A BOUT WITH DOUBT
December 17, 2000
A while back, Lisa and I traveled out to southern California for a series of meetings with several pastors of growing churches. While we were there, we decided to eat some sushi. We love sushi. We picked a sushi bar and walked into this place. By the way, speaking of sushi, do you know how to tell the difference between Dallas and Ft. Worth? In Dallas, they call it “sushi.” In Ft. Worth, they call it “bait.” I can say that because I live in Tarrant County, okay?
As we ventured into this restaurant, it was the quintessential California trendy place—the hardwood floors, the loud music, and packed with beautiful people, you know? There were two open seats at the sushi bar by a gentleman. Obviously, he was single. Lisa and I walked in and took the seats.
In between orders of customized sushi, he looked over at me and said, “Hey, are you guys from around here?”
We said, “No, we’re from Texas.”
He said, “Oh, Texas, really? What brings you to southern California?”
We said, “Well, we are meeting with some churches. I’m a pastor.”
He looked at me like, “What?”
I said, “Yeah, I’m a minister in a church.”
He said, “That’s cool, man, that’s cool.” He said, in between bites of his California roll, “I think there are many roads that lead to the ultimate destination. I think there are many paths that lead to God.”
I think when it comes to spiritual matters; a lot of us have that “sushi bar theology,” don’t we? A lot of people make that “sushi bar” statement, “There are many paths that lead to the ultimate destination. There are many ways to get there.” However, God has constructed a highway, Highway 146, right through that “sushi bar” theology.
Jesus said these words about the highway, Highway 146, in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Of all the statements uttered by Jesus, none of them are as outrageous and as in your face as Highway 146, when Jesus said about how to get to God, “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No one gets to the Father except by me.”
We have no problems when Jesus talks about his divinity. We think it’s great that God became flesh and dwelt among us. But when you consider Jesus’ exclusivity, “Whoa! That’s narrow-minded. That’s intolerant. I can’t believe anyone can think that. You mean to tell me, with all the billions of people in the world, that Jesus is the only way to God? I can’t believe Christians say all that stuff. They are being superior. They are acting like they are a member of this little elite country club. They are the white hats and the other people are the black hats.” That’s not true.
“Christians,” as T.D. Niles so profoundly said years ago, “are simply a bunch of beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.” I’m just repeating to you what Jesus said. I didn’t make it up. If you have a problem with it, talk to him about it. We try so hard to synchronize the world religions, don’t we? This statement though, this Highway 146 deal, breaks Christianity out of the pack. It separates it from all the rest.
I thought that I would just pick up the phone, (this is random), and call George W. Bush and just tell him thank you. So I am just going to start dialing numbers and I’ll probably reach him. So just hold on. Okay, here we go. I’m just dialing random numbers. I’ll bet I reach him.
“Good morning, thank you for calling Denny’s.”
“My name is Ed Young.”
“I was wondering, is George W. Bush there?”
“You made this phone call yesterday.”
“I made the same call?”
“Yes, you did. You’re talking to the same person too.”
“Okay. He wasn’t there last night, but is he there tonight?”
“Is he there?”
“Who? No, he’s not.”
“He’s not there. Do you have that Grand Slam breakfast today again?”
“Yes, I do.”
“How much is it?”
“What’s on it?”
“Two pancakes, two eggs, two sausages,”
“Oh, that’s good. Is your coffee freshly brewed?”
“It sure is, sir.”
“Okay. But George W. Bush is not there?”
“No, he’s not. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry. We have this automatic dial thing, and I’m sorry.”
“See you later.”
Man, she was kind of…. Let’s do another. Let’s do another call. Again, I’m just dialing randomly here.
“Happy holidays, Southwest Wal-Mart, how may I help you?”
“I’m trying to find George W. Bush.”
“George W. Bush?”
“Well, he’s about three blocks from us.”
“Are you serious?”
“Well, I wish.”
“You wish? You said this is Wal-Mart?”
“That’s a good store, Wal-Mart.”
“Well, I’ve just been dialing numbers kind of randomly, and I was trying to reach George W. Bush.”
“Well, I’m sorry. You just missed him.”
“Wow. Are you guys running any specials today on anything exciting? Can you tell me about anything special at Wal-Mart?”
“Everything is special.”
“Everything is special. Okay. What is like the number one thing that people are buying right now for the Christmas deal? What is the top thing?”
“The thing they can’t get, the Playstation II.”
“Yes, that’s the thing they want.”
“Alright, thanks very much.”
I might just make another call. No, I guess I won’t. See, I’m just dialing numbers. I’m not making prank calls. I’m just dialing numbers. I don’t know George W’s personal phone that reaches his residence. There is only one number that reaches his residence, and I don’t know it. But to sit here and say, “Well, I’ll just randomly dial and surely I’ll get George W. Bush.” That is a pipe dream. That’s a joke.
