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Showing posts with label John 14:6. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John 14:6. Show all posts

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?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life

The glorious Good News of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave.  The evil powers of the world threw everything they had at Jesus.  The arrested him, tried him in the middle of the night before a kangaroo court, tortured him, and crucified him.  Judas betrayed him.  His disciples deserted him. Peter denied him.  They threw him in a tomb and thought it was over.  The darkness came.  It lasted all through Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday morning.  But then, then the Light of the World rose up out of the grave!  The shadows were shot through with Light.  Darkness can never over come the Light!  Jesus said, I AM the resurrection and the Life. And he proved it.  Lots of people talk a big talk, but Jesus is the only one who said the big words, "I am the resurrection and the life..." and then also backed those words up with action.

Christians are an Easter people.   Just as Jesus overcame the grave, Christians find hope and resurrection in all circumstances (with God’s help). Though this is not the way we would choose to celebrate Easter, we celebrate it anyway.  And it is a celebration!  Jesus is alive!  Christians are an Easter people and we always find a way to have hope, and life, and joy and peace when none of these things should be possible.  And it drives the Devil crazy!

For nearly 2,000 years, people have speculated about Jesus.  Who was he?  How did he have such a tremendous impact on our world?  How can the people who call themselves by His name be so determined and so able to rise up above the disasters of this life?  How can following this man--a man who was not educated or powerful or wealthy or of a high standing--lead people to find light in the darkest times?  Who is this man and how is he still relevant today?

And so people in our world, non-believers--have try to rationalize it or explain Jesus and the Christian movement away.  They have speculated this or that about Jesus.  However, if we really want to know about Jesus, perhaps we should listen to what he said about himself.  He told us exactly who he is and why he came and why it matters.  Using seven statements in the Gospel of John, Jesus said:

I AM the bread of life.  In other words, I am the only one who truly satisfies our soul.
I AM the light of the world, the one who overcomes darkness.
I AM the gate, the only way into God’s sheltering presence.
I AM the good shepherd, the one who knows everything about us and takes care of us and even lays              down his life for us.
I AM the true vine, the One who makes our life fruitful and sweet.
I AM the resurrection and the life, the one who rises from the grave and gives us eternal life.

Today, I want to share the last “I Am” statement Jesus made.  And this is a very important message to which you need to listen and take to heart.

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."

Living in a Pluralistic Society
First, I want to look at the last part of Jesus’ statement, because we must come to grips with this first.  It is very important.  Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father except thought me.”  That is a hard statement for many to accept. 

America is very diverse and that can be a very good thing.  I love food, all kinds of food, and I am grateful in America I can enjoy Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Japanese food, and many other varieties as well.  (You can tell I love to eat!)  And it's not just food.  We have benefited greatly in our country from a variety of ideas, points of view, backgrounds and histories, and philosophies.  And since there is so much variety, we have learned to be a tolerant people who are gracious and allow people the freedom to think and act and even worship in a variety of ways.  This is all good and we should cherish it.
However, along with diversity there comes a danger.  There is the danger that we begin to think, in our quest for tolerance, that all ways are equal and that truth is relative.  In our quest to to get along with everyone, we may begin to believe that everyone is right about everything (for to say someone is wrong would be to offend them or to say some ideas are wrong would be "intolerant").  Is the truth relative?  Does every individual get to decide for themselves what is truly true?  Can my Truth be different from your truth?

In his classic distopian book 1984, George Orwell’s tackled this question when the lead character, Winston Smith, is arrested for thought crimes by the thought police.  The interrogate, O'Brien, tells Wintson Big Brother controls what is true.  Winston argues that 2+2=4.  This is true.  It cannot change.  O'Brien says disagrees.  He argues that if Big Brother says 2+2=5 and society gets enough people to believe it then that becomes the truth.  What do you think?  Does can the truth be changed?  Can 2+2 eve equal 5?

With some things there are is more than one way to skin a cat.  However, not with your soul, not with God, not with the purpose of life, and not with eternity.  Jesus is either the only way, the only truth, and the only life or he is not.  You must decide.  Regardless of whether you accept it or not, Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life.  Your assent or disagreement to this truth does not change the truth of it in any way.  You do not determine the truth about Jesus.  He is the Great I Am.  He is who He is regardless of what you believe.

