11
Oct

Do All Religions Lead To The Same Place? | Jeff Vines


Well, good morning, or is it afternoon? Still morning, everybody. So good to be here with you at High Desert
Church. I’m from just down in the Valley and you’re
quite famous down there. People know about the great ministry that’s
happening here, our senior pastor, your leaders. And that’s a good thing, you want a good reputation
when people talk about your church. For me, I just consider it a real privilege
to be here. I was able to worship last night with the
band and the people who were attending last night’s service. Just had a great time of worshiping with people
who love Jesus. I want to, from the get go, welcome our other
campuses out of Apple Valley and Phelan and Hesperia, as well as our online audience as
well. Welcome, glad you’re here. And I appreciate you inviting me to address
such an easy topic. How can we Christians claim that Jesus is
the only way to God? That is the most offensive statement is a
culture of inclusivity. And I just want to tell you from the get go,
the first part of this message, okay? Have you ever had a root canal? Okay, they hurt. And even though the dentist tells you they’re
not going to hurt, it’s a little painful. But, it’s essential for your health and vitality. So, the first part of this, we’re in a worldview
series, so there are going to be some tough questions, and I ask you, if you would just
go and stay with me through this, something will click in the first half of this message,
and then the second half, we’ll just have a party. We’ll have a great time. But you’ve got to do the hard work up front. Before I started ministry in Southern California,
I was in Savannah, Georgia as a teaching pastor for a couple of years. Before that, ten years in New Zealand, and
before that, ten years in Zimbabwe, Africa. So I’ve traveled quite a bit. And when we lived in New Zealand, the best
kept secret about New Zealand is we get 282 days of rain a year. So it’s the exact opposite of Victorville. A name for New Zealand, the Maori name, the
indigenous people, is Aotearoa, which means land of the long white cloud. And the reason is because it’s the land of
the long white cloud. But we get about eight weeks in January and
February, it’s our summer. And all the major sporting events take place
in those eight weeks. The America’s Cup boat racing, and then of
course we have the New Zealand Golf Open. And my son, Delaney, when he turned eight,
I had promised him I would take him to the Golf Open, and I did. When you attend a golf tournament in New Zealand,
it’s quite different than the states. Here in the US, and forgive me if the word
is wrong, because I’ve got so many cultural differences in my mind now, but we call them
portalets, they are portable toilets. You have them here as well, right? We have them here. You go to a golf tournament, they are everywhere,
all throughout the course. But in New Zealand, they’re all gathered together
around the 18th green. So you’ve only got one place on the entire
golf course. So if you’re two miles out away from the 18th
green and you need to go, it’s trouble. Well, Delaney had a bunch of Diet Cokes and
bottled water. And my little boy said, “Dad, I’ve got to
go.” Of course, I was at the farthest point away
from the portalets. I rush him back, take him into that little
portalet there. Get a Diet Coke and a hot dog while I’m waiting. About ten minutes go by and he’s no where
to be found. And I go back over on the toilet door and
I knock. And I say, “Delaney, I just need to know you’re
okay. You’ve been in there for ten minutes.” From the time Delaney was born, he’s been
playing practical jokes on his father. And so, he loves to do this. He loves that his dad gets a little worried. But I said to Delaney, “Look, you need to
tell me that you’re safe and that you’re in there or you’re going to make me mad.” Again, nothing. And so, these portalets are about six feet
tall, and I’m 6’4″. And so, I put my hand right on top of it and
I leaned it over just a little bit to give him a little fright, like he was having an
earthquake, because we have those in New Zealand too, as you know. But no sound whatsoever. And then I threatened him again. I said, “Son, if you don’t come out of there
it’s going to get ugly.” Nothing. So, I had this thing off of it’s foundation,
I had this thing almost horizontal. So you got blue water and other stuff coming
out the sides. And I’m thinking, there’s no way he’s going
to want to stay in there. And then I just kind of threw it back up into
its original position, as if the earthquake shaking back and forth. About that time, when it stopped shaking,
there was a tap on my shoulder, I turned around and it was my son, Delaney. And he said, “Dad, what are you doing?” I said … evidently he had changed portalets
when I turned my back to go to the kiosk or the concession stand. And a little old lady from China walked out
of this portalet. She had come all the way from China to see
the New Zealand Golf Open. She was drenched in a mixture of stuff. And she looked at me and she spoke I guess
the only English she knew. “You’re a very bad man!” And of course, what I did at this point is
I moved toward her to explain that I’m sorry, my momma had raised a good boy, it was just
a case of mistaken identity. And as I moved forward, because there was
a language barrier, she interpreted that as aggression. And so, she ran, literally ran away. About 10, 15 minutes later, she came back
with a policeman. Thank God, the policeman just happened to
