Way, Truth, Life

It has become less and less P.C. to speak about anything in absolutes. Good thing I follow a man who was absolutely not politically correct. Jesus would be the first to tell you that he’s not here to tell people what they want to hear — only what they need to hear.

What do people want to hear? What’s the latest PC move when it comes to religious and spiritual matters? You know the answer. If you listen to anyone who is not actually a part of any one religion (aka “spiritual but not religious”) speak on religious matters they will tell you. All paths lead to God. Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, etc., are all different paths to the same god-reality.

The problem? I can think of only one religion that would support that claim. It’s called Ba’hai. You’ve probably never heard of it.

Other than that, I’ve never heard a leader or fast follower of any other religion proclaim that all religions are equal. Show me a Muslim Imam who says Christianity and Islam are essentially the same and that either one will lead you to the same God. Show me a Buddhist monk who actually believes in a god. Show me a Hindu priest that believes Christians will go to heaven when they die instead of being reincarnated as (hopefully) a Hindu.

Jesus made the statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father if not through me.” And people are surprised?

Let’s take a step back real quick.

No one comes to the Father. I would say that is a true statement. If you look through the Torah, you will see that God almost always makes first contact. What’s more, the place where God resided was completely off limits. The Most Holy Place could only be entered once a year by the High Priest and no one else. No one could come to the Father. They always had to go through someone else — a priest, a teacher, a prophet — unless God initiated.

The same is basically true in these other religions. Allah is not a God who can be approached by just anybody, much less by an infidel. In Hindu, sacrifices are made in the presence of idols, but priests still act as mediators between the gods and men. Buddhism isn’t even about approaching God or gods.

How might things be different if Jesus had phrased this statement in the positive rather than the negative? Sometimes I wish he would have said, “Everyone can now come to the Father through me.” It’s the same idea. It’s no less true than Jesus’ original words. In fact, it may be a little more true because of the way the original statement is misunderstood, misconstrued, or misrepresented.

Through Jesus the whole world can now have access to the Father. Ordinary people can approach the throne of God with boldness (Hebrews 4:16).

Do all religions teach basically the same concepts? No. A close study of these religions will reveal some similarities, yet there are some glaring, irreconcilable differences between them.

Jesus is the only man to claim that everybody on the planet can now have free and clear access to God, the Creator of the universe, through himself.

Reflections on "Jesus Manifesto"


I recently finished reading an excellent book coauthored by Len Sweet (The Gospel According to Starbucks, Soul Tsunami) and Frank Viola (Pagan Christianity, Reimagining the Church). There have been throughout the centuries many pendulum swings of Christological thought. It seems that many theologians and scholars are content to take up arms in the debate between the “Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith.” Leaning too much to any one extreme, however, misses the richness and beauty of the God-Man that we worship. Sweet and Viola have done an outstanding job of refocusing the reader’s mind and heart onto the true awesomeness of Jesus the Christ. At the same time, they tackle the tough questions about living as the body of Christ on the earth. I thought I’d start back writing again with some reflections on various parts of the book.


Introduction:

I think this paragraph helps to set the stage for the rest of the book:
“So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person.”
Wow. What a statement. As I think back to my world religions class, I am still blown away by all the competing faiths, belief systems, moralities, and worldviews swirling around our culture today. It’s very easy to take a broad, sweeping view of all the religions and to think that Christianity has nothing unique to offer. It seems like all the major religions have their sacred texts, their god/gods/spirits, their earthly leaders/founders, their own code of ethics, their own belief about the afterlife, etc. It’s so easy to get caught up in the similarities blurring the lines that we lose focus on the truly unique nature of our faith.
Christ is what makes our faith as unique today as it was in first century Palestine. Yes, we believe in the Bible as the word of God, but the Word became flesh. Yes, we have a certain morality for which we strive, but all of that morality was fulfilled in Christ. Yes, we have a way of viewing the world around us, but we see the world as God sees the world. Yes, we believe in an afterlife, but we believe in eternal life here and now.
In Christ we find more than a list of rules and regulations. He gives us more than instructions on how to get to heaven. In Christ we find truth, beauty, community, acceptance, and a love that out-loves all other love that we could ever know. Christianity is Christ! When it becomes about “Christ and,” then we have lost our true focus. We have forgotten our first love.
I’ll leave you with this final quote:
“[W]e cannot properly love him if we haven’t caught sight of how incredibly glorious he is. But once we do–once we catch a sighting of Jesus Christ in all his glory–we will gladly exchange our dusty rites, Christian-speak, and pop-culture church-building tactics for the joy of becoming a walking, breathing ‘Jesus Manifesto.'”

