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O gracious Father, we humbly pray for Your holy universal Church, that You would be pleased to fill it with all truth and all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in er-ror, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, establish it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it, for the sake of Him who died and rose again, and ever lives to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
Several years ago Anna Quindlen, who has often been a write for the New York Times and Newsweek, was speaking to a group of graduating seniors and she had this to say: “Each of you is as different as your fingertips. Why should you march to any lockstep? Our love of lockstep is our greatest curse, the source of all that bedevils us. It is the source of homophobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism, terrorism, bigotry of every variety and hue because it tells us that there is one right way to do things, to look, to behave, to feel, when the only right way is to feel your heart hammering inside you and to listen to what it’s tympany is saying.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find worst advice for a group of graduating seniors. And I won-der if Ms. Quindlen believes that any longer, for that was given in 2002 and my, how things have changed in not quite 20 years, that I wonder if she would still wish to agree that everyone ought to just be able to look and behave and feel and do as they desire.
One of the great challenges for Christianity in our day is the exclusive claims of Christ. It’s true that most Americans believe in God. Still, 85% or more in all the surveys claim to believe in God in this country, but most people who believe in God in this country, includ-ing most Christians, hold pretty confusing and often contradictory views about God, es-pecially when it comes to heaven and hell. According to research from Lifeway a few years ago, 54% of Americans agree with this statement: “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their savior receive God’s gift of eternal life.” That was higher than I thought—54%.
But at the same time, 64% of Americans agree with this statement: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”
So which is it?
In addition, 77% of Americans agree that people must contribute their own effort for their personal salvation.
So Americans by and large hold a lot of confusing and contradictory views about God.
Religion has become personalized, psychologized, and pragmatized.
Personalized, meaning religion is fine as long as it’s just what you personally believe and do.
Psychologized, so religion is simply what helps you feel better.
And it has become pragmatized, religion is what helps you cope with life’s problems. That’s what people mean when they say “I’m spiritual, not religious.” They mean “I’m not interested in church or doctrine or official rights and wrongs, but I believe in a god who exists and helps me cope and feel better and get through with life.”
So there is very little problem with saying you believe in Jesus, that’s fine. Believe in the tooth fairy, that’s fine. I can tell you in our household you’d get much more traction from Jesus than the tooth fairy these days. The tooth fairy is very forgetful. [laughter] And there’s a lot of teeth, frankly. [laughter]
You can believe what you want so long as you don’t believe that what you believe is the only thing to believe. As long as you understand that those beliefs, they’re your beliefs. You can argue anything is right as long as you don’t presume to think it is the only right. You can think whatever you want to think about God and religion, as long as you don’t think that other people ought to think the same things about God and religion. You can sing about Jesus, love Jesus, go ahead and get saved by Jesus, as long He’s just your personal Jesus.
Two years ago a megachurch pastor from New York City told his congregation in a ser-mon, “There was time when you would see people in the pulpit say, ‘Well, if you don’t be-lieve in Jesus, you are going to hell.’ That’s insanity in many ways because that is not what Jesus even believes.” Then he said, “The key is you believe in God and whatever your path is to God, I celebrate that.” Church of some 10,000 members.
So what exactly did Jesus believe about heaven, and the way to get there?
If you’re not there already, I invite you to turn in your Bibles to John chapter 14. John chapter 14. I hope you’ll listen carefully as I read these 14 verses, whether you are ready to agree with everything that is said in the next half hour or you are ready to offer your objections, or you’re just curious or skeptical, I hope you will listen.
Here’s what Jesus says in John chapter 14, to His disciples gathered in the upper room, just a few hours before His arrest, His betrayal, and the next day His crucifixion.
“‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to My-self, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known Me, you would have known my Father al-so. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’”
“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works them-selves.’”
“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me[e] anything in My name, I will do it.’
This section is one of many in John’s Gospel where Jesus makes amazing claims about His relationship to and identity with the Father. He makes at least seven such claims in this passage. Let’s look at them quickly.
