Personal relationship with Jesus Christ

I have been trying to get my head around exactly what the Evangelical movement refers to as having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I read one such statement from an ex-Catholic converted to Evangelical where they described themselves as once being Catholic, but now they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, with no real explanation of what that relationship is.

I am not entirely sure what this personal relationship entails. Many times I hear people speak about this personal relationship along the lines of providing a personal body-guard (I have Jesus), sometimes I hear this relationship as Jesus is going to be the one to do my bidding (though of course not put that way but it is what it boils down to), and when I look at books in the Christian book shops, many appear to be focused on unleashing a power within us to do amazing things, get out the the boat sort of thing, become bigger stronger faster more powerful.

Can someone please explain the “relationship” part of the “personal relationship with Jesus” phrase.

I would like to know from anyone as to what our relationship to Jesus Christ is, and what it entails, and how that relationship functions.

I think it’s something that started out as a good idea. The original motivation, I’ve found, is to avoid “Sunday Christianity.” The idea is that our love for Christ, and our awareness of his love for us, should be factors in our everyday life, and that we should live rightly because we want to please Him. Along with this our trust in Him to have everything under control should be an aspect of our lives, that we are willing to serve God and trust Him to provide. All this is something that we as Catholics can support.

Unfortunately this often gets confused with some of the ideas about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the evangelical saved/not saved dichotomy. So that’s one problem, we don’t see such a sharp divide. Another is that it can get into what you said, where God is treated as a magic solution to all problems.

It refers primarily to the doing away with the “fluff” of rituals, iconography and the priesthood.

Within most Protestant movements you will note the protestant pastors lack a considerable amount of clout as wielded by the catholic clergy in their ministry. Attendees are often encouraged to read the bible themselves with or without spiritual direction and draw their own conclusions from it.

Whereas a Catholic parish is entirely one on a matter of dogma, a Methodist congregation may have wildly differing opinions on the matter. I believe there is protestant quote that something “is not true until it is realised in the heart of the believer”. This goes against the Catholic understanding that the truth is the truth, and there is no debating it.

A personal relationship with Jesus christ usually (but not always) implies sola scriptura (bible alone), a considerable amount of time spent in private study and contemplation of scripture and private prayer. The role of a priest is diminished if not entirely non existent.

To an extent I find aspects of this admirable, as I have noticed a very weak understanding of scripture amongst my own congregation whereas the local Methodists appear to be walking Bibles who seemingly can recite any passage of the bible upon request. But of course, the Catholic understanding recognises the importance of a priesthood, allows for iconography and employs considerable spiritual direction (not a bad thing! not everyone is cut out to be a scholar).

I think that what is underscored is that old saying of God not having any grand kids. You have to personally make a decision to place your faith on Jesus Christ, and not rely on, say, your parents being Christian. It is an effort to make sure people don’t fall into some type of cultural Christianity, where there is an identification label with no personal faith.

It also calls for a daily walk with the Lord, the understanding that God is present with us, literally 24/7. If we love Him and trust Him we should talk with Him (pray), study about Him (scripture), represent Him (love one another, and help one another), and trust Him in actuality. Of course, in all of this is the main point of believing and proclaiming Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and a look to how He wants us to be in this life as followers of His.

See, for me, as a Catholic, I consider “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” to be having an active prayer life - actually considering Jesus as a friend that I can talk with whenever I want to. I think a lot of the whole “personal relationship with Jesus” really is about not seeing Jesus as some distant judge who we need to please out of fear (I’m not talking “fear of the LORD” here - I’m talking actual fear) but as a person Who understands our weaknesses and can help us overcome them if we allow Him to. Oddly enough, though, regardless of how much Protestants want to say that they have a “personal relationship with the LORD”, it is in the sacraments that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is most easily obtained - most especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist when participating with full sincerity.

The first time this phrase appears in print (at least a google search :D) is Caroline M. Hallett’s nineteenth century work, Rest by the Way; or Plain Readings for the Sick and the Troubled p. 33-34:

No more beautiful words than these are in the Bible: –

“He calleth His own sheep by name, and them out.”

Here it seems as though tenderness had its height. My soul is overflowed with the thought of the Love thus expressed, a Love so infinite that it cannot be surpassed!

I am brought too into such close personal relationship with Jesus. No longer am I only one of a crowd part of the great mass of believers, but He calls me by a name, and – O wondrous thought! – I may be His friend, His personal charge, brought at times very near Him my soul very close to His Divine Spirit!

