Monday, July 27, 2009

The Jesus Way

I originally delivered this as a sermon at Anchorage City Church on July 26, 2009. You can listen to this and other messages at the Anchorage City Church website.

Life can be lived in many ways. There is one way that is above every other, in my opinion. I have observed that it works better........and it ends better than any other way. It has been called “The Jesus Way" and that's what I'm calling it here.

Let me make an analogy. Popular culture offers a way of life that looks like a full banquet table, but often turns out to be more like white bread and water. The Jesus Way offers a life that many people outside the Church seem to think is just bread and water, but once we start down the way, it turns out to be a stacked high banquet table with food that provides real nourishment. And it ends well.

Jesus talked about this way of life. Let's take a look at two passages of scripture where Jesus talked about this, starting with John 8:12:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
If we walk in a dark place, we're likely to trip over something, fall in a hole, or bang our heads. Jesus is saying we can avoid all those things by following him, because He will provide the light. The obstacles become clear and we can avoid them.

There's a interesting deeper shade of meaning to the Greek word we translate as "follows." We think first of "follow" as meaning to travel behind, or to come after. But the shade of meaning in this passage is "to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany, as a disciple". So Jesus was saying, “whoever walks along with me along the road of life like a disciple will never walk in darkness.” It’s not a one time event; it’s a process.

Now let's dig deeper into “following” and "being in the same way with." This is also in the Gospel of John, starting in chapter 13 verse 33. Here is the setting for this passage: Jesus is spending his last night with His disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. It's their last night together, but the disciples don't know this yet. Jesus is packing a lot of information in their last few hours together.

Let's listen to the conversation:
"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
Now THAT must have riveted their attention. They have been almost everywhere with Jesus for the past three years. He is their leader, their friend, and probably most of them are thinking that any day now He is going to kick out the Roman occupation forces and restore the glory of Israel. What does he mean that he is going somewhere and they can't come???

Let’s skip ahead a few verses to 14:4
You know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas said to him,"Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Let's stop here and focus on the last part of what Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

First of all Jesus is talking about the Way to an Eternal life with the Father. He said so just a few words earlier: "You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus knew He was going to the Father. He knew the disciples would eventually understand that He was on the way to Heaven, even if they didn't get it right then.

Jesus said what He did about being "the way" in an interesting and revealing manner. First He tells us what the Way is…..then He tells us what the Way isn't:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
These two readings from John make it crystal clear. Jesus is saying to us:
  • I am the light (I will keep you from stumbling)
  • I am the truth (my way is the true way)
  • I am the life (the best way to live)
  • Through me, and only through me, can you gain Eternal Life
Jesus is saying to you and me that it isn't possible to get to God the Father through Buddah. We can't get to God through Islam. As good as it is to be a Jew, God’s chosen people, that alone will not get us there either. Along with every other religion, Jesus statement also rules out Baha’i, Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Hinduism, American Indian religions, nature worship, Sikhism, ancestor worship, Confucianism, the old Norse religions, and an old American favorite, "being good.”

Wait a minute: Isn’t being good what most Americans believe will get them to Heaven? Actually, about 7 of 10 Americans believe it may be possible to “earn your wings” according to one statistic I read. Even some born again believers are not clear on this.

But let's hear again what Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father except through me." The New Testament is consistent on this subject: belief in Jesus is the one and only route to Heaven. Good deeds demonstrate our faith, but you and I can get to Heaven only through believing in Jesus with all that believing implies.

OK. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. But not only is The Jesus Way the only road to Heaven, it’s also the best and smoothest road getting there.

We’ll look more at the road getting there in part two of this series on The Jesus Way.

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