Robert Jeffress - How Do I Know Christianity Is The Right Religion?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In our pluralistic society, people from all walks of life are invited to participate in Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and everything in between. And while we certainly celebrate religious freedom and tolerance, not all religions are equally valid. So why do so many people insist that there are multiple paths to God? And what are the implications of embracing that belief? We're answering the question, how can I know Christianity is the right religion, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
You may remember that during the 2012 presidential primaries there were two men running for president, both of whom were of the Mormon faith. And it was after a political event in Washington, D.C. that I was surrounded by a group of reporters from the various networks and asked the question, "What do you think about Mormonism"? And I was very honest, I said that Mormonism is not historic Christianity. A year ago my comment sparked a national controversy over the issue of Mormonism, but a bigger issue, and that is the issue of exclusivity. You know, I wasn't surprised by the reaction from the media or even from unbelievers to my comments, but what I wasn't prepared for was the vitriolic reaction from professing Christians who could not believe that I would dare judge any other religion as being an invalid path to God.
One woman from Wisconsin wrote me this letter. She said, "I am a Christian from Wisconsin. I saw your interview on CNN today. I was saddened, angered, and appalled by your comments. It's interesting that you are a pastor, considering your sentiments go against the very tenets and teaching of the Bible, one of which is, 'thou shalt not judge'. Your beliefs are bigoted and border on racist". "Fortunately, your sentiment is a fading one, a view that is reflective of an America that was filled with hate, discrimination, and egregious acts that were all justified in the name of the Bible. Luckily, America has grown full of acceptance, forgiveness and charity, the tenets of what Jesus spoke to everyone. Lastly, even though I'm embarrassed as a Christian by your remarks, I will pray that other non-Christians recognize you for what you really are. I'm going to sic God after you and let him fix your hate-filled heart".
Now, I actually agree with that woman on one point. She is correct when she says the idea that there is only one way that God is a fading one. That is absolutely correct. People increasingly are rejecting the idea of exclusivism, that's there's only one way to God, and in fact, they are embracing inclusivism that all religions lead to God. For example, in 2011 the Barna Group commissioned a study in which they found that 40% of Americans surveyed agreed with the statement that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God no matter what they do because God loves all people he has created.
Now, you would expect that from a cross section of America, but in 2008 a poll of 35.000 Americans revealed that 57% of evangelical Christians said that they believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Now, regardless of what poll you believe, the fact is quite obvious. The majority of not only Americans but of American evangelical Christians no longer believe that Christ is the only way to be saved. Instead, they have embraced inclusivism. Is it true that all pathways lead to God and does it really matter? I wanna first of all talk this morning about the implications of inclusivism. Does it really make any difference to us personally if there's only one way to God or if there are many ways to God? I want you to consider for a second just the implications of the idea that there are many different ways to God.
First of all let's talk about it on a personal level. If in fact there are many ways to God, exactly how do I know which God of which religion I oughta worship? Should I be worshiping Allah of the Koran? Should I worship Jehovah God of the Bible? Should I worship one of the millions of gods of Hinduism? Or for that matter, does it really matter which God I worship? And how do I know which is the correct path to eternal life?
Secondly, let's think about the relational implications of inclusivism. If in fact everybody you meet is going to heaven eventually because God loves all people and wants to save all people, if everybody's going to heaven, then why would I ever make the effort to share my faith in Jesus Christ with somebody else? Why would I risk offending somebody, losing their friendship? Or a relationship with a family member if that person is eventually going to be saved anyway? And why in the world would I give my hard-earned money to support the work of the church or mission organizations that spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, why would I give money to organizations to spread one message if in fact everyone is going to be eventually saved?
But there are also spiritual implications to inclusivism. Eventually, if you accept inclusivism, that all ways point to God and to eternal life, then it sure changes your attitude about the words of Jesus Christ. Because if you believe in inclusivism, that all roads lead to heaven, that means you have to have reject some of the most basic teachings of Jesus Christ. You have to say that Jesus was in error in many of the things he taught if in fact all religions lead to God.
For example, was Jesus wrong when he said, "There is a narrow path that leads to heaven, and few are those who find that path. But there is a broad way that leads to hell and the majority of humanity is on that road". In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it".
