Summary: The light of ascencion illuminates forgiveness and God’s care for us.
Have you seen the light? Moses saw the light on his many trips up Mt. Sinai to receive God’s laws. Peter, James, and John, disciples of Jesus, saw the light on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus’ appearance was changed before their very eyes. But what about you? Have you seen the light? That sounds like a question you would expect to hear from a TV evangelist doesn’t it? But what does it mean when people ask, “Have you seen the light”? While I can’t speak for TV evangelists, I do know what the Apostle Paul meant when he talked about “the light” in our sermon text. The light, according to Paul, is the life-saving truth found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you haven’t seen the light, you will be exposed to it this morning and I pray that your eyes be opened to it that you may bask in its warmth and comfort.
The Apostle Paul had literally seen the light on a business trip to Damascus. You may remember that Paul’s business before he became an apostle was to persecute Christians. The funny thing is Paul thought that he was doing God’s will by rounding up Christians and threatening them with execution if they didn’t turn away from their faith in Jesus. While Paul seriously thought he had already seen the light and was doing a God-pleasing thing, in reality he was fighting against God.
People haven’t changed. We are good at convincing ourselves that the way we live, or the attitudes that we have are O.K. as long as they “feel” right. That leads us to think things like living with someone who is not yet our spouse is fine, or that talking back to a teacher is acceptable especially if that teacher was mean to us first. Paul’s example, however, should cause us to pause and ask ourselves if what we have convinced ourselves to be fine is really O.K. in God’s eyes? How is it that we know what God wants? We know what God wants by stepping into the light of God’s Word – the Bible.
“But Pastor, how can you say that God tells us what is right and wrong in the Bible? Every religion claims that their ‘holy book’ is God’s revelation. How do you know which one is right?” The first thing to acknowledge is that while every religion may claim to have the truth, each religion is different. Therefore you cannot say, for example, that both Christians and Muslims are right when they talk about the way one gets into heaven. That’s like saying four plus four equals eight, or nine. When it comes to mathematics there is a right answer and wrong answer. If you don’t think so, you’ll never make it as a NASA mission planner for if you’re off on your calculations by even a millimetre, the space probe you’re wanting to send to Mars will miss by thousands of kilometres.
So it is with religion. There is a right answer and there are wrong answers regarding the way we get to heaven. Jesus himself made that clear in one of the most famous sections of the Bible. In John 3:16 Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Now some people like to say that Jesus wasn’t claiming to be the only way to heaven, just one way. But how then do you explain John 3:18 where Jesus went on to say, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”?
When you compare Jesus’ words to the teachings of Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion in the world, you have to admit that they don’t teach the same thing regarding salvation. While some of those religions may say that Jesus was a great man, they deny that we need Jesus to get to heaven. So you can’t say that it doesn’t matter whether you follow Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism because all religions lead to heaven. All religions don’t lead to heaven and to insist that they do is like saying four plus four equals eight, or nine.
“O.K. Pastor, so you’re telling me that there is only one way to get to heaven. But how can I be certain that Jesus is the way?” All I can say to you is study the Bible. While we don’t have time to do that in depth now I can summarize the Bible’s main teachings for you. The reason that Jesus would say that salvation can only be found in him is that he is the only person who has been able to deal with our problem of sin. The Bible teaches us that God is holy and just. That means that God cannot stand it when we do things like grumble, or talk behind a person’s back. At the same time God is loving and he wants to surround himself with us. He can’t do that, however, because we all have sinned. We all have done and continue to do things that make God sick. So what’s the solution? The solution is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God from eternity who became man when he was born of the Virgin Mary. He did this so he would have a body that could absorb our sins. In absorbing our sins through his death and resurrection Jesus left us clean and forgiven. Only by believing in what Jesus has done will we get to heaven. Living a “good” life, fasting, making pilgrimages, giving money to the poor may make us look like good people to others but those things cannot get us into heaven because they do nothing to get rid of our sin.