Robert Jeffress - Is Christianity the Only Right Religion?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Over the ages, countless authors have offered their personal opinions about God and heaven. Too many times, their conjecture is based not on fact, but on fiction. Why is that? Well, in our inclusive world, people chafe at the claim that Jesus could be the only way to heaven, and as a result, they manufacture a Gospel that's not a Gospel at all. Well, today we'll consult the only true source, the Bible, to discover what Jesus said about the exclusive nature of Christianity. My message is titled, "Is Christianity the Only Right Religion"? On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
You've seen this scene repeatedly. A prominent Christian pastor is interviewed in the secular media on television, and the host will invariably get to the real question. Pastor, do you believe only Christians are going to heaven? And if the interviewer really wants to press the issue, he will follow up with, so you're telling me, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews who don't accept Christ are all going to hell? Is that what you're saying, pastor? And too many times, the pastor will stutter and stammer and melt under the hot lights, and finally say, "Well, we can't say, only God can say for sure". The most politically incorrect comment you can ever make in today's world is that only Christians are going to heaven.
Perhaps you've been challenged on that issue yourself, not by a television interviewer, but by a neighbor, a coworker who knows you're a Christian, maybe even one of your own family members. Do you really believe Christianity is the only right religion? To say such a thing in today's world is deemed to be prideful. Who are you to say your religion is the only right religion? It's deemed to be hateful. It's a hateful thing to say, people are going to hell just for not believing the right things about Jesus. Some people say it's unnecessary to believe that Christianity is the only way to heaven. Like a taxi driver said to me this week, "Well, pastor, all religions teach the same thing, don't they"? The fact that saying Christ is the only way to heaven is hateful and intolerant, probably explains the reason a growing number of Christians are abandoning that belief.
In fact, a recent poll by pew research revealed that 57% of evangelical Christians now believe there is more than one way to God other than through faith in Jesus Christ. But when we look at this controversial question, is Christianity the only right religion? It's important that our answer be shaped, not by political correctness, but by the words of the founder of our faith, Jesus Christ. And when we look at what Jesus Christ actually said, versus what people wish he had said. When we look at what Jesus really says about this important topic. We understand why he said in John 14:6, "'i am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes to the father except by me'" today, as we attempt to answer this question, is there only one way to heaven? Is Christianity truly the only correct religion?
We're going to look at four things, four things that Jesus taught. First of all, we're going to look at what Jesus taught about his uniqueness. Secondly, we're going to examine what he taught about his death. Third, we're going to look and see what he said about eternity, and finally what he said about personal faith. Let's first of all, look and see what Jesus taught about his uniqueness. First of all, two unique claims about Jesus. First of all, Jesus claimed to be God, perhaps you've heard this before. It seems to be a current theme and popular novels and movies like "The davinci code" and other books. It's the line that says, well, Jesus never really claimed to be God. That's something that some overzealous followers claimed about him after he died. They added the mythology that Jesus claimed to be God to his good life. And yet that was not true when you examine what Jesus himself said. Over and over again, Jesus himself, declared that he was God. We're going to look just at two instances of that.
First of all, his revelation to the pharisees. Remember the pharisees was that religious sector, the sector of the Jews that observed the law. They loved God, they attempted to follow the law. And they thought because they were physically related to Abraham, they were going to heaven. I mean, Abraham was to the Jewish people, what George Washington is to Americans. He was the father of their nation, the Jewish nation. So they thought as long as they were a descendant of Abraham, they were in as far as heaven went. But Jesus burst that bubble. He said, it's not your physical relationship to Abraham, it is a spiritual relationship to Abraham by faith. Well, they couldn't understand that. In verse 53 of John 8, they said, "'surely, Jesus, you're not greater than our father Abraham, who died. The prophets died too. Whom do you make yourself out to be'"? Who do you think you are? Saying such a thing. And Jesus answers sent them reeling. Look at verse 56, "'your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and he was glad".
Well, this left them confused. Abraham rejoiced to see you Jesus, Abraham died 2000 years ago, and you're not even 50 years of age. How could Abraham have rejoiced to see you? Look at verse 58. Jesus said to them, "'truly, truly I say to you before Abraham was born, I am'". He was declaring that he was eternal. He existed before Abraham was even born. Now that answered those words, I am, had a special meaning to the Jews, especially the pharisees, they were important words. Remember in Exodus when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and told Moses that he was going to be the deliverer of the Israelites out of Egypt, and Moses couldn't believe, he was being picked for that task. He said no, when I go back to my brother and the Israelites, and tell them I got this message, who should I say sent me?
