Awaken To The True Jesus Christ

“A false christ who is primarily for helping our children get on the honor roll, or mainly for helping us run our businesses for more profit, or is chiefly for improving our marriages and sex lives, is powerless to deal with the real and most important issue of all: our sin.” – Matthew R. Richard: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.

May the true Jesus stand up please?

BUD Collyer, Presenter: “In 1956, there was a television program, To Tell The Truth. Four celebrities had to get to know four strangers, all with the same name. Only one of the four was the real holder of the name. The other three people were actors. At the end of the game, the real person had to get up – often to everyone’s surprise.” 

During the modern information revolution and thousands of churches each advocating different doctrines and practices, our hearts instinctively cry out, “Will the true Jesus please rise!” If Jesus had to live today, where would He stay? What would He look like? What would He keep Himself busy with? With whom would He mingle and make friends? 

This is exactly what Matthew R. Richard contends to do in his book “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”. He names 12 False Jesus depictions that do not line up with the Biblical version: The Mascot, The Option among Many, The Good Teacher, The Therapist, The Giver of Bling, The National Patriot, The Social Justice Warrior, The Moral Example, The New Moses, The Mystical Friend, The Feminized, The Teddy Bear. 

Worshipping false Images of God

It is difficult to determine, what is more dangerous, idolatry (worship false Gods), or having false images of God.  

Many immature and ignorant seekers have become disillusioned with God because they believe in a false portrayal of who God really is.  

“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD) is a term coined by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their groundbreaking work, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers”, published in 2005. Their research, part of the larger National Study of Youth and Religion, delved into American teenagers’ religious beliefs and practices.

The following core beliefs characterize MTD:

1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. This God is generally perceived as a distant creator who does not intervene in human affairs unless needed to resolve a problem.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. The moral imperative under MTD is not rigorous or demanding; it simply asks individuals to be pleasant and kind to others.

3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. MTD places a high value on personal satisfaction and self-esteem.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem. Under MTD, God is seen as a divine therapist or cosmic problem-solver, called upon only in times of crisis.

5. Good people go to heaven when they die. This belief implies that eternal life is attained not through faith or religion but through being generally good and decent.

Smith and Denton argue that MTD has become the de facto dominant religion among contemporary teenagers in the United States, supplanting traditional Christian teachings with a belief system that emphasizes personal happiness and moralistic therapeutic benefits. MTD reflects broader cultural shifts towards individualism, consumerism, and a focus on personal well-being.

From a critical perspective, MTD can be seen as diluting the robust, demanding faiths it has ostensibly replaced. It reduces religion to a set of ethical guidelines and therapeutic benefits without demanding deep engagement with doctrine or community. For leaders and educators within the Judeo-Christian tradition, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity: the challenge of engaging with a generation shaped by these beliefs and the opportunity to present a more profound, demanding, and ultimately rewarding vision of faith that encompasses not just personal well-being but also communal responsibility, deep engagement with tradition, and a transformative relationship with the divine.

When Shane Claiborne and some of his theological friends asked themselves these same questions, they ended up in Kolkata, India, with Mother Teresa. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation that had more than 4,500 nuns. By 2012, they were active in 133 countries. The ministry managed homes for people who were dying of HIV/Aids, leprosy and tuberculosis. They also set up soup kitchens, pharmacies, mobile clinics, child and family counselling programs, as well as orphanages and schools. Nuns took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and also made a fourth vow: “to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.

In Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution, he writes of his journey to rediscover Jesus among the poorest of the poor. This book has taken my life on a completely different trajectory. It still challenges me today to be Jesus in my town, to mingle and make friends with the poorest in South Africa’s informal settlements. 

Building Frameworks of Understanding God

Your first encounter with God becomes your primary framework of how you perceive Him.  The many names of God prove this point, as each person named God after their experience with God. For instance, Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, called God El-Roi – the God who sees (Gen. 16:11-14); Abraham declared Him Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides (Gen. 22:13, 14). When Moses and Joshua defeated the Amalekites, they professed Him Jehovah Nissi – God our banner (Ex. 17:15, 16), and when the bitter waters of Mara became drinkable, the people knew Him as Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals (Ex. 15:25-27).

How God authentically reveals Himself to you for the first time (or in multiple successions thereafter) affects the framework by which you understand Him.  

People who have met God authentically and personally – in person or in small accountable groups – believe this is the best way to serve the Lord. Those who have accepted Him at a great evangelistic event believe that this is the essence of God’s heart. While this is, of course, partly right, we must remember that God is so much more! That is why the name of God YAHWEH announces, “I am what I am” (Ex. 3:14). It is still the best description of who God is. God is healing, but He is also punishment; God is salvation, but He is also judgment; God reveals Himself, but HE is also mysterious. These paradoxical aspects of His character are what makes Him ‘God’! We cannot locate Him, or limit Him in our framework of understanding.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The Simple Reality of Jesus

The danger of spiritual manifestations through the ages is that people tend to contain and repeat those original supernatural experiences because of the obvious benefit.  What was meant for good becomes an idol we worship. 

