Worship Theme: He Lives as the Only Way to Heaven
Sermon Theme: There’s No Other Way
Learn from the disciples in Acts 4:8-12. As long as you remain kind, compassionate, gentle, and respectful, you have no reason to be nervous or embarrassed when witnessing for Jesus. You’ve got the message everyone needs. “There’s no other way!” May 7, 2023.
I know this is controversial, perhaps even fightin’ words for some. At the very least, plenty will consider this unpopular, politically incorrect, even worthy of disdain and scorn. But I’m going to say it anyway. I’m not a fan of the bumper stickers that spell out COEXIST using symbols from Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Wicca (which is paganism and the occult). If it is displayed to promote living in peace alongside people who believe different things, that’s one thing. But if it is an attempt to proclaim that all religions are pretty much the same, just different paths to the same goal, then my reaction is, “Not true!”
Of course, when I’m driving and see that bumper sticker, I don’t have an opportunity to chat with the person. But what if I do? What if you do? What if you’re at the DOT or on a plane, sitting next to and chatting with someone who is wearing that symbol on their shirt? What if our youth confirmands today go off to college, and it’s not at Martin Luther College, studying to be a Lutheran teacher, staff minister, or pastor (which we hope and pray they are considering), and they meet a classmate with that bumper sticker affixed to their laptop? It would be wrong to assume motives. You’d first ask questions about what that means for them, wouldn’t you? Perhaps they are sick and tired of the oppression and persecution that has stemmed from religious differences. But if the person you are chatting with goes down the path of “all religions are the same,” you have just landed in Athens and joined the apostle Paul in his meeting with the brainiacs and philosophers two thousand years ago. As the apostle did, you would begin by agreeing with them that everyone knows there is some kind of higher power out there. Then, like the apostle you would be kind, compassionate, and tactful and listen to their story, which opens the door to sharing our story about who this higher power is and what he has done so that human beings can hang out with him and be happy, fulfilled, and loved forever. Without that story humans are faced with finding the path to happiness on their own and will always come up short and frustrated or guilty and scared. But God came up with a way to make the connection with humans happen, and there’s no other way.
How would you like to be hired for a new job and the first day get ushered to a computer terminal and told, “Go to it!” You’d want to ask, “What am I supposed to do?” Someone has to communicate, “We want you to do this or do that.” There has to be some kind of standard, some guidelines so you know what to do. When those are communicated, what happens on the job if you try your best, but some of your projects are not quite perfect? In most cases you won’t get fired right away but get a chance to do better.
Now consider God’s standards. Since every human being is born with a sense that there’s something out there bigger than we are to whom we are accountable, it is common sense to assume that this higher power will find a way to communicate what it takes to get on his good side and stay there. And he did. He is not a distant foggy phantom or a silent statue. He is the living, loving God who communicates with us through the Bible. The shocking reality is that God’s standards are a lot higher than anyone can imagine, and he does not give second chances or wink at minor infractions. Sin is sin. If you die and meet God with sin on your account, that’s it. Anything less than an absolutely perfect life is below his standards and stokes the fires of hell.
That’s why Peter and John reveled in the relief offered by the Redeemer. Peter announced to the religious leaders who called him and the others on the carpet, “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Could anyone find fault with Jesus? Could anyone accuse him of dirty dealing, harboring hate, or purveying prejudice? Though they rejected him, they had to admit that he had never violated any of God’s laws. His life matched up to God’s standards.
Here’s the miracle. It’s the first piece of the pie in our testimony about who God is and what he is like. God considers Jesus’ life to be ours. So when we stand before the throne of God, we have nothing to be embarrassed about because our sin is covered by Jesus’ righteousness. When explaining to people how to get a personal relationship with the only higher power there is, just state the truth. There’s no other way to match God’s standards!
If you messed up on the job, and if it takes working overtime to fix the problem, somebody’s got to do it, and it’s probably you.
If we violate even one of God’s commands – that little white lie, that demeaning comment which hurt someone’s feelings, that defiance of parents’ wishes, that sneaky look at the phone for answers on a test, that anger to get back at someone who hurt us – somebody’s got to pay. It should be you; it should be I. Thank God we won’t have to.
That’s why Peter and John reveled in the relief offered by the Redeemer. Peter announced to the religious leaders who called him and the others on the carpet, “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame ... then know this ... It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified.” They may have killed the Lord of glory, but that death paid for all their sins, and not only for theirs, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This entire worship service is under the theme of “exclusivity,” a fancy word for “Jesus is the only way to God and heaven.” But Christianity is also completely inclusive in that Jesus paid for the sins of all.
Here’s the miracle. It’s the second piece of the pie in our testimony about who God is and what he is like. God considers Jesus’ death to be ours. So when we stand before the throne of God, we have nothing to be embarrassed about because our sins have all been paid for. When explaining to people how to get a personal relationship with the only higher power there is, just state the truth. There’s no other way to avoid making the payment for sin ourselves!
Jesus Rose Again
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ran for eleven years. What gave that show its appeal was sitting at home trying to outsmart the contestants and sensing the tension when they said, “That’s my final answer,” but you knew they were guessing. The uncertainty made it exciting.
Life is not a game show. Neither is the afterlife. I do not want to stand before God with even a hint of uncertainty in my heart when he asks, “Why should I let you in?” because at that point I won’t be able to poll the audience of angels or phone a friend. God will want a final answer, and I want to be sure. How about you?
That’s why Peter and John reveled in the relief offered by the Redeemer. Peter announced to the religious leaders who called him and the others on the carpet, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed … Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The resurrection is God’s stamp of certainty and assurance, “Yes, sins have been completely paid for on the cross.”
Here’s the miracle. It’s the third piece of the pie in our testimony about who God is and what he is like. Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). So when we stand before the throne of God, we have nothing to be embarrassed about. When explaining to people how to get a personal relationship with the only higher power there is, just state the truth. We have God’s final answer. There’s no other way to get certainty.
It’s hard for parents to grasp, but in a few years our confirmands will be heading out for college or a job. You might think that’s a long way off, but believe me, it zips by in a flash, and then they will be faced with situations like the COEXIST bumper sticker and wrestle with whether to speak up for the truth or not. Do you think any of them will be nervous about stating, “There is only one way to heaven”? Have any of you had that feeling? In case you have, I want you to know and I want our confirmands to know that you are in good company. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, were in the same boat. Yet, they were able to overcome their nervousness and fears and offer a bold confession of the truth. You might be thinking, “Easy for them! They were disciples of Jesus.” But remember that these disciples had a habit of acting like unschooled fishermen, scared bunny rabbits, and confused cornballs. Peter and John were no great shakes. They were average Joes who became confident witnesses for Jesus. They could do that because they were filled with the Holy Spirit. You might think, “Well, if I were filled with the Holy Spirit, I could be a witness for Jesus, too.” I’m here to tell you that you have been, and you are. Don’t sell yourself short, or better yet, don’t sell the Holy Spirit short. He filled you with his power at your baptism. He will empower and embolden you for your witness. As long as you remain kind, compassionate, gentle, and respectful, you have no reason to be nervous or embarrassed. You’ve got the message everyone needs. There’s no other way! Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus rose again. Hold that in your heart and have that on your lips every day till Jesus takes you home. Amen.
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