Who is Jesus to you? Careful how you respond, because how you answer will speak volumes, as to how you live your life. This relevant question is not a new one. Jesus asked this same question to His disciples:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’” (Matthew 16:13-15).
It is supremely important that we walk daily in the knowledge of who Jesus is. This knowledge translates into correct believing and correct living. This knowledge, at least in part, consists of consistent Bible study. Scripture is very clear in this respect:
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
At other times, our knowledge can be based on our experience. The more we get to know Him, the more we learn about who He is:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The Danger of False Teaching
Here is an important question, however: Should what we learn of Him through study or experience betray what Scripture actually says about Him? While correct teaching begets correct believing, what happens when there is no correct teaching? There is one Scripture in particular that serves as both a divine command and a solemn warning:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
This verse answers the question: Is doctrine important? While some in the body have formed the opinion that doctrine is not essential, here we see that if we are told explicitly to rightly divide the Word, then adversely there exists the possibility of wrongly diving the Word. Believing a wrongly divided Word can result in forming and drawing wrong conclusions about Jesus Himself. This is because Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the Word of God.
Unfortunately, there are many who have fallen under the pall of false teaching, and have done this very thing. In so doing, they have created a “curated Savior.” This means that they have taken wrong information concerning Jesus, as to who Jesus is and what he has accomplished on the cross on our behalf, and “carefully” created their own brand of Jesus. He becomes a Jesus who fits their lifestyle, and pattern of belief.
Some of these wrong conclusions concerning are disturbing, to say the least. While forming wrong opinions about Jesus is commonplace, and should even be expected by those who are unbelievers, this should not be the case with believers. Paul the apostle warns us about the possibility of “another Jesus:”
“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:4).
Carefully note the connection Paul makes between the Christ and the gospel, because in essence Christ is the gospel. To the Christians in Galatia, Paul makes an even sterner exhortation, with dire consequences attached:
“Which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:7-9).
The child of God needs to exercise extreme caution regarding who they allow to speak into their lives because false teaching is rampant in the Church; we want to make sure that we are serving the Jesus of the Bible.
What Does a Curated Jesus Look Like?
A curated version of Jesus will inevitably add or take away from who Scripture says He is. Just a few examples are as follows:
The Tolerant Jesus
“We shouldn’t take sin so serious,” some say. “The Lord doesn’t want us to live with a sin-consciousness. And besides, it would offend Him because He’s already forgiven us once and for all.” How dangerous and deadly this is!
To serve a Jesus who is tolerant of our sin, because of an erroneous belief that we no longer need to seek forgiveness for our sins? This is not the Jesus of the Bible; a Jesus who winks at sin, and robs Him of His most intrinsic value, which is His holiness. This is a Jesus that pleases those who are undiscerning, because they have somehow glossed over truth:
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
This unfortunate curation also takes for granted the grace of God. Paul also warns us of this error:
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).
We must never take grace for granted, believing that it somehow gives us license to sin. The bottom line on this is simply that Jesus will not and does not tolerate sin. He is yet merciful, and compassionate, and will work with us in any struggle, as we continue to place our faith in Him, because He longs to forgive.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
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The Passive Jesus
I was surprised years ago to find out that not everyone believed in a literal rapture of the Church. We understand that the word “rapture” is not found in our English versions of the Bible, but when we read Scripture, we are left with an undeniable truth that He is coming back for His Church:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
We read these words and are comforted as Scripture says, but some have created and carefully fashioned a Jesus who is not coming back again until we say He can. This is a weak Jesus and a passive Jesus, waiting on man to bring the world around to readiness before He can act.
One of Dominion Theology’s principle mandates states that we are to prepare the world for Christ to come and set up His kingdom on earth. My purpose in this writing is not concerned with laying out the specifics; however, it should be made clear that we are not to force feed the gospel on to the world. We are to simply preach it under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, trusting Him to do what only He can do—the gospel is the catalyst.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).
It does not actually matter when you believe He will come really, but it is imperative that we understand that He is not waiting for us—rather we await His return.
“While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
The Happy Joy Jesus
I do not use this particular phraseology to demean the name of the Lord in any way, but I am describing the reality of those who only see a Jesus who is upbeat, and like the tolerant version of the Lord, does not judge sin. Some prefer an easy-going Jesus, who promotes love and happiness almost exclusively.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Those having “itching ears” are satisfied with “candy” sermons which don’t challenge, but simply make us feel good; about ourselves and about life. Our goal in the Christian life is to grow spiritually as we come to know Him more. The mindset featuring this curated Jesus is counter-productive to growth, and will not result in us living the type of life that pleases the Lord.
By no means is this small list meant to be exhaustive. There will be many who will pick and choose what they want to believe concerning the Lord, and this is unfortunate, but here is something to remember as it concerns the child of God: not only should the full counsel of God’s Word be preached, but the same full counsel should also be received. By examining ourselves and examining our doctrine, we can avoid becoming involved with a curated Christ, or even creating one of our own.
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Michael Jakes is an Associate Pastor, Bible teacher, and writer. He is co-founder of That’s The Word! Ministries, a distinctly Cross-centered outreach. He hosts several live weekly podcasts, including "The Bible Speaks Live," and "The Cutting It Right Bible Study." Michael is also the author of two books, The Lights In The Windows, and Churchified Or Sanctified? He and his wife Eddye have been married for over 40 years, and reside in New York. You can follow him on Facebook and Youtube and listen to his podcasts on Spreaker.