Why Only Jesus?

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Salvation; Jesus Alone; Savior, Jesus the Only


Acts 4:12; 1st John 5:11-12; John 14:6

I have hiked to the top of Old Rag Mountain three times - each time many years ago, back in my youth ministry days. In fact, the first time I used a cell phone was from that rocky peak just east of the Skyline Drive. John and Sandy Forrer’s son Mark went with our group on one of those trips and Sandy wanted me to be able to call if we had problems so she let me take their cell phone. I called from the top and said, “We made it and it is beautiful!” I remember thinking, “Wow - I’m making a phone call from the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere! What will they think of next?!”

Now - the climb up Old Rag is tough. It takes several hours. First, there are dozens of snake trails. You wind your way back and forth - back and forth - gradually making your way up the side of the mountain. There are places where you look like you are at the top - but then when you get there you realize you still have a long way to go.

I remember one trip Pam’s son, Joey, went with us. We had been climbing for a couple hours at least and Joey slipped and fell on his hip. There were no bones broken but he was really hurting - I’m sure he had a whopper of a bruise. I told him, “Joey - look! I can see the top. Let’s keep going! You’re almost there.” Well, when we got “THERE” it wasn’t the top - there was a couple more grueling hours of climbing to go - but Joey hung in there.

On the climb there are places where you have to have someone pull you up - or push you up. There are places where you squeeze between two massive rocks. There are places you have to jump over a gap in the rocks - where if you lose your footing you will fall a long way.

There’s a place where you go UNDER a huge boulder. I mean, the climb is worth it - the views are indeed amazing - -as these college students who lugged a love seat all the way to the top would tell you. But it’s not a hike for the faint of heart.

Well, Sue and I have been hiking with Mike and Joyce Smith a couple times as of late. We hiked out to the Calvert Cliffs. We’ve done two fairly tough trails over on the Skyline drive - with beautiful views. And on the way home from our last hike we confidently decided we were up to the challenge of Old Rag. I remember thinking, “Are we? Can I do that again? It’s been 20 years. Is my aging body still capable?” Well, the other day, Mike sent me an e-mail saying he’s found ANOTHER WAY to the top of Old Rag - a shorter way - an easier way - and I said, “Let’s do it!”

I bring this climb up - because our world says that when it comes to getting to God - there is ANOTHER WAY - other than Jesus. I mean, the title of this sermon is a question that our neighbors are almost certain to ask, They will say, “Why only Jesus? How can you believe that Jesus is the only way ‘UP’ to God?” Now, there is nothing wrong with other, better ways to the top of Old Rag - but the Bible is clear when it tells us there is only ONE way to God. Let’s look at a few verses that say so. If you’re able, stand as we read in respect to the fact that as I said last week, this is God’s inspired Word. Read with me.

1st John 5:11-12 – “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

John 14:6 – “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

This week, I want to do what I did last week. I want to help prepare you to answer the questions that might come when this subject comes up. And remember - the plan is not to help you win an argument - but rather to help you be ready for God to use to win your neighbor.

Here’s one question your neighbor may pose because it expresses a popular viewpoint these days.

(1) “Aren’t all religions the same?”

And you can respectfully but confidently reply, No - actually they are not. Then you can share SOME of the differences. Here’s a good sampling.

Christianity says that there is one eternal God Who created the universe. Hinduism says that everything is God. You are god. I am god. This podium is a god.

Christianity says that Jesus was God in the flesh. Islam denies this. It also denies that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

Christianity’s written source of authority is the Bible alone. As I said last week, we revere it as God’s Word. But Mormons revere the book of Mormon and Muslims the Koran.

Another difference is seen in the fact that religions don’t agree on their teachings of what the after-life is.

Going back to our Old Rag mountain deal - many people say each faith IS different. But each faith is just a different path to the same mountain top. But you can’t say that because the various faiths of the world don’t agree on what the top of the “mountain” is. For example, Hinduism teaches that we don’t go to Heaven but rather are reincarnated over and over again on earth.

