The Best Thing That I Know
Dr. Howard Lowry once said, “When one speaks on a significant occasion, he should before he is finished say the best thing that he knows.” This is a significant occasion. Jim McNaull and John Tolson are being installed as ministers in this great church. Time will prove that history is being made in your presence this day. And, therefore, I must at least try before I’m finished to say the best thing that I know.
I choose today to preach upon a single verse from the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, the verse where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” And I have to confess to you right here at the offset that there are some verses and some passages in Scripture which are simply too deep to be plumbed or too lofty to be reached by the measure of a mind like my own.
This is such a text, for what could one possibly say about words that are so infinite in concept and so magnificent in meaning? And yet, I choose to preach on the text simply because the two men who will stand before you in a short while are extraordinary men in Jesus Christ. And for them, nothing less than an extraordinary word from the lips of the Master will do.
I am encouraged in my attempt by something in the passage that simply jumped off the page and grabbed my heart. You remember the scene. Jesus has gathered together with His disciples in the upper room on the night before He died. There, Jesus proceeded to crack open His heart and pour out for them the deepest thoughts of His life. And in the midst of His talking with His disciples about His coming, return to His Heavenly home there to begin preparing a place for them, in the midst of that, Thomas, old good, old Thomas, just never could keep his questions to himself. Whenever it was, it was on his mind, he just blurted it out right there and right then. Thomas says, “Lord, how shall we know the way?” No matter how you twist or turn it, it was at best a stupid question. I mean, after all, Thomas had been with Jesus for three years. He learned every sermon Jesus had ever preached. He’d seen every miracle that Jesus ever performed. There were only eleven other men on the face of the earth who were as close to Jesus as Thomas was. He’d heard and seen it all. And yet, after all that constant exposure to the Master, as Jesus proceeds to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven and the role that His disciples would play there, Thomas blurts out the question that is the ultimate in naiveté, “Lord, how shall we know the way?”
But, you know, what jumped out and grabbed me was the fact that Jesus chose to answer that simple naive question with one of the most magnificent sentences in all of Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” And it suddenly dawned on me that if Jesus would bless that simple, naive question with such a magnificent answer, then He just might be willing to bless this simple, naive sermon with the tender touch of His Holy Spirit. At least, I pray it shall be so.
Jesus said, “I am the way.”
Notice that very carefully, please. He did not say, “I had come to show you the way.” He did not say, “I’ve come to point you in the direction of glory.” He said, “I am the way.” Buddha said, “Walk in the way.” Socrates said, “Cleave to the way.” Jesus said, “Walk in Me. Cleave to Me. I am the way.”
The best illustration of that that I know can be found in the words of Daniel Crawford, the great English missionary. He told on one occasion of being led by a guy through one of the dense African jungles on the way to the City of Elizabethville back in the days when that was a part of the Belgian Congo. There was no trail. No one had ever gone that way before.
This immense black man who was the guide had a huge machete in his hand, and he was literally hacking away a trail as they went. Now, after a long time of following this man, and seeing no sign whatever of civilization, and beginning to feel that surely they had become lost, Crawford finally said to him, “Are you sure this is the way?” And with that, the guide stopped hacking, and turned, and pointed at the jungle, and he said, “This not the way. I the way.” Do you hear what he’s saying? He’s saying, “Look, man. There are no maps. There are no trails. There are no sign posts along the way. You’ve got to entrust yourself to me. You’ve got to put yourself into my hands. I’m the way. If you want to go where you want to go, then you’re going to have to go with me.” And that’s what Jesus means when He says, “I am the way.” He’s saying to us, “If you want to get where you want to go in life, then you’re going to have to go with me.” Jesus is the way.
And He’s been the way for people for twenty centuries. Back twenty centuries ago, He was the way for multitudes of people. He spent his entire earthly ministry picking up people who had fallen, finding people who were lost. He lifted a prostitute up out of the dust and set a crown over her head, and she spent the rest of her life trying to live up to it. He called a crooked business man down out of a tree, set his feet on solid ground, and then pointed him to the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke with such authority and yet with such sensitivity to the religious leaders of His day, proud and arrogant though they were, that some of them at least were made humble enough to receive the Kingdom of God. He took those who were diseased in body, or in mind, or in spirit, or in all three and with a touch of His finger or a word from His lips, he transformed them into brand new people. He was the way for people then, and He’s the way for people now. I know that to be true because He has been the way for me.
I submit to you today that Jesus Christ is the answer to any problem any human being can ever face. I know it. It’s true. It’s true in my own experience. It can be true in yours. He’s given me the power to love. He’s given me a hope on which to stand. He’s given me a great, driving purpose in life that motivates me through every single day. And not only that, but I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that death will not conquer me. Oh, I’ll die. Yes. One day, I shall die, but death will not conquer me. If I were to die today, the one abiding reality of my life would be this; that nothing, absolutely nothing, can ever separate me from the love of God and Jesus Christ, not even death. The Lord God Almighty reigns in my life, and because that’s true, one day He, by His power, will lift me out of the weakness of this life and into eternal glory. I believe that with every fiber of my being. Do you know that to be true in your own life? Do you know what it is to have a relationship with one who can give you the power of forgiveness, with one who can give you a purpose in your life that’s so exciting that it draws only the best from you, with one who can give you the certainty that death is defeated and that the grave will never be able to hold you?
Well, my friend, Jesus is the way. He meant it when He said it, “I am the way.”
Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
Jesus is not only the way. Jesus is also the truth about what life is supposed to be, and every thought that He thought, and every word that He spoke, and every deed that He did, Jesus was saying to us, “If you want to know what life is supposed to be like, look at me. I am the truth.”
