Lee Strobel – an award-winning journalist for thirteen years with the Chicago
Tribune and other newspapers, was a spiritual skeptic until 1981. He is the author
of several books including the Gold medallion Award-winning books The Case for
Christ, and The Case for Faith. His newest book is The Case for Easter. He has
been a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Valley
He and his wife live in Orange County, California.
Jesus is the Only Way to God – True or False?
By Lee Strobel
Jesus often surprised people with teachings that cut across the grain of human
Lose your life to save it. The first will be last. The meek will inherit the
earth. Rejoice in
persecution. Pray for your enemies. It’s better to give than receive.
Turn the other cheek.
But, by far, the most outrageous assertion Jesus ever made — His most
incorrect claim of all — was when He declared in JOHN 14:6:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the
Father, but by Me.”
This claim rankles people like no other. It has been called arrogant and narrow-minded
and bigoted and snobbish. Some of you are seekers, and something inside of you
at this claim. For you, it may be a stumbling block to faith.
But I believe that Jesus was telling the truth when He said it. And I believe
He said it out
of great compassion, not arrogance. And I believe that when we look closer at
statement makes ultimate sense. In fact, I believe this single sentence is one
of the most
critically important bits of information on the planet — and to you personally.
So why is this claim so controversial? One reason is that it strikes at the
core of three
great myths about religion. And so in examining this statement by Jesus, I thought
would be a good idea to address these three common misconceptions.
Maybe these are myths you’ve heard — or maybe they’re myths
you believe right now.
So let’s deal with the first myth, which is this:
When you get right down to it, all religions are basically the same.
You’ve probably heard people say that although there are surface-level
between the various world religions, if you strip them all down to their essentials,
religions fundamentally teach the same thing — so it doesn’t really
matter which one you
In other words, all spiritual paths lead up the same mountain because all religions
basically teach the brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women and the universal
fatherhood of God.
Now, there is some common ground between many of the world’s religions,
concerning certain basic values and morality. But there are significant differences,
fact, with this one outlandish assertion, Jesus boldly puts Christianity in
a separate class
If the path to God is through Jesus, then Christianity cannot be reconciled
any other religion. This uniqueness of Christianity is rooted in the uniqueness
Someone once noted that other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I’ll
show you how
to find truth,” but Jesus says, “I am the truth.”
Other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I’ll show you the way
to salvation,” but
Jesus says, “I am the way to eternal life.”
Other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I’ll show you how to
but Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”
Other religious leaders say, “Follow me and I’ll show you many
doors that lead to God,”
but Jesus says, “I am the door.” Then, Jesus says, “So follow
Do you see the difference? For a long time people have tried
to harmonize the various
religions of the world, but there are drastic and irreconcilable differences
Christianity and other belief systems.
Every other religion I’ve ever seen is based on people doing something
struggling and striving — to somehow earn the favor of God. They say people
use a Tibetan prayer wheel or go on pilgrimages or give alms to the poor or
certain foods or pray in a specified way or go through a series of reincarnations
They are the attempts of people to reach out to God.
But Jesus Christ is God reaching out to us. Jesus taught the opposite of what
religious teach. He said nobody can do anything to merit heaven, so we might
give up trying.
He said we’re all guilty of wrongdoing — and that’s consistent
with our experience, isn’t
it? Nobody here would claim to be perfect. And Jesus said that our wrongdoing
us from our holy and perfect God — and, again, that’s consistent
with our experience.
Haven’t you ever felt distant or disconnected from God?
Of course you have.
Because God is a righteous judge, our wrongdoing has to be paid for. So out
of His love,
Jesus voluntarily offered Himself as our substitute to pay the penalty that
we owed for
our sin. And when we receive His sacrifice on our behalf, we become reunited
As we say around here, other religions are spelled “D-O,” because
they teach that people
have to do a bunch of religious rituals to try to please God.
But Christianity is spelled “D-O-N-E” because Christ has done it
all on the cross — and we just need to receive Him.
This distinction is starkly demonstrated by comparing a parable taught by Jesus
with a similar story found in Buddhist literature. Both stories involve sons
who became rebellious and left home, but who then saw the error of their ways
and decided to come back and be reconciled with their families.
In the Buddhist story, the errant son is required to work off the penalty for
his past misdeeds by spending years in servitude. But you know how the Christian
parable of the Prodigal Son ends — with the repentant son being warmly
welcomed home by his loving father and being given undeserved grace and forgiveness.
And there are other fundamental differences between Christianity and other
world religions as well. For instance, Christianity says there’s one eternal
God who created the universe. Hinduism says everything is God — you’re
God, I’m God, this podium is God.
Islam denies Jesus was God or that He died for our sins. Buddha may not even
have believed in God! Friends, these beliefs cannot all be true at the same
time; they contradict each other too thoroughly.]
So all religions are not the same.
And while other religious leaders can offer wise sayings and helpful insights,
only Jesus Christ — because He is the perfect Son of God — is qualified
to offer Himself as payment for our wrongdoing. No other religious leader even
pretended to be able to do that.