Whether you come back as a cockroach or the King of England depends on how you’ve lived your life. Islam teaches that Heaven is a paradise of wine, women, and song.  And the way to achieve this blissful paradise is ironically to abstain from these things in this world. Our faith teaches that Heaven is where we are with Jesus face to face praising Him alongside other Christ-followers for what He has done. Do you think a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew would consider that paradise?

So, no - all religions are NOT the same. There are tons of differences.

And - as we say a lot here at Redland - the greatest difference is that - unlike all other religions - Christianity proclaims a Gospel of GRACE and not WORKS. In every other religion in the world, adherents struggle to somehow EARN the favor of their version of God, in the hopes that they will get to their version of Heaven. Other faiths teach that adherents must work their way to a happy afterlife by using a Tibetan prayer wheel, or going on pilgrimages, or giving alms to the poor - or by not eating certain foods, or by performing a certain number of unspecified good deeds, or by praying at a certain time in a certain position each day…or whatever. In short, OTHER faiths are basically DO-IT-YOURSELF propositions.

That makes me think of something I read about years ago - how in June of 2006, Warren Buffet, the world’s second-richest man at the time, announced that he would donate 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable foundations. Commenting on this extreme level of generosity, Buffet said: “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.” Mr. Buffet’s statement is the opposite of our faith. Christianity says that as sinners, we are all bankrupt before God so Jesus PAID the price for us. We believe that when it comes to enjoying a life of abundance now - and eternity in Heaven when we die is not about what we do - but rather our faith in what God did when He sent His Son to die in our place on the cross. Think of it like this: Other faiths are attempts by PEOPLE to reach out to GOD but Christianity teaches that in Jesus Christ God is reaching out to us. And, as I said, Christianity alone teaches this fact - that in His amazing grace, the Holy God reached down to sinners like you and me because we were incapable of reaching up to Him. As it says in 1st John 4:10, “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.”

And that leads me to mention another thing that separates Christianity from all other faith systems. You see, since other religions are based on works - there is no ASSURANCE of a blissful afterlife. In other belief systems adherents don’t know until they die if they did enough of the required things to get to Heaven. The late Paul Little writes, “I have often asked Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists whether they would achieve nirvana or go to paradise when they died. I have not yet had one reply in the affirmative. Rather they referred to the imperfection of their lives as being a barrier to this realization. There is no assurance in their religious systems because salvation depends on the individual’s gaining enough merit.”

Not so with Christianity. We KNOW we will get to Heaven because of what Christ did - His all-sufficient death and resurrection. As Paul put it in 2nd Timothy 1:12, “I know Whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

I feel inspired to adapt and sing another popular children’s song. This one is from Sesame Street song. Sing with me: “One of these faiths is not like the others; one of these faiths doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which faith is not like the others by the time I finish my song? Did you guess which faith is not like the others? Did you guess which faith doesn’t belong? If you guessed our faith is not like the others, then you’re absolutely right!”

Great job!

So, the answer to this first question is “no.” All faiths are NOT the same. I like something Dane Ortlund said about Christianity. She said, “Christianity is the un-religion. It turns all our religious instincts on their heads. The ancient Greeks told us to be moderate by knowing our inclinations. The Romans told us to be strong by ordering our lives. Buddhism tells us to be disillusioned by annihilating our consciousness. Hinduism tells us to be absorbed by merging our souls. Islam tells us to be submissive by subjecting our wills. Agnosticism tells us to be at peace by ignoring our doubts. Moralism tells us to be good by discharging our obligations. Only the gospel tells us to be free by acknowledging our failure. Christianity is the un-religion because it is the one faith whose Founder tells us to bring not our doing, but our need.”

Here’s another question that may come up:

(2) “Isn’t sincerity - not ‘truth’ - the most important thing?”

