Something I haven’t had to deal with much, since I live in the Bible Belt, is having to share the unpopular truth of Christ being the only way into Heaven. But you hear it all the time, on television, radio, and other media, that people have a hard time accepting that Jesus is the only way. I taught and coached at the middle school level for several years, and last year I had a student who was hungry for the things of God. We talked quite a bit about it, and my wife would pray during these times that I could effectively witness to her. But even as a young teenager, this girl had a hard time believing that Jesus was the only way to God. She knew other people in other religious systems, and she knew personal family friends who were living in homosexuality and other anti-biblical lifestyles, and she just couldn’t imagine these “good” people not going to Heaven. She assumed that there must be more than one way to Heaven, and that my way (or more specifically, the Christian way) was just one of many options.
Unfortunately, if we are following Jesus, He didn’t leave us any other options. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis added). He didn’t say He was a way, a truth, and a life. He said He was the way, truth, and life, and that no one can even come to the Father except through Him. That leaves no lee-way or wiggle room. In a culture where it is unacceptable to be intolerant of others, we often forget this truth, but it doesn’t make it any less true, any more than denying gravity exists means you won’t fall if you jump off a cliff.
For an unbeliever, there is still a choice to be made about the truthfulness of the claims of Christ. He or she has yet to make that choice, and thus they are not yet a believer. But for a believer and follower of Jesus, we have supposedly already made this choice, and if He is the only way to God, then our lives must reflect His standards of truth. Probably even more often than I see the media trying to convince people that there are more ways to Heaven than just through Jesus, I see people who claim to be followers of Christ, yet they don’t live according to His standards of truth. Jesus gave 2 analogies in Matthew 7:15-20 regarding recognizing false prophets:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Randy Alcorn points out that many of the people listening to this message were probably shepherds or at least were familiar with the idea of wolves being an enemy to their flocks, and therefore the first analogy of false prophets being wolves in sheep’s clothing was extremely relevant to them. And His second analogy, of a true follower of Him bearing good fruit, was also relevant to an agricultural society.
After making these analogies, Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Some people talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. They claim to be Christians, they even do things that seem very Christian (pastor churches, teach Sunday school, talk about God and write God-related books and blogs, prophesy, drive out demons, and do many miracles in Christ’s name – see v. 22). But they don’t live according the standards of truth that Christ set. Sometimes that includes me, and I shudder at the thought of Christ saying He never knew me. So, I will persist in developing my relationship with Him, and I will focus on living according to His truth.
So, today’s lesson:
- Truth is truth. It cannot be changed.
- Jesus is truth. He sets the standard.
- Followers of Jesus will be known by their fruit, which includes living according to the truth.