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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The one, the only, the infamous: John 14:6

Read it here: John 14:6

You see it on a lot of billboards. You see it on a lot of t-shirts. If would be a toss up between this verse and John 3:16 if you asked someone to boil down Christianity into one basic verse. And, unfortunately, I think John 14:6 is often misunderstood.

I agree with John 14:6—one hundred percent. I think that catches people off guard sometimes. (For some odd reason, people either misunderstand what it means to be an Emergent Christian or misunderstand a lot of the changes I’ve gone through in the past couple of years. But that’s another post…)

However, I think when a lot of people quote John 14:6, they mean something other than what Jesus meant.

You see, the verse says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life—and no man comes to the Father (God) except through him.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the light…

Jesus.

Not Christianity.

Jesus.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to establish a new religion. He didn’t come to setup business model churches or establish Christian retail stores or start a Christian music industry or etc.../I could go on and on...

Jesus said he came to bring hope—a new way—a better way.

For some reason, we’ve told people that Christianity is the way. And that’s not what Jesus said. It’s certainly not what he meant. To say “Christianity is the way, the truth and the life” has a totally different set of implications than saying that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.”

I don’t believe that Christianity is THE way. I believe Jesus is. He didn’t boil it down to a specific set of beliefs or ideologies. The man himself boiled it down to following in his path—to following the way of Jesus.

I’ve really wrestled with what to write now. Should I pose questions or scenarios about what this changes and try to answer some of them? Should I explain further what I think this means? I could. But I won’t. Not now. I’d like to hear what you have to say. I have comments enabled for a reason, and only once have I ever edited them. So talk about this with me. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s chat…

19 comments:

josh said...

Hey John David,
I agree that Jesus is the way, not organized religion, not church membership etc. And of course I'm going to try to draw you out a little:)
Question:
Can Jesus be the way for a person who practices Islam, Buddhism,etc? In other words, do you believe that Jesus can be the way that a person inherits eternally life apart from their explicit faith in Christ, or does it have to do with their "following the way of Jesus"?

Josh Hussung

Makarios said...

I agree. Jesus taught that He and only He is the way to the Father. But isn't Christianity a grouping together of what Jesus taught about salvation? And isn't it especially a collection of His teachings in contrast to the teaching of other religions and their take on heaven / nirvana / oblivion etc.?

One of the biggest differences between what Jesus Christ taught, and what other religious leaders have taught, is that Jesus made it perfectly clear that there is nothing we can DO to merit salvation. John 6:28,29 - Then they asked Him, what must we do, to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one He has sent.”

All other religions, and even some cults that call themselves Christian, have at least some form of “Good Works” as a base for one’s entrance into paradise. Contrast that with the following teaching of Jesus the Christ:

Mark 16:16 - Jesus said, “Those who believe in Me and are baptized will be saved but those who refuse to believe in Me will be condemned.” (You would think, wouldn't you, that believing in Jesus would entail believing what He taught?)

John 1:12,13 - Jesus said, “Unless you are born again, you can never get into the kingdom of heaven.” There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust Him save them. But those who don’t trust Him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God.

John 3:3 - “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

John 3:16-18 - “God loves so much that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in him stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 5:24 - Jesus said, “I say emphatically that anyone who listens to My message and believes in God who sent me has eternal life and will NEVER be damned for his sins. He has crossed from death into life.”

John 6:40 - “For my Father’s will is that every one who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 8:24 - Jesus said, “For unless you believe that I am the Son of God, the Messiah, you will die in your sins.”

John 14:6 - “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Acts 13:38,39 - In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who trusts in Him is freed from all guilt and declared righteous.

Romans 3:27,28 - Our acquittal is not based on our good deeds, it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in Him. So it is we are saved, by faith in Christ and not by the good things we do.

Romans 9:32 - Because they were trying to be saved by keeping the law and being good instead of by depending on faith, they have stumbled over that great stumbling stone, Jesus.

Galatians 2:19 - It was through reading the Bible that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favour by trying and failing to obey the law. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ.

1st Thessalonians 1:8,9 - The Lord Jesus will bring judgement on those who do not wish to know God and those who reject His plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of His power.

I don't know about those who have never heard of Jesus although Romans 2:12-15 seems to speak to this. What I can't figure out is how a Buddhist or Muslim or ? who knows about Jesus, who has heard the message of Jesus, and who has rejected Jesus, even if s/he was taught to reject Jesus can find any excuse worthy of consideration.

I know it sounds harsh but I'm reminded of Paul's words at the end of his argument in chapter 9 of Romans "you mean that those who pursue a relationship with God via works righteousness will be denied entrance to heaven while others get in just because of faith?" and Paul says, "Why not?" These other people are stumbling over the great stumbling stone." (Rod's paraphrase) Romans 9:30-32

JD said...

To Josh: that's a good question.

To Makarios: I just read what you wrote and have no idea what you meant to communicate. Could you briefly clarify your intended meaning?

Anonymous said...

