6th Sunday after Pentacost
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God…” What does that mean, “under God”? We are very thankful this 4th of July weekend for the many freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of the United States. We are very thankful for all the men and women who work hard in the places of employment in our country, we’re thankful for those who serve us in leadership and government, and we’re thankful for the men and women who serve in the armed forces to protect our freedoms. And perhaps the freedom that we’re most thankful for in our country, which we’re not guaranteed by God to always enjoy, is the freedom to worship and serve our God in peace. In fact, that’s a freedom that’s extended to every citizen of our country no matter who or what you define as your “God.” And so we have a country full of many different cultures and people who hold to many very different faiths and beliefs. And so the question that we’re going to consider today is, “Who’s right?” Who’s to say one religion is right and another is wrong? Do all people who are “religious” really worship the same God? Are there many acceptable paths to God? Do all the major religions of the world all lead to the same God? Do Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Christians all really follow the same God? If there’s only one God, does it really matter if you call him Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth, the Supreme Being, the Higher Power, or God, they’re really all the same, right?
I mean, isn’t it demeaning to other cultures and millions of thoughtful people who have other beliefs to simply dismiss them as being wrong? Isn’t it the height of arrogance to say that your way is the only right way? Isn’t the claim that Christianity is the only correct religion just one culture trying to assert itself over all others? Isn’t that prideful and arrogant? Can’t you say that there are many paths to God? Sadly, each one of us can sense a certain degree of arrogance or pride based on who we are, after all we know the truth, they don’t. Pride and prejudice against others – anyone else – is something that stems from our sinfulness, it doesn’t come from our Savior. We all need hearts more like Jesus.
But Christianity isn’t about one culture or race trying to assert itself over others. Quite the opposite. Christianity has been around since the beginning of time. Christianity has no boundaries of race, country, culture, nationality, color of skin, or people. Jesus is not the exclusive property of white Americans or Germans or Africans or anyone. The reality is that God did so love the world that He gave His one and only Son. The reality is that Jesus did pay for the sins of every single person alive. The reality is that because of Jesus God has declared the world innocent of the guilt of their sins. But the reality is also that the benefits of what Jesus did on the cross do someone no good if they don’t believe it.
So, as we look at the world, yes, there are a ton of different beliefs and religions out there. And some of them have true aspects to their religion. Muslims say that their god is holy. The Jewish person says that their god is one. The Mormon says that we should live according to the golden rule. Those are true statements. But here is where every other religion fails. They are wrong on the part that rescues eternally. This is where every religion can be divided into two camps. How will you end up in heaven, however you define it? Every religion except for one will somehow, someway say that in order to have eternal life, eternal happiness, or whatever, it’s up to…you. Whether it be trying to live a good life, praying at certain times of the day, going on a pilgrimage, fasting, self-discovery, meditating, or whatever, it’s up to…you. YOU have to DO something.
That’s the vital difference between every other religion and true Christianity. The difference is Jesus. God who broke into our existence uniquely, decisively, and once for all in order to save a world full of sinners. Salvation is found in no one else than this God. It is this God revealed in Jesus and made known through His phenomenal Word who is right when the entire world is wrong. Either God exists outside of our human experience and breaks into our world to do what He wants, or the god someone follows is simply a figment of human imagination. You can’t have both. There aren’t many paths to God, there’s only one.
This idea of there being many ways to “God” isn’t new, it was around in Isaiah’s time as well. It wasn’t that people were wholesale forsaking the true God, the God revealed in Scripture. They wanted God when He was convenient to them, but they also wanted to cover all their bases. So they also worshipped the false gods and idols of the unbelieving nations around them. They created gods of their own imagination, gods whom they could control. Gods who were nothing like the true God. “To whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.”
You can sense the irony, can’t you? You can make a “god”; you can adorn it with expensive silver and gold; you can labor over it melting and molding it to be the god you want it to be, you bow down to it and worship it. But then what? You heave it on your back, you carry it here or there, you set it up in its place and…there it sits, it cannot move, it cannot answer no matter how hard you cry to it and it cannot save you from your troubles. Yes, we can think of many false gods whom many people worship, relentlessly bowing down, fasting their bodies, killing themselves on a Jihad. But let’s not forget some of the main ones. Ones like money, career, stuff or pleasure. Isn’t it amazing how hard we can work for pleasure? Isn’t it amazing how much work and labor money, career and stuff require? We can labor and labor for these gods and yet they give no lasting peace, no true comfort, no answer to death, no lasting joy or contentment.
“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please…I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.” There is only one true God. This is what He’s like: He makes known the end from the beginning. He is the God who could have left us die in our sinfulness, but from the very beginning, right after the fall, He promised to send the Savior. He kept that promise alive thousands of years until at just the right time, our God, no other, He brought righteousness and salvation. Jesus, your one and only Savior, came. Lived the perfect life for you, in your place, died your death on the cross, and rose from the dead to give you undeniable proof that you have forgiveness, peace with God, and eternal joy in life everlasting. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the one and only way to the Father. Is that fair? Is it fair that there is only one way to God and it’s through Jesus? Well, afterall it is God’s heaven, He can decide who gets there. But instead of asking whether it’s fair or not, we need to be thankful that there is A way. He didn’t have to make a way, none of us deserve life, we all deserve death. But in amazing grace God has provide the way through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Thank God that there IS a way and He’s told us what that way is, it’s through Jesus.
There’s one other detriment to thinking that many paths lead to the same God. You see, we live in a world that likes to think that truth is a relative concept. “Well, that’s true for you and this is what true means for me.” But is that really true? Are there no absolute truths in the world? Someone could tell you, “Guess what, I can really fly in the air like a bird.” And you say, “No, you can’t.” Then the person climbs to the top of the hospital over here and says, “I’m going to fly off the top of this building.” What do you say? “Oh, yea, if that’s what’s true for you, there’s many different paths, many different truths, go for it!” No way! Well, how much worse when someone comes along and says, “I believe in my God and you believe in yours.” There is only one true God. And what’s at stake? Only life eternal, only where you’ll spend eternity, only eternal life or eternal death!
And by God’s grace alone we have the truth! And it’s a truth not to keep to ourselves, but to share freely. Many people are in bondage to slavery to a false god, many people in the world think that eternal life is something they have to achieve, work for, do something for. They’re really serving Satan. They’re slaves. By God’s grace, He’s set us free and we have the message, the only message, and the only true God, who gives true freedom.
True freedom comes from the one who made the ultimate sacrifice by sacrificing Himself on a cross in the place of every wretched sinner. This weekend we celebrate our freedoms and express our gratitude to those who won those freedoms. But infinitely more importantly we celebrate the one and only true God, the God who reveals His heart to us in the Bible, the God who is the ultimate love, the one true God who has freed us from the curse of sin, slavery to sin, the guilt of our past sins, the tyranny of Satan, and given us freedom to serve and worship Him with thankful hearts. Because of Him we’re able to live in peace, in confidence, in assurance, knowing for sure that we’re on the way to heaven. And all of it’s because Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Amen.