God Yes, But Why Jesus? - Part 2Erwin W. Lutzer | February 9, 2003
Selected highlights from this sermon
In today’s world, “tolerance” is heard everywhere. But there are things that Christians should not tolerate.
Christians must represent the truth of Christ—that Jesus is the only way to the Father. We must stand firm in asserting that Christianity is not just another religion to choose from; it is the only way to everlasting life in heaven. And we must be ready and able to point people to Jesus—the one true Savior.
We believe in legal tolerance. Legal tolerance means that people can believe whatever they want to religiously or not believe at all, and they have that freedom and we would stand up for that tolerance. But there is another kind of tolerance that is making the rounds and that is politically correct tolerance. I read a few weeks ago that there was a university in which freshmen students were lined up, and they were asked, “Do you believe in pro life? If so, step across the line. Do you believe in the radical homosexual agenda? Step across the line. And the students were basically told, “You have to understand that here at the university, if you have a different belief you keep it to yourself,” and I am adding this now, “because there seem to be some people who find a new right in the Constitution, and the new right is that they should never ever have to hear anything with which they disagree.” And so there is this politically correct tolerance.
Then there is even a kind of tolerance beyond that. It is called “positive tolerance.” Positive tolerance says that we should joyfully affirm those with whom we disagree so that even though we have our own private opinions, and usually when those are evangelical opinions, they are our private prejudices. Notice that word. When people have that then we are told that what you have to do is to affirm those who are not a part of your prejudice and joyfully affirm those who believe in the things with which you disagree.
And in the midst of this we get to minister and to witness and to serve and to explain the Gospel. What a day to be alive! Isn’t that wonderful that God would wait for centuries for us to be born so that we could spread the Gospel in this era and under these conditions? You university students are some of the most fortunate. I almost used the word lucky but I am not into that one bit, but you are some of the most fortunate students. Just think! You are living in an era and in a day in which you might get kicked out for witnessing for Christ. That is absolutely great. What a wonderful time to be alive!
We’re going to be turning to the Scriptures in a moment but I need to say that the climate in which we do so is there are those who disagree with the Scriptures, like you have the Jesus Seminar in California where a group of scholars get together and they decide what Jesus said and what He didn’t say, and some of you might be intimidated because of that. Let me be very clear. We have nothing to fear.
Years ago there was a painting by Vern Jones which was to be taken care of very, very well and had a specific kind of solvent. And I guess the memo didn’t get through and they used the wrong solvent and they ruined it all and it turned out to be just simply a gray canvas.
Perhaps I have told you that story and reminded you that there are people today who want to take the rich hues of the New Testament, the beautiful portrait of Jesus, and they want to condense it into nothing but a dull gray. At all costs they want to make Jesus into a mere man. I want you to know it’s not based on any manuscript evidence, and no new archeological find, but just personal hunches and a welter of contradictions based on the fact that he has to be a man and nothing more. We have nothing to fear from their so-called scholarship.
Now let me tell you why I am preaching this message. It’s the second, actually, in a series entitled God, Yes, But Why Jesus? And I hope that you were here last week to hear the first message in the series. This is the second. There are just two messages, which should really be five or six.
We could also entitle it Jesus in the Pantheon. And that will become clear in just a moment but let me explain why I preach it. First of all, it is because there are some of you who are holding Jesus Christ at arm’s length, and I want to urge you to investigate Him carefully.
This past week a Messianic Jew who was converted to Christ about six years ago said that there are many Jewish people who use the Holocaust as an excuse to not look carefully into Jesus Christ because they believe it was done in His name. “Why should I consider Jesus? Just look at the Holocaust.” We, of course, strongly disagree with that and repudiate any thought of such a connection.
And then there are those who say, “Well, you know I’ve been hurt by the Church, and because I’ve been hurt by the Church, I don’t want to investigate the Church’s Jesus.” Well, I am encouraging you today to get beyond that and to investigate Jesus.
And then there are some of you who maybe already have your minds made up. You think to yourself, “You know, there’s no way that Jesus could be the only way to God,” and you are not willing to consider His claims. I am preaching to you today. Please listen.