This is a bi-product of the “good works” way of thinking. It’s the popular viewpoint that says, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe - everyone has his or her own beliefs - -what matters is how sincere a person is - how faithfully they hold on to their beliefs.” I mean, many people - our neighbors included - may admit that Christianity IS different from other faith systems, but they feel that it is just one valid philosophy among many. This is the “truth is relative” mind set - the “You have your truth. I have my truth.” way of thinking. People who think this way do what Thomas Jefferson did with the Bible. They “cut out” what they like from each of the world’s faiths and discard the rest. Some refer to it as “The Religion of Chipotle.” Now - I love Chipotle. Are there any other Chipotle fans here? Great! Chipotle offers a very simple and fun way to eat - that has been replicated in lots of fast food restaurants. You know how it works. You step up to the beginning of the line - you look at all the options and you decide how you want to build your football-sized burrito.

White or brown rice.
Black or pinto beans.
Do you want onions and peppers?
Pork, beef, or chicken.
Hot sauce or mild.
Thick green chunky stuff or no thick green chunky stuff

The ingredients are laid out behind the glass, but you design the burrito to suit your personal tastes. Well, that’s what many sincere people do these days when it comes to faith. They look at the faith options the world offers and believing they are equally true say something like:

I’ll have some of that evangelicalism. I like their energy and cultural adaptability.

I like the regal nature of Roman Catholicism, and it seems kind of ancient, and I also need a little dab of mystery in my life - but not too much, please, because I also want to figure things out for myself.

Give me a dash of Hinduism because I sure like that open-endedness; and if I’m a good person, I’ll be reincarnated in a higher life form.

I like the calmness and detachment of Buddhism. But once again, give me just a small portion because I don’t want to quench all of my earthly desires.

Wow, Islam has some seriousness and discipline. That would sure help me stay on track. I’ll put a little bit of that in there.

Oh, but that judgment of God stuff - that’s too spicy.

And that “Jesus is the only way to God” salsa - no, I don’t want to limit myself to that option. Please keep that out.

Too many people choose and pick, often without research, often very subjectively, the things that they think must be true. As a result, they make their own religion like a self-made burrito. People do this because it sounds appetizing. It even sounds moral because it is a way to be tolerant of other faiths.

And - to be clear it is moral. I mean, it is RIGHT to tolerant of people who believe differently than we do. The Bible tells us that as followers of Jesus we need to be loving and respectful as we share our faith with all people. 1st Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with GENTLENESS and RESPECT.” Tolerance is a good thing - a biblical concept. And - as I am so fond of saying, this IS America - a free country. Our citizens can believe whatever they want. Under the U.S. Constitution, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, all religious viewpoints should be equally protected. But some people jump to the erroneous conclusion that because different philosophies are equally PROTECTED, they must be equally TRUE and this is just not the case. The fact that a belief system is tolerated under the law has nothing to do with whether or not it is based on truth. Sincerely is not more important than truth.

I mean, you can be sincerely wrong.

A couple weeks ago our two oldest grandkids, Lydia and Joel, came to visit. Daniel swapped cars with me because the car seats were in their gray Honda Mini-van. One day we piled in that mini-van and took Joel and Lydia to the trampoline place in Flower Hill. They bounced around a couple hours burning off grandkid energy and then we got ready to go home. It was raining so we opened the door and ran to their Honda Mini-van. Once we got in, I pushed the button to start the car. Nothing happened. I made sure I had their key fob deal in my pocket and tried again - nothing happened. I kept trying - and then I heard Lydia and Joel say their car seats weren’t right. I looked around and they weren’t - what was up?

Any one want to guess?

Right - we were in the wrong gray Honda Mini-van. It was the same year - same color as THEIR van - which was parked right next to us. That’s why the key fob didn’t work. No matter how much I sincerely believed it would - the truth is I was in the wrong vehicle. My point is - faith - no matter how sincere it is - is no more valid than the object in which it is placed. Believing something is true does not make it any more true than failing to believe something that is true makes it false.

Sincerity does not trump truth.

