Are You Following the Real Jesus or a Counterfeit?

Real Jesus Fake JesusThe Emergent Church’s main priority is to be followers of Jesus Christ. A young man with whom I have become acquainted via the internet and in particular his blog insisted that I should not call him a Christian but a follower of Jesus.

At first glance this may seem tworthy to imitate. However, we really need to ask Jesus who?

I was shocked to the bone when I recently read an article in which several world-renowned figureheads in evangelical Christianity were featured as champions of the faith.

I immediately thought of Paul’s words of warning in 2 Corinthians 11, proclaiming that there were false apostles who claimed to have worked on the same terms as he did. What a villainous, wicked, dishonest and deceitful thing to do!

I can just imagine them saying, “Brother Paul endorses our work wholeheartedly because we are working on the same terms as he.” This was not only a very subtle attack on Paul’s missionary work but a very fraudulent way to promote their heresies.

No wonder Paul felt compelled to use such a frank and outspoken approach to quash this very dangerous situation in the Corinthian Church:

You seem quite happy and pleased to endure it when a man comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the [Spirit] you [once] received, or a different Gospel from the one you [then] received and welcomed. You tolerate [all that] well enough. (2 Corinthians 11:4)

How do we discern when a different Gospel is preached, motivating  people  to receive another Jesus and another spirit?

The most obvious answer most Christians would afford is “erroneous doctrine” which is clearly correct. But what incites wrong doctrine? The driving force behind wrong doctrine is the obsessive desire to please man and to receive rousing accolades for doing so. Paul’s succinct description in 1 Timothy 4:2-4 fits the situation in the churches of our day like a glove,

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Bill Hybels Willow CreekWillow Creek Community Church in Northwest suburban Chicago is one of the largest mega-churches in America of which Bill Hybels is the senior pastor out of a total of approximately 48 staff pastors.

It claims to have a membership of 12,000 plus souls. Pastor Hybels did a thorough survey of the un-churched Harrys and Marys in their community to determine why they never attended church services.

The answers they came up with formed the basis for a more upbeat and palatable gospel. The survey indicated that they:

  1. didn’t like to be bugged for money.
  2. “found church boring, predictable and to much of a routine.
  3. “didn’t think that church was relevant to their lives,” and . . .
  4. “always left church feeling guilty” (the Christian message was too negative with sin etc).

The result was a man made mega-church with all the trappings and glitz and entertainment of an Oscar winning Hollywood film.

In order to accommodate the battle of the sexes (chauvinism and feminism) Hybels adopted two different gospels – one for men and one for women.

The gospel for men is to rid them of their “mindless misrepresentations of masculine identity,” while the one for women offers them the freedom from “being a people pleaser” and thereby allowing herself to satisfy her “need for inner security.” 

I was wondering whether Hybels’ male and female gospels had any influence on Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men conferences and Elza Meyer’s Esther and Hadassa Women’s Conferences.

The most alarming thing about Willow Creek is that thousands upon thousands flock to their staff to learn the techniques for church growth.

More or less 15,000 people attend the Saturday evening and Sunday’s seeker services accompanied by contemporary music, multimedia displays, dramatic sketches and watered-down messages geared to reach the itching ears of the “investigative Christians.”

Sadly they are not building on the already lain foundation. They are laying a completely new foundation, not of solid rock but shifting sands that cannot withstand the consuming fire of a Holy God.

It is different gospel, with another Jesus and another spirit at the helm of things. I chose Willow Creek as an example amongst many others because it typifies many others who are following in its footsteps (see here).

Jesus never mollycoddled or catered to the whimsical fancies of people so that they may “feel welcome, unthreatened and entertained” as Hybels would say.

No! Jesus struck at the core of man’s problem, his sin which he expresses in his self-will, self-centeredness, self-worth, self-esteem, self-importance, etc. These are the very things that keep us from following Christ.

I would like to draw your attention to the word “finish” in Luke 14:25-33. The fact that it appears three times should make us to take special note of it. God’s purpose for our lives is to finish our course with joy (Acts 20:24).

Repentance and the new birth is only the beginning of the course. Unfortunately preachers are often guilty of keeping their congregations ensnared in the beginning stages of their new life in Christ.

They do not encourage them to press on, to such a degree that their church members become complacent and passive (satisfied with the status quo. Or, as some would say, “we don’t want to rock the boat,” especially when they need to warn their congregations against false doctrine.

Multitudes of people followed Jesus, most of them, however, for all the wrong purposes and reasons.

The majority of the people followed Him because He had given them bread to eat. Others seem to have been more interested in the miracles He performed.

Sheer curiosity motivated many people to follow Him. Jesus did not play along with their whimsical desires. He stopped, turned around and facing them He explained exactly what was required of them to follow Him.

The great majority of people were usually offended by what He said and turned their backs on Him. It is evident from Jesus’ words that discipleship does not merely mean to follow Him. It involves a great deal more than that.

One can only imagine what the huge crowd’s response could have been if Jesus had said, “Anyone who would like to accept Me as their Saviour, come forward and I will pray for you”, or “those of you who want to give their hearts to Me, put up your hands, bow your heads and close your eyes while I pray for you.” 

