One of the best selling books in the category of “Christology” at Amazon.com right now is The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived: Secrets for Unparalleled Success and Unshakable Happiness from the Life of Jesus. One of the customer reviews explains the book this way:
He started his career with eight failures and became a multi-millionaire. In this book, he shows you how to succeed at being the best YOU you can be, by being like Jesus. This book is “How to win friends and influence people” plus every book that John Maxwell ever wrote, all in one. You can save yourself a ton of time and money if you buy, read, highlight, study, and apply the principles of this book.
In an endorsement, JetBlue Airways CEO David Neeleman says, “I believe these breakthrough strategies could propel you to levels of success and happiness you haven’t imagined. No wonder the wisest man who ever lived also became the richest!”*
We can scrutinize this spiritual vacuousness of this book till the cows come home. But the problem is that what is making this book so popular right now is also what drives the message of too many of our churches: Jesus wants you to achieve your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The evangelical Jesus is the guru of our American dreams.
And why? Because that’s what we want. That’s what sells easily to us. That’s what draws the crowd.
In John 6 we get a breathtaking survey of the extremes of Jesus’ ministry. He begins by feeding a crowd of 5,000, a feat so miraculous and impressive they basically try to make him king by force. Then Jesus walks on the raging waters. The crowd loves it!
Then he says lunch is great, but eating his flesh and blood is best. And he teaches on God’s sovereignty, not man’s autonomy (John 6:65) and he loses a whole lot of people. He goes from packing out the arena to leading a small group.
Let us beware of negating the scandal for fear of losing a crowd. Jesus needs no adornment, and he certainly won’t stand for having his message twisted or enhanced for maximum customer satisfaction.
You may end up with a crowd, but you may end up with no Jesus.
* Correction: Astute reader Matthew points out that the Neeleman endorsement was for the author’s previous book, one on the business/life principles of Solomon. It was placed on the page for this book, so I mistook it for a new endorsement. I think the concept (and the sample pages I was able to read) still earn the criticism in the post, however.