Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Exclusivity Objection

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" -- John 14:22
That's the objection, right there. The hunt for "Christian relevance" has led many to relax the boundaries of faith. I'd even say it's a normal desire for any thinking person.

Personally, I would love to say that people are saved regardless of whether they choose Jesus or not -- that somehow God's love so transcends our love, that he won't even allow us to reject life, even if we choose to reject him. That would be so cool! I'd love to say that "accepting Christ" is a matter of preference for people who find Jesus acceptable, but that anyone can accept whatever spirituality or religious system they personally connect with.

But I can't say that, because he didn't say that. In fact, he specifically said otherwise. And he even made sure not to leave so much as a fuzzy framework that would allow us to consider those things. He closed all those doors and made his gospel very exclusive: Only certain people are in, and if someone isn't all the way in, they're all the way out.

Something in me objects to the exclusivity of the gospel, but we're not the first people to object. Jesus's own disciples objected. They wanted to know why he would reveal himself only to a select group of people, and not to everybody! If he really is the "savior of the world" why not show himself to everyone?

But Jesus isn't offended by an exclusive gospel that requires specific action. In fact, not only is he not offended by it, it is wisdom to him. He chose it.

I have a challenge that's also an encouragement: Be gentle in how you communicate this to others but, as followers of Christ, be ruthless with yourself about fully embracing the Exclusivity of the Gospel. Consider what Jesus and his apostles told us:

  • Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) That means no one. None. No exceptions, not for a single person. 
  • Jesus said, "If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:7) There's nothing left to uncover. Look at Jesus to know the Father. 
  • Colossians 1:15 affirms that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word
  • And in case there's still room for misunderstanding, 1 John 2:23 says it very precisely: No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 

We need to stop seeing "faith in Jesus" as an entrance exam that we have to pass before we get to see God! If that's all Jesus is, it's unloving of God to not provide other ways to himself. But if Jesus is God, faith in Jesus is faith in God. No one comes to God except by coming to God, and no one can see God except by looking to the radiance of his glory, namely, Jesus.

The exclusive gospel isn't God being mean, it's just God truthfully revealing himself.  And he is "one God" so there is only "one way."

RESOURCE: Earlier this year, for our Easter service, I concluded our Jesus: Way, Truth, Life series with this sermon called, "The Only". If you're struggling with the exclusivity of the gospel, what it requires, and what it offers, I'd encourage you to spend the next half-hour with it.