Friday, August 3, 2012

The Number One Reason People Don't Know Jesus

I remember sitting in my very first Bible class at Moody Bible Institute and my professor saying that each and every year, the students the professors see get more and more biblically illiterate. As time has gone on in American church culture, the Bible has become less and less read, is the object of less and less reflection, and is less and less understood. He then went on to say that we would learn more Bible in one year than the average pew-sitter would learn in twenty or thirty years. That was a very sobering thought.

But what is even more sobering is this: These same people still want to form theological and ethical theories based upon their limited knowledge of the Bible. In other words, lack of a biblical worldview and the information it provides does not stop these illiterate "Christians" from forming theological perspectives, including perspectives about who Jesus is.

Unfortunately, however, because they don't have at their base the actual Bible that tells us who Jesus is, they end up constructing a Jesus out of their own preconceived ideas of what is good and "Christ-like." What we end up with is a Jesus that is very much like the ideals of our culture and a complete rejection of the true Jesus when who He really is conflicts with the Jesus of our cultural ideals.

This is likely the reason why we often see in threads the condemnation of things that the real Jesus taught or are consistent with what He would teach, as "unChristlike." Christ ends up being one of the most unchristlike people in the world when He speaks in a way that is less than our postmodern ideals of speech require to be deemed "godly."

I recently commented on a thread where the two Jesuses (one of our culture and the One of the Bible) were being upheld by two different sides of a debate by saying something like the following.

It is interesting to see the two different Jesuses evidenced in this thread. One actually lived and lives today, and the other one had a show on PBS with a trolley and the land of make-believe. Unfortunately, that one can't actually save you.

That pretty much sums it up. Mr. Rogers is just the type of person our culture would accept as Christ. He is Jesus to our culture. But the Jesus revealed by the Bible, i.e., the only One that actually exists and can save, is often in conflict with our cultural ideals, because He is often in conflict with our sin nature that distorts what is good and makes it evil and what is evil and makes it good. We are children of a generation that has called the sun "the moon" and night "day." And so we call our ideals "Jesus," and the real Jesus "evil."

We begin to understand the Lord's words then that the culture will consider us devils precisely because it considers the Ruler of our household, the Lord Jesus Himself, Satan. In Satan's world, he is the good guy, and so the Lord of life and good becomes the bad guy. Hence, we are the bad guys when we repeat and expound upon what He taught, especially if we teach it in the same way that He did.

So it's not that people don't know a "Jesus," many times constructed out of either pure cultural ideals or by using cultural ideals as our interpretive grid through which the biblical revelation of the Lord is strained and filtered until it meets our criteria of what is "Christlike." It's just that they don't know the Jesus, the unfiltered, real Jesus of the Bible, who alone has defeated death and all of the evil we consider "good" and acceptable.

What we need is a humble spirit toward God's Word that would not only cause us to be teachable to it when we read it, but that causes us to read it more thoroughly in the first place. If we have the Spirit of God then we will be compelled to the Bible and the real Jesus, even though the real Jesus may condemn our false messiahs, i.e., ourselves and those we, in our fallen minds, have considered "Christlike."

In the end, the real Jesus is the monogen─ôs, the unique Son of God, who cannot be multiplied nor replaced, even by a Jesus who is more accommodating to our cultural and sinful ideals. And we better learn this fast, as we may end up on judgment day discovering that we never knew the real Jesus at all, and hence He will declare that He never knew us as well. 

For if one comes and preaches another  Jesus  whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear [this] well . . . For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Cor 11:4, 13-15)


  1. Yes! This issue has been even more highlighted for me these last 2 weeks as "the debate" has continued on and on (and on and on). I have seen SO MANY "Christians" on both side misuse scripture. So many who claim Christ twist Him into someone they are comfortable with, who fits their own template. Jesus said the world would hate His followers because they hate Him. He is no Mr. Rodgers. The gospel is offensive and it is time for Christians to come to grips with that.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Can you provide the link to the thread you commented on?

  3. Emily: You're absolutely right. We're in big trouble here, as we are fastly loosing the ability to distinguish the Lord Jesus from our idealized versions of ourselves. It's the height of our narcissistic culture. Even Jesus would think and act like me in my more idealized form because my ideals are best. Why need God's Word if we already know what Jesus is like? We end up perpetuating the fatal mistake of neglecting God's Word by setting ourselves and our culture as the standard for what dictates who Christ can be.

    Truth: I believe it was a comment on this post:

  4. Thanks Bryan. I'm glad to see Rebekah Wilson take Rachel Held Evans to task.