Have you ever had someone tell you something to the effect of “You know, I think there are many paths to God; we all believe in the same God; we just call him by different names.  I don’t know how you can say one religion is better than another.”  I remember a time early in my ministry when I did a lot of canvassing, and I had a guy say to me, “Well, young man, don’t you know that there are many paths up the mountain?”  Now, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that man was actually referring to an ancient Hindu proverb.  The proverb reads as follows: “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter what path you take.  The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

If you think about it, that’s a pretty popular philosophy these days, isn’t it?  There are a lot of people who would say that you don’t have a right to tell people that their religion is wrong.  How do you know there is only one way?         In fact, maybe that’s more than what the people out there are thinking.  Maybe you’ve had some of those same thoughts go through your own mind.  I mean, how do I know that there aren’t many paths up the mountain?  How do I know that there is only one path to God?  Because those are such important questions for the eternal destiny of us and others, maybe we could come right out and ask:

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

To answer that question, we’ll consider three additional questions:

What does the world think?

What does the Bible say?

Why does it matter?

First, when it comes to the question, “Is Jesus the only way to heaven, let’s consider: I. What does the world think?  Well, I think you realize that a lot of people these days would come right out and say, “No way is Jesus the only way to heaven.  I mean, that’s so narrow minded,” they say.  They say, “You’re disrespecting other people’s beliefs.  You’re putting whole nations, entire cultures, at a huge disadvantage because they’re not Christian.  What about all those people who were not raised in Christian homes?  You’re telling me that they’re going to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus?  I can’t buy that,” they say.  “I don’t believe that God would be so intolerant,” the world says.  “I think God has an open mind, an open heart.  I think there are many different ways for a person to find favor with God.  I think there are many ways up the mountain.”

My friends, do you realize why it is perfectly natural for every human being to think that there are many paths to God?  The answer:  Because every human being, by nature, thinks that a person’s standing with God and his eternal destiny, is dependent upon what kind of life that person lived.  If a person lived a good life, the human mind says, that God will reward him for it.  If he lived a bad enough life, the human mind says that God will punish him for it.

Kind of reminds me of the jingle that the kids in my neighborhood use when I was a boy.  They’d answer the phone with the words, “Hello, everybody.  This is Harry Cemetery.  If you’re good you go to heaven; if you’re bad you go to…Hello, everybody. This is Harry Cemetery…”  Now, whether you remember that little jingle or not, the fact is, the thought is built into every one of us.  Because God has written his law into every human heart and because God has given every human being a conscience which testifies to that law, therefore every human being deep down knows that there are certain kinds of behavior that are good and pleasing to God and certain kinds of behavior that are evil and deserve to be punished by God.  And that’s why, down through the centuries and across the cultures, human beings have set up religions designed to produce behavior consistent with the law written in their hearts, behavior which hopefully will win the approval of some Supreme Deity, he’s called Jehovah or Allah, or Vishnu or the Earth, or even the Greater Good.

And if that’s the purpose of religion, namely, to get people to behave better, make them more religious, earn some brownie points with God, well then, take your pick.  Almost any religion will work.  For example, Mormonism’s emphasis on being “worthy” of God’s love might compel you to give up caffeine and cigarettes.  Islam’s promise of 70 virgins in paradise might get you to roll out your prayer rug 5 times a day.  Buddhism’s emphasis on meditation might clear your head for a time.  Judaism’s strict rabbinical code will force you to be different from the world—as least on the outside.  In fact, there are a lot of people who see Christianity through that same lens, people who see Christianity as: obey the 10 commandments and follow the Golden Rule, and if you do, God will reward you with a place in heaven someday.

My friends, if that’s all that Christianity is, if that’s all any religion is, if religion is only a mechanism to get people to produce more good works and thus earn a place in paradise, well then, there really is no difference.  The world has got it right.  There are many paths to God.  There are many paths up the mountain.  And we’re wasting our time trying to say that one is better than the other.  That, my friends, is how the world thinks.

But now, let’s consider for a moment, II. What does the Bible say?  Maybe we should start with these words from wise King Solomon, who writes in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  That statement could be applied to every “man-made” religion in the world, every religion that is built on the idea that if I obey God’s law written in my heart, I’ll be all right with God.  But as King Solomon says, that way of thinking leads to death, that is, eternal death in hell.

