THE AMERICANIZATION OF JESUS

“It is quite an education when I consider the degree of anger and hostility I get from “Christians” when I simply point out the ethics that Jesus taught, you know, ‘red letter’ stuff, like, love your enemies, do good to them who spitefully use you, etc. People will dodge, dance, resist, resent, fight, attack, slander, and any number of other lovely “Christian” behaviors for the right to cling to retributive justice and other unbiblical and ungodly beliefs, especially when Jesus’ ethics challenge their own. Once when dealing with an elder’s wife on an issue, I pointed to what Jesus said (in context, properly exegeted), in her own “red letter” Bible, that was contrary to what she was believing, clinging to, and fighting me about. Her exact words to me: ‘My Jesus is not like that.’ Precisely, that is the problem.” Dr. Stephen Crosby

The Church presents Christ as the therapist, the banker, the philosopher, the friend, the hippie, the social activist, the look-the-other-way zero-accountability spiritual figure.

Why are the majority of people in the West so confused or deceived about who Jesus really is? Why do they seem to have so little depth or spiritual substance in their lives? Why can’t these people’s Christianity go beyond, “Jesus said, ‘do not judge’?” Is it not in large part due to the distorted message of Him that our pulpits, our preachers, and our churches are presenting? Is it not for the lack of example we’ve had in many Christian leaders? Similarly, the reason for much of today’s current moral and cultural malaise stems from the Church’s distorted message of the Christ.

The image of Jesus for many professing Christians has been shaped by the society around them. Unless you have an intimate relationship with the Holy One and His Word, the image you have of Him will be distorted. It will resemble the pop culture you live in and what the people of that culture worship. In the West, self is god. Corruptible man is worshipped. Humanism rules. And this is what we see in much of today’s Church.

If a professing believer does not want to give up his carnal, sinful lifestyle and adhere to the Lord’s ways, he can just create an image of God that makes room for his sinful lifestyle. It is a very subtle deception that comforts and consoles him in his carnality and sin by saying things like, “God knows my heart,” or “God understands my struggles.” These types of comments, however, are usually made as a way of defending his lifestyle and justifying his carnal appetites. Is the Jesus you serve a product of your own desires patterned after this world, or is He the true presence of the Living Word of God in your life?

Image result for images of who is the real jesus

For example, divorce is now a rampant part of our Western culture, and the divorce rate in the church is nearly equal to that in the world. Many professing Christians find an unscriptural excuse to leave their spouses, and, in contradiction to the will of God, they forsake the vows they once made. And now that our culture is deteriorating to levels of sexual anarchy, professing Christians are claiming that one can also be gay and be a Christian. This is what happens when professing Christians flow with the spirit of the world. The image of God in them changes.

Emil Durkheim, the classic father of sociology, wrote extensively about totemism. Totemism is derived from the word “totem,” which is a natural object or an animate being, such as an animal or bird, assumed to be the emblem of a clan, family, or group. It can be an object or a natural phenomenon that a family considers itself to be closely related to; a totem serves as a distinctive mark of that group or family. Totemism is the belief in the kinship of groups or individuals having a common totem and the rituals, taboos, and practices associated with such a belief.

Durkheim described totemism as the human tendency to form a conception of God in our own image. He said that oftentimes human beings, whether they are jungle tribes or sophisticated city dwellers, will take the values and traditions that they admire most about themselves and project them onto a totem. Eventually, they stand in awe of that totem and end up worshipping an incarnation of the things they love about themselves. This is what people do with the image of God. We create an image of a god whom we can relate to and who cares about the same things we care about.

During the days of Moses, Israel was living in an environment that worshipped images of animals and creeping things, and so a golden calf was fashioned from the people’s gold and worshipped (Ex. 32). “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:22-23). Their culture influenced and shaped their image of God. If you don’t stay in God’s presence and in God’s Word, being a doer of it, the same thing could happen to you.

Beware of idolatry and changing the image of an incorruptible God into corruptible man.

In the West, worshipping golden images of animals and insects is not as prominent. As I stated, we worship something more subtle: self.

The fewer preconceptions we bring from the outside to the reading of the gospels, the more clearly we shall see Him as He really is. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination — an inoffensive Person whom no one could dislike or disapprove of, and certainly whom no one would ever crucify.

But the Jesus we meet in the gospels is far from being an inoffensive person. On the contrary, He caused offense quite frequently. Even His loyal followers found Him to be offensive at times, even disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety.

An inaccurate, distorted, and unbiblical view of Jesus is a big reason why many pastors fail to confront sin in the Church and speak of the evils in our society.

When asked why pastors don’t speak out against the evils in our nation and government, one influential pastor said, “I think one reason is a lot of Christian leaders have the wrong idea about Jesus. They see Jesus as this little, wimpy guy who walked around plucking daisies and eating birdseed and saying nice things, but never doing anything controversial.

