People aren’t offended by Christianity as long as you leave your faith in a stain glassed enclosure and dare not bring into public discourse any element of your faith. There is an ambivalent attitude amongst many that while everyone has the right to believe as they want…that somehow we shouldn’t share the gospel message lest we offend them. They have been baptized into a political correctness that cripples a believers freedom of speech.
The disciples experienced great persecution for their message. With the exception of the apostle John, most died premature deaths. Even John was boiled in oil likely receiving third degree burns that would have been excruciatingly painful. Their message was a call to radical discipleship instead of mere religious affiliation.
Yet, today Christians are expected to keep their faith to themselves. Someone has compared it to the old hair gel commercial. Back in the 1970s, there was a marketing campaign for Brylcreem that used the catchphrase “a little dab’ll do ya”. As long as a person gives a bare nod to their Christian faith then no one seems to mind too much. But, allow your faith to be the clarion call to radical discipleship that Jesus issued and as they say “game on”.
The committed born again Christian today will likely be accused of bigotry, narrow mindedness and he will be accused of claiming to be a victim. Today’s politically correct world prefers to think of Christianity as merely an option on the buffet table of life. They want to view the Christian belief system as standing shoulder to shoulder with other religions. The popular view is that there are many roads to heaven and that we are all God’s children.
This ‘group hug’ mentality snubs a person that would say that the Christian faith is the only way to heaven. In the late 1980s, I heard Tony Campolo at a James Robison Bible Conference and related a conversation he had on a flight to Philadelphia. He said it was a late night flight where he really just wanted to sleep and not carry on any meaningful conversation.
When he first settled into his airline seat, the man next to him asked him what he did for a living. Campolo said depending on whether he wants to talk or not depends on how he answered that question. Having authored several books, if he wants to talk Campolo would say that he is an author. But, if he didn’t want to talk he would say he is a minister and often people would suddenly grow silent.
Wanting badly to catch some sleep, Campolo mentioned that he is a pastor. The man responded by saying, “Well, you wanna know what I believe?” Campolo snidely remarked to himself that he could hardly wait to hear the man’s response. The new found conversationalist said, “I believe there are many roads into heaven. It doesn’t matter which one you take as long as you get there.” Campolo responded and said, “That’s nice” and leaned back and shut his eyes to get the long anticipated nap.
Towards the end of the flight Dr. Campolo awakened when he had that feeling that the aircraft was in a circular pattern awaiting clearance to land. With no warmup to reignite the conversation, he said, “You know I am glad that air traffic controller doesn’t believe like you do.” His neighbor seemed shocked and said, “What do you mean by that?”
Campolo said, “I am glad that controller isn’t telling the pilot that there are many routes into the Philadelphia airport. It doesn’t really matter which one you take as long as you get here in the end.” Campolo continued, “I am glad he is telling him which runway to land on which will tell the pilot which azimuth will get him there.”
In just a few sentences, the famous preacher nailed the essence of the gospel message. God came in the flesh and walked this earth to provide a way of salvation to mankind. Jesus Christ was brutally beaten and given a death sentence for a purpose. Christ’s death and resurrection weren’t just to give mankind an option. He didn’t say, “And, if you don’t like this plan just make one up that will fit your lifestyle.”
There are people who claim to be a Christian that will not take a firm stand that there is only one to heaven. I certainly am not in a position to judge their salvation and proclaim whether I will see them in heaven. But, I would question a persons understanding of the gospel message that would purport that there are other routes to salvation. Belief in Jesus Christ should equate to believing His words without second guessing. Although we may have trouble comprehending such a parochial statement by Christ, we should rest assured that what He said…He meant. In John 14:6, Jesus boldly said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
It’s important to understand what truly happened on that rocky hill outside of Jerusalam the day Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t merely a religious zealot being put to death. Jesus wasn’t merely another whacko starting a new religion. He wasn’t like the parade of people through the annals of history that have established a plan B or plan C.
A judicial decision made by man caused Jesus to drag a cross up the Via Dolorosa so the Romans could nail him to the familiar crossbeam. But, a far greater judicial decision occurred that day. The Bible is very clear that sin separated man from true fellowship with God. After the fall of man, there was a deep stain of scarlet upon every person who ever lived. The indictment of sin separated man from God with a huge chasm.