Simply put, to have a personal relationship with Jesus means you actually know him and are known by him. This is in contrast to just going through the forms and appearance of religion.

The real function of anyone’s relationship with the Son of God is how you treat your neighbor. If you treat your neighbor as Jesus would than you are in a relationship with this same Jesus but if you do not treat your neighbor as your Lord Jesus would than your relationship with Jesus is in question. Protestants like to use this phrase but I sense it means differently than let us say how an Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and a Roman Catholic sees it. In those Churches where the Sacraments are celebrated the conscience of a living Faith is more personal than what the Protestants go through. Our experience of Jesus Christ has taken to a different level in those Churches where all the Sacraments are given and if we participate more into the reality of these experiences knowing that Jesus is personally involving Himself with us in and through these Sacraments we would know this Jesus more personally than we could ever dream of. Our experience of God must involve Jesus personally and as Jesus gives this experience of God in our lives especially in and through the Sacraments, we come to know of God especially in and though our contacts with our neighbor. Our measure of how this relationship is doing is actually how we fare with our neighbors. If Protestants treat their neighbors the same as Jesus would than they are doing good just as those Christians who are in the Catholic Churches. We all need to come to treat our neighbors the way Jesus would and this takes time and guts. The only difference I see in Protestantism and those Churches that are Catholic sacramentally is that the Holy Spirit has a better chance in teaching us more (those in the Catholic Church) because He is acquired more often.

When I was asked on the Street one day did I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I explained to the guy as a Catholic we take the Body and Blood of Our Lord into our own body, nothing could be more personal that that just because he had watered down John 6: 53-58, 60-69 and they found HIS saying to much and walked with the Lord no more, well this is what we have with the Reformation, they did not believe the Lord exactly as the people in Our Lord’s time walked away, well the people of the Reformation do the same.

:thumbsup:Great post! I’d think it would be tough for a Protestant street evangelist to come up with a comeback for that one. :smiley:

This article, “‘Personal Relationship with Jesus’ – Helpful or Not?,” at the Gospel Coalition might be interesting for non-evangelicals to get a sense of what it means and the questions evangelicals are asking concerning the usefulness of such a phrase.

. . . I believe the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” correctly expresses the biblical idea of discipleship and reconciliation with God. Evangelicals are right to use this phrase if through it we mean a personal, ongoing life of discipleship that includes gradual transformation into the image of Christ.

The Bible teaches that upon conversion we enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our mediator, the one who reconciles us to God. Justified by faith alone, we are united to Christ. We indeed have a relationship with Jesus, and this truth is glorious! Using the language of “relationship with Jesus” makes communion with God central to Christianity. That’s not a bad thing. The phrase is evocative, and it has been useful.

But I’m not sure that using the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” in our witnessing efforts helps us gauge a person’s spiritual life like it used to. Times are changing. I have met and talked with people who assure me that they have a “personal relationship with Jesus,” even though their lives show no evidence of Christ’s indwelling presence. Others tell me they know Jesus personally but have no need for the local church. A few are all about “personal relationships” with key religious figures. . . .

The author mentions some alternatives to the phrase, such as “knowing God” (used by J. I. Packer), “deep communion with God” (a phrased used by Puritans), “desiring God” (used a lot by John Piper), “serving his kingdom”, “submitting to his lordship,” or variations of “following Christ” such as “Christ-follower.”

It’s a vain repetition. They parrot the phrases they’ve been fed like bobble-headed, babbling buffoons. It is an emotional outburst with little or no meaning. They want to lord it over you as if they have some superiority and is a product of pride and vanity. Or even worse they’ll say something like he’s their buddy they take around with them and talk to him and stuff. Ok, now you’re getting weird and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.

What is the answer then? What constitutes an actual “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”? Praying the rosary and stations of the cross. No, seriously, not a joke. What is a personal relationship if not knowing and understanding someone? Those hit the high points, and meditating on them, reflecting on them, and reading and learning about them is how such a knowledge of the person of Jesus is accomplished. Learning and understanding his teachings. Trying to live by them. That’s how it becomes personal. Once you have incorporated them into your well-formed conscience, and you fail in some regard, you have consequent guilt and remorse and try rectify the situation by confessing your sins, doing penance, and resolving to sin no more by living as he taught us to. That’s how it becomes a relationship.

