I am the way
I just went over to Starbucks and got some coffee, I ordered my vente % extra hot wet Capuccino, because I’m low maintenance, and the barrista got it wrong. He called it out: “vente % extra wet Cappucino”, and I took a sip, and my wife watched me and said “are you ok?” and I said “yeah? Why?” And she said “because he got it wrong” and I said “yeah, he did but it came out right.” And she said “what do you mean?” And I said “I can’t really explain it, it’s not really extra wet, it’s really hot, so even though he made an extra wet vente Cappuccino, it came out especially for me as a vente % extra hot wet Cappuccino.” And you may be asking yourself “what does this have to do with anything important in life?” Well, it has a lot to do with the questions we’re dealing with today. Let me read some of them.
Brian, age 42, “I have always questioned organized religion, studied Kabala, then became a parent (not sure if there’s any connection there), and there are no differences. I do believe in a higher power, not sure what it is, I grew up in a somewhat religious home, what is it that sets Mosaid apart from other religious organizations that I have been involved with.” April, 20, “In the back of my mind I’ve always had this thought. You look at other religions and they are so convinced that they are right, well aren’t we like that? Christians are so convinced their God is real and what we think is true, what if we’re the ones that are wrong, and say, Islam is the one that is actually true?” Jim 46, New Testament teaches that Christ is the only way to avoid eternal damnation, that Christ accomplishes this through the work of the sacrifice of the cross, how can these people who have never heard of Christ be damned by a just God? Is there an alternative way to obtain salvation than by Jesus?” Jason 18, “After accepting Christ as your Lord and savior, how do you know if you’ve really accepted Christ if you don’t feel any different than anybody else?” Alex, 23, “Why is it that though I firmly believe in predestination or intentional micro-design, I’m not really sure what that means, I continually question whether or not I’m truly elected? My father is a theologian, went to a major seminary, and then I fell away, and then several years ago chose to come back to the faith several years ago, can you explain this? Where are the boundaries of our free will? Is salvation is our choice or God’s choice?” Ayume, 19, “If God really loves His children, why does He allow them to fall away from Him?” Here’s a good one. Kylie age 28, “Why would a loving God who is omniscient and exists outside of time create humanity in such a way, free will, where they are placed in a system, i.e., sin separates one from God that results in self-choosing doubt? How can I explain to someone who doesn’t know God yet that the whole way God set it up indicates that God created something that will result in people being in pain?” Michael, “Why would a God of love who holds the very essence of creativity in his hand have created this free will system as the best one for humanity? Given that sin separates one from God, is this question answerable? Or is it one that just can’t fit into the human brain? If it can’t be answered, I’m cool with it. Thank you.” What happens to humans who never hear the word of God, the good news of God, but they live basically good moral lives, Buddhists, Hindus, who will never hear about Christianity before he or she dies? What about those that died before hearing about Jesus? Will God judge them relative to the information they received?” Jesus said no one gets to the Father but through him. This decree would condemn many great people such as Gandhi to eternal separation from God. Merely for being born at the wrong place at the wrong time, how is such a rule that determines that what a person believes morally to be defensible?” How can billions of Buddhists and Muslims be wrong? How can this be fair? How can you know that Christianity is the one true religion. How can we say that when Asia which comprises half the human population with religions that are fundamentally opposite to ours? I am skeptical of Christianity as the only way. If Christians accept Jesus as the basis of faith, why not accept Brahma or Krishna on the basis of faith? Why is Jesus the only way? What is the point of having faith? If there is a God and Truth with a capitol T and our life depends on some part of getting that truth right, what do you do with the diversity of human convictions and human fallibility when it comes to knowledge, particularly self knowledge, particularly of your own beliefs. It’s like the teacher has left the classroom with the information on the black board for us to figure out and we’re gonna be tested on it. I hate the lostness and I am in it.”
Let’s pray. “Father, we are inundated with questions about how Jesus could be the only way, how you as a just and merciful God could condemn people to Hell who never even heard the message of Christ. I ask you Lord God to engage us in a conversation today that makes sense. To help us see you for who you are, to understand the human dilemma. I confess this subject is too big for my brain and too heavy for my heart, so God even though I know that I can’t unravel all of this, I ask for clarity about what’s important, and what’s true. Amen.”