be the chairman of our Board of Elders at the church I pastored in New Zealand. And he said, “Pastor Jeff, what’s going on?” And I explained to him, and then he tried
to explain to her. But again, the language barrier. Well, that was the first day of the golf tournament. A golf tournament lasts four days, so every
time she saw me at the golf tournament, along with her three friends, sprinted to the other
side of the fairway to get away from this evil man. And no matter how many times I tried to communicate,
it was always interpreted as aggression. Now, that’s a great example, because I spend
a lot of time on university campuses talking to our college students. And as soon as they find out I’m a Christian,
it doesn’t seem to matter how polite or subtle that I am, they know, in their perceived idea
of tolerance and inclusivity, they know what I believe and that is that Jesus is truly
the only way to God. That is offensive in a western culture that
places the highest value on tolerance and inclusivity. Now, in the past, stay with me now, we define
tolerance and inclusivity as all people are treated equally under the law, no matter what
you believe. And I think that’s good. In America, you believe whatever you want,
you’re treated equally. You cannot be discriminated against. But the definition of tolerance and inclusivity,
they have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. Now when someone talks about tolerance and
inclusivity, their idea in their mind is that not merely do we treat all people equally,
but now all ideas and truth statements are equally valid and equally true. So if you claim to have a superior idea, especially
in relation to religion, then you are seen as bigoted, as somehow superior. Notice the difference. Under the old definition of tolerance and
inclusivity, people are treated equally no matter what they believe, which is a good
thing. Under the new idea, all ideas are treated
equally. Now, the reason I begin that way is because
before I talk to people about Jesus and why he is the only way to salvation, the only
way to God, the only way to a hope in eternity, I realize that I first got to address this
misnomer, or misconception concerning inclusivity, exclusivity, and tolerance. And I have to show them how this new definition
of inclusivity and tolerance actually fails its own test. Now, let me step back for a moment. I had a youth pastor in New Zealand, 33 years
old. He wanted to be married more than any man
I had ever met. And he really wanted a wife. And finally, one day I said, “Let’s sit down,
Bill, let’s talk. Because I know you’ve been dating some kiwis,”
this was in New Zealand. “And so tell me what’s going on. What kind of girl are you looking for?” And he started to describe her. And after about 15 minutes, I said, “Dude,
you’re looking for Mother Teresa in Jennifer Aniston’s body. And there are two things about that. Number one, that woman does not exists. And two, if she did, she wouldn’t be interested
in you.” So, some people need a fresh dose of reality. When you’re looking at any worldview, and
that’s what this series has been about, you’re asking two primary questions. You’re asking, one, is this worldview inherently
coherent? Is it consistent? And the answer is that it gives for origin,
meaning, morality, destiny. And then the second test is, can it be existentially
felt? What difference does it make in my life? The first thing we need to do with people,
on the way to show how how Jesus answers these issues, is to debunk the idea of inclusivity,
that all ideas are equally valid and equally true. So I’m going to take you through five statements
here. This is the hard part, this is the root canal. But after the root canal, we’ll get to do
some great stuff and I think you’re going to be greatly encouraged. Number one, inclusivity violates the foundation
of reason and debate, at least the way it is defined today. Let me say it like this, two statements made
about the same thing, which diametrically oppose one another, cannot both possibly be
true. If I say to you my wife is pregnant, five
minutes later I say my wife is not pregnant, because those statements diametrically oppose
one another, they cannot both be true. You with me? So when the Christians come along and say
Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and claim that
Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” and claim that Jesus preexisted Abraham. And according to John 1:3, Jesus made all
things, he took part in creation because he preexisted creation. That God himself, his name is plural, Elohim,
to include God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, that God in Genesis said,
“Let us make man in our own image,” a triune God, we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh,
who died for the sins of the world. And the primary doctrine of Jesus, fundamental,
is that you cannot be saved by merit or righteousness. There is no one righteous, no not one. That you are saved by grace and grace alone. Salvation is not something that can be earned,
a relationship with God occurs outside of religious effort of any kind. And your entire hope and future reside in
a deep relationship with a person, not the result of personal merit or effort of any
kind. Now, if you take that as the core fundamental
belief of Christianity, then you place beside it the view of Islam. And I’m not picking on Muslims, I’m just using
the most popular of the five world religions, Muslims will tell you Jesus categorically
is not the Son of God. It’s blasphemy to even suggest that God could
have a Son. They will even tell you that he may have been
a prophet and a teacher, equal to but not greater than Mohammed. In fact, Jesus did not die for the sins of
