Review: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs
by Matthew Richard

Which Jesus is real? Is it the national icon who stands for America at all times (and probably your political party)? How about the moral example who shows you how to live? Or is Jesus a therapist who helps you get past your problems? All of these Jesuses are spooking around, depending who you talk to. Which one is real, and what do we do with all the other Jesuses?

Matthew Richard has done a fantastic job in this book showing many ways our North American culture has reshaped Jesus into various idols that look Christian but really, really aren’t. Every chapter begins with a story demonstrating a time someone in Richard’s life espoused a fake Jesus. It continues to show the presuppositions that undergird each fake Jesus and this fake Jesus’s weaknesses. Then there’s a section detailing how to respond to each fake Jesus, followed by a brief summary of what the real Jesus does in contrast to the fake Jesus.

His opening narrations are written in a way that I wish he’d told more of those stories. He shows us real people — people I know. He shows how people we know and love worship at the idols of these false Christs; they aren’t followed by weirdos somewhere out there, but by… well, me and you. It’s a great way to not only teach but to make it real. 

I love Richard’s emphasis when he talks about responding to each fake Jesus. Here’s an example of his approach:

All of this stated, our conversation with Mr. Darby is twofold: we want to provide an adequate defence of the Christian faith (i.e., Christian apologetics) and we want to ultimately get to the point where we can confess the real Jesus – that the real Jesus went to Mount Calvary for Mr. Darby to die for his sins and to be raised for Mr. Darby’s justification. (48)

Richard continually stresses that the point isn’t to argue someone to a correct viewpoint, but to introduce them to the real Jesus. He shows how to gently get a person who follows a fake Jesus to start questioning this Jesus. With all that, though, we can’t get anyone to believe the real Jesus. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job; all we can do is use God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

Richard’s digging into the presuppositions of each false Christ is also worthy of attention. He gets behind each doctrine, and doing so helps the reader see the danger of these idols.

There are a number of sidebars – quite a few, in fact! While well-written and helpful, the placement of the sidebars can be frustrating. I’m guessing it’s an editor that chose where they went, but I found it difficult to figure out when they were supposed to be read. That’s not slamming the writing in the least, but it did distract me from the book itself at times.

Each chapter ends in a two-page bible study that digs into Scripture passages and directs the reader to ask if the false Christ would have done such things, and whether or not what’s in the Bible is better than what the false Christ offers.

It would be very easy to write a book like this pointing fingers at all those foolish people who follow these false Christs. Richard ends with a confession though – of when he has followed and still follows false Christs. He openly admits that he has fallen for the tricks of his sinful nature and had to confess his sins repeatedly. He then points us to the real Jesus, who came for real sinners, who died for real sins, and who really lives today.

All in all, this was a great book, and I think I’m going to be using it as a book study in 2019. I highly recommend this one!

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