So back to my Cappuccinno, this is a disclaimer and not everybody’s gonna really like it, but I want to deal with it and address this issue, when the world is predominantly Hindu and Buddhist and Muslim, and then the Scriptures say that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the father but by him: how is it that we could possibly conceive that Jesus is the only way to God? What happens to people who never hear? And what about a person who lives a moral life or a just life? All these questions are asking an important question about God, and that guy who made my Cappuccino wrong and it came out right, let me tell you that I would like to believe God has this thing mapped out in a whole way that I don’t understand, wouldn’t you? A lot of it hurts my brain to think about it, but it hurts my soul not to think about it. I think that’s really the quandry, I think the fundamental question we are asking here is “Does God care more than us?” Really, that’s the essential question: “Is God more interested, more concerned, more compassionate, more loving, more interested, more proactive, in relationship to the human condition? If the Scriptures are right, and all of humanity is separated from God by sin and we’re all in this dilemma that is described as sin and there is an eternity that is beyond the end of this life, God should be more concerned about it than us, don’t you think?
It’s amazing to me how many conversations I’ve had over lunch or dinner with people who are not followers of Jesus, and inevitably, every one of them will ask me this question: what about the people in India? I’m amazed about how people are about people in India. But it always becomes the question, and I think it’s a good question, and an important question, because what we are basically asking or really saying is “I could not give my life to a God who doesn’t care about everyone. I could not worship a God who is indifferent to the majority of the human population and basically says “Tough luck”.” And I think sometimes Christians, when they hear that question, what about the people in India or Africa or China, what about Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus, I think sometimes Christians unfortunately become indignant and become defensive, and say “Well, I’m sorry, but Jesus is the only way”. And what ends up happening is Christians come across as the least caring people on the planet. And everyone else is concerned about everyone else but Christians don’t seem to care. As long as we’re right, we’re ok. And we don’t deal with the essential primal question of the human soul: “Is God actually better than us, because if God is less caring than us, maybe He should be worshipping us? He should look up to us and aspire to become like you or me. And unfortunately there are a number of religious systems that could communicate that there are people who care more about humanity than God does. And I think that’s a problem.
Are all religions the same? Don’t you just wish they were? I mean, from a purely humane perspective, I wish everything just sort of played out and in the end we all realize that no matter what curtain you picked, it’s always curtain number 3. Have you watched that show Deal or No Deal? I haven’t seen anybody win the 1,000,000 yet. Isn’t that the high dollar suitcase? Seen anybody win the million yet? And don’t you just wish that inside every one of those suitcases it said a million? But it doesn’t. And there’s something inside of us, and we just want everybody to win, I’m for that, I want everybody to win. Years ago somebody said “For me to win, someone has to lose.” That person was scary! See for me to win, you don’t have to lose. I don’t have a personal need for everyone else to be wrong, do you? I don’t have a personal need to be more right than everyone else, I just want people to experience the life that comes in God. And that should be our core motivation, and as we approach this Scripture, I want you to realize that all religions are not the same. I know we want them to be, we want everything in the end to just work out ok, and I understand that, and I’m with that motivation. I think we’re starting from the same place. But to say that every religion and every philosophy and every belief system is the same is to really dishonor the significance and value of human beings. We don’t all choose the same thing. This isn’t a façade. It’s not an illusion, it’s not all of us choosing different colors but in the end, our favorite color is simply blue. I just thought it was orange. Wow, I thought my favorite color was pink but it’s blue just like everyone else’s, but we’re hoping is that no matter what color we choose in the end it’s blue. Your favorite food, maybe it’s Italian, maybe it’s Chineese, it’s funny I meet very few Chineese people who Chineese is their favorite food. But a lot of causcasians I meet, “Oh, Chineese, it’s my favorite.” And you never know what people are gonna choose, do you? And maybe yours is sushi or Mexican, but in the end, we all realize we all eat the same meal. It’s all been Salvadoran all along. And I wish I could stand before you today and say “I’ve come to the conviction that everything in the end just works out and everything is the same, and every religion is the same and every philosophy is the same, but they’re not.
And there are at least two fundamental differences, and I love that question “What is the difference between what Mosaid believes, and why is Jesus supposed to be the only way?” I think these are important questions. And when you look at the backdrop of human history and religion, you have to basically categorize religion into two categories: they’re either legalistic or fatalistic. See either religions says “God is aloof or they say God is impersonal. If God is aloof, that leads to legalism: so then you have all these rules and all these rituals and all these criteria that you have to live up to and strive toward so that God might accept you into His kingdom. And the other one is fatalism and it says you have no control over your destiny, it’s all mapped out, it’s all pre-packaged, it’s all pre-planned, and you have an illusion, a perception of freedom and choice but the truth of the matter is that you don’t really get to choose, it’s all set into order. And what you find is those different views inform world religions. And so you have different nuances of it, whether it’s Islam that Allah just chooses, and it’s up to Allah to say you are forgiven, and you can work and work and strive and strive, but in the end, its fate. It’s out of your control.
