Jesus is the only way

March 14, 2010

I was listening to a d.j./minister on the radio while driving to work last week.  He explained that he had been in a shopping check-out line with a man who apparently was not a Christian.  This particular man who was standing in line said that he had a problem with, “Jesus being the only way to heaven.”  The minister explained that this truth was also something that he had struggled with.  Then he proceeded to ask a question to the unbeliever, “Wouldn’t that be cool though?”  The man did not understand what he meant.  He restated, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was more than one way?”  The minister used this extreme example to apparently demonstrate that, “Although at times he struggled with the exclusivity of Christianity, he ultimately believed Jesus when He said, “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).’”

He also proceeded to explain the difference between relativism (what is right for me may not be right for you, i.e., there is no absolute truth etc.) and absolutism (meaning there is absolute truth, right and wrong, etc.).  He continued to explain that relativism ultimately leads to one being able to live however they want and not be accountable to anyone for their lifestyle.  He proceeded to explain all of this to say that he simply “believes Jesus when He says that He is the only way to heaven.”

I want to reiterate that this was a small segment on a radio station and not a program or sermon.   Either way, it fell utterly short of defining exclusivity and why Jesus is the only way to heaven. 

For some reason, it seems that even Christians are intimidated by the world’s response to the exclusivity of Christianity and the claims of Jesus Himself.  The moment we are questioned or dared to answer or respond from an unbeliever or skeptic as to why these things are true, we try to respond with the most politically or “religiously” correct answer so as to not offend the person who is asking.  We back into a corner and sheepishly respond with, “I’m sorry that Christianity is exclusive and that Jesus said that He is the only way to heaven.  But, I believe what He says.”   I am not saying that this was the exact response of this particular radio pastor, but countless number of Christians have this mindset.

The term “exclusive” is defined in our language as, “limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group.”  Typically, those who are skeptics, atheists and unbelievers in general will attack Christianity merely by proclaiming its exclusivity as fallacious in that it does not include other groups of people or religions in the world that may “lead to heaven”.  Despite this irrational premise, they usually continue to say they could never be a part of such an organization or religion as Christianity because of its exclusive nature.

With using very basic apologetics, it doesn’t take anyone that is very smart or even a Christian for that matter (at least in this example) to respond to those who attempt to show that Christianity is false [or demonic, stupid, committing intellectual suicide or whatever] because of its exclusivity.  Rather than being immediately defensive as a Christian because someone is attacking Christianity and the claims of Jesus Christ specifically, we should simply think and respond to the logic of their assertion, opinion or proposition in a biblical manner.  We should not respond with something like, “I am sorry that Christianity is exclusive, but I believe Jesus is the only way,” or “Christianity is not exclusive!  All religions and ideologies are welcome and all religions lead to heaven!”  These responses are of no biblical truth or a little bit of truth that is not very evangelistic or apologetic.  They would not prove to be helpful to anyone attacking this particular aspect of Christianity.  We should probably first acknowledge that Christianity, well, is exclusive. 

Firstly, anything that is labeled with a specific title is exclusive by default.  So, Christianity is exclusive or else it would not be called Christianity.  Perhaps more importantly, it is necessarily exclusive.  So, it is not only exclusive by nature to maintain the specific title and attributes of Christianity, but it is necessarily exclusive for it to be true.  Otherwise, there is no point in defending what the Bible says about specific issues such as death and judgment or the fact that Jesus says He is God [or anything else in the Bible].

            Secondly, to be offended or to call Christianity false because it is exclusive is in itself an exclusive statement!  So logically, it does not make sense to say that something is not true because it is exclusive.  Following the logic, Christianity is necessarily exclusive because it is necessarily true.  Unbelievers, skeptics and atheists are exclusive in saying that Christianity is stupid because it is exclusive.  Everyone who says that Christianity is false and stupid because it is exclusive is part of the exclusive group of others who feel the same.  This is circular reasoning and irrational thinking. 

Therefore, for a professing Christian to have an apologetic attitude and to feel sorry for someone who has a problem with Christian ethics and the exclusivity of Christianity in general is not thinking in a biblical manner or worldview.  At that point, they have adopted and resonated with the mindset of the foolish and futile thinking nature of the unbeliever and the world in general.  It provides more fuel to the fire of the unbeliever while drowning his own worldview simultaneously.  The apostle James describes this professing Christian as double-minded.  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let no that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:2-8).”

Although we will probably respond in a different way such as depth or tone with each person that attacks the exclusivity of Christianity, we should convey the same logic, conviction and truth that the Scriptures provide for such situations.  It is not even necessary to discuss absolutism vs. relativism.  Nor is it necessary to try and prove its exclusivity.  Everyone already knows that Christianity is exclusive.  So is Islam, Mormonism, atheism and the occult in general.  It is clearly not exclusivity that makes something true or false.  There are probably an infinite number of examples of exclusivity.  A banana is not an orange and therefore could never become or maintain the attributes of an orange.  A banana is exclusive from an orange and an orange is exclusive from a grape.  That is a simple but nevertheless true example. 

