Last time we were left with the question: is the Jesus I know, the real Jesus?
A crucial and connected question to this is:
If we are going to embark on a search for truth about Jesus then we need to acknowledge the environment we conduct this search in. We live in an age and culture that is heavily based on feelings. We do things because they make us feel good. We form our personal idea of justice around what we feel is right or wrong (For example: I feel like the person travelling 100km/h over the speed limit is more guilty of breaking the law than the person travelling 5km/h over it). This element of modern western culture carries over into what people think about God and especially, Jesus.
Since probably the 1950’s, church has had a decreasing role in the lives of the population. It is no longer the norm for the majority of people to go to church on Sunday mornings and then head home for a family lunch and a day of rest. Now church is a sometimes thing, for the times we feel like it or we feel the necessity to go (usually for Christmas or Easter, and baptisms, weddings, and funerals). Due to this auxiliary place that church now holds, there have been some flow on effects. Firstly, without the regular input of Christian education, many people have left themselves to developing their own ideas about Christianity from what they might remember as a child going to church, what they see in the media, or what they feel is the essence of Christianity. This results in those who want to be considered ‘Christian’ forming their own individual way of being Christian. Suddenly the average country town in Australia may have a majority of people identify as Christian, yet everyone ‘does’ their christianity a different way.
The second result of church being sidelined is that people no longer have a consistently reliable access to the Bible as a guide for what we know about Christianity and Christ.
It is possible, then, for everyone to have a different opinion about Jesus, because we all have our own individual way of seeing and feeling. This, mixed with our own individual experiences (good and bad), combines to give us an individual understanding of Jesus; at least the Jesus we think should exist, or want to exist.
If the real Jesus offers us real hope, real joy, real family, real love, real life, real security, real forgiveness, and real peace… then we need to know that Jesus. But if everyone has their own idea about Jesus, which one is correct? If we choose to believe the wrong Jesus… we miss out on all he offers for this life, and all that he offers after we die.
What if i’m wrong and my neighbour is right? There is a lot at stake.
The answer is simply to look at what the Bible says about him. This is the only way we can remove our experiences and feelings from the investigation and allow something outside ourselves teach us objectively about Jesus. The Bible is the book that has historically been the source of understanding who Jesus is, what he has done, and why he is significant. A common thought is to disregard the Bible because it is ancient, or because it contains things that science can’t prove. But if we for a moment consider the historical reliability of the Bible, especially in comparison to other historical texts that we are quick to trust. We will find that we have a record of a person who came to us in order that we can be children of God. A person who not only came from God but is God. A person who showed the greatest love and kindness, and the perfect example of what obedience to God looks like. We also see a person who undeservingly went to cross to be crucified… and he did it out of love for you. So that in his death he might endure the sentence that our sins deserve so that instead of God’s judgment, we could receive God’s acceptance. A person who didn’t tell us we need to be good to be accepted by God, but that we only needed to trust in his perfect goodness to receive acceptance. This is the real Jesus. And he claims not only to give us eternal life with God, but he also claims to shape us over time to reflect his goodness more and more.
The only Jesus worth considering putting your trust in is the one who is the same for everyone, the one who we are introduced to in the Bible.
In our next article, we will explore what being shaped by the real Jesus is like. But here is another question to ponder.