I think one of the traps Christians fall into is focusing too much on Jesus and not enough on God. I know that sounds strange, since those of us who believe in Jesus usually believe in the trinity (God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
But as a pastor I see this happening more and more, and it’s a cause for concern. It always happens in two very distinct ways: one theological and one practical.
1. Christians base their beliefs/behavior on Jesus only.
As Christians we believe ALL scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), not just what Jesus said and did. Where this gets minimized, for instance, is an issue like homosexuality. “Jesus never mentioned homosexuality,” people will say, “Therefore it must not be that big of a deal to God.” No, ALL scripture, not just the words spoken by Jesus, reflect God’s will for how we’re to live our lives.
There are actually all kinds of things Jesus never talked about, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what God’s will is in those situations. That’s because Jesus continued to speak through the Apostles. Jesus said in John 14:26, “…The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Want to know what Jesus thinks about homosexuality? Read the apostle Paul, someone through whom Jesus continued to speak.
2. Christians focus on Jesus to the exclusion of God because he’s “relatable.”
I’ll never forget the story Brennan Manning told about the Sunday School teacher that taught a lesson on Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac on an altar. Someone in the class jumped up and said, “I’m leaving!” When the teacher asked why, the man responded, “Unlike the anemic version of God that’s been taught around here for years, Abraham’s God will blow you to bits! I’m going to find a church that teaches me about that God.”
I think the temptation to reduce God to a tamer, more controllable version of Himself is a tempting proposition for anyone, which is why Jesus seems like the natural choice among all those in the Trinity. But doing so would create a false understanding of who Jesus really is (read through the Gospel of John with unfiltered, unbiased eyes, and you just might change your tune).
Here are a few suggestions to focus more on God, less on Jesus:
- Realize that the mild mannered Jesus (that never really existed in the first place) now sits at the right hand of God, ready to judge the living and the dead. That weak-willed, tolerant caricature of Jesus that remains in your mind doesn’t reflect reality. Jesus = God, the deity of both the Old and New Testaments.
- Read the 13 letters of Paul from beginning to end. The apostle Paul is a great tutor that can teach us how to correctly assimilate the Jesus of the gospels into a biblical understanding of who God is today.
- Remove all Jesus statues from your dashboard. Besides being a daily reminder of “reducing” Jesus down to something we can control, they’re a bit icky wouldn’t you agree?
How have you seen Christians focus on Jesus to the exclusion of God? Any suggestions for how to correct that?