We all have an opinion on the way to God. When we say “the way,” what we are talking about is the way to a right relationship with God in this age and the way to a right relationship to God in the age to come. We all have an opinion, from the housewife to the construction worker, white collar, blue collar, no collar, celebrities, talk show hosts, and our opinions they vary and can become very challenging as well as passionate and controversial. There is reason for differences of opinion and for the passion behind these opinions. That is because we all grew up in different environments, we all have different experiences, we all have different understandings of the Bible as well as these things coming together. These ingredients form our faith journey. Our faith journey informs the way we live and that is why we are passionate when someone challenges the opinions that we present.
I have got to tell you that this is the most controversial message I have ever been blessed to deliver. I was talking to a former syndicated radio host and he told me this topic generated more controversy and passion that any other he can remember. Now there is good reason why this is normally not a sermon message on Sunday morning. For one, 30 minutes only gives us a chance to just scratch the surface of the conversation as well as the potential fallout behind it. Well, guess what, this morning we are going to scratch the surface and to do that what we are going to need to hear from Jesus and the disciples. That means we are going to have to turn to the Bible and we are going to have go through it. Also in your bulletin there is a message map. We have got the scriptures there but we have got to go to the source of where some of the controversy began and as Christians see what Jesus has to say about the subject. In addition to that is my hope that we will be able as Christians to be able to dialog together and even have some differences but walk together towards our faith journey towards Christ. It is my hope that today you will be both challenged yet more dedicated than ever to call on the one we call Jesus, Savior, Lord and share Him with the world. Are you ready? Alright, let’s pray.
God, I am just excited about the opportunity to share Your Word. To point to Your Son and His disciples to hear what they have to say. That our eyes might be open anew even if we hear things that we have never seen in the scriptures before. Open our eyes, ears, and hearts so that we might be more dedicated and empowered to serve you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Alright, I am going to bring you into this dialog by way of question. Here it is: can others find the way to God outside of Christianity? Let’s go to the Bible and see what Jesus has to say on the subject, so let’s turn to John, the 14th chapter, we are going to hangout first in that sixth and seventh verse, John 14:6-7 and as you are turning there I want to give you a backdrop to what is going on there in the 14th chapter of John. Jesus has just had a conversation with the disciples; He has told them that he is going to die. That he is going to suffer a horrible death, but that he is going to be raised from the dead and the disciples are terrified, they are upset, they don’t know whether they can trust Jesus because this is not how the Messiah was suppose to do things. The Messiah was supposed to come and overthrow the oppressor, overthrow the Roman government and rebuild the temple. Jesus had done neither but Jesus responds to them and says, look, you trust God, trust also in me. In fact, through his life, death and resurrection, he tells them I’m going to prepare a place for you in the age to come and there is plenty of room there. Where I’m going you know the way. Thomas responds, “Jesus, how can we know the way when we don’t know where you are going?”
Let’s pick it up with Jesus’ response. Jesus says there in the sixth verse, he says “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me you will know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Man oh man. This is some radical stuff. It’s radical and we have to deal with it because it’s in the text. Jesus says that he is the only way to the Father. No one else, we cannot find the way outside of Him. No one comes to the Father except through me. As Christians, we have to deal with that text. We can’t sweep it under the rug because if we sweep that there is going to be a whole lot of sweeping going on. So we have to deal with it and we have to understand, come to grips with what Jesus means and hold firm to the gospel.
It gets even more complicated because Jesus goes on to say, not only is he the way, the truth, the life the only way, he says you are going to held accountable, I’m going to be held accountable as to whether we find that way or not. Matthew 25 in there your message map, verses 31-33 Jesus says that there is going to come a day, the day of accountability or the day of judgment where he says it’s going to be like a farmer separating sheep from the goat. There will come a day of accountability. There we have it from Jesus, one, yes he says I am the way, the only way to the Father and two, we will be accountable for it.
Now in the Bible, Jesus gives two big huge categories that we might find this narrow way, this narrow way to the Father through Jesus. He gives these two categories where there are opportunities to find it. It’s similar to gymnastics what is called a “double full” in the skill for the vault. I used gymnastics activities because I’ve got now three daughters taking gymnastics and my wife is teaching it, so me and my son are the only ones not flipping around the house. They have this deal, it’s called a double full on vault and to do this skill they run down the runway and they hit the vault and they do what they call blocking it. They block the vault and to hit it squarely, they catapult themselves while rotating in the air and at the highest point they begin to twist. And they do this rotation and twist two times and they found two categories of gymnasts that have found the way to do this. One category is the seers. All the way through the one runway when they block the horse their eyes are open through the rotation and then through the twisting and through having their eyes open they find their special orientation and are able to perfect their skill. The other is through feeling. These are the feelers. Soon as they block the vault their eyes are closed. They are closed and somehow they feel their way as to their orientation and they are able to do the skill.
