Robert Jeffress - Why Every Other Religion Is Wrong?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. No one likes to admit to being wrong. Sometimes our mistakes are relatively harmless, like when we misquote a fact, or when our memory of an event gets a little fuzzy. But sometimes the stakes are much, much higher, and we can't afford to get it wrong. Well, there's nothing more important than our eternal destiny. And today I'm going to show you why Christianity is the only right answer. My message is titled "Why Every Other Religion is Wrong," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Several years ago, I was in Seattle, Washington, and finishing up a book tour there. I'd been in four cities in three days, and was very anxious to get back home. And having finished the interviews early, I called the airline to see if it's just possible that I could get out on an earlier flight. Finally, after seven hours of waiting in the Seattle airport, I finally found an empty seat on a plane. It was the one I was originally booked on, at five o'clock that afternoon. And so I walked on, I plopped down in my seat, exhausted of the day of waiting. And as soon as I got in my seat, and pulled out the in-flight magazine, the guy next to me decided he wanted to talk. And so he asked me the question. He said, "What do you do for a living"?
Now how I answer that question depends on how much I want to talk. If I've got a briefcase filled with work, and don't want to engage in conversation, I answer, "I'm a preacher". And if I really don't want to talk, I say, "I'm a Southern Baptist preacher". Trust me, that is a conversation stopper every time, nobody wants to talk. As I thought about the day's activity, and the fact that I'd tried to get on another plane, but couldn't, I thought, "Maybe, just maybe, God has me on this flight, seated next to this person for a reason". And so when he asked the question, "What do you do for a living"? I said, "Well, I'm a writer," and that certainly was partially true. And he said, "Well, that's interesting. What kind of books do you write"? I said, "Well, I write Christian books". He said, "Well, that's very interesting, because I used to be a Christian".
For the next four hours, as we winged our way from Seattle to Dallas, my new friend shared with me the reasons that he abandoned Christianity. Part of his reasons included unanswered prayer in his own life, problems he had believing in the truthfulness of the scriptures, a broken marriage. But finally, we got to the heart of his objection to the Christianity. He said, "Pastor, I just cannot believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Because if that claim is true, then it means the majority of people in the world are going to hell, and I cannot believe in a God who's that intolerant". In just a couple of sentences, my seatmate voiced the mother of all politically incorrect statements that Christians hold in today's world. It's the belief that Jesus himself is the only way to be saved, and therefore, every other religion is wrong.
Today, as we continue our series on "Politically Incorrect," we're going to look at the first of these seven truths, we're going to be examining outrageous truths, politically incorrect truths, but truths that are centered in the Word of God. What is it about this claim that Christ is the only way to heaven that causes people to reject Christianity, or causes the blood to boil of talk show hosts? Well, to be fair, today, as we look at this first of seven politically incorrect statements, I thought it would be only fair to lay out five of the most common objections people have to this idea that Christ is the only way to be saved.
And I bet if you've ever shared your faith with somebody, and made this claim in a friendship, or in the classroom at school, you've heard one, if not all of these objections. Why do people object to this idea of exclusivity? Objection number one, write it down on your outline, people say, "You are being intolerant. If you claim that Jesus is the only way to be saved, you are being intolerant". In today's culture, the greatest evil is not to murder, or to rape, or to deal drugs. The greatest evil in today's culture is to claim to be right about anything. And likewise, the greatest virtue in our culture is what is called tolerance.
Now today, the term tolerance has undergone a radical transformation. Number of years ago, my grandmother, who is now in heaven, wrote a poem that was widely published, entitled "A plea for tolerance". Now, according to my grandmother, and people who lived in her era, tolerance simply meant a respect for other people's right to believe what they want to believe. And certainly none of us here today would argue with that idea of tolerance. We ought to respect people's right to believe whatever they want to believe. People have the right to be wrong, but we ought to give them that right.
And by the way, our nation was founded on that principle of tolerance, because it reflects the nature of God. God gives us the freedom to believe whatever we want to believe. We have the freedom to believe a lie, and to be wrong if we want to. That's a freedom God affords us. But today the word tolerance, as I said, has undergone a metamorphosis. Today, we have changed tolerance to mean a respect for everybody's right to believe what he wants to believe, to this idea that all beliefs are equally valid.
Now I want you to think how ridiculous that is, to claim that all ideas, all opinions, are equally valid. Let's suppose it's a Monday morning, and a teacher is returning tests that she has graded over the weekend to her students. It's a geography test. And as she pass out the completed exams, one student looks and notices that he got all the questions right, except question number 10. Question number 10, what is the capital of New York? And he writes down New York City. And so he raises his hand and he said, "I think you made a mistake, teacher. You counted my answer as wrong". And she said, "Well, it is wrong. The capital of New York is Albany". And the student says, "That's your opinion, but that's not my opinion". And then he turns around to his class, and says, "Class, how many of you thought New York City was the capital of New York"? Half of the class raises their hands. And he turns to the teacher and says, "Now, why do you think your opinion is more important than our opinion"?