In fact, St. Paul fleshes out that idea a bit more when he writes in (Romans 3:20), Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; In other words, no one will ever be approved by God, no one will ever make the grade, no one will ever earn a place in heaven by obeying God’s law.  Why not?  Because no one sinful human being has ever or will ever obey God’s law perfectly.  That means that God’s law cannot save us.  It can only convict and condemn us.  That’s why St. Paul goes on to say in that same verse, Through the law we become conscious of sin.  God’s law only makes us aware of how far short of God’s standards we’ve fallen.

Now, it that’s true, if I can’t win God’s favor by my behavior, if every path I take is a dead end, man, what hope do I have?  Only one.  What does the Bible say?  (1 Peter 3:18)  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  Just for a minute, take a closer look at that verse.  Christ died for sins once for all.  That is, Christ suffered the penalty we deserved—once for all, for all people, for all time.  The righteous, that is, the sinless one, in place of the sinful ones.  For what purpose?  To bring you to God.  Notice it’s not, he died to show you what you need to do or he died to point out which path you must walk.  No, Jesus died in your place, to bring you, to carry you to God, to give you life with God.  Jesus came to do it all for you.  Your eternal salvation is all God’s doing, in Christ.

My friends, do you see why Jesus says what he does here in our text?  After painting this beautiful picture of heaven as the Father’s house with many rooms, and telling his disciples that they know the way to get there, Thomas, one of the disciples, laments, in effect, “But Jesus we don’t know the way!”  Jesus’ response.  “Thomas, I am the way….  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Do you see what Jesus is saying?  He’s say that he is not merely one of many options, one of many paths to God.  Jesus doesn’t say, “I am a way.”  No, he says, “I am the Way, as in, the ONLY way.  With those words, Jesus is not being arrogant.  He’s simply distinguishing Christianity from every other religion in the world.  Every other religion in the world says basically, “Your eternal destiny depends on how well you live your life.”  Only Christianity says, “No, your eternal destiny depends on how well Jesus lived his life in your place.”  Heaven is not something you earn.  It’s something God gives, by grace, through faith in Jesus.  Isn’t that what the Bible reading earlier?  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– {9} not by works, so that no one can boast.

So, even though while the world doesn’t believe it, the Bible clearly states that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  So we turn to our final question, namely, III. Why does it matter?  I mean, is it all that important to believe that Jesus is the only way?  Can’t we allow for alternate paths?  Aren’t we being narrow-minded and intolerant if we say that there is only one way?  Well, let me ask you this question.  Which person is being more intolerant?  The person who insists that Jesus is the only way to heaven?  Or the person who insists that there are many ways to heaven.  The answer is:  they are equally intolerant.  The person who believes that there are many paths to heaven, by definition is rejecting my belief that there is only one path.  So don’t let anybody tell you that they are being more open-minded for believing that there are many paths to heaven when in fact they are closing their mind to your belief that there is only one way to heaven.

The same thing could be said about the charge that Christianity is somehow dishonoring other cultures of the world.  Some people say that if you espouse Christianity, then you’re forcing your Western religion on people.  Wait a minute.  Is Christianity a Western religion?  Where did Christianity get its start?  In Palestine, right?  In the Middle East.  Actually, Christianity transcends all cultures, races and languages.  God doesn’t care what race or culture you are.  In fact, right now the fastest growing segments of the Christian church are located not in North America or in Europe, but in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

And finally, when people say that Christianity is so divisive; Christianity stirs up hatred and violence in people, I say, yeah, maybe hatred and violence directed against Christians.  But no true follower of Jesus is a promoter of violence toward their fellow man.  As proof, name me one place in the world where people fear for their lives because there is a Christian church next door.  It just doesn’t happen.

If you think about it, all these arguments against Christianity, all these theories that there are many paths to heaven are all nothing more than Satan’s lies designed to rob you of peace and security.  Satan wants you to think that there are lots of paths to heaven, just like the carnival barker who says that “Any number could be a winner.”  Really?  Where is the comfort in that statement?

If your daughter is coming is coming home from grade school alone for the very first time, do you tell her, “Well, I think one of these keys might get you in the door of our house.  Or maybe you’ll have to look for another key.  Maybe you need to find your own way.”?  Or do you say, “Sweetheart, there is no question.  This is the key that will get you in the door.  I know, because I make it just for you.  Trust me.”

My friends, in effect, isn’t that what your Heavenly Father has said to you?  You don’t have to find your own key.  You don’t have to guess which one will work.  There is only one key that will open the door to the Father’s house with many rooms.  And that key is Jesus. And now, by God’s grace, through the pages of his Holy Word, that key is yours.  Believe it.  Cherish it.  And with your life of love, thank God for it, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.