Was Jesus being intolerant when he said in John 14:6, "I am THE way, THE truth and THE life, no man can come to the Father except by me"? Jesus said there are not multiple paths to God, he said there is one way to God and it is through me, the Lord Jesus Christ. Was Jesus being hateful when he said that everyone who rejects him and his message will be consigned to an eternity in hell? In John 3:18 Jesus said, "He who believes in him", talking about Jesus, "Is not judged. He who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God".
Ladies and gentlemen, if Jesus was in error about these key issues, how can we trust him about anything that he had to say? In his book, "is God a Christian?", Kirby Godsey, the former president of mercer university, an amazingly and appallingly a self-identified baptist, writes these words. In an interview about his book, this is what he said. Kirby Godsey said, "God is not a Christian. God is not a Jew. God is not a Hindu. God is above all of our perceptions and all of our expressions of God. This, in no way diminishes my own Christian commitment. We should never assume that the validity of the Christian tradition is dependent upon the invalidity of every other religion".
Not only do multiple paths to God diminish the Christian message, it extinguishes the Christian message because it absolutely invalidates the words of the founder of our faith, Jesus Christ. It means Jesus was absolutely in error in some of the most basic things he taught. Why is it that such an increasing number of not only Americans but evangelical Christians reject exclusivism, the idea that there can only be one way to God? I believe there are three major causes for the rejection of exclusivism in spite of what the Bible teaches.
First of all, some people erroneously conclude that exclusivism is intolerant. You know, in our society tolerance is the highest of all virtues, and intolerance is the greatest sin. In fact, to be labeled as intolerant is worse than being labeled as a drug dealer or a child molester. It is the absolutely most heinous sin in our culture to be called intolerant.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, the truth is we should celebrate tolerance. Tolerance is a virtue when it is correctly understood. The problem is our culture has traded the true definition of tolerance and has created what I call a pseudo, a false, tolerance. And this is the way tolerance, the pseudo-tolerance is defined today. To be tolerant, people say today, means that you never judge anybody's belief or behavior, that all beliefs and behaviors are equally valid. Originally tolerance meant "To allow or to permit, to recognize and respect other's beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked".
In other words, you can only truly tolerate ideas, behaviors, beliefs with which you disagree. Fundamentally, the idea of tolerance is being respectful to behavior and viewpoint that you have a strong disagreement with. You know what the best definition of tolerance I've ever heard is is this, tolerance means I respect your right to be wrong. That is genuine tolerance.
The second reason people sometimes reject exclusivism is that exclusivism is unnecessary. They say, "You don't have to claim there's only one way to God because most people don't understand the fact that all religions are basically the same". There are people out there who are claiming that, all religions are just really minor variations of the same message. The fact is, when you study the world's religions, you come to the conclusion very quickly all religions in the world are not the same. They give very contradictory claims about the very nature of God and man and the way to heaven.
For example, consider what the major religions in the world teach about God, the nature of God. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all say there is one God. Hinduism and Mormonism say there's a multiplicity of gods, millions and millions and millions of gods. Buddhism doesn't even believe in a personal God. It says God is really the sum total of all creation. Different claims about who God is.
Or secondly, look at man's problem. What is man's basic problem that keeps him from experiencing happiness and eternal life? Well, Hindus diagnose man's challenge as samsara, that is an endless cycle of birth and death and reincarnation, and it's only through understanding one's relationship to Brahman that you can break out of that endless cycle of birth, death and reincarnation.
Islam, on the other hand, teaches that man's basic problem is his failure to keep the laws of Allah as revealed in the Koran, and the only way to escape Allah's judgment is by earning enough good works and having it sprinkled with just a dash of Allah's grace, that is your only hope for escaping judgment. The Koran states, and I quote, "Those whose balance of good deeds is heavy, they will be successful, but those whose balance is light will be those who have lost their souls in hell, where they will abide".
On the other hand, Christianity declares that man's chief problem is his failure to keep God's law. But unlike Islam, Christianity says there's no amount of good works that can earn God's favor. It is only through confession and faith in Jesus Christ that our sins can be forgiven. What about the afterlife, what awaits us after we die? Again, the world religions teach something profoundly different from one another.
