We live in an age that is prone toward a distortion of Jesus. Years ago, a song was written entitled "Dressing Up Jesus," and the message of the song is that we have a tendency to make Jesus what we want him to be. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago wrote, "The Jesus whose biography is found in the New Testament is being treated like putty in the hands of those who wish to refashion him to fit their particular view of the world," (Lutzer, Erwin, "Slandering Jesus," Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, 2007 Ill., p. 4).
He's right. We want a Jesus who is more in-tune with the times: one who blends nicely with our modern definition of tolerance - one who stands for nothing but niceness and condemns no one for sin.
The Jesus wanted by the world is a Jesus who will allow us to call our own shots, who never insists that we must bow to his authority, and who will never, ever, ask us to stake our eternal destinies on his claims. The Jesus being painted by many today is a Jesus meek and mild who smiles at every aberration and never condemns, never judges, but supports us whatever way we happen to want to go.
According to surveys I have been reading, the majority of professed Christians today hold a view of Jesus that is anti-Biblical, diabolical and totally unworthy of the man they claim to follow. For most, Jesus is seen as simply another good moral teacher: a religious ethicist who was ahead of his time and who in time became a legendary figure, some of whose teachings are worth following. Tragically, many are content with that wholly inadequate view of the man they claim to follow.
Sam Harris, an avowed atheist and author of the book "Letters to a Christian Nation," seems to have a better grasp on Jesus then most of those who claim to be his followers. He writes, "Either Jesus offers humanity the one true path to salvation (John 14:6) or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe that all other faiths are mistaken, and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief, I should expect to suffer the torments of hell." Harris grasps clearly what a vast majority of professing followers of Christ do not, namely, that true Christianity is wrapped up in the person of Jesus and not merely the teachings of Jesus.
If Jesus is not who he claimed to be, then he is not our Savior. In fact, if Jesus is not who he claimed to be, then he is not even one way to Heaven let alone the exclusive way. Harris understands that, but we have people in our churches and even pastors who miss that point. We have people who claim to be Christian while at the same time denying the central claims of the Christ they profess to follow. You may think it bigotry to claim that Christ is the only way to heaven, but before you level that claim at his followers, you must first lay the claim at Jesus' feet, because he is the one who made the claim.
In fairness there are those who approach the scriptures with their little Exacto knives cutting out anything they happen to disagree with - that's how we've arrived at the designer Jesuses in the first place. If they can't ignore a particular claim, they simply remove it under the guise of modern scholarship which in reality is not good scholarship at all but a thinly veiled attempt to create a Jesus they can live with; a Jesus they can control.
While one may be quite content to have one of these false designer Jesuses on their religious shelf, the day will dawn when they realize the inadequacy of such a Jesus. Only the Jesus of Scripture has the power sufficient to meet your needs. Cherry pick if you must, but realize that such a fabricated Christ will not be able to rescue you from judgment.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.