the world. He didn’t even actually die historically on
the cross, he just appeared to be dead. And then they will tell you that salvation
is based on merit, not grace. In keeping the five pillars of Islam and making
his/her pilgrimage to Mecca, if possible, and by being a good person, submitting ultimately
to the will of Allah. And so again, logically speaking, you put
two worldviews side by side, they diametrically oppose each other, sheer logic tells you that
unless we’re living in some kind of loony bin, both cannot be true. Second, inclusivity works under a false assumption. The assumption is this, religions of the world
are fundamentally the same, only superficially different. Now look at that again, most people, who don’t
know anything about the religions of the world, say that religions of the world are fundamentally
the same, only superficially different. When the opposite is true, the religions of
the world are fundamentally, at their core, different, diametrically in opposition, and
only superficially at best similar. Yet, Joe Cline, March 7, 2007, TIME Magazine,
said this, “Anyone who believes that there are inferior religions is a right wing extremist.” Now, do we really want to say that religions
that offer child sacrifice are not inferior? Somebody will say, “Wait a minute, Pastor
Jeff, we’re not talking about sects, we’re talking about the five major religions of
the world, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism.” The problem with this, once again, is that
anyone who states that these religions are fundamentally the same does not understand
the core of these religions. And what I find on these university campuses,
by the way, is it’s always the Christian who takes the hit, as if we’re the only ones who
are exclusive. But again, this comes out of a lack of understanding. Gautama Buddha was born a Hindu. He renounced two of the fundamental core beliefs
or doctrines of Hinduism, the authority of the Vedas, the Hindu scriptures, and the value
of the caste system. He did not accept these things as true. So he goes on his enlightened path, he discovers
the four noble truths, the eight-fold path, attempting to extinguish all desire in a nirvanic
pursuit. And the point of all this is, Buddhism was
actually born out of a rejection of Hinduism, and the major fundamental doctrines associated
with it. Islam is also extremely exclusive in its claims. Atheism is the most exclusive religion of
all. You say, “Wait a minute, is atheism a religion?” Of course it is. Any statement about the absolute nature of
things is a religious statement. And yet, atheism, although it is a logical
impossibility, because the atheists postulate an absolute negation, they will say there
absolutely is no God. And the only way you can say there absolutely
is no God is if you have absolute knowledge, which no one does. So every faith system, you’re doing well,
I know it’s hurting a little, but this is good for you. This is good. You can always get the CD and say, “Let me
go through that again,” because you’re going to have to face this sooner or later with
a family member, and you can’t just say, “Well, I believe Jesus is the way just because.” That’s not going to work. “I just believe so.” So somewhere along the line we begin to realize
that every truth statement, every philosophy, and every religion is exclusive at some point. It excludes what is false, or that which is
diametrically opposed to its fundamental core beliefs. Steve Turner, who was an English journalist,
speaking about this whole topic said this. Now watch carefully, “We believe that all
religions are basically the same. At least the ones we read were. They all believe in love and goodness, they
only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.” Three, true inclusivists do not exist. This is what I’ve discovered in my life, there’s
no such thing as a real inclusivist when you define it as all ideas are equally valid,
equally true. I had a neighbor in New Zealand, and we had
gotten to know each other. And after a few years, I decided the time
was right to share my faith with him. And so I did. And I spent probably three hours talking about
Jesus and why I believed he was the way to God. He asked a few questions, it took probably
three hours. And then at the end of it, here’s his response. He said, “Pastor Jeff, that’s great. If that works for you, good.” Okay, you know what he means, right? Pragmatically he says, “If that makes you
feel good and helps you endure life, fantastic.” And my response was, “Well, what if child
sacrifice works for me? What if that makes me feel good and I can
make it through life by killing little children. Is that okay? How about robbing banks? How about starting a cult and abusing children,
if that works for me, is that okay?” He said, “Well, I’m an inclusivist, Pastor,
I think all religions are equal.” I said, “Really? Jim Jones? Charles Manson?” He said, “Well, all of them but those two.” All worldviews are exclusive at some point,
because truth by nature is exclusive. And I always like to say, with a little tongue
in cheek, if inclusivity is all it’s cracked up to be, then why can’t we include both the
inclusivists and the exclusivists? So I asked Phil, “What religion are you?” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you said all religions are
equally valid and equally true. What religion do you follow?” He said, “I’m unaffiliated at the moment.” Here’s what I’ve discovered, anyone who says
that all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different, they don’t
