One way

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John 14:6  “I am the way  and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

     This very straightforward statement by Jesus is the banner under which all who follow Him stand in this age of ‘any god but God’.  One of the most pernicious accommodations that the world demands of Christians is for them to deny this truth.  This compromise has worked it’s way up into the very top of some so called ‘Christian’ assemblies;  “In an Oct 18, 2006 radio interview Bishop Jefferts Schori stated, ‘Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. That is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through human experience – through human experience of the divine. . . . ‘”   Another website on ‘Christian Pluralism’ states;  “Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others. We recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us.”

     At one time, I was confronted by this idea that Jesus, although a good way to God, was not the only way.  It was at a meeting of church people and a member of the clergy.  To my amazement they all agreed that as Christians we must not offend other people by mentioning that Jesus was the only way to God.  I was accused of being a religious fundamentalist because I held to God’s Word.  My rebuttal consisted of two points.  I stated that people of other religions wouldn’t be offended or surprised by my adherence to what the Holy Bible states because they adhere to their sacred writings with the same tenacity.  Rather than creating intolerance for our different positions, our convictions create mutual respect for the right people have to their beliefs.    The Apostle Paul in speaking to the Athenians didn’t disrespect their pagan beliefs but rather spoke to them of his belief in what they called ‘an unknown God’; “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:23)  The true Christian stands for the right all people have to speak about and share their beliefs.

     I asked this ‘inoffensive’ group of  people why they called themselves Christians if they didn’t believe or wouldn’t speak the truth that Jesus gave us in His own words!  ‘Every one of you have read the Bible but if you don’t believe it or adhere to what the Bible says about Jesus and what Jesus says about Himself,  why would you call yourselves Christian?  In reality these church goers and their clergyman were just well educated people who just happened to have read the Bible but had no conviction about His Word.  They had no answer to that.  Perhaps they, like many people today, liked the appearance of Christianity but not the demands of being a disciple of Jesus.  Perhaps they viewed Christianity like people view getting new car; leasing is better than owning because you can trade up on a  more fashionable model every few years.

     I believe there are many roads to Jesus.  Everyone will have an ‘encounter’ with Jesus in their life.  Their attitude towards Jesus will determine their response.  What decisions they make about Jesus as a result of their encounter is between them and God.  The encounter that the thief had as he was dying on his cross beside Jesus is a scriptural instance of what I’m taking about (Luke 23:40-43).  Since Jesus is God, some might argue that  there is some accuracy in saying all roads lead to God.  We must  remember that Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’!  To substitute other gods as ‘stand ins’ for Jesus is wrong.  Jesus said prior to His crucifixion; “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) What other god would die for us as we are? “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8) No other ‘god’ has such a qualification.  No other ‘god’ has such a history.

     The apostle Peter said it simply and profoundly; “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

     Praise the Lord!

I am

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John 8:58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

     This statement got Jesus into a lot of trouble with the Pharisees.  They just would not accept that He was God.  Yet here Jesus was telling them that He was.  ‘I am’ was the name that God gave Moses at the burning bush; “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”  (Exodus 3:14)  The Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for saying this but Jesus slipped away.  The truth can make people angry!

     When the eternal meets the temporal things quickly become hard to believe for those who have their hearts set on the world.  Faith is required not to suspend reason but rather to temper reason so that a person’s mind will stay open to the possibilities.  The Pharisees’ minds were shut tight because they had no faith;  “Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.”  (John 8:52)  They couldn’t grasp the eternal nature of Jesus.  God was someone far away from them and they liked it that way.

    Jesus was upsetting the status quo which favoured the Pharisees and they didn’t like it.  “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. ”  (John 11:48)  Disbelief is heavily loaded with self-interest.  They had their Law and their rules – what we now call doctrine.  They believed in their man made rules and made their own righteousness that had nothing to do with God.   Jesus had exposed their self-serving hearts; ” . . . ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 25:6) And; “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”  (Matthew 15:8)

     Jesus is God, up close and personal.   Some love Him; “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me.” (John 8:42)

     Some hate Him; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)  

     Many just don’t care that much; “And that which fell among thorns are they that, when they have heard, go forth and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14)

     What about you?  How do you feel about ‘I am’?

     Praise the Lord!

The Word is more than words

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John 5:39,40 “You study the Scriptures  diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,  yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

     You can’t read your way to Jesus.  Your head isn’t big enough to hold all of His Word.  You can’t teach your way to Jesus.  If you think you can you end up thinking you know Him well, when in reality none of what you know comes from experience.   You can’t preach your way to Jesus.  If you think you can you end up believing that your righteousness is all that counts forgetting about His grace and mercy.  His Spirit isn’t in your words.  His Spirit is in His Word and that’s where  all  true preachers preach from.

