Confessing Church: Jesus Christ
When I first heard it, I was rather shocked…
A Presbyterian minister speaking at a Presbyterian peacemaking conference, uttered words which have set off a firestorm in the Presbyterian church. In his address he said, “Jesus is one way to salvation, but Jesus is not the only way to salvation.” He went on then to describe in great detail how he views God reaching out to people through other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam. And then he spoke these now infamous, regrettable, inflammatory words—he said: “If God is at work in our lives whether we are Christian or not, then what’s the big deal about Jesus?”
When I first heard that I was rather shocked, but then it dawned on me that that minister was reflecting the thoughts which are held by many, both within and without the church. Many people today are saying what that Presbyterian minister was saying, namely, that the other religions of the world are just as valid as Christianity, that what Christ is to the Christians, Buddha is to the Buddhists, and Mohammed is to the Muslims.
Now that view of Jesus Christ is a polite way of saying that Jesus Christ does not hold the singular, central position as this world’s hope. It is a tactful way of calling Jesus a liar when He claimed to be the only way to salvation. Therefore, over against that kind of misguided, wrong-headed thinking, I stand in this pulpit today to declare to you that Jesus Christ is God Almighty in human form and there is salvation in no one else.
So what’s the big deal about Jesus? I’ll tell you: The big deal about Jesus is that Jesus is the only deal! That’s precisely the reason that Jesus’ own magnificent words in John 14 grace one of the most visible spots on this church campus. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus said it and Jesus meant it and I believe it.
Jesus said, “I am the way.”
Notice that, please. Jesus did not say, “I have come to show you the way.” He said: “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. Crawford told of being led by a guide through the thick African jungle toward the city of Elizabethville. There was no trail. No one had ever gone that way before. Crawford’s huge African guide, with a machete in his hand was literally hacking out the trail as they went. After a long time of following behind this man as he cut his way through the dense jungle undergrowth, and seeing no sign of civilization, Crawford began to fear that they were lost. At that point, Crawford said to the guide, “Are you sure this is the way?” The guide stopped hacking, pointed at the jungle and said, “ This not the way, I the way.” Do you hear what he was saying? He was saying: Listen man. There are no maps, no paths, no signposts. You’ve got to entrust yourself to me. You have to place yourself in my hands. I am the only way. If you want to get where you are going, you’ve got to go with me.
That’s what Jesus means when He says, ”1 am the way.” If we want to get where we want to go, then we’ve got to go with Him. Jesus is the Way. He was the way for people twenty centuries ago, and He is the way for people now. He certainly has been the way for me. He gives me a power by which to love, a hope on which to stand, and a purpose for which I can live every day. Not only that, but because of Him, I believe that death cannot conquer me. If I were to die today, the one undeniable reality of my life is that nothing can separate me from my Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord God Almighty rules in my life and that means that one day out of the weakness of this life, He will lift me to eternity with Him. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I long for you to believe it as well. Jesus said: “I am the way.” Jesus said it and Jesus meant it and I believe it.
Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
Notice that Jesus did not say: “I know the truth.” Nor did He say: “I have a book that contains the truth.” No. He said, “I am the truth.”
You know, in all my ministry that which disturbs me most is to occasionally encounter an individual who says: “I just can’t decide what I really think about Jesus.” Well, let’s get something straight right here and right now. Jesus said, “ I am the Son of God.” Once you’ve heard that you have only two alternatives. Either you kneel before Him and offer your life to Him, or you call Him the prince of liars and you reject Him. There is no middle ground. When Jesus says: “I am the truth”, either you believe what He says or you turn away. Not making up your mind is not an option.
You see, He is the truth. If you want to know about love, look at Him and see the children crawling up on 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, crude, profane hands of the fisherman who had denied Him, and then says to that fisherman: “Feed my sheep.” If you want to know about courage, look at Him standing before Pontius Pilate in what could only be described as a splendid silence. If you want to know about anger, look at Him driving 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 thrill your soul and lift your spirit and will set before you a challenge you will never reach but you will never get tired of reaching for, then look at Him. If you want to know the truth about anything and everything, look at Him.
Jesus said: “I am the truth.” Jesus said it and Jesus meant it, and I believe it.