The radio pastor did proclaim some of the truth and that was, “I do believe Jesus.”  It was too bad that it was only the second half of what he actually stated.  The first half was something to the effect of, “it would be cool if there were more than one way to heaven.”  It completely ruined and detracted from everything he stated after that, which happened to be, “but I believe Jesus.”  I am not saying it is always easy to say all the right things on the spot.  I am however saying that, if you are a Christian, you have the entirety of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit of truth indwelling you to provide the necessary answers in your defense at any given moment and to anyone.  It does not matter if a four year old or a physics professor at Yale is contesting you. 

The great thing about Christianity and a biblical worldview is that they are necessarily true and infinitely so.  Therefore, it is incredibly easy to defend.  One does not have to take dirt samples from Israel or Jerusalem to try and find the DNA of the Apostle Paul or Jesus himself to prove that Christianity is true; nor, does one need to memorize the entirety of church history or all of the Scriptures to believe that it is true.  All of the blind assertions and presumptions developed by the corrupt and perverted minds of unbelievers to try and prove Christianity wrong are nothing short of stupid and irrational. 

Since Christianity is a perfectly coherent and rational system of thought, we only have and need the perfect revelation of what God Himself has given us infallibly and perfectly through the apostles and prophets in the Scriptures.  So, when someone attacks Christianity in general, they are merely attempting to provide an excuse for their unbelief, shame, lifestyle and sin that is already explained and demonstrated to them in the ScripturesIt is because they already know in their own conscience that these things are true.  “For as many sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the world of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel (Romans 2:12-16).” 

When conversing with an unbeliever, we need not veer from the gospel; for an unbeliever first must be regenerated to see his need for a savior before he sees the importance of the Hebrew language, the Sabbath or “Jesus being the only way to heaven.”  It is when Christians start thinking like an unbeliever that we question ourselves, the perfect sufficiency of the Scriptures and begin to doubt.  That is when we become foolish, double-minded and evil in our thinking as well.  Since believers are only to think on an entirely biblical basis, it should be safe to say that our presuppositions are different than those of unbelievers as well.  E.g., an unbeliever may have a common objection like, “There is too much evil in this world for there to be a good God.  If God is good, then there would be no evil, sickness and death.  Therefore, there is no God.”  Instead of immediately jumping to conclusions that this unregenerate person knows what they are speaking of, ask them to explain themselves.  The above statement is merely a subjective assertion thrown out into thin air.  Some unbelievers may define some terms differently than others.  Therefore, prior to the logical response of the Christian, the unbelieving and rebellious person must answer a series of logical questions based off his own presuppositions.  For example:

What do you mean by “evil”? 

How would you know evil when you see it?

How do you know what a lot of evil is when it manifests itself?

What do you mean by “good”?

How would you know good when you see it?

What do you mean by sickness and death?

What do you mean by God?

What do you mean by a good God?

All of these questions must be answered in a logical and systematic manner by the unbeliever to even require a response from the Christian regarding logic.  It is only when Christians trust in the perfect revelation of the Scriptures that is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction that we are sufficient to answer these questions (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  In other words, since Scripture explains evil, good, sickness, death and God, what does it mean to you?  I know all of these things clearly because God has explained what each of them clearly mean. 

In response to the man who did not want to believe in Christianity because Jesus says that He was the only way to heaven, we can simply take the direction that Paul took.  He continued by defending God’s righteous judgment.  “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?  Much in every way!  Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.  For what if some did not believe?  Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?  Certainly not!  Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.  As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.’  But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)  Certainly not!  For then how will God judge the world?  For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?  And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’? — as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say.  Their condemnation is just (Romans 3:1-8).”

The Apostle merely declared, “Let God be true but every man a liar. [v.4]” Biblically and apologetically, there is no need to evaluate any presupposition or premise of any unbeliever that attacks Christianity in a serious manner because of the absurdity and blasphemy presented.  God says that we are all liars and that He is true.  Therefore, if we are liars and God is true (meaning that it is impossible for Him to lie), then we are commanded to believe what He proclaims in His revelation to man in the entirety of the Scriptures and repent from sin so that we may have eternal life.   Paul continues to list the reason/s why men are liars and that God is true in light of the law and the doctrine of sin.  

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).”

