EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Mike Licona of the North American Mission Board is the final column in a four-part series on the exclusivity of Christianity.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In the first column in this series I said that we can come to terms with Jesus’ claims to being the only way to salvation by answering three rudimentary questions. Our first two questions were “what is truth?” and “what is ethical?” Today we will look at the final question: What is required?
Perhaps you have heard the following: “It doesn’t matter what you believe. The way to heaven is paved with sincerity, goodness and belief in God.” This statement attempts to shed the offence of the exclusive claims of Jesus. However, it introduces new problems. In claiming that sincerity, goodness and belief in a generic God are the true requirements for God’s acceptance, one is making a religious claim: “This is how one can appease God.” When someone says that to me, I simply ask, “On what foundation is such a belief based? It’s not from the Bible, the Koran, or any other such book. Why should I believe it? Have you heard personally from God?
There is another problem with this assertion: How much sincerity and goodness are required? Most people would agree that despots like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who were responsible for the mass murder of millions certainly don’t make the cut. But the line blurs after that. What about Muslim terrorists who blow up innocent people in the process of doing what they believe is a service to God? Others may suggest that we just need to keep the Ten Commandments, but how many of them must we keep? Did you ever steal (even as a child), break a Sabbath, use God’s name in a disrespectful manner, dishonor your parents, falsely accuse your sibling or have an obsessive desire for something belonging to someone else? If you have, you’ve already violated six of the 10! Where should the line be drawn? If God is the one who draws it, shouldn’t we seek to know where He has drawn it?
The Bible lays out the requirements for acceptance by God: It’s nothing any of us can do (Romans 6:23); it’s all about what God has done for us in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9); we must entrust our eternal destiny with Jesus (John 14:6); we must believe in Jesus’ deity, atoning death and resurrection (John 8:24; Romans 10:9). Jesus said that the road to heaven is narrow and few follow it (Matthew 7:13-14).
How can I share the Gospel with others, given their aversion to the exclusive claims of Jesus? I’d like to suggest three actions. First, understand the answers to the three rudimentary questions we have discussed: What is truth; what is ethical; what is required? Second, clothe Jesus’ message with love. Be winsome and humble. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Third, recognize that timing is important.
Some may think you’re being narrow-minded now. However, if a time comes when their life is falling apart, they may want you to give them the answer and will respect you for holding true to your faith.
Mike Licona is coordinator of interfaith and apologetics at the North American Mission Board. For a better understanding of today’s world religions and for resources that will help you defend your faith, visit NAMB’s apologetics website at www.4truth.net