An Extraordinary AuthorityPastor Lutzer | October 10, 1993
If God hasn’t spoken, we must be silent about morality and religion because we have no fixed point by which to judge morality and religion.
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus Christ is the final and most complete revelation from God. Period. He claimed exclusivity: that He was the only way to God, which is understandable because He is God.
In John 14:6 He said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The Way: He receives us just as we are and takes us to the Father.
The Truth: Eternal destiny relies on whether or not you know the Truth.
The Life: Jesus is the Creator of physical and spiritual life.
The bottom line: No one gets to heaven without a personal trust in Jesus Christ.
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The Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman, said that he had a vision of standing in a great cathedral in Europe before a picture of Christ, and wanting to hear some word from outside of the universe, wanting to hear some word from God that might make sense of life. He stood before the picture and shouted, “Speak to me.” Dead silence! And he said that was the motivation of his movie, The Silence. When it comes to hearing a word from God, there is nothing but dead calm.
Well, let me ask you something. Has God spoken? If God has not spoken, if God is silent, then certain conclusions follow. First of all, we must be silent regarding morality and religion because we have no fixed point by which to judge morality and religion. We are, as I mentioned in a previous message, like those ants on the Rembrandt painting that noticed the canvas and the roughness of the canvas, and the change of the colors, but we cannot make sense of the whole picture.
There’s a second conclusion we must be led to and that is that our quest for justice, the desire that we have, the cry within our hearts that justice might be brought to the world will forever go unanswered because if God is not personal, all the injustices in the world will never be rectified.
I have a Jewish friend who is an atheist. I said to him on one occasion, “Are you not disturbed by your belief that Hitler is going to have gotten by with what he did and that there will never be an accounting for the Holocaust?” He admitted that that was disturbing. But if God is impersonal there will be no justice. I know that in eastern religions the problem of justice is relegated to karma, but karma is a cruel impersonal law. In karma there is no grace, and the untouchables of India are untouchable and despised simply because it is believed that they committed some sins in a former life in which they are now in this life receiving their retribution, and even compassion should be ruled out toward them because that would upset this delicate system called karma. Hopelessly and viciously cruel!
There’s a third conclusion and that is that the great desire that we have in our hearts for the ultimate must ultimately go unfulfilled because then we do not know what God is like and we can only speculate and we are cast back on our own intuitions and our own ideas, never being able to see our way in regard to eternal issues.
Now the question is, has God spoken? Christianity asserts that God has spoken clearly and He has not stuttered. He has spoken to man. Now let us be very clear in saying that the moment we say that God speaks, that differentiates Christianity from all the pantheism of the east, and all the eastern religions because the east does not believe that God speaks. You say, “Well, that’s not true. Look at all the gurus. Look at all the prophets. Look at all the teachers.” But remember that those prophets and teachers are basically only reflecting on their own experience of the ultimate, the impersonal ultimate. They are trying to speak the unspeakable and know what they believe to be essentially unknowable because the eastern gods always cast man upon himself. And it is within human beings that we find all of these supposed insights. God or the gods of the east do not speak.
You say, “Well, what about Islam?” That’s a monotheistic religion. They believe in one god. There is but one god, and Muhammad is his prophet. Yes, the Muslims believe that God is capable of speaking and that God has spoken through Muhammad. But Christianity is far different from that. Christianity says that not only does God speak through prophets but also that in His final revelation God actually personally has come to speak. It is not just that He has sent a messenger, but that He Himself has become the messenger. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. The east does not have a savior. The Muslim faith does not have a savior. They have only a prophet. Only Christianity says that God has come. He has spoken and He has acted.
Look at what your Bible says in Hebrews 1. That’s a passage that you may take a moment to turn to, and I will be quoting many passages today, and turning only to a few. But notice what the text says about God’s speech in these last days. Hebrews 1: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets (in many different ways – sometimes through dreams and visions and what have you in the Old Testament), but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
And then it goes on to describe the beauty and the Godhood – the deity – of Christ. He says: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” There has been an explosion of revelation. God has come. He has spoken with clarity in a human language.
