Monday, June 24, 2013

Your Own Personal Jesus?

Now, this is not about a bad 1980's Depeche Mode song (was there a good one? no!), or the Marilyn Manson cover. This is about a focus that comes around from time to time, and captures the attention of some folks for a while.  In the past, it has always kind of faded because the dominant school of thought was so ingrained the evangelical mindset.  But it is an idea, I think, whose time has come.  Actually, it never went away.  It is just that for a while it was displaced by something more fashionable and marketable. So what is it?

It is the whole mindset of a personal Savior.  Very marketable, but very problematic theologically.

In circles in which I came of age as a believer, popular phrases were:
  • Jesus can be your personal Savior.
  • Simply ask Jesus to come into your heart.
  • Seek out God's wonderful plan for your life.
Quick glance at the above bullets; who is the person whose life is being served, and who is doing the serving?    Well, you are being served by God.  Does this strike anyone else as a bit backwards?

Nothing revolutionary here.  Lots of folks are saying this, but here is my attestation to the same idea.  The wonderful life plan belongs to God - the Author, Creator, Redeemer of the universe.  God's plan for our life - the story we are to live out, is simply to connect our lives and stories to his!  The way we look at it makes a huge difference.  If it is about our lives, then when things go south, we can think we missed something or have fallen out of favor with God.  But the testimony of Scripture is that people who join their stories to God's frequently have things go wrong, but because it is God's plan and not theirs, there is a great story they get to live out and gets told about their lives.  

In my previous way of thinking, there could be one career, one potential mate, one precise path to travel to be inside the will of God.  Nonsense!  I am more and more convinced, that there are a hundred things we can do with our lives as the opportunities become available either by going with the flow or by our own intentional efforts.  And God would say to any of them, "If you love it, go for it!  Just remember that in whatever you do, you really do it for me.  So use this path you have chosen to bless others and point them to the way of my Son."

Of course, there is such a thing as a call that God places on the lives of some that is more specific.  But that's another discussion.

Another rethink: Do I need to ask Jesus into my heart?  Or do I need to ask for the grace, the strength, the wisdom, the courage I need to get myself into the heart of Jesus, who is not my own personal Savior, but the Savior of the world of which I am a part?

Yes, God loves me.  Yes, there is intimacy with God beyond human imagining.  But God is not my personal anything.  Maybe I'm splitting semantic hairs on this one, and I don't get too bent out of shape when people use the phrase, "personal Savior."  But if we use it, we ought to use it with some thoughtful care.  

And of course God's grace seeks us out, saves us, and empowers us to live the God-honoring lives for which we were created.  So yes, God does bless us and give to us far beyond what we deserve out of his great love for each one of us.  It is really more of a both/and than an either/or with God.  The problem comes when we adopt a faith perspective that makes God our servant, and makes us the servant of...well...us, too.  Narcissism makes a really dull story. 

So may you find the wisdom to see your story as a sub-plot in the greater, larger story that God is writing.  May you find joy in joining your plans to God's redemptive work among the people and within the world that he loves so much.  And may the story you live as you attach it to God's amazing story, cause you to move through your days with a sense of joy, courage, and awe, and cause all of those who know you to say, "Wow!"

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