There’s another reason why I give this message, and that is I want you as believers to joyfully witness for Christ and when you meet somebody who says, “Well you know, I think Jesus is one way among many,” I hope that you are so thrilled and say, “Oh God, how good You have been to me to lead someone into my life who is saying this because I am ready with an answer.” I want you to leave here today itching for somebody to say that, hoping and praying, “Lord, send me somebody today who believes that Jesus is one way among many. Please.” I want you to know that all the truth is on our side, and yet the mouths of many believers are tied because they think they are going to meet somebody like that and they don’t know what to say. After today there are no excuses. That’s the agreement.
Now, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to John 14. I love this passage because you remember Thomas is a little bit confused. Thomas is speaking to Jesus. Jesus says, “I am going to prepare a place for you, and when I go I will come again and receive you,” and Thomas says in John 14:5, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” He’s not sure that he knows, or more accurately, he’s sure that he doesn’t know, so he says, “Jesus, how can we know the way?”
And then Jesus gives one of his famous “I Am” statements, seven of which occur in John’s Gospel, “I am the way.”
“Ich bin der Weg und die Wahrheit und das Leben; niemand kommt zum Vater denn durch mich.” It’s one of the few verses I memorized in German, and whenever I get to it I like to review what I learned. Some of you thought that tongues had come to Moody Church. (laughter) I know that some of you are ready to applaud and say, “It’s here!”
Thomas, God bless him, is interested in the question, “How do we get to the Father (the way to the Father)?” Now, maybe I quoted this earlier. At my age sometimes I may repeat myself, but if I do it’s because God knows that you didn’t remember it properly the first time.
Can I quote Pascal? Pascal says there are only two sane people in the world - one who loves God with all of his heart because he has found him, and the other is one who seeks God with all of his heart because as yet he has found Him not. I want you to know today that there is no question as important as the one of how you get to the Father. When you are in the rubble of the World Trade Center there is only one important question and that is, “How do you get to the Father?” How do you rest assured that that is your destiny? Or if you are in a space shuttle and it explodes, the only question for you is “Am I prepared to go to the Father and do I know the way?” That’s the only issue that’s important.
And so Thomas says, “How do we know the way?” And Jesus makes the “I am” statement. He says, “I am the way.” Old Testament readers would have understood that because it says in the Old Testament, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord.”
You’ve had the experience of being in a town and you ask somebody the way. Nine times out of ten what is it that they say? “I’m new here too.” I can’t believe that there are so many “new here toos” in the towns where I’ve been. How wonderful it is to find somebody who says, “I live here and I know the way. Follow me.”
Jesus is the beginning of the journey. Here’s an alcoholic who does not have to find his own way to God in the sense that he doesn’t have to make his own way to God. He doesn’t have to climb some kind of a ladder and say, “Lord, I want to get to you.” No, the way is already there. Jesus is the beginning of the journey. Jesus is the end of the journey because He knows the Father, and because of that we come to Him with confidence.
There was a guide in a desert, and a tourist said, “We’re going to walk with you but where is the path?” And the guide said, “I am the path.” Wow! How wonderful to know that you are with somebody who knows where he is going. Now if you are not interested in where you are going any path will get you there. And did you know that truth, for all of its power, has one limitation. There’s only one way to be right but many ways to be wrong. The Bible says that there is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is the way of death. Believe me, there are many false paths out there and I don’t believe there’s been an era in history when there have been as many wrong paths as there are today in this whole business of spirituality.
Could I throw this in at no extra cost? People are into spirituality today. What they aren’t into is righteousness and holiness. They are just into spirituality. “I want to be spiritual but I don’t want to be religious.” Do you want to be holy? “No, I don’t want to be holy. I just want to be spiritual.” So Jesus Christ said, “I am the way.”
Secondly He said, “I am the truth.” We all know people who have taught us the truth, but we’ve never met anyone who embodies the truth. My parents said, “This is the truth.” My parents did not say, “We are the truth.”