Jesus is The Way
You cannot be a Christian by default.  What I mean is, you are not a Christian merely because you were born into to a Christian family or live in a Christian community.  Nor is being a Christian simply adhering to a certain set of beliefs.  Following Jesus is a lifestyle. 

In the very beginning, Christians were not even called Christians.  The term “Christian” was not used until later.  At first, people who followed Jesus and believed he rose from the grave were called members of “The Way” because Jesus said, “I Am the Way…”

The Christian life is a life of action.  Jesus and His disciples lived the Kingdom of God.  Everywhere they went, the brought healing and hope and love.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  We live the way Jesus lived.  We love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and we love our neighbor as our selves.  We listen to guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and do and say as He leads.  Just as Jesus only did what the Father told him to do, so we seek only to follow God’s will for us as well.

And this is the way it is supposed to be.  It brings God’s perfect Kingdom to earth, more and more.  And as we live this way we find healing and hope and incredible fulfillment because it is the very purpose for which we were created.  There cannot be another way.  Jesus is the way.

Jesus is The Truth
Now it could be possible to do all the right things, but to do them for the wrong reasons.  There are many in our world today who have accepted that you are to be kind and loving and a good neighbor and a good citizen.  There are many who even volunteer or give generously to charity.  Some do all these things without believing in Jesus.  (Every person—whether Christian or not—should be eternally grateful that Jesus so fully ushered in the principle of “Love Thy Neighbor” that even those who are not Christian still accept this beautiful Christian principle as true.)

However, it is a dangerous thing to divorce the Way of Christian living from the Truth of Christian living.  For when you separate the Way from the Truth (the way you live from the reason why you live that way), your best virtues slowly erode away.  It is not long before you start asking, “Well, why should I care if COVID 19 kills some old person or someone with asthma or diabetes? I am young and healthy and the coronavirus won’t hurt me.  Why do I need to practice social distancing?”  Or you might think, “Why should I obey the law if I’m cunning enough to break the law and get away with it and not get caught, I will have an advantage over everyone else and I will get ahead.”  I mean, if there is no God and we are just animals and it’s just survival of the fittest, why should a person accept the foolish notions Jesus taught—things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “the greatest love is shown when someone lays down their life for someone else”.  If you don’t accept that Jesus is the Truth, then why would you follow Jesus' way?  It might all start to look like just a bunch of foolish nonsense.

Jesus is the Truth!  His truths have been admired by people from all religions throughout all time.  These are not the words of a madman or liar.  They are the words of someone more divinely inspired than any  spiritual leader who ever lived.  Could it be, they are the words of the Son of God himself.  That is what Jesus claimed.  He said, "The Father and I are one." (John 10:30)

So if you accept that Jesus us the way, you must also search to know the Truth He taught and the Truth He still want to teach you today.  “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), for it is a tremendously powerful force when you live the right way and you know why you are living that way.

Jesus is The Life
For those who follow the way of Jesus because of the Truth of Jesus, Jesus is also the life.   He is eternal life, for when these bodies we inhabit eventually wear out, we will be given a new body and live in a new heaven and a new earth God will create.  Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we will rise too!  It is an amazing and liberating understanding that there is more to life than just the few years we live in this world.  There is life after death!  And the promise of God is that all the wrongs and decay and suffering and sickness and sorrow of life in this broken world will be wiped away.  What a wonderful, glorious hope we have!

However, we are not just waiting to die so we can go to heaven and start real life. No. When Jesus is the way and the truth to us, he is also the life right now.  We begin the new life as soon as we start tof follow the way and truth of Christ.  And to the extend we surrender to His Truth and live out HIs Way, we begin to experience the abundant life He has planned, right now.  There is nothing more fulfilling in this life than living out the ways and truths of Jesus, for that is the purpose for which our Creator designed us.

I want to invite you to claim Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life for you right now.  Would you allow me to pray for you?

Dear Father in Heaven, please help the person reading this today to claim Jesus as their Way, their Truth, and their Life right now.  Help them to surrender all that they are and all that they have to You right now.  Forgive them of their sins.  Save their soul.  Renew a right heart with in them--one that truly desires to follow You completely and obediently.  Help them to know how much You love them so they will love You completely and seek to love their neighbor.  For I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Cling to the hope of the resurrection.  Even in darkness, even in social isolation, even with fears and anxiety looming around, even in sickness, even in the face of death itself, the glorious hope of Easter is that Jesus rose from the grave and we will rise with Him!