England is no longer a Christian country. Whether England ever was a Christian country where everybody went to church and everybody lived by the ten commandments is debatable. But what is certainly true is that England is no longer a Christian Country. Christendom where everybody shared common Christian beliefs and values, is rapidly being replaced by a multicultural, multi-faith society where Christianity is only one option amongst many.
We live in a consumer culture, where people expect the right to choose and satisfaction guaranteed every time. These expectations extend beyond shopping to morality, relationships and even religion. So some people who have an interest in spiritual things shop around between the different religions until they find one that suits them. Other people like to pick-and-mix bits from different religions, a taste of Christian morality mixed with bits of Eastern mysticism, extracts from the Bible and quotations from the Koran, a sort of smorgasbord “eat whatever you like” buffet of religions. And with so many varieties of religion on offer, of course, lots and lots of people can’t be bothered to search for the truth and so they choose not to choose at all.
In this supermarket of beliefs, people object if you claim to have THE one and only truth. In this world of political correctness it is considered impolite and offensive, or even in some circumstances against the law, to claim that you are right and everybody else is wrong. And in this politically correct but morally and spiritually bankrupt world we Christians have to stand up and be counted. Because we believe that Jesus is Lord. Not just “one Lord among many”. Not just “Lord if you choose him to be your Lord”. But Jesus is Lord. THE LORD. The One and only Son of God. The one and only Saviour!
If people ask us WHY they should accept that Jesus Christ is Lord, we need to be able to answer. We need to be able to defend our faith, and explain why we are convinced that Jesus is unique. This morning, let me give you FIVE ways in which Jesus Christ stands apart from all other religious leaders.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was different from any other human being who has ever lived. Because He was much more than a man. He was truly God, born as a human being.
Matt 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”
Jesus Christ was not just another holy man, not just another prophet. He was God the Son,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In this world of many different religious leaders, offering ways to find God, we need to shout the message that Jesus Christ is unique because He IS God, revealing Himself to us!
Very many people who wouldn’t call themselves Christians recognise that Jesus was the greatest moral teacher who ever lived. Many people claim to try to live their lives by the Sermon on the Mount. The teaching of Jesus Christ has shaped two thousand years of Western civilisation. Think of the parables –
The father who welcomes home the rebellious prodigal son.
The Good Samaritan who helps a stranger in distress.
The exhortations to forgive your enemies, Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile,
And look at some of the claims Jesus made about Himself.
10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Jesus was a Jew. He said that to Jews, who all knew Psalm 23 “THE LORD is my shepherd! Jesus was saying to them – I am the good shepherd – I am your God!
Jesus said John 6:35; . “I am the bread of life. 8:12; “…I am the light of the world. 10:7; … “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. ,,,, 11:25; “I am the resurrection and the life. 14:6; …. “I am the way and the truth and the life. 15:1. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
Perhaps the most important claim Jesus made was when He said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Not – I am teaching you about God – but I AM God! Jesus’s teaching was unique!
Jesus’s ministry was unique in history. The proof that everything Jesus claimed about Himself is true is found in every one of His actions. Everything Jesus did showed us God’s love, He forgave people’s sins, like that woman caught in the very act of adultery. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Jesus preached with a unique authority, not like other Jewish teachers who just quoted each other. Jesus preached on his own authority. “Truly, truly, I tell you!” And then Jesus demonstrated that authority by driving out evil spirits. Jesus calmed the storm – even the wind and the waves obey Him! He walked on the water and fed the 5000 with just five loaves and two fishes. And Jesus healed the sick and even raised the dead back to life! Jesus’s miracles were God’s love in action. Concrete expressions of the gospel!
Luke 7:18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
If people ask what is so special about Jesus, get them to read the gospels, to read about His ministry. They will see for themselves Jesus is unique.
Napoleon Bonaparte (cited by Vernon C. Grounds, The Reason for Our Hope) said this about Jesus.
“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity…. Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which he announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things…. The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me — everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man…. One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life…. I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”
Napoleon certainly recognised the uniqueness of Christ.
All great religious leaders have died. The death of Jesus is different from the deaths of every other human being because His death itself had a significance which places it at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus’s death was not a tragic regrettable accident. Jesus’s death was the lynchpin of God’s plan of salvation!
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Christ Himself carried our sins in his body to the cross so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24
Every great religious leader died for their own sins. Jesus was completely innocent – without sin. Jesus died for OUR sins, in our place. By paying the penalty for our sin on the cross, Jesus made a way for our sins to be forgiven. Jesus’s death made the way for God to welcome us back as his beloved children.
Here is the great difference between the Christian religion and every other religion in the world. Every other religion can be summed up in just two letters but the Christian faith needs three!
Every other religion says ‘DO. Do this, do that, do the other and you will find salvation”.
But Christianity says “It is DONE, it is accomplished, it is finished!”
So Jesus’s death is UNIQUE – it is the only way to salvation, the only hope for human beings who face the judgment of a holy God.
Here is the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the supreme difference between Jesus and every other human being who has ever lived! All great religious leaders have died. But Jesus is different from everybody else. Jesus is didn’t stay dead! Mohammed – dead and buried. Buddha – dead and buried. Every other founder of religions large and small – dead and buried. Jesus Christ – risen from the dead, never more to die!
1 Corinthians 15 sums up the teaching of all the first Christians.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
On the day of Pentecost, this was the heart of the apostle Peter’s sermon.
ACTS 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. ….. 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
The apostles were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was the gospel they preached – Jesus is alive! The arrival at Pentecost and the visible work of the Holy Spirit in the world through history and still today are God’s proof that Jesus is risen from the dead and that Jesus is Lord! The difference Jesus makes in your life and mine is proof that Jesus is still alive today. And in the Book of Revelation the risen Christ says this:
I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades
So Jesus Christ is unique. Jesus is not just better than the founders of other religions. In who he was and what He did, Jesus stands out apart from them in every way. His birth was unique. His teaching was unique. His ministry was unique. His death was unique. His resurrection was unique. And this is what Jesus said.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
We live in a world which has lost its way. A world which says that all ways lead to God – you pays your money and you takes your choice. But Jesus Christ says “I am the way” THE way, the one and only way. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
We live in a world which has abandoned the idea of absolute truth.
We each have our own truth, people say, it’s all relative and one person’s truth is as good as any other! But Jesus Christ says “I am the truth” THE Truth, the one and only ultimate truth!. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
We live in a world where people are looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places. And Jesus Christ says “I am the life” – THE life – the one and only way to find life in all its fullness. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the only way to God. This is what the first Christians believed and this is what they preached. Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the only way to God. This is the message entrusted to the church. This is the message to which the Holy Spirit is the Witness. Jesus Christ is the only way and truth and life. Jesus who was more than a man – who was the God born as a human being, the truth of God incarnate. Jesus who revealed God through His teaching and through His Holy character. Jesus who healed the sick and raised the dead. Jesus who died on the cross as a ransom for many. Jesus who was dead but now is risen from the dead and now lives forever, and holds the keys to death and hell. It is this Jesus who declares to people of every faith and no faith, “no-one comes to the Father except through me.”