March 5, 2016 | Brian Bill
If someone does not believe in, and receive Jesus Christ, as the only way to heaven, he or she will spend eternity in the neverending fires of Hell.
That’s quite an opening, isn’t it? What I just said is politically incorrect but it is biblically correct. We could call this tough truth.
List politically incorrect statements…
The mother of all is this: Jesus is the only way to God.
Talk about the leader of the largest church in the world and a faculty member from one of the premier evangelical colleges in the world
In a video released on January 6, the Pope says that while people from various global faiths may be “seeking God or meeting God in different ways” that it is important to keep in mind that “we are all children of God”. Here’s the actual quote: ““Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty that we have for all: we are all children of God,”
I realize it’s not politically correct to take on the Pope. We can get up in arms about this movement in the Catholic church toward universalism but we must also own the fact that as evangelicals, we are slipping as well.
As we focus on the fifth “I Am” statement of Jesus this morning, we discover that the disciples are distraught and filled with fear. Please turn in your Bibles to John 13 as we set the context. Jesus is getting ready to leave His followers and He wants to give them some instructions and some comfort and so He gathers them together for a meal on the last night before He died. As we look at chapter 13, we can see that things are starting to fall apart as the disciples experience a roller-coaster ride of emotions when Jesus drops 5 “bombs” on them:
- Reversal. In the opening verses we see that the Savior takes some water and a towel and begins to wash His followers’ foul feet. This is very unsettling to them because they had just been griping about who was the greatest.
- Betrayal. The second blast was the prediction of betrayal in verses 18-30. This was very unsettling for them to hear that one of the twelve was a traitor. They became very nervous and wanted to know who it was.
- Departure. After shaking them up by an unforgettable demonstration of servanthood and telling them that a turncoat was among the twelve, the third detonation is found in verse 33 when Jesus told them that He was going to leave them: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you…”
- Commandment. While they’re trying to recover from the shock of what Jesus had just said, He brings them back to something they are never to forget in verses 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
- Denial. The fifth explosion must have hit them very hard when Jesus predicted that the lead disciple, the point man, if you will, would bail when things got tough. Peter had just declared that he would die for Jesus but he was knocked to the ground with a stunning forecast in verse 38: “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
The disciples were unsettled when Jesus scrubbed their feet. They were troubled by the news of a traitor in their midst. They were despondent about the thought of Jesus dying. They weren’t sure they could obey the commandment to love when they felt so lost. And, they couldn’t believe that powerful Peter was going to lose it as a leader.
It’s with this as background that Jesus speaks truth that staggers the imagination with some of the greatest words ever to fall from His lips. He provides comfort and peace when His followers are filled with fear and uncertainty. Please turn in your Bible to John 14:1-6 and follow along as I read.
What Jesus Offers
Jesus gives us at least four assurances in this passage.
1. Peace (1).
The disciples were upset and so Jesus looked at them with tenderness and said in John 14:1: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The tense here means to “stop letting your hearts be troubled,” indicating that they were already wigging out and falling apart. The word “your” is plural as Jesus moves from talking to Peter to the entire team. This word “troubled” literally means, “to be stirred up.”
In the second half of verse 1, Jesus makes another claim to deity when He directs us to put our faith in Him: “Believe in God; believe also in me.” This phrase can be understood in different ways but the meaning is this: “You trust in God who is invisible and that’s great; now it’s time to trust in me, even though I will be leaving you for awhile.” Later in this same chapter, in verse 27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The only way to have peace in the midst of troubled times is to trust in Christ.
2. Place (2, 3a).
For those who know Jesus, death is not an eerie journey to an unknown destination. Believers are assured that there is a place where all wrongs will be made right, where all imbalances will be straightened out. Look at verse 2: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” The Greek word for “rooms” here means to “abide” or “remain,” and refers to something that is not temporary, but permanent. Friends, our place here won’t last but we’re headed to a place that is everlasting
I mention this thought in almost every funeral message I give: We often think that this is the land of the living, and that when we die we go the land of the dead. The opposite is really true – this is the land of the dying, when our life here is over, we are transferred to the land of the living – either to a place of eternal joy or to a place of eternal torment. There are really only two possible destinations.
When Jesus said that there are many rooms in his Father’s house, and that He’s going there to prepare a place for them, He’s drawing on a very familiar image. In those days it was customary for travelers to send someone ahead to find lodging and make arrangements in a distant city – they didn’t have GPS or Travelocoity. That’s what happened on the night of the last supper when Jesus sent two of his disciples to get the upper room ready.
The reservations have been made and the rooms are ready for those who have put their full faith and trust in Him.
