Who you are following? In modern times we “follow” a lot of different people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allows common people to “follow” celebrities, politicians, and other “famous” people. We are connected to these individuals in a new way. However, do we really know anymore about them from their internet presence? Most likely, no. These platforms simply become another way for people to sell themselves, their philosophies, and ideas.
In a more serious example, take the life of Jim Jones (no relation), a cult leader of the 60’s and 70’s. Jones put himself forward as a religious leader who was simply teaching the Bible. In actuality, Jones brainwashed a large group of people who followed him to a commune in Guyana and eventually convinced his followers to commit mass suicide. Do you know who you are following?
This is such an important question, one we should ask in the church. Yes, that means we should examine pastors and other church leaders. It matters what they believe, what they teach, and how they live. Most importantly, we should ask the question: which Jesus do I follow? (That might seem a strange sentence, but humor me.)
In his first letter, Apostle Peter encourages and guides local church pastors, assuring them, “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Peter makes it clear that church leaders are only “under shepherds”; Christ Himself is the chief Shepherd, the Senior Pastor. Therefore, all true churches first and foremost must follow Jesus. He must be the true Pastor of the church. I love how the 23rd Psalm, in Spanish, makes it clear. “El Señor es mi Pastor.”
Do you know which Jesus you follow, or what Jesus is the chief shepherd of your church? The answer to this will help you ascertain whether or not a church is a true church or a counterfeit church. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth deeply troubled by the issues going on there; namely, some of the people are starting to follow a different “Jesus”. They no longer believe in the true Jesus of the Bible, the One who is God in the flesh, who lived without sin, who died a sacrificial death, and who rose again from the grave. They believe in a “Jesus” of their own imagination. Paul writes, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed… you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:4) It is to the shame of these Corinthians who have turned from the true Jesus to a false, man-made Jesus. Paul calls them to repentance.
Even today, we can find many different “Jesuses” in the world. How can we tell if we are looking at the real Jesus or a false “Jesus”? By looking to the Bible. The Bible tells us who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what our response to Him should be.
Jesus is God in the flesh. (John 1:1, 14) Jesus clearly recognized He is God (Mark 2:5) and proclaimed Himself to be God (John 8:58). Jesus is not a created being or some sort of lesser god or angel. Jesus is not merely the son of God in an earthly fashion. In fact, Jesus uses the term Son of God as an affirmation of His divine nature; those who opposed Him understood that. (John 10:32, 36) Jesus is also not simply a moral teacher, a guide to point people to truth. Jesus emphatically states that He Himself is truth. (John 14:6) Therefore, to make Jesus less than God is to be following a false Jesus.
Jesus entered into His own creation with a very specific purpose. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.’” (Mark 1:38) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) The Bible is clear that Christ came to bring salvation to lost, sinful people. Christ came to usher in the Kingdom of God, to make right what sin had broken at the Fall. To make the mission of Jesus less than that is to create a Jesus of your own imagination.
Finally, if we follow the true Jesus of the Bible, we must listen to Him. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When we come to Christ in faith and repentance we are transformed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Sins that I once found joy and pleasure in, I now hate and despise for the sake of Christ. I don’t think I can be righteous in my own strength, but I know the Spirit now empowers me to live a life that glorifies God. Too many “churches” follow cultural trends of the world and have given up caring about sin. In fact, many “churches” now celebrate and encourage the very sins that Jesus died for. Be assured that these counterfeit churches follow a false Jesus.
I recognize my words may seem harsh. Please understand the only reason I write this is because truth is so important. You have the right to believe whatever you want. At the same time, I want people to have as much information as possible in order for them to consider whether or not their beliefs align with the Bible. Mark Twain once said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” I would encourage you to consider the Jesus you follow. Do you follow the true Jesus of the Bible or do you follow a false Jesus? A true church follows the true Jesus.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