Only One Way to Heaven? Why Are You Christians So Exclusive?

Tim Keller told of a time when he was invited to be the Christian representative in a panel discussion at a local college. With him on the panel would be a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim imam. At one point, they were all asked to discuss the differences among their respective religions. In a civil tone, Keller notes:

“Each speaker affirmed that there were significant, irreconcilable differences between the major faiths. A case in point was the person of Jesus. We all agreed on this statement: ‘If Christians are right about Jesus being God, then Muslims and Jews and Muslims fail in a serious way to love God as God really is, but if Muslims and Jews are right that Jesus is not God but rather a teacher or prophet, then Christians fail in a serious way to love God as God really is.’ The bottom line was—we couldn’t all be right about the nature of God.”[1]

Some in the audience were upset, saying that this is intolerant. One said, “We will never come to know peace on earth if religious leaders keep on making such exclusive claims.” As a result, some want to ban or condemn all religion.

Elton John in an interview back in 2006 shared, “I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. From my point of view, I would ban religion completely.”

Many in the culture blame religion for many of the ills of society. If it wasn’t for religion, we would have all the moral restrictions and people could live as they wish. Religions wouldn’t be fighting, as they were when the Muslims beheaded that British soldier last week. Religions zealotry really brings on the problems. It brings division. The culture cries, “Can’t we all get along?”

Back to that panel discussion: it’s elementary to recognize that all religions are not like spokes of the wheel. But why does Christianity hold to this?

1. Christ is the only way to the Father in heaven (John 14:1-7).

Look with me at John 14:1-6:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 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?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”  5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

We cannot get away from Jesus’ words here—not in the least. Verse 6 is a gamechanger for many in this world—and no wonder so many recoil from this notion. No one comes to the Father? This is another way of saying no one gets to heaven except through Jesus—really?

But consider the context of what’s happening. Jesus had just washed the disciples’ feet to show them how to serve one another, not simply to be served as his Kingdom children. This was a significant attitude adjustment for them. They thought the Kingdom would be about them being served. Jesus set them straight: “I came not to be served but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

Later, Jesus tells them that one would betray him. Satan would enter him and turn him over to the authorities. Be used as an instrument to bring Christ to the cross. What Satan meant for evil, God used it for our ultimate good.

Jesus then said he would be crucified by the authorities. Jesus then said one would deny him—not just anyone. Peter. The one who confessed Christ as Lord. The one who said that he would lay down his life for him. Jesus said, “Not even you, Peter. Before morning, you’ll deny me three times.

The dream seemed over. What hope did these disciples have? Would they be the ones to betray him? They were troubled. Jesus was troubled in his spirit (13:21). The next few hours and days would be hell on earth for them, for it would seem that Satan ruled the day. But Jesus comes along in the midst of his trouble and theirs and says, “Don’t be troubled.” On what basis? You believe in God, believe in me. Here, Jesus is not simply telling them to drum up some faith. He’s saying, “I and the Father are one.”

  • Believe in Me as you do Him!
  • He is going home to His Father to prepare a place His father ordained for them from the foundation of the world.
  • He’s being sent on a mission from His Father to gather His children to Himself.
  • Then he says, “This only happens by way of Me. You cannot get to the Father outside of Me.” You can’t run over me. You can’t get around me. You cannot go below me. You cannot shove me out of the way. It’s through me.

This is what they needed to hear. They would fail. They would betray. Deny. Let him down. Disobey. But Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. It’s by and through him, not by and through us! Lloyd Ogilvie once said, “Jesus is a VIP to be honored but not believed or followed. In America, he is a custom but not the true Christ; a captured hero of casual civil religion but not Lord of our lives.”

Jesus says, “I’m not just a custom. I’m much more than this.”

(Tomorrow:  Part II:  Christ is the Only One to Bring Heaven to Earth!)

[1]Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), 4.

Categories: apologetics, Jesus Christ, Salvation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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