This may seem somewhat of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, this is happening in many churches throughout the world today. Although we should have a burning desire in our hearts to bring as many sinners as possible to repentance, we should always guard against over-eagerness.

Unrestrained zeal often fails to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). When the whole counsel (will) of God is declared fearlessly, it compels any would-be follower of Christ to first sit down and count the cost.

This is exactly what Jesus was saying to the huge crowds that followed Him. Sit down, (give yourself the time to ponder this very important matter with prudence) and count the cost (make very sure that you are prepared to pay the price of discipleship and finish the course).

Pay the price? Isn’t salvation a free gift from God? (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Yes! Indeed it is and we need to thank God for His wonderful grace every day.

However, Jesus clearly says that discipleship does not go without cost. What does this price or cost entail? To find a proper answer we need to review the world’s magnetic allurement on the human heart.

Man’s natural inclination is to find security, solace, happiness, pleasure and acceptance in the world. As a matter of fact, every child is born into a family where the principles and standards of the world is impressed on his susceptible mind from early childhood.

Very soon he becomes entangled in the things of the world “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

According to 2 Peter 2:20, the world pollutes or defiles. It contaminates the one who associates himself with the things of the world. Everyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God (James 4:4).

Could there be anything more devastating and dangerous than this – to be an enemy of God? It follows that one needs to come out of the world before the enmity can be removed.

A radical translocation is the only means to eradicate the animosity between a friend of the world and God. In Colossians 1:13 we are told that God’s children have been removed from one place to another, i.e. from the dominion of darkness and evil into the kingdom of His dear Son in whom we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of our sins.

There is, however, always the danger of being drawn into the world again and saints are warned to beware lest any man spoil you (carry you off as a captive) “through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

The rudiments of the world are so strongly embedded in fallen man that God Himself had to die on the cross to free us from its venomous tentacles. Through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection we have been cut off (severed) from the world.

We are no longer of the world although we are in the world. In His High Priestly prayer in John 17 Jesus twice says, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Listen very carefully what Jesus is saying here, “we are not of the world as He Himself is not of the world.”

To live as an alien (foreigner) in this world naturally makes us enemies of the world. To be hated by the world, to be dejected, humiliated, and to be the target of scoffers and mockers are all part and parcel of the price disciples of Jesus have to pay.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4: 11, “Up to this time, we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” Our flesh (the old Adam nature) is not capable of enduring this kind of treatment.

Self-pity usually engulfs the soul like a dark cloud when persecution, tribulation and hardship befall God’s saints and many begin to compromise their position with the world.

There is only one sure antidote against the slippery road into worldliness – self-denial and mortification. Listen to what Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself (forget himself, lose sight of himself and his own interests), and take up his cross (die to the world and its dainties) daily, and follow Me.” 

Napoleon Bonaparte, the great French conqueror in the previous century said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must sustain me.” The conquest of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross has made us what we are and it is only His conquest that will sustain us.

Every true child of God is acutely aware of the Holy Spirit’s godly jealousy in his innermost being.

He is particularly sensitive to the Spirit’s jealous supplications to “Come out of her, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” and “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 

The prerequisite for God to be your Father and for you to be called His sons and His daughters is separation, self-denial and mortification of the flesh. We have no right to call Him Father while we frivolously compromise our divine calling to be separated from the world and the things in the world (James 4:4).

The natural tendency of the human soul is to freely indulge in all the pleasures of the world without a twinge of conscience. Children of God who do not separate themselves from the world are no better than the unbelievers who naturally partake of the things in the world.

In fact they are worse and are called “adulterers and adulteresses” or unfaithful wives who are having illicit affairs with the world. What are the traits or characteristics of those who compromise there calling to be separated from the world?

They become friends of the world. It means that the world accepts you as its friend because there is very little left in your make-up to indicate that you are not of this world (John 17:16).

The distinct demarcation or differences between you and the world has faded away to such a degree that the world begins to accept you as its own. The world no longer hates you the way it hated Jesus but rather develops a very congenial and friendly attitude toward you.

We should be very concerned when the world starts to love us and cuddle up to us as its friend. If we truly desire to follow the real Jesus and not a counterfeit we should constantly remind ourselves where He is to be found.

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:12-14)

In stark contrast with the above, the Emergent followers of Jesus demand to have the Kingdom of God to come here and now. What they fail to see, is that they are playing into the hands of Antichrist whose wish it is to set up his own kingdom of darkness and destruction.