In the Bible, there are many ways or categories that individuals find this narrow way but two huge categories the first one we see is by receiving grace. Individuals, you and I we can we can find the way by receiving grace. Let’s turn to Romans 10:8-13. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul kind of sets the argument up in the beginning letting us know that it is by grace, through faith that we are saved or find a way by grace through faith and now he opens us up for us to understand better in Romans the 10th chapter. This is what Paul says, but what does it say? “The word is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart that is the message concerning faith that we proclaim. If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Many of us don’t like that. If you don’t like it, take it up with Paul and Jesus. But there it is in the text, that salvation, the way can be found through professing the name of Jesus and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. That’s what Paul lifts up for us. He goes on to say for it is with your heart that you believe and justified and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. So we see that we can receive this grace by calling on God, calling on Jesus and then by believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. This is an opportunity we find the way.
Let’s go on over and go to John 1:1-4. While you are turning there, write this scripture down. This one is not in your notes, Luke 23:42-43, because you see, not only can we call on Jesus and be saved, we can call on Jesus in the last seconds of our lives and receive salvation. Some folks don’t like that, but that will be a conversation between you and Jesus. Luke the 23rd chapter, we have evidence that Jesus is on the cross, he is between two thieves, one is heckling Jesus, and the other one says, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus doesn’t say, “tell me about how you have been living. Make me a believer.” Jesus says “today you will be with me in paradise.”
I need a God like Jesus that can reach me whenever I call on Him. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, so it is important for us to dig deep and to go deep inside the name of Jesus. John, are you there? John, first chapter, one, two, three, four and fourteen. Let’s see what John says.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning, through Him all things were made without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of all people. The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
Jesus is that word that became flesh and that word Jesus it says was with God and that word Jesus is was God. Could it be if Jesus was God, could it be that one could call on God and be calling on Jesus? Walk with me. John puts it in the text. Jesus was God and there is a connection there that we can not deny. Not only is the light of you and me, but wherever you find light, wherever you find life you find the evidence of Christ. I need a God like Jesus that I can call on my God and know that He is fully God and fully human. It gets better. Turn with me to Luke 18, we want to look at the verses 9-14. There were some that thought they had a corner on God.
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
To be justified was evidence of finding the way to God. This sinner—the tax collector—found the way to God through God’s mercy, and God’s mercy to some degree includes Jesus. Professing Jesus as Lord is one opportunity to finding the Way. But calling on God’s mercy is another opportunity to finding the Way.
And YET THERE IS MORE! Are you ready to wrestle some more? One more question: Can a person who lives like Jesus but never says the name Jesus find the way?
Let’s look at two more opportunities Jesus gives us for finding Him and God. First, in Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus tells the story of a King
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Could this mean that there will be some who served Christ without even knowing it, and will be welcomed into the Way? Like any of us, I don’t know for sure, but I just think that if Jesus is making room, we ought to make room at least for a few more people at the table!
There is one more opportunity Jesus gives for finding him. Take a look at Luke 7:6-10.
"So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well."
Jesus demonstrates here that there is an opportunity for others to find the Way by your actions. Your acts of compassion can bring salvation to the world. Others may come to know the Way through you! Your faith can possess that much power!
Look now to Mark 2:4-5.
"Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'"
In this story, someone found the Way through the actions of his friends, working together in an act of compassion and faith. Corporate faith has power. Your actions, your cell group’s actions can bring salvation to the world in Jesus’ name!
Last but not least turn to John 10:14-16.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
According to Jesus, there is room for other flock. He has sheep that are not of the one fold we know. But it is still through Jesus that they are saved. He is the light of the world. Jesus’ blood was not shed in vain, but in a mighty act of power—the power to save the world. You and I are the ambassadors of the Shepherd’s message of hope.
Transcribed from Brian Brown's April 10, 2011 message. Copyright 2011 Ginghamsburg Church. All rights reserved.