People say, “Oh, yeah, there are many roads that lead to God.” That’s like saying I can just dial any number and get George W. Bush. There is one number, and Jesus said, “It’s Highway 146.” Jesus didn’t say, “I’m an option. I’m a possibility.” He said, “I am THE way (singular), THE truth, and THE life. No one gets to the father except through me.”
What is the why? Why would Jesus have made this claim? Why did God have him do what he did, and why do we have it recorded for us? That’s a pretty good question, I think. Why?
I’ll tell you why. To really understand why you have to flip back all the way to the book of Genesis. Genesis is the first book of the Bible. I’m not going to read all of it for you, but I will tell you this. God created us in a perfect and pristine environment. Scripture says that he told Adam and Eve not to do one thing. He said, “Hey, guys, don’t touch the tree in the middle of the garden, because if you do, it’s going to cost you.”
They sinned. They ate from the fruit of the tree, and when they were still chewing on that Sunkist orange, what happened? They experienced a fall—a four-fold fall. They were sequestered from God. They were sequestered from others. They were sequestered from nature. They were sequestered from themselves. God, others, nature, and themselves.
This gap is mentioned and directly addressed by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 59:2. He said this, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
If you have a problem in a relationship, if the relationship is severed, what do you do? You deal with the junk that has caused the problem in the relationship. You don’t pretend like it is not there. You don’t beat around the bush. You don’t talk about the sky is blue, it’s been cold lately…. You deal with the junk that is messing the relationship up, and when you deal with the junk, what happens? The relationship then is reconciled.
We have some junk between us and God. Sin. Simply put, s-i-n. Your sins and mine have caused a gap between ourselves and God. If we are going to be reconciled to God, we’ve got to deal with sin. How? God’s way. That is the only way we can be reconciled to God, to others, to nature, and to ourselves. That is why God said that it is through Highway 146. Sin must have a payment. The payment had to be the Lamb of God, who lived a sinless life, who died a tortuous death on Calvary for everything we have ever done wrong in the past, present, and future. He offers this life to us. He says, “Hey, do a U-turn, jump on Highway 146.”
Now at this point, you would think people would go, “Oh, I’m going to go Highway 146. I mean, I know about it. I’ve seen signs pointing me to it. I’ve got people telling me about it. I’m going to do it.” However, most people white-knuckle the steering wheel, and they say, “I’ll go my own way. I’ll do my own deal.” They spend most of their lives bouncing back from destination to destination. I’m talking about disappointing and destructive destinations, like Pleasureville. A lot of people live in Pleasureville.
They say, “Forget Highway 146. I’m going to live in Pleasureville.” You get into all the buzzes, and the highs, and the sex, and the parties. After a while, you run through all that and you still feel that gnawing sense in your spirit. You still feel that something is not right. You know you are not firing on all cylinders. So you leave Pleasureville, and you go to Attainmentville.
“Oh, I’ll just attain stuff. I’ll stack up stuff. Cars, clothes, corner offices, and all this stuff. Then, surely, that will do it.” Money and power and stuff. It has a numbing effect on that emptiness. It really does. You know when you buy something, that rush? When you attain something, that feeling that you get? It helps—that sensation—temporarily but not eternally.
Then you get tired of Attainmentville, and you say, “Well, I’ll just live in Doubtville for awhile.” A lot of people love to live in Doubtville. They have to lob question after question after question God’s way. They don’t want to know the answer. They don’t want to do the work to discover the truth. They keep the question mark in front of God kind of as this blockade because they don’t want to be accountable to him.
A lot of people, right now, as I just said that, are saying, “Whoa, Ed, I’m in Pleasureville. I’m in Attainmentville. I’m in Doubtville. I’m there.”
There is a better way. It’s the ultimate way. It’s a freeway (free way), literally. Because the Bible says, “Here is the difference between religions and Christianity.” Christianity says, “The path has been built. It’s a free way. We don’t deserve it. God did it because he loves us. Even though we were sinners, Christ died for us and paved the way.”
On the other hand, religion, I like to say, is a Home Depot deal. People who go to Home Depot—I don’t go there much—but people who go to Home Depot—I’ve been with my wife—they are into the do-it-yourself thing. They are trying to find all this stuff, and buy all this stuff, and good for you, if you are handy. They try to build this stuff. They try to make this and they really like that. They are kind of handy men and women. Home Depot people. “I can do it myself. I’m not going to pay that kind of money.”