Now, in light of the fact that God has come and spoken, what has He said? Well, first of all, of course, we need to be reminded of Christ’s claims to deity. Take your Bible again and turn to John 8 where Jesus Christ is being confronted by the people of His day who were very impatient with His theology. And you’ll remember that Jesus is speaking, and the Jews are saying to Him in verse 52: “Now we know that you have a demon,” because Christ had said that Abraham wanted to see his day and he saw it and was glad, and they said, “And now you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’”
They were saying, “Nobody can speak these words. Nobody has ever said such astounding things as you are saying.” And then Jesus goes on to say in verse 56: “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old (You aren’t fifty years old), and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” And they understood Exodus 3:14 where God says, “I am the I AM.” And that’s why the very next verse says, “So they picked up stones to throw at him,” because they knew that He had made a claim to be God, a very God. He claimed to be Jehovah.
Think with me about Jesus Christ standing before the high priest, and the high priest says to Him in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, “Are you the Son of the Blessed? Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am. And from now on,” he said, “you will see the Son of Man in heaven, and eventually you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great glory.” I am.
To the paralytic He says, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” That which could only be had in the Temple was now offered out on the street by Christ, who was saying to people, “I have the power to forgive sins.” The deity of Christ! Furthermore He says that the Father judges no one but has committed all judgment to the Son, and Jesus claimed that the eternal destiny of every man and every woman on Planet Earth would be determined by their relationship with Him. Little wonder that the Jews understood that He was claiming to be God.
Do you understand now the difference between Christianity and all the other options out there? All the other options, all the other leaders are on the playing field, and suddenly we say, “Let the one who is God, a very God, stand up.” And all the other religious leaders of the world disappear. There is no competition. Only one remains standing. Christ! Now you understand, of course, that other religions have to do something with this doctrine. Either they need to reinterpret it as the New Agers have done, and say that all of us are “Christs” and that’s what Jesus meant – that He was God and that we are God too? Do you have to believe that absurdity? And we will be discussing that very briefly in the next message in this series. Or what you need to do is to say, as Schweitzer did, that He was a lunatic, that He was insane, making such claims. Or else, you have to simply ignore it, simply deny it and go on.
Look at what I picked up at the Parliament of World Religions. This is distributed by the Muslim faith. It was written for the Parliament. It was available to all of us. It talks about the fact that in the Quran there is a Dajjal, which is a great tribulation. So much so that a Muslim is taught to pray to God in his five daily prayers to be saved from being afflicted with the tribulations of this Dajjal. There is no tribulation greater than that of the Dajjal, from the creation of Adam until the day of Resurrection, but nevertheless, the holy Quran speaks of another great tribulation, a tribulation that is even greater. Get this! It is the tribulation in the form of the Christian doctrine relating to the divinity of Christ. It denounces this doctrine in the strongest terms as the greatest of all tribulations for humanity. The heavens may almost be rent, and the earth cleave asunder, and the mountains fall to pieces to say that Christ is actually the Son of God. The heavens may be rent, and then it goes on to say that the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus (according to the Quran) cannot not be ascribed to Christ, but to Antichrist.
Now give this piece credit. Muslims understand one thing with clarity. If Jesus Christ is God, there is no room for Muhammad because he contradicted Christ at every single point. If Jesus Christ is God, that is the only piece of good news left on planet earth. If He is not, it is the greatest hoax that has ever been perpetrated upon humanity. Who is He?
You see, it is understood by other religions that the deity of Christ is indeed the great divide. It is the infinite chasm. It is the unbridgeable gulf between Christianity and all the other options that are out there. So what did Christ claim? He claimed deity. Secondly, and logically necessarily following from that, He claimed exclusivity. That is to say He was the only way to God, understandably so, because He was God.
Your Bibles are open to John, chapter 8. Now just turn a few pages to the right and you come to the 14th chapter and one of the most famous sayings of Jesus! John 14. Christ is saying that He is going away in verse 4, and Thomas says to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going and how can we know the way?” And Jesus said to Him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” Exclusivity!