And then you have a another strain than an aloof God, it’s an impersonal God. I was supposed to go and do presentation with a professor at a college about something but at the last minute I was told “no, you’re debating a Buddhist Monk.” Great. The day I’m getting on the plane, and my wife goes “you better study Buddhism!”, sure I’ll just pick up the whole religion in a few minutes on the plane. Why watch the movie? And I just said I’m going to learn, and our theme was “does life have purpose?” and the monk was the leading evangelist for Buddhism across America, and he explained “no, there is no such thing as purpose, purpose means that history is linear, and there is no purpose, everything is circular”, and “I said, I don’t know much about life, but I know there are great book sales on books on purpose” (laughter) because it’s a question humans are asking. There may not be any purpose to life, but humans can’t live without it. So maybe the question is backward? Maybe we should be asking not is there purpose to life, but is there life to purpose? Cause humans are searching for it, they find it wherever they can find it. But he kept on going “no, there’s no purpose, everything is circular” and I said to myself “oh, this is really nihilism, there really is no hope, no future, its all just an endless cycle and you move toward non-existence, and he was explaining that. And so I asked him “So there’s no purpose, no destiny” and he said “No” and I said “so do you have any plans for next week?” He said “yes”. “Why? Because there’s no future”. So why would you schedule anything for next week? Why didn’t you schedule it for last week? Because it all comes back. I’m just trying to learn. Cause I would love calendaring a lot of people last week, and keep next week open. How about you? He kept saying “no, no purpose, human beings have no purpose” and I realized, “Buddhism is different than Christianity.” Oh not it’s not, see Christianity is just like Islam and Buddhism, and Hinduism, the truth is that anything that is relgion is either legalistic, these are the things you have to do to earn God’s love or it becomes fatalistic, God or the Universe or whatever is sovereign and so you really don’t have a choice.
Let me just walk you through, and I have to go back and say why the Scriptures teach that Jesus is the only way to God. It all begins in the beginning, it is about human choice, Genesis 2, you know these verses, you might have them in your brain. What does God say? God says He creates humans in his image and he places them in a garden for them to enjoy, and listen to the language of God, “Eat freely” he tells them. And he tells them there are these two trees in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life and then he basically says “I have laid before you a choice, choose life.” This is the core understanding of the Scriptures, that God creates you with the capacity to choose, the freedom to choose. Why would God do that? If God knew that it was gonna be a mess, and God knew a lot of people would reject Him, if God knew that this would result in a lot of pain, why would God allow us to have free will, why would God allow us to have freedom? Well, there are some Christian theologians who say “Well, really God’s driving motivation is His glory. He wants to be glorified.” Well, free will is a very bad strategy for glory. It is. It is a lousy strategy to be glorified because right now out of 6.5 billion people, if we understand the Scriptures to be true, most of those people are not giving God glory. So if God’s ultimate strategy was to glorify Himself, bad idea. You see the truth of the matter is that before God created us, all creation declared the glory of God. So before humans ever breathed, everything was glorifying God. And before this whole angelic Fall thing with Satan, see, He shouldn’t have created angels either. Keeps making these mistakes! Because until before he make angels and people, everything declared his glory, the stars, the trees, the rocks, the flowers, it was all in alignment with who He is and it was marvelous. There’s no reason to create free will if what God is trying to do is expand his glory.
The only reason freedom to exist is for love to exist. For love to exist, there has to be freedom, and God created us with choice because God created us as objects and recipients of love. I love this one little description in Deuteronomy chapter 30, and I know people say that God in the OT is such a bad God, so out of touch with the NT, but I want you to hear the conversation that God is having with the Israelites, vs 11, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach, it is not up in heaven so that you have to ask “who can ascend to heaven so that we may obey it?”, nor is it beyond the sea so that you have to ask “who will cross the sea?” to get it and proclaim it to us that we may obey it. No the Lord is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.” In other words, God is saying “I’m right HERE!” I’m not way out there.” So God goes on, “see, I set before you life and prosperity, death and destruction” (pretty straight forward) for I command you to love the Lord your God to keep His commands and decrees and laws, then you will live and increase and the Lord will bless you.” So God is saying “Look, choose this path and you will live” and you go “Well that’s so cruel of God, because if you don’t choose this path, you’re gonna die.” But it goes on vs 17: “But if your heart turns away, and you are not obedient and you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you that this day you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land…” and God says “so if you choose other Gods and other paths, it’s not going to go well to you.” Vs 19: “This day, I call to earth heaven and earth as witnesses, I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse” Now why would God do that? “Now choose life”.