World religions are that way. “I can do it. I can build my own freeway. I can build my own highway. Yeah, I can do it. I can build it to God because I am going to be good enough, I’m going to be strong enough, I’m going to be nice enough, I’m going to give enough, I’m going to go to church enough.” One person can’t build a freeway. That’s a joke. I don’t care how long you go to Home Depot. You are not going to build a freeway to God. The freeway has been done. That’s Christianity. So there is no way you can synchronize the world religions.
You can’t say, “Well, Buddhism and Hinduism and Mormonism and you know, Christianity, they are all the same.” No they are not. No they are not.
Well, I think as you follow my train of thought, I think you might be asking yourself this question, because this is the one big question we are going to answer. “Ed,” you are thinking to yourself, “I wish you would answer the sincerity question. Ed, what about the sincere Muslim, the sincere Buddhist, the sincere Hindu? What about them as they relate to Highway 146? Can someone be sincerely wrong?”
[Video shown with Ed and Preston going to Tinseltown Movie Theatre, Sonic, and Starbucks, trying to pay $.25 for things that cost much more.]
You can be sincerely wrong, can’t you? It doesn’t matter how sincere you are about that quarter, it is not going to get you a movie ticket. It’s not going to get you a Sonic soft drink. It’s not going to get you a bunch of Starbucks beverages. It’s not going to happen. So, I don’t care if I sincerely believe something. That still does not make that something true. Just like if I reject something, or think something is false, it could be false or it could be true. Whether you are sincere or not doesn’t make much difference.
For example, let’s think about Christianity. The deity, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are the heart of the faith. We learned as we studied Islam that they reject the deity, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. You can’t say both are true. One is true and one isn’t. God, ladies and gentlemen, is not schizophrenic. He didn’t go to one side of the planet and go, “Oh, yeah, by the way, it’s Highway 146. You know my son died on the cross for your sins and rose again. It is through him that you get to me. It’s because of your sin problem and my love. It’s only by the freeway, by grace. Okay. You got it?” That’s that part of the planet.
Now God, he didn’t do this. He didn’t go to the other side of the planet and go, “Oh, yeah, let me go ahead and change. I told one side one thing and I’ll tell you another. Here’s how you get there. You get there through works. You get there if you are doing the Home Depot deal, building your own freeway. You are a do-it-yourself man, do-it-yourself woman, yeah. You can attain it. Just be a good boy. Just be a good girl.”
There’s one way. So, instead of freaking out about this highway being so limited, we should say, “God, thank you for making a way.” Yes, Jesus said the way is narrow. But I am going to tell you something. It’s wide enough for the entire world.
“I am the way.” What did Jesus say? “I am the path. I am the truth. I am the reality of God’s promises. I am the life, eternal life, beginning here on this earth.”
You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong.
The next question I think is kind of out there, hanging in the balance, and goes something like this, “What about the person who has never heard? What about the Aborigine? What about the native? What about that person far removed? What about the person who has never heard of Highway 146? What do you do with that?”
Well, since we are so open today—we are making prank calls and shooting videos at Starbucks and all that—let’s put the cards out on the table. Let’s just really get real. Why do you ask that question? That is a commonly asked question. What motivates you to ask that question? Is your motivation because you are concerned about the Aborigine, that you are concerned about the person who hasn’t heard? If you are, great for you. Man, that is good. I hope that fires you up. I hope that gives you the muscle to really go out and share your faith like you never have done before. Or, could your motivation be like a smokescreen? Could it be like, “Well, if it’s a Highway 146 deal, if Jesus is the only way to get to God, then I don’t want any part of Christianity, you know. I don’t want to do that. I’m not going to go there.” What’s your motivation?
My wife and I have four children, one boy and three girls. My son, EJ, the lone male, will often tell on his sisters. I know it’s hard to believe, in a perfect pastor’s home. That’s a joke. I hope you know that. Sometimes, EJ, in his prayers, will confess his sister’s sins. I will say, “No, EJ, you got it wrong, man. No, no. It’s you and God.” But oftentimes, he will run up to Lisa and I and go, “Hey, Mom, Dad, my sisters are doing this. They are doing that. They are doing this. They are doing that.”
Here is what we usually say, “Hey, EJ, (parents know where I am going now), don’t worry about them. Worry about you.” I think God, our perfect heavenly parent, says that in many ways to you and me, because God is God. Deuteronomy 29:29 “God is God. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us.”
We don’t know all of God’s ways. What is so funny is I often fall into this trap. I think sometimes that God owes me an explanation for everything. When you think about it, that is hilarious. I mean, I am a finite, limited, self-centered sinner and so are you. I am demanding as the creature that the creator gives me all of the info on everything he does. Isn’t that stupid? We think, “Oh, yeah, God owes me an explanation.”