What did Jesus mean? First of all, He says, “I am the way.” He comes to us and no matter where we may be at in our spiritual pilgrimage; we come to Him. He receives us just as we are. We sing that song, “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me.” We come with our sins and our helplessness and our addictions, and He takes us by the hand and He leads us to the Father. And after He has led us to the Father in this life, He leads us to the Father’s House in the life to come. And why is He qualified? Why, indeed, in the very next verses, Philip says, “Show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.”
And Jesus says these explosive words, “Look, why are you asking to see the Father? He that has seen Me has seen the Father. Of course, I can take you by the hand and lead you to the Father because I am the Father, God, the very God.” There was a man who was to be taking a trek through the desert with some tourists, and they could not see the path and they asked the guide, “Where is the path?” And the guide said, “I am the path.”
Next Jesus Christ says, “I am the truth.” Lessing, to whom I introduced you to very briefly in the last message, a great German dramatist, who lived in the 1700s said on one occasion, “If God were to offer me eternal truth on His right and the eternal quest for truth on His left, I would take the left hand even if that meant that I should never attain the truth because the fun is in the journey.” Lessing was a brilliant fool. You see, number one, if he did not have any truth he would not even know what he was searching for. He wouldn’t recognize it after he found it because, after all, he has not got any truth in that left hand. And furthermore, it is important to know the truth about poison, and the truth about a faulty parachute. And if it is important for us to know the truth about these matters, how important it is that we might know the truth about eternity. What Lessing did not understand, though he was brought up in the home of a very pious Lutheran father, was that his eternal destiny depended on whether or not he knew the truth, and what he did with the truth that he knew. Jesus said, “I am the truth. I’m not just a way shower. I am the truth.”
This means, of course, reliability. He does not mislead us. It means consistency, the consistency of His own life with what He taught, His own sinlessness, which we considered in a previous message. It means universality. It means truth for everybody. It’s very important for you to realize that when you are talking to somebody and they say, “I’m into Buddhism, and you are into Christianity, and we all have to do what is right for us or what is true for us,” we have to point out, as was previously mentioned, that everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but nobody is entitled to his own truth. Truth has universality, and Jesus said, “I am the truth,” and all speculations end when He walks onto the stage. He says, “I am the life.” Physical life? Yes, as creator! “For by Him were all things created both which are in heaven and which are on earth, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him, and by Him all things are upheld (they consist).” But also the author of spiritual life! “I give unto them eternal life. I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” That has to do with a certain quality of life that lasts forever for those who place personal faith in Christ.
Is it any wonder that the rest of the statement says, “No man comes to the Father but through Me?” Jesus takes that gate and He makes it narrow. And behind that narrow gate there is a narrow pathway that leads to the very heart of God and there is no other path. There is no other option out there. No other alternative! You say, “Yes, but we’re living in a society that is trying to uproot that gate and to make it broad.” Well, there is a broad way (Jesus said that in the Sermon on the Mount) that leads to destruction, and many people think it is the way labeled “To Heaven,” but it is the way labeled “To Hell” because Christ said, “No man comes except through me.”
What are the implications of this? There are very important implications, the first of which is the fact that Jesus Christ is the final and most complete revelation from God – period. You know, at the Parliament of World Religions, and elsewhere in your witnessing, you know people who say, “Well, I think that Jesus was one stage in the evolutionary development of religion. I mean, after all, there is Muhammad, and it is true that he contradicted Christ at every point, but He is a more recent revelation. And then there is Bahá'u'lláh, who was born in Persia in 1817, and was the founder of the Bahá'í faith. And the Bahá'í faith wants to encompass all the different religions, and the Bahá'í faith teaches that there was information that was needed when the human race was a child, and then more information when it was a teenager. And now the human race is an adult, and Jesus is one stage in that evolutionary process.
Let me give you two reasons why that is illogical and wrong. The first reason is because of the fact that Bahá'u'lláh contradicted Jesus Christ at every point. There is no way that Jesus could have been a part of the evolutionary spiral because Bahá'u'lláh has a faith that is totally contradictory to what preceded it. There is no unity. There is no evolutionary thread.
