PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
For years, Smith Barney has said: “We make our money the old-fashioned way, we earn it.” It was a clever ad because many people got their wealth the real, old-fashioned way—they inherited it! Nonetheless, the Smith Barney ads conveyed the message that they would work hard for their investors. And that’s the way God designed life. Industrious, “sweat of the brow” labor brings blessings. Motivational speakers assert that if our attitudes are right, and if we apply ourselves, nothing is impossible. The army encourages young men and women “to be all they can be.” That’s a great slogan.
(Illustration) You’ve probably heard the illustration but it makes the point. A frog fell into a pail of milk and couldn’t escape despite every conceivable attempt. Rather than give up, he did the only thing he could do—paddle. And his efforts brought an amazing result. His incessant paddling in that milk churned it into a pad of butter that enabled him to jump to freedom. The moral of the story is, unfeigned work pays off!
While that is true, there’s a serious problem if we apply this illustration to our salvation. One Bible teacher repeated that story and moralized it this way: “Just keep paddling, keep on working, keep on doing your best, and you’ll make it to Heaven.” Many people think the way to Heaven comes by doing good, working hard, and trying your best. Yes, God wants us to do good works. But nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Do your best and eternity is yours.” It doesn’t say, “A good moral life is enough.” There’s only one way, one truth, and one means of obtaining eternal life and it’s through Jesus Christ! He did His best and we accept His sacrifice for our sins—and there’s no other way.
I know it really rankles secular people to assert that Jesus is the only way. But what’s disturbing is this: there are growing numbers of “Christians” that chafe at the idea that Jesus is the only Way to Heaven. And Christians that believe “Jesus is the only way” are considered narrow-minded, intolerant, and legalistic. How could any person assert that Christianity is correct to the exclusion of other religions?
Do you know why this is so controversial; why it’s so foolish to suggest that “Jesus is the only way to God”? Because Satan fights truth! He hates it! He’s scheming in every possible manner to obstruct man’s path to God. But beyond that, it’s because our postmodern world has endless options in other arenas of life. Thus, it must be true that God has designed many paths to Heaven. For example:
If you’re hungry you can go to McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Outback, Longhorns, or Dominoes. The options are limitless!
If you’re looking for love, you can tap into the social scene—single’s groups, nightclubs, or even the Internet.
If you don’t like one movie you can surf through thousands of movies available through online streaming or from cable channels.
If you’re looking for a church, just pick a street corner.
Modernism has made the options unlimited. Thus, it stands to reason that people can make their choice in navigating to Heaven. But that’s not what the Bible says. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” You see, Jesus was not being arrogant by stating this; He was telling the truth! Imagine it: Jesus would have committed the highest treason to His Heavenly Father had He not declared Himself to be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” It would have been a disservice to mankind for Christ to have lived on earth and then leave it without clearly explaining His mission. But He didn’t. He spoke the truth and He told us who He was and why He came.
I would agree that Christians were being narrow-minded if God had stated there were many roads to Heaven and we had arbitrarily chosen Christ as the Way. But that’s not the message of the Bible. Christians teach there is ut one Way to Heaven because God made this determination. God selected His only Son Jesus to die on the Cross and pay man’s penalty for sin. And it’s not narrow-minded to act in accordance with what God has declared about the issue.
(Example) My son Davidson was born with a condition known as jaundice. It’s caused by a liver disorder that yellows the skin and eyes. This can be devastating if left untreated but there’s a simple cure. These babies are put under a special light that stimulates the functioning of the liver and corrects the problem in a matter of a few hours. If you’ve ever visited the maternity floor you’ve probably seen jaundiced infants being treated. They wear dark glasses under that light like they are “sunning” on the beach. Well, suppose your child was born with this disorder and the physician urged this treatment. Would you say? “Doc, that sounds too easy . . . in fact it’s downright silly! How can a light help? I believe we can correct the coloring by scrubbing him with soap and water.” If you did this the doctor would probably shrug in disbelief and say, “You don’t understand. The cure for your child is in the light. And you’re going to jeopardize your child’s life if you reject it. That’s the truth and that’s the cure. It may sound too easy but I’ve been to medical school and it works. Trust me.” You could still refuse his expertise and say, “Doctor, the jaundice is your truth, not ours. If we sincerely believe our truth, then things will turn out fine.” Do you see how ridiculous that argument is? Would anybody accuse you of being narrow-minded if you accepted the doctor’s credentials and trusted his treatment? No! That’s not being narrow-minded, it’s acting rationally and in accordance with the evidence.
The fact is everybody on this planet has a terminal illness called sin. And the reason born again Christians are dogmatic that Christ is the only way is because they’ve experienced Him as the great Physician with the only cure. We could try to scrub away our sins with good deeds but that wouldn’t work. We could sincerely believe that an ascetic lifestyle could sanctify us from sin, but we would be sincerely wrong. The truth is, Jesus alone is credentialed to save us and only His Blood can remove sin. And when we trust Him we’re not being intolerant we’re simply acting in accordance with reality.
Do you understand it doesn’t matter to God what sins you’ve committed? He’ll forgive them all—regardless of what they are! And it doesn’t matter their depth or depravity. Romans 4:6 says: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” What God wants you to do is abandon your attempts to justify yourself through works and trust Christ’s Blood to cancel your sin! When you do He will erase the record of your sin.
(Illustration) When I was a little boy my dad told me the story of a man that purchased a Rolls Royce. As he drove through the countryside he broke the axle. When the owner phoned the Rolls Royce dealership the management insisted their axles never break. Finally, the owner persuaded the dealership to send a mechanic to repair the car. Months passed without the owner never receiving an invoice for the repair so he contacted the company about a remittance. Rolls Royce wrote back saying they had no record of anything being wrong with his car. In effect, Rolls Royce refused to acknowledge any imperfection in their product. And that’s what God does for Believers. We know sin has stained, spoiled, and even shattered parts of our past. But Christ’s Blood not only forgives our sin, it expunges the record! That’s why David could say, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”
(Transition) Let me mention another problem our culture has with Christians asserting that ‘Jesus is the only way.’ What upsets some people about this claim is they believe all religions are basically identical . . . that all spiritual paths lead to God.