“The fact is, Jesus did confront his culture with truth — and he ended up being crucified because of it. I believe it’s time for pastors to say, ‘You know, I don’t care about controversy, I don’t care whether I’m going to lose church members, I don’t care about building a big church. I’m going to stand for truth, regardless of what happens.’”

At times, the greatest love we can demonstrate is in rebuke. Conversely, at times, the greatest cruelty we can demonstrate is in never confronting sin or evil.

“Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said. If you read His words assuming otherwise, then you are not encountering the real Jesus.

This is an excerpt from the fourth book of a compelling tetralogy called The Real Jesus. The other three books are The Real Salvation, The Real Spirit of Revival, and The Real Gospel. These books expose the falsehood that has creeped into the Church today and defiled it. They will help purify your walk with the Lord and increase your love for the truth.

 

THE ABUSE OF HONOR

This piece may get me in trouble with those in the world of Christendom who crave honor. But if you imitate the Master you will love and appreciate the following Scripture very much. 

“I receive not glory from men [I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame]…” (John 5:41 — AMPC).

I believe in honor. The Scriptures have much to say about it. I believe in giving honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). I believe in honoring worthy leaders, especially those of high character who labor in the Word and prayer. In fact, double honor is encouraged for them (1 Tim. 5:17). 

In one form or another, however, all my Christian life I’ve heard plenty of messages on the necessity of honoring leaders. What I don’t remember ever hearing is on the abuse of honor and the inequality of it. Please allow me to explain. 

Case in point, who gets the best parking space at church? Who gets the best seats in the sanctuary? Who has the finest office? Who gets special days of appreciation in their honor? Who gets the most attention on their birthday and anniversary? Who gets access into the VIP lounge after special services?

Is it the dear single godly mother who is busy working two jobs to support her two children? Is it the humble couple who are caring for their invalid father or mother-in-law? Is it the church handy man who services the poor and needy at no charge? Is it the saintly widow who regularly visits the nursing home and cares for the forgotten of society? Is it the local working soul winning evangelist who is not on church staff payroll, but puts in more hours per week ministering to the poor and homeless than they do sitting in their plush offices? Sadly, in most cases, it is not.

Why this seemingly inequality? Why this lack of balance? Do esteemed leaders have need of more honor and esteem? I think not. Read these verses carefully:

“And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:23-25).

When honor does not also flow to those parts that have need of honor we are standing on unscriptural and ungodly ground. Again, I take no issue with honoring leaders. The problem is in many circles the gross overemphasis and spotlight is usually on them, and hardly ever on those who most need it. And it is the constant glaring example of the former is always before us. 

How did we become so uneven? 

Let me share what I believe has greatly contributed to this imbalance. Be warned; this will irritate our glow-in-the-dark celebrity ministry icons.

COULD THE MODERN APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC MOVEMENT BE THE CULPRIT? 

I believe the modern apostolic and prophetic “movement” has to take much of the blame for this. The flagrant overemphasis on apostolic “alignment”, prophetic “counsel”, pastoral “covering”, and spiritual “fathering” and “sonship”, although it contains a truth, is excessive and extremely overstated — at least in the world of Charismatic-dom.

I neither have time nor space to delve into the intricacies of this convoluted doctrine that borders on the heretical, but I’ll offer some admonition. 

Jesus warned us, actually forbid us, from the use of inflated titles, false prestige, and inordinate reliance placed upon men acting as mediators and brokers for the favor and blessings of God in the lives of ordinary believers and up and coming young leaders. 

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10).

The modern apostolic, prophetic, and even pastoral policies of honor are in many cases quite dishonorable and some are downright abusive. Apart from the rebellion and dishonor found in some members of the body of Christ, it is also littered with hurt and disillusioned believers who have been abused by church leaders and authority figures. 

Take the theme of spiritual “fathering”. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “son in the house”? It’s a term to describe the supposed loyalty of a believer to align himself in submission and service to his “spiritual covering,” whether it be the “apostle of the house” or the ambitious pastor pushing for the same. Most of the time it’s not a spiritual “covering” but a spiritual “smothering”.  

This teaching is usually presented as a spiritual concern for the success of  upcoming young leaders, but it’s often veiled by the real issue at hand — the need for preeminence among ignorant and insecure “spiritual fathers” and the protection from the hurt and betrayal of unfaithful sons or so called “Absaloms” or a “Judas”. The fact is, Jesus had a Judas, and so will every spiritual leader at some point in his life and ministry. 

Apostles and pastors/leaders who set up authority structures and father-son ministry paradigms to insulate themselves from the betrayal or personal hurt of an “Absalom” or a “Judas” are actually working against the principle of death and resurrection that will greatly aid in transforming them into the image of Christ. Stop trying to save your life and save your ministry. 

TRUE SPIRITUAL COVERING

This is what true spiritual covering is. 

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13”17).

The word “obey” those who have rule over you, implies obedience learned and earned through trust. 