Moses already presented the law on Mount Sinai in the old that we may already know this about ourselves.  It was presented specifically to the Israelites that were being delivered out of the land of Egypt that, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Also, we shall not covet, have idols, murder, steal, commit adultery or bear false witness among others (Exodus 20:1-17).  Because we sin, we will die (Gen. 3:14, Romans 6:23).  Paul’s reiteration is that we are not only infinite transgressors of the law that are hopeless on our own, but that we are all liars and the Lord on high is infinite in truth and knowledge.  Since we do not practice the truth on our own naturally, i.e., obey God’s commands perfectly, then we will not naturally repeat the truth in words because of sin and rebellion.  We are susceptible to only corruption and perversion of the truth of what God has already stated like the serpent in the Garden regarding obedience and death (Gen. 3:4).  We naturally do not want eternal life with Christ because we think that we do not need Him to live.  If we think that we can live however we please on our own, then we do not desire Christ and are blinded to the absolute necessity of His death and resurrection. 

It is not only necessary that we be brought to life through the Spirit, but that there be a necessary willing and able sacrifice on our behalf.  As sinners sit in utter ruin and despair according to our fallen nature and the law, we haven’t an idea or desire to look into the things of the glory of God or the need of any savior.  That is, until God does the work Himself by breaking His own body and shedding blood for the forgiveness of sins.  He then softens the hardened heart of the sinner and gives him the revelation and knowledge of his condition that leads to eternal death, where the worm never dies and wrath is unceasing.  He does this by bringing him first to spiritual life by the Spirit Himself, which imparts knowledge and revelation of reality of sin, death and the truth of the gospel. Paul completes the testimony to the Romans of how a sinner is justified before an infinitely holy God:  “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.  For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).” 

Jesus is not the only way to heaven just because He says that He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the way to heaven because He necessarily decreed and declared that He has preeminence over all things, inherits all things and upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3).  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-8).”

Wait upon the Lord

March 2, 2010

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” 

Psalm 27:14

            I believe it is a natural temptation for the saints to not wait on God.  The fallen earth is overwhelmed with constant temptation, sin and persecution of any and all sorts for those who belong to Jesus Christ.  If we do not wait, we think that we will miss out on what God has.  If we wait too long, we think that we must have missed something great that God may have had in store for those who love Him. 

            Consider Jesus in the gospels; He not only had to wait thirty years as the God-Man for the fulfillment of His public ministry to speak the most perfect words of wisdom and truth ever spoken and indeed the words of eternal life;  but also foreseeing and knowing the eternal decree of being nailed to the cross and utterly forsaken by His Father.  The agony of the perfect Savior being merely separated from the father is an unutterable thought.  For all He knew prior to this was perfect glorified love and harmony with the Father in all eternity past.   To be the Lord of Lords and have all things subject to his power and might in infinite humility,  He had decreed from eternity past to subject Himself into the hands of sinners at a particular moment in time in our created sinful world.   He who was never bound by time was now bound by time and sinners in His own providence.  Fathom the perfect patience of the sinless Savior who has fulfilled law to the last letter in His own body, yet still bound by time when it was not yet time for Him to become the dreaded curse that would set us free from sin and death (Gal. 3:13, John 7:6).

David had this in mind.  “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; Of Whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident (v.1-3).”  So it was with Christ in His perfect consecration with the Father.  As the enemies pursued and persecuted Him with envy and hatred, He was not thwarted in any minimal sense because of His perfect obedience to the will of God the Father who is sovereign over all things.  He came to die for the sins of the world and thus fulfilled prophecy, obedience and perfect knowledge to execute the glorious task of redemption and providing the new covenant with His own blood. 

            While the saints do not have perfect knowledge, we do have the revelation that God chooses to provide out of mere grace in His infallible Word.  In our case, we have the Scriptures themselves to testify that Jesus Christ took our sin, sickness and death upon Himself as He hung in our place at Calvary.  Because of His sacrifice, the wrath of God was completely satisfied and we now have peace with Him.  While the saints do become weary and distrustful that will God not come through for them because of indwelling sin, we have a tendency to overeagerly desire to know things of current that may or may not come to pass.  We seek to know about tomorrow that still may not come.  It is good and right to seek God’s will in all things.  But it is better that we do not worry about our lives and obey His commands.  It is better that once we are healed, we do not fall back into grievous sin that separates us from this harmony as the man with the infirmity at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:12).   

            While He may not reveal to us today what is to be done tomorrow, if you belong to Jesus Christ, no circumstance, event or catastrophe can ever pluck you from His hands.  Whether you live today or die tomorrow, if you belong to Jesus Christ, it does not change your eternal status with God because He imputes to you His life and righteousness.  Whether we seek His wisdom in some specific matter today or tomorrow, if we belong to Jesus Christ, we must know that He delivers us from our ultimate enemy, which is the second death.    No matter what the will of God is tomorrow, it is His will that we worship Him today and put away sin so that we may live.  He will then, by His gracious holy spirit, reveal specific matters to you tomorrow if it indeed comes.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’  But now you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:13-17).”