Sermon for Sunday June 3rd, 2012

Is Jesus Really the ONLY way to Heaven? by Scott Kircher

John 14:1-14:6

GodQuest - Is Jesus Really the ONLY way to Heaven?
If Jesus is the only wayÖ
What about People who are Moral?
What about people who are Other Religions?
What about people who are Unreached?

Good morning.
This week we are finishing up our GodQuest series.

We have been looking at some questions and topics that people struggle with in believing Christianity and have been struggles for those within Christianity.

The purpose of the series is not only to answer questions for those who have these struggles, but to also equip those of you who have believed in Jesus for salvation so you can communicate with those the Lord puts in your life and so you can walk more assuredly in your faith.

In this series we have looked at
the evidence that points to Godís existence,
why you can believe the Bible is Godís word,
why you can believe in a good and loving God, even in the face of suffering,
and last week we examined
how the creation account lines up with the evidence we find regarding the origins of life.

This week we are going to tackle an issue that for many makes Christianity and the God of the Bible seem so intolerant to them.

We are going to assess the claim and ask the question
Is Jesus Really the ONLY way to heaven?

So, if you would turn with me in your Bibles to John 14:1-6

We are first going to hear what Jesus said about this, and then we are going to look at some follow up questions so that we can see the love and sovereignty of God regarding ďthe wayĒ He has made and also to help those Christians who either struggle with this question themselves and/or do not know how to respond to those who ask.

So letís begin by seeing what Jesus had to say regarding this.
John 14:1-6
14 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Fatherís house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we donít know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Ok, the Bible clearly tells us through Jesusí own words that
Jesus really is the only way to Heaven

But notice that in the first verse of this passage, Jesus is seeking to bring comfort to His disciples.

Jesus being the way to heaven is meant to bring comfort to people.

Why then is Jesus being the way such a divisive issue and one that is argued to make it seem that this is an intolerant viewpoint?

Again, as with so many issues of life, our perspective matters.

So, this morning, to help us better understand that Jesus really is the only way to heaven, and so we better understand His love and Sovereignty and can truly gain a godly perspective, I want to deal with the exceptions that people raise so we can truly see that Jesus really is the only way.

Whenever I have been in discussions with people about Jesus being the only way to a relationship with the Lord and into heaven, they invariably ask
What about People who are Good?

Usually this question comes across like this
You mean to tell me that I can
live honestly and
with integrity and
not steal or cheat,
but if I donít believe in Jesus as Savior I wonít go to heaven.

And the person who has been
a liar and
a murder all their life,
but then receives Jesus as their Savior does get to go to heaven?

To many people that doesnít seem loving or just and that is what we are claiming that God is, both loving and just. How can that be?

Well, I will tell you that God is both loving and just.
The problem however, lies in our corrupted perspective of life and of what good is.

We tend to compare ourselves with those around us.

Grading on a curve Illustration
When I was in school we called that grading on the curve. They would take the highest grade in the class and assign grades to all the other exams based on that.

A 54% doesnít look as bad when it is the highest grade of those you compare it too, but it is an F when compared to the standard of having everything correct.

Many of us live our life and look around us and most of us think we donít look too bad when compared to others. Of course, we tend to compare ourselves to those who look worse than ourselves.

However, when we are compared to the standard of Jesusí life, a perfect life, we all fall far short and we can see that we are not very good at all. In fact the Bible confirms this for us.

Romans 3:10-12
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one."

The perspective we need to be looking at things from is Godís. When we do, we have the right view that there is no one who is good.

Bad news  Good News
If we are going to realize that ďJesus is the wayĒ is good news, you first have to realize the bad news.

The bad news really isnít that there is nobody that is good. While that is true, the bad news is really that you are not good.

You do not deserve heaven. You are completely unworthy of heaven.
The same is true for me and there is absolutely no way for us to be good enough to get into heaven.

Once we realize the bad news, it is then that Jesus being the way becomes not just good news, but unbelievably good news.

Where there was no hope, now there is hope!
Where there was only the certainty of eternal damnation, there is now the offer of eternal life to all who would believe.

When there was no one who was good, God became man and lived perfectly. He is good.

We all have fallen short. We all deserve death.
It is only by his grace offered to us through faith in Jesus, that we can have the hope of Heaven!

