The message of genuine Christianity does not center around Jesus' messages but around Jesus the man. If Jesus is not who he claimed to be (God in the Flesh) and if he did not accomplish what he came to accomplish (bring us forgiveness of sins through his substitutionary death and resurrection), than there is no Christian message. This is one of the truths that sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
Think about it. Islam can exist without the prophet Mohammad. What I mean by that is that Islam teaches a way to God, and while that way was recorded by Mohammad, the fact of the matter remains that because Islamic teaching is centered on the message, anyone could have recorded it.
The same can be said for Moses and the Jewish Law, for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, for Siddhartha Gautama and Buddhism, or for any other of the world's religions. The only one that is the exception is Christianity, for the primary message of Christianity centers upon the person of Christ not his teachings.
Don't misunderstand that. Certainly we value the teachings and sayings of Jesus, and there is much to commend them. But the ground of Christian faith does not rest on those teachings but upon the teacher himself. Jesus claimed things that no other man dare claim - at least no sane man. To be sure, there have been men who have claimed to be God, but did their lives back up those claims? No. Jesus alone carries the credentials that give credence to his claims.
C.S. Lewis catches the essence of what I am saying when he writes, "On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other claims, which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions . . .The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the devil. We may note in passing that he was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects - hatred, terror or adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." "
Look again at two very important statements Lewis made. "We may note in passing that (Jesus) was never regarded as a mere moral teacher," and "There was no trace of people expressing mild approval." Lewis' point is well taken. How is it that those who met him never stopped and considered him a mere moral teacher, yet thousands who claim to follow him today do so solely on the basis of some of his moral teachings.
Notice I wrote "some of his moral teachings" in that last sentence. I find often that even those who claim to be Christians based on their belief in Jesus' teachings still do not follow fully those teachings. They pick and choose, accepting the things they agree with and discounting or ignoring the teachings they dislike. One such person use to write that he only followed the "things written in red" in the New Testament. But you did not have to read his writings long before you discovered that he also discounted vast portions of those written in red passages in order to reduce Jesus to a mere moral teacher whose morals were really good except for those he deemed as bad.
Today millions are content to follow Jesus as a great moral teacher, but they reject his clear claims concerning his nature. Let me be clear: no one is a genuine Christian who has not recognized that Jesus is Lord and God and that he is the only savior for the world. The over-riding message of the New Testament was not Jesus is a good moral teacher, but rather, "Jesus is Lord."
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org