Robert Jeffress - Sharing An Exclusive Jesus In An Inclusive World
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, welcome again to Pathway to Victory. John 3:16 says that God gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Yet some non believers, and even some Christians don't walk that verse because they feel the path to heaven is too narrow. Why shouldn't we have the freedom to reach heaven by taking whatever path we choose? Well, today, I'll show you how to help others take the road less traveled, but the only road that leads to heaven. My message is titled, "Sharing An Exclusive Jesus In An Inclusive World" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Every week, my inbox to my email is filled with all kinds of interesting questions from people. Is it alright for Christians to be cremated when they die? What about divorce and remarriage? Is that ever permissible for a Christian? Are the six days of creation in Genesis? Are those little 24 hour days are they long geologic periods? Is it permissible for Christians to drink an alcoholic beverage? Unless you think there is any unanimity on the answers to those questions, just try throwing out those questions in your next Bible study group or your group at work in the break room and watch the sparks begin to fly. I mean, people have a variety of opinions on those issues and you often ask yourself the question, how is it that Christians who are reading the same Bible are in dwelt by the same Holy Spirit of God have such a diversity of views on those topics?
We usually say well, it's because of the limitations of human understanding or culture, or a particular faith tradition in which we were raised up. That's why you have a diversity of opinion. But I think most of you would agree with me that is intriguing and perhaps even important, those questions are, they are secondary in importance to the question we're looking at in this series. And that question is, are there many ways to get to heaven when you die? Or is there only one way to get to heaven? Don't you agree with me that's the most important question of all? How do I go to heaven when I die? Well, that is what we're looking at in this series, "Not All Roads Lead To Heaven". And yet even on an essential question like that there's no unanimity of opinion even among Christians.
As we said last week, a poll of 35.000 evangelical Christians revealed that 57% of Christians say there is more than one way to heaven, other than faith in Jesus Christ. And though it's not just members of liberal churches, it's not just atheist or seculars to believe that, even some renown Christian theologians believe that, for example, C.S. Lewis whom we all read, believe that heaven will include people who have never heard of or trusted in faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote, "I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false God, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God, and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him".
Now if a renowned theologian like C.S. Lewis can get it wrong, do we need to rethink this issue of the exclusivity of Christ? Are we being too narrow when we insist that there is only one way to God through faith in Jesus Christ? That's the question we're answering in this series, who will actually be in heaven? Well, I want you to notice on your outline today that I've given four possible answers to that question of who will be in heaven.
There are two prevalent or four prevalent views today about who will be in heaven, jot down these terms because they will guide us throughout this study. First of all, universalism. Universalism is the belief that everybody eventually ends up in heaven when they die. Everybody will be in heaven, no one will be in hell, despite what the Bible says, God is not going to punish anybody, everybody will be welcomed into heaven. The second way to answer that question is through pluralism. Now pluralism restricts salvation to religious people, regardless of what that religion is. Pluralism maintains that all religions are equally valid. Universalist say everybody's going to go to heaven. Pularist narrow it a little bit and say it's only religious people who go to heaven. But it don't matter what their religion is. They would say, yeah, there's a place in hell for the drug dealers and the murderers and the rapists. But good people, religious people will go to heaven and it really doesn't matter what religion it is. They would say all religions are like different paths up the same mountain that lead to God.
Now you can understand why this view is possibly prevalent today when you look at the number of different religions in the world. Did you know according to the world Christian encyclopedia, the world is populated by 1 billion Muslims, 650 million Hindus, over 300 million Buddhists and over 200 million followers of Chinese folk religions, in addition to the 2 billion people that are classified as Christians. And by the way, today those inherence of those other religions, you don't have to go to a distant country to find them. They're living right next door to you. And that's why as this country becomes increasingly diverse, pluralism becomes increasingly popular. Do you see pluralism allows us to send really bad people to hell, the murderers, the rapist, the drug dealers, but it also allows people of all religions to go to heaven. It doesn't require us saying your religion is wrong. That's why pluralism is very popular today.
A third view of the question who will be in heaven is a view called inclusivism. Now listen to this, inclusivism holds that the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross is the only means by which people can be saved. Sounds pretty good. But inclusivism also says that a person can be saved by Christ without personally trusting in Christ. In other words, inclusivism would say, people who have never heard the Gospel before and simply believe in a revelation of God, they see somewhere in the heavens, those people get to go to heaven. They would also say people who follow other religions if it's kind of close to Jesus, and they just call Jesus by another name, those people will be in heaven as well.
