"Who Is Jesus?" part 8
The Uniqueness of Jesus
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 16, 2010



Allah, Zeus, Jesus, Brahma, Buddha… the world is full of gods and religious leaders. Who do you choose to follow? One of them? All of them? None of them? And what’s the determining factor? Does your choice basically come down to where you live in the world and what your parents believe? Is it really that subjective? Or are there actually good reasons to choose one way over all the other ways?

And let me tell you, there are plenty of other options. Take a look at this map that shows you what religions are dominant where. All of the countries that are purplish or bluish are highly Christian; all the countries that are shades of green are Islamic, the orange is Hinduism, and you can see several other religions represented there as well.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8f/Worldreligion.png

Here’s another map. This is a map of what’s called the 10:40 Window. That term refers to this area right here, between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the equator, stretching from North Africa to China.
http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101030630/map/
 
In that window lies almost 2/3 of the world’s population. 85% of the people there are among the poorest in the world. Most of them are Buddhist, Hindu, or Islamic. In fact, several of the countries within that window are close to 100% Muslim, and their governments operate under Islamic law.

From a Christian perspective, that’s also the least evangelized part of the world, with only three missionaries for every million Muslims. And it’s also the most dangerous area. One Christian is martyred every 3 minutes in this world, and most of it happens in that window. About one and a half billion people in the world have never even heard the name of Jesus, and most of them live in here. (http://www.vow.org/viewpoints/essays/xxxxxxx-gasque-is_jesus_the_only_way.html)

But I should point out, there’s a difference between being unreached and being unreachable. Let me give you one example. Mongolia. In 1989, at the same I was in University, there were only 4 known Christians living in all of Mongolia. Today, there are over 40,000. (As of 2008. "Religions in Mongolia". Mongolia-attractions.com. http://www.mongolia-attractions.com/religions-in-mongolia.html.) The message of Jesus is powerful and produces incredible results. Even in this very closed and dangerous part of the world, it is possible for the message of Jesus to have a dramatic impact.

But the question is, should it? Should Christians be actively promoting their religion in a culture that predominantly rejects them? Or even here in North America, should we be sharing the message of Jesus and presenting it as the right choice? That’s certainly not a new question. It’s been around for a long time. But especially in the past decade, there’s been a rising opinion that no one way is better an any other. There’s this quickly growing sentiment that all religions are equal and just which one you choose doesn’t really matter. They’re all equal. But is there a right choice?

Obviously, we’re talking here this morning about Jesus being the best choice. After all, we’re a Christian Church. I’m a Christ-follower. I’ve already made up my mind as have many of you. We’ve settled on Jesus as being the best choice. But why? What sets Him apart?

Last week, I tried to show you a video here. And we ran into technical difficulties… the video wouldn’t play correctly on my laptop. So let’s give it another try…

[VIDEO – One Way from SermonVideos.com]

“One God, many ways to get to Him.” Interesting. Sounds pretty open-minded. Sounds politically correct. But how does that compare to what Jesus said? Remember the verse we looked at last week…

John 14:6 (NLT)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Sounds to me like Jesus is pretty exclusive. You know, a frequent attack that’s made against Christians today is that they’re arrogant, claiming that there way is the only way. But the truth is, it’s not us making that claim. We’re just repeating what Jesus Himself said. Jesus says He is the only way and no other way will do.

Besides, isn’t it strange how you can make exclusive statements in any other area of life except when it comes to faith? You can even say, “Coke is it. Can’t beat the real thing.” And no one’s going to get angry at you. They might disagree with you, but they’re not going to accuse you of being intolerant, arrogant and exclusive.

Let me ask you this: If you were traveling down a road and you were heading for a bridge that had been washed out, would you want someone to tell you, or would you rather people just commend you for your choice of roads and encourage you to keep going your own way?

Are all ways really equal? Think about political systems… Communism, Marxism, Democracy… are they all equal? Or would you say there’s one way that’s superior to the others?

Isn’t it possible that one faith is superior to all the others? That one is true, and all the others are wrong? In fact, while some people do seem to have the idea that all faiths are the same, the truth is they are very different. There’s something like 21 major world religions on this planet, and I don’t even want to guess how many minor religions. And as we’ve talked about before, there are some people who look at all these different faiths, all these different religions, and they conclude, “Oh, they’re all basically the same anyway. Yeah, there are superficial differences. But fundamentally they’re the same.” But the truth is, they are superficially the same and fundamentally different.

Jesus is God or He is not God. That’s a pretty fundament difference.

How about this one: When we die, we either cease to exist, we enter into a universal consciousness, we’re reincarnated as something or someone else, or face the judgment of God and enter into Heaven or Hell.

Or there’s this… Some religions teach that you are saved through your good works; Christianity teaches that you are saved only through the grace of God in response to your faith. And your good works don’t play into it.

How about this: There is no God, there’s one God, there’s a hierarchy of gods, or as some Hindu branches believe there are hundreds of thousands of gods. Mormons even believe that every male has the potential to become a god. Some of us already act like we are.