You know when you think about somebody teaching mathematics or chemistry maybe their character isn’t too important for teaching those disciplines, but what a conundrum. There’s a word I haven’t used for awhile. What an awful experience it would be to have to put up with somebody who is lecturing on the benefits of purity who himself is immoral, or someone who is talking about the beauty of generosity and yet he is stingy. Jesus had consistency because He is Truth.
Could I give you three characteristics of truth very quickly? I know this gets a little technical but I know you are going to follow me.
First of all, truth has universality. Two plus two is equal to four. You say, “That’s a Western idea. When you get out to the East in Eastern religions, why you discover that two plus two isn’t four.” Oh yes it IS four. You know when you meet somebody who says, “I have this opinion or that opinion,” you always take off your glasses, if you are wearing glasses, and you always smile. Remember to always smile and you tell them this. “You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own truth if you come across some truth that applies to me as well.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” If Jesus is the Truth, it applies in Japan and Morocco and India and all over the world. It has universality.
Secondly, it has consistency. It’s not possible to believe a contradiction. Mormonism and Christianity logically may both be wrong, but logically they cannot both be right because they contradict one another. If all the religions in the world were equally true they would all be equally false because they contradict each other at every important point.
Years ago I was in two Buddhist temples here in Chicago. The Buddhist priest told us that in Buddhism there is no god. We said, “Well, when you come to pray whom are you talking to?” and he said, “We are talking to ourselves because there is no god.”
I want you to know today that the religions of the world disagree on fundamental issues. It is consistency. Only Alice in Wonderland could believe as many as (What was it?) six contradictions before breakfast. I always say, “If you can believe two before lunch, you need more help than we are set up to give you.” Nobody can believe a contradiction. I had a professor who used to say that a contradiction is a Charley horse between the ears. Nobody can believe a contradiction.
Truth has universality and consistency. It has objectivity. It exists outside of us. It’s out there outside of us, you see, and it’s to be discovered. You can’t say, “What would we say to an astronomer who said, ‘Well you know, I believe that I have to look within to see whether there are stars without.’” Like our post-moderns say, “Oh you know, truth resides with me.”
I have a friend who teaches in a secular school, and because he teaches comparative religions is able to dialog with students about Christ. And he said to one student, “What would you say to Jesus if at the end time you would be judged by Him?” Now listen to his answer. It is thoroughly post-modern. He said, “I would tell Him that He has no authority over me because I didn’t believe in Him.” Now think that through. What he’s saying is “If I don’t believe in You, it rests with me. Since I didn’t believe in You, You have no authority over me.” Jesus would say, “Oh yeah?” or something like that. Truth has objectivity. It doesn’t matter whether you believe. It doesn’t matter whether or not an astronomer believes if a particular star is there. The issue is whether or not it is there. Truth has objectivity. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Wow! I want you to know today that Satan’s whole kingdom is based on lies. Jesus is based on the truth.
And then He says, “the life.” Physical life? Yes! Standing at the tomb of Lazarus He gave one of His great “I Am’s.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” He was able to breathe life into a dead body, but spiritual life – eternal life undoubtedly takes prominence in this phrase. “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” It’s life to the max. It’s life that is free of guilt. It is a life that is able to take care of regrets because of forgiveness. It is a life that is connected with God. It is the abundant life and Jesus said, “I am also the life.”
Without that way there is no going. Without that truth there is no knowing, and without that life there is no living.
There are many people who say, “Well, you know we are living it up.” Well, if you knew what you are doing, and if they understood it and if they see the long-term consequences they should know right well that actually they are living it down because the “end thereof are the ways of death.”
“I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life,” and then Jesus makes this astounding statement. He says, “No man….” You say, “Well this doesn’t apply.” When I was at the Parliament of World Religions that I told you about in the last message there were people who said, “Well, you know Jesus is for the West. When you get to the East, it’s Krishna. When you get to who knows where it’s somebody else.” No, no, no. “No man comes to the Father but by Me,” and there are reasons why no man can get to the Father except by Christ. There’s nobody else out there that meets the Father’s qualifications.