So we know at the core what God longs for. For us to choose life. But why is He so insistent, why is He so dogmatic, why is he so narrow minded and determined for us to have to choose Him for us to live? Isn’t that absurd? It’s so narcissitic. “Now choose life, so that you may live and that you may love the Lord your god and listen to his voice and hold fast to Him.” And see there is God going “Love me love me love me” like an old girlfriend, boyfriend, or is it that there is something we’re not getting from God? Here it is. “For the Lord is your life.” See it’s not that God is upset because you are filling in the blanks wrong. It’s not because it’s a multiple choice test and the answer is C and you said A. It’s not because you lack a level of spiritual intellectualism that you just can’t seem to get it. God’s saying “It’s not up in heaven, it’s not across the ocean, it’s right here.” It’s a heart issue. And God is saying “I’m laying before you a choice to live or to die, and it’s not that I want you to die, it’s that I am life.” God isn’t saying He’s going to kill us if we don’t choose Him, it’s that He is life itself. So when we don’t choose Him we choose death. And this is at the core. It says that when God created humanity He breathed into us the breath of life, God is the source of life, and outside of Him there is no real life, this isn’t about which religion is right. This is about who gives life, who is life to the human spirit. And people say “How can you believe Jesus is the only way, that is so ridiculous!” When Jesus was saying “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by me, Jesus isn’t saying to you, and I know this isn’t the way we hear it. We think it’s Him saying “You pick anything else, and you’re dead!” (laughter) That’s not what He is saying. What He is saying is “nobody else really cares about you.”
Well, then how’s come there are other paths? How’s come there is no one else who has come for you? Budhhism says you’re gonna just keep cycling and cycling and cycling and the end result is if you ever get the thing right, you move toward nonexistence, toward nothingness, and so you’re in this endless cycle, and I know that people think that reincarnation is like Disneyland, I’m Sean Penn now! I admit it: I’d like to come back as Johnny Depp, but it’s not a game. In Buddhism and Hinduism, reincarnation in my understanding is actually a kind of punishment because you didn’t get it right the last time, and it’s a process of removing from yourself all your desire, and getting rid of all those things that make you human, so you end up just being spirit and energy and nothingness. And Allah isn’t coming for you. He’s not coming for you. You can work and work and work and work and strive and strive and strive and hope and hope and pray and pray, but in the end, it’s up to Allah to say “you’re forgiven”. And He’s watching to see if you live up to His expectations. But you can’t. You can’t.
I remember the first Hindu I ever met that entered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and I was so surprised when he did, and I asked him “what in the world would cause you to leave all you’ve ever been taught, all you’ve ever known, and now become a follower of Jesus, and he said, “I was home in India and I saw a train going down the tracks and I saw a cow go across the tracks and I saw the driver of the train run the train off the tracks and hundreds of people were injured and kill to save the cow. And I thought something is wrong. Then I came to America and I smelled McDonald’s, and I thought something is wrong.” There’s something in the human spirit that says there is something terribly wrong with any system that says human beings are destined to destruction. Or that they were designed and created to nothingness. And the only way to get out of the process is to earn God’s love. But you can’t earn it.
You say “Why does Jesus say He is the only way? He’s not giving you the bad news from His perspective, He’s giving you the bad news from reality that no one else is coming for you. There is no other God who loves you and passionately pursues you and longs to forgive you of your sin and heal you from your broken-ness. Choose life, because the Lord is your life. And two different passages I want to go to quickly, but I don’t want you to miss it. Now a person can reject this, but I want you to understand what you’re rejecting. You’re having to choose between legalism and love, and fatalism and freedom. Myself, I cannot move toward any belief system that says everything is fatalistic, everything is pre-determined, everything is destined, and there’s nothing you can do as a human being, and in the end humanism leads you there: you’re just dust, you die, it’s over. You have no control, no way of changing that. Universalism says “no matter what you believe, it all leads to the same place so don’t even sweat it, it just goes to the same place, it’s all pre-determined.” Buddhism says it’s all just a cycle, it’s not going anywhere. By the way, Calvinism says “in the end it doesn’t matter what you choose because God has already chosen who belongs to Him and who is damned.” And they’re all the same, all those different religions are fatalistic, that everything is already pre-determined. And what the Scriptures tell us is that God allows a freedom to choose, because freedom is required for love, for life.