Those are some pretty important differences, don’t you think? There’s simply no way that all religions, all faiths, can be true. They are fundamentally conflicting with each other. In fact, there are only two real possibilities. Either they are all false, or there is one that is true and the rest are false. That’s it. No other option.

If something is true, then it’s true. And you can’t compromise that truth in order to make people feel good about something that is false. Because understand this: If you believe in a lie, it doesn’t matter how sincere you are in your belief. It’s still a lie.

So yeah, maybe the claim that Jesus is the one and only way to God the Father sounds exclusive. But if it’s true, what’s wrong with being exclusive? Besides, while that statement itself may be exclusive, the overall message of Jesus is completely inclusive. Because everyone is welcome to choose that way. It doesn’t matter what your nationality is, what your skin colour is, what your socio-economic position is, what your gender is, what your history is… Jesus still invites every one of us to come to Him and choose Him as the way, the truth and the life.


Okay, so if Christianity is true as we believe it is, then that means other religions and faiths are not. But can I give a word of caution here? Let’s not get into a “my God is bigger than your god” kind of argument with people. Because even though we may disagree with them over something as important as our faith, we still need to treat people with love, dignity, and respect.

And really, that’s what it means to be tolerant. We’ve turned it into a watered down sappy I’m okay you’re okay anything goes” thing. But really, tolerance is not telling people that whatever they think is fine; it’s disagreeing agreeably. Showing love, dignity, and respect.


But do you know what? Even though we do have our differences, and they are important and major differences, there are those superficial similarities. There are areas of common ground. Can I point out some areas in which there’s a widespread similarity between different beliefs?

Let’s start with our moral code. Most religions have some sort of a moral code, and most of them would sound very similar to each other. I mean, “Do not murder.” Sounds like a pretty basic moral law, doesn’t it? But do you think Christianity has the corner on that market? You’re going to find that one in pretty much every faith. And the truth is, you don’t even need some kind of an organized moral code to express it; God’s moral code is hardwired into us, so that even people who reject God and any form of religions typically recognizes that there are actions that are right and wrong.

So you’ve got a moral code that’s expressed in various religions. Plus, you’ve got some kind of teachings. For example, Buddha and Confucius taught a lot of life principles and had some interesting ideas. Christianity has the teachings of people like Jesus, like Paul, like Peter. And they’re important teachings.

Then we have our icons… our saint-like figures. Like Mother Teresa in Christianity. Or the Dalai Lama in Buddhism. Or Mahatma Gandhi in Hinduism.

And then you’ve got the sacred texts. We’ve got the Bible, Muslims have the Koran, Mormons have the Book of Mormon.

And you know, most religions are based on those kinds of things… a moral code, core teachings, some kind of guru, and sacred texts.


But there’s one critical difference with Christianity. While those other things are important to us, there’s one truth that is even more foundational. And it’s this…


Christianity is based on the person of Jesus, not just His teachings

The Christian faith is intricately tied to the person of Jesus. Take Jesus away… who we believe Him to be, what He’s done for us, and what He’s doing even now… take that away, and there’s nothing left.

Let me show you a video…

[VIDEO – Greg Koukl – Why Is Jesus Different?]


What Sets Jesus Apart?

1.    His resurrection from the dead

Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius… the founders of all those other religions… they were born and they died, and they stayed dead. Jesus existed before time began, and He will continue to live into eternity. Yes, He had a human birth and death. But He rose from the dead, and that sets Him apart from everyone else.

[VIDEO – LEE STROBEL – What Is Unique about Jesus?]


2.    His miracles

It is interesting that in the Koran there are no miracles performed by Mohammed or anyone else. But Jesus performed many miracles… healings, exorcisms, controlling nature, and raising the dead. And many of them were done around large groups of people. So they weren’t just rumours; there were eyewitnesses. Look at what Peter said on the day of Pentecost…

Acts 2:22 (NLT)
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.”

“As you well know.” It was common knowledge.


3.    His generous grace

It’s the grace of Jesus that offers us forgiveness and hope.

What is grace, anyway? It’s us getting what don’t deserve. It’s the undeserved mercy of God. And it was expressed by Jesus taking radical steps to pay the price for our sinfulness and offer us forgiveness.

Every other faith makes us earn our salvation, our liberation, our enlightenment. Only Jesus says, “You couldn’t earn it if you tried, so I’ll do it for you.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT)
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

Acts 15:11 (NLT)
“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”


4.    His loving relationship with us

There’s no expression of love from Allah toward people… only a strict set of rules and warnings of punishment. In Buddhism, there’s not even much of a concept of God, let alone a loving God.

But Jesus… Jesus loved us so much that He came to this planet. He revealed Himself to us in a personal way, in relationships. And the result is that Christians understand Christianity is not about moral laws or religious practices — it is about a relationship with a living Saviour, Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote…

Philippians 3:8-10 (NLT)
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

That growing, vibrant, loving relationship, more than anything else, is the center of our faith.


 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca