Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: Getting Jesus Wrong

Getting Jesus Wrong
By Matt Johnson
New Growth Press, 2017


Jesus is not a life coach, a movement leader, a cultural visionary, or a blessing dispenser-but you might not know that by listening to many Christians talk about their faith.

Feel-good slogans promote a caricatured Jesus made in our own image who cannot save us and leave us feeling guilty for not saving ourselves. Following the wrong Jesus disappoints us and produces anxiety, pride, and despair.

The first half of Getting Jesus Wrong recounts pastor and author Matt Johnson's personal encounters with a string of false saviors-false saviors that many, especially young adults, will recognize. Johnson's humor and transparency in recounting his own painful experiences will appeal to those who have tried a "brand" of Christianity and found it lacking.

The truth is, we all want something from Jesus. Some are just hoping for a little help to get through life-a new direction, a purpose that will get us up in the morning, an exercise plan, a way to get organized. But that approach to Jesus doesn't result in real faith or love.

Whether we've followed a false Jesus or attempted to coopt the real Jesus, Getting Jesus Wrong ultimately offers us hope because it helps us see Jesus as he is. Getting Jesus Wrong shows that the message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to us as we are-which is good news for exhausted and disillusioned disciples. It shows us that getting Jesus right means a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (daily dependence on the one who knows the beginning from the end). Getting Jesus right gives us more than spiritual vitamins or a blueprint for living; it gives us a full, rich life spent exploring the depths of gospel love together.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

I’m glad I chose to review Getting Jesus Wrong because it is a well written, solid, and thought provoking book. It’s easy to read, and Johnson expresses himself with honesty and clarity. And best of all, it’s a book for everyone – from seeker to those who grew up in the church.

“I was using God for his gifts
rather than loving him as The Giver.”

I was intrigued by the title and found myself more than a little convicted over the early chapters where he describes several false views of Jesus (“false gods”): the Life Coach Jesus, Checklist Jesus, Movement Leader Jesus, Visionary Jesus. Ever since biblical times, people have had false impressions of the type of Messiah they expected Jesus to be.

I love how Johnson writes with openness and subtle humor, drawing from personal experience. I’ve often seen these four images of Jesus played out in people around me, one particular example being that of switching churches. I wonder how many people, if honest, could relate to Johnson’s confession that his “impulses for switching were always to go after something new and relevant, something more cutting edge.” Part two deals with the antidote to these various false gods, all of which I enjoyed. Johnson did a good job of explaining the Law and showing the connection between it and the gospel.

In drawing from personal experience, I felt that his negative experiences in megachurch settings colored his conclusions. I also expected Getting Jesus Wrong to focus more on personal relationship with Jesus than on churches. But while I might not agree with all that was written, this is a thought provoking and encouraging book, well worth the read.


I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Matt Johnson is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology living in Seattle. He is also a freelance writer and editor. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry.

Find out more about Matt at

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