Verse 2: Jesus says, “I prepare a place for you in My Father’s house.”
Verse 6: “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Number three, verse 9: “If you see Me, you see the Father.”
Verse 10: “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” Later in verse 10, “The Father works in Me.”
Verse 12: “I am going to the Father.”
And then a seventh claim in verse 13: “The Father is glorified in Me.”
There’s a series of astounding claims. Perhaps you’ve read through John’s Gospel be-fore and you know this as a familiar passage of Scripture. Just let these hit you with all of the force and all of the scandal and all of the surprise they would have to those 11 dis-ciples in the upper room. They know there is a God. They know God is their heavenly Father. And now this man that looks like them, sounds like them, speaks their language, they’ve seen eat and sleep, this man says that He and the Father are one and that He is the only way to the Father.
The big idea is clear. There is a fundamental unity between Jesus the Christ and God the Father. We might even say with the later theological language, they share the same es-sence, though they are two distinct persons.
Or we could say it more practically and memorably: No Son, no Father. Or Know the Son, Know the Father. Both are true.
We could spend a sermon on each of these claims, but I want to focus on verse 6. It holds all of the claims together. You can make the argument that John 14, verse 6 holds the entire book together.
One commentator says, “With good reason is verse 6 called the core statement of this entire gospel.”
Remember where we are. In chapter 13 we have this prediction of betrayal, denial of death, and so it makes sense in chapter 14, verse 1 that Jesus says what He does. He’s just said “one of you is going to betray Me.” He’s told even Peter that “you’re going to deny Me.” He says that where they’re going they can’t follow, so that is a lot to take in. They are wondering, “What’s going on? Where is He going? What’s happening? Our band of disciples is about to break up.”
And so in a tender moment of affection, Jesus, thinking of them, loving them to the end, says, “No, no, no, don’t be troubled. Yes, there’s a dark day ahead, but there’s a plan.”
Jesus tells them He’s going away and they wonder, “Well, where are You going?” They ask the question not really understanding. Of course, He’s speaking about going to the Father, in His Father’s house are many rooms, and contrary to what you have heard growing up listening to Christian radio, you may or may not play football there in the house with many rooms. Look it up. But it is likened unto a mansion. It’s a heavenly place. Where is God the Father? We pray, Jesus teaches us “Our Father, who are in heaven.” So when He talks about going to the Father to prepare this place, He’s talking about going to heavenly dwellings. After death, resurrection, ascension, and He will come back again at the second Advent, He’s preparing a place.
Thomas is thinking a literal destination on the map. “Okay, You’re going somewhere, where are You going? You taking a boat across the Mediterranean? You, You going to Spain? Where are You going? I’d like to follow.” But Jesus says, “No, no, no, it’s not like that.” He wants to know the way, Jesus says, in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The truth, that means Jesus embodies the supreme revelation of God. We’ve seen this all over John’s Gospel.
John 1:18: “The Son makes the Father known.”
John 5:19: “He only does what the Father gives Him to do and say.”
John 1:14: “He is the divine Word made flesh. He is God as man.” Truth, He’s also life.
John 5:26: “He has life in Himself.”
John 11:25: “He’s the resurrection and the life.”
John 10: “The sheep listen to His voice that they might have eternal life.”
John 1:4: “In Him is life.”
So we’ve seen all over the place, yes, He’s truth, yes, He’s life, and now He makes clear that because He is the truth and because He is the life, He must be the way. There’s an emphasis here on the first part of this triad. Remember He’s answering Thomas’ ques-tion, “Show us the way – where are You going?” And He says, “No, Thomas, you don’t understand. It’s not a map, it’s not a 12-step process, it’s Me.”
Now what does verse 6 mean when Jesus says, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
What does the preposition “through” mean?
It’s an important question because some people say “through” simply means “on account of His saving work,” and that’s certainly true. But it’s more than that. “Through” does not simply mean in this instance, “Well, you will come to the Father because of My death and resurrection, that My work for your sake provides the means.” No, “through” is more than just “on account of My work.” “Through” means “through faith in Me, through faith in Me.”