belong to one. Because if they knew the core values and foundational
truths, they would never make that statement. Do you understand where we are so far? We’re simply saying that it’s impossible to
define or live in a western culture where you say that all ideas are equally valid and
true. It’s impossible. At some point you’re going to say, “That just
can’t work.” When I come over to your house and I steal
everything you have, and I wound you, and shoot you, maybe. And I say to you, “Well, my religion is that
if I do this, I will gain more energy from the universe and live a longer life.” I guarantee you’re going to say, “Uh, I don’t
think that’s true.” Four, inclusivists claim that exclusivists
are arrogant. Now, this is one of the things we face at
university campuses. As soon as I sit down to talk with a group
of college students, you can tell they’re seething. They don’t say it, sometimes they do, “You
arrogant pastor, what makes you think that you’ve discovered the truth?” Now follow me on this. In the 1950s, a missionary in South America
actually faced a similar question. So this is an old question. And the example that was given to him was
this, the person said, “I think the religions of the world can be compared to three blind
men who happened upon an elephant. The first blind man puts his hands on the
trunk of the elephant and says, ‘Elephants are long and flexible creatures.’ The second blind man puts his hands on the
leg of the elephant. He says, ‘No, they’re not. They’re thick and round like a tree trunk.’ And the third blind man puts his hands on
the side of the elephant and says, ‘No, they’re large and flat creatures.'” And then the statement is made that religion
is like the elephant and the blind men, they all grasped part of the truth, but no one
has the entire truth. Now, think for a moment, what’s the problem
with this illustration? The only way you would know that they all
had part of the truth is if you yourself had all of the truth. You would have to see the whole elephant before
you could say that each of them has part of the elephant. So how can you know that each blind man only
sees part of the elephant unless you claim to see the entire. But that’s what you’re claiming nobody has,
the entirety and the whole perspective of truth and God and his workings and doings
and nature. Tim Keller has a great quote in, The Reason
For God, one of my favorite quotes. He says this, it’s extensive, stay with me. “Skeptics believe that any exclusive claims
to be superior knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be true. But this objection is itself a religious belief. It assumes God is unknowable or that God is
loving but not wrathful. Or that God is an impersonal force rather
than a person who speaks in scripture. In addition, their proponents believe they
have a superior way to view things. They believe the world would be a better place
if everyone dropped the traditional religions’ views of God and truth, and adopted theirs. Therefore, their view is also an exclusive
claim about the nature of spiritual reality. If all such views are discouraged, this one
should be as well. It is not narrow to hold this view, then there
is nothing inherently narrow about holding to traditional religious beliefs.” You hear what he’s saying? He’s saying, when somebody says, “You Christians
are arrogant,” it’s a self defeating statement. Because when you accuse Christians of arrogance,
you, at that point yourself, are claiming to have far more superior knowledge in your
view of religion than the Christian. It doesn’t work, it’s unlivable. And finally, you okay? Everybody okay? Stay with me, we’re almost there and the root
canal’s over. Five, inclusivists claim it is impossible
to know anything with certainty. That’s what bothers them. Now, you can do this one, right? This is an easy one. The college student comes into my office and
says, “Look, I come to your Bible study, Pastor Jeff, every week and I really like you.” That’s always a good way to start. “I really like you, Pastor Jeff, I like your
teaching, I get something out of it. But there’s only one thing about you that
really disturbs me and that is this, you seem to be certain about the things you believe.” And I said, “Yes, what’s the problem?” He said, “It is impossible to know anything
with certainty.” Now you know my comeback, right? “Are you absolutely certain that it’s impossible
to know anything with certainty?” These are self defeating statements. They fail their own test. Now, okay, it’s over. Pat yourself on the back, “Man, I made it. I don’t know who this guy is, but man, my
head’s killing me.” Okay? Now, I love reminding people, listen, on all
our campuses, listen, Jesus may be exclusive, but he is the most inclusive exclusivist you’ll
ever find. No matter where you’re from, no matter what
language you speak, no matter where you grew up, no matter where you’ve been and what you’ve
done, it doesn’t matter. Everybody has a seat at the table. And do you know, that is very rare. And matter of fact, I don’t like to admit
this, but one of my favorite movies is Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? I love that movie. And my favorite character in the movie is
Delmar. And they happen upon a Christian baptism scene,
and Delmar runs into the water, and then he’s baptized and he comes out and he says to George
Clooney and the other guys, he says, “That’s it, fellas, I’ve done been saved. I’ve been baptized, the preacher done said
all my sins are forgiven. Even that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in
Yazoo.” And Clooney says, “I thought you said you
