Nowhere Else to GoErwin W. Lutzer | March 22, 1992
Selected highlights from this sermon
We live in an age of pluralism and subjective truth where you can pick and choose the parts of religion that suit you best. But there is only One who has the words of eternal life. No one else has any real answers. So whatever your need may be, the answer—the truth—is found in Christ. To whom else shall we go?
We live in a day that can be described as an age of pluralism. Pluralism means that there are many different options from which we can choose. Just like people who have cable television can get 40 or 50 different channels, in the same way when it comes to religion, people have a lot of options. There are a lot of different Christian churches. There are a lot of different churches that fit into the general category of Christendom. And then there are many other religions other than Christianity, and all of those are options in today’s world. We live in a land with many choices.
But in addition to that pluralism, we are also in an age that can be characterized as one that believes in subjective truth. Subjective truth means that when I go into an ice cream parlor that has 31 different flavors I can choose whatever I want. Well, of course, I choose butter pecan. But maybe you, not knowing how good butter pecan tastes, choose plain vanilla. But we can do whatever we like. I mean we have 31 different flavors. Not only can you choose the flavor you like, but also you can mix and match.
In the very same way, when it comes to religion, people say, “Well, I mix and I match. And so I take a little bit of Christianity, and I take a little bit of eastern religion, and I add my own ideas with a little dab of humanism and a fragment of Scripture, and I come up with my own concoction that is just for me. And it really is exactly what I want, and what I want doesn’t have to be what you want because you can do your thing. I can do my thing. And that’s the era in which we are raising our children, and that’s the mood of this generation.
That’s why it’s so important for us to turn to our Bibles to John 6. Now if you’ve been following this series, you will know that this happens to be number five in a series of messages on the life of Peter. And Peter made a fantastic confession we noticed last time, but today he makes another in the sixth chapter of John.
The context of Peter’s confession is that Jesus did many miracles and the people really liked some of the miracles that He did. He had just fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. That’s what He did as the sixth chapter of John opens. And it says in verse 15, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew.” They believed that a king would be one who would bring them much bread, just as Moses did, and here was somebody who could speak the Word, and the bread came from nowhere, literally out of thin air. And so they said to themselves, “This is the kind of man we want to rule over us.”
Imagine a president who could create bread out of nothing just by the spoken word. Either party would elect him, here in the United States, very quickly. So there were people who loved Jesus because they said, “We like His miracles,” but then Jesus would say some things that turned people off, and He really turned them off. He said things that caused them to stumble.
Notice, for example, things such as in verse 44 where He talked about their inability to believe on Him without divine help. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Well, that didn’t suit people very well. What is this business that no man can come to God except the Spirit draw Him? We don’t like this teaching. We can come to God on our own strength, whenever we think we need Him.
And then if that wasn’t enough, Jesus said in verse 51: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Verse 52: “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” And then Jesus makes it even stronger in verses 53 through 55: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Wow! Talk about stumbling now!
They knew the Old Testament where it said that you were forbidden to drink human blood. Cannibalism seemed so inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. What could Jesus possibly mean? Now if they had thought about it, they would have recognized that Jesus was talking here figuratively. There are some people who are sacramentalists who believe that we literally eat His flesh and drink His blood during communion. But we know that Jesus was not talking literally, not just because the Old Testament forbids the drinking of human blood, and cannibalism seems to be inconsistent with the rest of the teaching of the Bible, but Jesus said in verses 56 and 57: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” Jesus said, “Just like I live in dependence upon the Father, and receive my spiritual food from Him, that’s what I mean when I say you are to eat My flesh and drink My blood. The bread that I created fed your body, but there is also spiritual bread that feeds your soul, and if you eat of that bread you will be abiding in Me.”
That in itself is a sermon, but I must hurry on. In verse 63 Jesus clarifies it even more: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. If you are thinking of literal flesh, and literal blood, there is nothing to that. The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and they are life,” said Christ.
Well, still strong words though! It says that many stumbled because of Him. There was disagreement (verse 67). And then it says in verse 66 that as a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. Members of the larger crowd, members of the Jews who heard Jesus speak said, “We can’t take it. This is too much for us.”
