by T.A. McMahon
"Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my
folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly
jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you
as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the
serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be
corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh
preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive
another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye
have not accepted, ye might well bear with him" (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
And Jesus saith unto them, "But whom say ye that I am?"
"Brother, I'm not interested in any of your divisive
doctrinal talk. All I care about is knowing that a person loves Jesus. If
someone tells me that, no matter what church he goes to, he's my brother
in Christ!" It didn't seem like the right time or place to get into an
argument with this individual. Nevertheless, I felt compelled at least to
get a question in before the conversation ended. "When you talk with
someone who tells you he loves Jesus, do you ever ask that person, 'Jesus
After quick thought the elderly gentleman let me know that he would never
ask such a question. "It wouldn't be loving."
Whenever I visit friends in Pennsylvania, there is a man whom I make it a
point to see. He is a joy to be with, one of the friendliest men I know.
Though a committed Muslim, he regards himself as an ecumenist. He's proud
of the fact that he shares some of the beliefs of both Jews and
Christians. Occasionally he attends a Presbyterian church with my friends
and truly enjoys the experience and their fellowship. Once in a restaurant
he was expressing to me and our Christian friends his love for Jesus. He
ended his proclamation with these words: "If I could tear away my flesh so
that all of you could see deep into my heart, you would know how much I
love Jesus." The emotions that filled his every word were stunning; it's
uncommon to hear such a devout declaration, even in Christian circles.
Getting back to my boysenberry pie, I felt good about my friend's
expression of love when a nagging thought hit me: Jesus who? A brief
mental skirmish took place over whether or not to ask such a question. My
words, however, came out before my mind had settled the issue. "Tell me
about the Jesus you love." My Muslim friend didn't hesitate: "He's the
same one you love." Before I got "doctrinal" with my friend, I thought I
should try to show him why it was important to make sure we were talking
about the same Jesus.
I used his neighbor, who is a great friend to both of us, as an example.
He and I really love the guy. After agreeing on our mutual feelings, I
began to give a description of our common friend's physical attributes:
"He's 5'6"; he's completely bald; he weighs 320 pounds; he wears a ring in
his left nostril." Actually, I didn't get quite that far before objections
were made. "Wait a minute... he's easily over 6'4", I wish I had all his
hair, and he's the thinnest man I know!" My friend added that it was
obvious that we weren't talking about the same person. "Does it matter?" I
asked. He gave me an incredulous look. "Of course it does! I don't have a
neighbor fitting your description. You may know someone else like that,
but it's not my good friend and neighbor." I pointed out that if I truly
believed the description I'd just given, then we couldn't possibly be
friends with the same person. He agreed.
What followed was my description of the Jesus I knew. "He was crucified
and died on the cross for my sins. Did the Jesus you know do that?"
"No, Allah took him to heaven before the crucifixion. Judas died on the
"The Jesus I know is God himself, who became a man. Is that your Jesus?"
He shook his head. "No, Allah alone is God. Jesus was a great prophet, but
just a man." The discussion went on to many other characteristics the
Bible ascribes to Jesus. In almost every case, my Muslim friend had a
different perspective. Though he remained convinced that he held the
correct view, the fact that our contradictory convictions couldn't be
reconciled seemed to dampen his zeal for proclaiming his love for Jesus.
Some may see my questioning as unloving proof of the divisiveness of
arguing over doctrines. I see it as trying to clear the way for my friend
to have a genuine relationship with the only true Savior, our Lord Jesus
Christ – not someone he or other men have wittingly or unwittingly
imagined or devised.
Quite simply, doctrines are teachings. They are either true or false. A
true doctrine cannot be divisive in a harmful way; that characteristic
applies only to false teachings. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them
which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have
learned; and avoid them" (Rom 16:17; also Rom 2:8-9). Jesus, who is the
Truth, can only be known in truth and by those who seek the truth (Jn
14:6; 18:37; 2 Thes 2:13; Dt 4:29). Christ himself caused division (Mt
10:35; Jn 7:35; 9:16;10:19), division between truth and error (Lk 12:51).
"Jesus who?" is a pivotal question for every believer in Christ. We should
first of all ask it of ourselves, testing our own beliefs about Jesus (2
Cor 13:5; 1 Thes 5:21). Misunderstandings about Him inevitably become
obstructions in our relationship with Him. The question also may be vital
in our fellowshipping with those who claim to be Christians. On a brief
airline flight recently, a friend of mine was concerned enough to ask the
person next to him some crucial questions about his relationship with
Jesus. Although the young man professed to have been a Christian for four
years or so and participated in a Christian fellowship for professional
athletes, he didn't really know Jesus nor did he understand the gospel of
salvation. My friend led him to the Lord before the plane landed.
All too often, phrases similar to "we stand together with anyone who names
the name of Christ" are emotionally charged coverings for ecumenical
agendas. The fear of destroying unity plagues those who take seriously
such unbiblical propaganda, even to the point of discouraging any vestige
of interest in contending for the faith. Astonishingly, "Christian unity"
now includes co-laboring for the moral good of society with cults "that
name the name of Jesus."
The cults' teachings about Jesus include every unscriptural idea
imaginable. The "Jesus Christ" of Latter-Day Saints, for example, couldn't
be further removed from the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus invented by
Joseph Smith and after whom he named his church is the first spirit child
of Elohim, just as all humans, angels, and demons are spirit children of
Elohim. This Mormon Jesus became flesh through physical intercourse
between Elohim (God the Father who has a physical body) and the Virgin
Mary. Their Jesus is the half-brother of Lucifer. He came to earth to
become a god. His sacrificial death gives immortality to every creature
(including animals) at the Resurrection. However, whether an individual
creature spends eternity in hell or in one of three heavens is totally up
to his or her (or its) performance.