For example, Bahá'u'lláh believed in the perfection of human nature, the fact that all that we have to do is to reach within and see all the goodness that is laden within us. Well, my friend, have you noticed all the goodness in your heart recently? Jesus said that from the human heart proceed evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, thefts, covetousness and wickedness. All these things proceed from the heart. But Bahá'u'lláh believed that we should believe doctrines without discrimination. He was opposed to those who were seeking truth and insisted on doctrinal accuracy. Yet Jesus said in John 10, “I am the door.” And He says, “All that ever came before Me were thieves and robbers.” That does not sound as if Jesus was as inclusive as people make him out to be.
Bahá'u'lláh believed in that evolutionary view of religion, and Jesus Christ said of Himself, “I am the alpha and the omega (the first letter of the Greek alphabet and the last letter of the Greek alphabet). Encyclopedia Britannica has something like 30 volumes with all this information but they use only 26 letters to put it together. And everything that we need to know about God, and everything that we need to know about our relationship with Him is bound up in Jesus who is the alpha and the omega – the first and the last – the beginning and the end. There is no evolutionary view of religion.
And then he also taught the ability of man, and the fact that there was condemnation for those who sought the truth. That is, Bahá'u'lláh taught those things. And if there’s any way that you recognize the doctrine of Antichrist, there is always one similarity, and that is this utopian idea that what we need to do is to get together, unify all the religions of the world, bring them together under the same umbrella and then, why indeed, we’ll solve the problems of world hunger, and greed, and war, and we will live happily ever after.
What a different picture Jesus makes! He said that near the end there would be wars and rumors of wars. He said that nations will rise up against nation. Kingdoms shall rise up against kingdoms. He said that people will be betraying one another. And He said that many false Christs will arise, and do great signs and wonders and shall deceive many. And rather than ending in sweetness and light, there will be a judgment from God with the personal return of Jesus Christ to the Mount of Olives to establish the Kingdom, and to end existence as it is now constituted. What a different picture!
So that’s one of the reasons why there is no such thing as the evolutionary view of religion. You cannot class Jesus as one step in the evolutionary process. But there’s another reason, and that is this. Do you really mean to tell me that there’s another prophet that has now arisen who knows God better than Christ who was God? And you’re telling me that he knows more than Jesus? You’re telling me that there is someone who has better insights into the Divine and His relationship to the world than Jesus Christ, who claimed deity and oneness with His Father, and now somebody has arisen with a brand new insight? That’s what you want me to believe?
At the Parliament I spoke to someone of the Bahá'í faith and they said, “You know that children need this much truth. And teenagers need truth. And then there are adults and Bahá'u'lláh is the man for the final evolutionary stage of religion. I said, “I want you to know today that I don’t believe that God speaks through prophets like Bahá'u'lláh.” And the person said to me, “Well, do you mean to say that you think that God can’t speak?” And I looked him in the eye, very lovingly remember, and I said, “You know, the issue isn’t whether God speaks. He can speak whenever He wishes to, but I don’t believe that He would, because after the sun comes out there is no need for another star. All stars fade into oblivion. The Son has come, and now you want me to believe that somehow there’s a star out there that we need for light?”
We live in a day and age when people say, “You know, you have to get beyond Christianity to something really deep.” At the Parliament of World Religions, people said, “You know, Christianity was good. It was what I needed to introduce me to the world of spirit, to the world of religion.” One person said, “It’s like a boat. You take a boat to the other side of the lake, but once you get to the other side of the lake, and you get into all this lovely new territory, you don’t need the boat anymore. You just transcend Christianity.” That’s nonsense.
Listen, when you transcend and go beyond rationality you come to insanity. When you transcend or you go beyond love, you come to lust. And when you transcend Christ, you end in error. There is no beyond. Furthermore, people who actually think that they are going beyond Christianity and building on it should recognize that logically they are leaving it. They are leaving it because it cannot be combined. It cannot be reconciled. It cannot be a part of a process. Christ stands alone, and all other religions and teachers fade into oblivion in His glorious presence. So those are the implications. There are others, of course. The implication is, of course, that we can actually evaluate other religions now because we have a fixed reference point. In our witnessing we can always point people to Jesus Christ.