Little bit later in the class, the same student raises his hand. He says, "Teacher, it's too hot in here. Would you turn down the thermostat"? And the teacher says, "Well, that's your opinion. But I think the temperature is just right". Now in that instance, who's right about the temperature? Obviously no one is right, there is no objective standard for what the right temperature should be. But there is an objective standard of truth for what the right capital of New York is.
Now I want you to stay with me here, all major religions answer the question: what must I do to be right with God? But what our culture has done is we have taken the answer to that question, and moved it from the realm of objective truth, that has a correct answer, we have moved that to the realm of subjective truth, like room temperature, to which everybody's opinion is equally valid. And whenever we, as Christians, attempt to shift it back to the realm of objective truth, there is one answer, we are called intolerant. And that leads to the second objection that people have to this idea of the exclusivity of Christ, and that is the objection that exclusivity promotes hatred. That is if you claim that there is only one way to God, not only are you being intolerant, but you're actually being hateful and persecuting other people.
Why is it that the quest for truth has been replaced by the quest for tolerance? Why is tolerance the most important virtue today? It's because of the unquestioned assumption that somehow truth leads to hatred. You see, Christians have bought, hook, line, and sinker, this assumption that exclusivity leads to persecution and hatred. But is that contingent logical? I want you to imagine for just a moment that you have a small child at home, the child has an uncontrollable cough, running a high fever. You take your child to the doctor, the doctor looks at the child and says, "Well, your child has pneumonia". And you say, "Oh no, no, no no no, my child doesn't have pneumonia". And the doctor says, "Yes, your child has pneumonia". And you say, "Well, what makes you think your opinion's better than my opinion"? And the doctor says, "Well, I've seen hundreds of cases of pneumonia. Your child has all of the symptoms, and the only way your child is going to get well is by taking a round of antibiotics".
Now, is that doctor being hateful when he says that your child is sick? Is he being hateful, when he says there is only one way for your child to get well? Of course not. In fact, he's showing love toward you and your child by correctly diagnosing the problem, and prescribing the only way that that problem can be remedied. Ladies and gentlemen, when we say to people, "Christ is the only way to be saved," don't let people push you into believing that's being hateful. If indeed all people are lost without Christ, and in danger of spending eternity in hell without Christ, the most loving thing we can do is to share the gospel with them. Obviously this idea that exclusivity promotes hatred is seriously flawed.
Objection number three people had to exclusivity, that is how could so many people be wrong? That is, if Jesus is the only way to be saved, what about the billions of people who have never trusted in Christ? How could so many people be wrong? By the way, that argument has particular appeal to those of us in the western culture, who accept this notion that the majority is right, and the minority is wrong. And therefore this idea that the majority have rejected Christ, that has certain appeal to us. Charles Templeton, the former preaching colleague of Billy Graham, who turned into a agnostic, summarizes the argument this way. "Christians," he says, "Are a small minority in the world. Approximately four out of every five people on the face of the earth believe in Gods, other than the Christian God. The more than five billion people who live on earth revere or worship more than 300 Gods. Are we to believe that only Christians are right"?
Now, let me help Templeton make his point even more forcefully, of the now over six billion people on our planet, more than one billion are Muslims, 650 million are Hindus, 300 million are Buddhist, and over 200 million are followers of Chinese folk religions. Only about 25% of the world's population is labeled Christian, and many of those only because they, quote, "Live in a Christian country". The percentage of true followers of Christ is much smaller than that. So we're saying compared to billions and billions of people that this minuscule number of people who have ever lived, that we are the only ones who are right. How could so many sincere people be wrong?
I want you to turn in your Bible to Matthew 7. Let's see how Jesus weighed in on this question. Matthew 7:13-14, as we're going to see in this passage, Jesus, in fact, predicted that the majority of people in the world are going to be wrong, not right, about the way of salvation. Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. But the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it". Do you hear what the Lord is saying? The highway that leads to hell is a wide road, and most people in the world are on that road. The road that leads to heaven is a very narrow road, and few are those who ever even find that road. Jesus predicted that the majority of people will spend eternity in hell, not in heaven. But as jarring as such a thought is, even more jolting as the idea that many of those who are in hell will be religious people.
Notice what he says again in verse 21, he says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father, who is in heaven. For many will say to me on that day, the Judgment Day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name, cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles'? And then I will declare to them, 'i never knew you. Depart from me you who practice lawlessness'". Many people who will be consigned to an eternity in hell will be religious people, who miss the way of salvation. And hear me on this, when people raise this point, when they say, "Don't you realize that if what you're saying is true, the majority of people in the world, billions and billions, are going to be in hell forever"?
