Through the years as a Christian, I’ve heard people misuse certain language and phrases when pointing people to trust Jesus Christ by faith. For some reason, these phrases become popular and passed on from person to person and from church to church. One such phrase is comes often in form of a question: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”
The heart of the question is good, because it’s seeking to point people to examine if they are in the faith. However, in an attempt to point people to see their need for Jesus Christ, they use extrabiblical language. Rather than asking someone to examine himself—the question is turned into a focus on a personal relationship. Why is this a bad method of communicating?
Such Communication Dulls the Biblical Language
The language of Scripture is often sharp and confrontational. It doesn’t lack an edge and is sharper than any two-edged sword that pierces inwardly—into the soul (Heb. 4:12). According to Jeremiah, the Bible is a consuming fire (Jer. 23:29). According to James 1:22-25, the Scriptures serve as a mirror.
In the Bible, we hear the biblical authors, prophets, apostles—pointing people to believe the gospel. Their language is emphatic and pressing. John the Baptist never asked Herod if he had a personal relationship with Jesus. Instead, he informed him with no uncertain terms that he was living in sin because he should’t have Herodias as his wife (Luke 3:19). Jesus himself spoke with conviction when he preached—pointing people to repent and believe the gospel (Matt. 4:17).
Everyone Has a Personal Relationship with Jesus
Everyone who has ever lived and everyone who will ever live in human history has a relationship with Jesus. No, this is not the doctrine of universalism—the false idea that everyone who dies goes to heaven. The fact is, even people in hell today have a personal relationship with Jesus. Their relationship is not a good one and God deals with such people in wrath, but make no mistake—it’s very personal.
When we talk with people over coffee or when we preach sermons—we need to go far beyond asking people if they have a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, we should inform them that they have a personal relationship with Jesus and it’s in the form of personal accountability. It would be better to employ biblical language as we talk to people and point them to see their need for faith in Jesus Christ.
- Do you have faith alone in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?
- Examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith.
- Have you believed the gospel of God?
- Have you obeyed God by repenting of your sins and by faith—trusting in the single sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?
- Do you have faith in the God who has revealed himself to us in the pages of the Bible and who has made known to us the mystery of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ?
- Is your faith real and does it produce evidence?
Let our language be seasoned with the Scriptures rather than popular extrabiblical phrases that dull the sword and leave people with a confused view of salvation and what it means to be a Christian. Jesus is not our “boyfriend”—he’s the sovereign, ruling, King of the universe.