An Imaginary Salvation?
In regular “religious” conversations, you may hear people make reference to Jesus. They’ll refer to Him; they’ll talk about how they believe in Him. In such moments it is always helpful to ask: “Which Jesus?”
If you ask that question, you might get a puzzled look or a gentle rebuff (as if you were joking around) or even a more candid question: “What do you mean, ‘Which Jesus?’ Everyone knows who Jesus is!”
It’s right in that moment that some brutally honest thinking needs to happen. Why? Because everyone who speaks of Jesus or refers to Jesus or thinks of Jesus might not have the Jesus of the Bible–the one we meet in the Gospels–in mind. They might be referring to an “imaginary Jesus.”
What is an imaginary Jesus? Basically, a Jesus who is not the Jesus of the Bible. Paul made reference to other Jesuses in writing to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:4); he spoke of those who brought a distorted view of the Gospel in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:6–9).
The Jesus of the Mormon Church is a man who achieved “godhood,” one of many sons born to an exalted being and only later born into a human body, and who is the spirit brother of Lucifer.
The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is Michael the Archangel come to earth in a human body who was resurrection from the dead an “immortal spiritual creature.”
The Jesus of Christian Science is a man who became enlightened–he had the “Christ consciousness”–that enabled him to prove the un-reality of sickness and death.
These are just some examples of the imaginary Jesuses that have been part of the religious fabric of our world. But the list of such impostors doesn’t stop with the official teachings of organized religious groups that do not embrace what the Bible teaches. If you listen, you can hear all kinds of people describing various imaginary Jesuses that they affirm they believe in.
Jesus was a great teacher, an avatar, a holy man.
Jesus was a prophet, much like Mohammed or Moses.
Jesus was a man who showed us how to live by loving one another.
Jesus wasn’t God, but he did show us how to get to God.
And here’s the tragic thing about such imaginary Jesuses: They can only provide an imaginary salvation! Only the Jesus of the Bible–the real, incarnate Son of God, the Savior who gave His life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross–can provide the salvation we so desperately need (Acts 4:12).
This is why the New Testament authors give so much attention to good doctrine. The opening chapters of Ephesians, the first half of Hebrews, Jude and Peter in their writings, are all filled with solid doctrinal instruction. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul insisted that what was to be preached was Christ (Colossians 1:28)–we “proclaim Him!” He didn’t want anyone to be led astray from the truth about Jesus through clever or fanciful philosophy or ideas (2:1–10). These Spirit-inspired authors knew it wasn’t enough for their readers and hearers to “sincerely believe” in some Jesus–what was essential was that they put their faith in the real Jesus!
That is the Biblical call. To know the real Jesus. To be in a believing relationship with that Jesus. And the way to ensure that you are in relationship with the Jesus who can save is pretty simple:
Open the Book. Read what you find there. Come to know the Jesus presented to us in the pages of Scripture.