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Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Personal Savior

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine . . . (Song of Songs 6:3)


I thought of this verse as I listened to a CD of a well-known Bible teacher who, though he had some keen insights into the New Testament scriptures, told his audience the idea that Jesus is a “personal savior” is foreign to the New Testament message. The man said Jesus came to save the “Church,” to establish a Christian community, and (in his opinion) community salvation – not personal salvation – is the pre-eminent focus of Scripture.

Unfortunately, he is not the only person I’ve heard to teach that erroneous concept. No wonder so many people in the pew feel distanced from their heavenly Father.

It is true Jesus took on human flesh to save the “church” (Ephesians 5:25-27) and to establish a people for Himself (Titus 2:14). But it is also true the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep safe in the fold and searched for the one gone astray (Luke 15:3-7). It is also true that Jesus left the crowds and went out of His way to minister to the lone Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). He sought for the blind man who was ostracized from his synagogue (John 9:1-38). He made a point to pass through Samaria to meet a women unwelcomed by her community (John 4:1-38).

Over and over, the New Testament writers make the point – Jesus longs for us to know Him as our personal savior. He longs for us to know Him in an intimate, warm and emotional relationship.

“What must I do to be saved?” The Philippian jailer pleaded with St. Paul. And the apostle answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 15:25-31). “Come to me” the Lord Jesus invited, “all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give [each of] you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). [Jesus said] “I will never desert [any of] you nor will I ever forsake [any of] you” (Hebrews 13:5); And St. Paul, longing to grow in his relationship with Christ, wrote to the Church at Philippi, ‘[Oh] that I might know Him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings . . .” (Philippians 3:10).

Yes, the Lord Jesus came to save the Church, but the Church is not an abstract entity. It is comprised of individuals – each of whom is critically valuable in God’s eyes. Without its individual members, the Church would not exist.

From Genesis through Revelation – and the testimonies of the Saints, from St. Francis to St. Augustine to St. Catherine of Sienna to St. Therese of Lisieux to St. Padre Pio -- the Holy Spirit assures us if you or I were the only people who needed to be saved out of the 6 billion people on planet earth – Jesus would have died for us.

By our baptismal faith and ongoing devotion to Christ, you and I – singular, unique, special – you and I belong to Christ. God personally formed us in our mothers’ womb (Psalm 139:13). He is intimately involved with us (Psalm 139:3). He knows our name (John 10:3), how many hairs we have on our head (Luke 12:7), and not a word passes across our tongue that He does not already know (Psalm 139:4).

We belong to the community called the Church, but we must never lose sight of the wonderful truth: Jesus came to save each individual who makes up the Church.

That means you.

And He wants to be your personal savior, friend, confidant, and lover.

You are, truly, your beloved’s. And He is yours.

His banner over you is love.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Thank you for another excellent post.

Mary said...

Rich, you have such wonderful insight into the scripture. Your pearls of wisdom, quite often, cause me to ponder my relationship with the Almighty. Am I doing all that I am suppose to?

Richard Maffeo said...

I often ask myself the same question. But then I think I am. If not, I pray He will show me.