You know, I have to say to you that in my ministry, the one thing that disturbs me the most is to encounter occasionally an individual who will say, “Oh, you know, I just can’t make up my mind what I really think about Jesus.” Let’s get something straight right here, right now. Jesus said, “I am the Son of God.” Now, having heard that, there are only two alternatives. Either you accept Him as Lord and Savior and kneel before Him, or you call Him the prince of liars and reject Him outright. There is either the banner of Jesus and the banner of Judas, and there is no middle ground. Jesus says, “I am the truth.” And when you hear that, you either believe Him, or you turn away.
He said, “I am the truth about life. You want to know what life to be like, look at me.” And if you want to know what love is, look at Him and see the little children crawling happily up into His lap and running their fingers through His hair. If you want to know about forgiveness, look at Him as He takes into His own hands the rough, cool, profane hands of the big fisherman and hear Him as He says, “Feed My sheep.” If you want to know about courage, then look at Him standing in the judgment hall before Pontius Pilate in what could only be described as splendid silence. If you want to know about anger, look at Him and see Him drive the money changers out of the temple and learn that anger is to be leveled only against the forces of evil. If you want to know how to die, look at the way He died. If you want to know how to live, look at the way He lived. If you want to know when to laugh, look at when He laughed. If you want to know when to cry, look at when He cried. If you want to hear words that will lift your spirit, and thrill your soul, and pierce your heart, and set before you a challenge that you’ll never reach but you’ll never get tired of reaching for, then look at Him, for He says it and He means it, “I am the truth. I’m the truth about life.”
If you want to know what life is supposed to be like, if you want to know what your life is supposed to be like, Jesus says, “Look at Me.” He said it, and He meant it, “I am the truth.”
And Jesus said, “I am the life.”
Life is hard. You know, life is like sandpaper. Mark this down. Life is like sandpaper. It either smooths you out or grinds you down. And whether it smooths you out or grinds you down depends upon your knowing the one who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” for when you know Him in the midst of your everyday experience, life will not grind you down. It will lift you up, and your life will be filled with a new peace and a new power, peace of mind, and peace of heart, and peace in your family, and peace in the city, and peace in our nation, and peace in the world, and power, power to love not force, power to redeem not crush, power to serve not manipulate, power to change not only your life but to change this whole world, a new peace and a new power.
How can I convince you that that’s true? How can I show you the way to find that kind of peace and that kind of power in your life? You know, let me try this. Turn back to the pages of the Old Testament, back to Jacob. You remember him. A scoundrel’s scoundrel. He lived the early part of his life only for himself. He was such a man that he even cheated his own brother to get what he wanted out of life. And then one day, one day, Jacob arrived at the Banks of the River Jabbok. There, he sent his family on ahead, and he spent the night there all alone. While he was sleeping in the night, suddenly, he was attacked by someone he could not identify. Jacob was strong, and he fought back. And there then ensued a fight that lasted all through the night. Jacob didn’t know the assailant but kept fighting. And as the fight wore on through the hours, Jacob began to feel that at last he was getting the upper hand. He began to have that old self-confidence restored in himself, and he began to think to himself, “I’m Jacob. I’m strong. I can handle anything. I can master any problem. I don’t need help from anyone or anything else. I’m Jacob.” And he began to think that he would win. Then, then, just as the fingers of the dawn began to tear away the dark garments of the night, just at that moment, this unknown assailant stretched out a single finger and touched Jacob on the thigh and crippled him. And he fell in agonized pain in the dirt. And in that moment, he realized that he was beaten. He didn’t have a chance. The strength of his opponent was infinitely beyond his own. He was beaten, and he knew it, and he knew that his only hope was to beg for mercy. And so he turned there, looked for the first time into the face of the one who had attacked him, the vast strong face of this assailant, a face he was stunned to see, a face half ruined with human suffering and half fierce with divine joy, the face of none other than God Almighty Himself. And then, in pain, and defeat, and exhaustion, and surrender, Jacob threw himself into the arms of God and cried out, “Bless me,” not trying to trick God. He knew he was beaten. Not trying to outwit God, he was surrendering. Not trying to hold God or to force God, he didn’t have a hold of God. God had a hold of him. He cried out in utter surrender, “Bless me.” And in that moment he was blessed, and he got up and still awaited against the bursting glory of a new dawn. He walked away from the River Jabbok and off into a new life, limping. Oh, yes, limping. But now, he was a new man. Now, he was God’s man, and he would spend the rest of his life living in response to the love and the commandments of Almighty God. No longer would he live for Jacob. Now, he would live for God.
Please, hear what I’m saying. John Tolson and Jim McNaull and I have been brought together by some magnificent mystery of the Holy Spirit. And we have wrestled with one another, and we have wrestled with God. And, today, my friends is our Jabbok. Today, in our commitment to one another, we surrender ourselves to God to be used as He will. Today, in utter surrender, we cry out, “Bless me. Bless Jim. Bless John. Bless Howard. Bless all three. Bless me.”
No longer do we wish to live for ourselves. Now, we wish to live for God, and we wish to live for you. And what is true of us could be true of you. We all must come to our soul’s Jabbok where we wrestle with God until He defeats us. But then, in surrender, in the moment when we let Jesus Christ take control of our lives, in the moment when we cry out because there’s nothing else to cry out but, “Bless me,” in that moment, our defeat at the hands of God will be transformed into magnificent victory. And we as individuals and as a church, shall find the way, and we shall know the truth, and we shall start to live the life.
So the man said, “When one speaks on a significant occasion, he should before he is finished, say the best thing that he knows.” This is a significant occasion. And the best thing that I know, no, the best thing that Jim, and John, and I know is Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Let us pray. Gracious God, help us define the way to know the truth and to live the life. Help us to be found by the One who is seeking after us, the One who came to seek and to save the lost, even Jesus. Amen.