was innocent of those charges?” He said, “Well, I lied. And the preacher said that sin’s been forgiven
too. That’s it, boys. Come on in, the water is fine.” Now, once we make the statement that inclusivity
fails its own test, the way it’s defined today, then we ask the next question, this is where
we should be incredibly motivated when we discover the goodness of God, because what
is the message of Jesus that makes it so exclusive? And why is it exclusive? Well, it’s because the core of what Jesus
taught is different fundamentally to any other philosophy, religious system that you find
on planet earth. It is diametrically opposed, it is that different. So, I love using this example. I love traveling and when I’m on an airplane,
it’s only a matter of time before the guy next to you says, “What do you do?” That’s what guys do. And then you tell them, or I tell them, “I’m
a pastor.” And you know what they do after that, right? Okay? But it’s too late, too late, you’ve already
asked me. Now I told you, now you know. And I usually take a little serviette, or
a little napkin of some kind, anything I can draw on, and I draw this little graph. And I ask them, “Are you a religious person?” Most people, now I’ve had some people say
no, but most people still today say, “Yes, I am.” And I’ll say, “Are you going to heaven?” And they’ll say, “Yes.” And I’ll say, “Why?” And then I’ll take this little sheet of paper,
whatever it is, and I’ll put 100% of here, and that represents 100% good. And down here, this represents 0% good. And then I draw a line in the middle, representing
50%. And I give the person the pen, and I say,
“Now, on this scale, from 0 to 100, where would you place yourself? Put your name where you think you reside?” Now, where do you think everyone puts their
name? In the upper quadrant, or the upper section. Why? Because most people are religious believe
you need to have more good than bad, or you’re in trouble. Of course, I’ve never met anybody who thinks
they have more bad than they do good. So most people place their name right about
here, not very close to the 50, because you’ve got to know, you do have more good in your
life than bad. And then I like to do this, “Do you know Billy
Graham was once asked that question?” And by the way, I don’t make this stuff up,
this is good, this is right. Billy Graham was asked the question, “Where
would you place your name on the scale?” And do you know, he does it around the 33%
mark. I love to see the look in their eyes. They’ve just put their name higher than Billy
Graham. And I say, “Now, would you like to have the
pen back?” And they take the pen back so quick, but guess
where they write their name? It’s so close to Billy Graham, it’s almost
touching his line. Now, they know they’re not as good as Billy
Graham, but man, they can’t go too far down the scale, I’m in danger. And then I like to remind them, again, true
story, by the editor at one point of Christianity Today asked Mother Teresa a question just
like this. And she put her name at the 23% mark. So now, they see that they’ve placed their
names higher than Mother Teresa. They take the pen back, where do they write
their name? I’m telling you, man, it’s almost on top of
Mother Teresa. You can’t keep going down to the zero scale. Now the question is, folks, why? Why are most people … because they’re still
religious. This is the theme of religion. As long as you have more good than bad, you’ll
go to heaven and you can meet with God. That’s religion. Jesus comes along and gives us the antithesis
to this. What does he say? It has nothing to do with how good you are,
because if you’re going to try to be judged by the law or goodness, you’d have to be 100%,
and nobody is because of this, here’s the core teaching, because God is holy and God
is loving, and he’s not just loving, he’s also holy. And if God were God, you would expect God
to be holy. You would expect God to be righteous and pure
in his nature. We talk about, as theologians, the the ontological
nature of God, what is he truly like? And some of you, your God is only loving,
and that’s because you’ve created God in your own image. It’s not the real God. The real God is holy, and he must punish sin,
he must separate himself from all sin. The problem is, everybody in this room, everybody
listening and watching, everybody on this stage and back in the green room, we’re all
sinners. All of us. So we’re all in trouble because the holiness
of God requires him to separate himself from impurity. However, the Bible teaches he is also love. And this God who created us, the very reason
were we created was for love relationship. He wants to give us grace and mercy and forgiveness
so the two can come together. But he can’t violate one part of his nature
while remaining true to the other. There’s a tension. How on earth then can God meet the requirements
of his holiness and his love? By sending his Son. How brilliant is this in the mind of God,
folks? Send his Son so the requirements of God’s
holiness have been met and your sin has been punished, they are placed on the back of his
own Son. And the requirements of the love of God have
been met in that he punished his Son rather than you. He gave up what was most precious to him so
he would not lose you! And when you discover truly, when you truly
discovery what Jesus did to make you his treasure, you’ll make him yours. And so, this is the core of the Gospel. And if that doesn’t move you, and if something
doesn’t resonate in your right now, then I got to tell you, I’m worried about you. Somewhere along the line you fell back into
