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Monday, February 22, 2021

The Road to Heaven

One of the best purchases I made as a young man in my early 20s, was a home video camera.  In the spring of 1998, Kelly and I were expecting our first child and I wanted to be able to document is all in pictures videos.  In today’s world, anyone can capture pictures and videos right on the phone, which they almost always have with them.  But that was not the case back in 1998.  So, we bought a camcorder and began capturing video footage of our life together in our early twenties and all the way up to the present day. 

Recently, we went back and had all the old camcorder tapes converted to DVDs—somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 hours of footage.  We’ve been watching it in our spare time.  So far, there’s a lot of really bad, shaky camera work (this all unedited, amateur video footage).  It’s also hilarious, touching, nostalgic, and fascinating (at least to us) because it captures some of our dearest memories. 

So much has changed in my lifetime.  (I can’t imagine what’s been like for those who are even older than me!)  And I know there is yet a lot more change to come.  America is growing more and more diverse.  But one thing that doesn’t change is God and His love.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen?  The world and it’s ideas and values are always changing, but God never changes.

Jon Lin’s Idea
When I was 20, I worked in a testing lab for a textile chemical company.  One of my co-workers was an intern from Taiwan named Jon Lin.  Now, obviously, Jon grew up in a culture very different from my own and I was fascinated to learn from Jon.  Jon was gracious and liked to share about his culture.  He invited me to a couple parties with his Asian friends and even took Kelly and I out to eat at a few authentic Asian restaurants.  He taught me a lot about his culture.  

Jon also said something that reflects a growing sentiment in our world—and especially America.  In speaking about religion, Jon said, “Chris, I believe all religions lead us to heaven.  So maybe you believe in Jesus and so that is the road that leads you to heaven.  But, I have a different religion that leads me to heaven by a different road.  Ultimately, we all end up in heaven together, we just get there by different roads.” 

My friend, Jon, was expressing an idea that a great number of people believe today:  All the major world religions have the same goals and ultimately lead people to heaven—just by different methods.  IE, all roads lead to heaven.  Many people, like my friend Jon, believe the Christian gets to heaven through faith in Jesus.  The Buddhist gets to heaven through Buddha.  The Muslim through Muhammad.  The Jew through the Torah.  The Hindu through their own pantheon of gods. 

Since this “All Roads Lead to Heaven” belief says everyone ultimately is going to the same Heaven, we can just live and let live.  There’s no need to try and convert anyone else to our religion.  In fact, to do so would be disrespectful.  And because we all need to get along in an incredibly diverse society with many differing religious beliefs, we need to just keep our religious beliefs private and let everyone else do the same. 

Well, the “All Roads Lead to Heaven” concept may make it easier for people of varying religious beliefs to live together in harmony, but is it true? 

What did Jesus say?
In this series, we compare what the world says to what Jesus says.  So what did Jesus say?

John 14:6 – Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 

No one can come to the Father (that’s God in heaven) except through Jesus.  So Jesus believed and taught that there was only one way, one road, and Jesus is that road. (The early Christians didn't call themselves Christians; they were members of "the way"--Jesus' way.) 

One time, my friend Jon asked me what I believed about religion—did I believe that all roads led to Heaven?  It was a very hard thing to say, but I didn’t know what else I could say.  I told Jon, “My belief is what Jesus said.  Jesus said there is only one way to the Father in heaven and that’s through Jesus.”  Jon said, “Oh Chris.  I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.”  Thankfully, we did remain friends.  I don’t know if it’s a credit to Jon’s patience or if he respected that I didn’t withhold the truth from him, even if it was a hard and difficult truth.  At any rate, we stayed friends until Jon moved back to Taiwan and we lost touch with one another.  (I guess it is still possible to love and respect people who believe differently than you even if you admit you believe differently.) 

