Narrow Minded Religion

Way, Truth, Life

We live in a day and age where the watchword is tolerance.  Everywhere we turn we are told we need to be more tolerant.  We are urged to use inclusive language, we need to watch for offensive stereotypes, we must confront our harmful prejudices.  We must now say “physically-challenged” instead of “handicapped” and “undocumented resident” in place of “illegal alien.”  We should avoid “Dutch treat” because it implies that people from Holland are tightwads and “siesta” because it gives the impression that Latin Americans are lazy.  The fast-growing list seems endless.

We are also cautioned about religious intolerance.  We are to respect people of other faiths . . . in fact we are to affirm that everyone has a right to believe what they want.  We have no problem with this . . . it is a guaranteed right in the constitution.  However, we are also being urged to proclaim that every religion is equally valid for those who believe it.  If it “works for you” then I should say that it is true for you.  This is where Christians step into the midst of controversy.

Christians cannot state they view every religion as equally valid and true.  This is what brings the critics clamoring to our door with cries of narrow-mindedness and intolerance . . . . how dare we say that the only true way to God is the way of Christianity.  But dare we must . . . .not because we want to swim against the tide . . . . but because that is the truth as it is presented in the Bible.

We turn our attention to John 14:6.  Jesus has been telling His disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them.  He will come and get them so they could be where he is.  Jesus tells them that they know the way to the place where He is going.  Thomas interrupts and says, “Excuse me, but I don’t think we do know the way!”  Jesus responds to Thomas with a bold declaration . . . .

Jesus Declares that He is the Only Way to the Father’s House

Jesus says I am THE way.  He is not one among many, He is the one and only way.  If you think I exaggerate notice what Jesus says a few words later, “no one comes to the Father but by me”. This is a universal negative . . . .it says NOT ONE person will come to the Father’s House apart from Christ!

We understand the exclusive nature of the claim this way:

  • Man has fallen short of God’s Requirements of perfect obedience and Holiness
  • Man’s only hope is either for God to abdicate justice (which His holiness makes impossible) or for someone to take our punishment on themselves while transferring their righteousness to us.
  • The only man who didn’t have to die for His own sin (who lived perfectly) was Jesus
  • Jesus is the only one qualified to die for another.
  • Because Jesus is God incarnate His life is so valuable that it can be a substitute for all mankind.

So the only hope of going to the Father’s House is a narrow but abundantly gracious and sufficient road.

Jesus is the Truth that You Can Build Your Life On

He shows the false ways of other religions

The idea that there are really no substantive differences between religions needs to be held up to careful scrutiny and declared fraudulent. For example, Islam says that Jesus was not crucified. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. Christianity says he was. ONLY ONE OF US CAN BE RIGHT. Hinduism says God has often been incarnate. Christianity says God was incarnate only in Jesus. WE CANNOT BOTH BE RIGHT. Buddhism says that the world’s mysteries will end when we do what is right. Christianity says we cannot do what is right. The world’s mysteries will end when we believe what is right.

Christians are often exhorted by detractors to give up our exclusive claims and be ” humble ” enough to admit the validity of all the other roads. To which we must reply, “Truth is not ultimately a matter of pride or humility; it is a matter of fact.”   [Allistar Begg, MADE IN HIS PRESENCE p. 125,126 Emphasis mine]

He tells us what we truly need to know

Jesus tells us the truth

  • That God is still alive and well and in control
  • That we have sinned and cannot save ourselves
  • That we are miserable because of our sin
  • That we need a Savior and He is the Savior we have been looking for

He tells us what we need to believe and do

  • That He is God come to mankind
  • He gave His life to pay for our sin and to provide our righteousness
  • He is worth trusting for life and eternity
  • We act on these truths . . . . which is called “faith”

Jesus gives us a foundation to build on.  He tells us what the absolutes, the anchors, the non-negotiables are in life.  In a world that is constantly tossed to and fro by everything imaginable, Jesus shows us how to stand firm.

