The Way

How do you get to heaven?

Are there many roads? Do they all lead to the same place?

Or are you just crossing your fingers, hoping you’re on the right one?

Jesus says there is only one road to heaven. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

How arrogant! Arrogant?

You have a friend. Your friend asks you for directions to your home. Road construction has closed the normal routes. There is only one road which will bring your visitor to your house.

Is it arrogance to share the one open path with the one you love? You give your friend directions to the one open road because you don’t want your friend to be frustrated, confused, or lost.

Jesus doesn’t want you to be frustrated, confused, or lost. He doesn’t want you to live your life driving down a dead-end road. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that your good actions will be enough to earn life forever. God expects perfection, not a good try. Working hard to earn heaven by human action earns hell.

Jesus doesn’t want you to be frustrated, confused, or lost. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that anything calling itself “god” really is God. Any religion which denies that Jesus is true God is a false religion. It may be a road. The road leads not to heaven, but to hell.

Jesus loves you. He doesn’t want you to live imagining that all spiritual roads lead to the same place.

Only one road leads to heaven.

Arrogance? No. The ultimate in love. If there is only one way, we need to know it.

Jesus is the only way. Why? Because he is the only one who died to pay for your disobedience. Without Jesus, you will stand before God guilty. Without Jesus, you will stand before God afraid. Without Jesus, you will stand before God deserving punishment.

Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God innocent. Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God at peace. Covered by Jesus’ blood, you will stand before God certain of eternal reward.

Without Jesus’ blood, the road is a dead-end.

Through Jesus’ blood, the road leads straight to heaven.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Truth

Politics and religion. You just don’t talk about those things. With politics one can understand that perspective. It’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. So many have a reason to twist the truth.

With religion the devil wants you to think the same. That it’s so hard to know who’s telling the truth, because so many have a reason to twist the truth.

Have you wondered, “Maybe no one can ever know what is true?”

Or maybe you’ve become so frustrated with your search for truth in religion—all the different denominations—that you’ve concluded, “Well, maybe they’re pretty much the same, so it doesn’t matter.”

They’re not the same. And it does matter.

But still, how do you know what is true?

Jesus stood accused by powerful enemies of crimes he did not commit. Jesus stood before Pilate, a Roman governor. Jesus’ enemies said, “He claims to be a king,” suggesting that Jesus had designs on Caesar’s throne.

Pilate asks, “Are you a king?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate says, “You are a king then!” Jesus answers, “You are right, [. . . and] everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

You might imagine Pilate thinking, “That’s the problem, right there. You want me to listen to you, and your enemies want me to listen to them. How do I know who’s right?”

Frustration.

“What is truth?” Pilate asks.

Sometimes when we hear lies spoken to us again and again, we begin to wonder if there is anything true. We feel lost. We drift. We become afraid.

Frustrated. Like Pilate. He concluded, “Maybe no one can ever know what is true.”

Rejoice. Pilate’s frustration did not make Jesus’ words less true. Pilate’s frustration did not make the lies of Jesus’ enemies more true.

My friends, there is truth. Jesus’ words are always true.

It’s easy to become frustrated when so many lies are being passed off as truth. You need not be Pilate. You need not throw up your hands and permit lies to convince you that there is no such thing as truth.

There is truth. Listen to Jesus: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Light of Our Lives

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The most simple tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from; and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus is the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed—even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. By faith in him, we too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood, and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory. We strive to make the best use of all the gifts he has given us and do everything we can to share Jesus with others, so they too may walk in his light.

Love

All power is mine. May I wash your feet, please?

Not what you’d expect from the richest, most famous, most powerful person in existence.

“All power is mine. May I wash your feet, please?”

That’s servant work. We expect the wealthy and influential to hire “little” people to wash cars, mow lawns, scrub bathrooms.

Yet the most powerful, Jesus, offers to wash feet. We shake our heads in confusion. What a waste!

Unless, of course, serving others is the ultimate honor.

Our human nature would disagree. We aim high, grasp for power, seek influence so that others can serve us. How can I get ahead? How can you help me? Our eyes so naturally see others as opportunities to exploit.

Our human nature is selfish. It thinks first about me. Though God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.” Though God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Selfish. God punishes selfish people. Forever.

We rightly are afraid.

To the disobedient who recognize the justice of divine punishment, the Lord invites, “Watch Jesus washing the feet of his friends.”

Why did Jesus, most powerful, so humble himself? He did this in our place. We do not perfectly love our neighbor. We deserve eternal pain. God loved us and sent his son Jesus to love perfectly in our place.

To see Jesus washing the feet of his friends is to know that he did this as our substitute. Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, washes dirty toes and then tells us that as many as are baptized in the name of Jesus have been clothed in the perfect life of Jesus. You get credit for his perfect love.

Jesus didn’t stop with foot washing. Later in the week, he gave up his own life for his friends, you and me. He suffered the eternal hell we deserved. God put our sin on Jesus and treated him like he should have treated us, so that in Jesus we are washed clean of all disobedience and made perfect in God’s eyes.

