Have We Been Sold a Fake Jesus?

“You should go to church. You should sit and listen. You should love Jesus.”

Is a personal relationship with Jesus really more like an obligation? Many seem to think so. But author Rick Lawrence believes this should-based characterization contributes to a faulty view of the real Jesus. “It’s wrong to should people into a love relationship, and it’s worse than wrong–actually heretical–to should people into a love relationship with Jesus,” he says. “Jesus isn’t trying to should you into loving him.”

Lawrence argues that the Jesus depicted by many is not the real Jesus. He writes in his new book The Jesus-Centered Life: “It’s clear that the best intentions of the Western church–with all of our Bible studies, our men’s prayer breakfasts, our women’s candlelight dinners, our Christian living books, our three-point sermons that load a half-dozen new imperatives onto our backs, our ‘positive, encouraging’ Christian music, and our accountability relationships–that those who name themselves ‘Christian’ just aren’t getting who Jesus really is. Or we’re not getting enough of who he really is, or we’re getting, literally, a fake Jesus.”

Lawrence asks, “Have we really soaked in the personality of Jesus–pursued him as the most fascinating, magnetic, shocking, lightning-bolt person who ever lived?”


We tend to nice-ify Jesus, Lawrence says, and turn Jesus’ interactions into a list of to-do’s, which reduces our relationship with him to something like a stale marriage. He writes: “I think we’re now at a place where we’re so comfortable with Jesus, so confident of who he is and what he’s like, that a lot of ‘what we know’ is actually wrong. We’ve kind of lost interest in him, like a married couple in midlife. One of the marriage partners, the church, is sort of looking around for something to spark our passions because we’re past the ‘passionate curiosity’ stage with Jesus. So we turn to the ‘form and function’ of doing church as a kind of midlife splurge–like letting ourselves get involved in an emotional affair to rouse us from our relational boredom.”

Wow. That’s disturbing to think about. But it makes me all the more eager to re-look at the person and Lord that Lawrence describes in The Jesus-Centered Life. Lawrence’s personal journey to becoming caught in the “gravitational pull” of the real Jesus is downright compelling. That’s the Jesus the disciples knew. That’s the Jesus–and the relationship–people long for today.

If you’re ready to shed the image of Jesus as an adult version of the cuddly children’s dinosaur Barney, if you’re ready to meet the Lion of Judah, I invite you dig into The Jesus-Centered Life. Get a jump-start by listening to my conversation with Rick Lawrence in the new Holy Soup podcast here:

8 Responses to “Have We Been Sold a Fake Jesus?”

  1. Amen! Looking forward to listening to this!

  2. James posted on Facebook: “Thanks Thom, needed this today. We are talking about the call of Abraham tonight… The dare to trust and follow God in a real way. We have a lot of “unchurched” (for lack of a better word) teens who come on Wednesdays. I appreciate this reminder about who (& how) the real Jesus is.”

  3. The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey talks about a guy you won’t find in many churches. I would suggest we’ve been sold a fake faith because my community isn’t changed by it (even my church community is pretty stagnant and sterile (the opposite of the Jesus in the gospels).

  4. Someone has said that there is an 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not “should” upon thyself!” “Shoulding” upon ourselves is not the path to a vital knowledge or relationship with Jesus. But there is room for growth in that knowledge: “…grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:18) Even though Moses was the only one to speak to God “face-to-face”, He still pleaded with God to help him increase in his knowledge of Him. (Ex. 33:11-14) See also Psalm 103:7 which delineates the difference between knowing God by His “hands”, i.e. what God DOES for us or others, and, knowing God by His “ways”–what makes God tick?! (Psalm 103:7)

  5. Loved the interview, especially the black hole horizon example.

  6. A Jesus that reflects the world and it’s idea of religion will be a safe, nice, sterile and ultimately stale Jesus indeed!