Jesus is the Life that You’ve Always Longed For

Deep inside of every person there is a yearning for something more. In Greek mythology, King Tantalus was punished in the underworld by being chained in a lake.  Its waters reached to his chin but receded whenever he bent down to satisfy his burning thirst. Over his head were branches laden with choice fruit, but they immediately withdrew whenever he reached upward to satisfy his hunger.  A symbol of utter frustration, his name is immortalized in the English word “tantalize.”

King Tantalus is the perfect illustration of the way people feel about life apart from Christ.  We all feel like happiness, satisfaction, peace, joy, acceptance is so close but we can never seem to reach it.

In Ephesians 2 we are told,

as for you, you were DEAD in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were BY NATURE OBJECTS OF WRATH. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, MADE US ALIVE with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. [emphasis mine]

Paul makes it clear that we formerly were sin-addicted.  We craved sin, we loved sin, we pursued sin.  We had no spiritual life within us.  That life was granted us by Christ.  God made us alive.

The best way for me to explain what Christ does is to use an analogy from other addictions.  If you have ever been a smoker and then stopped you have found something amazing happened: after time your taste buds came alive . . . .your sense of smell was reborn.  This re-birth could not happen until you were set free from your addiction.

The same is true in the Christian life.  Until Christ sets us free from sin’s hold on our life we do not enjoy life.  What we have been longing for is what only Christ can give us.

Bringing it All Together

There are several applications we need to draw:

First, we must understand that knowing the truth should not make us view others with disdain. We are not going to Heaven because of our goodness, but because of His grace!  We are humble recipients of a tremendous gift.

We must remember that people are not to be discounted because they do not believe correctly.  They are LOST and we need to help them find the way.  Our response to even a hostile society must be one of patient love and compassion. Trusting Christ as the only way to eternal life is no excuse for arrogance, it is no justification for indifference or hostility toward others.

Second, are we practicing (or listening to) what we preach? Christians have a credibility problem.  We tell everyone that Jesus is the only way to the Father’s House . . . . He is the one who gives us the truth we can build our lives on . . . .He is the Life we have always longed for . . . . and then we disregard Him in much of our living!

Let’s put it simply: If I REALLY took my belief to heart . . . .if I truly believed that what He said was the wisest counsel I could ever receive and what He practiced was the best example of a well lived life . . . . .

  • how would I use my time differently
  • how would I pursue my amusements differently
  • how would I spend my money differently
  • how would I treat others differently
  • how would I change my life?

We say He is the truth . . . . but do we live like it?

Finally, in all the accusations of narrow-minded faith don’t miss that fact that there IS a Way!

  • for those who are lost . . . . . .there IS a way home
  • for those who are confused . . . . there is a way to put the mixed up pieces of life together
  • for those who feel hopeless . . . . there is a way to real hope
  • for those who are beaten up . . . there is a way to healing and renewal
  • for those who have messed up their lives . . . .there is a way to forgiveness

That way is Jesus.

The way is opened before you.  What are you going to do about it?

I could get a map out and show you how to get to Wrigley Field in Chicago (why you would want to go there, I don’t know).  You could understand everything that I said and believe that it was a good way but it would mean nothing if you set that map aside and ignored it.  The directions mean nothing unless you follow them.

I hope you understand the clear message of the Gospel: if you will trust Him . . . He will put His life in you.  If you will believe and receive Him your sin will be paid for and your eternal destiny will be settled.  But knowing this information is not enough.  If you want to find your way to the Father’s house you have to travel the course Jesus laid out for you.  Other roads may look attractive.  Other roads may seem like short-cuts but only one road leads to where you want to go . . .and that’s Jesus.

Will you in an act of faith take that first step today?  Will you place your trust and your hope for eternity in the hands of Jesus?  Make that decision today.

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You certainly have a right to refuse.  You have a right to turn away.  Our country guarantees your freedom to choose and I support that right.  But please don’t ask me to say that your alternate choices can lead you to the same destination.  I can’t say that.  There is only one way.  I know such a statement is not politically correct.  I know many will find this to be offensive. But I will not turn from the truth to satisfy the masses.  And neither should you.

I know you may call me narrow-minded . . . . . . . . but I hope you will choose to call me a Brother in Christ instead.

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Scripture:

John 14:6