Hindus believe we're trapped in this endless cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation. Islam teaches that once we die then we're going to be judged by Allah. Mormons believe that the vast, vast majority of people who are living and have ever lived, the vast majority will all go to one of three heavens that await them. It's only a very small minority, they believe, that will go to something that resembles a biblical hell. But even then the Mormons say eventually they will be given a second chance to believe and all will come to repentance. Christians, on the other hand, believe that it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment, and the only way to escape God's judgment is through a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
What I'm trying to show you is the religions of the world are not the same. They make very contradictory and exclusive claims. Now, what's interesting is the founders of many of the major religions in the world, they proudly trumpet how their religion is different from, not similar to, other religions. And that's why Peter said at Pentecost in Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved".
What I want you to remember is this, the existence of various religions in the world, the millions of different religions in the world, and the intense strife between those religions is not because religions are similar to one another, it's because they are vastly different from one another. As Ravi Zacharias writes, "Every religion at its core is exclusive". The world religions teach contradictory things, not complementary truths, about the nature of God, man and the afterlife.
There's a third reason so many Christians today reject exclusivity and embrace inclusivism, and that is exclusivism is troubling, it's troubling. It is troubling, when you think about it, to believe that there is only one way to God and that people who don't find that way are going to be destined to an eternity in hell. For example, consider this fact. There are about seven billion people on planet earth right now. Seven billion people. Do you realize that only 25% of those people can be classified as Christian? By classified, I mean they're at least culturally related to the Christian faith. They're in a Christian nation, whatever that means, but only 25% of the seven billion people in the world can even be classified as Christians.
The number of true Christians is far smaller than that, but even if you accept 25% of the world is Christians, that means five billion people living on our planet right now are headed toward an eternity of hell. That's very disturbing to people. People say, I just cannot accept the fact that so many sincere religious people in the world could be so wrong and that God would consign them to hell. I mean, how do you explain so many religious people have missed the truth? How can so many sincere people be wrong?
Author Bruce Nichols helps answer that question with two truths about human beings. First of all he says human beings are insatiably religious. We are insatiably religious. By nature we are born with this innate desire to worship someone or something greater than ourselves. Where does desire to worship someone or something greater than we are come from? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says it comes from God. Solomon said God has set eternity in our hearts. Well, if that's true, then why don't people naturally follow the true God? If we are insatiably religious, why do so many people follow the wrong belief system?
Well, the second truth about human beings is human beings are not only insatiably religious we are also incurably rebellious. You and I inherited a sin nature. And part of that sin nature is this propensity we all have to reject the knowledge of the true God and his commands and replace that true God and his commands with a God of our own liking. Look at Romans 1:20-23. For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse. Do you hear what Paul is saying? All humanity, every human being that has ever lived, has been given a knowledge of God. All you have to do is look into the heavens and you can know there's someone greater than you are. The heavens tell of the glory of God.
As Dr. Ryrie says, while that knowledge is not sufficient to save us, it is sufficient if rejected to condemn us. And that's what Paul is talking about here. He's talking about the downward spiral of unbelief. He said since the creation everyone has been able to see God's invisible attributes. But what did people do with that knowledge of God? They received it and then they rejected it, look at verse 22. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and not only did they reject the knowledge of the true God, they replaced it with their own God. Verse 23, they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Why don't the majority of people in the world find the true God? The same reason a bank robber never finds a policeman. They're not looking for him. Most people don't follow and find the true God because they're hiding from him, just like Adam and Eve when they sinned. What was the first thing they did? They hid themselves from God. Many people today, even though they receive the knowledge of the true God, they have rejected that knowledge of God and his commands and replaced it with a God of their own making. That God of their own making may be some mythological deity like the other religions worship, it may be simply a self-serving philosophy that becomes their guiding force in life. But we are insatiably religious, we are incurably rebellious that is why most people don't follow the true God.
And by the way, may I remind you Jesus predicted that's exactly what would happen? In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said, the way to heaven is along a very narrow path and few are those who find it. But the way that leads to hell is filled with the majority of humanity, it is the broad way, and most people are on that road that leads to separation from God.
Now, obviously any religion can claim exclusivity. Any religion can say our religion offers the only way to God, and many do, but how do we know that Christianity is indeed the only right religion? Well, next time we're going to look at three characteristics of Christianity that separate it from all the other religions in the world, and specifically we're going to talk about five unique characteristics of Jesus Christ that separate him from any other religious leader who has ever lived.