religion. You think, “Well, I’m basically a good person. I’m good with God.” It doesn’t matter how good you think you are,
it’s never good enough. You need mercy and grace and salvation, and
only Christ gives that to you. Now, let’s go back to some logic just for
a moment. If what I said about God and the nature of
God is true, that means that if you get to a point in your life and you’re saying, “You
know, I hear what you’re saying, Pastor Jeff, about Jesus, but come on, there are other
ways to God.” Okay, when you say that, just make sure you
understand what you’re saying. Number one, you’re saying the cross is not
necessary. You’re saying the cross and the blood of Jesus
is necessary for salvation, there are other ways. You are also calling God a masochist, because
if there are other ways to salvation, why would God do that to his Son if he doesn’t
need to? This is a very serious matter and it’s why
… let me just stop here for moment. Let me tell you something, the nature of the
character and doings of God, they are spreading the idea of the New Testament and the Old
Testament character of God, and the idea and the power of the cross. The cross is still the number recognized symbol
in the world, planet earth. And here’s probably something that you don’t
know or haven’t been told in a while, Christianity is the fastest growing religion on planet
earth, and it still has more converts than any other religion. And again, again, you don’t hear this, but
it is taking the Muslim world by storm. Do you know that? Look, I have the journey of my life traveling
to places like Thailand to understand Buddhism, India to understand Hinduism, and even the
Middle East to understand in some places Islam. And I can tell you, as we talk to our pastors,
people in the Islamic world are coming to Christ in the thousands. And they’re doing it, they’re doing it through
dreams. They’re having dreams as Christ reveals himself. And then there happens to be somebody that
they come into contact with that explains the message of the Gospel. See, do you understand? Once you agree that the biblical revelation
of God, in describing the doings, the workings, and the nature of God reflects reality, then
anything that opposes the workings, the nature, and doings of God, anything that’s diametrically
opposed to it cannot both be true. Now, let me go back. The Gospel, a hundred million Christians now
in China and growing, 80 million in Russia and growing. For the first time in world history, we have
more Christians in the southern hemisphere, for the first time in world history, more
Christians in the southern hemisphere than the northern hemisphere. Did you know that? Why? Because western culture and its definition
of tolerance and inclusivity, the church is getting weaker and weaker as more people in
places like the church I pastor and the church here are falling for the idea that there are
more than one way, there’s more than one way to the Father. The Qurʾan is the only historical document,
folks, that claims Jesus did not die on the cross. The Greek historians, pagan historians, Roman
historians, Jewish historians, all agree Jesus died on the cross. Only Islam denies the historical reality. So in the eyes of Islam, now please excuse
my attempt again at humor, I’m just not very good at it, but I love the movie Princess
Bride too, that’s one of my other favorite movies. And in the mind of Islam, Jesus didn’t die
on the cross, he was only mostly dead. And so he’s not the atoning, all-sufficient
sacrifice for our sin. But this is changing in the Islamic world,
something the media will never tell you. Not too long ago, Sheikh Hussein, who is the
leading Cleric in Damascus, had an over three hour conversation with a Christian apologist. And it was amicable. Conversations are being had among different
world religions and they’re more gentle than they’ve been in a long time. After the conversation, Sheikh Hussein looked
at the Christian apologist with great respect and said, “You know something, professor? I think the time has come for we in the Islamic
world to stop asking if Jesus died, and start asking why.” Jesus has the right to claim he’s the only
way to God because only he offered his life as payment for your sin, that makes it possible
now for you to come into the presence of God. Without atonement you can’t come near. Now, let’s get to the end here. I said in the early parts of the message that
when you’re investigating any worldview, you have to ask the first question of coherency. Is it coherent in its statements about origin,
meaning, morality, destiny? I’m sure you’ve dealt with that in the past,
so I can’t do that now. But the other test is one of existentialism. How is Jesus to be experienced? And I’ve got to do this in about five minutes,
so I’m going to speed up even fast than I’m going now. Number one, a beautiful thing happens in the
Christian message that no one else gives you. And that is when Jesus dies for your sins
and you receive him as your Lord and Savior, the Spirit of the living God comes on the
inside to live in you. There is no other promise like this. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ
who lives in you. So that you’ve got a greater sense of volition,
you’re going to be able to do things you’ve never done, see things you’ve never seen,
feel things you’ve never felt. All because the Spirit of the living God is
in you. Now, if you’re in the audience right now and
you’re saying, “Man, I have no idea what Pastor Jeff is talking about.” Can I say again, I’m worried about you! If you’ve got the Spirit of the living God,
you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re different today than you were five