Exodus 3:14. "And God said to Moses, 'i am who I am' and he said, 'thus is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: I am has sent me to you'". I am, Yahweh, that was the most holy name of God the Father. He was so holy, the Israelites wouldn't even say the name out loud. I am. God was saying, you just tell them I am sent you, they'll get the message. Now when Jesus said, before Abraham was, I am, the pharisees understood instantly, he was actually claiming to be God the Father.
Now, a second instance of Jesus claiming to be God. There are many, but here's another one. Jesus declaration to Caiaphas. Remember Caiaphas was the high priest during the days of Jesus. And when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, they took him first of all, to the high priest, Caiaphas, to go on religious trial for blasphemy, for claiming to be the Son of God. Caiaphas was tired, he was ready to go to bed, he didn't want a long trial. So he just cuts to the chase. And he asked him in Mark 14:61, "'Jesus, are you the Christ, the Messiah, the son of the blessed one'"? And notice how he answers in verse 62. "And Jesus said, 'I am'". Don't let anybody tell you, Jesus never claimed to be God. He said, "I am". And to add injury to insult, he followed that with a quotation from Daniel 7:13. "He said, 'and furthermore Caiaphas, you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven'".
What he was saying was Caiaphas, you think you're the big cheese right now sitting on that throne, here in Jerusalem? One day, you're going to look up and you're going to see me, seated on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. Nothing could be more clear. Caiaphas got the message looking verses 63 and 64, "And tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'what further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy: how does it seem to you'? And they all condemned him to be deserving of death". I could count or cite other passages, John 10: 30. "I and the father are one". Or John 14:9, "He who has seen me has seen the father". But you get the idea. And admittedly, anybody could claim to be God.
Interestingly though, other religious leaders didn't make that claim. Did you know, Mohammad never claimed to be God? He claimed simply to point people to God and neither did Confucius or the Buddha, these religious leaders never claimed to be God, they claim simply to point people to God. But Jesus said, "I am God". But his claim to be God, went beyond what he claimed about himself, to what he claimed he could do. Consider the things Jesus claimed he could do, and actually did. Jesus could, he claimed, heal the sick and he actually did heal the sick. Jesus claimed he could calm the storm, and he actually calmed the storm. Jesus claimed that he could raise the dead, and he actually raised Lazarus from the dead. My point is Jesus was unique and that he claimed to be God. And by the way, you have to come to a conclusion here about that.
C. S. Lewis once said that the idea that Jesus was just a good man who taught good things is not an intellectually honest option. You can't say because of what Jesus claimed about himself. Given the fact that Jesus himself claimed to be God, you're left with one of three choices. Lewis called it the trilemma. Choice number one is Jesus was a liar. That is, he claimed to be God when he knew, in fact, he wasn't. Now, given what you know about Jesus, do you think he was a liar? Purposefully deceiving people. If you don't believe he's a liar, the second option is he's a lunatic. He's a lunatic deserving to be put in an asylum. He went around actually thinking he was God when in fact he wasn't. Now from what you know about Jesus and his life and ministry, is there anything that leads you to believe that he was out of his mind? That he was insane?
Now, think about this. If you're not willing to say he's a liar, if you're not willing to say he's a lunatic, then lewis said, there's only one other option. That is, he's Lord. He is actually who he claimed to be. And if he's actually who he claimed to be, that we have to believe everything not just some things that he said about himself. Jesus is unique that he claimed to be God. Secondly, he's unique in that he claimed that belief in him led to eternal life. Jesus is the only religious leader who ever lived, who said what you think about him, determines your eternal destiny. Confucius never said that, Mohammad never said what you think about me, the prophet determines where you spend eternity. But Jesus said, what you believe about him is what determines your eternal destiny. For example, in John 6:40, "'for this is the will of my father,'" Jesus said, "'that everyone who beholds the son and believes in him, may have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the third day'".
Even the pharisees who followed God faithfully, they believed in the one true God, were not exempted by Jesus from this requirement that they accept him as the Messiah. If they didn't, they were destined to an eternity in hell as well. Jesus said in John 8:24 to the pharisees, "'i say therefore to you that you shall die in your sins: for unless you believe that I am he, the Messiah, you shall die in your sins'". He wasn't talking to pagans, he wasn't talking to people who worship multiple Gods, these were the pharisees, the strictest group of the Jews, he said, "If you don't accept me as Messiah, you will spend eternity in hell".