The people who follow inclusivism would agree with Peter in Acts 4:12 when he said there is salvation in no one else, there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. When Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life no man comes to the father except by me. The inclusivist would say, amen, I believe that. The inclusivist believes that Christ is the means by which anybody can go to heaven, but they are also are quick to add there are people who will be in heaven who have never trusted in Christ. In other words, you can receive the gift of salvation without ever knowing who the sender of the gift is, the inclusivist say.
Now here's the problem with that view. In the Bible, the New Testament, there is always a link between salvation and personal belief. In fact, you cannot find one example in the New Testament, anybody who was saved without personally trusting in Jesus as Savior. And so that leads to the fourth view, which I believe is the biblical view of who will be in heaven, and that is exclusivism. Exclusivism is the biblical belief that salvation is limited to those who exercise personal faith in Jesus Christ. Since the time of Christ, death and resurrection, the only people who will be in heaven are those who personally hear and trust in the message of Jesus Christ.
Now, we would say there are two exceptions to that. The two exceptions would be infants and children and the second exception would be those who are mentally challenged and are incapable of accepting the Gospel. Listen to the passages in the New Testament that connect salvation with personal belief. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life". Or John 11:25-26 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life he who" what? "Believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this"? Jesus asked. Or acts 16:31 Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved you and your household" or Romans 10:9 Paul said, "If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved". Both Jesus, the apostle Paul, all of the New Testament writers said, there is no salvation apart from a personal belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, of course, that raises all kinds of troubling questions. Well, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Is it fair that God would send people to hell for rejecting the Gospel they never heard of? Or what about those who live before the time of Jesus, Abraham, Moses, David, all the Old Testament saints, they couldn't exercise faith in personal Jesus, and yet we believe they're in heaven. How could they be saved? And if they're saved why is it that God can't save people after in the New Testament time, who never personally trust in Christ as Savior. And perhaps the most troubling question of all people ask, are you telling me that a good moral muslim, who follows the tenants of his faith and lives a good life and sincerely believes in Islam, are you telling me he's going to spend eternity in hell?
While somebody like Ted Bundy, a notorious serial murderer who commits atrocities that are unspeakable, and at the last minute before his execution says he trust in Christ as Savior, and he's going to be in heaven? That's preposterous. That makes no sense at all. Again, God's word has an answer for every one of those objections. But again, the Bible teaches only those who exercise faith in Christ will be saved. Well, you may wonder what difference does it really make? As long as I trust in Jesus as my Savior, doesn't really matter if they're different roads up the same mountain that lead to God, why should I get all hot and bothered if in fact, God saves other people in other ways except through faith in Jesus Christ.
Well, today I'm going to answer that question because the fact is, if we surrender this doctrine of the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation, then there are a number of other key beliefs that we have to surrender as well. Have you ever seen a long row of dominoes? One lined up right after another and you know what happens if you topple that first domino in the long line, then other dominoes begin to fall, the next one falls and the next one falls. It's the same with the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation.
Let's imagine that is the first domino, a belief that Jesus is the only way to be saved. Behind that first domino there are six other beliefs that are toppled if that first domino is surrendered. Let me show you what they are. First of all, if we believe that they're more than one, there is more than one way to be saved. The first domino that falls behind that is the nature of truth itself.
Let me explain what I mean by that. George Barna who regularly surveys the attitudes of Christians about a variety of things found in a recent survey that 68% of adult Christians 91% of Christian teenagers reject the concept of absolute truth. What is absolute truth? Absolute truth says there are truths that apply to everybody regardless of their culture of the time in which they live. There are absolute truths. Instead, most people, most Christian teenagers and adults have instead embraced relativism.
Relativism is the belief that all truth is conditioned by time and culture. A good way to remember relativism is with this simple dictum that says, everything is right sometimes, and nothing is right every time and that embracing of relativism explains why so many Christians today believe in same sex marriage, regardless of what the Bible says. They practice adultery, they engage in unethical behavior. They bought into this idea of relativism that why you can't say something is right for everybody all the time, all truth is relative. And it's that embracing of relativism, that also explains why so many Christians are waffling on this issue of is there really only one way to heaven when we die?
I remember immediately after 9/11, several days after that there was a major church service at the national Cathedral in Washington D.C. And I remember a well known evangelical speaker who stood at the podium to comfort not only those there but the entire nation that was grieving. And he brought up the subject of Jesus Christ. I thought, oh, this is great go, go, go, go I was even silently prayed for him as he started to talk to the secular group about Jesus. And he said, Jesus, who for those of us who believe, is the Savior of the world. I thought, oh, why did you have to say that? Jesus Christ, for those of us who are Christians, is the Savior of the world? No Jesus isn't just the Savior of the world, for those of us who believe he's the Savior of the world. He's the Savior of the world for everyone. He say that is a subtle attempt at relativism.