years ago. You’re conquering your temper and your attitudes,
and things are changing because the Spirit of God in you. We are partakers of the divine nature. Now, because of that, number one, Jesus, only
Jesus fulfills the deepest longing of the human heart. What is your deepest longing? To be loved and to accepted unconditionally. Look, just a few weeks ago I was speaking
at Christ Church of the Valley. One of my favorite reminders to people is
that, you know, you have some friends in your life that, there was a book written about
50 years ago called, Balcony People. And you could refer to them as balcony people,
when you’re around them, man, they just lift your spirits. They make you feel like you can take on the
world. They’re such encouragers, they’re balcony
people. “Go on, you can do it! You can make it!” And we use the analogy, they like fill your
tank. They fill your tank. And then there are other people who are called
basement people. And you’ve got to watch how much time you
spend with them, because when you’re not looking, they’ll take siphon hose and suck the gas
right out of your life. And they’re the ones that will bring you down
in the basement, in the dungeon, to live with them, because they don’t want to be there
by themselves. I love the story of Acts where Stephen gives
his life for the sake of the Gospel. And Stephen, as he’s dying, looks up into
heaven and he says, “I see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.” To my knowledge, that is the only place in
scripture that we read Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father. He’s always seated. Why is he standing? Because the throne room is the courtroom of
God. And when somebody’s standing before the judge,
they’re being an advocate for someone. Jesus is speaking the name of Stephen as Stephen
is speaking the name of Christ to a hostile crowd. You’ve got a balcony person in heaven that
stands at the right hand of the Father. That looks down and says, “I am for you! I am with you! I’m going to give you what you need to overcome
and to live above all your circumstances.” That’s the Jesus we serve. You get a prevailing presence. It might be true that you don’t have an exhaustive
understanding of all your pain, no one does because we’re not God. But he promises us a prevailing presence,
to never leave us, never forsake us. And again, if you don’t know what I’m talking
about, I’m worried about you! If you do, you’re saying, “Hoo! He’s so right!” Jesus gives you something no one else promises,
the Spirit of the living God. You are a partaker of the divine nature of
God. Second, only Jesus gives a satisfactory answer
to the most troubling question of our lives. I go back now to the issue of pain and suffering. Trying to answer the issue of pain, suffering,
evil in the world, it’s such an intricate topic. It’s very difficult. But here’s what we do know, here’s what we
know, we are people of the cross, which means it is possible to be in the absolute worst
place in your life and still be directly in the center of the will of God at the same
time. When was Jesus most centered in the will of
the Father? When he was dying on the cross. That means that it is possible for you to
be in the worst season of your life, and be right where God wants you for this moment. The cross is the most recognized, it is brilliant
in the mind of God. Brilliant. Dr. John Polkinghorne, who taught quantum
physics and quantum theory at Cambridge and Oxford. I used to love reading his books and listen
to him talk about the fact that in the early picoseconds of the universe, a picosecond
is the time it takes something traveling the speed of light to cross a hair’s breadth. So it’s moving pretty fast. He said in early created moments, when God
was expanding the universe, the speed of the expansion and contraction had to be so precise
that it would be like taking a bow and arrow and hitting a one square inch target 20 billion
light years away every time. If the universe expands too quickly, it’s
chunks of nothingness. Too slowly or rather too quickly, it’s not
chunks at all, it’s just gas, air. If it expands to quickly, or too slowly, it’s
big chunks of nothingness. The precision, the relationship between the
expansion and contraction had to be so precise to sustain life. And then I love the comment that he makes,
if God can take the chaos of the early picoseconds of the universe and bring beauty, pattern,
and design into it, how much more then can he bring beauty, and pattern, and design out
of the chaos of your life? Only Jesus offers that to you. Three, only Jesus gives objective proof of
a future hope. I was on Newstalk ZB in New Zealand in the
late ’90s, early 2000s, and a caller called in and said, “Pastor Jeff, you’ve been talking
about this life after death stuff, but you have no objective proof that anything happens
after death.” And you know, I still disagree with that. And I usually give people two examples. Number one, no one can explain, in the environmental
sciences, no one can explain how a seed can go down into the ground, die, decompose, and
then spring forth into new life, a beautiful apple tree. We know that it happens, just can’t explain
it. It’s almost like God gave us a little picture
in environmental sciences that it’s possible for something to die, decompose, go into the
ground, and then be resurrected to a new and wonderful life. And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, as he uses
precisely this example, that the tree is far more glorious than the apple or than the seed. Aren’t you glad that you’re body’s going to