In I john, ch 4 vs 7, “Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” The driving principle of the universe is love and that when you come to God, love expands. Love is not a limited commodity. Have you ever felt that way? When I got married to Kim, I didn’t even know what love was. I’d been married three months and I went on a trip and I started having a pain in my stomach, and I thought I had some disease. I realized what it was: I was actually missing her. It was a new emotion for me. I was dying. And then when we were gonna have a baby I didn’t know if I could love my son, I didn’t know if I had the capacity to love a child, but when Aaron was born, you know what happened, I had all this love for Kim, and I just divided it in half and I gave half to Kim and half to Aaron. Because love is a limited commodity, right? No, you know what was weird? When she gave birth to Aaron I loved her even more, not less. And all of a sudden, all this love was born that I had never had before. If Aaron had not come into this world, I would never love as much as I do. Cause a new arena of love is expanded, and then when we knew we were gonna have a second child, I was afraid, I couldn’t imagine loving a human being more than I loved my son as a child. It was just overwhelming to me. I would look at him and I would be overwhelmed at having to love someone else like I loved him, and I was scared, cause I was still seeing love as a limited commodity. And then when Mariah was born, you know what I had to do: I had to divide love between Kim and Aaron and Mariah. I had an explosion, it was more powerful than nuclear fusion it just erupted in my soul when I saw Mariah, I realized how expansive my soul was with love. And even when Mariah is mad at me which is often, I told her last night, “even when you are mad at me, you are my source of joy. You just emanate joy.” And I just cannot imagine loving a human being more than her, and you know what is strange? You are not limited by your capacity to love. You are only limited by your willingness to love. And what He is saying is that when we come to know God, love is born in us and it just expands and expands and whoever does not love does not know God. This is how we know that God is love that God sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him. And so people ask “How can Jesus be the only way?” I meet a lot of guys who die single. You know why? Because they didn’t recognize the one who loves them. I’m telling you I meet guys and I say to them “what are you thinking? She’s amazing!” and they say “well, you never know what’s around the corner.” Nothing! (laughter) Guys who think like that can’t experience love.
Well you say “how can Jesus be the only way?” and you should be happy there is a way. That somebody actually loves us enough to sacrfice Himself on your behalf and mine. “He sent His one and only son into the world that we might live, this is how God showed his love among us. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Go ahead and check every other world religion and see if there’s a God pursuing you with His love. Giving you the freedom to choose Him or not, but inviting you to live in His love. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Is there a difference between what we’re talking about here and everything else? Yes, there is. And that’s why it would demean who Jesus is and what He has done to say “Oh yeah, all religions are just the same, and every path leads to the same thing” because it’s just not true. Because there’s nobody else who’s come for you and for me. God is not impersonal, and God is not aloof, in fact, one of the most amazing things to me, and I think it’s important, John 15, Jesus gives us a picture of God, that I think sometimes we don’t capture it because this is different than everything else you’ll ever get in every other religion. John 15:9, “as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you”. See, if I have to admit, there is a religion called Christianity that is not about love. It is about facts and information and doctrines and truth and they think it’s big T but it’s upside down little t, but the driving principle of the kingdom of God is love. And Jesus says “I have loved you and you will remain in my love if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” See, what Jesus cares about is for you to actually live, to be fully alive. Isn’t it amazing, here’s Jesus, about to be crucified on the cross and He’s saying “I want you to come and know my love so that you can be filled with joy.” That’s ridiculous. Jesus isn’t saying “Follow me so you can be right”, He’s not saying “follow me so you can avoid hell” he’s not saying “Follow me so you can go to heaven”, Jesus is saying, “follow me, trust me, receive my love, because I want you to experience LIFE” Vs 12 he says “my command is this, love each other as I have loved you, greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. And then he says this, “you are my friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business, instead, I have called you friends for everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known to you.” Jesus didn’t come to see how many people he could get to follow Him. He came to make you his friend.