The Jesus Christ of the mind-science cults (Christian Science, Religious
Science, Unity School of Christianity, etc.) is no different from any
other human being. "Christ" is a spiritual idea of God and not a person.
Jesus neither suffered nor died for mankind's sins because sin doesn't
exist. Rather, he helped humanity to cease from believing that sin and
death have any reality. That is "salvation" in so-called Christian
Jehovah's Witnesses also love Jesus, but not the Jesus of the Bible.
Before their Jesus was born on earth he was Michael the Archangel. He is a
god, but not Jehovah God. When their Jesus became a man he ceased to be a
god. There was no physical resurrection of the JW Jesus; Jehovah raised
his spirit body, hid his physical remains, and now, once again, Jesus
exists as an angel called Michael. The Bible promises that when a believer
in our Lord and Savior dies, he or she immediately goes to be with Jesus
(2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21-23). With their Jesus, however, only 144,000
Jehovah's Witnesses have that privilege but not at death, for they are
annihilated when they die. That is, they spend an indefinite period in an
inactive and unconscious state, in effect, ceasing to exist. My fellowship
of love with the biblical Jesus, however, is unbroken and everlasting.
Roman Catholics love Jesus. I did for twenty-some years of my life, but he
was very different from the Jesus I now know and love. Sometimes he was
still a babe in arms or a young boy, overshadowed and protected by his
mother. When I wanted his help I made sure I prayed to his mother first.
The Jesus to whom I pray now hasn't been a baby for almost 2,000 years.
The Jesus I loved as a Catholic resided bodily in a small, boxlike
tabernacle on our church altar in the form of a white wafer, while
simultaneously inhabiting millions of pieces of bread worldwide. My Jesus
is the (physically) resurrected Son of God; He doesn't indwell inanimate
The Roman Catholic Jesus I knew was the Christ of the crucifix, his body
continually hanging on the cross, fittingly symbolic of the perpetual
sacrifice of the mass and his unfinished work of salvation. Nearly two
millennia ago, the biblical Jesus fully paid the debt for my sins. He has
no need of the seven sacraments, the liturgy, the priesthood, the papacy,
His mother's intercession, indulgences, prayers to and for the dead,
purgatory, etc., to help save anyone. Roman Catholics who say they love
Jesus, though they may call themselves charismatic Catholics, evangelical
Catholics, or born-again Catholics, actually love a Jesus who is not the
biblical Jesus. He's "another Jesus."
Even some who claim to be evangelicals promote a different Jesus. The
so-called faith-and-prosperity teachers promote a Jesus who was materially
prosperous. According to evangelist John Avanzini, whose expensive
wardrobe reflects his teachings, Jesus wore designer clothes (a reference
to his seamless robe) similar to what kings and wealthy merchants wore. In
a convoluted argument, success preacher Robert Tilton claims that being
poor is a sin, and since Jesus was sinless, it follows that he must have
been extremely rich. Positive-confession teacher Fred Price explains that
he drives a Rolls Royce simply because he's following the way of Jesus.
Oral Roberts says that because Jesus and the disciples had a treasurer
(Judas), they must have had plenty of money.
In addition to preaching a Christ who was materially wealthy, many of the
faith teachers, such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, proclaim a
Jesus who descended into hell and had to be tortured by Satan in order to
complete the atonement for the sins of mankind. That's not the Jesus I
know and love.
Tony Campolo's Jesus indwells everyone. Television preacher Robert
Schuller presents a Jesus who died on the cross to secure our self-esteem.
In support of this Jesus, Christian psychologists and numerous evangelical
preachers tell us that His death on the cross proves our infinite value to
God and is the basis for our self-worth. Not only are a variety of
ego-enhancing Jesus' being promoted today, but we're also being told by a
psychologized "church" that the truth about Jesus may not be as important
for our psychological well-being as our own perception of Him. That's the
basis for the current teaching by psychospiritual integrationist Neil
Anderson and others who promote unbiblical inner-healing techniques. We
have to forgive Jesus for situations in the past where we feel He
disappointed or wounded us emotionally. Jesus who?
Fellowship with Jesus is the heart of Christianity. It's not something
merely imagined but is a reality. He literally indwells all who place
their faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Col 1:27; Jn 14:20; 15:4). The
relationship we have with Him is both subjective and objective. Our
genuine personal experiences with Jesus are always in harmony with His
objective Word (Is 8:20). His Spirit ministers His Word to us and that
knowledge is the foundation for our fellowship with Him (Jn 8:31; Phil
3:8). Our love for Him is demonstrated by and increases through our
obedience to what He commands; our trust in Him is strengthened through
the knowledge of what He reveals about Himself (Jn 14:15; Phil 1:9). Jesus
said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice" (Jn 18:37). To
whatever degree we believers entertain false beliefs about Jesus and His
teachings, we undermine our vital relationship with Him.
Nothing can be better on this earth than the joy of fellowship with Jesus
and with those who know and are known by Him. On the other hand, nothing
could be more tragic than the offering of one's affections to another
Jesus, the invention of men and demons. Our Lord prophesied that many
would fall prey to that great delusion just prior to His return (Mt
24:23-26). There will be many who, because of the alleged signs and
wonders they perform in His name, will convince themselves that they know
Jesus and are serving Him. To them He will speak these sobering words:
"...I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt 7:23).
Rather than being divisive, asking the question "Jesus who?" may be the
most loving service one can perform these days. The answer has eternal
T.A. McMahon, The Berean Call (February, 1995), Box 7019 Bend, OR
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