Jesus therefore said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” He asked the question in such a way that He was anticipating the answer, “No, we’re going to stay with You.”
Remember this. Even though the Bible says that Jesus knew those that would stay with Him and those who were defectors (He knew Judas, it says in this passage.), still remember that Jesus did feel the hurt of rejection. It was not nice for Him to be able to see this large crowd and then people walking away, shaking their heads, saying, “What is this? He does a miracle over here and then He says things that we can’t swallow over here? What are we going to do with Him? Let’s let Him go. He’s mad.” Jesus felt the hurt of that. He said to the twelve, “You guys aren’t going to go away too, are you?” And Simon Peter, to his everlasting credit, makes a statement that should be seared into the minds and the hearts of every one of us. He said, “To whom shall we go?”
To whom shall we go? We don’t understand everything that you are saying, but who are we going to go to? Are we going to go to the Pharisees that put a load on us that we cannot carry and that give us no hope? Are we going to turn to the esoteric religions of Neo-Platonism which lead us into mysticism but eventually do not answer the ultimate questions that our souls seek answers for? To whom shall we go? What are our options? You have words of eternal life, and we believe and have come to know that You are the holy one of God. There is no other sensible option.”
What I’d like to do is to give you three characteristics of truth, and I’m not saying that Peter was thinking of these characteristics when he spoke, but you’ll notice that they are there in what he said. The first characteristic of truth that I want you to notice is that it is consistent. By that I mean that Peter realized that if they stayed with Jesus and what Jesus taught, then obviously they are saying no to a host of other teachers. A truth is not only consistent within itself, but there’s no such thing as believing, as some people do, that all of the religions of the world could be right. That is not possible. If you follow the path of Buddha you do not follow the path of Jesus because those two paths are diametrically opposed and contradictory to one another.
If you are a Hindu you believe that salvation comes through the absorption of the soul into the ultimate like a drop that is thrown into the ocean and loses its identity. And that’s the goal to which you work if you are a Hindu. Buddhism was born because Buddha did not like Hinduism. He did not feel that it answered his deepest questions. So Buddha said that what you do to obtain salvation is you go through a torturous path that includes seeking the truth and self-denial. In fact, Buddhism does not even believe in God. Hinduism has 330 million different gods. You can’t be both and still be sensible.
And then you have the teaching of Islam - Muhammad! What can we say about him? How is salvation obtained in the Islam faith? It is obtained by trying to keep the Koran and the things that Muhammad taught. Mind you, you should not do what Muhammad did because He did one thing and said another. But what you must do is to try to follow his teachings as best you can, and then maybe you will obtain some kind of undefined salvation.
Nobody can follow those three paths and say that they are following the same path, especially to say that they are following Christ because, as we shall see in a moment, Jesus Christ’s teaching cannot be combined with that of all of the religious leaders of the world. There is no common ground of significance.
Truth is consistent. Peter said, “To whom shall we go? If we go to You, Lord Jesus, we’ve got to say no to the scribes and the Pharisees and the esoteric religions because they are teaching something different. If we say yes to You, it is no to a host of other alternatives.
Secondly, truth is universal. He says, “We have come to believe that You are the holy one. We have come to believe that You are the One that gives eternal life. We’re talking about truth that is not simply cultural. Jesus is not just Jesus for people of the Middle East. He is not just the Jesus for the people who live in the Western World. If He is the holy one of God, and speaks words of eternal life, His teachings are applicable to all who inhabit planet earth. They are universally true. It’s not like going into an ice cream parlor and selecting the one that means the most to you. This is not the same. When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me,” He was excluding all other people who teach that they are the way to God. “No man comes onto the Father,” said Jesus, “but by Me.” And in that statement, if it is true, and we believe that it is, all other religions are disqualified.
Truth is universal. You must look at religious truth as you look at mathematics. Now nobody says, at least nobody who is sane, says, “Well, you know, 2 and 2 is equal to 4, but that’s just culturally American. That’s what we were taught in our schools, but if you go to the schools in the Middle East or the Far East, you’ll find that 2 plus 2 is equal to 5, and if you think about it a lot, you can make 2 plus 2 equal to 5.”
