Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

July 28, 2010 at 7:56 am 2 comments


One of my favorite lines from the movie “Talladega Nights” comes when Ricky Bobby says a prayer.  He opens, “Dear eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus, in your golden, fleece diapers, with your curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air…”  At such a sappy, sentimental, and wholly inaccurate conception of Jesus, Ricky’s friend Chip is mortified.  He says, “He was a man!  He had a beard!”  Ricky responds, “I like the baby version the best, do you hear me?”

Ricky’s response to Chip, though humorous, is all too seriously indicative of the way many people treat Jesus.  Jesus is fine with the world, as long as the world is allowed to make Him over in its own image, rather than the people of the world being made in His image.  The precedent set in Genesis is reversed:  “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).  But we want none of this.  So we change the text to read, “So we will have god in our own image and on our own terms.  A macho god, a feminist god, a baby god, a senile, grandfatherly god, we will make him and make him over.”  This, of course, is rank heresy.  But it is widely palatable and even widely peddled.  After all, who doesn’t want a god who always agrees with them?  As Anne Lamott quips, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

But the real God has a funny way of resisting the efforts of those who want to make Him over.  Just ask the Israelites what happened to their golden calf.  It is with this in mind that I found this quote from Michael Horton to be especially salient:

The Gentiles love wisdom, so show them a Jesus who is smarter at solving the conundrums of daily living and the church will throng with supporters.  Paul says that his Jewish contemporaries love signs and wonders.  So tell people that Jesus can help them have their best life now, or bring in the kingdom of glory, or drive out the Romans and prove their integrity before the pagans, and Jesus will be laureled with praise.  Give them some moral wisdom from your own faith tradition that might help them be better parents and spouses, and they might listen – as long as your provide suggestions and not commands on the basis of which God will judge on the last day.  But proclaim Christ as the Suffering Servant who laid down His life and took it back up again, and everybody wonders who changed the subject.  But the church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and His deeds of salvation. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 141)

Now certainly, the Scriptures give us much fine and even transcendent guidance on how to live our lives. Indeed, the Scriptures are replete with ethical concerns. But the Scriptures to do not stop at and with mere ethics. No, the Scriptures find their goal in Christ. And the Church’s job is to proclaim Christ, God’s Son, as He wants to be proclaimed: as the Savior of the world.   For finally, He will be proclaimed as no one less and in no other way.  And finally, we can be saved by no one less and in no other way.  Praise be to God for that.  Praise be to the real God, that is.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  July 28, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi, Zach!

    Quite possibly the greatest abomination to infiltrate the Church in the last 100 years is The Power of Positive Thinking. If I were to take all the prosperity gospel boys and girls, all those who like to preach about 10 steps to save your personal health, and all those who say that God really wants to bless you, so you need to get your life in order, all of them, I believe, have their roots in the positive thinking stream. All of them have the common theme of “I can make God give me these things.”

    Unfortunately, there is one massive problem with a three letter word: sin. Our biggest problem, no matter how much the roof leaks or how much I fight with my wife, is really sin. That means I’m not in charge, and my sin problem is really a problem with God that I cannot solve.

    God being created in the image of man is nothing new, but it certainly has blossomed in my lifetime. But, that also mean, if God’s created in my image, then sin is no longer my biggest problem. A national news magazine, Newsweek I think, once published an article in which it said that the world no longer has a concept of sin because churches are failing to proclaim it. Don’t you just love it when the world hands the Church its head?

    If we’re going to be honest, the preaching of the Church should never be about how to get what we pray for, or what needs to be done to make our marriage better. For the first, get a trash can, for the second, have a Bible class.

    The preaching of the Church is really singular in its approach: repentance and faith, Law and Gospel, sin and grace. The preaching of the Church calls sinners to repentance and directs them to Christ, who lived, and suffered, and died to redeem us lost and condemned creatures.

    One more thing: If we’d like to see who fails greatest in its belief that we are made in God’s image and not the other way around, each of us needs only to look in the mirror.

    Reply
  • 2. zachkvet  |  July 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Well said, Kevin! And very important to remember! We only know what we need when we can say, “I, a poor, miserable sinner,” not, “I, a relationally challenged, planning deficient, self-unactualized pretty good guy who need a little help.” It is only when we understand ourselves as poor, miserable sinners that the righteousness revealed apart from the Law in Jesus Christ is truly sweet!

    Reply

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