Now we know this from the context, verse 1: “Believe in Me.” That’s what He’s talking about. Believing in Christ.
We see in verse 7 He speaks of “knowing the Father when you know Me.”
We’ve seen elsewhere in chapter 6:35: “Whoever believes in Me shall not thirst.”
7:38: “Whoever believes in Me out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
11:25: “Whoever believes in Me, though he dies yet shall he live.”
John 12:46: “I have come into the world as light so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”
And we know ultimately John 20:31, the purpose of this whole book, is “that you may be-lieve and so in believing you may have life in His name.”
So, “through,” given everything we know about John’s purposes and aims, and given the immediate context, must mean “through faith in Me… No one comes to the Father ex-cept through faith in Me.”
Now why is that so important? Well, the fact that verse 6 means “through faith in Me” means that Jesus is rejecting a number of ideas, past, present, future, about Christian salvation.
One, it means that verse 6 rejects what’s sometimes called “inclusivism.” Now, inclusive, that sounds like a good thing in our day. We want to be inclusive. Here’s what the doc-trine of inclusivism teaches, and why I’m belaboring this point about “through.” Inclusiv-ism teaches that though everyone who is saved is saved on account of the work of Christ, they don’t necessarily have to put faith in Christ in order to be saved by that work of Christ.
So famously one Catholic theologian referred to it as “anonymous Christians.” People who don’t know they’re Christian, they don’t claim that they’re Christian, they may not have heard of the name of Christ. They have not put any conscious faith in Christ, but they are nevertheless saved on account of the work of Christ.
Well, that sounds nice, but Jesus rules it out explicitly, as do a host of other passages. The way to appropriate the blessings of Christ in His finished work is through faith in Christ.
So through faith, through faith in this Christ. It means, I may have, you may have heard me say this before, and I hate to be a spoilsport, but you need to be mindful of this, it means that even the great C.S. Lewis was deeply wrong on this particular point. Read through Mere Christianity and he has this idea, though he doesn’t say anonymous Chris-tians, but he has this idea where he explains that there are people drawn to the teachings of their own religion that resonate with Christianity and though they don’t know it, they are more Christians than they can possibly understand.
You see this come out, if you’ve read through The Chronicles of Narnia, in The Final Bat-tle, that these followers of Tash, some of them were actually followers of Aslan, though they didn’t know it. That’s inclusivism, and it comes through in C.S. Lewis, and it is re-jected by verse 6.
Verse 6 also rejects the notion that the uniqueness of Christ can be limited to His unique example.
So several years ago Rob Bell said this: “Jesus was not making claims about one reli-gion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth and the truth. Rather, He was telling those who were following Him that this way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living perfectly and completely in connec-tion and cooperation with God is the best possible way for a person to live.”
Well, yes, it’s anachronistic to think Jesus was trying to give a seminar on world religions and trying to say, “Now I’m going to tell you what religion is the best.” He’s not thinking in those categories, but He’s making undoubtedly a religious claim. And it has much more to do with salvation than with ethics. Jesus is not talking here about the way to live right-ly, though He is the way to live rightly. He’s talking about the way to the Father. That is the question: How do we get to.. The question of Thomas was not “How can we live in your footsteps? How can we follow your example?” and Jesus said, “Well, I’m the way, that’s how you live a good life.” That’s not the question. The question is about heaven, about where He’s going, about where the Father is, about heavenly mansions. And Je-sus says, “I’m the only way.”
His statement in verse 6 also rejects the idea that Jesus is simply the way for you or me personally.
There was a different megachurch pastor on CNN several years ago back when The Larry King Show was there and Larry King said, “Is Christianity the right path?” The pas-tor said, “Yes, it is for Christians.” Then he says, “But you believe your religion is right, don’t you?” The pastor says, “Yes.” “Then the other religions must be wrong.” The pas-tor says, “No.” And then he explains, “For me, Jesus Christ is the way.”