Daniel 8:23-25:  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.  (24)  And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.  (25)  And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Who are you following – the real Jesus or a counterfeit Jesus? Who have you received – the real Holy Spirit or a counterfeit spirit who supposedly lights the fire of God in you (“Rodney Howard-Brownism”), What Gospel are you preaching – the real Gospel of Jesus Christ or a false Gospel that is misleading millions of people into believing that they are experiencing a mighty revival? (Angus Buchanism)

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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

35 Responses

  1. Redeemed

    I think you understood me in a big way.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Dan: “(Rom 8:10) Your body is dead (it’s a condemned thing) but if Jesus is in you, your spirit is alive because of righteousness (that He obtained for you). Therefore follow the desires of the Spirit and not of the body. Whatever thoughts and desires arise from within the body / mind, is against the Spirit. There is nothing good to be found there. For that reason, I no longer trust it, I treat it also as a condemned thing. Is that correct? “

    If we ask the right questions, we’ll get the right answers.
    What brings condemnation? The law.
    What keeps us in bondage to the law? Sin
    What is the victory that overcomes sin? Faith in the blood of Christ, the finished work of the cross.
    Who brings condemnation? The accuser of the brethren.
    Who sets us free? Christ
    Who condemns us? Who cares?
    We are free by the fact and when we stand in that truth, we will experience the victory over sin and death.
    Who said that? God
    Then it is true? Yes.
    What if our hearts condemn us? Doesn’t matter.
    Faith is the victory over sin…now stand strong!

    Thomas…you said, “If we do not live, walk and talk in the victory Jesus has already wrought for us on the cross and try to work towards a victory, we have already failed. (Romans 7 again). “ Agreed. Also read your article on RR. Well said.

    We do struggle, not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and wickedness in high places. But the victory has already been won by Christ. We can walk in belief and tear down any lies that set themselves up against the knowledge of God by speaking the truth in love.

  3. Redeemed wrote:

    Comment: I am sorry, but unless I am missing something, I find this statement somewhat confusing. Certainly if the Lord Jesus had not gone to the cross and exacted justice for our sins there would be no path to salvation. But it is each individual’s choice whether to personally accept and apply redemption to themselves and their sin and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of the Christian life. That fact is well-established. What we are discussing here is the Christian’s walk after regeneration.


    Comment: Here you say “try to work towards a victory”. The victory wrought for us on the cross is for our salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It did not nullify the ability of the flesh to stumble us. Note again Matthew 6:21. We are exhorted to be on the alert lest we fall into temptation.

    I can assure you that the cross of Jesus Christ does not only relate to our salvation but has everything to do with our sanctification as well. Perhaps this is the reason why you misunderstood me.

    I never said that the cross nullified the ability of the flesh to stumble us. Why would I want to do that when Paul said: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”(Gal 2:20). In the same way that the cross cannot benefit anyone without appropriating its salvific work to the soul without faith, in the same way the cross cannot benefit the saint without appropriating its work of mortification to the flesh without faith. Paul says that although he lived in the flesh he no longer lived BY it. He lived BY the faith of the Son. Here Paul proved that the cross was not only intended for our salvation but also for our sanctification.

    In Matthew 26:41 the word temptations convey more the meaning of the testing of their faith in the face of their approaching calamities on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion. They believed that He was their Messiah but did not fully understand why He had to die and rise from the dead again. Their hope was fixed in a living Messiah whom they believed would usher in the Kingdom and not a Messiah who had to suffer and die on a cross. This was mainly the reason why Peter denied Him. In fact, He reprimanded Peter and not the three for his failure to watch and pray with Him. So when He said “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation” He actually meant that they should beseech God for aid and protection in the face of the escalating calamities that were coming their way.

  4. Werner Groenewald says:

    Hi Deb,

    I’ve read some of your articles. You have a funny if not weird sense of humor. Anyways, I know that we are living in the last days and the world is getting crazier by the day, if not by the second. Would you be so kind as to give me some bible studying tips?

    I want to make sure that I understand God’s Word the way He meant it to be understood. I’m new in the faith.

  5. Werner

    >> I’ve read some of your articles. You have a funny if not weird sense of humor.

    The weird part just comes out naturally 🙂

    You can read this:
    If you find that confusing, do this:

    Get yourself a KJV and a New KJV and a Concordance. Concordance = very important (or use an online bible study tool) Using a concordance is excellent if you want to find a specific verse (you have already read before) and want to compare that verse with other similar verses.

    At this point it is good to pray, asking Jesus to give you biblical illumination into the scriptures. There is a difference between Holy Spirit illumination and the New Age version.

    Then start at the beginning, Genesis that is. Time take time to digest (pay attention) to what is being said. Regarding the chapter – who the chapter is speaking too? who is speaking to who in the chapter? what is the passage as a whole saying? If you read a verse how does the verse fit in with the verses before and after verses and then also how does that verse fit in with the whole chapter. Who was the verse written to or spoken to? Does the verse mean anything to you personally? And how does that verse fit in with other verses in the bible.

    If you don’t understand a verse and what is being said ask us and we can help 🙂 Help to fellow Christians is what we are here for. You can also use the internet for help, type your question into google and see what comes up, then ask Jesus to help you pick out the right answer because there will probably be a few answers that jump up on the screen and most of them will be wrong – you need to be able to pick out the right answer. The Holy Spirit will then guide you as to what the truth is 🙂

    It sounds like a lot of work, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit it actually becomes really easy and you will find yourself learning really quickly and you will want to know more and more….and more…..and more.

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