And then Jesus continues to astound us. In verse 7 He says, “If you really knew Me you would know My Father as well. From now on you know Him and have seen Him.” I love what Philip says. Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father and it’s enough for us.” Just show us the Father and we will be satisfied.
Frequently I quote Augustine. “Oh Lord, it is said that no man can see Thee and live. May I die that I might behold Thy face. Let me see the Father.”
And then Jesus makes a statement that should cause a shiver to go down our spines if we are aware and fully conscious. He says, “Have I been so long time with you, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Wow! It was God who came to that Jewish peasant home. It was God who was tempted in the desert. It was God who died on the cross. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”
Now what are you going to do with this Jesus? I say to you skeptics, what are you going to do with this Jesus? Nobody has made claims like this. They are beyond belief.
Look at Hitler. He made some astounding claims about the Third Reich that would last a thousand years. It only lasted twelve but he predicted it would last a thousand years, and yet Hitler never said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Can I say it one more time? I say it too often but I’ve got to say it here. Wow!
Then I think of Lenin. Lenin said, “If Russia accepts Communism there will be bread on every table,” but Lenin never had the nerve to say, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger. He who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
I think, for example, of Buddha who claimed enlightenment but he never said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
Freud! Do you remember him? He said that psychotherapy would bring peace to the human heart. By the way, did you know that it hasn’t worked? Time Magazine years ago said that psychotherapy was itself on the couch in need of therapy and resurrection. But he never said, “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.” Only God can talk like that. (applause)
So what I want you to do is to understand two inescapable conclusions today. The first is that there is an unbridgeable gap between Jesus Christ and all other religious options. There is an unbridgeable gap. Now let me tell you university students, you already know this. Most people think that all the religions of the world are essentially the same and only superficially different. But the opposite is true. Most religions of the world are essentially different and only superficially the same because the gap between Jesus and all others is infinite and unbridgeable.
As I mentioned last time there is no one else out there who is able to take us to the Father. They don’t have the requirements. They don’t have the holiness of the Father. They can’t give to us that holiness, that gift of righteousness. I was explaining this to a car mechanic ten days ago. I was explaining to him the gift of righteousness and he said, “I don’t understand that.” And I said, “Well, do you understand the concept of merit?” And he said, “Yes, I understand the concept of merit.” And I said to him, “I want you to know today that the only way we get into heaven is through the merits of Jesus being applied to us as sinners, and the only person whose merits He accepts are Christ’s.”
I met somebody who said, “Well, you know, I’ve moved beyond Christianity.” Well, I want you to know today that you can’t move beyond Christianity without abandoning it. There are those who say, “Well you know I want to add to it.” You can’t add to it without subtracting from it. You say, “Well, I want to combine it with other religions,” and you can’t combine it with other religions unless you totally, completely misunderstand it. There is no one else out there.
Alexander Severus was one of the Roman emperors. And by the way, we were in Rome this summer and if you’ve ever gone to Rome and seen the Pantheon it’s really worth the price of the ticket just to be there. The Pantheon is one of the oldest buildings in Rome and it goes back to the first and early second century. It’s unbelievable in its construction and it was the one that housed all of the Roman gods. If you wanted to buy something there was a god. If you wanted to sell something there was a god. Some of those gods later made their way into Christendom.
And then when Severus came along he said, “You know, there’s been too much persecution of the Christians. Too many of them are being thrown to the lions. Let’s give tolerance to Christianity and let’s do the Christians a favor and put a statue of Jesus in the Pantheon.” And he thought all of the Christians would say, “Great! We have finally arrived. Jesus is in the Pantheon with other gods!”
What did the Christians say? They said, “No, take Him out. You are not doing us a favor. You don’t put Jesus in the Pantheon with other gods. He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords. There is none other like Him. You do not identify Him and put Him on the same shelf.” There’s an unbridgeable gap.