Now even cutting some slack, you know, national TV and someone’s trying to press you to say other religions are all wrong, still you’re a pastor, you have lots of people listening to you, you must do better than that.
Yes, Jesus Christ is the way for you, for me, but that’s not what Jesus is saying. Not that alone. I’m your personal God, your personal savior. Remember, these are Jews, mono-theists, who have as their linchpin of their faith, the 10 commandments, and the first commandment “you shall have no other gods before Me,” as if Jesus is saying, “Well, I’m the only, but you, you know, there’s a whole lot of ways.”
The Gospel was written to convince people to believe in Jesus because John understood that Jesus was the only way, and if you wanted to be with the Father and you wanted to be in heaven, you needed to know this Jesus. That’s the purpose of the whole Gospel.
Verse 6 also rejects any notion that general revelation is sufficient for salvation.
Some people say, “Well, you just, the light that you have.” Well, it’s true, we are judged according to the light that we have, but Romans chapter 1 says that the invisible attrib-utes of God, at least that He exists and His divine power, can be clearly seen in the things that have been created, and yet you follow the logic of Romans 1 and it says that we have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. We who have a natural awareness of God from the world around us, from the testimony of conscience, we have suppressed that in unrighteousness, so that natural religion, or general revelation, is sufficient only to con-demn us, not to save us. We need special revelation, and on this side of the incarnation, it means we do not know God and we cannot worship Him rightly unless we know Him in the person of Jesus Christ.
Now, before I explain why this all matters, that’s where I want to land, why this all mat-ters, I can imagine furrowed brows or little question mark boxes over your head, “Yeah, but what about…” so let me give you a few things that I am not saying, and that verse 6 is not saying.
Number one: Verse 6 is not saying there is nothing decent or noble in other religions. There is nothing ultimately good in that it’s done by faith to glorify God, but there are many relative goods. We saw this last year in the sermon on Cornelius who was a de-vout man, a God-fearer. He was a decent, he was a person you would have liked to be your neighbor, but he wasn’t a Christian, not when we first meet him. So adherents of other religions are often honest, decent people. We’re not saying that there is nothing good or noble in all other religions, that it’s 100% false all the way through, but it is built upon a false salvation and it does not have a true savior.
Second: I am not saying that Christianity can be reduced to simply praying a sinner’s prayer. Often when people don’t like the claims of Christian exclusivism, they compare the best and noblest adherents of some other religion with the most hypocritical, superfi-cial adherents of Christianity. They’re saying, “Well, here’s this person and she’s very nice to her kids and she gives to the homeless, and here’s this person who prayed a prayer one time when he was in sixth grade and he cheats on his wife and he’s a horrible person and he never goes… And you’re saying that that person is going to heaven and that person’s not?” Well, we don’t believe in a mechanical view of salvation. That is, we don’t have a vending machine god – just put in a sinner’s prayer, Jesus, save me, k? There it goes. Rest of your life, do whatever you want.
No, the faith that saves us is always a faith that shows itself in transformation of God’s grace. That’s why Jesus says “you must be born again,” there must be a change, there must be a supernatural work.
So don’t hear this as a reductionistic view of Christianity, just sort of get ‘em through the conveyor belt, just get ‘em through the camp, where they can throw their pinecone in the fire, or get ‘em through a confirmation class where they can raise their hand and say, “Yes, I believe” and then whoooo, it doesn’t matter anything else. No, we want a trans-formation of the life, born again.
Third, I am not saying, and this is very important and will be in some of your minds and hearts, I am not saying that children who die at a young age and the severely mentally handicapped will not be saved. We know children can be regenerated in the womb; John the Baptist, David. We know people without the ability to communicate verbally who nevertheless we can tell have a simple but very real, deep abiding trust in Jesus.
There’s much more theologically that we could do to explore this whole issue, but let me just point you to one of the confessional statements from the Reformed tradition, the Canons of Dort, article 1, chapter 17 says, “Since we must make judgments about God’s will from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are in-cluded,” and here’s the line, “godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.”