And speaking of intolerance. Truth is always intolerant of error. Daniel’s key fob would ONLY work in his mini-van. It was the ONLY WAY to get it started. Facts are facts, regardless of people’s sincere attitudes toward them.

Well, what are the facts when it comes to the object of OUR Christian faith? What is the truth when it comes to Jesus Christ Who claimed to be the only path to God?

Here goes:

Jesus Christ has unique credentials that make His claim to deity uniquely credible. For example, only Jesus both claimed to be God and then proved that claim by living a perfect sinless life, by embodying the attributes of God. Only Jesus fulfilled every single prophecy of the coming Messiah written hundreds of years before He was born, including the manner of His death - and His resurrection. Speaking of His resurrection, billions have claimed to know Him personally. I do! My point is this: Christianity is not just another religion or philosophy. It is a reality. Jesus didn’t just claim that He was the one and only Son of God. He validated that claim with convincing evidence like calming storms and healing the sick and raising the dead. So, our belief that He is the only way to God is well-founded. Let me put it this way: While other religious leaders can offer wise sayings and helpful advice and insights - only JESUS CHRIST, because He is the perfect Son of God, is qualified to offer Himself as payment for our wrong-doing. No other religious leader can even pretend to be able to do that.

Theologian R. C. Sproul puts it this way, “Moses could mediate on the law; Mohammed could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; But none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world.” As the only Son of God, Jesus alone qualified. That’s the truth and it doesn’t matter how sincerely you believe otherwise. And - you know - we could argue all day about whether or not this claim has an intolerant spirit about it. But the real issue is whether or not it is true. I mean, tolerance is a non-issue if Christianity is really the only true religion. In fact, all religions cannot be true since, as I said a moment ago, they contradict each other on too many levels. They cannot at the same time all be true. In our culture there is this misconception that to be narrow-minded is automatically wrong. Well, the fact is you can be narrow-minded and right or you can be narrow-minded and wrong. The issue is not whether you are narrow-minded or not - the issue is whether or not you are right. The fact that one plus one always equals two is very narrow, but it is also very right.

Now, I’d agree that Christians are being narrow-minded if there really were many roads to God and we were saying that our road was the best. But this is not what Christianity says. As I said earlier, the Bible teaches that there IS only one truth - not many. And the truth is that all of us have sinned and if we are going to get to Heaven, Someone has to pay the penalty for our wrongdoing. And Jesus, by virtue of His sinlessness and divinity is the only One qualified to do this - the only ONE Who could be our substitute. Yes, it is narrow-minded but it is also true - factual.

And this is one area in life where you can’t afford to be wrong. Your decision here affects eternity. This week I read an article about sky-diving. It said, if you were to go skydiving you could count on two things: an exciting experience and the need to follow some basic rules.

For instance, before you participate in a dive, your “Jump Master” will give you the following instructions:

Don’t curl up into the fetal position. (You can slip out of your harness.)

Arch your back and hold your arms out in front of you. (To keep you from slipping out of your harness and to get you flying in the correct position.)

Stick your legs out in front when landing. (No explanation necessary.)

Do everything your jump master tells you to do. (Immediately)

No pets allowed on your jump.

These are not negotiable, especially if you want to live. They are absolutes.

Now let’s imagine another skydiving experience. When you arrive, a smiling instructor begins strapping a parachute to your back while walking you toward a plane idling just outside. Over the plane’s engine noise, the instructor yells, “We here at the Relativist Skydiving School believe there are many ways to get from the plane to the ground. We respect everyone’s desire to skydive and we don’t believe in absolute rules. Just listen to your inner voice, respond honestly to your feelings, and have a memorable experience. We’ll see you when you get down!”

Which sky-diving company would you go with? Most people who go skydiving are glad that there are strict, nonnegotiable rules. They know you can’t be a relativist at skydiving. The rules are there for good reason - they keep you from dying! Truth is important - because ignoring it has consequences. Greg Koukl writes, “If issues of religion have eternal consequences, then errors in thinking are infinitely tragic. To rephrase Karl Marx, FALSE religion is the opiate of the people. It soothes but it does not cure.” Okay - one more question.