Faith building in the land of Egypt

It’s incredible how much can happen in 8 days. The land of Egypt is so rich, so saturated with history and stories that it would be nearly impossible to take it all in, even with decades of study. Our tour guide, Osman, (who is one of the best men I have ever met) is by far also one of the best tour guides in all of Egypt. He is professional Egyptologist, tour guide, hieroglyphics teacher, and Biblical historian. Not only did he take us around to all the famous sites, but at each one he did his best to tie in all the geography, temples, etc. to the stories in the Bible. I never realized just how much Egypt had to do with the development of Judaism and ultimately Christianity.

I would like to start my summary of our trip by recording some of the things I learned that my Sunday school teachers never knew:

– The pyramids were seen by Abraham, Joseph (and his entire family), Moses, and Jesus

– There is technically more than one Temple. When Judea was overrun and many Jews taken captive and Solomon’s Temple was destroyed, many Jews escaped to Egypt and built a full-scale replica of the Temple, complete with priests and a sacrificial altar. In fact, a second full-scale replica was built on an island in the Nile called Elephantine Island (which archeologists are excavating right now). What’s more, the Egyptians built a temple of their own called the Temple of Philae which is based off of those other two replicas of Solomon’s Temple.

– The Ark of the Covenant probably wasn’t a big box. It would have been shaped like a small boat with a shrine area in the middle and two cheribum on either end. (I will post a picture later) How do we know this? Because in the Egyptian temples (which included a “Holy of Holies” where the god was and only the high priest could enter) the god was kept in an “Ark” which was a small boat with two long poles on either side which the priests used to carry the ark. Also, the 14 Commandments of Egypt were kept on display inside the ark. Moses, growing up around the main temple complex in Luxor, would have seen this ark taken out of the temple on many occasions.

– When the Israelites were encamped around Sinai and built a golden calf, it was most likely a representation of the goddess Hathor, one of the main goddesses worshiped in the time of their enslavement.

– The Egyptians had a god in their pantheon named Set, who was the god of chaos, evil, and the wilderness. From the name of Set, the Jews derived the name for Satan.

– The Egyptian priests made a practice of removing their sandals when they were inside the Temple, which was considered “holy ground”. God told Moses to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground.

– The only exception to this practice of removing their sandals was during a time of war, when every man had to be prepared for fight of flight. God told the Israelites on the night of the Passover to keep their sandals on as they ate the meal, for they were getting ready to run. Paul told Christians in Ephesians 6 to keep our shoes on, which is the preparation of the gospel of peace, during a time of spiritual warfare.

– Early Christians made it a practice to use pagan symbols as their own symbols of the faith. For instance, they ancient Egyptians used a symbol called an ankh, which was the “key of life” carried by all the god, representing the Nile river. It looks like a cross with a circle on the top. Early Christians in Egypt used this symbol as their own to represent the life which we have in Christ.

OK, I’ll stop here for now. There’s more I could talk about, but I’ll leave that until the actual trip summary. I wanted to go ahead and write this stuff down before I forgot about it. All of this goes to show that God, in His infinite wisdom, has no problem with reaching people on their level. He used the things which the Israelites knew. He met them where they were and showed them the way to himself. Our God truly is an awesome God.