As I’ve mentioned before, growing up I played a lot of sports. Of course baseball was the one I primarily played, but I dabbled in football, soccer, basketball, and boxing to name most of them. One thing that I found in every sport was consistency. It didn’t matter what sport you played, or how much an individualistic or cooperative a sport was, being consistent in that sport was necessary to a player becoming proficient in it.
In one of my college courses, my roommate had to present a demonstration speech to the class. Being a basketball player himself, he demonstrated the proper technique in shooting a basketball. Since then, when I’ve watched a basketball game, I have looked to see if the players follow that technique. And for the most part a lot do.
In my own coaching experience, when I would teach the techniques needed to play baseball, I relayed the necessity of consistency to my players in all areas of the game, and I want to demonstrate just one drill that I was taught that helped this. Batting takes the entire body. Too often young batters, think that if they can use their biceps, they’ll hit homeruns all day long. But really that leads to a lot of strike outs or fly outs. No, batting, like a lot of other aspects of baseball, requires the whole body. And so when teaching proper batting technique, we always started with the feet. In this drill all you need is a baseball and the player. The player must first get into a batter’s stance, then the coach, or the player themselves, places a ball at the heal of the back foot of the player, which is the foot that is closest to the catcher. The batter is to twist their foot and hips in a consistent motion, so that the hips stay on a singular plane and the heel hits the ball away from the player’s foot. This drill teaches a player to keep their body consistent, turning the same way every time. If the player were to lift the heel, the entire body moves up, which in turn, will move the bat high and miss the ball. After many reps at this simple drill, a batter quickly becomes consistent in their technique, and eventually consistent in their ability to hit the ball.
And it’s this idea of consistency that brings us into our seventh week of our Counterfeit series, where we’re continuing to look at those counterfeit teachings that are seeping into the Church at an alarming rate today. This series has been divided into two parts. The first part was setting the foundation on which we could begin to see the counterfeits. First we talked about how the best way for us to see a counterfeit is by knowing the truth. We do this my knowing God’s Word so well, that when we encounter a counterfeit teaching, we’ll be able to recognize it. After that we talked about the biblical clues that we should know, which will help us recognize a pastor or teacher who proclaims counterfeit teachings. These were: making false predictions, calling us away from the God of the Bible, perhaps having predictions sometimes come true but still calling people away from God, or outright denying the physical work of Jesus in the flesh. Finally for our foundation, we talked about how the diminishing of the Bible is always a prerequisite for the twisting that must come with a counterfeit teaching. A false teacher or pastor must always diminish God’s Word to uplift their own.
After we discussed these foundational aspects of how to spot counterfeit teachings, we began to talk about specifics. So far we’ve talked about three. First we looked at the diminishing of who God is to a pantheistic entity, while elevating humanity to a place of divinity. In this case, creation becomes god, and therefore humanity is now a part of god or divine itself. Then we talked about the rejection of the biblical understanding of sin. Sin ceases to be our personal responsibility of rebellion against God, and becomes a simple tweaking of our attitude and habits. Finally, last week, we talked about the counterfeit teaching that Jesus was not fully God, but rather a human fully in touch with himself, who reached into divinity. This false teaching makes Jesus is no longer the God who reaches out to humanity that the Scriptures say he is, but rather Jesus becomes humanity grasping for the divine.
With all this now fresh in our minds, let’s dive back into who Jesus is, by asking the question, if Jesus is just a human who reached the divine, as the false teaching says he is, is he the only way to accomplish such a task? Since we are using the Progressive Church as our basis, we’ll first look at what they teach, and then we will look at what the Scriptures teach.
Delwin Brown in his work, “What Does Progressive Christianity Believe?” writes, “…the incarnation of God means that all of the world’s religions are frail but fecund (feck-end, meaning able to produce) sites of the divine. . . . We may say with John’s gospel that no one comes to God except through Christ, but ‘Christ’ is the Christian name for the logos of God in all of creation, including all religions. We do not have a privileged religious perspective, and we do not need one in order to embrace and proclaim our faith.”
What Delwin Brown is saying, is that all religions can produce the type of pathway that leads to what the Bible would call salvation. He is saying that Jesus being the Christ is just one among many christs that can be found throughout all of history, throughout all the world’s religions.
In his comparison on Fundamental Christian and Progressive Christian beliefs, Randal Wehler refers to the Progressive view in two ways, “No ‘one’ Godly path”, and “Multiple God-pathways” (https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/comparing-fundamental-and-progressive-christianity-one-persons-view/).
And so, what Brown and Wehlar are saying is that Siddhartha of Buddhism, was a christ and a way to God. They are saying that Muhammed (Isalm), or Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism), Jospeh Smith (Mormonism) , L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Yung Sun Moon (Unification Church), and many other founders of different religions are christs, who have a pathway to god that is equal to Jesus.
In other words, when we come to the verse John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”, what the Progressive Church is saying, is that Jesus is the only way in which those who follow him can reach God, but he is only one way among many other ways. And so, to the Progressive Church, Jesus’ exclusive path to God, is not exclusive.
