Today’s message is frequently sourced in the work of Lee Strobel. Lee was an award-winning journalist with the Chicago Tribune. His wife became a Believer and disturbed his world which had no room for Christianity. Lee writes,
“Leslie stunned me in the autumn of 1979 by announcing that she had become a Christian. I rolled my eyes and braced for the worst . . . I had married one Leslie, the fun Leslie, the carefree Leslie, the risk-taking Leslie - and now I feared she was going to turn into some sort of sexually repressed prude who would reject our upwardly mobile life for all night prayer meetings and volunteer work in grimy soul kitchens . . .
instead I was pleasantly surprised - even fascinated - by the obvious changes in her character, her integrity, even her personal confidence. Eventually I wanted to get to the bottom of it all . . . I was drawn into an all-out investigation of Christianity . . . ” - The Case for Christ, page 14
The result of his long quest using the best skills he had acquired in his career as a journalist, Lee Strobel became a Believer. He wrote of his quest in an excellent book, The Case for Christ.
Our text this morning is found in John 14:4-8.
On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus gathered the disciples for a final word of teaching.
He said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
In my message this morning, I want to explore the question
What of the claim that eternal life is found in Jesus Christ of Nazareth?
We won’t answer all your questions today, but hopefully I can present reasons to believe, and help you to feel confident in sharing your faith in this present world.
We must recognize that many who object to the message we bring about Jesus Christ, do so because they are frightened by the implications such a message holds for their lives! Many Americans readily accept that Jesus was a historical figure, a wise prophet of ancient times. If he is just that and no more, then his words and teaching can be accepted and/or rejected just like those of any other wise man of the past. As Lee Strobel observes, The historical Jesus “seemed safe and reassuring; after all, a roving apocalyptic preacher from the first century could make no demands on me.”
∙ IF Jesus Christ is the Son of God, as He claimed to be- who brought salvation to this world, then He is also the Lord to whom we will give account for the way in which we lived.
∙ If He is God, then his teaching are more than good ideas from a learned teacher. They are compelling insights on which a person must build life.
∙ If Jesus is God, then His standards for personal morality are binding commands
∙ If Jesus came out of the tomb, he’s alive and I can know Him today.
∙ If Jesus is God, then He can guide me to a way of life I would be foolish to reject.
∙ If Jesus is God, He is absolutely within his rights to demand my obedience to His ways and my worship.
C. S. Lewis, an Oxford professor and skeptic, who came to faith in the early part of the 20th century, reasons this way in his great little book, Mere Christianity.
‘I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing about Christ that people often say: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one things we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, a liar, or the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else he is a madman or something worse. You can shut him as a fool, or can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with patronizing nonsense about His being a great Teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.’
Jesus claims of divinity run deep and wide through the Gospels.
- He claimed the ability to forgive sin, a prerogative granted only to God.
- He claimed to be ‘one’ with God.
In John 10:25-30 Jesus engaged in this exchange with some Jewish religious leaders:
“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Those leaders understood what he was saying and were so enraged by what they thought was blasphemy, they attempted to stone him to death on the spot!
- He claimed divine attributes such as Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Eternality.
You can only excuse His claim of divinity by either believing
that the Gospel writers lied and misrepresented His words and actions, or
that He was simply delusional.
Let’s consider the objection that the Gospel writers were creating a legend and that they deliberately twisted Jesus’ words and actions to make Him look like a god!
Are the Gospels rightly read as historical documents?
The passing of 2 millennia have only served to reinforce the historical accuracy of the Gospels. Luke has proven to be an excellent historian. John McCray, Ph.D University of Chicago, and a world recognized authority on archaeology who consults with organizations like National Geographic about facts of the biblical world, writes this:
“Luke is very accurate as a historian. He’s erudite, he’s eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes like an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing, over and over again, that he was accurate in what he had to say.”
Does this prove that Jesus is God?
Not by itself obviously. But it does give us good reason to trust the writing of Luke as worthy of being taken seriously as historic and true.
Contrast the historical accuracies of the four Gospels with the Book of Mormon, for instance. Joseph Smith who founded the Mormon church less than 175 years ago, who claimed that his book revealed sacred truths, finds no support among contemporary historians. No city, no person named, no place referred to in the book of Mormon can be shown to have existed. So we conclude the book is a collection of myths.
Not so for the New Testament! Clifford Wilson, an Australian archaeologist, says, “Those who know the facts recognize that the New Testament is a remarkably accurate source book.”
As for the allegations that Jesus was simply delusional and that His claims to divinity reflect a troubled mind, they cannot be taken seriously.
Why would grown men leave all that they loved to follow a madman?
Why would they devote their lives largely to hardship and die violent deaths defending the ravings of
What would have been their motivation to go to the ends of the earth to tell people a lie when they
could have just as easily faded back to their former lives in the Galilean region after the crucifixion?
Dr. Gary Collins, a prolific author and a Ph. D. in clinical psychology, recommends that the honest inquirer spend time reading the extended words of Jesus as reported in the Gospel. He says you will find no sign of dementia, delusions, or paranoia. You will not find a preoccupation with self. Instead you will find wisdom, insight, and deep compassion for others. These are not the traits of a madman!
Thus John declares:John 1:9-14
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
If Jesus is the Christ, why then is His message rejected with such intensity by so many in the present world?
Listen carefully so that you do not misunderstand what I am about to say.
Often what people reject is not Christ, but the Christian religion wrapped around Him.
We must not confuse a world view with truth! When presenting what you believe to be the Gospel of Christ, are you talking about Jesus or are you asking people to adopt your particular understanding about life and how the world is organized? That is no easy question.