     Anything we do in our own strength is not a road to Jesus.  We take pride in our strength and capabilities.   If we read the Scriptures like the Pharisees, searching only for our own justification, seeking only our own good opinion of ourselves and looking for confirmation of our righteous selves every word even though it is Scripture is emptied of its Power to transform us.  Time spent in Scripture with proud and judgmental hearts,  takes us away from Jesus not closer to Him.  Those that go to the scriptures with a desperate heart searching for consolation, searching for help and searching for hope will find Jesus.  God draws close to a humble person; “Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.” (Psalm 138:6)

    Jesus had a lot of confrontations with the Pharisees.  They were proud.  They were religious leaders.  They were the best of what organised religion could come up with.  The difference between them and the ‘common man’ or sinner is described in Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Publican; “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. ‘I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

     Why were the Pharisees who knew their Bible inside and out so set against Jesus?  Because they didn’t need Him.  They were so sure that they were just fine without Him.  They believed in their own righteousness and had no need for Jesus.  Unlike the publican sinner who knew in his heart what he was and begged for mercy, the Pharisee had no need of mercy.  A heart that has no need for mercy has no mercy in it.  Such a heart is not pleasing to God; “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  (Matthew 9:13)

   A few days ago my wife and I attended a Gospel Concert and star singer, M.W. Smith gave a short message in between his beautiful songs.  Smith’s message was simple; ‘Jesus loves you, He came for you as you are.  No judging. No rejection. Accept Him, He accepts you!’   Sadly, according to Smith many churches are unable to come up with this kind of love for the mass of humanity that so desperately needs Jesus.  That is a powerful statement to make to the audience in that it represented the assembled church.  There was no collective gasp!  Conviction didn’t fall upon the crowd.  Did we come to hear the singer but not Who he sang about?  M.W. Smith made me sad at that point because I knew there was at least one person in the crowd who struggled with a hard heart. Me!

     What is in your heart?  If you’re like me, life is a daily struggle with Pharisaical performance orientation.  If you’re like me, life is a daily struggle with judging others because in order to be good enough somebody has to loose out.  If you’re like me, life all too easily becomes a zero sum game where others must loose so I  can win.  From there it’s not a big step in your heart to where salvation is a zero sum game – in order for you to get to heaven many others will have to go to hell!  If that attitude is in your heart – evident or hidden behind self-righteousness – no amount of reading, teaching or preaching will bring you closer to Jesus!

     There really are only two types of prayer.  Jesus’ parable illustrates both; that of the Pharisee and the publican sinner.  Oh we may think; ‘I’m not like the Pharisee!’  But the very thought convicts us because we are not like the publican sinner either.  To be in between the two types is no better than being completely like the Pharisee because the  ‘grey area’ allows us to fool ourselves into thinking we are OK.  The challenge that faces all Christians is to be open to the transformation of  our hearts and minds so our attitude changes from the Pharisee’s to the publican’s.   This is a transformation that we can’t do for ourselves.  This is God’s work in us.

     My confidence is in Jesus; “. . . He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6)

The light shines in the darkness

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John 1: 5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

     The smallest candle shines with a light that is visible even in the greatest darkness.  Darkness can never overcome light because darkness is nothing.   Darkness is the absence of light; it has no power of its own.  Like darkness, evil has no power of its own because evil is the absence of good.   When we find ourselves in the dark it is the power of fear that presses in on us.  The darkness of this world is not knowing what’s going to happen.  The darkness of this world is waiting for the results of your medical test.  The darkness of this world is not knowing how you’re going to cover all your debts.  The darkness of this world is not knowing who your friends really are.  We walk in the dark many times and we walk in fear.

     This kind of darkness can’t be done away with by flicking on the light switch.  We are fooled by our own technology.  Being accustomed to electricity we think that the light it produces truly banishes darkness.  In ignorance because electrical power is effortless for us we think its light penetrates all darkness.  We think that our own fire can show us the way; “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with firebrands,  Walk in the light of your fire And among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: You will lie down in torment.”  (Isaiah 50:11)  Late night worry, anxiety and discouragement press in just as hard with the lights on as off.    By day, those that walk in fear trip over their own negative expectations because fear is the power of a darkness carried inside your own head.  The power working against you is your own fear.

     There is a light which overcomes the power of fear. The first chapter of John speaks about it;  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:1-4)  The Word is the template by which everything is laid out since creation.  We are created according to this Word;  “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John1:9)  The Word is life and its light is the power that overcomes darkness, even the darkest recesses of our minds.

     The world has always been against this light; “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)  The world works by the power of fear because of its love of darkness.  Ask yourself how much you do because of fear.  Ask yourself how much you won’t do because of fear.  Paul summarised this predicament of our flesh in the world;  “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)  Ask yourself, how much is fear holding you back?

     There is one way out of the darkness;  “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”  (Proverb 29:25) This one way out has a face.  This one way out has a heart for you.  This one way out has a name.  His name is Jesus; “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  Where fear separates us from one another He will bring us together in his perfect love;  “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  (1 John 1:7)

    No more darkness, no more fear, no more torment;  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.”  (1 John 4:18)

    Praise the Lord!

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