What love!

Why should a great God love sinners like us? I don’t know, but he did. The greatest served the least.

This is now your privilege. Serving others is the greatest honor that exists.

Let us love, as he loved us.

May I wash your feet, please?

The Great Exchange

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Life is filled with exchanges. Employees choose to exchange forty hours for a paycheck. Fans choose to exchange forty dollars for a seat at the game and then exchange another ten dollars for a hot dog and drink! Every day we choose to exchange time, money, effort, and emotion for what we hope brings us joy, peace, and satisfaction.

The Bible speaks about exchanges, too. A very important truth that God makes clear for us in his word is that he does not want us to have any sin. In fact, he says that if we sin, we cannot live with him because he is a sinless, holy God. Sin is so serious to God that he pronounces the death penalty for anyone who sins. He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). So who can ever hope to stand in God’s presence and enjoy his favor? For try as we do, we are not perfect. Sinful thoughts, words, and acts clutter our lives.

There is good news, however. In love for us, God made an exchange. Instead of holding us under his judgment for all our wrongdoing, he placed his Son under judgment instead of us. The Bible is speaking about Jesus when it says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

That is a great exchange! Jesus came and exchanged his life for ours. Our transgressions—times when we fail to live according to God’s holy will—were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities—all the things we think or do that don’t measure up to God’s perfect will—were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus.

Through Jesus you have peace with God. Through his wounds you are given life with God. Through Jesus you are forgiven and loved by God. Yes, you! God chose to make that exchange for you.

Jesus is our Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

“Christianity is a crutch for the weak.”

This is the atheist’s argument against putting one’s faith in the God of the Bible. They argue that anyone who depends on anything other than themselves is feeble.

Medically speaking, a crutch is a tool the injured use for support. Only the wounded need crutches. But here’s the thing: somehow, some way, we are all wounded. We all need help. Some just prefer the bottle over the Bible.

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, where do we turn for assurance? We have enough options to choose from: earthly goods, food, alcohol, drugs, money, work. The problem with many such crutches is that they offer only temporary reprieve and often only mask much deeper issues of the heart.

The heart of the issue is that we are all weak. We are all broken. We are sinners in desperate need of saving. And the only one who has the power to help us is Jesus Christ. He took up our infirmities. He carried our sorrows. And by his wounds we are healed.

God graciously allows us to go through hardship so that we seek the only one who can help. When we seek Jesus in our struggles, he finds us in his Word.
You say, “I can’t.” Jesus says, “I AM.”
You say, “I’m too tired.” Jesus says, “I will give you rest.”
You say, “I’m all alone.” Jesus says, “I am with you always.”
You say, “I don’t know where to turn.” Jesus says, “I am the way.”
You say, “I’ve had enough.” Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
You say, “I’m afraid.” Jesus says, “My peace I give you.”
You say, “I can’t forgive myself.” Jesus says, “It is finished.”
You say, “I have my doubts.” Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will never be put to shame.”

One Christian, reacting to the sufficiency of Jesus, observed, “Lord, you created us for yourself. And our hearts are restless until they find rest in you” (Augustine).

What was his point? Nothing satisfies like Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness

What frightens you?

Spiders? Loneliness? Getting sick? Losing your job? Losing the ability to walk?

Every morning many of us drape our legs over the edge of our beds, plant feet squarely on the floor, and stumble into a brand new day. We may mutter at the alarm, squint painfully at the sun, and shudder at that first cold blast from the shower. But we are on our feet. Balanced. Strong.

Can you imagine losing the ability to walk?

One man in Jesus’ day couldn’t walk. Paralyzed. He knew that Jesus had the power to make him walk. But he couldn’t get to Jesus because he couldn’t walk.

What do you do? You have your four friends put you on a mat and carry you to Jesus.

Jesus is in a house, the crowd was so packed that the lame man’s friends can’t get through.

What do you do? You have your four friends carry you to the roof. The front door is blocked? Let’s make a door through the ceiling. No kidding. The four friends start pulling off roof tiles.

Jesus is in the house. Noise on the roof. Suddenly, a man dropping from the ceiling.

All so he could walk.

Yet Jesus’ first words to this man? “Be courageous. Your sins are forgiven.”

Excuse me? I don’t think he came to have his sins forgiven. He wants to walk!

Do we sometimes feel that physical difficulty or physical loss is the real issue in our lives? Are we afraid of loneliness, getting sick, or losing our job? When we think of God, do we work so hard to get his attention, sure that to be healed of our difficulty will make all well?

Jesus knew that if he gave the paralyzed man only the ability to walk, he still hadn’t really helped him. Jesus knew that paralyzed men and walking men all die anyway. Jesus wanted this paralyzed man to be ready for death.

People die because people disobey God’s rules. God commands us to be patient, helpful, joyful, and content. He commands us to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us. He commands us to rejoice in suffering. Bizarre? It makes us angry, doesn’t it! “God, you have no right to expect all that.” How our sinful side hates God. This is why we die. Death is punishment for hating God, for sinning. But death is just the beginning. Punishment lasts forever in hell.