Do you remember Lewis Carroll in The Looking Glass – Alice in Wonderland? She was able to believe six contradictions before breakfast. Just imagine that! I’ve often jokingly said that if you can believe two before lunch, you need more help than we’re able to give you here at The Moody Church, because nobody can believe that 2 plus 2 is equal to 5. That is not a phenomenon that has a peculiarity that makes it Western. It is universal. And that’s the truth about Christ. What He taught is universally true to all cultures and to all nations, and that’s why we are saying to the unreached people of the world, “Go,” because without Christ there is no other way to God – period! Without that way, there is no going. And without that truth there is no knowing.
But there’s a third observation about truth. It is not only universal. It is not only consistent, but it is based on evidence. Peter said, “We have come to believe, and to know that You are the holy one of God.” Now admittedly, if you were with us last week, you know that when Peter made that astounding declaration that Jesus was the Son of the living God, Jesus said, “Flesh and blood did not reveal it to you,” because even with all of the evidence that there is, unless the Holy Spirit draws you to Christ, you will never accept Him as Your Savior, as your redeemer. Jesus taught that in one of the verses we read just a few moments ago. But the evidence is still overwhelming that Christ is who He claimed to be.
It’s overwhelming, first of all, because of the kinds of miracles that He performed. In John 2 He takes water and He turns it into wine, and this was not some kind of a trick. This was not the work of a magician. This was a transformation of gallons and gallons of water into wine instantly. While they were drawing the water, the miracle happened.
You get to John 4 and you find out that Jesus heals a nobleman’s son, and He heals him at a distance. He speaks the word, and in another part of the country the child is made well at the word of Christ, and the miracle is actually authenticated. It is not an ambiguous kind of a miracle, such as miracle workers today do, or there can be an exposé of one of the news organizations and find out that it’s pulled off by trickery. These were actual verifiable miracles.
What about John 6 itself? I mentioned a moment ago that Jesus takes five loaves and two fish and he does a wonderful miracle, and everybody is there to notice that thousands of people are fed by a small lunch.
Jesus Christ is who He is because of what He did. But there’s a second reason, and that is because of what He taught. Now I want you to understand something today. What Jesus taught about salvation has no resemblance whatever to all the other teachers of the world, and even some forms of Christendom that misinterpret what Jesus taught about salvation. There can be no common ground – no mixture.
On this side over here we put all the people who say that salvation is attained through some form of good works, some form of struggle, some form of agony, some form of self-denial, some form of trying to do good. And on this side we also put those forms of Christendom that say that salvation is attained by a cooperative effort between God and man. God gives us the grace to do good things, and if we do enough good things maybe we will have accumulated enough grace to make it in the Day of Judgment. We put all those teachings on this side because they are all essentially related.
But over here we have the words of Jesus. “He who hears My Word and believes on Him that sent Me has eternal life.” Salvation is a free gift of God. Why does it have to be free? It has to be free because God accepts no human merit whatever. It means that all that we do – even the good things that we do in and of ourselves – fall short of His high standard and of His glory, and if it were not a gift, we would be lost forever.
I am so amused by liberal religious teachers who do not believe in the Doctrine of Total Depravity. Total Depravity doesn’t mean that we’re always as bad as we could be. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do good things in and of ourselves apart from God and His grace. Total Depravity simply means that we have a proclivity (I love that word. Where did that come from?) toward evil for one thing, and anything that we do falls short of attaining God’s high standard.
I like what one man said in a church. He said, “You know, there are some people who don’t believe in Total Depravity.” He said, “Man, it’s the only doctrine my church teaches that I can live up to.” (laughter) The Doctrine of Total Depravity says that because we are dead in trespasses and sins and totally helpless, salvation has to be a free gift of God, given only to those who believe in Christ, and even that belief itself is a wonderful gift that He grants. It is of God.