This is one of those counterfeit teachings that’s hard to answer. Not because the Bible isn’t clear, but because if someone outright dismisses the very words of Jesus that he is the exclusive path to God, how can you go about showing them that he is not just one way, but the way? Well I think there’s two parts in answering this question, is Jesus the exclusive way to God, or is he just one of may ways?
First, we can compare Jesus’ way to that of these other religions. Let’s look at two religions and put them against Jesus and see if they are compatible. These two will be as far as we can get from Jesus, and as close as we can get.
We’ll start by looking at one of the most ancient religions, Hinduism. What are the basic beliefs of Hinduism? In the magazine Hinduism Today they give nine, but let’s just cover three today. The magazine states that god is an, “All-Pervasive Divinity.” Going on to say that, “Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.” In other words, the Hindu god is a pantheistic god, which makes all things in creation a part of its divinity. This looks very much like the god of the Progressive Church, but as we have already showed a few weeks back, it is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, is a separate being from his creation.
The magazine goes on to say that, Hindus believe in a “Three Worlds and Cycles of Creation”. Meaning that, “Hindus believe there are three worlds of existence--physical, astral and causal--and that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.” In other words, the universe is created, lives for a period of time, then is destroyed and recreated in an endless cycle. Yet the Bible puts forth in Genesis 1, that this universe was created by God out of nothing, so there was no previous universe, and that though there will be a new creation as stated in Revelation 22, that new creation will last for eternity. No cycle, just one time through. This is very different that the continual cycle of recreation that is found in Hinduism.
Finally, the magazine states that Hinduism believes in, "Reincarnation and Liberation”. This means that, “Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha--spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth--is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.” (https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=3106). This idea is a continual cycle of rebirth into this life, until a person balances the scales of their own karma, or we could say spiritual bondage of bad things that keeps us coming back over and over again. But The Bible is very straight forward in Hebrews 9:27, where it reads, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” The biblical stance is that a human only passes through this creation one time before he meets God. This is different than the belief that we are on a continuous cycle of coming back into the creation again and again.
So for our first religion, we can see that the two not only disagree, but are in fact contradictory.
But let’s move away from one of the furthest religions that we can go to, and let’s get as close to Christianity as we can by looking at Islam. Islam doesn’t just claim to be a path to God, but a path on which Jesus is one of the great prophets of God. So here we should find the best example of a path to God that shows that Jesus isn’t exclusive. Let’s look at some of Islam’s claims. First, last week we showed how the Bible claims that Jesus is fully God, but Sadullah Khan writing for the website IslamiCity states that Islam believes, “In promoting a great human such as Jesus (pbuh) to divinity, does not elevate Jesus as much as it minimizes the concept of the divine; is not making the finite infinite as much as making the perfect imperfect; not an elevation of Jesus, but rather a devaluation of the Divine.” Kahn is stating that Islam rejects that Jesus is divine as shown in the Bible.
What about Jesus’ crucifixion? Kahn writes that Islam believes, "Christ, according to Muslim belief, did NOT die on a cross [Qur'an 4:157] but was rather elevated by Allah and saved from being killed [Qur'an 4:158].” Yet, we know from all four Gospels and places throughout the New Testament, that the Bible states that Jesus died on a cross. In fact, through historical records, such as from the Roman historian Pliny the younger, we know for a fact that Jesus was historically crucified.
Finally, what about the resurrection of Jesus? Kahn states that Islam’s stance is, “Not having died, Jesus could NOT have been resurrected [Qur'an 4:156].” (https://www.islamicity.org/5797/jesus-in-islam/?gclid=CjwKCAiA17P9BRB2EiwAMvwNyBicVV9YmrCOS3Fa0Sd2R3X-_LVWppP4dE1aBbPDdp2-S906HlNuwBoCEUEQAvD_BwE) But the Bible is clear, especially in 1st Corinthians 15, that not only was Jesus resurrected, but hundreds of people were witness to it.
So in our closest religion to Christianity, we not only again see disagreement, but outright contradiction.
When someone, like the Progressive Church, says that all religions are the same, they just have a few tweaks here and there that make them different, I remember the words of the late apologist Ravi Zacharias. He has stated, “My premise is that the popular aphorism that 'all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different' simply is not true. It is more correct to say that all religions are, at best, superficially similar but fundamentally different.”
Let’s think about it for a second, why would a god of any persuasion deem it necessary to contradict themselves in such monumental ways? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable that if there really was a God, that he would be consistent in his directions on how to get to him?
Well let’s look at what the God that the Bible puts forth, remembering that this Bible is a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, over the course of roughly 1,500 years. If he really is God, then he would be consistent, through all those authors, their writings, and thought the years. So let’s see if he is.
In the 10th verse in the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, the prophet records this unequivocal statement of God, “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.’”
The God of the Bible is clear, there is no other gods in this universe. But the prophet Jeremiah in his book cried out in anguish of what his people had done and in the 16th chapter, in the 19 verse Jeremiah writes, “Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. 20 Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!”