Jesus said, “I am the life.”
Notice please He did not say, “I am alive.” No. He said: “I am the life.”
Mark this down—life is a grinding stone. It either polishes you up or it grinds you down. Whether it polishes you or grinds you depends upon whether you know this One who says, “I am the life”, because when you know Him, then life doesn’t wear you down. Life lifts you up and your life will be filled with the power of a profound and unshakeable sense of peace.
Two artists were asked to paint a picture of “Peace”. One painted a beautiful, lush green countryside at sunset. He called it peace. The other artist painted a picture of raging rapids with white foaming currents rushing over great boulders. Sticking out over the water was a branch and on the branch was a nest and in the nest two little birds were asleep. He called the picture “Peace”. That’s the kind of peace Jesus offers us in life. You see, life in this world is like raging rapids. Sometimes the spray stings our faces. Sometimes the current spins us about and knocks us down. Sometimes the roar and the tumble threaten to overwhelm us. But if we follow the One who is the Way; if we know the One who is the truth; if we love the One who is the life, then we shall have the ability, even in the midst of life’s fearsome chaos to be at ease in the power of Jesus Christ and to be at peace in His everlasting arms. Jesus said: “I am the life.”
Jesus said it and Jesus meant it, and I believe it.
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Notice how intolerant these words of Jesus are. Jesus was tolerant of many things in life, but there was one area in which he was absolutely intolerant. He was intolerant of anybody who would suggest that there is any other way to Heaven save through Him.
Now, of course, tolerance is a virtue in the society of which we are a part. People are deemed sophisticated and wise if they are tolerant of other people’s opinions. I mean, who am I to say that Hinduism is not the way to salvation? Who am I to suggest that Buddhism is not the pathway to heaven? I mean it just sounds rather sophisticated, doesn’t it, to be able to say that there are many ways to get to heaven.
Well, tolerance may be a virtue when it comes to our society, but tolerance is not a virtue when it comes to our salvation. In this one area, Jesus refused to be tolerant. In fact, He was downright narrow. He was downright dogmatic. He said, “When it comes to getting to heaven, no one gets there except by Me.” Peter echoed that claim in Acts 4: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” The great confessions of our Presbyterian church make the same claim. The second Helvetic Confession declares “Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world.” The Westminster Confession of Faith calls Jesus Christ the only mediator between God and man. And then the Confession goes on to say that in the Gospel God reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation, promising eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ. In our Confession of 1967 we read that the risen Christ is the Savior for all men. To receive life from the risen Lord is to have life eternal; to refuse life from Him is to choose death which is separation from God.
Dear friends, that’s the heart and soul of our great Presbyterian belief. Therefore, let me say as plainly as I can that those in the Presbyterian church who suggest surrendering the claim that Jesus Christ is the singular Lord and savior of the whole world, while their position may seem tolerant, sophisticated, even humble, they are, in fact, engaged in the destruction of the central belief of our faith. I stand foursquare against them—and so does this church.
The bottom line is this: If Jesus Christ is not the only way to God, then Jesus Christ died needlessly. If other religions and cults with their rules and requirements are all that is needed, then there was no need for Calvary, no need for a singular atonement for the sins of the whole world. If Christ is not the only begotten Son of God, then all authority in heaven and on earth has not been given to Him and His own words have been rendered meaningless and false. If Christ is not Lord of all, then Chris is not Lord at all!
Maxie Dunham, the President of Asbury Seminary, tells of attending a conference on evangelism where several speakers talked about the value of religious pluralism and the need for inter-faith dialogue. Some even talked about the negative impact of Christian witnessing to people of other religions. Dunham says, “We heard again and again that Jesus is our Savior, but not necessarily the savior of humankind, and that the paths to salvation in other religions are just as legitimate as the way of salvation in the Christian religion.” But then, Dunham says, suddenly, a Bishop from Pakistan, a country where Christians are definitely a minority, stood up before the assembled conference. With deep conviction and profound passion, this Bishop said: “If what all of you are saying is true, then I must go back home and tell the Christians in our land that they don’t have to die for the faith anymore.”
So Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Jesus said it and Jesus meant it and I believe it. I call you to believe it too.