Now listen to me carefully. That teaching cannot be combined with this teaching over here that I described a moment ago. You know that there are some canyons here in the United States of America that, when you look at them from a distance, it appears as if the bluffs and the hills are connected. But when you get closer, you discover that they are not connected at all. They are separated by a deep chasm that goes hundreds of feet down into the heart of the earth, and no matter how deep it goes, those two hills do not become any closer. And eventually a huge flowing dark river that cannot be crossed separates them from one another. And that’s the way it is with Christ. All attempts to make Jesus say the same thing as somebody else are doomed to failure. Yes, superficially there are similarities. There may be ethical teachings in other religions that may square with what Jesus said, but when it comes to the Doctrine of Salvation, any attempt to think that somehow I can take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and I can make my own special brand of spiritual ice cream is doomed to failure. Truth needs evidence, and Jesus Christ has given it by what He has done, and by what He teaches, and more importantly, by whom He claimed to be.
Now I want you to just relax for a moment and I want you to think about what Jesus said, and what awesome statements came out of His mouth.
You know, back in the days when Communism was popular, when the revolution took place in 1918 over in what used to be known as the Soviet Union, Lenin made some fantastic claims. I saw Lenin’s body a few years ago in that mausoleum right there in Red Square. He wasn’t making any claims at that moment, but when he was alive he was making fantastic claims. He said, for example, that when Communism takes over there’s going to be bread in every household. That’s quite a claim. But he never had the nerve to say, “I am the Bread of Life. He that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes on Me shall never thirst.”
This past summer my daughter and I stood essentially where Hitler died in Berlin, the old bunker and the ruins that are now covered, but I thought of the claims of Adolph Hitler, who said some fantastic things about Germany’s place in the sun and the Thousand Year Reich. But even Hitler, as a mad man, never had the nerve to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me.”
Buddha died saying, “I am still seeking light.” He never had the nerve to say, “I am the light of the world. He that believes on Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
There are New Age gurus that you can plug into for some sum of money, and they will tell you that someday you are going to be reincarnated, and you’re going to keep being recycled until you finally get it right. They don’t have the gall to say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes on Me shall never die.”
Freud, bless his heart, may he rest in peace, thought that psychotherapy would answer the cruel dilemmas of emotional and spiritual existence, but he never had the nerve to say, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” Nor could he say with authority to people struggling with guilt and memories and a dampened conscience that continually haunts them, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”
I want you to look at Jesus today like you’ve never looked at Him. “To whom shall we go?” Where are you going to run? You say, “Well, I don’t like what He taught.” Well, where are you going to go? You say, “Yes, but if He loved me, He’d do X, Y and Z, and He’s not doing these things.”
If you don’t like what He’s doing, I understand, but to whom are you going to go?
To the baker, He is the Bread of Life.
To the banker, He is the hidden treasure.
To the florist, He’s the lily of the valley.
To the astronomer, He’s the bright and morning star.
To the builder, He is the chief cornerstone.
To the scientist, He is the creator.
To the philosopher, He is the wisdom of God.
To the sinner, He is the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world.
And to the politician, He is the King of kings.
To whom shall you go? Where are you going to turn? It is He alone who has the words of eternal life. There is no other place to go.
Have you come to Him? Have you said, “Lord Jesus, I want to receive You? I want to open my life to You and I want to let go of all the bitterness that I have towards You, and I want to receive You as my very own, because I know there is no other place to go.”
And if you are here as one who has believed on Christ, and your life is filled with anxiety and questions, I urge you to come to Him just as you are, and explain to Him what your need is. But come to Him. There is no other place to go. Nobody else has any answers, and He’s God’s special Son. Whatever your need may be today, it is found in Christ.
To whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life, and You are the holy one of God.
Folks – brothers and sisters – there is no other place to go.
Father, we ask that as Jesus has been exalted, that You might draw men and women to Yourself. We pray, oh Father, that mightily Your Holy Spirit will cause men and women to understand that He is the answer to their deepest, most persistent, agonizing need. We do not claim to understand everything that Jesus does or what He says. But of one thing we are absolutely convinced of. There is nowhere else to go, and He has the words of eternal life. For those who feel they have sinned too much, may they see Him as the Lamb. For those who are going through times of distress, may they see Him as the Wonderful Counselor. And may we look to Him, and Him alone in these moments.
Now, Father, do in the lives of those who are gathered here the miracle that only You can do. Transform hearts, change lives, encourage, rebuke and exhort, for You are God, and beside You there is none other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.