Who is Really Right?
But is Jesus really right? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven or can you get to heaven through one of the other major world religions (or you own personal ideas about God)?  Well, ultimately, I don’t know if there’s a definitive way to prove one religion right and another wrong.  (If there is, I’m not skilled enough to do it in this short blog.)  However, there is one thing I can say and that I will share. 

All the major world religions can’t lead to the same place because they don’t even teach the same thing about God or the destination of a faithful life. Christianity teaches there is only One God and to worship any god but the one true God is a grave sin.  Hinduism teaches there are many, many gods and Hindus have thousands of shrines to all their various gods and they worship them all.  Some would argue that Hindu's are expressing the infinite nature of God by and infinite number of deities, each representing a different aspect of God's nature.  That is a good thought, but that is not what the Hindu religion teaches.  They actually believe each deity is a separate god and these separate gods are not in union and don't even all get along.  The two different beliefs about God represented by Christianity and Hinduism are in absolute contradiction to each other.  They can’t both be right any more than 2+2 can equal 10. 

Another world religion, Buddhism, teaches there is no personal god at all.  The Christian idea of praying to God and knowing that He hears and answers makes absolutely no sense in the Buddhist religion, because they don't believe God exist as a person who could hear you.  Furthermore, Buddhists “don’t believe in heaven or hell as most people typically understand them.”[i]  Jesus taught those who repent and put their faith in Him are forgiven made perfect and spend eternity with God their creator in a place where there is no more suffering or sickness or death.  Jesus also taught that some who do not repent would be punished for eternity in hell.  Jesus and Buddha can’t both be right. 

The Muslim concept of Heaven, what they call Paradise, is different from Heaven as described in biblical Christian faith.  Muslims believe they earn the right to go to Paradise by living a righteous life, whereas Christianity explicitly teaches “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done…” (Ephesian 2:9).  Jesus and Muhammed can’t both be right. 

Christians believe you live one life on earth and then pass into eternity, either in heaven or hell based on whether you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Buddhists and Hindus believe in re-incarnation—the idea that you are reborn as either a higher or lower life form based on the way you lived in this life.  So if you are a good person, you will earn the right to be reborn into a higher class in your next life.  If you were a bad person, you might be reborn as a rat in the next life.  The hope is that you will eventually work your way up the spiritual ladder until you reach enlightenment.  Incarnation is in absolutely conflict with the Christian teaching of justification by faith alone.  Both cannot be true at the same time. 

Which Will You Choose?
So, as appealing as it might be to believe “all roads lead to heaven, just by different means”, it just can’t logically be true.  The only way to accept this teaching is to change the various world religions themselves until they are not authentic at all.  It is to water them down to nothing more than fairy tales.  I believe it actual insults the religions themselves.  It rejects the devout religious beliefs billions of people have held for thousands of years in the various world religions simply to make living together more polite for people today without any regard for what might actually be true.

Many in our world—who do not believe in God or religion—are ok with turning religions into fairy tales (or just throwing them out altogether).  There are many who would just assume get rid of God.  Let life be only about what makes human beings happy (humanism).  Many would encourage all these different religious people to view their religions as optional, as something fun and nice and maybe interesting; part of their heritage and culture, but not something that they should take too seriously.  

Satan would like nothing better than for people to go down that road.  The Enemy loves when people think life is all about them and their happiness and that God is only a fun fantasy.   

As for me, I take my faith in Jesus very seriously.  I believe it is the most important thing in life.  We were created by God to be in an eternal relationship with Him.  And we either will, or we won’t.  If we are, that is the definition of Heaven.  And if we are eternally not in a relationship with God, that is the definition of Hell itself.

And So, God, in His infinite love and mercy, came and lived among us as Jesus.  He show us the way to live and invited us to repent of our sin and turn back to God and receive His mercy and salvation.  And then Jesus paid the price for our sin by dying on the cross.  He rose on the third day in victory of sin and death.  And all who choose to follow Christ, who put their faith in His forgiveness and healing power, will spend eternity with Him in everlasting life.  

Which will you choose?  A real relationship with God or something else?

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