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.