  7. I think of the beloved old hymn Just As I Am. Jesus will take us into Him with all our faults, addictions, wrong life choices, etc. Recently, I taught a Bible study on the Book of Matthew. They were shocked at the earthy, swearing, angry Jesus found there. He got up every single day and fought with the “You should….” people, the organized religious people if the day. He never put down, criticized, or condemned any regular person who came to Him.

  8. The Body of Christ Heist
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 5/18/08 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    I speak of epic deeds,
    and far greater misdeeds,
    in the wayward body of Christ.

    I speak of great love lost,
    but far greater fortunes gained,
    in the wayward body of Christ.

    His appearance has disappeared,
    replaced by Judas priests,
    in the body of Christ heist.

    They will never, ever know,
    Who has come and Who does go,
    these first idols bound to be last.

    (Note the pictogram: A headless body of Christ,
    Created without the author’s trying.)

    The Teachers

    The Teachers
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 5/23/08 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    The teachers are taught wrong!
    The teachers are taught wrong!
    …and they know it.

    The teachers teach wrong!
    The teachers teach wrong!
    …but they stow it.

    The teachers hide wrong!
    The teachers hide wrong!
    …they don’t fix it.

    The teachers are wrong!
    The teachers are wrong!
    …they just abide it.

    Something Fishy

    Something Fishy
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 5/28/08 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    is a new thing
    not new?

    When is everything new
    mostly old?

    When does the sanity of indwelling
    look hazy?

    When the wayward body of Christ
    has grown lazy.

    It’s fishy this bad body of Christ
    gone crazy.

    Where every madcap persona
    all flora, all fauna.

    And whosever would be cult star
    claims fame
    by the distance from God they are.

    Un-Rung Heroes

    Un-Rung Heroes
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 6/4/08 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    We dig
    And we try
    We wonder why
    Could we only but buy
    With perhaps a deep sigh

    But join we not the sullen ranks
    Who store up unhappiness banks
    And run their lives in bitter angst
    We choose now, to give our thanks

    We give all we are and all we know
    To homes and lives in this life we sow
    This time now is as good as any though
    To be – never mind the gall – un-rung hero
    So we give

    Truth is Recognized by its Beauty

    Truth is Recognized by its Beauty
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #3 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 8/24/08 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    Truth is recognized by its beauty,
    And to know this is our duty.

    Consider then, current doxies of wayward Christianity,
    And ask, Is it beautiful to behold, or mere insanity?

    A doxie says when pilots are raptured their passengers die,
    But if this is beautiful, then beauty is a lie.

    A doxie says widows’ mites let prosperity preachers live high,
    But if this is beautiful, then beauty is a lie.

    A doxie says eternal security lets all sin in us get by,
    But if this is beautiful, then beauty is a lie.

    A doxie says Jesus returns to fix all but you and I,
    But if this is beautiful, then beauty is a lie.

    But the Bible says Jesus comes quickly in us to indwell,
    And this is beautiful truth designed to make us well.

    And the Bible says a spiritual stirring and cleansing will come,
    Allowing Jesus to manifest Himself in our spiritual home.

    All escapist doctrine is ugly as ugly can be,
    But behold beautiful Jesus in whom is free!

    And who can Jesus come to and live with and be free?
    Those in His blood who, overcoming sin, learn to be.

    We salute then the Divine living in you and you and me,
    This end-times teaching is as beautiful as beauty can be.

    But the escapist dogma of religion making us and God not nigh,
    Is so far from beauty, we see by its brazen adoration of ugliness it is a lie.

    Hurray for God’s beauty! Hurray for God’s truth!
    Desolate, abominable doctrine we now forsooth!

    We escape from all escapism taught by escapists,
    Their escapism is as ugly as child rapists.

    Escapist shepherds devour their flock,
    Ugly it is when God they mock.

    Escapists put themselves first and always God last,
    Behold In That Day when the reverse course is cast!

    In That Day all truth will finally, totally be known,
    And beauty in whom knew truth will be shown.

    Thus In That Day man lives in God, and God lives in man,
    Alpha to Omega: Behold God’s even so beautiful plan!

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