And that makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s illogical to think that God
would go over to one
side of the world and tell people, “Here’s the way to become reconciled
with me,” and
then go over to another place and say, “No, here’s a completely
contradictory way to
please me,” and so forth.
I mean, God isn’t schizophrenic!
It would make sense that He would provide a path for us to follow in finding
Him, and that He would tell us about that path in an extraordinary manner, which
He did by sending Jesus Christ to enter human history.
So, friends, it does matter which path you follow in your spiritual journey.
Jesus’ own words dispel the myth that all paths lead to God.
The second myth that Jesus dispels is related to the first.
This myth says that even though Christianity might be different, it’s
still just one philosophy among many, and that it’s only as valid as any
other religion. In other words, even if there are differences between religions,
they all have equal claims on the truth.
You know — you have your truth and I have mine.
This myth has a certain amount of appeal because, on the surface, it seems
to reflect our pluralistic attitudes in this country. And we do want to be tolerant
of other views, don’t we? The Bible tells us we should be loving and accepting
and respectful toward all people, regardless of their faith.
But here’s the thing: under our Constitution, all religious viewpoints
are equally protected. People can believe whatever they want. But some people
jump to the erroneous conclusion that because different philosophies are equally
protected, they must be equally valid. And that’s just not the case. The
concept behind what the Supreme Court has called our “marketplace of ideas”
is that truth and falsehood will grapple in unhindered debate so that, in the
end, truth will prevail. So even though all religious are equally protected
under our Constitution, that has nothing to do with whether they’re based
Let me give you an example in honor of the late Mike Royko. A few years ago
wrote a tongue-in-cheek column in which he said he was a member of the Church
Asylumism. He said this church believes that there was an advanced civilization
distant galaxy millions of years ago, but a few hundred of these aliens ate
veggie dip and a virus scrambled their brains.
When treatment failed, they were taken to an uninhabited planet that would serve
asylum and where they could roam free and act goofy. That planet, he said, was
and we’re all descendants of these aliens.
Royko said to doubters:
“You want proof? Read history books. Look at the newspaper and TV news.
Then tell me this isn’t one big loony bin!”
Now, Royko was kidding about the Church of Asylumism, but in this country people
have the right to believe whatever they want. The Church of Asylumism would
protected under the Constitution as much as any other religious institution.
But that doesn’t mean that its teachings are true.
And, of course, that means everybody is free to make the claim, as Jesus did,
that they are
the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody can come to God except through
could say it or you could say it, but that wouldn’t make it true.
The question is, how do we know Jesus was telling the truth?
Well, Jesus backs up His claim with unique credentials that make Him uniquely
For instance, Jesus authenticated His claim of being God by fulfilling dozens
centuries-old prophecies against every mathematical odd. These prophecies were
thumbprint that only the Messiah would be able to fit — and, in all of
history, it only fits
Jesus. I will refer to just one of the many prophecies Jesus fulfilled.
If you saw Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” you saw Judas
throw his betrayal fee of 30 shekels into the temple.
That was the fulfillment of a prophecy made hundreds of years prior.
Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus performed great miracles that further
authenticated His claim to being God. And in the most spectacular demonstration
of His deity, Jesus fulfilled His own prediction by being resurrected from the
dead in an historical event that was witnessed by more than 500 people and which
sparked a spiritual revolution unparalleled in history.
Friends, Christianity isn’t just a philosophy; it’s a reality.
Jesus didn’t just claim He was the one-and-only Son of God, but He validated
His claim like nobody else in history.
So we’ve seen that the first myth — that all religions are basically
the same — isn’t true
because Christ’s teachings set Christianity apart from all other faiths.
And the second
myth — that Christianity is just one philosophy among many and only as
valid as any
other religion — isn’t true because the unique credentials of Christ
give Him credibility
like no other spiritual leader.
In other words, when He claims to be the way to God, His credentials
back him up.
The third myth is the one that says :
Christians are narrow-minded or snobbish when they say Jesus is
the only way to heaven.
Now, I’d agree Christians would be acting in a narrow-minded way if there
lots of paths to God and they were saying that theirs is the best way. But they’re
They’re saying that the truth of the matter is that someone has got to
pay the penalty for
our obvious wrongdoing that keeps us away from God. And Jesus, by virtue of
sinlessness and divinity, is the only one qualified to be our substitute. That’s
reality of the situation. And it’s not narrow-minded to act upon the evidence
Let me draw you an analogy. I have some friends whose baby girl developed jaundice
shortly after birth. Jaundice is a liver disorder that caused her skin and the
whites of her
eyes to turn yellow. The pediatrician told them that this is a potentially devastating
disease but it’s easily treated. All they had to do was put the baby under
a special light for
a while and this would stimulate her liver properly and she’d be all right.
Now, the parents could have said,
“That sounds too easy. How about instead if we scrubbed her with soap
and dipped her in bleach? If we worked hard enough, I’m sure we could
get her normal coloring back.”
