New eBook from Jay … “Is Jesus the Only Way?”

OK, another interruption on our travels though the book of Colossians.  But I wanted to let you know about a short book that I just published, Is Jesus the Only Way?, available here in the Kindle store at amazon.com.  (It is also available here as a pdf file.)  My goal is to not only answer that exact question, but to draw us back to the heart of the gospel message.  In my opinion, we have added a lot of baggage to the gospel over the years in connecting Christianity with legalism, political activism, creationism, capitalism, materialism, and a host of isms.

Now with a new generation coming into church leadership, many are quick to throw these connections over the side of the ship.  And I agree wholeheartedly that this baggage needs to be tossed and that we need to listen to a greater variety of voices in the church on issues such as social justice, creation care, faith and science, worship styles, politics, styles of evangelism, and asking honest questions.  But could we be lightening the load too much?  That is, in our efforts to throw off the trappings of the past, are we abandoning the core message of the gospel?

As the church goes through this transformative time, I believe there is one place we need to draw a line in the sand.  And it is at the divine identity of Jesus Christ.  My goal in this book is to let Jesus speak for himself in answering the question in the title.  To do that I have essentially taken a verse-by-verse approach in explaining what Jesus said about himself in the gospel of John chapters 5, 6, and 7.

I believe in this age of universalism and salad bar religion, we need to keep the central message of the identity of Jesus Christ in front of our family and friends as the core issue of what makes Christianity CHRISTianity.  While we can have honest questions about the biblical position on these ancillary issues, the heart of the gospel remains the answer to this question, “Is Jesus the Only Way?”

Please share this message with your high school or college student.  Please help your kids understand as they head into or back to college that there is plenty of room in the Scripture and the church for asking honest questions.  Help them navigate as well as teach them to explore for themselves how their faith intersects with the new world they are stepping into.  Help them understand, accept, and celebrate the diversity in the church.  But teach them that there in a core message to the gospel that makes us who we are as believers.  And it all has to do with the identity of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Back to Our Two Issues: Is Jesus the Only Way and Is Sin Compatible with the Child of God?

Our tour through the gospel of John, chapters 5 through 7, has been a long answer to a single question:  Is Jesus the only way to heaven?  And our conclusion, based on Jesus’ own words, is an emphatic “Yes” many times over.  The reason I went into so much detail on this topic is because Jesus’ divinity claims followed by His death, burial, and resurrection (His resurrection being God’s stamp of approval) are what make Christianity CHRISTianity.

The reason this is so important is because we have a confused generation coming up that has been raised on salad bar religion.  They have been taught to pick and choose their truth from a variety of religious traditions.  And in this setting, the idea that Jesus is the only way comes across as too narrow, too intolerant, and too divisive.  While criticism about our generational issues is something we need to honestly consider, we cannot bow to any criticism of this core truth:  Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Now let’s get back to the other issues that got us started down this path several weeks ago.  I understand and join believers who see the church as too rigidly conservative on topics like politics, evolution, creation care, social justice, legalism, and asking honest questions.  There is room in Scripture for a variety of voices and understanding on these issues.

But a troubling issue that often gets thrown into this mix is the trending call for the church to be more accepting of a gay lifestyle.  Just as in the idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven, here we run into our second non-negotiable biblical principle:  A sinful lifestyle is not compatible with being a believer, a child of God.  And this is not to single out homosexual practice as the only sin this principle applies to.  But the acceptance and celebration of the gay lifestyle seems to be the issue of the moment.

And while opinions may vary on just how complicated this issue is, our zeal for truth must always be seasoned with understanding, kindness, and open discussion on the personal level.  But the core principle remains:  the message of Scripture, when we let the Bible speak for itself, is that the consistent practice of sin is not compatible with living the Christian life.

I am not so sure that this idea is always understood, believed, and embraced in our churches.  Because the believer’s relationship with sin is so crucial to addressing what we accept in the church, we will take our time developing from Scripture the concept that a sinful lifestyle is not compatible with the Christian life.  Won’t you join us on the journey?

“Is This the Christ?” – John 7:37-52

John 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “ 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, (Jesus’ proclamation regarding His identity as the living water) were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41 Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” (Remember, we understand now that the Prophet and the Christ are one in the same.  The Jews of that day did not necessarily make that connection.  At any rate, the question keeps coming up, “Who is this man?”)

Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (The crowd identifies Jesus as a Galilean which to them disqualifies Him from being the Christ.  Maybe they were unaware of the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the house of David as the Scriptures foretold.) 43 So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. (“A division occurred” is a recurring theme as Jesus explains more and more about who He is.) 44 Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, (They were sent to arrest Jesus in John 7:32 and now have returned empty-handed.) and they said to them [the officers], “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” (As we mentioned last time, even the temple police recognized the unique teaching authority that Jesus possessed and refused to arrest Him.)

47 The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48 No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?” (The Pharisees respond to the soldiers failure to bring Jesus in with an exasperation that surely you soldiers have not joined this naive crowd in their belief.  They make the pointed comment to the officers that none of us experts are believing in Him.  Of course, we know that some of the Pharisees are believing in Him or at least moving in that direction.)

49 “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” (The Pharisees had a very dim view of the “crowd” who could easily be misled by any plausible teacher because of their ignorance of the true interpretation of the Law.  The Pharisees also had a general disdain for the common people who had given up long ago any interest in keeping the minutia of the Law that the Pharisees were so proud of.)

50 Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” (Speaking of the Law, Nicodemus points out the Law requirement to let Jesus speak for Himself before the group jumps to any conclusions about His guilt or innocence.) 52 They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” (There is really no point in debating this any further.  Look at our history.  No prophet comes out of Galilee.  This is not referring to a specific prediction of Scripture; it is more of a history lesson and maybe a comment of prejudice.  Basically, it never happens.  A Galilean cannot be the Christ.)

The debate stops here for the time being, but is not finished.  In fact, the confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders over His identity continue to escalate until, “The Jews answered him [Pilate], ‘We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God’ ” (Jn 19:7).  And Jesus is put to death.

For our purposes, we will stop here; having completed our exposition of John chapters 5 through 7.  I hope the thoroughness of our discussion has driven home the point that Jesus was very clear about who He is.  Jesus was very clear that He, the true Son of God, is the only way to eternal life.  This claim, put forth by Jesus’ own words and confirmed by the Jew’s reaction, is critical to lay hold of as we evaluate the message of the gospel.  We will discuss why next time.