Now the question about the people around the world who have not heard, and I’m gonna do this really fast, and maybe it will just initiate conversation, the Scripture says that God is always speaking, continuously speaking, endlessly in a conversation with everyone. When you talk to someone about God, that’s not the first time God could get in a conversation with them. You’re not the pioneer. I hate that phrase, “we’re taking Jesus to the world” You’re not taking Jesus to the world, Jesus has been there a long time. He’s been waiting for you to show up. Romans ch 1 vs 20 “All creation declares the glory of God” that every human being has the witness that God is God because of the entire created Universe, and we can reject that and say “no, it’s all science, it’s just arbitrary accident, it’s all just chaos” but God says that your spirit knows that creation is evidence of the existence of God. And so God says “I am communicating to everyone, 6.5 billion people are hearing Me speak into their souls through creation, and Romans 2:15 God says “I have placed it in your conscience, I have put it inside of you” and it’s not just Christians. This is Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and atheists and Raider fans, this is for everyone. That God has placed it in everyone, that God has placed it in your conscience, to know that God has created you and is wooing you to Himself, and your conscience tells you when you’ve violated the image of God in your soul, and no one else has to condemn, no one else has to tell you, you know what it means to be fully human. And then in John 16:5-15 Jesus says the Holy Spirit will come and I love this He says “Look the Holy Spirit is already working in the world.” You’re catching up to me Jesus is saying. “Now I am going to Him, yet none of you ask me where are you going, but I have said these things and you are filled with grief, but I tell you the truth, it is for your good that I am going away, unless I go, the Counselor will not come to you, and if I go I will send him to you and when he comes he will convict the world, not just you and me, He will convict the world of guilt in regards to sin, and to righteousness and to judgment. In regard to sin because men do not believe in me, in regard to righteousness because I am going to the Father where you can see me no longer, and in regard to judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” And what Jesus is saying is “You not only have creation talking to you, now you have your conscience speaking to you, and you have now have the Spirit of God doing two things comforting you and convicting you. This is true for all of us, whether we know God or not or believe in God or not, there are moments in your life when you need comfort and God is there trying to woo you saying “I am the one who loves you.” And there are moments when you are doing things and no one else knows and you know you’re violating the heart of God and what it means to be truly human and your soul is convicting you, and that is God’s spirit saying, “You were not created to live like this.” Then in Romans chapter 10 vs 8-13 it says that God also reveals himself through human conversations. That’s that why it is so important to take the life of Jesus to others and to dare to engage people in dangerous and terrifying and turbulent conversations about who Jesus is and how much He loves them. Because God is driving humanity to himself, speaking to us through creation and speaking to us through conscience and speaking to us through conviction, and then he speaks to us through human contact and conversation. And we get to declare this incredible news of who God is what God’s done in Jesus. And he says “Oh, if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the dead, you’ll find the salvation that God longs for you and for me, now.
And what I love is this beautiful picture in the Scriptures that God is strategically working in history, because you go “hey what about the person in India, isn’t that where we started? What about the person in India?” And I remember sitting across the table in a restaurant with John Torres who represented hundreds of people I”ve talked to and he said “I don’t know if I can believe Jesus is the only way, because what about the people in India?” And I said, “That’s a good question, John, I didn’t know you were so concerned with the people in India? When are you going to India?” He said “I’m not”. And I said “You’re not. I’ve been to India.” You have? “Yeah, you know why? Because God cares about India, and when I came to Him, He sent me there.” But really what you did is you asked does God love people more than me? And he said “yeah”, and I said “john, well here’s the deal: God is so passionately concerned about the people of India that he sends people there for them” and he said “what do I need to do? What do I need to do?” and I said “you need to get on your knees right here in public in front of all these people and give your life to Jesus” (he didn’t really have to, I just thought it would be interesting) He said “Ok, and he dropped right there on his knees on the sidewalk outside the California Pizza Kitchen and I realized “Drat, now I need to get on my knees with him and this is awkward!”