I was on a radio interview one time and this person said, “You know, I think what you believe is essentially what I believe,” and he was giving a works religion. And I said, “No,” and I exaggerated a little bit but I wanted to get his attention and I said, “I want you to know that the gap between you and me is infinite and unbridgeable and any hint of similarity is a total misunderstanding of what I am saying.” Wow! It was my way of helping him to say, “You know, I’m not saying what you think I’m saying.” The gap is unbridgeable.
Secondly, in our witness we must always point people to Jesus. We must give them to Jesus quickly. Now how does this work out? I’ve had this happen so many times and I look forward to it happening. You are on a plane maybe, and somebody asks, “What do you do?” And they like to ask me that and I always say that I am a minister. And then they want to find out (you know) which franchise. Who are you working for? (laughter)
And then I always ask them “If you were to die today and God were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven, what would you say?’” And I would say that nine out of ten times it is something like this. “Well, I figure as long as I’m a good person….” Now what I usually do is play with that a little bit. I always say, “Well how good do you think you have to be? What if God’s standards are a little higher than you think they are? What if He demands absolute, total perfection (which is, of course, what He does, but most people don’t know that; they think that they can slip under with a C+.)?
One time I said to a man, “What is your opinion?” He said, “There’s no question that if you do the best you can you can get into heaven.” I said, “Well, if that’s true we certainly have to get this message out.” I said, “I’m on the radio. I write.” I said, “Maybe we could do something to get this message to the masses.” He was very impressed. I said, “But before I do that I do have a question I need to ask you.” And he said, “What is the question?” I said, “How do you know?” “Why,” he said, “that’s just my opinion.” And I playfully took my pencil and threw it in the air and I said, “Don’t you realize that you are speaking on behalf of God? Only God would know what His requirements were so I thought you were going to tell me that you had a revelation from God. How else could we possibly know what the requirements are unless God were to tell us?” And he said, “Well, why is your opinion better than mine?” And I said, “Of course it isn’t.” I said, “We’re all like ants on a Rembrandt painting, seeing the roughness of the canvas and the change of color beneath our feet, but we have no idea what the whole painting is about. We don’t have the wisdom to put it together.” I said, “Do you know what we really need?” and by then he was all ears. I said, “We really need somebody who knows God who can bridge the gap, somebody who can speak on behalf of God and is qualified to do so to help us solve the question of how God could be known and what the requirements are for heaven.” I got him immediately after that to Jesus.
I don’t know if I told you this story or not. I remember vividly a woman sitting next to me who was a member of a liberal main-line church denomination. And she said, “One thing is sure.” Now when you see an older woman (and she must have been considerably older than I am and we’re just talking generalities here) and she knows something, having lived that long, for sure, I am all ears. I want to know what it is that you know for sure in a world where there’s so little that we know for sure. She knows for sure that there isn’t a hell because God would never send anyone to hell. She said, “Of that we can be confident.”
Again, you always smile. Remember that. And I said to her, “Do you realize the predicament that you are putting me in?” I said, “Do you have any idea of the dilemma? You know you are pushing me into a corner here. Do you realize what you are doing? You are really forcing me here to make a decision.” She said, “Oh really?” I said, “Yes, big time, because my question now is, ‘Do I go with you or do I go with Jesus who spoke more about hell than He did heaven? So I’m facing a decision here, lady. You’ve really put me in a corner.” I said, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings but you know what? I’m going with Jesus.”
Are you all with me this morning or am I alone up here? (laughter and applause)
I say to you university and college students with all of the political correctness, “Flunk out but witness for Jesus.” You have a higher calling than to pass your exams and to get a degree. And I say to you who are working in universities and hospitals and factories and banks – wherever God has planted you – witness for Jesus even if it costs you a promotion. There are thousands and tens of thousands of people who have given a lot more than that because of Jesus, who have laid down their lives and they are our heroes and we look to them and we say, “What price can I pay to witness for Christ?” and “I am delighted to pay any price for Jesus,” because there is something more important than this world. I’ll tell you. There’s nobody else out there like Him.
