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10 Counterfeit Christ Figures We Should Stop Worshiping

The problem with this Jesus is not just that he’s been appropriated as a mascot for the GOP, but looks strangely different from the real Jesus of Scripture. The Christ of the gospels didn’t point his people to the 1950s, but forward to Zion. Jesus isn’t simply interested in returning America to a false era of bygone values, but He lived, died and rose again to renew the entire cosmos from the curse of sin. Christians aren’t looking for a return to Mayberry, but for that city whose builder and maker is God.

The American Jesus always disappoints because he seeks ultimate satisfaction in short-term victories instead of a long-term view of the Kingdom of God. The Jesus of Scripture offers a final consummation of Heaven on Earth and enlists his people as future kings and queens of the universe.

5. Left-Wing Jesus

This Jesus serves as a mascot for progressive social causes. This is a Jesus who is definitively anti-capitalist and has little interest in personal salvation by faith. Like the Right who appropriate Christ for political aims, the Jesus of the Left hints at truth.

It is true that the good news of the Kingdom means “good news for the poor” and yet Jesus’ coming wasn’t the first advent of Karl Marx, but the advent of God’s end-times salvation, the inauguration of a new covenant between God and His people, mediated through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. What’s more, the utopian dreams of socialism, which have only ever ended in misery for its subjects, is a paltry agenda compared to the worldwide cosmic renewal promised by Jesus at the end of days.

6. Dr. Phil Jesus

This counterfeit Jesus is a tough-talking dispenser of advice. Evangelicals love this Jesus because he’s the solution for all of their problems. This Jesus comes close to the real Christ of Scripture, who is the answer to our deepest needs, and yet He exchanges a pursuit of Christ for a pursuit of principles. Jesus becomes less of an object of worship than a means to an end—a 12-step recovery program.

But a Jesus who will fix your marriage, shape you up for your next job interview or ensure your kids make it into Harvard is, in the end, a disappointing deity preaching a moralistic, therapeutic deism that doesn’t save. The real Jesus leads us not to a set of principles, but to himself.

7. Prosperity Jesus

This counterfeit Jesus is Dr. Phil Jesus’ extravagant cousin. He doesn’t just promise a better life, he promises a wealthy and prosperous life. Prosperity Jesus is popular in the wealthy suburbs of the West, where persecution and difficulty have been programmed out of the system. But he’s strangely discomforting to the nitty-gritty, threadbare existence of most Christians around the world.

Prosperity Jesus is an insidious heresy, preying both on the poor to collect their money and causing disappointment and ruin when the promised prosperity doesn’t materialize. The real Christ doesn’t promise private jets and vacation condos, but offers the presence of God in the midst of difficult and self-denying faithfulness in a fallen world. What’s more, the Christ of Scripture offers a much better future return on investment than the short-term bling of earthly kingdoms.

8. Post-Church Jesus

Burned out by the overly political, legalistic church of your youth? The Post-Church Jesus allows you to worship him without all the trappings of the institutional church. In some ways, this Jesus is attractive for those who’ve grown tired of a gospel that sounds more like traditionalism than the gospel of Christ.

But the real Jesus doesn’t offer his followers the option of following him without being part of the church. The very act of regeneration by faith baptizes the believer into the body of Christ. Christ loves his bride and offers no fruitful path of faith outside of the community of faith.

9. BFF Jesus

This Jesus hits close to home, for it’s the Jesus of my evangelical culture. BFF Jesus hints at the truth of the Christ of Scripture, who is a friend of sinners, who offers personal salvation by faith. However, the BFF Jesus of some of our modern worship songs sounds less like the righteous ruler of Revelation and more like Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. He’s needy and clingy.

What’s more, this Jesus seems to have no connection to 2,000 years of church history and the weight of Christian orthodoxy. Instead, he’s a light and fun Jesus. Personal, private, but detached from the coming King of righteousness and justice described by the Old Testament prophets.

BFF Jesus is a Jesus who fits well with our culture of narcissism. He approves, without reservation, our lifestyles and behaviors and is safe for the whole family. He’s the Jesus of pop evangelicalism, which offers little preparation for difficulty and hard times and offers little anchor for the coming cultural storms.

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Daniel Darling is the author of several books, including "A Way with Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good." Follow him on Twitter: @dandarling