Again, please hear my heart. I am 100% for the principle of honor and honoring true leaders, and there may be a lack of honor for leaders in certain places where teaching is needed, but I believe the lack is on the other end. The less honorable and less presentable parts need more honor, so “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”

Why are we addressing the abuse of honor and highlighting the apostolic and prophetic ministry? Because if the Church is going to be transformed from an ego-centric, entrepreneurial, consumer-based ministry to a Christ-based community, the example of it must begin with this foundation of authentic apostolic ministry and true fathers of the faith, who though they be less loved will “the more abundantly love others and will very gladly spend and be spent for their souls” (2 Cor. 12:15).

The modern apostolic and prophetic movement needs maturing. When we see maturity there, we will see it everywhere else.  

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THOUGHTS ON FASTING: YOU LOVE EVERYONE YOU LOOK AT

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him… (Mark 10:21).”

Deeper and more consistent fasting leads to a transformation of love. Perhaps this is the most forgotten benefit of fasting.

The outward man cracks like a shell. The inward man’s life oozes out. The heart softens and melts as you submit to Jesus. Intimacy with Him becomes your obsession. Beholding His magnificent beauty becomes your quest.

Fasting is hard on the flesh but removes impurities and hindrances that hide Jesus from you. It allows you to see Jesus in a magnified way and to sense His Spirit more acutely.

When you fast and pray the right way you see beyond the facade of religion and the veil of hypocrisy more distinctly. You are not easily fooled by the hype, glitter, and the showmanship of the flesh that is prevalent in ministry.

Fasting is not the cure-for-all, but it’s certainly one of the most misunderstood and neglected practices of the carnal church. And I believe that when it is done for the right reasons and with pure motives it is the master key to the impossible. At first it is hard for the novice or the fleshly ruled Christian to do, but by reason of use, practice, and experience it can be a much lighter burden when you see the fruit and results it brings.

MORE UNDERSTANDING

When you receive the revelation of how much of a hindrance your flesh is to the life of Christ within you, you will fast, especially when your spiritual hunger is sufficient. One of the great purposes of fasting is to bring forth that life and manifest Christ’s character on the earth.

When you allow His life to exceedingly grow in you through fasting, many burdens you’ve been carrying for years and decades will be removed from you. All that is not the will of the Father will begin to be stripped from your flesh and soul, and your spirit will gain the ascendancy.

The life of Christ was sown as a seed in your heart when you were born again, and the Father’s great desire is to bring forth that seed unto full harvest until you are transformed into His image. Fasting is a great purging tool to accelerate this process.

One caution: Never base your worth or value in the kingdom of God on whether you fast or not, but also understand that the perfect will of God in your life will not be accomplished without it. The Father’s love for you remains stedfast whether you choose to implement fasting into your life or not, but without it you will fall short of walking on the highest path of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus for your life (Phil. 3:14).

You see, until certain areas of your flesh are purged you cannot even begin to take up your cross and follow Jesus in order to fulfill His perfect will for your life.

Some believers understand the positional truths of the physical body being declared dead because of sin, and your spirit being made a righteous new creation because of the life of Christ within you (Rom. 8:10). But many do not understand that fasting enforces these positional truths in your life, so that you can walk above the realm of the works of man and begin to operate in the works of God.

Fasting greatly enhances the power of the Spirit in your life to manifest the perfect will of God. Your own will and aspirations begin to die when you truly fast, and His perfect will becomes your desire.

Fasting is one of the great secrets of transformation in the believer’s character. Yes, it is difficult on the flesh, but the power of the blood of Jesus has gone before you and will strengthen you in your weakness, cleanse you, purge you, and transform you. Call on His blood in times of fasting.

Consistent fasting in your life will progressively and eventually bring you into the mind of Christ as you spend time in prayer and the Word also. A new man will emerge within you and what appeared at first to be a heavy yoke will indeed be easy and light.

You will be transformed into a deeper love walk, and be led more perfectly in the way of the Lord; light will break forth on your path, and even your health shall spring forth speedily (Is. 58). That which right now seems like a heavy and grievous affliction to you will be as nothing compared to the exceedingly eternal weight of glory that fasting will work in you (2 Cor. 4:17).

January is a month of prayer and fasting for many of you. I hope these powerful truths inspire you to continue.

Abundant grace to each of you in your journey.

Our books are forerunners to personal holiness, the move of God, and the return of the Lord. They also combat the departure from the faith and the turning away from the truth we are seeing in our day. The Real Gospel, The Real Jesus, The Real Salvation, and  The Real Spirit Of Revivalare especially strategic in trumping the many falsehoods spreading in the modern day Church. If any of our books or articles on this blog are a blessing and encouragement to you please use the social media buttons below to share them, and kindly post reviews on Amazon for any of our books you feel are worthy. Thank you for helping unknown writers who self publish the word of the Lord. 

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DONATE 

Thank you, and may God’s richest and best be yours.