A Different Jesus

Names of Jesus2In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth, he wrote something that struck me as odd:

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Cor 11:3-4)

I’m referring to the part of the above passage in which he says “another Jesus.” Did he have in mind, another “Christ?” I could understand that–already there had been various people claiming to be the Messiah. So if Paul would have said, if someone claims to be another Christ, don’t be deceived, that would have made perfect sense to me.

But he chose instead to say “another Jesus.” And of course that word choice was as inspired by the Holy Spirit as all else he wrote, so I wanted to grapple with what “another Jesus” would look like.

In truth, I think it is probably easier to understand today than it was in the first century, because a number of “other Jesuses” have shown up.

Take for example the Mormon Jesus. This is a Jesus who is not a person of the One True and Triune God. Rather he is a god, like all of us–one of the Father’s spirit children, special only because he is the first begotten (not the only begotten as John 3:16 says). He is brother to Satan and Plato and Paul himself–the son of god and god, as we all are and can become.

This Mormon Jesus is decidedly different from the Person Paul wrote about who is the image of the invisible God, who created all things and by whom all things hold together.

The Mormon Jesus isn’t so very different from Example Jesus–the person some believe to be such a good person he should be our model for living. If we could only love as he loved, serve as he served, our lives and those of the people around us would be so much better. We simply need to commit ourselves to being like Jesus.

The problem with Example Jesus is that he is only a shadow of the real Person. Jesus didn’t come to show us how life is done. He came because no matter what we do, we can’t make life work. We don’t need an example to follow; we need a Redeemer to rescue us, to set us free.

Example Jesus is pretty close to Kinder, Gentler Jesus. This is the person some believe came to right the wrong of the angry god of the Old Testament who needed to repent for venting on people and committing genocide. Hence, Kinder, Gentler Jesus showed up, loving others and giving his life to make amends and to prove that god was different now–loving and willing to forgive instead of judge.

Kinder, Gentler Jesus misses the mark because he doesn’t have any explanation for all the stories the true Jesus told about “outer darkness” and a place where there was “gnashing of teeth.” The true Jesus also graphically described the day of judgment on many occasions–a day when goats and sheep will be separated, when wheat and weeds will be divided.

Some people counter with Mythical Jesus. He wasn’t a real person at all–simply the idea of a bunch of first century Jews who were dissatisfied with the status quo. They envisioned a Messiah who could do all kinds of amazing things like heal the sick, feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread, walk on water, order demons out of possessed people. Not that they for a minute believed he really did those things. They were creating a myth like Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan.

Mythical Jesus stands in contrast to Historical Jesus. This is the person some scholars who disdain the miraculous discover by stripping Scripture of all the “signs and wonders” the True Jesus says were evidences that He had in deed come from the Father. But no, the Historical Jesus was a wise teacher who stirred up many followers who later embellished his actions to make him worthy of acclaim as they went about talking him up. The Historical Jesus was pretty unremarkable. And of course, he never actually came out of his tomb alive.

I’ve only touched on some of the many different Jesuses that have arisen over time. And as I began writing this post, I realized there’s a whole book about them–My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos. I gave an idea of the number of Jesuses Matt discussed in one of my CSFF Blog Tour posts about the book:

Along with his own custom-built Jesus, Matt, the character, encountered King James Jesus, Political Power Jesus, 8-Ball Jesus, Peacenik Jesus, TV Jesus, Legalist Jesus, New Age Jesus, Free Will Jesus and any number of others belonging to the SSIJ (Secret Society of Imaginary Jesuses). There are even those who people invent for a specific reason and then discard “when they don’t need him anymore.”

How quickly I forget. Or perhaps I never connected the idea of “re-imaging” Jesus with this passage from Paul in 2 Corinthians. In reality, he says, anyone preaching a different Jesus is using the same deception that Satan used against Eve.

In the garden, the issue was “Has God really said . . .” Because Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God, Satan really hasn’t changed his tactic. He’s still questioning God’s Word: “Is Jesus really . . .”