One of those pastors who never wilted under the glare of the television lights was the late Jerry Falwell, Sr. And I remember one time watching Jerry on television and the interviewer said, "I just can't believe you believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. I can't believe that you would say that Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists who don't accept Christ are going to hell". And Jerry smiled and he said, "I'm telling you that if my own children don't accept Christ, they're going to hell". That is what the Gospel says. There are not many ways to God, there is one way to God. That was the teaching of Jesus. Jesus claimed that belief in him led to eternal life.
Now, we've talked about what Jesus uniquely taught, that he was God and that belief in him led to heaven. Let's secondly, look at what Jesus taught about his death. It's impossible to overemphasize the positive impact that Jesus Christ life in his example had made on the world in which we live today. I mean the whole concept of hospitals, orphanages, were all began by followers of Jesus Christ who were trying to emulate his example. Did you know the Swiss philanthropist, jean Henri Dunant, started the international committee for the red cross in the 1860s for the sole purpose of quote, "Ministering in Jesus' name to soldiers on the battlefield". The salvation army, which gives away billions of dollars to those in need have as their mission statement quote, "To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name".
Did you know in our own country, of the 138 first universities founded in our country, the 138 first colleges, 92% of them were founded by Christians for the purpose of making Jesus Christ known. And those colleges include Harvard, Yale, William & Mary, other prestigious universities. If you go back and you look at their charters, they actually have in the charters, we exist to make Jesus Christ known. There is no way to overemphasize the importance that the life of Christ has had upon the world in which we live. But that impact pales in comparison to the real purpose of his coming, not to live a great life, but to die a horrendous death. That's what Jesus said. Jesus said, first of all, regarding his death, that his death was central to his mission on earth. Matthew 16:21, "From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day". He said in John 12, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself. But he was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which he was to die".
Don't follow the secular line of thinking that says, well, Jesus' death was just a tragic end to another lives good story. Some bad men got hold of Jesus and did a bad thing to him. No, this was all part of God's predetermined plan. Why was his death central to his mission? Secondly, Jesus taught that his death would be a payment for our sins. Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, "'for the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'". What is a ransom? It's a payment that is made to free somebody who has been held hostage. And the Bible says that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price, to release us from Satan's grip so that we can have eternal life. You don't need a pastor to tell you, that we all have sinned and fallen short of God's plan for our life, do you? We feel that every hour of every day. Romans 3:23 says, "For all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". That's true for every one of us. The problem is every time we sin, it increases the debt that we owe to God. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages" or the payment "Of our sin is eternal" debt.
See the Bible says, God cannot overlook sin. He can't say, well, will overlook that and play like it never happened. The Bible says a holy God cannot do that. The justice of God demands that somebody pay for our sin. Every minute of every hour of every day when we have an ungodly thought or engage in an ungodly action, we're just racking up the debt that we owe God. Somebody has to pay. The most important choice you will ever make in your life is this, who's going to pay for that very real debt you owe God. You can say, well, God, I'll try to work off that debt myself, I'll get baptized, I'll the join the church, I'll try to be a better person. If you try to pay that debt off, you'll spend your whole life, you'll spend all of eternity trying to pay that debt off in hell, separated from God. Or you can choose to allow Jesus Christ to pay that debt for you.
See, that's why he came, he was perfect, he never sinned, he never did anything wrong, but because of his love for you and me, when he hung on that cross in some inexplicable way, he took the penalty, the punishment from God that you and I deserve. And that is why in John 19:30, some of his final words spoken on the cross were, "It is finished". In Greek, tetelestai, an accounting term that literally means paid in full. That's why the death of Christ was necessary. It was through the death of Christ that our sin debt was paid forever. Now, it doesn't happen automatically, as we'll see in a moment, it's a payment you have to choose to receive, to allow Christ to make on your behalf. But he made the payment that we could never make. And that's why Jesus can say with confidence in John 14:6 "'i am the way,'" not a way, "'the way the truth, and the life, no man can come to the father but by me'".
What I always say to people, people try to question me, pastor, do you believe Jews are going to heaven? Do you believe Hindus are going to heaven? Do you believe Catholics are going to heaven? Do you believe Baptists are going to happen? I say, nobody goes to heaven in a group, we go one by one. I could amend that, nobody goes to heaven or hell in a group. We go one by one, based on our relationship with God. Do you know the only group that is allowed in heaven? Forgiven people. Only those who have accepted the payment of Christ for their sins are welcomed into heaven. And that's why Jesus said in John 14:6. "'i am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father, but by me'". And by the way, don't let anybody mislead you, that's not a message of hate, that's a message of love, of hope. If there is any other way to God, other than through faith in Jesus Christ, then the death of Christ was totally unnecessary, it was a waste, it really was a tragedy. But the reason Christ was willing to do that was there was no other way to heaven.