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10 Counterfeit Christ Figures We Should Stop Worshiping

But a Jesus who will fix your marriage, shape you up for your next job interview or ensure your kids make it into Harvard is, in the end, a disappointing deity preaching a moralistic, therapeutic deism that doesn’t save. The real Jesus leads us not to a set of principles, but to himself.

7. Prosperity Jesus

This Jesus is Dr. Phil Jesus’ extravagant cousin. He doesn’t just promise a better life, he promises a wealthy and prosperous life. Prosperity Jesus is popular in the wealthy suburbs of the West, where persecution and difficulty have been programmed out of the system. But he’s strangely discomforting to the nitty-gritty, threadbare existence of most Christians around the world.

Prosperity Jesus is an insidious heresy, preying both on the poor to collect their money and causing disappointment and ruin when the promised prosperity doesn’t materialize. The real Christ doesn’t promise private jets and vacation condos, but offers the presence of God in the midst of difficult and self-denying faithfulness in a fallen world. What’s more, the Christ of Scripture offers a much better future return on investment than the short-term bling of earthly kingdoms.

8. Post-Church Jesus

Burned out by the overly political, legalistic church of your youth? The Post-Church Jesus allows you to worship him without all the trappings of the institutional church. In some ways, this Jesus is attractive for those who’ve grown tired of a gospel that sounds more like traditionalism than the gospel of Christ.

But the real Jesus doesn’t offer his followers the option of following him without being part of the church. The very act of regeneration by faith baptizes the believer into the body of Christ. Christ loves his bride and offers no fruitful path of faith outside of the community of faith.

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9. BFF Jesus

This Jesus hits close to home, for it’s the Jesus of my evangelical culture. BFF Jesus hints at the truth of the Christ of Scripture, who is a friend of sinners, who offers personal salvation by faith. However, the BFF Jesus of some of our modern worship songs sounds less like the righteous ruler of Revelation and more like Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. He’s needy and clingy.

What’s more, this Jesus seems to have no connection to 2,000 years of church history and the weight of Christian orthodoxy. Instead, he’s a light and fun Jesus. Personal, private, but detached from the coming King of righteousness and justice described by the Old Testament prophets.

BFF Jesus is a Jesus who fits well with our culture of narcissism. He approves, without reservation, our lifestyles and behaviors and is safe for the whole family. He’s the Jesus of pop evangelicalism, which offers little preparation for difficulty and hard times and offers little anchor for the coming cultural storms.

10. Legalist Jesus

Lastly, legalist Jesus is a Jesus who baptizes my traditions and preferences as orthodoxy.

Like the Pharisees, Legalist Jesus mixes prohibitions on grey matters with orthodoxy. This Jesus, scorned by some, is attractive to others because he offers a simple list of rules to live by, allowing his followers to ignore the daily practice of repentance and forgiveness and the Spirit’s sanctifying work and instead offers a checklist Christianity.

This is the Jesus of my youth — the Jesus who said I was OK as long as I listened to certain music and didn’t expose myself to certain movies. The problem with Legalist Jesus is that his gospel doesn’t save. It offers a lifeless religion that seeks outward transformation at the expense of inward renewal and grace. Only the real Christ, whose life, death and resurrection offer personal and cosmic salvation, has the power to change lives and bring His people to Himself.

*   *   *

As you can see, each of these Jesus figures offers a glimpse of the real Jesus, but by accentuating only some of His character, keeps Christians from bowing in worship at the feet of the real Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

A version of Christianity that allows us to shape Jesus as we see fit seems attractive in the short run, but it can be a spiritual dead end. Instead, I find genuine joy not in the mascot, bobble-head Jesus of my imagination, but in surrendering my heart in worship and obedience to the original Jesus of Scripture.

**This post appeared originally on OnFaith

See more from Daniel at http://www.danieldarling.com.

Daniel Darling
Daniel Darling
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. See more from Daniel on his website.

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