look a lot better in eternity than it does now? So, as a result, we’re supposed to be people
who live with a vacation attitude. Okay, it’s Wednesday, you’re at work. You know your vacation starts on Monday. How do you respond to people Wednesday, Thursday,
and Friday, the week before vacation? What do you do? “Say whatever you want, doesn’t matter. I’m out of here on Monday!” “I would respond to that harsh email, but
I don’t care because I’m going to be on a beach in Miami on Monday! Do whatever you want, man, I can make it through
these days, because on Monday I’m out of here.” And the Bible tells you that’s supposed to
be your attitude. Your attitude’s supposed to be, “Do what you
want to, world, throw whatever you want at me, because one day I’m going to be with Jesus
in all of eternity. And it’s one better day after the next day!” G.K. Chesterton said that we’re supposed to be
a people who have sorrow that is only peripheral and joy is central. Yes, we have moments of sadness, but we live
with this overarching sense of joy, that we’re going to win in the end! But for the unbeliever, they may have moments
of joy, going to Vegas, doing whatever they do, but overall they live an overarching sense
of sorrow because they know one day it’s going to end. But for you and me, we know one day it’s just
beginning. Only Jesus offers that to you. And finally, I’ve got to stop, finally, only
Jesus has the power to transform lives. Man. So, over the last 20 years, Dr. Ravi Zacharias
has become a very close friend of mine. And we had a chance to spend some time in
Atlanta recently, we try to get together a few times a year. And Ravi, we were seated on a couch having
coffee, he actually took me to his favorite Indian restaurant and there was Bollywood
going on in the background. And he said, “Jeff, I want to tell you a story.” And he said, “I’ve told this story on the
radio a few times, but I want to tell you the whole story.” Not too long ago he was invited to spend some
time with Sheikh Talal, one of the founders of Hamas. Okay, one of the founders of Hamas. He had spent 18 years in prison, very violent
man. And Ravi said there was about 18 of us around
the table and we were told that we got one question and then Sheikh would answer, but
there could be no rebuttal. So, you ask your question, get the answer,
and that’s it. Ravi said, “When it came my time, I asked
him the simple question, what do you think about suicide bombers?” And Ravi said, “I did not like his answer,
but I couldn’t say anything. And I thought, I’ve come all this way and
I’m not able to have a conversation.” Now, if you know anything about Dr. Zacharias,
one of the most brilliant minds of our time. And Ravi said, “It just so happens that God
made sure that I was walking out of the meeting side by side with Sheikh Talal. We were going down the steps and the Spirit
of God told me to speak and gave me the words to say. And Ravi said, “I looked at Sheikh, and I
said, ‘Sheikh, can I just mention something to you about our trip?’ And Sheikh said, ‘Of course, Dr. Zacharias.’ He said, ‘You know, we’re here in Jerusalem
and not too far from here, there’s a mountain where Abraham took his son. You say Ishmael, we say Isaac, doesn’t matter
for the point of this conversation, but Abraham took his son to the mountain, he was going
to sacrifice his son. And do you remember what happened? He was about to bring down the knife and the
angel of the Lord, or God, stopped the knife. And do you remember what God said?’ And Sheikh, being familiar with Muslim teaching,
said, ‘Yes, God said I will provide the lamb.'” And Ravi looked at him and he said, “You know
what? There’s another hill not too far from that
hill called Golgotha, and this time God did not stop the knife. The knife was brought down on his own Son. Sheikh, until you and I receive the Son that
God has provided, we will continue to sacrifice our sons and daughters on the battlefields
of this land for money and power.” And he said Sheikh just began to weep. And he took Ravi’s head in his hands and kissed
him on both sides of his face, and said, “Dr. Zacharias, you’re a good man. I hope we meet again.” The power of the Gospel to change and transform
lives, unparalleled. Only Jesus fulfills the deepest longings of
the human heart. Only Jesus gives a satisfactory answer to
the most troubling questions of our lives. Only Jesus gives objective proof of a future
hope. By rising historically from the dead, that
is the greatest objective truth that you ever need, or proof that there is life after death
with Christ. And only Jesus has the power to transform
lives. And because I believe that, and because he
has atoned, and only Jesus has atoned for your sins before a holy God so that you can
come into community with him, then I can say to all of you on all our campuses, come on
in. The water is fine. Father, I praise you and I thank you for High
Desert Church. I thank you for the ministry that’s happening
here. I pray that they would be a beacon, a light
to all churches in the Valley, in the desert, high desert, low desert, I pray you’d continue
to bless them with great teaching, great preaching from their lead pastor. And I pray that you’d give them many more
years of success as they help people far from God come near. In Christ’s name. Oh, I see that you’re done. I hope you enjoyed that video. There is two more just like it right here
and right here. You can also subscribe to get notified of
all future videos that come out on this channel. And if you want to continue the conversation
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