“This time it’s personal.”
How many of us have used this phrase or heard this phrase used to describe our feelings toward someone when we feel we’ve been wronged? Think with me for a minute about what that statement means. When we say, “it’s personal,” what we are really saying is this time its gone too far…this time it means more because it effected me in a personal way…that it hit too close to home. When we take it personally, we are deeply hurt…deeply moved…the reaction is deeply rooted in our emotions.
This emotional reaction is something that can move us to tears…a reaction that can cause us to harbor deep anger toward someone or something. If we let things cause a deep, emotional response in us…the feelings that we experience come from a deep belief in whatever causes the pain. It means that we have felt a deep connection to whatever has caused us to experience the pain.
That deep emotional connection can also be applied in a good way to our lives as Christians…our relationship with Christ should be taken personal…because to Him, it is personal.
What do I mean by taking it personal? Think about it for a minute…let it soak in…Jesus is the one who describes it for us in John 21:20-23. The story prior to this is the story of Peter’s reinstatement where Jesus asks him, “Do you love me?” and Peter answers in the same way that many of us would answer, “Yes Lord, you know that I do!” But what happens next shows us the personal aspect that is expected of each one of us in our own lives.
As we move forward in the passage we see that Peter reacts in a way that many of us would…he tells Jesus he loves him…and then he points a finger and says, “What about him Lord?”
“What about him Lord?” – Why do we feel that we have to worry about someone else when it comes to our faith? The only answer that I can come up with for this is rooted deep within each one of us…it is a fear of being alone. We have never liked to go through something by ourselves…never liked to feel like we were being singled out…so our reaction is one of redirection. We like to redirect the attack we are feeling by asking, “What about so-and-so? What about this or that?”
Jesus response to Peter was simply put: “What is it to you?!? So what if I want this guy to live until I return! Why does it matter during this conversation Peter? Why do you not seem to grasp this? YOU, Peter, you are to follow me!”
Why would Jesus respond in this way if it weren’t personal? Jesus would not have made sure Peter understood that it had nothing to do with anyone else if it wasn’t personal. Jesus essentially said to Peter, “Peter…this time it’s personal!”
Paul understood this factor of taking it personal in his life. We see Paul understands that it is personal in Philippians 3:1-14. Paul is writing to the believers and telling them that it is personal. He speaks about taking pride in worldly accomplishments and bragging about the things that they have in their lives…
“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
— Philippians 3:2-6 (NIV)
Paul is basically saying, “You wanna brag? I’ll show you who can brag…look at what I’ve done.” Paul tells the people what he has to brag about, but then Paul explains why it was important for him to brag…was it because Paul was prideful? Did Paul feel that he needed to make himself known to these people? Neither.
Paul felt it necessary to show them what he had to brag about because of the next statement he was about to make. Paul wanted them to see exactly what a relationship with Christ was all about…Paul wanted to show them how personally he took his relationship with Christ.
The next statement shared by Paul was simply this…
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)
“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” What is Paul saying? Every good thing that I have ever had…everything I have earned in this world…every single profit that I have ever made…everything I could have ever bragged about in my life…it means NOTHING to me compared to knowing Jesus. He calls all of his worldly accomplishments garbage…something to be thrown away if it means gaining Christ as his Lord…but not only that…that he would be found IN Christ.
Paul tells us that our righteousness comes from a personal relationship with the King of Kings…Paul tells the Romans that we are all created in the image of Christ and are to become like him…and then, in this section, Paul takes it up a step…”I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Paul says he wants to know Christ…but then Paul continues in stating that he wants to know the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings…did he miss that section of the Gospels? Does Paul realize exactly what he is saying here? Does Paul really want to be flogged, beaten down…have his skin ripped from his body…have a crown of thorns forced on his head? Is that what Paul is saying here? Does he not realize what Christ’s sufferings were? You bet he did…and here is why he wanted to know…because it was the only way to truly know how deep the love of Christ for each of us really is. By becoming like Christ in his death, Paul knew he would see the love that his Savior had for him…a love that could end in death on a cross.
Paul knew it was a personal relationship with a Savior who promises to be closer than a brother…the same Savior we call Father in our prayers…the same Savior who called us family when he said, “For whoever does the will of my Father is my brother, my sister and my mother” (Matthew 12:50). The same Savior that died on a cross to save the lost is the same Savior that Paul worshipped and the same Savior that we worship today! He is also the same Savior that wants each of us to know him personally…he wants us to know him intimately. It is no accident that the church is called the Bride of Christ…because that is the kind of love and relationship that Christ wants with the church. In the same way that you wouldn’t marry someone without getting to know them, Christ wants us to get to know him…to become the bride that he can communicate with…a bride that wants to know him…a bride that would give her life for her True Love in the same way that he gave his…
Christ felt that his bride was worthy of following through on a plan of destruction for his life…a plan that was set forth from the beginning of time…a plan of salvation and redemption…a plan to save the world.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
— John 3:16-17 (NIV)
Do you know him? Or do you just know about Him? Have you taken the time to learn who Christ is? Or have you become comfortable in just knowing about the things that He did? Jesus gave up everything to save His true love…and this time…It’s Personal.