Nearly every weekend at Venture Christian Church, someone who’s been listening to me on the radio will meet me in person for the first time. When they see me, their reaction is almost always the same: “Pastor Chip, you don’t look anything like you sound!” Or, “You’re way taller on the radio!” One lady looked at me with disappointment and said, “I thought you were bald!”
I can laugh about it because I realize that it’s common for us to create mental pictures of people in our minds. In effect, people become who we think they are.
But what if we do the very same thing with Jesus?
When you really think about it, what picture comes to mind when you hear the name “Jesus”? Which would be the easiest to picture: Jesus praying, or Jesus partying? Jesus looking holy, or Jesus laughing loudly? Jesus sipping a cup of tea, or Jesus drinking a glass of wine? Jesus keeping the peace as a religious leader, or Jesus causing a riot as a radical revolutionary?
Most of us would admit that we struggle with picturing Jesus laughing loudly, drinking a glass of wine and even starting a riot. But He did! This isn’t the Jesus that we see in the little picture books, but it’s who He is.
Could our “filters” be blinding us to the real Jesus of the Bible? Could we be unconsciously thinking about Jesus in a way that isn’t true?
We all have a filter or a mental picture of Jesus that we’ve gotten through life. For most Christians, our view of Jesus is shaped by the opinions of our friends and family, the church we grew up in – or the absence of one — the sermons we’ve heard and even the books we’ve read. Even when we read the Bible, the message goes through this mental filter.
So what’s the solution – how do we discover the “real Jesus” today?
We need to study the Bible for ourselves.
Most people have not personally said, I’m going to look at the evidence and the research to find out who Jesus is, who He is to me, and find out what difference that makes in my life. But I believe that each of us needs to study the Bible for ourselves, not just take someone else’s word for it.
This doesn’t mean rushing through a chapter for few minutes in the morning just to check off another item on our to-do list. It means spending quality time studying the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts through His Word.
When studying the Bible we should be asking three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? And, what does it means to me? The three steps are: observation, interpretation, and application.
I would especially encourage you to study the Gospel of John in this way to discover the real story of the real Jesus. Why John? There are certain parallels with the Apostle John’s culture and how our world is today.
During John’s time, around 90 A.D., pluralism began creeping into the church. There wasn’t a clear sense of right and wrong and people began to form their own beliefs about God. Sound familiar?
What the Church needed to know then was: who is Jesus, where did He come from and what did He really teach?
The same need applies to us today.
John actually explains his purpose for writing the gospel: Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30)
God’s desire is that everyone would come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the creator of the universe, so that we would come to know Him for who He really is, and have eternal life.
Want to know more about Jesus and what it means to really live like a Christian? Browse our Small Group resources page or view our Weekday Radio Archive where you can access all of our previously aired radio broadcasts.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip