the content of the Gospels, especially LUKE and JOHN. Saturate your
mind with the life of Jesus. Become your own expert on what it
means to "follow" Jesus. Many people have found that they gain a better
picture of Jesus by reading through the Gospel of Mark (only 16
chapters) in one sitting. Use a good modern language translation
for this exercise. You will notice things about Jesus that you
did not realize before.
few years ago, my friend Paul, who was director of an AIDS support
ministry in San Francisco, was going through a lot of stress about his
work. He agreed to read through the Gospel of Mark and let me
know what he learned. When we met a couple of days later, Paul
said he read Mark and did not like what he learned! I asked,
"Why?" Paul answered, "Jesus had volunteers who did not show up
too!" Why don't you read through Mark and see what you learn
about Jesus that speaks to you. When you do this, please e-mail
me and let me know what you learned.
John 20:30: "These have been written that you may believe (continuously believe) that Jesus is the Christ,
the child of God: and that believing (following) you may have life in Jesus' name."
and learning the story of Jesus in the Gospels is necessary if you
really want to "follow Jesus" in your spiritual recovery and
growth. Learning the content of LUKE and JOHN will take time and
discipline. Learning these inclusive and Jesus centered documents
can be made easier by sharing your study with at least one other
Further discussion of Step 8 can be found in my book Steps To Recovery From Bible Abuse in the following Lessons:
(Click on the Bible references to see them.)
No. 29. "JESUS MADE ALL THINGS NEW"
Luke 4:16-30; Matthew 25:35-40; Romans 15:1-7
No. 30. "WOMEN DISCIPLES CHANGED THE WORLD"
Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; 23:49, 55-56; 24:1-11; Mark 16:14
No. 31. "JESUS WAS MISUNDERSTOOD"
Matthew 27:39-50; Mark 8:14-21
No. 32. "JESUS AND AIDS"
On to Step 9
The following material was added on May 18, 2001:
"JESUS FOR DUMMIES"
one of my readers, responded to my last update on "Following the Wrong
Jesus" by suggesting that we need a book on "JESUS FOR DUMMIES"!
It has a challenging ring to it. We have computer, Internet, web
site, technology and dozens of other books "for dummies". In many
areas of our rapidly changing world, we are all "dummies" and not
experts. My copy of "The Internet for Dummies" says it is: "What
to do when bad things happen!"
more I explore and study the details and relevance today of the Bible
and the truth about Jesus, the more I realize that I am still a "dummy"
and have only a smattering of the knowledge and understanding that I
need to help others experience the real Jesus. We are all
"dummies" about God and spiritual issues. As John 1:18 reminds
us: "Nobody has seen God at any time." Since there is no hard
evidence about God, we all imagine God in our own personal distorted
I looked up "dummy" in Webster's, and I was not prepared for the definition: "one who is stupid"!
for Dummies" should include the facts that are obvious even to
dummies. What are the facts? How can these facts be made
clear and simple enough for any dummy to grasp and understand?
begin with, it seems to me that Jesus was a "minimalist" in that Jesus
worked hard to simplify his teachings and make them easy for a child to
understand. Jesus kept it simple. One invitation for all:
"Follow me." One "new" commandment: "Love one another just as I
have loved you." One commission: "Make disciples of all
people." It really is that simple.
LOVE, COMPASSION, COURAGE
all of the actions and teachings of Jesus were the values of love,
compassion and courage. Love is acted out in all of the dealings
of Jesus with people. To have compassion is to feel and
experience the feelings and experiences of others. To live with
courage is to act on your confidence that God is with you and within
you. The presence of God through the Spirit in your life calms
your fears and gives you the confidence to accept yourself and others
and to be your true self no matter what others might think or do.
is "the greatest thing in the world" as described by Paul in 1
Corinthians 13 and expounded by Henry Drummond in his brief book by
this title. "Love covers a multitude of sins" and the bottom line
about love in the New Testament (1 John 4:18) is: "There is no fear in
love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear causes pain."
"We love, because God first loved us."
demonstrated his commitment to love and truth. Political power is
based on deceit and the threat of violence. Spiritual power is
based on love and truth. The startling contrast between Jesus and
worldly power is always evident throughout the Four Gospels. The
use of force or deceit to gain religious control was completely foreign
to the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus would die before he would lie or
truth is elusive and comes by insight and revelation more than by
reading and studying. The truth will set you free. Jesus
gave the final answer to what truth is by saying: "I am the
truth." My entire ministry has been devoted to correcting
religious misinformation and making accurate factual information
available about who you are, who other people are, and who Jesus really
speak the truth in love, others do not perceive what we say as truth.
CELEBRATING YOUR HUMANITY
was human. Jesus refused to perform magic to feed himself in his
temptations. He refused to be enticed into denying his humanity
by jumping off the Temple to be miraculously saved by the angels.
Jesus became hungry, thirsty, tired, angry, and lonely. Jesus
experienced pain, betrayal, grief and death. Jesus entered fully
into his real humanity and showed how being fully human can both
glorify God and serve other people.
Jesus accepted and felt good about himself and worked hard to help others accept
and feel good about themselves.
Four Gospels are our primary sources about Jesus. Where did the
Gospels come from and what has been their history? See my web
site material on "Hebrew and Greek"
. Notice especially the material on "Translating the Gospels."
The Gospels pose many problems of authenticity, editing and additions over many centuries. See the work of the "Jesus Seminar"
if we have to reduce the reliable material in the Gospels because of
obvious editing and later additions, the picture of Jesus is quite
clear and is consistent with the basic understanding of Jesus in the
writings of Paul. Jesus clearly accepted and affirmed people that
everybody else rejected and condemned.
final act of Jesus on the cross in Luke is the highly dramatic act of
Jesus accepting the dying murderer next to him and saying, "You will be
with me today." This sums up the inclusive picture of Jesus given
throughout the Gospel of Luke.
PROPOSITIONS VS. EXPERIENCE
has reduced Jesus to sets of propositions, doctrines and required
beliefs. The Gospels and our personal human experiences have
expanded the reality of Jesus far beyond anything that can be pictured
in art or can be expressed adequately in rules, creeds and church
doctrines. Church teachings not only are the product of long
tradition and many mistakes of the past, they also are contradictory
and confusing. Breaking out of the spiritual bondage of
traditional religion is consistent with the actions and teachings of
Jesus in the Gospels.
differ and battle each other over what propositions are true and
necessary. Dozens of different versions of the Bible compete for
acceptance. Doctrines and propositions about God and Jesus are a
retreat into the past, often the murky dim past. Personal
experience is now. The Spirit of Jesus within is relevant,
instructive and liberating.
A NEW BEGINNING
self-acceptance the key to a new beginning in knowing Jesus?
Jesus began and ended in radical actions of self-acceptance. All
along the way, Jesus said: "Follow me". Is the first step
accepting yourself and affirming yourself before you can "accept"
Jesus? Accepting Jesus is meaningless unless you know and accept
who you are as a human being in the image of God.
Jesus "for dummies" is the same Jesus for everybody.
constantly demand that people should deny and reject their own true
self and accept teachings and behavior that deny their humanity and
exhaust their energies trying to play god in an unhealthy judgmental
legalistic lifestyle. There must be a better way. The first
step for all dummies is to admit and face the fact that what is
happening is not working. The computer freezes up, the "This
program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down" box
will not go away, and the new programs simply won't work!