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith ó and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godó 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ok, so there is no one good, but
What about People who are Other Religions?

These are people who believe in ďgod,Ē they just donít believe in Jesus.

Arenít these other religions as good as another other religion including Christianity?

ďWho are you to say that Christianity is the only faith system that is right? What about all these other people of other religions?! Arenít they just other paths to the same God?Ē

This is where we have to know why we believe what we do. There are many people out there teaching all kinds of things. That does not make it true.

The Bible is a unique book in that it is Godís word to us.

ďWell, what about the Koran or the Book of Mormon or other religious books?Ē Why canít those be Godís word?Ē

That is the message from 3 weeks ago. You can check that out on our website why we can truly believe the Bible to be Godís word as opposed to any other religious writing. There is a boatload of evidence to support that.

So if the Bible is truly Godís word, we have to take what the Bible says as true.

Listen to what Peter tells us in
Acts 4:12 - Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Other religions are seeking to take away the glory from God for the way He has made for salvation.

Illustration - Mountain
Some people think the way to God is like a mountain and the different religions are just different paths up different sides of the mountain, but they all lead to the same place.

I was talking to Jason about this message earlier in the week and he shared with me a story he heard David Platt tell about going to a Hindu temple and asking about how they get to heaven. David summarized their view for them in asking if they thought it was like a mountain with many paths that led to God and they said, yes, that is what we think.

Then David said, ďWhat if I told you that we canít get to Him by any of those paths, but instead, God came down the mountain to get us!Ē

That is what Christianity is. All other religions are our attempts to get to God. Christianity is God coming to get us!

That is what makes Christianity so unique. Not only is it supported by the Bible which has much evidence to show it is the word of God, but it is not our path to God, it is the story of God coming to get us!

Jesus came and lived and died for our sins and the proof that Jesus is God and his death was an acceptable payment for your sin is found in the resurrection. Jesus is alive after he died and He offers us eternal life if we believe in Him.

Those who are believing other religions are trying to get to God which we can never do. We can only believe and receive the way God has made by coming to get us through Jesus.

Ok, so you canít be moral and get to heaven, and you canít get their through some other religion, but
What about the people who are Unreached?

Surely God is not going to let someone spend eternity in Hell who has never heard the name of Jesus.

That doesnít sound very fair or loving or just.
How can Jesus be the way for someone who never heard about Him?

Listen to what Paul writes in
Romans 1:18-20 (p. 796)
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world Godís invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

A month ago, we spoke about the evidence for Godís existence and one of those evidences is creation. This is also a primary reason that even those who live in places who have been unreached by civilization or the gospel, will stand before God without excuse.

God has revealed Himself through creation and our conscience, so that even without ever hearing the name of Jesus, God has given us the ability to take steps of trust and faith.

Now these steps of trust and faith may not be a saving faith yet, but one of the first responses of real faith is to believe that God exists.
Hebrews 11:6 says, ďwithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.Ē

So whether or not you find yourself in
the jungles of Africa,
the mountains of Latin America, or
the fields in Europe,
God has given everyone a knowledge of His existence and with that knowledge comes choice.

Knowing that there is a God, what do I do now?
Will I be faithful with that revelation, or
will I disregard it and live any way I want?

One choice is acting in faith, the other acting in selfish pride.

Well Scott, this revelation that you talk about only shows them there is a God. Lots of people believe in God. According to you though, they arenít going to heaven unless they believe in Jesus as their God and Savior.

Well, that is right.

People must believe in Jesus but to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, that has to start with a belief in God.

If they canít be faithful with believing in God, there is no way they will believe that Jesus is God in the flesh.

So yes, there will be people that die without ever hearing the name of Jesus, but they will still stand without excuse because they were not faithful with even the basic revelation that God made known to them.

Well, what about those people who are faithful with that basic knowledge? They still havenít heard about Jesus.

This is the thing that excites me about God and about studying the Bible.

When I was a new believer, I had many of these same questions and struggles.
But as I continued studying and reading the Bible, God continued to open up new things and answer questions that I had.

In the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, we get a glimpse of Godís sovereign control over everything and for that we can be grateful.

Let me read you part of this story.

The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8.
Acts 8:26-31, 34-35

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road ó the desert road ó that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.