What about the people in India? This is what the Scripture says: Acts17 Paul is speaking in Athens, vs 22, Paul stood up at the meeting at the Areopagus and Paul said “men of Athens, I can see that in every way you are very religious, for as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with an inscription “to an unknown God”. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you: the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and he does not live in Temples built by hands and he is not served by human hands as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else, and from one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth” and here it is “and He determined that times set for them and the exact places for them” and what it’s saying is that God, the creator of humanity and the initiator of history has chosen the exact time and the exact place for every single person on the planet should live. Some of you were born in Ohio, because God chose that for you. God bless you! And God chose China and Afghanistan and India for some of you and there’s a reason, not because He loves the person in Georgia more than He loves the person in Georgia. This is why. “God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own poets have said “we are His offspring”, Paul is saying LOOK, all around you is evidence of God, in the middle of all these false gods and all these religions that you are leading you astray, there is a statue to the unknown God because your soul knows that there is more than this. Paul says this is why I am here, I am a prophet of the invisible God, I am not here to bring something to you that isn’t here, I’m here to help you see the God who has always been here but has been invisible to you. And I want you to realize that your poets have been talking about this for a long time, we are all his offspring, God created us all, and he placed us in Athens and he placed us in Jerusalem and he placed us in Istanbul and Hong Kong, he placed us in Singapore and Los Angeles because knew the exact time and places that we should live that we might seek him and reach out for Him and find Him and what the Scriptures tell us is that God has strategically given every person the time and the place we should live so that they should have the optimal opportunity to come to Him. I know it’s hard for us to believe that a person might have a better chance of finding God as a Muslim or a Hindu than as a Presbyterean or a Baptist. But I’ve met enough Presbytereans and Baptists to know they are people who are Buddhists and Hindu that are closer on their journey to finding God than the others.
I told you about a guy named John Gordon who said “here’s the question everybody wants to know, are only Christians going to heaven and everybody else is going to hell?” and John sent me this e-mail, he’s an energy coach, and he has books on energy and has an energy show, he sent me this e-mail with the subject “Erwin and energy” “Hi Erwin, it was great having you on our teleconference a few weeks ago, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me feel and understand the spirit of Jesus. You have brought him to life for me and I’m forever grateful to you. I grew up Jewish, followed the spiritual, new age path for a while and thought that that was where I was going. I never liked organized religion and never went to church and never felt at home there and when I became an author and a speaker I wanted to speak at all the non-Christian conferences, and was blocked every step of the way. My business partner, Daniel Decker, who you know, started sending me Scriptures and sharing websites and pastors like you with me. I would drive down the road and look up at right moment and see the signs that said “Jesus is the answer”. Happened all the time, but I didn’t like the church, I didn’t like how they were so judgmental, hypocritical, etc, so I started to question all of it. I started to pray, and started listening to your podcasts, when I meditated, I would see a cross, a Jewish kid from Long Island was now seeing a cross. Go figure. I connected with Ken Blanchard who had some thoughts for me, positive thinking, and a magazine owned by Guideposts made me their energy coach, you agreed to be on the teleseminar, and all signs pointed to Jesus. About two months ago after a conversation with a Buddhist healer, it all became clear to me, I became a follower of Jesus. (Not the way most people become a follower of Jesus.) People think that only Christians can point you in the right direction that God used every one in my life to show me the way. God brought me to Daniel, God brought me to you, God brought me to a Buddhist healer, God brought me to Jesus. And now He brings me to others to hear my story. I was recently on CNN, you can catch me there, I’m spending positive energy your way. John.”
What the Scriptures tell us is that all of creation is designed by God to pursue you with his love. And I had a lot more verses and a lot more thoughts, but I’m out of time, maybe we’ll pick up from here. But what the Scriptures teach is not the same, it’s different. You can reject it, you can say, “no, I don’t buy into it” but I want you to hear this real clearly: when Jesus says He’s the only way, He’s not trying to establish some kind of arrogant, narcissitic, exclusivity, He’s telling you I am the one who loves you. I am the one who is pursuing you. I am the one who is willing to pay the price for your love, for your life. Choose me in life. It’s not that God is trying to stop you from trying to find other sources of life, God is trying to stop you from choosing death because He’s always wanted you to love Him. God has always been for you, for all of us.
Let’s pray together.
“I thank you Lord God that you are the one who is for us. That you did not leave us trapped in fatalism, that we are destined without any freedom to choose, nor trapped in legalism trying to earn your love and work for acceptance. But what you teach and you say is that you have come to make us your friends, you have come to envelope us in your love. You have come moved by love. And you have made a way for us when there was no way for us, for love demanded it. I thank you, Jesus. I pray for those who are here and those who are listening, that even now who have experienced the touch of your presence. And the warmth of your love, your power, your forgiveness, the freedom of your life in Jesus. Amen.”