Episode 2 - Distorted Versions of Jesus - Opening Up the Gospels

Last time I talked about the first reason why I wanted to present a series on the Gospels. That first reason was that to be a Christian means to know Jesus and His story. I talked about how our relationship with Him must have substance to it – real knowledge of who He is and what He said. We relate to our siblings or our spouses because we know real things about them – like what they enjoy eating and funny things they did when they grew up. Then the knowledge of those things causes us in turn to actually overflow with love for them. So if we say that Jesus really matters to us, that HAS to mean that the story of His life matters to us. How has it become so normal to call ourselves Christians and be able to quote so many lines from our favorite movies yet have so much apathy towards Jesus’ story? His life should be our obsession. I hope the last episode showed you how much of a contradiction it is to say we love Jesus more than anything and yet know so little about his life. Before we begin looking at the Gospels themselves, I want to continue today with some more introduction and give a second reason on why I’m doing this series, beginning from 2 Corinthians 11 verses 3 and 4. The Apostle Paul says: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) So in this passage, Paul is talking to the Corinthians about his concern for what they believe about Jesus and the gospel. He fears that in the same way Satan deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit that he would also lead the Corinthians away from the singularity of devotion to the Jesus that he preached to them. Because they are not firmly rooted in THAT Jesus, they are easily putting up with others who come and talk about a different Jesus and different gospel. Now if people who Paul preached to directly are accepting different gospels and different versions of Jesus, what does that say about us and our propensity to deception? If we don’t know the Jesus of the Bible, as the Bible makes Him out to be – and I mean the whole Bible – not just a few passages from Paul’s letters or from a few Old Testament verses on what He would do on the cross, we too run the risk of believing in what Paul calls “another Jesus”. Now I want you to see a very important word in verse 3. Paul is concerned that their “thoughts” might be led astray from what he had taught them about who Jesus was. The ESV translates it as “thoughts” and NIV and NASB translate it as “minds”. The point Paul is making is an obvious one – that we are led into wrong versions of Jesus by believing wrong things about Him with our mind. So how do we guard ourselves against deception and remain fixed and fastened on the right version of Jesus? It begins with real substantial knowledge of His life and His words in our MIND. Like I talked about in the last episode, the mind is where real substance is formed for any relationship. AW Tozer says “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”. I’ll expand that a little bit and say “What comes into our minds when we think about Jesus is the most important thing about us.” If we knew there was a battle going on for our minds and what version of Jesus we believe in, wouldn’t we want to do our part to make sure we are believing in the right Jesus? If we’re not grounded in the words He spoke, why He spoke them, what He did, and why He did it, how much do we really know the right Jesus? Getting to know Him is our responsibility and our part of the relationship. He didn’t finish that work at the cross and He’s not going to just randomly plop facts about His life and story in our mind. If this is the way we guard against deception, should we just be content with knowing a few good Sunday school stories? Why are His life, His words, and his teachings not vivid and lucid in our minds? We’re missing out on so much when we leave Jesus on the sidelines. So the second reason why I’m doing this series on the gospels and Jesus’ life is because, from my little vantage point here in Western Christianity, I see so many different versions of Jesus that are being preached today that are not the Jesus of the Bible. Many of us first heard of Him and then were led through some variation of the classic sinner’s prayer: “Jesus died for your sins, so just pray this prayer and accept Him into your heart. You just have to realize who you are!” After just a quick prayer all of a sudden whoever prayed it is a “Christian”. But instead of being set on a path to grow in real friendship with the glorious Jesus of the Bible, many on to meet so many different versions of Jesus – One is Jesus the heavenly banker who wants to give them lots of money, another is Jesus the divine doctor who is all about healing their body, another is Jesus the zealous crusader fighting against Satan to end poverty and injustice, and still yet another is Jesus the happy life coach that gives them His grace to succeed and have abundant life now in this present evil age. There’s dozens more versions of Jesus I’m sure you’ve heard of. But are any of these the real Jesus that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John told us about? When Jesus is seen in the context of His life and story in the Gospels and the greater story of Genesis through Revelation, we can see how flawed many of these distortions of Jesus are. We want to be on guard against believing in “another Jesus” because wrong versions of Him have the potential to lead us into disillusionment when He does or doesn’t do things we expect Him to. So much theological error could be avoided if we were grounded in who Jesus really was, why he came, what he said, and what he did. Our biggest problem related to Jesus is not insincerity – it really is just ignorance. Along with our sincerity of heart, we need to use our minds to study Jesus – and when I say study, I don’t necessarily mean entering into this dry academic endeavor, but I mean study like we would study the beauty of a flower or a sunset. We need to immerse our hearts in the details of Jesus’ life so that our hearts can become enthralled and overwhelmed by Him and His glory. The true picture of Him we see in the Gospels is so glorious and so stunning in so many ways, and Satan has robbed us of the joys of real friendship with Him through our neglect of the Gospels and through our belief in “another Jesus”. As i said in episode 1, knowing Jesus for who He is as the Bible makes Him out to be is not complicated… It just requires an attentive heart, some regular time in reading and prayer, and an eagerness to be thrilled by God. Knowing Him in truth is what will stir us to pray, to rejoice, to tremble, and especially to long for the day He is here with us again – where we get to hear His words with our own ears and see His face with our own eyes. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about in the next episode – the third reason why the Gospels must be important to us. To know the Jesus of the Bible is to actually miss Him and long for Him to be here.