And so, to the idols God tells his people to see if they will help. One of these times is found in the book of Judges chapter 10 verses 13-14, where God says, “13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”
But the prophet Isaiah sees that these idols are nothing but man made objects, when we writes this in his 44th chapter, “9 All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. 10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing? 11 People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and shame. 12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. 13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie? (v.9-20)”
So the God of the Bible says that all these things that we worship, that are not of him, are man made idols that are really nothing. And so he speaks things like this in the book of Isaiah, “I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior (43:11)…”, and he says, “Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. 22 ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other (45:21-22)…’” So we see that God is very clear that he alone, is not only God, by the Savior or the one path to which there is no other.
And so when Jesus declares in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”, and Peter later proclaims in Acts 4:11-12, “11 Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved…”, they’re doing one of two things. Either Jesus and the disciples are rejecting the claim of God that he is the only way, or they are are saying that Jesus is the God who proclaims that he is the only way. And as last week we showed, the Bible puts forth that Jesus is the God who both spoke to Isaiah, and the one who spoke to Peter. The first he spoke to while one his throne, the other he spoke to while walking in human flesh.
And it’s this exclusive proclamation by the God of the Bible that eternity hinges on. If Jesus isn’t the only path, then he is a liar. And if he is a liar, then he cannot be trusted because he claims that exclusive position for himself. And if he cannot be trusted, then we have to throw out that he is even one way to the god that the Progressive Church teaches. Because he is in direct opposition to the god they believe says all paths lead to.
But if Jesus is the exclusive God that has spoken throughout the centuries, then his path is the only way we can follow. Because every other way leads to death and destruction. Jesus’ exclusive claims about himself are either the path away from God, or the only path to God. But what it cannot be is one of many paths, Jesus, the God of the Bible, does not afford us that option.
It’s this exclusive message of Jesus that we must wrestle with. If Jesus isn’t exclusive, then it’s really what the Progressive Church believes, all paths lead to god, except for Jesus’. But if Jesus is exclusive, then his way is the only way, and we must follow his way alone. And his way says that we are sinners. Each and everyone one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Meaning that even one disobedient thought or action against God has separated us from him in such a way that there is no action we can take to span the gulf that is now between us and him.
Yet God says that he is the Savior; he is the one that will span the gulf that we caused between us and him. This is done through Jesus. God the Son comes down, takes on our humanity in every way, but in that life he never sinned. He never disobeys or rebels against the standard of God by which all humanity has failed. But humanity didn’t want to follow Jesus, and the people of his day thought if they could just get rid of him, then they could pursue their own paths. But this was also a part of God’s plan. The only way humanity’s sin could be dealt with was by the spilling of blood, because that is the result of sin. Sin leads to death, so death has to be paid. Jesus dies in our place. Jesus receives the punishment, and fulfills the debt that we created for ourselves.
And we know this to be true because of the resurrection of Jesus. Hundreds of eyewitnesses saw it when it historically happened. The lives of those early disciples and those that followed after them all the way up to today, testify to that moment of Jesus’ resurrection.
Yet we must receive Jesus, we must accept our sin and our destiny towards death. We must believe, trusting in Jesus as our only Savior, the one who paid the price for our sin, clearing the whole thing away. And we need to follow him, because we were’t just saved from the something of sin, but we were saved to the something of a close personal relationship with God that transforms us into the person God created us to be. This starts now and last into eternity with him.
And so my challenge this week is this, have you struggled with the exclusiveness of Jesus? That Jesus is the only way to God, because God is the only Savior and the only God there is? If you are not a believer in Jesus, I want to challenge you this week to wrestle with what Jesus being the exclusive way to God means. That it’s either him or nothing, that he either holds the keys to everything or he holds the keys to nothing. And what each of those mean if you were to follow one with the other being true. A Christian philosopher began to work on a wager, that has come to be known as Pascal’s wager. The idea has at its basis this, if you follow God and he is not real, then you have really not lost much of anything; yet if you do not follow him and he is real, then you have lost everything.
This is similar to Jesus’ exclusiveness. If he is not exclusive and you follow him, you have not lost much, but if Jesus is the exclusive path to salvation and you do not follow him, then you have lost everything. These are the ideas I am asking you who do not believe in Jesus to wrestle with. To really seek the truth in an earnest way.
But to you who are a believer, I want to challenge you as well. Do you hold to the belief that Jesus is the only way to God? If you do not, why? The Bible is clear, why hold to a belief that God says is false. We must hold to the exclusivity of Jesus, not because it is an us verse them thing, but rather because it’s what God says is true, and we as Jesus’ disciples must walk in his truth. If you do hold to Jesus being the exclusive way to God, then do you know what that means? There are many people out there that are not on the path to God, because they do not believe in Jesus as their Savior. That means you and I must share the Gospel with others. As Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15, “14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Beloved of God, let us point people to Jesus, the only way to salvation, the only way out of death and the only place were sin is forgiven. We who have called on Jesus stand in his life for eternity, let us not hold onto as if it is ours to deny others to come, but instead share the opportunity for others to believe in Jesus alone for their salvation. This is the calling of God to everyone one of his disciples, everyone of his children. Amen.