12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
What would it take for you to give up your Bible? What would have to happen for you to relinquish it to an enemy that did not want you or anyone else to have it? I suppose the answer to that question would depend upon how much your Bible means to you. At least that was the case with a Chinese woman named Lu Ying whose story appears in this book entitled Extreme Devotion, p. 330.
Aren’t you glad that we live in a land where we don’t have to deal with that kind of persecution? And yet, sadly, many people who call themselves Christians would never have to worry about having their hands broken to get them to let loose of their Bible because they never pick up that Bible in the first place and use it as God intended us to. “I’m too busy.” “I don’t have time.” “I’ll get to it later.” These are the excuses people use nowadays for failing to read this greatest of all books whose Author is present every time we open its pages.
But we’re trying to change all of that through this sermon series I am currently preaching entitled “The Foundation of Our Faith.” After looking at a number of reasons why people don’t read the Bible and then examining some excellent reasons why we should read the Bible, in my last sermon 2 weeks ago we started talking about some problems that can arise when we fail to read the Bible – what we call biblical illiteracy. And the first of those problems was this: Biblical illiteracy leaves life’s key questions unanswered. In that sermon we looked at some of those key questions and the answers that the Bible gives to them, like How can I know the truth? And Does God really exist? And if he does, what is he like? We also looked at the haunting question that people love to ask these days, namely, if there is a God and that God is good and kind and loving, then why is there so much evil and suffering in our world? Today I want to spend my time exploring more of these big questions of life, starting with this one: Don’t all religions lead to God?
How many times haven’t we heard that one, especially in this day and age that is marked by what I like to call hyper-tolerance, which is an extreme form of tolerance that basically says no one’s views or belief system should ever be considered better than anyone else’s. And so for a Christian to say that there is only one way to God, only one way to heaven, and that way is through Jesus Christ, is seen by many people today as being extremely intolerant, mean-spirited, and narrow-minded.
Some of you will recall the creation/evolution debate that took place back in 2014 between Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Though I didn’t see the whole video which is over 2 ½ hours long and can be viewed on YouTube, I saw enough of it to detect the condescending way in which Bill Nye spoke to Ken Ham as if to say that anyone who would believe in a 6-day creation as is recorded in the book of Genesis needs to step out of the Dark Ages and experience the enlightenment of the 21st century. But much to his credit, Ken Ham held his ground, stayed true to his convictions, and gave a beautiful and convincing testimony to his belief in a Creator God and the Genesis account of Creation.
And in all honesty, I believe that what he said would be ok with most people in our hyper-tolerant culture, provided he doesn’t take it any further than that, provided he doesn’t try to get anyone else to believe the way he believes, provided he doesn’t insist that the Christian way is the only way to God. But let’s just ponder for a moment the fallacy of this way of thinking. Do all roads or religions really lead to God? Can all roads or religions lead to God? Well, a good way to answer those questions is by asking another question: Do all roads in the United States lead to Chicago? I don’t think so. Try traveling on I-70 which goes east and west and you’re never going to end up in Chicago. Or try taking I-10 down in Florida and it will get you across the southern part of the United States but never to Chicago. Only roads specifically designed to take you to Chicago will get you to Chicago.
Well, God designed a road, and according to the Bible it’s just one road, that will take us to himself. And that road is Jesus Christ. Like our text for today says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” And in Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus clearly states: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” You know, when you think about it, God wasn’t really obligated to provide a road to himself once our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned. He could have very easily left us alone to fend for ourselves and never made it possible for us to find our way back to him. But his love for us would not allow him to do that. So through Jesus he did what we could have never done for ourselves. He provided the necessary road and made that road available and accessible to all who would believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin.
Let me say just one more thing before we leave this question behind. While Christianity teaches that we are saved by what Christ has done for us, every other religion teaches that we are saved by what we do for ourselves. My point being, both can’t be right, can they? They are mutually exclusive of each other. There’s no way then that all roads or all religions can lead to God.
That takes us to another one of life’s big questions that the Bible does a great job of answering. And that question is this: Can God ever forgive me for what I’ve done wrong? You know guilt can be one of the most crippling issues that a person can ever contend with. And nobody knew that better than King David who had good reason to feel guilty. He’d had an adulterous relationship with another man’s wife that led him into a whole host of other sins which included the murder of her husband. And after God sent a prophet to David by the name of Nathan and Nathan helped David to understand that though his sins were done in secret they were done in full view of the Lord, David recorded these telling words in Psalm 32 that describe how the guilt he was feeling was pretty well eating him alive. He says: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” Have you ever felt like that, my friends? Have you ever felt the heavy hand of God resting upon you when you did something that you knew was displeasing to him? Have you ever felt like running and hiding from God like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden when they ate of the forbidden fruit? Have you ever wondered how God could ever love you and forgive you for the terrible things you did? I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at some time or another. In fact, I’ve known people who have carried that burden of guilt for 10, 15, 20, or more years.
So how about it? Can God forgive me for what I’ve done wrong? David answers that question for us in the very next verse of that 32nd Psalm: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’” Elsewhere, in 1 John 1:9 we are told that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And in the Bible God uses such beautiful word pictures to describe what he really does for us when he forgives our sins. In Micah 7:19 we’re told: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” In Is. 44:22 God says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.” In Is. 43:25 he says: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” And then there’s my favorite in Ps. 103:12: ““As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
So while the rest of the world may offer all kinds of answers and solutions to the guilt that sometimes burdens our hearts, the Bible tells us the only way to find genuine and lasting relief from it is to lay it down at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus and allow his blood to cleanse us of all sin.
Well, we’ve got time to take a look at one more of life’s big questions, one that every person asks sooner or later. And that question is: What happens to me after I die? Even atheists ponder that question, though it may not be as big a concern to them as it is to those who are not atheists. I remember having a conversation once with a person who identified himself as an atheist and when I asked him what he thought was going to happen to him when he died, he said with great confidence and bravado, “Nothing is going to happen to me. They’re going to stick me in the ground and that’s going to be it for me.” When I told him that sounded like a pretty hopeless scenario, to think that this world with all of its trials, troubles, and tribulations is as good as life is ever going to get for us, he said that didn’t bother him one bit. He was perfectly fine with it.
Most of us though are not perfectly fine with it and are much more concerned about what will happen to us when we die because the book of Ecclesiastes says God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” In other words, we have a God-given, built in knowledge that there is a life to come after this one, that this world is just a temporary stopping point in the grand scheme of eternity. And when we read the Bible, we discover what that future life will be like. In fact, that description is so wonderful and so mind-bogglingly beautiful that it can serve to raise us up above all the problems and difficulties of this world that come our way and give us courage and strength to carry on until heaven becomes our home. In Rev. 7:15-17 those who are in heaven are described like this: “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” If you think that sounds exciting, listen to what the Apostle Paul says in I Cor. 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” So while the Bible does not give us a perfect and complete picture of everything that happens to us after we die, it certainly gives us enough to whet our appetites and to make us look forward to that time with great eagerness, excitement, and anticipation.
So my friends, when we don’t read our Bibles, when we just let them sit on the shelf and gather dust, we rob ourselves of the answers to life’s most important and sometimes most perplexing questions. But there are other problems we run into as well. So in my next sermon 2 weeks from today we will continue our look at some more of those problems in the hopes of giving us a whole new appreciation for all that God makes available to us in this holy book that truly is the foundation of our faith. Amen.