A man came to Jesus looking to walk. Jesus knew that bad legs were the least of his problems.

What could Jesus have said to the lame man? “You jerk. You disobey me every day, and now you want something out of me? To hell you will go.” Jesus had every right.

He has every right to speak the same to me.

Yet what does Jesus say? Amazing! “Be courageous. Your sins are forgiven.”

Your sins are forgiven too. Your sins were sent away onto the shoulders of Jesus. He suffered God’s punishment for your sin, and that punishment was death. Because Jesus has died on the cross in your place and suffered hell for you, you have been declared innocent in God’s sight.

That’s too good to be true! Some who heard Jesus say it the first time felt the same. So to show the crowd that he had the authority to forgive sins, Jesus made the lame man walk. Unable to walk. That wasn’t the lame man’s real problem.

What wonder, that Jesus shows us our real problem, and then in mercy takes that problem away.

Peace of Jesus

It was more of the same: The usual morning battle to persuade the sixteen year old to get in and out of the shower in under an hour.  The struggle to get the seven month old fed, dressed, changed, and dressed again.  The usual clash with thousands of other drivers also trying to shave minutes off their daily commute times.  The mental fatigue involved with trying to figure out what went so wrong that there are separation papers in the glove box needing to be signed by Friday.  The physical wars all over the world covered daily on talk radio news.  It was more of the same.

As she squealed into stall number 21 five minutes late for work, the stupid bumper sticker on the Chevy in stall 20 caught her eye again as it did every day: “No Jesus – no peace; Know Jesus – know peace.” She scoffed to herself and then shouted out loud for all to hear, “What-EVER!” sounding a lot like her teenager.

Although the noise of life makes it difficult to have peace, this is exactly what Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Jesus’ peace most likely won’t quiet a screaming child.  Jesus’ peace doesn’t guarantee a slick commute in the morning.  Jesus’ peace won’t make all your problems and all the world’s conflicts fade away.

Jesus does however promise a peace that will quiet your heart.  Knowing that Jesus came into this world to heal damaged relationships with God brings peace to a troubled soul.  Knowing that Jesus came to open wide the doors to heaven brings true peace to confused and searching minds.  Knowing that Jesus is waiting to welcome you to his eternal home where there will be no more “noise” makes all the noises of life a little easier to deal with.

Trust him; he will not disappoint you.  Jesus promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Possessions

Have you ever cleaned out your basement or garage and discovered many things that you forgot you even had? While you may be amused at rediscovering something you forgot about, perhaps you ask yourself: “Why do I have all this stuff?”

God truly blesses us with many physical blessings. Everything we have comes from him. He provides all the necessary things for life and is generous to give us many more things than we really “need.”  His blessings abundantly fill our lives.

Yet we must be careful that we do not begin to love the gifts more than God who gives them.  It is easy for our hearts to become greedy and not be happy with what we have. It is so easy to continually want MORE …money…toys…houses…boats…cars…without end.

Yet none of these things can ever satisfy us completely or fill the place in our life and heart that can only belong to Jesus Christ.  Our Lord warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus teaches us that there is more to life and to us than earthly possessions. He is the source of all that we need spiritually and eternally.

So the Lord Jesus instructs our hearts to focus on what’s really important.  Money and the things money can buy are benefits that God graciously gives us, but money cannot buy a relationship with God.  Jesus is the only way for us to know God and be with God.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is our most precious possession. He lived a perfect life for us. He suffered the death penalty for our sins that we deserved. Jesus rose from the dead and promises that we will live forever through faith in him alone. Wow!  Nothing is more important than the gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life that Jesus gives us by faith in him.

If you want possessions that really satisfy, look to Jesus!

In Due Time

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, the weeds also appeared” . . . The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'” – Matthew 13:24-26, 28-30

It is easy to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side. Wouldn’t the world be a better place, if the Lord would uproot everything evil and allow only good to exist?

This might be an easy assumption to make since I consider myself to be “good.” Unfortunately, I tend to forget the Lord’s standard of good is different than mine. This is why I need to understand why the Lord does allow both to exist.

One reason is fairly obvious. If the Lord would rid the world of everything evil, where would that put me? As I look at my life according to his standard, I am resigned to accept what the Lord declares: “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3).

The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side as a result of his undeserved love for me. Instead of dealing with me immediately and justly, he provides a time of grace through which I can come to know Jesus and his gift of forgiveness, and then enjoy living in the peace of his forgiving love.

Another reason why the Lord allows good and evil to exist is his gracious good will for all people. “He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The same time of grace he gives me, he offers to all. He wants no one to perish. This is why he sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of all.

In due time, however, when his time of grace comes to an end, he will separate the good from the evil, namely believers from unbelievers. This promise of divine and eternal separation exhorts me to daily repent of my sin, and focus on Jesus to strengthen my trust in him as my Savior. It is this life of faith which gives me the confidence to know, that also in due time, the Lord will gather me to himself and bring me into his heavenly kingdom.