You say, “Pastor, you got a Bible verse for that?” Well, the best example we have is from 2 Samuel chapter 12, where you remember because of David’s sin with Bathsheba, their son is taken away and David prays, and once the son is dead, he no longer prays, but it says “he cannot return to me, but I will go to him.” And it doesn’t just mean “I will go to him in the grave,” but “I will go to him, I will see him again, there will be an afterlife, there will be a heaven.” And it says next, “He comforted his wife Bathsheba,” so surely David is not just thinking, “Well, I’m gonna go and be with him in the grave.” What com-fort is that? No, he has a confidence, “I will go to be with him.”
And so I believe Dort is right when it says, “We ought not, as godly parents, doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.”
A fourth thing I am not saying, I am not saying, and listen carefully to this so you don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that unbelievers are punished because they did not put faith in a Jesus they never heard of. Now you say, “Wait a minute. I thought the whole, the whole sermon has been arguing against what you just said there.” No, wait, listen, they are not punished for not knowing Jesus. They are punished because they are sin-ners who have by general revelation some knowledge of God which has been sup-pressed in unrighteousness. So it’s not that the ultimate claim against those who have never heard is, “Okay, here’s God, standing before God, you didn’t hear of Jesus.” “Okay, well, nobody told me about Jesus.” No, they are sinners who have sinned, who have with the light that was revealed to them suppressed that that truth in unrighteous-ness. Still they are sinners. So sometimes, if somebody says to you, “Well, what about the innocent tribesman who’s never heard of Jesus? Will he be punished?” And the an-swer is “No, no innocent tribesman will be punished.” But there are no mythical, innocent tribesmen or women or citizens or city dwellers anywhere. There is none that is right-eous, no, not one. So the punishment is for being sinners, for turning the truth of general revelation into a lie. We must clarify what we’re saying. God judges each person based on their sin and the light that they have, so it is true, though someone who never hears of Jesus will be judged for their sin, you all who know of Christ, if Jesus is not really your Lord and Savior, you will be judged much more strictly because you have been given much more light. In fact, there are few people on the planet than men and women and children in Charlotte, North Carolina who have more access to light, and you all have, most of you had lots of that light, and will be judge more strictly for the light that we have. But all of us come to God as sinners in need of a savior.
So why is John 14:6 such a critical verse? Not only for the Gospel of John, but for our lives and for our day?
Well, there’s a number of things at stake, and I hope you will see that it’s not simply, “Well, we want to walk out of here and say we got our theology right,” or heaven forbid you’d walk out and you’d be proud and say, “Everybody else got it wrong.”
What’s at stake here is the salvation of the lost.
Romans 10: “How then will they call on Him of whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard, and how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
The motivation is simple. If you cut out the need to believe and the need to hear, you won’t feel compelled to speak. And if we do not speak, they will have no opportunity to call on the name of the Lord Jesus.
No, John 14:6 is a great motivation to share and to save the lost.
It also provides courage and joy for our missionaries, most of whom, if they’re laboring in unreached peoples, in difficult places, they will labor for years and decades with little or no fruit to show for their work. And John 14:6 gives them courage and resolve that our labors are not in vain. This is the only way that they can be saved. As the disciple said in Acts 4:12: “There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved.” And so it is worth to send some of our very best to go and to serve, some of them perhaps even to die, that they would speak the name of Jesus, that those who have never heard of Him would have an opportunity to believe and be saved.
It’s also true that the health of your soul is at stake in a verse like John 14:6. As unpopu-lar as it may be, and perhaps you have objections from friends, from family, the way this just feels like a mean sort of doctrine… Listen, it is never good for your soul to stare hard into the Word of God, see what it has to say, and decide to believe something different. I don’t believe there is an honest way to reach a different conclusion than what we have here so plainly from the lips of Jesus Himself, not only here but in the entire Gospel.
You may think, “Well, maybe I’ll just be ambivalent, maybe I’ll just fudge on this one little issue.” Maybe you’ll think, “It’s humility and I’ll just say, ‘Well, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know if He’s the way, I just know He’s the way for me.’”
