PASTOR'S PEN: The ‘real’ Jesus or the popular Jesus?

Rev. Mike Dunn

Rev. Mike Dunn

Courtesy/Mike Dunn

There are a few popular songs from recent years that depict a seeker-friendly Jesus who embraces everyone for who they are and makes them feel loved and encouraged. 

In one of the songs, a country singer discusses his desire to sit at a bar and have a beer with Jesus. They’d enjoy a couple tall ones, listen to the jukebox and close the place down together. And they would philosophize about heaven while they’re drinking. And maybe they’d share a few jokes and a few stories.

In another song, the gal singing says, “Jesus drank wine and I bet we’d get along just fine.” She acknowledges she doesn’t live a Christian life, far from it, but that’s OK because Jesus understands her heart.

The songs portray Jesus the way a lot of people desire Him to be. Someone who’s never judgmental and always understanding. Who doesn’t condemn your actions or convict you of sin because he knows deep down that you’re really a good person.

The nice thing about this kind of Jesus is that he makes no demands. He might chide you for being dishonest or saying mean things but he knows you’re really an OK dude or gal on the inside. You might be engaging in a sinful, self-indulgent lifestyle, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Jesus is smiling down on you and looking forward to spending time with you in heaven after you die.

The problem is that the Jesus of these songs, popular though He may be, has little resemblance to the real Jesus. The greater problem is that the feel-good philosophy presented in these songs, which sadly reflects a general societal view of Jesus, doesn’t take into account who Jesus truly is and why He died. Or why the Easter message is so critical.

The real Jesus didn’t suffer and die on a cruel cross at Golgotha to give us a license to live however we want to. The real Jesus died to save us from our sins and our sinfulness, not in our sins.

The real Jesus took the sins of all humanity upon himself to pay the penalty that sin requires so we wouldn’t have to. All people everywhere are sinners. We all fall short of God’s standards. Sin separates us from God and brings death and condemnation. The penalty is eternal separation from God. Jesus suffered and died so we could have our sins forgiven and be in right standing with the Father when we depart from this world.

The real Jesus was and is the Son of God. He came in the flesh to live a sinless life among us and offer His own body in our place so that the wrath of God against my sins and yours could be satisfied.

The real Jesus was condemned because He claimed to be God in the flesh. The real Jesus suffered brutally at the hands of the soldiers of the high priest and the Roman soldiers. They bound his hands and wrapped a cloth around his eyes. They took turns hitting him in the face and taunting him. “You’re a prophet,” they yelled in his ears, “tell us who just struck you!”

He endured Roman crucifixion, an agonizing death, and He rose from the dead on the first Easter morning. The real Jesus offers forgiveness and cleansing to all who come acknowledging their need for a Savior.

But we have to come to him on His terms, not ours. We have to be willing to repent, take up our own cross and follow Him. He knows we can’t do it in our own strength, so He gives us His Spirit to come alongside us and give us strength, grace, peace and wisdom and to transform us totally from within.

Most importantly of all, He grants eternal life to all who truly seek him as Savior.

Sadly, those who embrace a false Jesus, like the feel-good, popular Jesus represented in those country songs, will discover one day that the Jesus extolled in those songs doesn’t exist at all. He died a terrible death to save us from the penalty of our sins, not to permit us to continue to live in our sinfulness.

If we continue in our sins and refuse to acknowledge our need for a Savior, then we are telling God we are willing to face the judgment for our sins after we die. That’s not what He wants and hopefully not what we want either.

— Rev. Mike Dunn is pastor of the South Evart Free Methodist Church.