001. One Way

One Way

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through me.

“Light came in as a flood and all was clear,” said Andrew Carnegie, the great steel industrialist
of his first exposure to evolutionary theory. “Not only had I got rid of theology and the
supernatural, but I found the truth of evolution.” Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” became the
driving principle of Carnegie’s business practices, as he successfully gobbled up his inferiors and
bested his competitors on the way to building the largest steel-producing company in the world.
We tend to underestimate the power of conviction. We elevate feelings to the top of our
hierarchy of values. “I feel like we should or shouldn’t,” we say, betraying our preference for the
emotional over the rational. Yet it is conviction that makes the world go round. The austerity and
sacrifice of early Marxists would have been the envy of medieval monks, as they pursued their
utopian vision of a worker’s paradise. That the Soviet republics and their offshoots became
worker’s nightmares is beside the point. Conviction drove them to sacrifice worldly comfort and
recognition for the sake of their vision of a better world.

Martin Luther wrestled with the meaning of the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Romans
1:17 and the meaning of “the just shall live by faith” in Romans 1:16. One day it came to him.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God
and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the
justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God
justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone
through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning,
and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to
me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became a gate to
heaven…”1

Luther’s life was transformed and his world upended by the power of this insight, as he
posted his 95 theses and launched the Protestant Reformation.

Conviction

The Holy Spirit has used a number of key verses to transform my outlook and alter the course of
my life. Time and again this has proven to be the case for me. The gospel is the power of God
(Rom 1:16). Scriptural truth has at times erupted into my consciousness like a volcano, at other
times slowly melted away my objections like butter on a warm skillet. New convictions came to replace the old, sometimes like a flood, sometimes like the dripping of a faucet. Jesus Christ has
changed my life in stages, by His Spirit working through His word. My personal experience of
conviction-wrought change has given shape to everything I have gone on to do in ministry: from
lectio continua (verse by verse) preaching to doctrinally driven Inquirers’ classes to catechizing
our children. I have aimed at conviction in others. I have sought, as did the Apostle Paul before
me, to persuade, persuade by reasoning and explaining from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2-4; 18:4;
19:9). No verse has been more important in my pilgrimage than John 14:6.

One way

John 3:16 made an early impact, setting the stage, as it were, for John 14:6. This was the first
verse that I memorized (as was the case for church-going children of my generation, in the KJV
of course).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

“Here is gospel indeed,” says Matthew Henry, “the best that ever came from heaven to earth.”2 I
cannot remember a time when I did not believe John 3:16. It presents the whole gospel. God
loved the world. God gave His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. Those who believe are saved.
They are given eternal, or “everlasting life.” Those who don’t believe perish. Humanity is a
perishing condition. We need rescue. We need a deliverer. We need a savior. Jesus is that God-given Savior. Belief is “the great gospel duty,” says Henry.3 I never doubted that John 3:16 was true. Later came exposure to John 14:6.

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Moral and religious relativism was all the rage in the 1960’s. What is right is right for you. What
is true is true for you. There are many paths leading to the same mountaintop, etc. Then came the
Jesus Movement and its slogan was: “one way!” Complete with upraised index finger. Christian
bumper stickers proliferated in those days, leading to the not-uncommon sight of drivers on the
Southern California freeways signally “one way” to each other while rushing to work at 65 mph
in bumper to bumper traffic.4

I became convinced at an early age that Jesus is the way of salvation. I don’t remember ever not
believing that there is “salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12). An early sermon on hell proved
particularly motivational. Heaven and hell, life and death, eternity and time, light and darkness,
truth and error were all absolute categories for me at a very early age, for which I am eternally
grateful to my family and churches I attended in my childhood and youth.

At the age of 14 I stood in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I silently, internally shouted,
“Okay, I surrender.” I had resisted yielding to the will of God up to that point, fearing He’d send
me to the proverbial grass hut amongst stone-age tribes. At that strange moment, toothbrush in
mouth, looking into the mirror, I caved. Two weeks later I was baptized. John 14:6 played a
crucial role in solidifying my convictions. Three nouns and three definite articles. It’s hard to
escape the implications. It’s hard to relativize the emphatic. I am the way, not a way but the one
and only way, the truth, not a truth, but the singular truth, and the light, the one and only light.
“Great things Christ have saith of himself,” says Henry.5 Indeed He has. Jesus is gracious to the 5
thickheaded and hardhearted by adding to His positive affirmation an emphatic negative
restatement: “No one comes to the Father but by me.” No one. No other path. No other savior.
Only by me.

What these childhood convictions and youthful commitments meant in practice was that I was
always, it seems, conscious that others need Christ and salvation. I carried a burden for the lost.
Whether or not I was kind or mean, truthful or deceiving, loving or hateful, bold or timid might
make the difference for some lost soul. Convictions from John 3:16 and 14:6 led inevitably to
mission.

Witness

I recall having one of my boyhood friends spend the night. We turned out the lights. I felt
convicted that I needed to ask him if he believed. I paused. Finally I got up the nerve. “Do you
believe in Jesus?” I asked. A long silence followed. Finally, out of the darkness a weak voice
said, “Yes.” That was the end of it. I had no idea of what to say next. Yet I was concerned about
his soul and I had to ask.

I was the ringleader in my youth group, asking, begging, pleading with my circle of friends to get
involved. Most of them did. I used to badger our youth director to teach a lesson. (He had a bad
habit of telling jokes the whole Sunday School hour.) Why? Two reasons. I was concerned for
the salvation of my friends. Why? John 14: 6. I believed in heaven and hell. I believed that Jesus
was the only way. I wanted my friends to be saved. I didn’t want them to spend eternity in hell.
Conviction gave rise to a personal sense of responsibility. I was privileged to know the truth. The
privilege carries a responsibility to tell others. I could not be silent. It would be irresponsible.
Mine were not the highest motivations, yet they were valid motivations: concern for lost souls,
and my responsibilities for them.

Motivation

Biblical, theological, convictions are critical in motivating believers. Faith alone, in Jesus alone,
saves. At times even unbelievers seem to understand the connection between conviction and
outreach. A recent article in The Atlantic cited Michael, a Dartmouth student and atheist, who
said, “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”

Similarly, Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian said, “I don’t respect people who
don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and
people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not
really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you
have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
Michael’s words are worth pondering: “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it
would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too
much of that.”6

Don’t underestimate the role of convictions in changing lives. Becoming convinced that the
gospel is true is a vital step in motivating Christian ministry: outreach, witness, evangelism,
church-planting, and world missions. Why do we expend so much energy, time and treasure in
these endeavors? Because we are convinced that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that
we can only come to the Father through Him. Let this truth sink into our souls and we will find it
affecting every aspect of our lives, “taking every thought captive,” as the Apostle Paul might say,
that sinners might be saved (2 Cor 10:5).

1 Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Penguin Group, 1995), 36.

2 Henry, Commentary, on John 3:16.

3 Ibid.

4 See Larry Eskridge, God’s Forever Family (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), for an excellent survey of the movement.

5 Henry, Commentary, on John 14:6.

6 Larry Alex Taunton, “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity,” The Atlantic Daily Newsletter, June 5, 2013.

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