Its probably based on the fact that Evangelicals do NOT believe Gods grace comes to us through Sacrament. They do not wish their relationship with Jesus to be bound to the mystical body of Christ.

There is only one general priesthood among believers. Any and all believers can offer Communion among one another. No need for an ordained Priest.

So, even though, as Catholics, we can very well agree to the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus, Catholics acknowledge a Eucharistic Communion with Jesus in order to fullfill a personal relationship with Jesus. For example, Jesus tells us in Mark 16:16, “…whoever believes AND is baptized will be saved…” Accepting Jesus means receiving His Sacramental grace WITH belief! Evangelicals cast out the Churchs’ Sacramental graces for their own interpretations of Baptism, Communion, Holy Orders, etc…

In other words, just because someone can receive the Sacraments unworthily and become subject to the abuse of that grace, does not mean that there was never grace offered to them through those Sacraments! But this seems to be the conclusion of the Evangelical… Therefore the Evangelical defines a personal relationship with Jesus as complete outside the relationship to the Sacramental life.

Correct me if I’m wrong. Im actually still trying to get a good understanding of the perspective. Im in conversation about these very things with an Evangelical friend currently.

Hope this makes sense

my question for an evangelical that you have a friendship with is how he hears from Christ

As a Catholics we believe Christ speaks to a directs us through our Church

I dont think any of this necessarily contradicts Catholic faith. :thumbsup:

However, there is that undertone of individualism in there. When we say, “I do not need anyone else in my relationship with Jesus.” We cut ourselves away from His Mystical Body!

Its like the analogy of someone drowning and calling out to Jesus to help, and a person in a boat comes over. The victim says, “No thanks, Jesus is coming to save me!”


Yes He does, but not exclusively. He guides and Confirms us personally, but through all types of ways. Right?


Until recently I was an evangelical. There was a lot of emphasis on regular prayer to seek God’s will, weekly church attendance, daily devotions/Bible study, and Scripture memorization. Often you will hear an emphasis on meditation on Scripture in order to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you through various passages. (They say the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures for believers.) I know a lot of people who “consult” Jesus in prayer to seek his will before they make anything approximating an important decision in their lives. Unfortunately, however, there are lots of gray areas in life when you are trying to use the Bible as a “basic instructions before leaving earth” guidebook without the authority of the Church. :shrug:

Thank you all, you have given me much to think about, I am listening intently to everyone on the subject, and all your thoughts are valued.

I will continue listening too. Again thanks.

I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! :thumbsup:

I don’t quite understand it. My hubby was away from the church for awhile and came back when we married. He said he never felt a personal relationship with Jesus in the church. I tried to get him to explain it to me but I never got it.

Like others have said we receive Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity at communion so how much closer in a relationship can you get than that?

My hubby was with a non-denominational church for years so I guess he got it from them. He does say now he really never understood what the church taught when he was younger but he does now and he agrees with the teachings of the church that they are the true church.

He does have a better prayer life than I do though so it probably means that. Putting the Lord first in all we do.

And evangelicals believe He speaks through the Holy Spirit that resides in each of us. One of my favorite verses, Isaiah 30:21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This “is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

So, when the idea is a personal relationship, it is that acknowledgment of being a human temple in which God dwells; us via the Holy Spirit. The verse encapsulates the idea of being guided personally.

I agree. I think that there is a danger of “cultural Christianity” in all churches.

However, there is that undertone of individualism in there. When we say, “I do not need anyone else in my relationship with Jesus.” We cut ourselves away from His Mystical Body!

And this shows the difference in thinking; we believe to be a part of the body of Christ we have to faith on Jesus, ours is a step-wise way of stating it (first come to Christ, the result is becoming a part of the body). Grace by faith puts us into the Body. I don’t think Catholics and Evangelicals are as different on this point as many believe, but the way it is described is put in different language.

Now, the biggest difference is indeed how the two groups see sacraments. Evangelicals would see them as placing “something” betwixt the believer and Jesus (believing that grace flows freely through faith from Jesus to us), whereas Catholics see them as a channel between the believer and Jesus (grace flows freely to us by outward sign in the hands of a priestly class). Honestly the best article I’ve seen that would help explain the Catholic POV to an evangelical is Jimmy Akin’s article on justification through faith. I wouldn’t expect an evangelical to agree with it 100%, but it approaches it in terms that are more amenable to the evangelical POV.

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