That may sound nice, that may get you out of a bind, but it puts you into another one, be-cause you have not dealt honestly with what Jesus says in verse 6. It is not humility to shrink away from the plain words of Jesus; it is pride, it is fear of man or the love of the praise of man.
And perhaps most importantly of all, the glory of Jesus is at stake in this verse. The message about the supremacy and the uniqueness of Christ is not some isolated teach-ing.
Think about John’s Gospel. There are seven “I am” statements: “I am the bread of life; the light of the world; the gate for the sheep; the good Shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, the truth, and the life; the true vine.” That does not sound like a man who thinks he is one of many options.
John 3:18: “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned; whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
John 5:23: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
John 8:19: “You do not know Me or My Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.”
I have used before the analogy of a yearbook. You have lots of people talking about God, there’s a God, what is this God like? Well, now on the other side of the incarnation, we have seen what this God is like.
Philip says in verse 8: “‘Show us the Father, it’s enough… Jesus says, ‘Have I been with you so long, Philip? Don’t you know the answer to that question? You want to see the Father? You live with Me. If you see Me, you see the Father.’”
So it’s the yearbook that you go through and say, “Okay, you talk about God, you talk about God, you’re spiritual, you’re religious. Let’s look through.” Just like if you were try-ing to find who, who Brian, “Remember that Brian from our senior year? Yeah, who was that Brian?” “Oh, I remember him. Tall, lanky guy, blonde hair, yeah, great basketball player.” “No, I’m thinking of Brian who was about 5 foot 2, short, squat, wrestler, jet black hair.” Well, you gotta turn to your yearbook and find out which of you is, you’re not talk-ing about the same Brian, and so Jesus is the yearbook photo, as it were, of God. You’re like, I know you’re talking about God and we’re using some of the same words, some of the same language, but you go, we now know what this God looks like, He came to us in flesh. He told Philip, “You want to see the Father, I get it, but you’re, you see Me. You’ve seen the Father when you see Me, and if you don’t know Me, if you don’t honor Me, you don’t know the Father, you don’t honor Him.”
Jesus could not make the point any clearer. If you do not belong to Christ by faith, you do not belong to God.
Faith. Not faith plus works. Not, “Well, I like Jesus, He rounds out my life and I’m also a really good person.” No, faith. Faith alone in the only One who can save you, Jesus. Contributing nothing to your salvation.
This is the assumption running through the whole New Testament. There were cults and religions and temples and gods and goddesses. There were no shortage… There were more religious options in the first century than we even have in America in the 21st cen-tury. And almost all of them were larger, more influential, more culturally acceptable, than following Jesus.
No, this was a strange thing that Jesus was telling them, and yet the disciples got it, and they declared after Pentecost there is no other name.
That’s why Jesus says what He says in verses 12 through 14, you know those, they’re confusing verses. Jesus says, “You will do greater works.” Does He mean the apostles are going to do more miracles, or they’re going to do better miracles? No, that’s not greater, it’s greater because it’s on the other side, it’s on the turn of the page of redemp-tive history. They’re going to see actually more people come to faith with the exaltation of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit than Jesus saw in His ministry. By the time Jesus dies on the cross, there is just about nobody left. Maybe Mary’s there, John’s tak-ing care of her, but they don’t get it. People are hiding and cowering.
No, the greater works are what Jesus will do now on the other side of the cross and the empty tomb and Pentecost. To blow open the doors of salvation to Jews and Gentiles and bring in multitudes in His name. The whole Bible teaches, from cover to cover, there is one God in three persons, and this God is not a personal tribal deity. He is Lord over all, to be worshiped and adored by all.
The constant refrain in the Old Testament, “I am God and there is no other.” That’s why Isaiah and Jeremiah rejected the syncretism of the people. There was only one God. Why did Elijah challenge the prophets at Baal? On Mount Carmel? If Baal and Ashra were good options? No, He says you need to decide which one.
