Three years ago, I wasn’t a very devout Christian. I spent most of my time focused on trying to get rich and on trying to get even with my enemies. I spent a ton of time working out. During this time I built a software product that I thought I could sell on my own and it was a disaster. We went almost 6 months without making a dime. We literally began to get to the point where we were having discussions around “do we sell our house?”, “should I quit being an entrepreneur and just try and go get a normal 9 to 5?”.
It was a soul searching time for me. In hindsight, it was good for me because during this time I began to notice that it really seemed like there was no contradiction of my lifestyle coming from any of the loudest of the Christian mouthpieces in my life, even tho I suspected (or knew) deep-down that the way I had been living was disordered and contrary to way of living prescribed by Jesus and the Apostles.
At one point I began to think to myself: “Aren’t we supposed to be different? Aren’t we called to a life of holiness?”
I must admit that I found myself really really confused but I turned to where I knew I could find Jesus and that was in scripture and pursuing the Lord in prayer and I did this for 40 days and during that 40 days, as I’ve talked about previously on this blog, and I found confirmation of what I had long suspected, and maybe even feared, was the truth.
What truth is that?
That today’s Christendom is full of “counterfeit Christs”.
What do I mean by that? I mean that many of our Christian role models, favorite authors, Christian musicians, thought leaders and many pastors routinely tell us about a Jesus who is always friendly, all-accepting and all-compromising.
This Jesus is our “buddy”. We’ll call him “buddy Jesus”.
He’s not there to judge but to accept.
He’s not there to rule but to relax and chill with you.
He’s not there to shepherd you but to condone your behavior.
What does this message sound-like or what are the things that “buddy Jesus” might say?
A few examples:
“Oh you couldn’t make it to church this morning because of the game last night? It’s cool man. I’ll catch you in February”.
“Hey man, don’t worry about it. We'll hang out when work slows down. I totally get it.”
“Hey man, I want you to live your best life now. YOLO!”
“Hey man, I died for all of your sins..even the ones you haven't committed yet so you don't need to repent.”
“Hey man, the ten commandments don't apply anymore. That whole Judaism thing was obviously a mistake.”
“Hey man, Game of Thrones is totally not porn. Enjoy!”
“Abortion is okay, I mean a woman has the right to choose…right?”
“I’m just here to love everybody and accept everybody and be everybody’s friend. Come as you are..heck I’ll come to you, you don’t have to change, I’ll bridge the gap for you. It’s all on me.”
My life was literally full of counterfeit Christs, the ones above and others.
You may be asking yourself “what’s wrong with this? Didn’t Jesus say ‘Live and let live’?”
No, he didn’t and this “buddy Jesus” isn’t the Jesus of the Bible either.
In Matthew 19 we see Jesus counsel the young rich man and tell him that not only must he keep all of the 10 commandments but that he must give up all of his most beloved possessions. In short, he must love Christ more than anything else in order to get to heaven.
In Matthew 21, Jesus stormed into the temple and turned over the tables because he was distraught at the corruption of those within.
In Matthew 10, Jesus tells us:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
The Jesus of the Bible was NOT a compromising man and he would stick to the truth even if it could have had the gravest of consequences.
One of the longest passages in scripture that demonstrates this is John chapter 6.
Now, you all know this story. Jesus feeds the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes and that’s where the story ends most of the time in Sunday school, but the chapter goes on and Jesus, after performing that miracle, decides that this is the time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
You have to understand there were three groups of people here besides Jesus:
The Apostles or “the Twelve”.
The Disciples, a group of a few hundred men who had been traveling around and living with Jesus for the past two years.
The Crowds, the people who just wanted free food.
Jesus knows the crowds have just followed him across the water because he could feed them, not because they loved him or were willing to completely submit their lives to him, so he chooses this point to bring the sword.
He begins in in verse 35 by saying:
“I am the bread that came down from heaven”.
Immediately, in verse 41, we see the Jews starting to murmur amongst themselves:
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
So “buddy Jesus” of course responded to them and said “My bad guys, I’m just being figurative.”.
Except, that’s not what he says. In verse 48, he doesn’t clarify but he emphasizes:
“ I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
And at this the crowds began to argue sharply amongst themselves saying :
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
But “buddy Jesus” didn’t come to their rescue. Jesus immediately triples down on the literalness of what he’s saying. From verse 53:
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
At this point, it is plainly obvious to the thousands that are there that Jesus is not only being literal but that he’s not going to change what he’s saying and it is more than they can take.
We see in verse 60:
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
And Jesus hears them grumbling asks:
“Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”
Where was Jesus before? (Heaven).
He’s basically telling them “I’m God..if I can turn 5 loaves and 2 fish into food for the multitudes and I can create the entire universe and everything in it, you don’t think I can give you my flesh to eat?”
And so in verse 66, we see the effect of Jesus refusal to compromise on this core teaching of the faith:
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
The crowds?…Yep..they left.
His disciples?….Yep, they all left too.
And when I read verse 67, it suddenly became very personal for me, as I could feel Jesus reaching out from the pages of John’s gospel and ask me, along with the apostles:
“Do you want to leave also?”
It’s really quite amazing that Jesus asks the apostles this. If the apostles had said “yes, we must leave as well” the Christianity that we know today would not even exist. There would be no New Testament Gospels for us to read. There would have been no Church that assembled and canonized the Bible, translated it and distributed it to the masses.
Jesus literally risks everything because the truth is unchanging.
This reminds me of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus from John 18 where Jesus says
“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
And Pilate responds:
“What is truth?”
That question, “Do you also want to leave?”, is the question that Christ gives to us all.
We, as Bible believing Christians, pride ourselves on saying “scripture doesn’t change”, “God doesn’t change”, etc, yet, via our counterfeit Christs, we are constantly changing the nature of Christ. We’re constantly normalizing and even accepting of the sin in our lives that we don’t feel like confronting, confessing, and repenting-of.
Yet, here is Jesus, plainly telling us all:
“If you don’t want to accept me, you’re free to go, but I’m not going to change, even if it costs everything. ”