ACCEPT AND AFFIRM YOURSELF
do indeed need a "Jesus for Dummies". Accepting and affirming
your own humanity is a good beginning. You are in the image of
God and already have God's unconditional inclusive love and
acceptance. Whatever Jesus did was done for the entire human
race. You don't have to do anything. Paul said: "As in Adam
all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22)
That is an absolute fact for Paul. It includes no required
beliefs or rituals or religion. God's acceptance of you simply is.
enter into what is already yours, you have to become a "dummy" and let
go of all religion and every legalistic judgmental control forced upon
you by sick and abusive churches. Perhaps Jesus really is for
"dummies" only. After all, Jesus did pick up a little child
(about 2 years old) and declared that unless you turn around and humble
yourself and become like this little child, you have no hope of
experiencing God in your life! (Matthew 18:1-5) Jesus added: "If
you receive one such child, you receive me." Does that also mean
that if you become like a little child and receive yourself, you are
the real question not "Do you love Jesus?" but "Do you love
yourself?" How can you love and accept Jesus, whom you have not
seen, if you do not love and accept yourself, whom you are?
Accepting yourself is the first step. It is not the last.
most of us, the hardest part of becoming like a little child is
unlearning all of the religious conditioning that calls itself
Christian, but isn't. Read Philippians 3:1-14 to see how Paul
came to this conclusion for himself by letting go of abusive religion
so that he could really know Jesus.
WISDOM OR FAITH
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 in the "Good News Bible" for Paul's powerful
analysis of how God turns weakness into strength and foolishness into
wisdom. "God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in
order to put the wise to shame, and what the world considers weak in
order to put the powerful to shame. God chose what the world
looks down on, and despises, and thinks is nothing in order to destroy
what the world thinks is important. This means that nobody can boast
before God. God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and
God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By Jesus we are put right
with God, become God's own people and are set free."
of my great teachers, Dr. Eric Rust, liked to say, "God is not found at
the end of an argument!" Jesus also is not found at the end of a
debate or within a list of rules and teachings. Jesus is not
found in abusive legalism, in keeping commandments or in judgmental
religion. Jesus is free from law and religion and cannot be found
there. Any genuine contact with Jesus liberates you also.
real "dummies" are those who think that they already know everything
and are so out of touch with the Spirit of Jesus that they think that
their judgmental legalistic rejection of others is actually "holy
living" instead of hypocrisy, which Jesus said was the road to
destruction. (Matthew 23)
Becoming a dummy for
Jesus means letting go of all of your imagined religious success and following Jesus plus nothing.
And all of this applies to me too!
With love and hope,
The following material was added on February 10, 2002:
"TWELVE STEPS TO RECOVERING JESUS"
Step One: Admit that you have a vague incorrect view of Jesus and that religion has misled and confused you.
Step Two: Turn to God who is already within you as your basic source for knowing and following the Spirit of Jesus.
Take the time to learn the basic content of the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts.
Step Four: Question everything in the Jesus traditions that does not make sense or ring true to you.
Search for and write down a list of the actions and teachings of Jesus
in the Gospels that demonstrate something human and accessible that you
can realistically follow and do yourself, such as accepting and
celebrating your own humanity and having compassion for other people.
Find or start a small group in your home that can provide a setting for
dialogue, discussion, encouragement, learning, changing and growing.
Fearlessly face and challenge the misinformation and confusions about
Jesus that seem to interfere most with your own acceptance of Jesus as
real and relevant to you.
Start over in your own spiritual journey by letting go of legalistic
judgmental religious literature, people and groups. Don't listen
to the ignorant misinformation of fundamentalists and other forms of
self-serving religious confusion.
Search for and find resources from other people both ancient and modern
that also have struggled with their own understanding of Jesus and have
challenged the traditions and tried to cut through the gloom to see the
Accept yourself as you are, just as Jesus accepted himself, and build a
self-esteem basis for being able to accept and follow the real Jesus
that is beginning to emerge in your personal search and study.
Step Eleven: Take others along with you in your journey of discovery and clarification whenever you have opportunity.
Act positively and with compassion on what you are learning and experiencing about the real Jesus.
On to Step 9