I have a personal computer. I have a friend who works as a personal trainer. Executives (and some pastors!) have personal assistants. Some people have personal shoppers. In the Old Testament narratives, pagans had personal gods, called “household gods,” a.k.a. idols. Folks loved to steal them from one another (See these passages and ask yourself what I’m trying to do).
The clear connotation of the word “personal” as we normally apply it to people and things is that those things serve our own individual needs as we understand them and wish to have those needs met. We would even refer to them as my personal ________.
And in terms of the biblical narrative, it is a grave thing to refer to the living God with such language.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.Philippians 2:5-11:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Daniel 7:13-14
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.(You might also check out Revelation 4:11, 5:9-13, as well as 15:1-4, but I don’t want to belabor the point)
It seems rather clear, doesn’t it? If we take seriously the Bible’s language about the King of the Universe and the Christ who rules it, we don’t get to say that Jesus is anybody’s "personal" anything. Note particularly the "cosmic Christ" of Colossians: the entire creation is put back under the headship of Christ. It's not just people, and not just you or me that he was after, and that he's after still.
Now we can talk about “getting personal with God,” or having a “personal relationship with Jesus” in the sense of having a friendship with God. That’s valid. It can be very problematic, however, as that language quickly gets confused with the other kind of “personal” language.
I think we would be far better off to talk about the Ruler and Savior of the world who loves us collectively and also knows us as individual personalities whom he adores. In turn, we offer our total allegiance and seek to love him with reckless, embarrassing abandon. That is, I think, what we really want to convey with the “personal Lord and Savior” language, but it gets lost in the lexicon of a consumer society. So instead, let’s say what we mean rather than assuming that our shorthand phrases really convey what we wish them to convey.