“What you think of Jesus Christ will thoroughly color how you think about everything else,” writes Dr. John MacArthur on the back cover of his book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” (What You Must Learn From the Bold Confrontations of Christ), (Thomas Nelson, 2008). “This is a critical truth in the life of every believer. Our view of Jesus affects the way we view God, the world, ourselves, and every one of our decisions” (continued from back cover).
In our postmodern world that has invaded much of Christianity today, we all just pretty much want what we want when we want it and to “get along” with everyone as much as possible and leave the truth up for grabs. If fact, that is at the core of the problem . . . the Truth. We don’t much like it as it has a tendency to turn our world upside down if we take it seriously. Postmoderns like to say that truth is relative and that there is no “absolute truth.” It makes for a convenient (and selfish) way to live and it puts us in charge instead of God. And it doesn’t work although many folks (false teachers, actually) will try to convince us otherwise. We are not the center of the universe even though we have a tendency to live and act that way, and there are many, many false teachers out there today who will tell us what we want to hear so we can go on living any way we want.
False teachers have always been around. Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude warned us about them and Jesus specifically stated that they would increase exponentially in the “last days” and that many would follow after them (see Matthew 24:10-13). And Paul describes clearly to Timothy what the “last days” will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
That reads like front page news today. Paul also wrote to Timothy what to watch out for regarding false teachers in I Timothy 6:3-10:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
And Paul tells Timothy (vv. 11-12) to “. . . flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
The problem with us today is that we don’t do any “fleeing” from anything, nor do we really pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” No . . . we take it all in–everything our society has to offer us–and there are plenty of false teachers out there who will cater to our whims (and it’s made some of them very rich, too). And the fight we fight most often is “looking out for #1” (but we’ll never admit it).
As A.W. Tozer stated in “Knowledge of the Holy,” (in the preface): “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.”
“A hundred lesser evils” surround and engulf us today because we have a low view of God and Jesus Christ. We don’t “fight the good fight of faith” because we don’t use the faith we have to fight off temptations because we give in to them so often that we don’t even recognize them as temptations anymore, and our conscience is seared. And that’s a deadly place to be. We are greedy, and we lie, cheat, steal, covet, envy, gossip, slander, seduce (that list has no end) with the best of them and don’t think twice about it and then go to church on Sunday (if we attend church) to hear a “sermon” centered around us and how we can get “more” from God and Jesus Christ.
As John MacArthur asks (on the back cover of his book cited above), “Do you have any idea who Jesus really is?” Well, do we? Be honest, folks. What do we really know about Jesus Christ except for what we want to get from Him? MacArthur continues by stating: “These days, Jesus is often portrayed as a pacifist, a philanthropist, or a docile teacher. He strikes a plastic–and sometimes pathetic–pose in the minds of many. Some prefer the meek and mild Jesus who heals the sick, calms fears, and speaks of peace and goodwill. These things do represent a portion of the Messiah, but tragically, too many have never been exposed to the rest of him. They have never seen a full 360-degree view of the Savior. Until now.” (Quote on back cover.) [The book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,” by John MacArthur is available through “Grace to You” (click here) and also at Amazon.com (click here).]
Much of American Christianity is about an inch deep and a mile wide. We don’t really know who Jesus Christ is, and as a result, we follow after a lot of “false Christs” (e.g., false teachers) who tickle our ears and tell us what we want to hear. We can’t claim to know Jesus Christ if we are living our lives any way we want.
As MacArthur states in the Introduction of the book (pp. xviii-xix, hardcover edition):
It is the very height of irrationality and arrogance to call Christ Lord with the lips while utterly defying Him with one’s life. Yet that is precisely how multitudes live (Luke 6:46). Such people are even more preposterous examples of self-contradiction than the atheist who imagines he can deny the Source of all that’s good and yet somehow be “good” himself. But the hypocrite is not only more irrational; he is almost more contemptible than the out-and-out atheist, because he is actually doing gross violence to the truth while pretending to believe it. Nothing is more completely diabolical. Satan is a master at disguising himself so that he appears good rather than evil. He “transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
It is no accident, then, that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for institutionalized religious hypocrisy. He wages a very aggressive public controversy against the chief hypocrites of His era. That conflict began almost as soon as He entered public ministry and continued relentlessly until the day He was crucified. In fact, it was the main reason they conspired to crucify Him. So Jesus’ campaign against hypocrisy is a prominent, if not dominant, emphasis in all four gospels. It is the very theme we’ll be surveying in this book.
But our starting point is a truth that should be self-evident: it really does matter whether we believe the Bible is true or not; and it likewise matters whether our faith is earnest or not.
So what do we really believe? If we say we believe in Jesus Christ, do our lives and our actions and our attitudes regarding how we treat others show it on a consistent and regular basis? Do we consistently “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4)? Or do we “go for the gusto” and “look out for #1” and fill our lives with greed and selfishness most of the time?
If the only time Jesus crosses our minds is on Sunday morning or when we are in trouble or want something, there is something seriously wrong with our view of who He is, and we need to get to know Him . . . now. And if your pastor’s sermons rarely mention His name or keep Him on the sidelines with a cursory mention now and then, find another church to attend. However the bottom line is this . . . it is our responsibility to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and no pastor can do that for us.
Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). Won’t you accept His invitation?
The days are dark and the time is growing short . . .
Do it now . . . .
YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” by Shannon Wexelberg (on her CD, “Faithful God,” 2007):