If Jesus wasn't forming a new religion what does that mean for the church today. Or the church for the last two thousand years?

And if Christianity is not the way doesn't that hurt church attendance?

John David we cant have you thinking it is way to dangerous. You are speaking heresy.

Just kidding I loved what you wrote. I like how you left it open for discussion. Though I am being sort of sarcastic, can you answer my first question.

Your bro,
Collin

Justin said...

In response to Josh's question I have to say that, from my understanding of the New Testament, Jesus' life was defined by being completely submissive to God's will.

It is my belief that those who follow Buddhism, Islam, etc are not seeking the will of MY God or Jesus' father, that those of other religions worship a being that doesn't exist.

Would you agree with this JD?

JD said...

Not necessarily.

So, just to clarify, I'll answer again:

not necessarily.

Saintdoc said...

I must say knowing you are not sure that the way of Jesus is the only way to the Father disturbs me. It is clear Jesus is making that statement here in the text. It is one thing to go off on gray areas of the text but this is a black and white area.

BfH said...

I read JD's original post to be a bit of an attack on Christian consumerism. I think if you re-read the original post, you'll realize that his intention was not to say that Jesus isn't the only way to God.

Excerpt:

"Jesus is the way, the truth and the light…

Jesus.

Not Christianity.

Jesus."


That looked pretty black-and-white to me...

JD said...

Mike, quite the contrary, I thought I clearly said that Jesus is the way...

I did make a distinction between Jesus and Christendom.

I didn't answer Josh's question or necessarily agree with Justin's statement.

I didn't think that made the original thought any less clear.

Justin G said...

I feel Josh's question expands and digs deeper into the idea that only Jesus is the way. It opens a ton of questions like how does one define Jesus' way and can someone who has never heard of Jesus follow His way?

I assumed that your next few posts might expand on this subject.

Saintdoc said...

OK. Great. But isn't the way Jesus lived Christianity? I realize that many people have strayed from that way but I still believe Jesus wants us to follow after Him. Why else would he give the command, "teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you." We as Christian must follow after the model that is given to us in scripture. The whole scripture, not just bits and pieces we like.

jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin G said...

@saintdoc

I know this sounds like semantics, and it very well may be, but I would say the opposite of your first sentence. Jesus isn't Christianity, Christianity is supposed to be Jesus. This may have been what you meant anyway I was being too picky, if so I apologize.

Isn't the whole idea of Christianity supposed to be a group of people who aim to live like Christ anyway? If so then wouldn't Christianity be the way? I realize the main argument for JD is probably just that Christianity isn't actually following in the footsteps of Christ anymore. (to which I would mostly agree)

(deleted post above was me under my bro's google account)

Saintdoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saintdoc said...

I was simply saying without the life of Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus came and lived a life that glorified His Father. We as Christian are to follow in His steps. Thomas asked how can we know the way? Jesus replied I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without His example there would be no Way to follow. Without His Truth there would be no guide. Without His Life there would be no hope. In other words you cannot follow another example, believe in another truth, or trust in another life and make it to the Father.

Joe said...

My only thing is that isn't what "following the way of Jesus" explicitley clear in the New Testament? Repent and Believe. Repent from sins and Believe on Christ to be saved. I don't see Christ only set himself up as an example to "follow" I see him requiring something from those who would claim to follow him, namely to repent and believe.

So, after that if Jd, what you are saying is that christianity (notice the little c) AKA Religion, isn't what Christ was talking about then I agree whole heartedly. I just think that what Christ had in mind was the church which he intended to be an external institution.

anyway that's is my two cents for whatever it is worth.

in Christ
joe

JD said...

I'm glad people are putting in their "two cents" rather than asking questions that require me to defend myself.

I haven't really said much, and I probably won't in this case. I just wanted to put a thought out there and see where it went. I like the discussion.

Some people have hit on some of my internal thoughts: that the church (ie: institutional Christianity) as a whole is way off from what it was meant to be, that Christianity has become very Americanized and consumer friendly, that Christianity has become more about morality and memorization than it is about loving others and restoring a broken world.

The idea is loaded. I have lots of thoughts that go along with this. But the bottom line is this: I believe Jesus is the way. I also believe that Jesus came to show us the best way. I also believe that Jesus wants us to follow his (best) way. I also believe that there's lots of ideas as to what that means when it comes to putting it into practice. I also believe that that's okay.

If someone doesn't think like me, believe like me, practice their faith like me... its okay. I know people who wouldn't call themselves a "Christian" but are following the way of Jesus. And I know that freaks some Christians out. But listen, we can't boil Jesus' way down to an eternal destination. I think his picture he painted was bigger than that. I think his way was about more than the End. Its about the here and now, too. Its about a lot of things.

And if I don't stop now, I could carry on forever.

Saintdoc said...

Your right, Jesus did not come for the end. He came for a new beginning. "Behold, I am making all things new."-Rev 21:5

jacobblair said...

wow, this got out of hand way too quickly, and i didn't start it this time!

it's sound to me. keep continuing to challenge us brother.