Last week, I was listening to a few messages by a guy who leads a great big church. Nice guy—very warm and friendly in his style. One of the things I could tell about him right away was he really cared about his hearers living better lives. By that, I don’t mean rolling into church in a shinier car and makin’ it rain when it’s time to pass the plate, but to live wisely and responsibly.
He had myths to expose, principles to explain, actions to take. He even peppered in a reference to a Bible story or two and brought things around to a verse at the end. He offered lots of good advice—sound advice that if you were to follow, really would help you live a better life, and maybe be a better person.
And rarely have I been more heartbroken than when listening to his talks.
This speaker was just that—an inspirational speaker. He was telling me how I could change my life… but he never told me about the one who died to not only change my life, but to save it. And because of that, what he said at the end of the day was good advice—but not good news.
But this man isn’t doing anything you or I haven’t done a thousand times before—maybe even this morning. We look to the Bible to discover what we must do. How we can change ourselves. How we can fix our problems. We recast Jesus as a self-help guru, one more accurate than the others, but no more able to help us with our greatest needs.
But a Jesus who merely offers good advice is no Jesus at all. We need something greater. My friend Dan put it this way:
We need a victorious King, a sacrificial Lamb of God, a Savior, a Lord, a Creator. Gurus rise and fall. Inspirational figures die. Powerful and benevolent leaders, even at their best, cannot restore and renew the fallen cosmos nor can they close the gap between man and God. Only Jesus the God-man can do this.[1. Daniel Darling, The Original Jesus, 33.]
Guru Jesus can’t help me the way this one can, this Jesus who doesn’t offer good advice, but proclaims good news—because he is good news. That’s the real Jesus. And he is the only kind of Jesus we need.