Well, Jesus is the only way to heaven, for those who believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. You know what that's like saying? That's like saying the law of gravity applies only to those who believe in the law of gravity. Hey, guess what, if you get on top of this worship center, and decide to jump off of it, it doesn't matter whether you believe in the law of gravity or not. You can be a complete unbeliever in gravity and you're going to splatter on the concrete below. There are some truths that apply to everybody regardless of when they live, what culture they believe in, and whether they are believers or not. And that is also true when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If we surrender the exclusivity of the Gospel, the whole nature of truth itself must be surrendered as well. The second doctrine we give up is the inspiration of the Bible. The inspiration of the Bible. You know, since the beginning of time, Satan has tried to cause us to question whether or not God's word can truly be trusted. Remember what the serpent said the eve? Has God really said? Has God really said you're not to eat of this tree? Are you sure that's what God said? Are you sure you got it right? And that same attack continues today. Can you really trust what the Word of God says? Given the abundance of evidence for evolution, can you really say has God really said that God formed man out of the dust of the earth? Or given the number of people that are attracted to same sex partners, can you really say, has God really said that marriage is to be between one man and one woman? I mean, given the prevalence of different religions in the world, has gotten really said there is only one way to him through faith in Jesus Christ?
What I'm saying to you if we waffle and waver on this issue, if we surrender the issue of exclusivity, it diminishes even further the trustworthiness of the Bible itself. But third doctrine we surrender, if we surrender the doctrine of exclusivity, is the deity of Jesus Christ. Listen to me, if there is more than one way to heaven, if there are many ways to heaven, then Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. You say, well how do you come to a conclusion like that? Why does the deity of Christ stand or fall on the exclusivity of the Gospel? Well, I've just pointed out to you the number of passages in which Jesus said he is the only way to heaven. I mean, listen to some of them.
For example, in Matthew 7:14, Jesus rejected universalism, the idea that everybody is going to heaven. He said in Matthew 7:14, "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it". So he slams the door on universalism. Secondly, Jesus slammed the door on pluralism, the idea that all belief systems are equally valid. In John 14:6 he said, "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but through me". Not only did he reject pluralism, but he also rejected inclusivism, that is the idea that personal faith isn't necessary to obtain salvation.
In John 6:40, he said, "For this as the will of my Father, that everyone who be holds the Son and believes in him may have eternal life and I myself will raise him up on the last day". That Jesus said, he's the only way to heaven and it has to be through personal faith in him. Now, stay with me on this. If Jesus is wrong about this, there are only two reasons he could be wrong about it. First of all, he was honestly mistaken. Now, if Jesus was honestly mistaken, that would mean that he didn't know what he was talking about. Which means he's not the omniscient all knowing God. Everybody agree with that?
Okay, so if Jesus was honestly mistaken, he thought he was the only way when in fact, he wasn't the only way, then he's not the Son of God. Everybody agree with that? Because he's not omniscient. Now, the only other reason Jesus could have been wrong about it is, he was intentionally misleading us. That is Jesus knew there was more than one way to heaven. But he decided to mislead us by saying he was the only way. So if he was intentionally misleading us, you know, that's political speak for lying to us, okay? If he was lying to us, then he couldn't be the Son of God either, could he? Because he had a character flaw, a serious character flaw.
So that's why I say, if Jesus was wrong about his exclusivity for salvation, then he cannot be the Son of God, the entire deity of Christ rest on this issue of exclusivity. A fourth doctrine that falls if we surrender the doctrine of exclusivity is the necessity of the atonement. That is the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins.
Turn over in your Bibles to Luke 22:41. Anytime I take our group to Israel, the highlight of the trip next to going to the garden tomb where 2000 years later, the tomb is still empty. The highlight of the trip next to that is going to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before he was betrayed and crucified the next day. Look at Luke's account of what happened in the garden. "And Jesus withdrew from them about a stone's throw and he knelt down and begin to pray, saying, Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me. Yet not my will but thine be done. Now an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him and being in agony he was praying very fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground".
We've read this passage 100 times. And whenever we read this passage, I think we all have in our mind what that scene must have looked like, with Jesus praying to his Heavenly Father. Neither say most of us when we picture, that we picture Jesus kneeling beside this big rock, with his hands folded, looking up into heaven, striking that ministerial pose. And we think that because we've seen pictures that way, haven't we? That's not the way it happened.