A long time ago I told you this story about me being on a plane and sitting next to a man who seemed to think that he knew a lot about religion. And he said to me, “You know, I think that all that we need to do is to do the best that we can, and that’s all that we need to get into heaven.” And some of you will remember that I said, “Well, you know, if that is really true we need to get that message out.” I said, “I write books, and we should write a book about it so that people get the message.” I said, “We’re on the radio. We should preach it to as many people as we possibly can just to spread the word. I mean this is eternal truth now. I mean this actually establishes how a person can be right with God. You just do the best you can.”
He was getting pretty excited about the project until I said to him, “But there is, you know, one thing I do need to ask before we go that far, and that is how do you know?” And he said to me, “Well, it’s just my opinion.” And I remember I had my pen and I kind of flipped it and I said, “Your opinion! Wow! Opinions are a dime a dozen. Get 12 people together and you have 15 opinions. Your opinion? You see, we can’t get this message out unless you can actually claim and verify that you have received it from God because only God can know who is going to get into heaven, and how we have to prepare for heaven. And you’re claiming to have an inside track on knowledge that could only belong to the Almighty.”
He said to me, “Well, what about your opinion? Is it any better?” I said, “No, of course it’s no better but,” I said, “that’s why we need to go to the opinion of someone who is qualified to speak for God and on His behalf, and that is Christ, who comes in the midst of all these different opinions and says, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ and ‘He who believes on Me has eternal life.’”
Pity poor Ingmar Bergman. He should not have been shouting at Christ in an empty cathedral. He should have been opening the pages of the New Testament and should have read the words of Pilate who said, “What then shall we do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” That is the question of the 20th Century.
Lenin said on one occasion that when Communism would take over the world there would be bread in every kitchen, but he never had the nerve to say, “I am the bread of life. He that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes on Me shall never thirst.”
Hitler made outstanding claims for the role of Germany and the beginning of a thousand year Reich – a thousand year rule – and yet he never said, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he that believes not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” He never said that.
Freud thought psychotherapy could actually heal the ills of the world. Can you imagine that? He actually thought that psychotherapy would heal the ills of the world, and yet he never said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.”
There are New Age gurus who think that we are going to be recycled, that we are going to be a part of this karma process – reincarnation – and they’ve made some wonderful claims about what it’s like to come up on the other side somewhere. Yet they never said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes on Me shall never die.”
Now what are you going to do with Him? What are you going to do with Him when your eternal destiny is determined by your relationship with Him? And you will not be able to avoid Him because He says that all judgment is committed unto the Son, every single person listening to this message personally will someday be confronted by Christ either as judge or Savior because He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and beside Him there is no other.
Ingmar Bergman could not hear the whisper of Christ from that picture in the cathedral. But if he had taken his Bible and opened it, he would have listened to Christ’s megaphone, the megaphone of God, shouting to all the earth, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” And Jesus answered, as He did frequently, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” God has spoken! God has spoken! Blessed are those who listen and respond.
Let us pray.
Our Father, we know that there are many options out there. And we think of events such as the Parliament of World Religion, which was wholly inundated by religions who demeaned Christ in every session, either by ignoring Him or classifying Him along with everybody else. We know that You were insulted. But we also know, Father, that the day is going to come when all the truth is going to be revealed, and not one single doubt will remain in the mind of any human being in the universe that Christ is Lord, King, God, and that no man can come to the Father but through Him. Thank You. Give us the boldness and the courage to be able to share with men and women a Savior who is qualified to save.
And now before I close this prayer, what is your relationship to Christ, those of you who pride yourself in your skepticism and whose skeptical pride stands in the way of receiving Him as Savior. What are you going to tell Him? That the issue wasn’t clear? That He didn’t speak clearly enough? His credentials were questionable? What will your excuse be? At this moment reach out to Him. Embrace Him as your Savior. And if you know Him, would you worship Him? You talk to Him now because He’s listening.
Hear our prayer, oh Lord, for we are needy. Our hearts are blinded except that You grant us light. Thank You that in Your mercy You have saved many of us, and we pray for those who have not yet been confronted by Christ and changed by Him. Grant them the grace to let Him do that in their lives today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.