I’m delighted to welcome Matt Johnson to the blog today to chat about his book Getting Jesus Wrong.
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.
His book Getting Jesus Wrong released in March 2017 from New Growth Press.
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 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.
Hi Matt! Welcome to the blog! I start all of my guests out with a fast four:
Matt: Apples. Because apples go well with peanut butter.
Carrie: Truth. Oranges and peanut butter? No thanks. Oranges and chocolate? Still no thanks. Oranges and caramel? YUCK. Oranges are boring.
Matt: Winter. Because we don’t appreciate summer without a winter.
Carrie: Oh that’s profound!
Matt: Dogs. Allergies.
Carrie: Amen to that.
Matt: Coffee. It tastes better than tea.
Carrie: hmm… that’s not saying a whole lot 😉 #notafan
Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Matt: To write genius prose without the need to write second, third and fourth drafts.
Carrie: LOL! I know many authors who would fight you for that superpower!
Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?
Matt: Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger, On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde, Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones and Kingdom, Judgment and Grace by Robert Capon.
Carrie: The Jesus Storybook Bible is my fave!! And I have no children lol.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Matt: To quote Dorothy Parker, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
Carrie: That’s a great quote!
Why write about getting Jesus wrong? I mean, you know, beside the obvious lol.
Matt: It seems to me that good news is in short supply these days. Unfortunately, the church is keeping pace with the general culture and so closely equates “good news” with self-actualization that we’re tempted to make Jesus a means to our ends. But to give people the impression that having Jesus in your life always means positive outcomes is to give a false hope that will lead people to pride or despair. We need deeper, more enduring stories than “the story of me” and I don’t know of a better storyline than the one where God is making all things new. When death comes along in life–whether that’s the death of a relationship, a career, or dream—or our final death, God is in the business of resurrection. This is both deeply realistic and hopeful. What we don’t need more of in this culture is irrational optimism. But that doesn’t mean we have to sulk in despair either. It means that we have a deep, true and real hope, but we may have to wait to see if come to fulfillment. This is the kind of hope that I’ve needed in my life, and I’ve got a hunch that it’s the kind of hope others need too.
Carrie: yes!! This is so true!
What surprised you most while researching your book?
Matt: That most of my research didn’t go into my book! I’m not sure how other writers experience the writing life but I threw way more ideas in the trash than ones that made it into my book. This is sobering and frustrating at times, but I decided at the beginning of the project not to really throw anything away, but keep it around for a different use. I may have a few ideas that may come in handy later for other projects, you know?
Carrie: absolutely! I imagine that would be frustrating though.
What do you most want readers to take away from Getting Jesus Wrong?
Matt: Sadly, there are many forms of Christianity that can be bent on control and are spiritually stifling. I know I’m not alone in my frustration over this. For those that are feeling burnt out on church-life and a diet of a less than gospel-focused message, just know that Jesus is not done with you, or his church. Things in our lives die off—relationships, careers, health and the list goes on—but God is not done because He’s in the business of resurrection. Thanks be to God!
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Matt: Thank you. This is fun. What’s next for me? Well, most imminently, deciding what I’ll eat for lunch. Beyond that, more family time. I am married to the lovely Rose of 16 years and we have two little girls together 8 and 5 years old. We like telling each other knock knock jokes and playing board games. Beyond that beyond that…writing and editing. I’m an editor by trade so that keeps me busy throughout the week. As for my own writing, I’ll continue blogging at KeyLife, Christ Hold Fast and therealmattjohnson.com. New book ideas are simmering, but nothing is quite fully developed in my mind to share just yet.
Carrie: Lunch decisions are key. Take your time. 🙂
What about you? What do you hate doing (in the process) but love having done (when you’re finished)?