Jesus Doesn’t Want You To Be Like Him?

By Brent on Theology

There’s quite a conundrum happening in modern pop evangelicalism. The airwaves are inundated and “Christian” bookstore shelves are filled with men and women whose basic message is that Jesus doesn’t want you to be like Him. Of course, they would never phrase it in that way, because nearly everyone can see how ridiculous it sounds when worded this way. But, when we’re honest, this is exactly what these people are teaching.

Some, of course, are more blatant about it than others. For example, consider what has become known as the “health and wealth” or the “prosperity gospel” (which, by the way, is no gospel at all). The basic message is that God wants you to have health and wealth (prosperity). If you’re poor, it’s because you lack enough faith to trust God for His promises. If you’re sick, it’s because you lack enough faith to trust God. Most of all, if you just give a little bit of money to God (preferably through His preferred ministry of the one in question), He is somehow obligated to bless you tenfold (at least).

What’s perhaps more dangerous, though is the more subtle version of this same message. Not quite as brash as it’s more outgoing relative, the point is the same. Consider these quotes from Joel Osteen’s best-selling book Your Best Life Now:

“God wants to give you your own house. God has a big dream for your life” (35).

“Perhaps you’re searching for a parking spot in a crowded lot, say, ‘Father, I thank you for leading and guiding me. Your favor will cause me to get a good spot ” (41).

“I’ve come to expect to be treated differently. I’ve learned to expect people to want to help me. My attitude is: I’m a child of the Most High God. My Father created the whole universe. He has crowned me with favor, therefore, I can expect preferential treatment” (39).

“God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner” (191).

Who wouldn’t want to hear this? God wants me to have great parking places, preferential treatment and most of all, He wants me to have my best life now?! Of course this is appealing. Yet there is just one problem: one B I G problem: it goes against what Jesus Himself was and said His followers should expect. For example, in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul says that Jesus, “though He was rich, became poor.” In Matthew 8:20, Jesus Himself said that, even though “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,” “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” As if that weren’t enough, Jesus promised His followers persecution (John 15:20) and said that we must take up our crosses in order to follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

We are, at heart, an idolatrous people, quick to make idols out of anything, particularly ourselves. Worse yet, we are prone to wrap these idols in Scriptural garb “baptize” them as though they were somehow godly. We must not think it an overstatement that there will be wolves in our midst (Matthew 7:15). This so-called Gospel is no good news at all and it is not what Jesus was while on earth or said that His followers should expect. Yet millions of people don’t realize that their ears are being tickled (2 Timothy 4:3), and their following smiling pied pipers on the feel-good path to destruction. What else can be the result when the Word of God is not taken seriously and man is viewed as the ultimate?

While we should not necessarily seek out troubles and tribulation, we should not be surprised when they come. Nor should we blame them on a lack of faith on our part. In fact, we should remember Paul’s words to the Philippians that “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Ours is a God who sifts the wheat (Luke 3:17) and refines His people (Isaiah 48:10).

We must humbly but boldly say to these people and their followers, that, truly, they have their reward in full (Matthew 6:2). If we truly want to be like Jesus, we must, as the writer to the Hebrews says: “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

  • ReadChristless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton
  • ReadJesus, Made In America: A Cultural History by Stephen J. Nichols
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