The way we live is determined by belief systems that many of us follow without even knowing when we adopted that systems way of thinking. For example, a. Secular humanism has become the philosophy of belief among academics, teachers and politicians in Australia. It is a belief system that has no room for God, and acknowledges only human achievement.
b. Moral relativism is the guideline for behaviour, both sexual and interpersonal that says there are no rules except respect and no absolute right and wrong in sexual relationships except what you want or can do without hurt to others.
c. Religious pluralism is the idea that this is no longer a Christian country where the Christian religion is basic to our behaviour and community standards. Rather it's a belief that all religions are equal, and any religious path will lead to God so long as you are sincere. It does not accept the fact that there are many people who are sincerely wrong. I call this present popular view the McDonald's religion. It's fast food religion: you find a religion, choose what you want and hope it will satisfy.
Yet there is a difference between choosing which McDonald's hamburger you want and choosing which medicine you need. You choose which McDonald's you like but you choose which medicine is good for you. Religion you like may not be good for you. The God you like may not be the God you need. So people choose religious views according to their tastes, not according to what is true. The question of truth hardly ever arises. In fact, many people would ask: "Can you test religious truth? Religious truth is what you believe, the leap of faith you take. How can you test that?"
Some people say "By trying it". But if you encourage people to try particular religions - transcendental meditation, yoga, Hindu philosophy, Zen philosophy, scientology, you may end in disaster. The real issue is whether your religious beliefs are true or not, not whether you like them or not. There is no PIZZA RELIGION with bits and pieces of different religions put on a plate of piety!
If you pick a bit of this and a bit of that to suit your taste, you choose only the things you like, not necessarily things that are good for you. Ask a mother whose child has done the supermarket shopping! All you have done is invent a religion that will not do you much good let alone fully satisfy your appetite. Spiritual junk food, empty of religious calories, does not meet your spiritual hunger.
You must seek what is true. Religions are not all equal. Many religious views are competitive not complimentary. Religions have contradictory claims. For example, God in the Christian tradition is personal and in the eastern tradition is impersonal. God cannot be both personal and impersonal at the same time. Christianity teaches when you die, you will either perish or live forever. Eastern religions say you will be reincarnated. Both cannot be right.
Christianity claims to be the one and only true way. Someone might say "Why do you say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God? That is narrow minded to say that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna are all symbols of God. God isn't limited to Jesus Christ. All the major world religions point to the same God." That statement is not correct. The person who says it is ignorant.
If all religions point to the same God, they would say basically the same things about God. But different religions are fundamentally opposites. The holy books of Eastern religions teach God is in every material thing. Christianity says God transcends every thing and is Spirit not matter. Some religions teach God is impersonal, but Judaism, Christianity and Islam teach God is personal. It is stupid to say all religions are equal when they are contradictory. But do all religions lead to God? When religious pluralists, including some in the Uniting Church, make these statements they indicate they are tolerant and accepting, but logically stupid!
1. YET PEOPLE REJECT RELIGIOUS EXCLUSIVISM TODAY.
This is why all the New Age religious activities have grown up, with people burning incense, wearing crystals, meditating under pyramids, reading tarot cards and so on. They do not want to be seen as exclusive and committed, but prefer a pizza religion. Intellectually they will swallow anything! Morally they do just what they like.
Some trendy theologians who are open to non-Christian beliefs, stand for nothing and fall for anything! The Jesus Seminar theologians possess an astonishing variety of ideas with a thin smear of Christianity. They exhibit religious pluralism, reject the uniqueness of Jesus, and declare that these or those statements were not said by Jesus, but a myth made up by an unknown religious genius in the early church. It reminds me of the theological student who wrote in his exam: "A myth is something that never happened a long time ago." The scholars say the Jesus of history who lived in Palestine is different from the Jesus of the Bible.
They say the Jesus of the Bible is eighty percent myth. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John write of events that never happened a long time ago, in the life of a person that never lived a long time ago. So the historical Jesus is a fantasy, and the Christ of faith is not the Jesus of history. (R.D.Geivett. Wilkins p181) But Peter affirmed Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Without the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, there is no Gospel, no mission, no true Christianity.
This is the battle within The Uniting Church in Australia today! The debate following the UCA's UNITING SEXUALITY AND FAITH report, is not about sex, homosexual marriages, or ordaining practising gay and lesbian ministers, but whether Jesus Christ is unique and the scriptures are a true witness to Him. Those who support moral permissiveness deny the uniqueness of Jesus and the authority of His Word.
