“There is only one!”
November 24, 2002
You may have noticed that we read again a part of the text we read last week from John’s Gospel. I did this because I want to finish our discussion on Jesus’ parable, that we started last week, as well as emphasize a revelation of Jesus of the utmost importance.
You will remember from last week that the parable, or more specifically the allegory, from John 10 speaks to us on several important levels. On one level Jesus is the good shepherd who calls to his sheep by name. The promise of the Gospel is that in spite of our waywardness, Jesus does and will continue to call to us for we are still his sheep, and he promises to lead us home.
But sometimes hearing the voice of Jesus is hard for us to do. We know from our experience of life that other voices attempt to distract and mislead and take us away from Jesus and from hearing his voice. But the Gospel tells us that only his true sheep hear his voice and they follow him. Through faith we hear and through obedience we follow. As I have said many times, faith and obedience go hand in hand.
The only way for us to hear Jesus’ voice is to be trained to listen for it and be attentive to it. And the only way to be trained to hear Jesus’ voice is to put ourselves in a place where we can hear his words spoken to us over and over again, a place where we can be nurtured and feed by God’s Word, a place where we can experience over and over again the presence, love, grace, and forgiveness of God. Where is this place? This place is the church, the community of faith, the body of Christ. It is only through our worship, prayer, devotion, and commitment together that we can have the nurturing and growing and training of our faith to hear Jesus’ voice.
Well, if this is the first level of meaning for us, then today I want to talk about the second level of meaning, a level of the utmost importance for us and for the world.
There is much talk in the church today about being inclusive. This word has become a common and well-used, sometimes over-used, word in our church language. It has become a motto for many groups in the church, not only in the Presbyterian Church, but also in many other church denominations throughout our country. This word permeates our Book of Order, church fliers, church posters, church pamphlets, and church curriculum.
My friends, I want you to listen to me carefully…being inclusive is a hallmark of the Christian faith and it should not be taken lightly nor neglected nor dismissed. To be an exclusive church is to make a mockery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But, But…inclusiveness, as important as it is to the life and ministry of the church, can also be greatly misused and distorted. It can cause people to become relativists, to the point that anything goes as long as it doesn’t hurt me or interfere with my personal faith. It can cause people to dismiss, neglect, and even ignore those parts of scripture that they don’t like, to the point that context and culture become more important than God’s Word to us through scripture. It can cause people to forget their identity and distinctiveness as Christian people, as Easter people, to the point that any claim about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ is discounted and abandoned and considered socially, economically, and politically incorrect.
If this is want is meant by being inclusive, the God help us all.
My friends, the words of Jesus in our texts today are dangerous words. No one wants to hear them. No one wants to live by them. No one wants to touch them with a ten-foot pole. Because Jesus’ words…not my words…Jesus’ words are the spotlight of truth that reveals to all of us, and to the whole world, that there is only one, only one Lord and Savior…himself.
It is Jesus who says, “I am the door of the sheep, whoever enters through me will be saved.” It is Jesus who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is the conviction on which we stand, the confession in which we believe, and the words by which we have faith and assurance. To avoid, neglect, or dismiss these words is to avoid, neglect, and dismiss the truth of the Gospel.
If you want to know the way to God, Jesus is the only way. If you want to know the truth about God, Jesus is the only truth. If you want to have salvation and life in God, Jesus is the only life. No one else will do, no one else can do, no one else is able to do. There is only one who was raised from the dead, there is only one Lord and Savior, and it is not Muhammend, nor Buddha, nor Confucius, nor Sophia, or any other god, there is only one….Jesus Christ!
Does this mean we can claim Jesus only for ourselves? Does this mean that we have a moral superiority and influence over others? Does this mean that only we have God’s love, grace, and forgiveness?
Unfortunately, for many people in the Christian faith, the answer to all these questions is “yes.” And as a result, for hundreds of years, Christians have not been absent from doing some of the most un-Christian things to those who are not Christian. We should all be mindful of the dreadful consequences in claiming we have exclusive rights to Christ and special privileges because we are Christians.
These words of Jesus speaks more to us than they do to others. Maybe the real issue is not whether people outside the church are saved. That is God’s business not ours, and He is well up for the task. Maybe the real issue is whether people inside the church have any sense of Jesus’ uniqueness and their own distinctiveness as God’s people.
Maybe Jesus’ words are a reminder to all of us who claim to be Christians to begin living in the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus. No ifs, ands, or buts. Maybe Jesus’ words are a call to all of his disciples not to buy into the standards of the world to where no one can tell the difference between the world’s standards and the standards of the church of Jesus Christ. Maybe Jesus’ words are a declaration to the whole world that it is God who defines inclusiveness and exclusiveness, not us, for God has claim over the whole world and every people of every nation.
We cannot hide, nor should we hide, the fact that there is only one way, God’s way, there is only one truth, God’s truth, and there is only one life, life in God, and it is only in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ that we know these things about God and about who God is.
As Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let you hearts be troubled. Keep believing in God and keep on believing in me.” Friends, continue to listen to the voice of Jesus. Trust his voice and believe his promises, and do not ever be ashamed to stand up for the truth of your convictions, for there is only one who will lead you on the way of righteousness and has promised to lead us home in the end. May Jesus Christ be praised! Amen.