Many of us live within our world view much as fish lives in water! It’s all we know. Our assumptions about life are deeply ingrained and only with great effort, are we able to separate the pure Gospel from world view that envelopes it.
Pastor Brian McLaren writes in a challenging and interesting book, A New Kind of Christian, that if we (evangelical Christians from this time) were to be transported back 500 years in time, NO ONE alive then would accept us as true Christians! Why?
∙ Christians of that era nearly universally accepted that the Pope was Christ’s representative on earth,
∙ Christians of that era nearly universally accepted that kings ruled by divine right,
∙ Christians of that era nearly universally accepted that the universe was created in concentric rings by God with the earth at the center of it all with the sun revolving around the earth.
Remember Copernicus and Galileo? With a new invention, the telescope, they peered at the heavens and learned that the earth actually revolved around the sun and that the earth rotated on it’s axis. This discovery did not fit the accepted world view and the Church felt that the very existence of Christianity was threatened by this discovery. These men lived under constant threats because they challenged a world view that had persisted for nearly 2000 years! A true Christian, by church dogma of the time, had to accept that the Bible taught that the earth was the center of the created universe. Within 200 years, however, Galileo’s theory were accepted and the model of the solar system that are taught today was accepted. Christianity survived the shift in world view.
I don’t know of anyone today who qualifies a Christian based on accepting that erroneous world view that the earth is flat and that it occupies the center of the universe! The Gospel was confused with a world view.
Let me further illustrate.
To a medieval Christian, the language of our prayers would have been considered vulgar at best and perhaps even blasphemous. What ordinary person could address God in such familiar and personal terms?
Was it not important for a priest to pray on one’s behalf? To have spoken of an individual and ‘personal’ relationship with Jesus Christ, apart from the sacraments of the Church, would have been puzzling. It was their assumption that a person could only be a real Christian if he or she were baptized and living in the blessing of the Church. You would not have owned a Bible and if you had, you would not likely have been able to read it since it was written only in Latin, the ancient language of the Church. Indeed, had you been found to be in possession of a Bible, prosecution would follow, possibly with a sentence of death.
In the Protestant church today, we have discarded nearly everyone of those ideas because we live within a completely different world view.
Does this mean that those who lived in that world 500 years ago were not Christian or that we are not?
Not at all. It means that Jesus Christ is frequently wrapped in the culture and world view which obscures a clear view of who He really is.
Many people who stand off from our presentation of the ‘Gospel’ are really more skeptical of our world view. They may not understand the peculiarities of our religious rules, the style of our prayers, the kind of music we use in our faith, or our social structures. Jesus Christ is the One we share. It is to His living Person that we point in our efforts to share the Gospel. Cultures rise and fall. The ways that men and women interpret the world, their relationships, and even structure their societies change. Jesus Christ remains constant!
What I am trying to say is that while the Bible declares that Jesus Christ is the Way to life eternal, we often add, by implication more than by intent, that Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of a modern, American, Evangelical, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
To many, many people our Gospel message is not about finding life through Jesus Christ. Instead they hear us telling them that to be a good Christian you must be married, middle class, gainfully employed, avoid all use of alcohol and tobacco, attend church at the edge of town, etc. Now all those things are well and good but they are the not the GOOD NEWS nor are they the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our world view is rejected more than Jesus Christ.
So who is He? What is the center of our presentation of the One in whom the world finds healing and salvation?
Jesus Christ, the man, was neither white, nor American. He was not middle class, nor married. He would, I can be almost certain, rebuke our frenetic work ethic as destructive of the spirit and harmful to the work of God. Jesus, the man, was poor and would see our materialism as a strange expression of personal worth. His words were ‘the abundance of a man’s life does not consist in what he possesses.’ Paraphrased today, He would surely ask us, “why do you define your success and your worth with the things you gather with so much fervency? Why do you not treasure the things of the Spirit which are true wealth?”
Jesus Christ, Son of God, is timeless.
∙ He is loving.
∙ He is the Bridge between God, the Father and human beings who have fallen far short of their divine calling.
∙ He is Life and Light. He is Hope of the Ages and He is the Door to Heaven.
∙ He is God in flesh, the Revelation of the Father.
∙ He is the Beginning and He is the Ending.
∙ He is Wisdom, Peace, and Joy for all who love Him.
∙ He calls on us to lose our lives so that we might find His life. He asks us to forsake the pursuit of the temporal things that are passing away to find the eternal things that cannot be taken by life or death!
I encourage you to be less concerned with making others share your particular religious experience and more interested in providing an introduction to the Lord Jesus Christ.
That, of course, assumes that you know Him apart from the structures of your church and your religion.
Do not hear me diminishing the place of church and faith. The Bible directs to worship together, to form local bodies where we assemble to encourage each other in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. But Christ Jesus is larger than this church and our experience of Him.
As I close, I’d like to start you thinking about separating Christ from your culture, from your world view....
I hope you’ll take these questions and talk about them with your friends, your spouse, another Believer. If you can answer them, then you’re ready to share the Gospel of Christ and not the religion called Christianity!
If you were ripped from all that you know, dropped into a completely foreign culture with only your Bible, how would you serve the Lord Jesus in that situation? Who would He be to you without ‘church’ structures to define Him?
If there were no church ministries to fill; no lessons to prepare, no Christian books to read, no Christian music to hear.... How might you express worship and/or find spiritual nourishment?
How would you witness to others, if you could not invite them to your church to worship with you or to hear your Pastor speak?
May the Lord, through the Spirit, help you to discover Jesus – to love Him passionately for in Him is life!