Peter, who was in the perfect position to know, had this to say, which pretty much answers Satan’s charge:

For [Jesus Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God . . . for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:20-21, 23)

Is God’s word reliable? Both His written word and His Incarnate Word are reliable and true and enduring–the first for revelation, the second for salvation. There is no other Jesus whereby a person may be saved.

Published in: on July 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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Transformation: CSFF Blog Tour – Night Of The Living Dead Christian, Day 2

The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Matt Mikalatos‘s second novel, though I use the term loosely. Night Of The Living Dead Christian is like no other novel you’ll read, except perhaps his debut novel, re-released under the title My Imaginary Jesus. (You can view the original cover and read my review here).

The subtitle of Night Of The Living Dead Christian is “One man’s ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be truly transformed.” The tag line on the back cover is, “What does a transformed life actually look like?”

No beating around the bush here. This novel is less about the story and more about what Matt wants to say than any others I’ve read since I finished his first one. I like that about his books. It’s the same approach used by fathers of fiction such as John Bunyan. Few others besides Matt are doing it today. But I’ll discuss my reaction to it and why I think it works when I write my review tomorrow.

Today I want to focus my thoughts on the subject of transformation. As Night Of The Living Dead Christian clearly portrays it, the need for transformation is vital. We all are monsters of one variety or another.

Some people struggle against their monster-ness and seek transformation in any number of places — false religion, charitable activities, psychoanalysis. None of these activities, external or internal, can accomplish true transformation. At best we pretty up the monster to make him appear more respectable or hide him as best we can.

In the end, what we need, is the transformation that only Jesus Christ can bring. But what exactly does that mean? Some professing Christians say the change Jesus enacts is instantaneous and total. We have new life; the old has passed away. Consequently, the true Christian no longer sins.

That certainly would be radical transformation, and I think we all long for such. All we need to do is confess, and Jesus will do the rest. The fact is, anyone who claims he is living a sinless life is deceived.

Yes, absolutely Jesus gives new life, but like physical birth, becoming a new creature in Christ is a starting place, not a finishing place. It’s as if at the point when we turn to Jesus, we’ve crawled back up on the Potter’s wheel and laid our lives before Him so that He can remold us into the image of His Son.

The remolding process isn’t finished in a day. There may be days we don’t think there’s been any progress at all. We may look into the mirror of God’s word and be dismayed by all we see that needs to go. But that’s the nature of growth.

When we were little we couldn’t always tell that we were getting taller or more responsible or more independent. As Christians we can’t always tell when we are less selfish or prideful or unloving. We see Christ and we know we aren’t there yet, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. That doesn’t mean He isn’t ordering our lives in such a way as to bring about transformation.

Sometimes the growth comes in spurts, and we see dramatic change — which can then turn into a bit of a problem that can stunt our progress because we might think we’ve arrived, or we’ve figured this transformation thing out.

The truth is, it’s not actually a mystery. Paul says in Colossians that growth comes by holding fast to the head, which is Christ (see Col. 2:19). Peter says growth comes from God’s word:

like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2)

In fact, the word of God and its importance to the Christian is a theme in any number of books in the Bible. James says we are to abide in the word. Paul says we are to let the word abide in us, or “richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

Is transformation some kind of instant cure for our sin nature? Yes and no. Christ’s righteousness is now my righteousness, but I still don’t have any of my own. My motives are twisted, just as Paul described in Romans 7:

v. 15 – For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

v. 18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

v. 19 – For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

In chapter 8 Paul happily states that there is no longer condemnation for those who are in Christ. That’s the good news. But there’s still the matter of living transformed lives. After some digression, Paul comes back to the issue in chapter 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (v. 2)

Renewing our minds certainly seems consistent with abiding in the word of God.

Paul addresses the issue of transformation in his second letter to the Corinthians also, this time in respect to our looking to Jesus:

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cr 3:15-18, emphasis mine)

To summarize, transformation can’t happen apart from new birth, but it is resultant growth, not an instantaneous change. It comes from looking to Jesus Christ and engaging His word with our minds, with our lives. It’s also important to note that as long as we are alive we should be growing, so transformation isn’t a done deal here and now.

Tomorrow in my review I’ll let you know if my conclusions about transformation match up with those presented in Night Of The Living Dead Christian.

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