In the life of Israel, the Jews were used to a sacrificial system that was never ending. Millions of goats, lambs, bullocks and other animals were sacrificed in order for man or woman to have their sins temporarily appeased. Once a year, a scapegoat would be offered with the High Priest laying his hands upon the head of a goat to symbolize laying the sins of the people on the goat’s head. The animal would then be sent into the wilderness to indicate that sin could not stay in the presence of God. Likewise, because the sins of the people would be laid upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ, he was forced outside of the gates of Jerusalem much like a goat would be in that once a year ceremony.
Within the temple, there was a very thick curtain or drapery that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. Only the high priest was allowed behind that veil and only during certain times of the year. Tradition says that he wore small bells on his priestly garment and had a rope tied around his leg. In the event the bells could no longer be heard it was assumed the high priest had committed an error in the ritual and had dropped dead. He could be pulled out of the Holy of Holies by that rope because no one could enter that area without being a high priest. This further illustrated God’s holiness and man’s inability to make himself holy enough to be in God’s presence.
The Bible records that at Jesus’ death the mighty veil was torn in two clearly announcing that the sin of man had been atoned. Jesus Christ’s death and shedding of blood had paid the ultimate price. He had ransomed us. He had paid the price by being the consummate sacrifice. No longer would man have to gain even temporary absolution for his sins by the killing of innocent animals.
Immediately after his death, the disciples were confused. They still didn’t quite ‘get the message’ of Jesus Christ. But, after he was raised from the dead there were Jesus sightings. After his ascension into Heaven there came the day of Pentecost where the Comforter Jesus had predicted came and empowered the disciples. The church was established that day. The disciples then began to congregate, contemplate and celebrate the risen Savior.
Its not popular to say this…but, there is no other absolution for sin that God accepts. There is no other plan. It is the height of arrogance and error for a Mohammed or a Joseph Smith or any other ‘Johnny-Come-Lately’ to arrive on the scene and say they have a better way. In Galatians 1:8, Paul warns the church that if anyone comes along preaching a different gospel that they are to be accursed.
Any other religious system is a counterfeit. It may have some resemblance to Christianity. But, in most cases it is always a system of beliefs that demands certain measures of allegiance. It will be certain types of prayers, certain acts of contrition or certain beliefs outside of the Scriptures that a person must adhere to in order to gain favor with the deity they espouse. In the case of Islam and Mormonism which I referenced, one example of their errors are a system that focuses on a man’s sexual urges. Both of those systems offer a reward that is very carnal in nature. The Muslim faith speaks of a man having 70 virgins in their heaven. Mormonism likewise speaks of a heaven that would offer up a reward system that plays to a man’s sexual longings.
For the born again Christian, there is no list of accomplishments that one must perform in order to gain favor with God. But, by the very conversion experience a Christian becomes a new person. Christ indwells the Christian. Therefore, when a Christian congregates with other believers to celebrate the risen Christ, he does so not out of obligation but because of his very nature. When a Christian prays, it should not be because they are trying to please God. They should be entering into a time of prayer because they have a thirst to spend time in contemplation and communication with the person they love.
Marriage between a man and woman is a beautiful picture of this natural relationship a born again Christian has with God. A husband in love with his wife shouldn’t spend time with his wife out of obligation. But, time spent with someone’s spouse should be a very natural response to their love for each other. If it becomes something that is performed out of obligation, that in itself is an indicator of a problem in the relationship. The problem could be an overt one due to split allegiances. Possibilities include a marital affair, an addiction to pornography or maybe something seemingly tamer like a higher allegiance to ones occupation, an infatuation with sports or other factors that have stolen the intimacy from a marriage.
In the same manner, a Christian who no longer feels the joy of their salvation has some indications that things have gotten in the way of their intimacy with Jesus Christ. For the born again Christian, their sins have been forever forgiven by the blood of Christ. Yet, their natural state based upon a supernatural conversion should be one that longs to be in the presence of God.
We live in a world where independence is cherished. The gospel message of Jesus Christ is a message of subjection and surrender. Christianity is unlike any other faith system. The very essence of Christianity is that man cannot do a single thing to earn God’s favor. God had a plan. And, that’s the ‘main rub’. A politically correct world asks that all faith systems stand equal to each other.
It is offensive to say that there is only one way to heaven. But, Jesus said it would be that way. The Bible says that Christianity will be a rock of offense and will be rejected by many. Jesus said that narrow would be the way to salvation and few there would be that would find it. But, many would follow the road to destruction.