As I said, the Bible is not a book of proofs. It is not. I wish I could turn to chapter and verse and give you the answer to, “What about those who have never heard? What about the Aborigine? What about the native?” I wish I could tell you specifically from the Bible what it says, but I can’t. God does not give us a specific answer. However, he does give us several things that will help us get a little closer on this question.
The first one is this: God’s existence is pretty evident. Wouldn’t you agree? The Bible says in Romans 1 that we are without an excuse. Let me go ahead and read that text for you. It says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
We have this moral standard stamped on our spirit. The book of Romans says it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that man is not the center of the universe, that there is a creator, that there is a God out there. We know the existence of God just by showing up, just by taking a panoramic view of the world.
The Bible also says God is seeking the seeker. Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 19:10: “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” In Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me (isn’t this great) when you seek me with all of your heart.”
God is seeking the seeker. In other words, the Holy Spirit affords us the opportunity to even seek God. He is working the whole deal out. If we are truly seeking God, what’s going to happen? God will reveal himself to the Aborigine, to the native, and to the person who has “never heard.” How he does that, I don’t really know. I’m not God. You are not either.
Cornelius, a Gentile, a non-Jew, was having this intense conversation with God. He said, “God, reveal yourself to me. I want to really know you, the full essence of who you are.” God tapped Simon Peter on the shoulder and commissioned Simon Peter to go to Cornelius’ house and talk to him about the claims of Christ, which he did. Cornelius bowed the knee to Christ. His entire household did. They were baptized. They went public with their faith. That is how God works.
God’s existence is evident. God is seeking the seeker. I love this last one. Download this, please: God is always scrupulously fair. When the dust settles at the end of time after the judgment, we are not going to look around and go, “Oh, I can’t believe God was unfair. We’re going to say, “God, thank you. You are so fair. You are so just. You are so holy. You are so perfect. You dealt with everybody in the ultimate way.”
So we don’t have to worry about that. God is God. He embodies all love and all truth, and he is perfectly fair. This means that we should go out and share our faith. This means that we should help the cause of Christ around the world. This also means that we have to trust in God. We have got to trust that he is just.
Go back to EJ. He trusts me. In his mind, it is limited as a little nine year old, he trusts his dad. We have to trust our heavenly dad. In Psalm 89:14 it says: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Love and faithfulness go before you.”
You know what? We cannot claim ignorance here, can we? We can’t say, “Well, I don’t know, like the Aborigine, the native, the person who hasn’t heard.” We can’t claim that because we have heard the truth. We have heard the gospel. What is your response? Are you going to continue to white-knuckle the steering wheel and go from Pleasureville to Attainmentville to Doubtville? Are you going to do that? Are you going to continue to throw out your sushi theology: there are many roads that lead to the ultimate destination? Or, are you going to go, “Man, I’m ready to do a U-turn. I’m ready to admit the obvious to you, God, that I’m a sinner in need of a savior. I realize I am separate from you. I realize I’m separate from nature, from myself, from others. I’m ready to do a U-turn, God.”
The moment you do the U-turn—and the U-turn in the Bible is called repentance—you turn from your ways and begin to turn toward Christ. You say, “Jesus, come into my life. I want to go on Highway 146.” At that moment in time, you will become a Christ-follower. It’s a decision that you have to make. I cannot make you do the U-turn. I cannot make you or force you to put the blinker on. But think about the signs. Think about the signs. Think about the people in your life who have said, “Hey, it’s Highway 146.” Think about the situations where Jesus has revealed himself to you and said, “Hey, go my way.” Are you going to keep on refusing him? Are you going to keep on dissing him? For some here, this could be the last chance you ever have to receive Christ. I know that is true for some people. I’m not trying to scare anybody. I’m just telling the truth.
Here’s what I want you to do. I want many of you right now to pray a prayer with me to close this deal. I want many of you—maybe you are still wondering about some things and doubting some things—just to say, “I’m ready to do business with God and bow the knee to him. I’m ready to take Highway 146.” I know many of you are not sure that you are on Highway 146. But today, we are going to settle the issue. It’s time to put the blinker on and do the U-turn.
Just say these words with me—this is not my prayer; this is your prayer, but I am leading you on how to say this prayer. I am a beggar telling other beggars how to get bread. Just say this: “God, I admit to you that I have messed up, that I have fallen short. I turn from my sins right now. I admit it to you and I do that U-turn. I believe, God, that you love me so much that you provided a way, and that way is Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, who died on the cross for my sins and rose again. God I believe that. Right now, God, I ask Jesus Christ to come into my life and take control of me. I open up my hands to you, my heart to you, my life to you.”
Just say that, won’t you? Just say that. I believe many people here are praying that prayer right now. It’s the best thing you will ever do. The best thing you will ever do. We ask all these things in Jesus name, Amen.