Although we all have stories of legitimate experiences with God, we should realise there is always more of Him to discover. Throughout time, people have built monuments to commemorate supernatural experiences, and eventually deviate from intimate relationship with God. Even Peter stepped into the trap on the mountain of transfiguration (Luke 9:33). As they were witnessing Jesus’ encounter with Elijah and Moses, he wanted to contain the experience by “building a hut”. This is how all idolatry begins – we want to contain the supernatural for ourselves.

Of the 293 times that the word ‘idol’ appears in the Bible, 39 are in the NT. Idolatry is always included in the lists of sins and works of the flesh (Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:5).  45 Times, there are warnings of False Christs, witnesses, prophets, apostles and even Satan disguising himself as an angel of the light.  Clearly, the emphasis has moved away from the foolishness of worshipping false, worthless, dead gods and idols to the more imminent danger of worshipping false images of God. 

We can become stuck only to worship, and love, one aspect of His person. In Chapter 2, we discussed that our primary calling is to worship Him, and follow and obey Him. Some find a way to worship God without obeying Him. This is a great deception: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1:22-24)

We tend to worship what we understand or experience in God, but there is always more! The simplest yet radical evidence of a person meeting with Jesus is a permanent transformation. You are never the same again! These radical encounters need to be continued as we continue to discover new aspects of His person every day, as we continue to journey with Him.   

A single encounter with Jesus is like waking up from your sleep in a wonderful technicoloured new environment and becoming aware of a completely different world. When you see Him, you recognise Him everywhere. The more you see Him and get to know Him, the more your perception of people and life changes. You now see yourself and the whole world in a different light. This awakening never stops. Each day, the Holy Spirit guides us through the Word and through His body of believers to awaken us anew to even more!

How We See Jesus

We see Jesus because the Scriptures reveal Him to us supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. We may also simply experience His love through another obedient follower of Jesus. Our encounters may result in the conviction of our sin, a healing of our hearts, or a revelation of God’s nature or heart. His love will reinstate us to a community of believers where we feel accepted in a congregation or small group. He heals us, frees us from evil, or helps us repair broken relationships. We discover ourselves in Him and find purpose and meaning!

It is all Jesus’ work – His grace. We must, however, be careful that our personal experiences of Jesus are not the only definition of Him. As we learn to worship Him in response to how He manifests Himself to us, we should continue believing Him for greater understanding, for it is by faith that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9). So, it is in expressing our love for Him that we should also obediently follow Him. There is always an action connected to our affection for Him. Jesus is a person: He is dynamic; He is paradoxical; He is God immeasurable; He is mysterious! Therefore, no one can get an exclusive grasp on Him and speak absolutely on His behalf (1 Cor. 13:12).

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

“But you,” He asked them, “who do you say am I?” (Mark 8:29).

It is of utmost and eternal importance that every human being makes sure that they are following the real Jesus.

“Oh, come, come, come into the presence of Jesus and wait on Him, and He will reveal Himself to thee. I pray God that He may use His precious Word. The presence of the Lord Jesus is the secret of the Christian’s strength and joy. Instead of indwelling sin, an indwelling Christ conquering it; instead of indwelling sin, the indwelling life and light and love of the blessed Son of God”. – Andrew Murray: Jesus Himself.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’.” (Matt. 7: 21-23).

Religion capitalizes on the “brand or name” of Jesus, but without the Person Jesus.

The Antichrist, or false-Jesus narrative, was a major problem in the origins of the Jesus movement, but is more so even today! (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; Mark 3:29; 1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). 

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (2 Tim. 3:5 NLT)

Jesus is like a lighthouse that blinks a warning on the horizon.  A sailor’s view in his boat is limited because of how the waves and currents carry the boat up and down. He might, at times, see the lighthouse and, at other times, only see the giant waves as the sailor is subject to the wind and waves, so Jesus is our ruler of life. Jesus is our guide, our plumb-line that pulls and keeps our lives on the straight and narrow. He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

You can never just ignore Him or put Him on hold. You cannot think you can keep building without referring to Him. He is the “blueprint” we regularly refer to, building our lives on Him as our immovable rock (Matt. 7:24-27). He is like the tuner of a musical instrument the musician uses to play distinctive and beautiful sounds.

To see Jesus rightly is therefore indispensable in every believer’s existence: 

“[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity].” (Heb. 12: 2 Amp.). 

May our spiritual ears and eyes become so enlightened and exercised, that we will immediately notice when we are “off-pitch”, and when we are no longer building accurately.

Biblical Witnesses

There is no single recipe or method by which God meets people and how He saves us. Some pray a sinner’s prayer, others simply raise their hands in surrender, others openly confess their faith. People repent in different ways, but God sees the heart. 

Jesus is the center, He is the focus, but He chooses how He reveals Himself to each person:

The Samaritan Woman: “The woman said to him, ‘Lord, I see that you are a prophet.’ (John 4:19).

The sinner on the cross: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).

John: “Then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also went in, and he saw and believed.” (John 20: 8; Rev. 1: 10-18).

Thomas:  “Because you saw Me, Thomas, you believed; Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).

The disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Then their eyes were opened, and they knew him, but he disappeared from their sight. Then they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn when he spoke to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”” (Luke 24:31).

