Posted by Stephen Venable

I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Cor 11:1–4, NASB95) 

What would happen if someone went into the office of a thousand different pastors in America and asked the simple question, “who is Jesus and what is He really all about?” How many different answers – overtly or subtly – do you think that person would hear? In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul warned against the peril of being led astray from the simplicity of devotion to Jesus. The point here is singularity, and thus the danger is duplicity or confusion. The contrast is not between simplicity and complexity. Paul was jealous that the hearts and minds of the Corinthians be wholly devoted to the truth of the One to whom they had been betrothed.

There may be many different battles, but at the center of the spiritual war raging in this age is the truth about Jesus. I don’t know the real answer to the question posed above, but could it be that we are at risk of entertaining different versions of Jesus just as the ancient church in Corinth was? Is there a clear, unified witness about Jesus that defines us as Christians and unites His body in its diverse expressions? Or has diversity of form and function led to a diversity of doctrine? It does seem that in many cases Jesus can become a malleable concept in Western church that conforms to the context rather a devastatingly real Person who we are being conformed to.

Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name. While we swim in a sea of “Christian” things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol of a subculture and the industries that feed it. Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot pastors and Christians talking about in church these days… Jesus has been dressed up as a corporate CEO, life coach, culture-warrior, political revolutionary, philosopher, copilot, cosufferer, moral example, and partner in fulfilling our personal and social dreams. But in all of these ways, are we reducing the central character in the drama of redemption to a prop for our own play? (Michael Horton)

The real issue is not the exact degree to which this is happening. The real issue is that we don’t see that this is the real issue. The smoke from the battles being fought on the edges is obscuring the ultimate crisis at the center of the conflict. For example, many mainline Protestant denominations have begun ordaining homosexual ministers in the last several years. For those churches who rightly object to this practice, and for the evangelical church looking on from this a distance, the response has been outrage. Yet the bigger problem is that decades ago these same denominations officially undermined the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus and there was no uproar or movement to leave the denomination. The message of this is clear: we think the identity of our pastor is more important than the identity of our Jesus. The church has much zeal over social, moral, and political issues but can often demonstrate little resolve over the sweeping neglect of what is most precious and holy – the knowledge of who Jesus is. This is the apex of spiritual warfare, but has it become an invisible war?

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