(3) “What about the people who die without ever hearing Jesus?”

This is one of the most commonly asked questions about our faith - and, frankly, we don’t have the complete answer. God hasn’t explicitly told us all we’d like to know about this. But we do know a few things.

a. First, we know from the Bible that everybody has a moral standard programmed into their thinking by God and that everybody is guilty of violating that standard.

As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has set eternity in the human heart.” That’s why our conscience bothers us when we do something wrong. I mean, people who ask this question infer that people who don’t hear about Jesus are innocent victims. Well, the Bible teaches that no one is innocent. All of us are sinners. All of us willfully disobey God’s eternal standard and when we do this, we know it and as such we are responsible for our actions.

b. Second, we know that everybody has enough information from observing the world to know that God exists and what He is like, but people suppress all that and reject God anyway.

Romans 1:19-20 says, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

c. Third, we know from the Bible that those who sincerely seek God will find Him.

In fact, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is seeking us first, making it possible for us to seek God. And this suggests to me that people around the world who respond to the understanding that they have and who earnestly seek after the one true God - will find an opportunity, in some way, to receive the eternal life that God has graciously provided through Jesus Christ. Acts 17:26-28 says, “From one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth - and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’”

I’ve heard about this happening in seemingly impossible circumstances. For example, In a recent issue of Christianity Today (January 2013), a Muslim man describes his commitment to follow Isa al Masih, Jesus the Messiah. Surprisingly, a rather “ordinary” miracle caused this man to open his heart to Jesus. Here’s how he described the miracle: “One night the only food my wife and I had was a small portion of macaroni. My wife prepared it very nicely. Then one of her friends knocked on the door. I told myself, ‘The macaroni is not sufficient for even the two of us, so how will it be enough for three of us?’ But because we have no other custom, we opened the door, and she came in to eat with us. While we were eating, the macaroni started to multiply; it became full in the bowl. I suspected that something was wrong with my eyes, so I started rubbing them. I thought maybe my wife hid some macaroni under the small table, so I checked, but there was nothing. My wife and I looked at each other, but because the guest was there we said nothing. Afterward I lay down on the bed, and as I slept, Isa came to me and asked me, ‘Do you know who multiplied the macaroni?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I am Isa al Masih [Jesus, the Messiah]. If you follow me, not only the macaroni but your life will be multiplied.’”

This week I read about another man who had been raised by gurus in an area of India where there were no Christians. As a teenager, he concluded there were too many contradictions in Hinduism for it to be true. So he called out to God for answers - and in a remarkable series of events, God brought people into his life who shared Christ’s message with Him. Today he’s a follower of Jesus. I’ve also heard of Muslims responding to dreams that led them to Jesus - and of children raised in atheistic nations seeing something in nature that led them to believe in God and seek Him out.

d. There’s a fourth thing we know that is reassuring as we wrestle with this issue. We know that God is scrupulously fair.

GENESIS 18:25 asks, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It’s comforting for me to know that each person will be judged uniquely and justly, according to what they knew and what they did about it. After being judged by a loving and righteous God, not one person will be able to walk away claiming that he or she had been treated unfairly. We can trust our loving Heavenly Father to deal fairly with people who never hear of Jesus’ love.

But you know, for you and me, the issue isn’t ignorance. It’s obedience. We’ve heard what Christ has to say - even today - we have access to the evidence, and it’s clear we’re responsible for our decision on how we respond. If you’re not a Christ-follower, what will you do with what you know about Jesus?  Will you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin and commit to follow Him as Lord? And - what about Christ-followers present? Will you be obedient to the Great Commission God has given us?  I think this is a great time to renew your commitment to evangelism - to obey our Lord and look for opportunities to share His love with our neighbors.

Let us pray.