are correct – You cannot make Jesus your personal Savior any more than your parents can.

    • Tony, I am a bit confused why you say Chad sounds like he rejects repentance. Can I ask you why you do not consider these words repentant?

      “Before I became a believer, I was in bad shape.

      “To begin with, I was dead in my transgressions and sins. I was like Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who lay lifeless within a tomb. The only way he rose from the dead and walked out of that grave was by the word of Jesus. Dead people don’t decide to live again. God decides they will live again. As Jesus called Lazarus from death to life, so he called me from my grave of sin into a new life of forgiveness. He gave, I received.

      “I say I was dead before Jesus called me, but actually, I was worse off than that. Imagine a corpse who is at war with life, who is an enemy of the Life-giver. That was me. I was by nature a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), an enemy of God (Rom 5:10), conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). I was as messed up as messed up could be. Not just dead, not just sinful, but an enemy of the only One who could save me.”

      • The quotes you mention aren’t repentance, but merely feeling grief over sin. This is true during conversion when it is followed by repentance, which is turning away from sin – abandoning sin and clinging to God. Luther valued this greatly.

        One can certianly feel bad about sin, yet don’t seek to follow Christ and become like Him. I’m not judging anyone here and I’m not saying I completely comprehend all of the mysteries of God. It’s just an essential, missing, biblical piece.

  14. Jesus does say in the New Testament, “No man comes to the Father (God) but by me.” If God only makes us his personal Servant, friend, and brother, how does that take into account that Jesus did something awesome for us, by dying on the cross for our sins? When one of the thieves next to Jesus tells Jesus that He believes He is the Son of God, and asks forgiveness for his sins, Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” The thief had no time for God to make him his personal Servant, friend, and brother. We were born into sin, through Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ DID something for that, by the sacrifice of his life and blood…the only way God states that we can obtain a life in Heaven, by accepting that free gift of grace, asking Jesus Christ to be our Lord, or Savior, and trying to live as best a Christian life as we can. The New Testament is very clear on this, no matter what denomination we are. Sharla Schultz

  15. John Payne on said:

    It does beg the rational question (brought up previously): why you but not another? If Salvation is God’s will for everyone, and if God’s choice is the only determining factor, then all should be saved.

  16. JunkerGeorg on said:

    @John Payne…..Congratulations! You have followed through the theological course to where it ends for all us Lutheran Christians who believe, teach, and confess the MYSTERY of the Monergism of Grace (i.e., that our salvation is all worked by God/His Grace alone, including our faith, ala Ephesians 2:8; John 6:29, etc.), namely, you’ve reached what we call the Crux Theologorum, the crux of theology, the endpoint of what is the Mystery: Why are some saved and not others? How is it that on the one hand we can reject Christ by our reason and strength but on the other hand we cannot accept Christ by our own reason and strength? If God desires that all men be saved and all men who are saved (i.e., believe/receive the salvation Christ won for them on the Cross) are saved by God’s grace alone, then why do some men reject this salvation and so are not saved?

    You know what the answer to this “Crux Theologorum” is? WE DO NOT KNOW! Holy Scripture does not tell us. It is part of what Luther, at the end of his book, “Bondage of the Will”, called the “3rd, final light of Revelation” which is yet to be revealed to us, that is, in Heaven, where then, as St. Paul says, “..we will know as we are known.” For the meantime, we see as through a glass darkly, God revealing in the Scriptures not everything, but definitely all that we need to know to be saved. (To some extent, Luther’s debate with Erasmus was a repeat of the earlier battle between Augustine and Pelagius).

    You want to understand the history of Protestantism? Although it is simplified overview, in general you can divide Protestantism into three types: Lutheran (Luther, although we prefer not to call ourselves Protestant) and Calvinist/Reformed (from John Calvin), and then a later form which was a rebellion against the Reformed tradition which is called “Arminianism” (from Jakob Arminius).

    This divide in Protestantism is partially over this very thing of the “Crux theologorum” of “Why some saved and not others?” As I said, while Luther asserted single predestination/election (albeit rooting our certainty of our election to the visible sign of Baptism, to the fact that we are baptized into Christ) and confessed that Scripture was silent to this question, that it was a mystery yet to be revealed by God, John Calvin couldn’t help but try to destroy the mystery by answering the question, speaking where the Scriptures do not speak, asserting that the answer must logically lie with God, i.e., that God must choose to bestow that grace of His by which we believe in Christ and are saved upon some and yet not upon others (i.e., “Double Predestination”)…….and then eventually a man from the Calvinist tradition, named Jakob Arminius, while rightly recognizing that God does not intentionally damn a person by intentionally refusing to give them His grace, nevertheless also couldn’t stop himself from then wrongly speaking where the Scriptures are silent, logically concluding that the answer to that “Crux theologorum” must lie with man himself, that man must have some latent capacity, some vestige of natural spiritual power, some free will in spiritual matters, so that he could not only reject Christ but also could “choose to believe in Christ”. So while Calvinism posits the answer of the Crux Theologorum with God in Double Predestination, Arminianism posits the answer with man, asserting that he must have free will in spiritual matters (Arminianism is what most modern day Evangelicalism is largely about, with some mixture of Calvinism too, depending upon the pastor and where he was taught).

    This is another reason why I am now a Confessional and Confessing Lutheran: They are completely faithful to Scripture, so faithful that they are even willing to be silent on certain matters which the Scriptures are silent on, admitting we do not know, yet adoring them as the Mysteries of faith which they are, refusing to bring human reason/logic into to as as a way to “answer for God who must have forgotten to answer/write down in His Holy Scriptures each and every question we may have”, speaking on such matters where the Scriptures do not speak. This is why I chuckle when I hear an Arminian fundamentalist claim they are a “Bible believing church”, that they “just believe in the Bible”. Oh really? Do you? Do you to the extent that Lutheranism does, which is willing to be silent on certain matters which the Scriptures are silent on, including the answer to the question of ‘Why some saved not others?” I don’t mean to say I’m a Lutheran (=Bible Believer) out of pride, but out of sheer gratitude, realizing there was no merit or worthiness in me that our Lord should lead me into it, into what I believe to be a true exposition of the Christian faith which the Holy Scriptures teach.

  17. Jesus has accepted me as His own personal sinner and has moved into my heart despite my vehement protests.

  18. Derek Harvey on said:

    I agree to a degree. However, we must remember that Jesus wants us to have a personal relationship with him, an everyday one.

    I was raised German Lutheran, while I agree that alot of their theology is head on and is biblical, still only part of the Gospel is preached. Yes we are Saved by God’s Grace through Faith. But, what needs to be realized, when one gives you a gift, you can either accept it or refuse it. (This part needs to be brought up in church as well.) It’s not a choice that your parents, grandparents, sponsors, or pastors can make for you. Especially if it Truly is the work of the Lord. What they can do is Pray for you, and try and lead you in the right and correct direction as best as they can, and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Food for thought 🙂

  19. dajochris on said:

    Reblogged this on Rants by Dan and commented:
    As always from Chad Bird, a wonderfully thoughtful post about culture and faith!

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