Friends, Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us in heaven. The reservations have been made and the rooms are ready for those who have put their full faith and trust in Him. In his famous sermon entitled, “There Must Be a Heaven Somewhere,” L.B. Hicks lists several characteristics of heaven that I want to mention briefly:
- Heaven will be ready
- Heaven will be resplendent
- Heaven will be rapture
- Heaven will be restoration
- Heaven will be real
- Heaven will be reunion
- Heaven will be right
It’s interesting that Jesus has prepared a room for us even though there was no room for Him when He was born. Despite the fact that we kicked Jesus out of our world, Jesus invites us into His. Jesus said that there is a place for those who believe in Him. In fact, He left the disciples in order to get it ready for them, and for us.
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people and because of that we can have peace right now. The third assurance we’re given is to trust the promise of Jesus.
3. Promise (3).
Jesus calms his frantic followers in verse 3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus is saying, “I’m not just going to show you the way to the place I’ve prepared, or just give you a map. I promise to come back and take you to that place so that we can be together forever. Then you’ll finally be home.” Think about this for a minute. Most of me is already there. My name is written there. My God is there. My inheritance is there.
Jesus guarantees that if we put our full confidence in Him, we’ll be with Him forever. It’s his promise. The Bible is full of the promises of God and not one of them has ever been broken. Psalm 145:13: “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.”
Let’s trust His peace, let’s focus on the right place, let’s claim His promises and then, let’s commit to follow His plan.
4. Plan (4-6).
In verse 4, Jesus said, “And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas spoke up for the rest of the timid team: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Thomas gets a bad rap for doubting but I see him as one who was searching. He wasn’t afraid to ask questions, and you shouldn’t be either.
In verse 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. There is no other plan but the person of Jesus. There is no way to get to heaven unless we go through Him. Wow, that’s a pretty strong statement, isn’t it? It’s strong but true. Listen. Jesus is very inclusive in the sense that everyone is invited to a relationship with Him as John 6:37 states: “…and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” But, His claims are extremely exclusive in the sense that there is no other way to Heaven except through Him. The exclusivity of Immanuel is emphatic.
How does this mesh in a pluralistic society like ours that values variety and excludes exclusive truth claims? Though Christianity still dominates by sheer numbers, the U.S. now has a greater diversity of religious groups than any country in recorded history. Did you know that there are now more Muslims in America than there are Methodists? It’s helpful to remember that the world of the biblical authors was filled with paganism and pluralism as well. In the midst of all this doctrinal diversity, the Bible makes some rather startling claims that run counter-cultural to the mantra of religious tolerance.
- In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus made it clear that the way to heaven is narrow and restrictive: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
- Peter boldly states in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
- 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
- 1 John 5:12: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Jesus is the only way to heaven.
These passages are extremely exclusive and overwhelmingly clear: Jesus is the only way to heaven. His statements of divine authority are incompatible with the homogenizing views of religious pluralists. The claims of Christ are outrageous but they happen to be what G.K. Chesterton called “the wild truth.”
Here are a few observations about John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- When Jesus uses the phrase, “I AM,” He is once again claiming the name of Yahweh for Himself from Exodus 3:14. He is God in human flesh. He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Gate, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Vine, the Alpha and Omega, and the Resurrection and the Life.
- Notice that this verse begins with the word “I.” In fact, eleven times in just six verses, Jesus uses the personal pronoun – I, me, or my. We are not saved by a principle or a force but by a person. Jesus did not say that He knew the way, the truth and the life, or even that he taught these great principles. He declared Himself to be the embodiment of the way, the truth and the life. While answering all of life’s questions, Jesus doesn’t offer a recipe, rules or rituals to follow; instead He gives us a relationship with Himself. His plan is wrapped up in a Person.
- In the original, the words way, truth and life have the definite article in front of them so that the verse should read, “I am the way (that is, the only way), I am the truth (that is, the only truth), and the life (that is, the only life).”
- All three concepts are active and dynamic. The way brings to God; the truth makes us free; and the life produces relationship. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no growing.
- The context indicates that the idea of “the way” predominates. We could put it like this: “I am the way that reveals the truth about God and gives life to those who believe.”
- There is only one avenue to salvation. With Christ removed there is no redemptive truth, no everlasting life and no way to the Father. While other religions offer systems of thought that try to bridge the gap between man and God, Jesus is the only one who has succeeded in bridging the divide.
- A.W. Pink suggests that before sin entered the world Adam enjoyed a threefold privilege in relation to God: he was in communion with the Almighty, he knew Him, and he possessed spiritual life. When he disobeyed, he became alienated from God, he was no longer able to perceive truth and he lost spiritual life. Pink suggests that everyone from Adam on has a threefold need – reconciliation, illumination, and regeneration. This is perfectly met by Jesus – He is the way to reconciliation, the truth for illumination, and the life that regenerates us (www.pbministries.org).
