We are made in the image of God. And yet our temptation is to make God in our own image. It is this temptation that is behind the prevalence of idolatry. An idol, after all, is often a god resembling the human form made by human hands (it is much more than that too; see this video for more on that). This tendency to make (or conceive of) God as being in our own image does not only beset the pagan. Even Christians are tempted to do this. Those Christians that are legalistic-leaning might gravitate to passages stressing God’s holiness, righteousness, and judgment. Those Christians that conceive of God as a happy, tail-wagging golden retriever, always looking for an opportunity to love on us, construct their God with passages stressing God’s love, grace, and mercy. God is both a judging God and a loving God (see Exodus 34.6-7). In fact, his love is made greater through his righteousness and judgment. That God both loves sinners and is angry with them shatters our preconceived conceptions of God. Both the legalistic Christian and the sentimental Christian are churning out a God of their own design, not one that emerges from scripture (by the way, this is why we are often times stretched and our paradigms shattered by the God presented in scripture).
Not only are we inclined to make God in our own image but we are prone to do something similar with Jesus. Rather than aligning ourselves to Christ and his kingdom agenda, we often find ways to align Christ to ourselves and our own little “kingdom” agendas. Perhaps it is the evangelist that sanitizes sin and tinkers with the work of Jesus in an effort to make the gospel more congruent with contemporary sensibilities, thereby bolstering the popularity of his ministry (i.e., his “kingdom”). Or maybe it is the individual that cavorts with sinners knowing that doing so entangles themselves in a variety of sins yet continues to do so because, after all, Jesus spent time with the sinners. Whatever the variation might be, the temptation is to whittle a Jesus of partial truths, a Jesus that thinks the way we think and shares our own concerns. Kevin DeYoung has done a great job of describing the varieties of Jesuses that spew out of this enterprise. Here are some examples:
There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.
There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
Here is DeYoung’s conclusion:
And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.
This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.
This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Savior of the world, and substitute for our sins–more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.
Read all of DeYoung’s post here.