For about five dollars you can buy a four-inch plastic bobblehead Jesus that bounces on a metal spring and adheres firmly to the dashboard of your car. One advertisement for this product says you can “stick him where you need forgiveness” and he will “guide you through the valley of gridlock.” He “does not care if you drive a rusted beater or a Ferrari.” He’s not interested in your “method of transportation” but in the path you choose to take,” says the ad. Then in small print there is a disclaimer: “Warning: Choking hazard. Small parts. Not suitable for children under 3 years.”

Well, that should tell you something. There’s nothing small or hazardous about the real Jesus, and He loves children of all ages. But isn’t it telling how this dashboard Jesus has become a cultural phenomenon? Even rock star Jon Bon Jovi has recorded a song about it. In “Lost Highway” he sings, “I don’t know where I’m going … So I drive, years and miles are flying by, and waiting there to greet us is my plastic dashboard Jesus.”

There’s another song, written by Ed Rush and George Cromarty in 1957, titled “Plastic Jesus,” which has been recorded by artists ranging from The King Earl Boogie Band to Billy Idol. Paul Newman sang it in Cool Hand Luke. The words begin, “Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I have my plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of my car.”

To lots of people, Jesus and church and Christianity are cultural trappings but not life-changing realities. It’s not important whether you have Jesus on your car’s dashboard, but it’s vital to know He’s living in your heart. He isn’t plastic, He’s powerful. He’s not small, He’s infinite. He’s not a good-luck token: He’s the risen and reigning Lord of time and eternity.

Josh McDowell speaks of this in one of his books, warning that many people today see Jesus “like a plastic statue on a car dashboard—smiling, robed, a halo suspended above his head.” But that superstitious or sentimental view of Jesus is a myth, says McDowell, for Jesus was and is a real person who knows what life is all about. “Jesus of Nazareth toiled as a carpenter for eighteen years or more, growing muscles in His arms and calluses on his hands. He knew the demands of business—estimates to make, orders to take, prices to quote. He knew the pressures of family.… Jesus of Nazareth was no plastic saint.… He’s a real-world kind of Savior.1

Perhaps you’ve been thumbing through this magazine, trying to check your spiritual dashboard as you’ve gone from article to article, but you can’t read the gauges of your heart because there really is no engine under the hood. Perhaps there’s no Savior in your life. Perhaps you’ve never actually turned your life over to the real Jesus of history and Scripture.

There is a Creator-God who made us and gave us eternal souls, but something has gone wrong in our hearts. Our imperfections and iniquities have alienated us from His glory. That’s why He became a man—the God-Man, Christ Jesus—and came to earth and died on Calvary’s cross for our sins. He rose from the grave on the third day, and He offers us eternal life for the taking. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You can bow your head right now—wherever you are, in your home, at a coffee shop, on an airplane, in a hospital room, or in your car, staring at the dashboard—and quietly ask the Lord Jesus to forgive your sins, redeem your life, and become your Savior. He’s waiting now to enter your heart. Why don’t you let Him come in?

Check-Up Challenge: Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If so, tell someone about it. Be a testimony. Check your spiritual indicators and get on the highway of life as a full-speed testimony. But if not, why not receive Him here and now? Give Him your life and let Him give you His peace and pardon.

1Josh McDowell and Ed Stewart: Josh McDowell’s Youth Devotions, Book 1 (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale: 2003), 21.