They expect us to kind of hang our head down, and say, "Oh gee, I never thought of that before. You must be right. Obviously such a thought is too terrible to ever comprehend. You win the argument". But what I want to suggest to you this morning is the fact that the majority of people are going to miss the way to heaven doesn't negate the truth of exclusivity, it proves it, because Jesus predicted it. And hear me on this, if Jesus Christ was right in his prediction of the number of people who will be in hell, isn't it logical that Jesus Christ is all also right in his prescription of how to escape hell, through faith in him? Oh, this fact that the majority of people will miss heaven undergirds, it doesn't negate the truth of exclusivity.
A fourth objection that many people make to this idea of Jesus being the only way to be saved is, quote, "All religions teach basically the same thing. All religions teach basically the same thing," so why do you have to say your religion is the only right religion? Religions in the world today, first of all, are the result of manmade invention. People have rejected the truth of God that Paul says is even available through nature. They have rejected that truth, and replaced it with a truth of their own creation. If somebody once said, "In the beginning, God created man in his own image. And ever since that time, man has been trying to return the favor".
All religions are an attempt of man to create God in his own image. And the fact that there are so many religions in the world today are testimony to the sinfulness of man and his rejection of the truth. But there's a second explanation for the world religions today, not only man's invention, but Satan's deception, Satan's deception. We don't have time to look at the passage, jot down Psalm 106:36-37. The Psalmist says that the Gods that Israel was sacrificing to, the false Gods, were not in fact Gods. Behind every one of those false Gods was a demon, a demon used to deceive Israel from following after the true God.
Now I know this is not going to be popular to say, but it's God's truth, behind every major religion in the world, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, behind every one of those religions is a demon, a demon that Satan has sent in order to deceive people, and lead them from the truth. And just because that religion has a respectable name attached to it, even though it has some nice thoughts associated with it, remember, the Bible says Satan appears as an angel of light to deceive some. And the way you deceive people is mixing a lot of error with just a little bit of truth. And that's how Satan works in world's religions today. No, the number of religions in the world is not a testimony of man's sincere looking for God. It is a testimony of his sinfulness.
"But pastor, even if there are all of these religions, don't they all teach the same thing basically"? As Ravi Zacharias points out, "Anybody who says that betrays a lack of understanding of the world religions today, because they're different". For example, Hinduism worships over 300 Gods, and he identifies man's chief problem is a failure to recognize the divine being that we all are. And thus, the only way to break this endless cycle of birth, and life, and death, is to practice the four yogas, and realize our deity within.
A Buddha, by the way, was a dissatisfied follower of Hinduism. And he decided he wanted to create his own brand name religion. So he decided that man's chief problem was his quest for fame, and to pleasure, and self-actualization, and that the only way to break that craving for more and more was to enter the restful state of nirvana by practicing the noble eightfold path. Islam, as you know, was developed in the 7th century ad, it rejects polytheism and worships one God, it just happens to be the wrong God. By the way, Allah is not Jehovah God. They are different Gods. And Islam says the way to this false God is by keeping a set of laws, and if you just keep these laws, you can work your way to Allah. Judaism, on the other hand, is also a monotheistic religion, but it says the way to God, a different God, is by keeping the law, a different law.
Now listen to me, only Christianity says that the way to God is not through what we do for God, but through what God has done for us. It's not our works for God, it's God's work for us in sending Christ to die for us. Ladies and gentlemen, all the religions of the world are not the same. And that leads to perhaps the most prevalent objection to exclusivity, and I bet you've heard it before, "It is unfair for God to send people to hell just because they haven't believed in Jesus". Haven't you heard that before? It's unfair for God to send people to hell, just because they haven't believed in Jesus. After all, Acts 17:26 tells us God is the one who determines where we live our lives. He sets the boundaries, whether we're born in America, or India, or Africa. Acts 17:26 says God determined that.
Now, if God has placed somebody in an area where the gospel has never been preached, how in the world could God be justified in sentencing someone to hell, just because they've never believed in Jesus? As Clark Pennick said in his objection to this idea of exclusivity, Clark Pennick added, he said, "To think, here are people in a third world country who have spent all their life suffering, and now we're saying they're going to spend all eternity suffering, just because they haven't had an opportunity to believe". But adding insult to injury, Christians who believe the Bible are not only saying that those who have never trusted in Christ are going to spend eternity separated from God.
We're also saying that a person who lives a wicked Godless, immoral life, all of his life, and at the very last moment trust in Christ as Savior, is going to spend eternity in heaven, how could that be? Admittedly, such a position does seem preposterous. How can we say that with a straight face, that somebody who has led a Godless life, and at the last minute, trust in Christ, is going to heaven? While a sincere, practicing follower of another religion, who loves his family, who keeps the commands as best he can, he's going to spend eternity in hell, how can we say that?