Why did Joshua say, “Choose for yourselves whom this day you will serve, whether the gods beyond the river or Yahweh, our God. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Why did God begin the 10 commandments by saying “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before Me”?
True worship and true religion is not measured by the sincerity of the worshiper. You will hardly find a more counter-cultural statement. Most people really think truth is measured by sincerity. If you really believe it, you really feel it, you’re really sincere about it, it really matters to your life, therefore it must be true.
The testimony of the Scriptures from start to finish is quite the contrary.
Remember what Paul says in Philippians? He says just the opposite. He’s in jail, he said there’s some people preaching Christ out of rivalry, ambition, envy. He says in whatever what Christ is preached, I give thanks. He said they’re not sincere, but what they’re ac-tually saying is true, and I’m thankful for that.
Our culture says the opposite. We can’t really know what’s true religiously, but as long as you’re sincere, then it must be true for you.
That’s a different universe from the universe of the Bible.
You see, this is not simply about getting some theology right, though we want our theolo-gy right. It’s about getting the glory of Christ.
So if someone were to say to me, “Hey, Kevin, I know you’re a pastor and this is what you do for a living, but, but listen, that’s fine, that’s fine you believe all those things about Jesus, that’s what you do, and you’ve been taught and you’ve got the Bible. That’s fine. I don’t tell you to believe anything different. Believe whatever you want to believe. Just don’t tell me who Jesus has to be. Don’t tell me what I need to believe.”
You see how that sounds very, very humble, very common sense? “Really, why don’t we just split the difference? I’m not telling you to believe anything different about Jesus. Believe whatever you want.”
But here’s where you need to be thinking, discerning people. The friend or family mem-ber who says that to you is actually telling you to change a lot about what you believe about Jesus. They may not realize. They may think, “I’m just telling you, go ahead, have your personal Jesus. Believe whatever you want about Jesus. I’m fine with you believ-ing it.”
They’re really not. Because if you, if you understand your Bible, you believe that Jesus is not just your Lord, He is the Lord. Your well-meaning friend, then, is asking you to set aside Jesus as the sovereign, through whom all things were made, and to make Him into a privatized, personalized, pragmatized deity. Yes, they’re asking you to change a lot about what you believe about Jesus.
And so I would say to you, or you would say to your friend, I hope with great gentleness, “Friend, you may think that that’s tolerance, but you’re actually asking me to dishonor my Lord and Savior, to deny that He is Lord of all, to deny that He is the image of the Father and the exact imprint of His nature, to reject the words He spoke in Scripture, to deny that He is a God and there is no other, to deny that only those who know the Son know the Father, to deny the necessity of the cross, to deny that only in Jesus did the Word became flesh, only in Jesus do we find a Redeemer who can lay a hand on us both. No, you are asking me to have a Jesus of lesser glory.”
And of course, here’s the last thing, it isn’t enough if you just walk out of here and say, “Yes, I believe John 14:6. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I can affirm that statement. There is no other way to heaven.”
It would be a great tragedy, would it not, if you affirmed all of that and you were not actu-ally on the way to heaven? You got your theology right, you got verse 6 right, you under-stood the preposition right, you agreed with all that’s being argued here in this sermon… And your heart wasn’t actually changed. And you affirmed that Jesus was the way, but He really wasn’t the way that you’re on. Not really the truth that you’re living. Not really the life that you count on. Just a box to check, just something to do on Sunday, just a way to fit in with the people around you. That would also rob Christ of His glory.
So above all else, I want you to see, God wants you to see, in this famous verse 6, it’s not so much about throwing elbows at everybody else as it is getting on our knees, falling on our face, saying, “Jesus, You are God and there is no other, for me and for all peoples.”
Let’s pray. Our heavenly Father, we ask that You would work these things by Your spirit in our hearts, that Jesus would be Lord, sitting on the thrones of our hearts as He sits on the throne of heaven, and that you would be drawing people to yourself, people in this room, people who will listen to this sermon online, people with whom we will come in con-tact in the next months, that Jesus would have all the glory He deserves. We pray in His name. Amen.