Only Christianity Leads To God
They maintain, while there may be superficial distinctions between religions, they are all fundamentally alike. They insist the Great Commandment is to live a good moral life and do what’s fair and just. While that may be presented as truth; it is not! There are drastic and irreconcilable differences between Christianity and other religions that can’t be ignored. For instance:
Christianity says one omnipotent, eternal, holy, and personal God created and sustains the universe. But other religions assert that man and the galaxies emerged through evolution.
Christianity says that Jesus was God in the flesh. Hinduism, Islam, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and Confucism all deny this.
Christianity insists the Bible alone as the only authoritative written Word from God to man. But Mormons use the book of Mormon and Muslims use the Koran.
All these religions can’t be true because they contradict each other too severely. So we have to ask the question: How do we know that Christianity is the only way to Heaven?
(Example) Let’s answer that this way. There are about seven billion people on this planet and each person possesses something unique—a fingerprint. Nobody else could ever match your fingerprint! When the Old Testament Prophets finished their writings, 400 years prior to Christ’s birth, they recorded sixty specific prophecies regarding the Messiah’s appearance. When you put them together they make a fingerprint that only the true Messiah could match. And Jesus did that!
Isaiah said the Messiah would be born of a virgin and He was.
Micah pinpointed the exact place of His birth—Bethlehem—and Jesus was born there.
Moses and Jeremiah specified His ancestry: He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, and of the house of David. And the Jewish scribes, that kept meticulous genealogy records, could verify this.
The Psalms, specifically and in detail, foretold His betrayal, His accusation by false witnesses, even his manner of death on the Cross. (And the prophecy of His crucifixion was detailed hundreds of years before the act of crucifixion was invented.)
The Psalmist then predicted how the Messiah would be scarred in His hands and feet. He spoke accurately of His resurrection from the dead.
One statistician figured the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of these prophecies as one in one hundred million billion. And Jesus didn’t simply satisfy eight of the sixty messianic prophecies He fulfilled them all! Christianity isn’t based on legend, fiction, or philosophy. It’s based on reality. Jesus didn’t just claim that He was the only way He validated that claim with indisputable evidence. And no other so-called “Messiah” can make such unparalleled claims.
(Transition) So if Jesus is the way to Heaven then how do we access that way? How are we saved? The only means of salvation is through the grace of Jesus Christ. That’s it!
Salvation Comes Only By Christ’s Grace
When I was in college I was required to read the Christian writer C. S. Lewis. And Lewis pointed out one major distinction of Christianity is that it proclaims a gospel of grace and not works. Every other religion is based on human effort. They are based on people struggling to earn God’s favor. It’s the law of human works.
It may be self-flagellation with a whip or hooks.
People try to gain God’s favor by making a pilgrimage or taking a vow of poverty.
Others deprive themselves of certain foods or pleasures.
Some people seek God’s favor by performing good deeds or praying in a certain position each day.
Others never know when they’ll break the cycle of reincarnation and gain eternal bliss.
Every religion but Christianity is essentially a man-centered, do-it-yourself proposition: “Live this way and you’ll find favor with God.” But the good news of Christianity is this: It recognizes man is incapable of reaching out to God and attracting His attention. It shows that Man in his sinful, helpless estate can find acceptance into God’s family through the free gift of Christ’s grace; no human works necessary! The Bible says the gift of salvation was designed by God, offered by God, and enacted by God. It’s Christ intervening for man that pardons sin. That’s what 1 John 4:10 means when it says: “It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending His Son to be the way to take away our sins.” This is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Man deserves judgment for His sin. But God says, “No, I’ll forgive you if you will trust Christ’s work.”
(Example) There’s an interesting Buddhist parable and a parable of Christ that help draw the distinction here. Both stories involve sons that became rebellious and left home in a huff but realized their mistake and returned to be forgiven. It’s the ending of the two stories that marks the difference between Christianity and other religions. In the Buddhist story, the errant son is required to work off his penalty by spending years in servitude. But the son in the Christian parable ends with the prodigal being welcomed home by a loving and forgiving father that showers him with undeserved forgiveness and grace.
Graceless religions are “do” religions—do this and hope for salvation. But Christianity is a “done” religion. It’s based on what Jesus Christ has done at Calvary. And when Jesus said on the Cross, “It is finished” He meant He accomplished the salvation of grace that fully frees us apart from our fleshly works.
(Transition) Let me close with one more point about man’s salvation through Christ.
(Example) Let’s suppose there are two country clubs. The first Country Club only admits people that earn their membership. Those that seek membership into this Club must have a University Master’s degree and earn $500,000 annually. After that, the yearly membership fee is $100,000. No exceptions. This Club describes what non-Christian Religions. All non-Christian religions demand that people work their way to Heaven. It doesn’t describe Christianity! It’s a different Club. In fact, Christianity is the only religious club that invites everyone to join free of charge! It’s free to join and go to Heaven because Jesus paid the membership cost. All you have to do is accept the payment of Christ to become a member. Your entrance into Heaven isn’t based on your qualifications; it’s based on accepting Christ’s invitation. Jesus pre-qualified you through grace.
Now let me ask you: which religion is snobbish? Is it Christianity or is it a works-based religion? The answer is obvious. Christians know they aren’t better than others. We understand that it’s grace alone that opens Heaven’s doors to us. Salvation is found in Jesus and Jesus alone!