The debate centres on whether the Bible has any relevance and authority today. Is Jesus the only way to obtain a saving relationship with God? If He is not, then it is not necessary to behave according to His moral standards. They reject the uniqueness of Jesus and His resurrection ("Insights" Apr 97). No wonder they reject the moral commands of the Bible. Immorality is acceptable if you reject the authority of the scriptures and the uniqueness of Christ. If you do not hold onto Him, you end up letting everything else go.
Religious pluralists and moral relativists hate those words "only way". They reject the possibility there is one right way in faith or in morals but believe everything is culturally determined. They believe there is no true way, no authoritative Word, no unique Jesus.
But if God exists, then it is logical to believe we can know Him. If God wants us to have a close relationship with Himself, it is logical He gave us a way to Himself. If He gave us a way, then it is logical we should follow it. Jesus said 6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." We know the spiritual liberation that comes with accepting Christ as Lord. The critics do not know what they are missing! Tolerance of falsity is no virtue. All other ways are deadends. All other religions are imperfect. Paul declared all other gods imposters: 1 Cor 8:4-7 "We know there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." There was no other way but the way of Jesus Christ!
2. CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT GIVE US THE OPTION.
Christianity is different from every other religion. All the other major world religions teach that you must get yourself together, pray five times a day, give alms, fast, take a pilgrimage, use a prayer wheel, not eat certain foods, observe the sabbath, or live a decent life or one of innumerable other possibilities. If you do these things, then maybe you will work your way to Nirvana or heaven or God. But Christianity says you will never earn heaven or deserve a right relationship with God. You simply cannot live up to God's standards. Instead, God has taken the initiative to save you from death.
Because of His great love for us, He came to earth as a man to rescue us from the penalty of death that our wrongdoing deserves. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to take the punishment you and I have earned. We could not do this for ourselves. He lived a perfect life. He did not deserve to die. He died as a sacrifice for us. He rose from the dead, is alive today and is offering us a gift: forgiveness and eternal life. No other religion can point to a moment in history and say, this is what God has done for you! Religion is our attempt to find God. Christianity is God's attempt to find us.
A religious pluralist says other religions are legitimate avenues to God and that the work of the cross is not necessary for salvation. But Christians believe Jesus is the Saviour. He can therefore be your saviour. He can save you. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Saviour, not just one of a number of saviours. Christianity is built on this teaching: He is the Saviour of the whole world. If you believe other people can be saved through other religions, then you certainly do not believe Jesus is the Saviour. If you reject Jesus as the saviour, He's not your saviour. And if Jesus has not saved you, you are still lost! If you reject that Jesus is the Saviour, then you reject the foundation of Christianity. You are therefore not a Christian.
How is it possible that such an unbeliever can be a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia? As Peter said: Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." The Uniting Church has a strong Biblical basis. Those who deny it must be counselled to change or leave.
3. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD.
Christians who deny this are not Christians. All who would be Christians must believe this. If you are unsaved, ask God to reveal Himself to you. He can be known:
He is not unknowable as the Hindu says,
He is not unreachable as the Muslim says,
He is not just a force as the Buddhist says,
You are not alone as the atheist says.
The road to God, Jesus said is narrow and few find it. Matt 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." But they do find it! Religious pluralists deny that. They turn it around and make it read: "Broad is the way that leads to life and narrow is the road to destruction. Almost everyone will be saved." But that is not what Jesus said!
If Jesus is the only way, what is our task? Our task is one of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world. No-one comes to the Father but by Him. Narrow? Yes! Narrow and truthful! There is no other name, no other way, no other gate, no other life, no other Saviour, but Jesus! As Paul wrote: 1 Tim 2:4-6 "God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men." Our earnest desire is for you to admit to God that you are a sinner; to believe that Jesus Christ, God's Son came and died to save you from your sin; and to commit your life to Him as your Saviour and Lord. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no other way to God but through faith in Him.
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
NEW INTERNATIONAL COMMENTARY:JOHN L.Morris Eerdmans 1971
THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS P Barnett Aquilla 1994
JESUS UNDER FIRE M J Wilkins Zondervan 1995
THE BIBLE AND PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS. W Ariarajah WCC 1985
UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE R Chandler Word 1988
INTERNATIONAL BULLETIN OF MISSIONARY RESEARCH Vol 13, no 2,1989
THE MYTH OF CHRISTIAN UNIQUENESS J Hick, O Knitter Orbis 1987
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