Many years ago when the first President Bush was president (the elder Bush) I was in Washington, D.C. and I was teaching a seminar and preaching in a Sunday church service, and a secret service agent came to me later and said, “You know the president is out of town because it’s the Memorial day weekend, and I could take you into the Oval Office tomorrow if you and your daughters came on Monday.” And he told me where we could meet, and I’ll tell you something. This farm boy was not going to say no to that opportunity. Do you ever notice that there are some things you don’t even have to pray about? You just somehow know that this is God’s will. (laughter)
So we showed up Monday morning where the guards were. I was with two of my daughters. Rebecca and our youngest daughter were not able to come along. And so my daughter, Lori, opened her purse for the secret service agents who were there (the guards) and he never even looked in it. He said, “Well, aren’t you with him?” and he pointed to the secret service agent. She said, “Yes,” and he said, “Well, just go on in.”
Now when you get to the door of the White House there are more guards. They looked at us. They looked at the secret service agent, and they said, “You’re with him? Just go on in.” When you get into the White House in one of the hallways, as I remember, there are more guards and a metal detector, and I remember we set it off because we had umbrellas with us. And they said, “Oh, you’re with him? Just go on in.”
And then as you are walking along the hallway finally you can already just barely, out of the corner of your eye, see the Oval Office with just one more guard standing there at the door. He looked at us. He looked at the agent, and he said, “You can go on in.” Now we couldn’t go to the president’s desk, but we could just step inside the Oval Office.
Now I want you to imagine something, and since 9-11 it is easier to imagine this than it used to be. But let us suppose that we all died together in some great calamity, and we as believers now discover that Jesus is on the other side of the curtain to take us all the way to the Father. That’s our destination – the Father. And so as we are going along I want you to visualize that there are sentries - angels that are posted as guards that are posted all the way to the heavenly city. So we come to the first group of angels and they look at Jesus, and they look at us, and they say, “You are with Him? Go on in.” (applause)
And then we get to another group of angels and they look at Jesus and they look at us and they say, “You’re with Him? Just go on in.” And then in the distance we now see God for the first time. The Bible says that God dwells in unapproachable light, and now for the first time we see the Almighty in His beauty and His holiness and He is more holy than we ever visualized Him to be. His grandeur is more beautiful that we imagined, and then we begin to think of the sins that we committed on earth, and we have flashbacks because among us there are those guilty of sexual sins. There are those who stole. There are those who destroyed the lives of others. There are those who, before their conversion, were into alcoholism and drugs, an awful thing. And so we all say to ourselves, “We can’t go in. We can’t go in. We just can’t go in,” because now we see Him in His glory and it’s so much more than we thought it was on earth.
But there’s an angel who says to us, “You’re with Him? You go on in.” (applause) And we gather together as a great company of believers and now the Father is speaking to the Son. And the Father says to the Son, “Thank you so much for bringing My children home because I love them so much and I want to be with them. I love them in fact as much as I love You. Thank you.” And then the Father says to the Son, “And furthermore I have investigated them all very, very carefully, and I find no fault in them.” (applause)
You see, friends, that’s why we sing, “Clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” That is the Gospel, and Jesus is the only One that can do it.
“Oh Jesus, show us the Father. Take us to the Father.”
“I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Our Father, today we want to thank You that the issue is not the greatness of our sin. The issue is the beauty of the righteousness that You give to repentant sinners who trust You. And therefore we thank You that no matter who has been listening, no matter what their sins or their past has been, that is not the issue. The issue is whether they will believe in a Savior who is able to save and to take them all the way to the Father. We ask today, Father, that many will do it whether in this sanctuary or listening by other means. Draw people today, Father, we pray.
And now before I close this I want you to pray, skeptic that you are, filled with excuses. What is your excuse now for not believing in Jesus? Would you open your life to Him and say, “Okay, Jesus, you win this one. I receive You as mine. I acknowledge my sinfulness, and I trust You as the only qualified Savior. I embrace You today.”
Say that to Him right now.
Father, do as long a work in the lives of those who have been listening as You need to do, till they have embraced You as Savior, and have come to full assurance of faith, because the more we believe in Jesus, the more certain we are. Grant that we ask, oh God. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.