People love to remake Jesus. We say “the evidence isn’t sufficient” or “the scriptures are wrong” or “who are we to say what Jesus was like” or “I just don’t think Jesus would ever <do, say, think, teach, etc.> that!”
In the book “Who is Jesus“, (a free epub download by the way) R.C. Sproul makes this statement when addressing our desire to remake Jesus into what we want Him to be (liberalism) instead of who He truly is (orthodoxy):
The problem is simple. It lies not with the “shoddy” reporting of the New Testament authors or the “sloppy” documents of history we call the Gospels. It was Emil Brunner, the Swiss theologian, who blew the whistle on nineteenth-century liberalism. Brunner’s verdict was as simple as it was inflammatory. The problem, he said, is unbelief.
Is your portrait of Jesus the one we find in the Scriptures or are you rekindling this nineteenth-century liberalism with unbelief? Are you cutting and pasting a Jesus together who is more to your liking? How do you decide what to believe about Jesus? What do you keep? Throw away?
If you don’t believe the biblical portrait of Jesus, it’s pretty simple – you don’t believe in Jesus in any meaningful sense of the name.
And so, related to this unbelief, Sproul asks a perfectly logical question:
Why don’t people who reject the New Testament portrait of Jesus simply abandon Christianity altogether?
That’s a great question! Why the desire to hang onto something you don’t believe? Unless your goal really isn’t belief at all, but instead, redefinition, and you feel that the best way to do it is to stay entrenched and change it from the inside out.
But Jesus will not allow that. A pantomime Jesus would, but not the true Jesus.
Being a Christian doesn’t allow you to say “Jesus was a nice guy, I think I’ll take the good and ditch the bad” or “Jesus was a great teacher, he showed us things about ourselves that make us better, but God? Nah, he was just a man like me.”
To be a Christian means to follow Jesus the Christ, and to strive to be like Him, not to make up a Jesus from bits and pieces of your imagination and follow that. You must follow Jesus as He truly is, as He has revealed Himself to us.
If you don’t know who Jesus truly is, He can be found – God’s word shows Him to us, and His Holy Spirit works in us to open our eyes to that wonderful truth! But if you have seen Him in God’s word and don’t like what you see so you try to “clean Him up” or “soften His edges”, it shows that you don’t really want Jesus at all.
Jesus will not change for you – you must change for Him. (Hebrews 13:8)
So, which Jesus do you desire? A Jesus who approves of your sin? A Jesus who doesn’t expect you to change? A Jesus who never says anything is wrong? A Jesus who would never offend?
That jesus may be the one you want, he’s not the one you need. You may even find that Jesus, but he’s either a figment of your imagination or a false Christ who cannot help you. We all need Jesus – the Jesus of scripture – the one true Jesus. Believe in Him or not, but don’t play “pretend Christian.” In speaking to a church at Laodecia a long time ago, Jesus, the true Jesus, said:
Revelation 3:15–18 (ESV) (15) “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Ultimately, playing Christian without being Christian is impossible because people are are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked and will not admit it. When you try to stand on your own strength, your own success, your own intelligence, your own wit, the longer you play, the harder it becomes. Jesus tells us all to either receive Him or reject Him, so we might as well stop playing around – it’s not like we’ll fool Him!
So, which is it?
Will you seek the one true Jesus as revealed in the bible? Will you believe all of Him, not just the parts that are easy? Will you die to yourself to become more like the one who calls you to give up your life in order to find it (John 12:24-25) ? If so, there is a path set before you – full of hills and valleys. Your guide is the Savior Jesus who will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). Sometimes it’s hard to see the end, but it’s there. Paradise. No more tears, no more crying, no more suffering, no more pain, no more death! Forever. (Revelation 21:1-5)
Or will you seek the “easy jesus”? The one you can mold into anything you want? The one who approves of even your sin? The one who doesn’t require anything of you that you are unwilling to do? The one who says “deny yourself nothing – you deserve it!” If so, there is a path set before you – full of hills and valleys. Your guide is your own strength, which will eventually leave you (Romans 8:5-8). Sometimes you refuse to see the end, but it’s there. Hell. Tears, crying, suffering, pain, death. Forever. (Mark 9:43-49)
This life ends. Eternity awaits you. Where will you spend it?