31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with himÖ

34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Here is a guy that is faithful with the basic information that God has entrusted him with, but he has not yet heard about Jesus, so he does not yet have salvation.

So what does God do? God tells Philip through an angel to go to a specific place.

Now notice, Philip at this point does not know what is going on. He is just following after the Lordís directions. He goes and sees the Ethiopians chariot and is then is told to go stand by it.

He obeys and has an opportunity to share Christ with the Ethiopian and he receives Jesus and inherits eternal life.

Wow, it is a good thing that Philip just happened to be there.

Wasnít it Lucky for God that Philip was there or He might have missed someone that was ready to believe, huh? Hardly! God is in control and He directed Phillip to the Ethiopian. God is not hindered by the location of anyone who is responding in faith to what the Lord has revealed.

We see another example in Cornelius in Acts 10.
Cornelius is being faithful with what God has revealed to him but he doesnít know about Jesus.

What does God do? He tells Cornelius to send for Peter. Cornelius does and Peter shares Christ with him and he and his family receive Jesus as Savior and inherit eternal life.

Good thing for God Peter happened to be in the area.
Oh wait, he wasnít. God orchestrated him to go to Cornelius.

Peter, a Jew who days before going into Corneliusí house would never have been caught dead in the house of a Gentile. Nobody would have predicted before hand that this could have happened.

So my question to you is, if God can do that, do you think it might be possible that He could orchestrate sending some missionary
to the jungles of Africa, or
the mountainous regions of Latin America or to the
Fields of Europe
to share the gospel with those who are being faithful with what He has revealed to them?

Do you think God is worrying about how some person in the center of communist China is being faithful with what He has revealed to Him but because China is a communist government, God is barred from getting anyone in there?

Not this God! Not the God of the Bible! He is completely in control.

Yes there will be people who enter into their eternity, an eternity apart from God in hell, but they will not be able to stand with the excuse that they never knew about Jesus, because they stand guilty of being faithless with the very basics of what God has revealed.

So the only way to heaven, even for people who have never heard the name of Jesus, is through Jesus. God can make sure that those who are taking steps of faith will hear about the Savior and have opportunity to receive Him.

Jesus is really the ONLY way to heaven.

What does the fact that Jesus is the only way mean for us who are believers?

Ok, we are safe. We can sit back and relax and take it easy?
Not at all!

We need to realize that real people are going to hell. We have got to act.

Maybe you say ďI am afraid, I donít know what to say, what if I say the wrong thing?Ē

If we are going to be used by God, we need to do 3 things.

We need to Pray

Pray for opportunities. Pray for those you know who donít know Jesus. Pray for courage.
You canít be used by God without praying and asking and hearing from God.
We need to Prepare

Be reading Godís word. Be seeing how in the New Testament Paul and Peter and others shared the gospel. Be open to those opportunities.

I will tell you, when I worked in the secular world, I wanted people to know that I was a Christian and I would ask questions of people. When opportunities for spiritual conversations presented themselves, I would ask people what they believed. When they told me, I would ask them why they believed that. That question has been the spark for so many spiritual conversations because so many people donít know why they ďbelieveĒ or think they believe what they do.

That usually leads to questions about what you believe and why.
This is where we have to be prepared.

ďI believe the Bible and here is what the Bible says and here is why I believe the Bible to be Godís word over other religious writings.

You donít know why you believe what you do?
Get online and watch the Godquest series. Come to our next back to Basics which will be in August. Come and ask me or Billy or our elders.

We need to Persevere

Every conversation you have with someone will not end in a conversion to Christ. Realize that you are not going to save anyone.

Our responsibility is to be prepared and to persevere in faith. Letís leave the salvation to God.

We have got to be looking for opportunities to have conversations with people about what they believe!

This is not easy. This will require prayer and the Lordís work and for us to act on the faith the Lord has given us. Acting on the faith the Lord has given us does not make it easy. In fact it is hard. Because we have to step out of our comfort zones.

Who do your know that needs Jesus?

Write their name down and pray for them.

And if you are here today and have never received Jesus as Savior, realize that He is the only way to a n eternal relationship with Him in heaven.

If you have never received Him, then turn from your sin and confess your belief that Jesus is the Lord, God in the flesh and that He died for you and rose from the dead.

It is then you begin to live your eternal life.
Letís pray.