I have a question:
Have you ever considered the number of people who may NOT be in heaven who believe they have a “personal relationship with Jesus?”
The other day I heard an evangelist use that phrase over and over again. He repeatedly asked a room full of people if they knew that they had a “personal relationship with Jesus.”
And I thought that maybe that’s not the right phrase or question to use—there are a lot of people who believe they have a personal relationship with Jesus who are not born again. It may be we need to go back to using biblical phrases, explanations and invitations.
“Personal relationship” is not a phrase or expression that the apostles used in any of their gospel presentations. It is not in the New Testament.
And there were people who had a personal relationship with Jesus who were not born again.
The first person that comes to my mind is Judas the traitor. For three years Judas had a personal relationship with Jesus. For three years he walked, talked, ate and hung out with Jesus as a disciple; yet there is no doubt that Judas was an unsaved man.
He did not believe that Jesus was the Lord (Romans 10:9); he did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah—the Anointed One—sent from God the Father to be the Christ.
What about the people described in Matthew 7:22 who call Jesus Lord? Surely if we asked them if they had a personal relationship with Jesus—they would answer in the affirmative.
Yet we know they did not believe that Jesus was the Christ in the sense of Christ as their priest. When we analyze their salvation testimony, they talk about good works- not salvation by grace.
Any person with an authentic faith understands that Jesus is their mediator; he is their savior and priest with God the Father. Someone who has believed the truth of the gospel understands that it is not their good works that saves the soul but the grace of God. Yet as we listen to the unregenerate in Matthew 7:22, they say that what they have done makes them worthy of salvation--not what Jesus has done.
READ: Matthew 7:22 “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”
Where is a true understanding of the gospel in this testimony? Where is the mention of grace?
People who are saved know Jesus as teacher (prophet), savior (priest), and master (king).
People who are converted will grow in their understanding of Jesus as their teacher, who can also forgive their sins, and as their Lord, who speaks to them through His Word and Spirit and expects them to obey Him.
It is time to stop emphasizing an exceptionally subjective “personal relationship with Jesus” and start asking questions that revolve around Jesus as the Christ (1 John 5:1) that can be answered with a greater degree of certainty.
1. Do you believe in the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus, as the Son of God and God-Man, and His current existence at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for those who believe?
2. How do you know you are saved (born again or going to heaven)? At the heart of this question is the “Christian’s” understanding of the purpose of Christ’s death and the manifestation of grace in the gospel. People who are saved do not articulate a salvation by works testimony.
3. Can you remember a time when the Spirit of Christ living inside you convicted you of sin or opened biblical truth to your heart and mind?
Think about everything you know about Old Testament prophets—they were the men (and women) who dealt with sin and judgment (Acts 7:34).
4. Do you believe that Jesus was the “Anointed One,” sent from the one true and living God as God’s only begotten Son?
5. Do you believe that Jesus is Lord? (Romans 10:9). Do you actively love Jesus as Lord? (John 10:27). Is there any evidence or indication in your life that he is your King? Can you articulate a particular time when you voluntarily submitted to His authority in your life? In other words, whose kingdom are you most interested in building—yours or His?
6. Do you believe that Jesus came in the flesh as the Son of God and Son of man? (1 John 4.2)
7. Is there a time when you can remember being chastened by King Jesus for your disobedience as one of his servants?
8. Why were you baptized?
9. Why are you a member of a church? Are you active? Why or why not?
10. Have you ever made a public profession of your faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you study the New Testament Jesus is often referred to as “our Lord” as a means of communicating love and relationship to Him as Master or King.
I certainly am not trying to suggest that these questions sum up everything that needs to be asked, but I think they are much more objective. Yet, anyone can lie to any number of questions.
There are many Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc, who all would very quickly affirm that they have a “personal relationship with Jesus.” But there is not a shred of evidence that they are new creatures in Christ.
According to the Barna Research Group, four out of five adult Americans describe themselves as Christians. Yet we know that the lifestyle of the majority of Americans clearly calls into question whether they are being radically changed by the power of the gospel into fully-devoted followers of Christ.
If we are going to reach these lost who think they are saved with the gospel, the same old questions, phrases and explanations are not going to work.
Asking them if there has every been a time when they asked Jesus into their heart isn’t going to cut to the core of their being and convict them of their need of the truth. Faith comes by hearing and hearing very specifically by the Word of God. In Acts 2 Peter did not ask the men if there had ever been a time when they asked Jesus into their heart, NOR did he lead them in a sinner’s prayer. Instead, he told them to REPENT. They knew he was calling for them to turn from Judaism to the Lord Jesus Christ. He wasn’t asking them to have a personal relationship. Peter was insisting that they had to start FOLLOWING the Risen Lord whom they had just crucified.
Leading multitudes in a generic, semi-heartfelt prayer hasn’t produced a nation of Christians, so I want to know when are we, the body of Christ, going to wake up and commit to a standard that insists our theology must drive our methodology.
When it comes to what we preach, teach and share as Ambassadors of Christ, there is no need to add to or to take away from what the apostles did in the 1st century.
The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t change.
There is still a need to preach, teach and share repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is time to start unpacking why Jesus came as the Christ, what it meant to come as the Christ, and what it will mean to come-again as the Christ.
Then our invitation needs to be a challenge to FOLLOW Him.
Now a person doesn’t follow someone they don’t BELIEVE in, so the first step is FAITH that Jesus is Lord. Once a person believes that Jesus is LORD, this salvific or authentic faith will drive them to follow Him. God who began a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1.6).
And that precisely is how YOU know if your FAITH is authentic or NOT. Therefore, every man must examine himself to see whether He is in the faith once delivered.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
I don’t examine you and you don’t examine me—each man is challenged to examine himself according to the Word of God—not against non-biblical questions like: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus” or “Can you remember a time and place when you prayed to ask Jesus into your heart?”