When I was little, I used to ask my parents, “How can we be sure we’re right? Do Christians really have it right?”
As far back as I can remember, heaven and hell have always been very real to me. Despite my doubts, though, and by the grace of God, I never stopped believing in Jesus Christ as my Savior; but—boy—I could really work my twelve-year-old self into a tizzy with thoughts of hell, fire, and eternal separation from God . . . if I had it all wrong.
Thankfully, the older I got, the more I began to understand that Christianity does not require a blind leap of faith, for it’s a faith based on substantial evidence, especially when it comes to the reliability of Scripture and the crux of it all: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now, however, in today’s pluralistic world, there is another question I have to ask myself: Do I believe in the real Jesus Christ?
Do I believe in the Jesus of the Bible? Or do I believe in a Jesus of my own making—an idol in which I am more willing to place my hope and trust? Do I believe in the Jesus Christ who made exclusive claims that He alone is the way to heaven? Or do I believe in a Jesus who is more lenient and more concerned with my happiness and satisfaction in life?
While these might sound like silly questions, they’re questions that need to be asked and answered honestly. I’ve found this to be true especially when life comes knocking at my door and instead of bringing happiness, health, and wealth, it dumps on my doorstep broken relationships, scary test results, and difficult circumstances I don’t appreciate or understand—things that squash my hopes and dreams of what I think life should be. Things that make me wonder whether the Jesus of the Bible is really the Jesus I can count on and want to believe in.
Pastor Matthew Richard is the author of a new book called Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, and while that title causes me to chuckle, the book challenges readers to answer a very important question, the same question Jesus asked His disciples centuries ago: “Who do you say that I am?”
In sharing stories of his personal experiences with people who have conjured up all sorts of false christs in which they place their hope and trust, Pastor Richard explains that the answer many people today give to Jesus’ question is not “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.” Rather, their answers are, “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Good Teacher, the Moral Example, the National Patriot, the Mascot . . .” and the list goes on, one false christ after the other.
Taking each false christ in turn, Pastor Richard not only helps us recognize these false christs but also equips us to respond to them, whether in our own lives or in the lives of those we meet. At first, you, like me, might balk at the idea of believing in a false christ—or at the idea that they exist and are as prevalent as Pastor Richard says they are. But he explains that these idols are like all those Elvises who roam up and down the Vegas strip. These Elvis imposters look and sound like the real thing, but when you look closely, they couldn’t be further from the real King of Rock ’n Roll.
In the same way, we, as Christians, need to closely examine the Jesus Christ in whom we’ve placed our trust, because the reality is this: there are lots of false Jesus Christs roaming around our world, and Pastor Richard warns us that they’re making their way into our lives, our beliefs, and even our churches. These Jesus Christ imposters look and sound like the real Jesus of the Bible, but you may as well dress them up in bedazzled jumpsuits and blue suede shoes and send them on out to Vegas because they couldn’t be further from the real King of kings.
Yes, Pastor Richard presents us with the bleak reality that many people, including Christians, subscribe to false christs. But he doesn’t leave us to figure out our idolatry problem on our own. Time and time again, in every chapter, he reminds us that the real Jesus Christ is already standing. He says this: “It is important to understand . . . this widespread idolatry problem within North America and recognize the idols we must not worship in our own lives. Idolatry is a problem because we do not have a right to define Jesus according to our own presuppositions, our own philosophies, and our own desires. . . . What matters is what Jesus says about Himself. How we comprehend and how we define Jesus is dependent not upon popular opinion polls, social pressures, prevailing beliefs, political hopes, or mindless conjectures, but upon the proclamation of God’s Word—the Bible.”
I wish I could revisit my twelve-year-old self and remind her that what’s most important isn’t what the world tries to tell me about Jesus, but what Scripture says about Him. Who knows, maybe I still would have worked myself up into tizzies, but what’s important now is that I know, without a doubt, that the Bible is trustworthy, Christianity is true, and the Jesus Christ of the Bible is the real Jesus Christ.
Now I just have to make sure He’s the Jesus Christ I proclaim to the world.
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I encourage you to learn more about Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, and download a free excerpt.