Paul (Saul) on the road to Damascus: “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And trembling and astonished, he said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:5-6).

Peter’s reply to Jesus’ question: “But who do you say I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven'”. (Matt. 16:15-16).

John’s eye-witness testimony: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:1-4).

Without Christ…

  • Success without Christ is arrogance.
  • Church without Christ is a dead religion.
  • Education without Christ is an empty philosophy.
  • Healing methods without Christ lead to addiction and dependencies.
  • Humanity without Christ is humanism.
  • Laws without Christ are impractical legalism.
  • Prayer without obedience to Christ is a form of witchcraft.
  • Prosperity without Christ is materialism.
  • Unity without Christ is man-made Babylon.
  • Vision without Christ is ambition.
  • Working without Christ is slavery.
  • Worship without Christ is idolatry.

Christ is truly the centre of existence and the middle-point of all of creation. Adam demonstrated what happens when we live without Father God whilst Jesus demonstrated what happens when we live in, through and with Father God.

True or False?

Throughout church history, one clearly notices how through the fluctuation of times we are constantly being challenged to remain faithful and true to our faith. Like the tuning of an instrument, we can be either “on pitch” or “false”.

When we have really met Jesus and He is a reality, we are: 
  • free from addiction, destructive lifestyles and habits. 
  • in unity with believers. 
  • desire to share His love with others. 
  • propelled by grace to connect with regular, Holy Spirit-inspired corporate prayer and study of scripture
  • willing to endure persecution.
  • have an inner sense of right thinking and doing (wisdom) as Jesus did
  • drawn to be part of the community of faith and desire to grow.  
  • open to receive rebuke or discipline as legitimate sons of God.  
  • no longer ashamed of the Lord.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16).

The list can still go on. But it’s simple: Where Jesus lives and reigns, He changes us daily. The more we get to know Him, the more we know ourselves from God’s perspective. (see Col. 3:2).

How to discern the false Christs?

In a time where more and more well-known spiritual leaders are caught in some disgraceful misconduct, this is no easy task. Many of the most esteemed have been led astray or have been deceived by someone close in the inner circle. There are certainly many psychological blindspots that may have contributed. Scripture also give us clear directives.

  1. The Test of Alignment with Scripture – Like a plumb-line in a builder’s hand, Scripture serves as the unerring standard against which all teachings and spirits must be measured. In Isaiah 8:20, we find, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” This emphasizes the importance of aligning with the divine word. Similarly, the Bereans were commended in Acts 17:11 for examining the Scriptures daily to see if Paul’s teachings were true, embodying the critical engagement with spiritual teachings.
  2. The Test of Fruit – Jesus, in His wisdom, provided a botanical metaphor in Matthew 7:15-20, teaching us to discern false prophets by their fruits. Just as a tree is identified by its fruit, so too can the veracity of a person’s teachings or spiritual manifestations be assessed by the character and consequences they produce. “By their fruit you will recognize them,” Jesus declared, inviting us to observe the tangible evidence of divine workings in lives and teachings. How many new believers are welcomed into the faith through their direct influence? Are the leaders transparent, sharing their own struggles and vulnerabilities openly? How are they acknowledging and addressing their own sins or missteps? Are the spiritual gifts, as imparted by the Holy Spirit, still active among them, accompanied by fresh insights and revelations? Do they exhibit an undiminished fervour and earnestness in their love for God, placing Him above all else? Their actions ought to be a testament to selflessness and humility. Furthermore, one should also examine personal fruits of righteousness like: Personal Health, financial standing, children serving God, cleanliness, and neatness.
  3. The Test of Confession of Christ – 1 John 4:1-3 presents a litmus test for discerning the Spirit of God: acknowledging Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh is a hallmark of the divine spirit, whereas denial of this truth signals a spirit of antichrist. This criterion cuts to the heart of Christian confession, separating the wheat from the chaff based on Christological affirmation. In simple terms, Jesus reflected all the light, attention, and glory back to the Father, so true disciples connect people to God, not themselves. No man should be people’s saviour; no church should be built on the foundation of the pastor or a leader!
  4. The Test of Love and Unity – The epistles repeatedly underscore love as the defining characteristic of true discipleship. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul extols love as the greatest virtue, suggesting that without love, even the most spectacular gifts or acts are devoid of true spiritual value. John, the apostle of love, reinforces this in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The presence of genuine, selfless love serves as a beacon of truth.
  5. The Test of Doctrinal Orthodoxy and Apostolic Teaching – The early church was exhorted to adhere to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42) and to guard the good deposit of faith (2 Timothy 1:14). This continuity of doctrine, especially regarding the nature of God, salvation, and ethics, serves as a touchstone for discerning truth from heresy.
  6. The Test of Divine Wisdom – James 3:17 describes the wisdom from above as “first pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” True wisdom, as opposed to earthly wisdom, is marked by purity, peace, and righteousness.
  7. The Guidance of the Holy Spirit – Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 16:13). The indwelling Spirit provides discernment, illuminating the mind and heart to understand and embrace divine truths while rejecting falsehoods.

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