Since every word of this astonishing statement challenges the fundamental beliefs of our culture, let’s look at this verse a little more closely.
1. Jesus is the way.
Jesus does not merely show the way; He is Himself the way. This has a twofold meaning. He is the way from God to us in that all divine blessings come down from the Father through the Son. He is also the way from us to God. The only way to get to God is through Jesus. He spans the distance between God and sinners.
A story is told of a missionary traveling to a remote village. He was given a guide to take him there because they had to walk through the jungle. As they started their journey, the path was clear and easy to follow. But then it vanished and the guide had to cut through the vines and the thick undergrowth with his machete. The missionary got nervous and asked, “Where’s the path?” To which the native replied, “I am the path. Just follow me”
2. Jesus is the truth.
The word “truth” in Scripture is used in two ways: true as contrasted with false, and genuine as opposed to fake. Jesus is authentic and trustworthy. When we look at Jesus we come face-to-face with certainty and reality. The Bible describes truth as not just something that is simply intellectual; it also has a moral dimension to it. John 3:21 refers to doing the truth: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…” Jesus reveals God and exposes guilty people.
Truth is the scarcest commodity in the world. We hear people say, “that might be true for you, but it’s not for me.” Researcher George Barna has discovered that nearly 75% of Americans do NOT believe in absolute truth. Here’s the sad part of that. Without the clarity and consistency of absolute moral truth, we are reduced to doing what seems right, what feels good, what produces the least resistance, and what provides the greatest personal fulfillment.
Listen. It’s not mean or bigoted to say that Jesus is the only way if it’s the truth. It would be mean and bigoted to not tell people that Jesus is the only way and the only truth and the only life, right?
Jesus rises above our cultural confusion and shouts out, “I am the truth. Get to know me and you will discover that which is totally true and transforming.” Truth is a very exclusive thing because it implies an objective standard. It is not something that changes with the whims of emotion or time or culture. What was true 100 years ago is true this year because, as Hebrews 13:8 states: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Friend, if you’re searching for truth, ask your questions. Research the relevance of the Bible. Seek after truth. Winston Churchill once said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” Jesus is offering you a personal relationship with Himself.
Do you remember that scene from “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth?” Can you handle the truth? Don’t run away when it’s right in front of you. Pilate voiced the question on many minds today. Even though Jesus was standing right in front of Him, he queried in John 18:38: “What is truth?” He didn’t take the time to find out. Friend, you will find what you’re looking for in Christ as John 8:32 declares: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
3. Jesus is the life.
All through the gospel of John life describes the principle of spiritual vitality. Just as death spells separation from God, so life implies communion with Him. We are dead without Him. We become alive when we surrender ourselves to Him. John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Since Jesus is life we will only find meaning when we commit to His lordship. John 1:4: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
I can think of three ways we can put this powerful passage into practice.
1. Place your faith in Jesus.
He is the only way! Look again at the last part of verse 6: “…No one comes to the Father except through me.” That little word “except” means that apart from Jesus there is no way to be saved. You cannot get there by trusting yourself. And you cannot come to the Father by jumping through any religious hoops either. The only way to come is to go through Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Are you ready to do that right now?
Jesus is the way that must be followed; He is the truth that must be believed; and He is the life that must be lived. Be like Thomas and ask your questions and then when you find what you’re looking for, instead of being a “doubting Thomas,” be a “decisive Thomas.” When he looked at the overwhelming evidence as he put his hands into the wounds of his Savior, Jesus saw into Thomas’ soul and said, “Stop doubting and believe.” I love Thomas’ response in John 20:28: “My Lord and my God!” Can you say the same thing? Will you stop doubting and believe?
2. Tell others about Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, we don’t have to make Jesus more palatable to people. He is truth and can stand up to thorough investigation. Our job is to tell others about Him. By the way, the exclusive truth claims of Jesus do not mean that we should demonstrate an exclusive spirit.
The truth that Jesus is the only way should make us bold…and it should also break us. We must hold to this tough truth…but it should tenderize us put tears in our eyes toward the lost. Instead of holding it over someone’s head as a hammer, we must help people believe and receive.
One of the best ways to do this is to follow this threefold method:
- Prayer – pray for the people God puts on your heart
- Care – look for practical ways to express love
- Share – tell them about Jesus; invite them to one of our Easter services
3. Live your life for Jesus.
Because Jesus is the great “I AM,” those of us who know Him should have our lives shaped by Him. Are you living for Him right now? Do you need to come back?
It’s time to go back and to remember that His broken body and His spilled blood have made the way for us to have peace because we know we’re going to a place that has been promised. The only way to get there is to follow His plan. And His plan is wrapped up in His person. Let’s remember right now so that we never ever forget. This table is the perfect picture of His love for you and His desire to connect, or reconnect with you.