Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: The only way to heaven?

Click here for an explanation about this series: "Finding Jesus Christ."

One of the most common objections to Christianity out there is that its exclusive claims are offensive. I often hear people say that Christians who claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven are arrogant, narrow and judgmental. How can you say that your religion alone teaches the truth about God? How can you say that none of the other religions teaches the true way to heaven?

I'm not sure why everyone is so upset. A better approach would be to be grateful that the Christian religion has conveniently boiled everything down to one key issue in such stark terms. Life is short, and there are so many religions to investigate. To figure out the other religions you may find yourself crawling on your knees in a pilgrimage to some holy city, or spending ten years in a monastery with a shaved head. But with Christianity if you have a Bible, the ability to read, a brutally honest heart, and the willingness to utter an occasional prayer for guidance, you can get right down to it.

The question you need to investigate is: Do you need Jesus Christ to go to heaven, or not? Whatever conclusion you come to--whether yes or no--will determine whether or not you should become a Christian.

As you investigate by reading about the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, you will discover that Jesus' claim to be the exclusive way to heaven ("I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me."--John 14:6) is actually one of the milder statements he made. He claimed not only to be sent from God, but to be the revelation of God himself (John 14:8-9). He claimed to have existed from eternity past (John 8:57). He claimed that someday he would raise all the dead from their graves and pronounce judgment upon the eternal fate of every human being who has ever lived (John 5:25-29). He said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). So, as you can see, Jesus' claim to be the exclusive way to God is simply the logical outworking of all these other claims he made about himself as the unique, authoritative, divine Son of God, who came from heaven to tell us in no uncertain terms what his Father demands of us.

If there were such thing as the Truth about God, and if there were such thing as a religion that taught the Truth about him, you wouldn't expect that religion to be apologetic about it, would you? I'm not saying that all religions claiming to be the truth should be taken seriously. But certainly, you wouldn't expect the Truth to shrug its shoulders, wave its hands helplessly in the air, and whine out catch phrases like, "Let's be modest now. Let's not hurt people's feelings. Can't we all just get along?" If the Truth is really out there, is this how you'd expect it to present itself?

Jesus expected his followers to take their quest for the Truth seriously. He constantly said things that stumbled them, offended their sensibilities and hurt their feelings. Maybe nowadays people think that seeking God is like drinking a warm glass of milk and drifting off to sleep in a featherbed. But back in Jesus' day people had a firmer grasp on reality. They understood that if you dared to seek out the living God, you ran the risk of having your world turned upside-down.