Jesus’ Claims Force Black and White Choices
Results of research on religious trends in America by Barna Research Group estimate that 85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, but only 7% actually embrace beliefs and practices that coincide with the Bible and the teachings and example of Jesus.
One criticism leveled at American Christians is that most of them don’t even know much about the Bible. But I would suggest that perhaps not everyone who refers to themselves as Christians are really in the faith. Today we have people referring to themselves as Christians who actually believe a hodge-podge of religious ideas, much of which has no basis in the holy scriptures.
For example, many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ believe that He was simply a good moral teacher who was one of the many ways to God, and who never claimed anything different. Yet that belief is in stark contrast to what Jesus claimed. Jesus Christ actually claimed to be the one and only way to God. In His own words, He said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father,” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man can come to the Father [God] except through me” (John 14:6,9). In other words, Jesus literally proclaimed Himself to be the manifestation of God clothed in human flesh, and the only way for sinful man to reconciled to God.
Jesus also said that the way to destruction is broad and many are on that path, but the way to life is narrow, and few are those who find it (Matthew 7:13-14). Thus, while the invitation to eternal life is open to everyone, Jesus said that only a minority of people will find that way.
The teachings and claims of Jesus actually fly in the face of what most of our culture believes, that all paths lead to the same God.
So if we are to take an intellectually honest approach to Jesus and spirituality, we are forced to grapple with the claims of Jesus as being the Son of God and the one and only way to salvation, because either Jesus was the only way to salvation or He wasn’t. It’s as simple as that. As author Josh McDowell points out in his classic book, More than a Carpenter, if Jesus was not the only way to salvation, He was either a liar and a charlatan, or He was a lunatic. If Jesus knew He wasn’t the only way to the Father as He claimed, then He was a liar and a charlatan, and certainly not worthy to be regarded a good moral teacher who represented one of the many ways to God. If Jesus was deranged and had delusional visions of grandeur of being the Son of God, then that, too, would invalidate Him as a legitimate religious figure worthy of anyone’s worship or devotion. But nearly all historians and theologians agree that Jesus was neither a lunatic nor a charlatan. But if he was neither, then that leaves us with only one other option: He was exactly who He claimed to be, the one and only way to the Father, the Messiah, and the only way to salvation.
But the suggestion that Jesus was the one and only way to reconciliation with God, and that He was, indeed, a miraculous manifestation of God wrapped in flesh is exactly what rankles many people. They say that this represents narrow-mindedness and elitism. But folks, I’m not the one who said this. Jesus said it! We can either accept it, or reject it. But it is simply not intellectually honest for a person to say that he or she is a Christian yet embrace many other religious philosophies at the same time. After all, if two philosophies have opposing ideas, they can’t both be right.
In considering the breathtaking claims of Jesus, here are the intellectually honest choices we have before us: We can either believe the Bible that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man and accept that claim on faith, worshipping no other, or we can embrace the all-paths-lead-to-God philosophy but leave Jesus out of it. Again, if Jesus isn’t the only way to God, then His claims are false, which places Him in the category of either a lunatic or a liar. Do you want to worship a lunatic or a liar? But that’s the choice we are left with if we believe that this Jesus, who claimed to be God in flesh and the only way to salvation, was, in fact, not who He claimed.
So then, if only 7% of people claiming to be Christian embrace beliefs and practices that are consistent with the Bible, we can assume that probably the vast majority of people claiming to be Christian have only a very vague idea of what Jesus taught and claimed. Thus, since they don’t even know what and who they are claiming to worship, they do not fit the Biblical criteria for a follower of Jesus Christ. We must come to grips with the fact that the Bible claims to be the exclusive and inspired Word of God, and Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation. And that is one reason why the Bible is hated and Christians are persecuted all across this planet. So those historic claims force a choice: Believe Jesus and the Bible alone, or reject them entirely. There is no in between.
Yes, the claims are very exclusive, but the invitation is open to everyone who would simply take it on faith.
But why would God choose only one way for mankind to be reconciled to Him?
It’s because our willful rebellion against God as a race required a substitutionary sacrifice, one where God makes a way of salvation that is dependent upon faith alone, not our ability to cross every T and dot every I of a written code. So Jesus took the penalty of mankind’s sin upon Himself so that all who would trust in Him would be declared “NOT GUILTY” by the Great Judge of the Universe. And this is something only the Son of God could do. The scriptures tell us that there is only ONE name under heaven and earth whereby we must be saved, and that name is Jesus! Buddha didn’t die for our sins. Mohammad didn’t die for our sins. Nor did Krishna or any other religious figure in history. Only Jesus, the spotless, sinless sacrificial Lamb of God willfully died a criminal’s death on a cross of crucifixion in order to reconcile mankind to God. Those who trust in Him as their scapegoat are exonerated from their sins. Those who choose to reject that gift must continue to bear the weight of their sins.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The deal of a lifetime….indeed, of eternity!
(See Romans 3 in the Bible for more.)