But the doctor would have said, “No, there’s only one way to handle
They could have replied, “Well, how about if we just sort of ignore
this and pretend everything’s OK? You know — the jaundice is your
truth, Doc, not our truth. And if we sincerely believe that, things will work
out for the best.”
The doctor would have said, “You’d jeopardize your baby if you
did that. Look, there’s
only one way to cure her. You’re hesitant because it sounds too easy,
but look at the
credentials hanging on my wall. I’ve studied at medical school and I’ve
used what I’ve
learned to cure countless babies like yours. Trust me!”
Now, would anybody accuse those parents of being narrow-minded if they trusted
doctor and pursued the only course of treatment that was going to cure their
That’s not narrow-minded; that’s acting rationally in accordance
with the evidence.
Well, we all have a terminal illness called sin, and the reason we cling to
because He’s the Great Physician who has the only cure. We can try to
scrub away our
sin with good deeds, but it won’t work. We can ignore it and hope it goes
away, but it
won’t. We can sincerely think there’s another way of dealing with
it, but we’d be
sincerely wrong. The truth is that only the Great Physician offers a treatment
erase our stain of sin. When we turn to Him, we’re not being narrow-minded;
acting rationally in accordance with the evidence.
And it’s not snobbish to believe what Jesus taught about being the way
to God. Because,
frankly, Christianity is anything but snobbish.
Let’s pretend there are two country clubs. The first one only admits people
earned membership. To get in, you’ve got to obtain superior wisdom or
fulfill a list of
demands and fulfill certain spiritual requirements. Despite their best efforts,
people just won’t make the grade and will be excluded. Friends, that’s
religions are saying by teaching that people have to work their way to God.
But the second country club says, “Anybody who wants in can come in because
already paid for your membership. Rich or poor, black or white, regardless of
heritage or where you live, we would love to include you. Entry isn’t
based on your
qualifications but only on accepting Christ’s invitation. So we’ll
leave the matter to you.
You decide. But remember, we will never turn you away if you seek admittance..
That’s what Christianity is like.
Now, which country club is being snobbish? Christians aren’t putting on
airs; we aren’t
saying we’re better than anyone else.
As one Christian said, “We’re just beggars telling other beggars
where to find food.”
Friends, Christianity is unique. It can’t be reconciled with any other
religion. And it
backs up its truth claims with the credentials and credibility of Christ. That’s
He said He is the way, the truth, and the life, history hasn’t laughed.
Instead, history has
But you might be asking, “What about those who live in an isolated place
haven’t had a chance to hear about Jesus? What’s going to happen
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about Christianity —
and, frankly, we don’t have
the complete answer. God hasn’t explicitly told us all we’d like
to know about this.
But we do know a few things.
First, we know from the Bible that everybody has a moral standard
written on their hearts by God and that everybody is guilty of violating that
standard. That’s why our conscience bothers us when we do something wrong.
Second, we know that everybody has enough information from
observing the world to
know that God exists, but people have suppressed that and rejected God anyway
which we rightfully deserve eternal separation from Him.
But we also know from the Bible that those who sincerely seek God will find
fact, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is seeking us first, making it possible
for us to
And this suggests to me that people around the world who respond to
the understanding that they have and who earnestly seek after the one true God
will find an opportunity, in some way, to receive the eternal life that God
has graciously provided through Jesus Christ.
I’ve seen this happen in seemingly impossible circumstances. I remember
meeting a man
who had been raised by gurus in an area of India where there were no Christians.
teenager, he concluded there were too many contradictions in Hinduism for it
to be true.
So he called out to God for answers — and in a remarkable series of events,
people into his life who shared Christ’s message with Him. And today he’s
a follower of
There’s something else that’s reassuring, too, which is that God
is scrupulously fair.
GENESIS 18:25 asks,
“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
It’s comforting for me to know that each person will be judged uniquely
and justly, according to what they knew and what they did. After being judged
by a loving and righteous God, not one
person will be able to walk away claiming that he or she had been treated unfairly.
We know that apart from the payment that Jesus made on the cross, nobody has
of getting off Death Row. But exactly how much detailed knowledge a person has
know about Jesus or precisely where the lines are drawn, only God knows.
The Bible says in FIRST CORINTHIANS 4:5 that only God can expose the motives
of a person’s
And, finally friends, nobody will be excluded from heaven solely because
he or she has
lacked some information.
The reason people will be denied admittance is because they have told God their
entire life that they can live just fine without Him. On Judgment Day, God will
say, “Based on your own decision to live separately from Me, you will
now spend eternity apart from Me.” God won’t violate our will —
and that’s only fair.
But for you and me, the issue isn’t ignorance. It’s obedience. We’ve
heard what Christ has to say — even today—, we have access to the
evidence, and it’s clear we’re responsible for our decision on how
Some of you need to respond today by becoming serious seekers who are sincere
and systematic in your search for truth so you can eventually make a knowledgeable
decision to follow Christ. But if you’re among the 84 percent of Americans
who already believe Jesus is God, then maybe it’s time you finally acted
on that belief. What does that involve? Let me paint a picture through a story.
When I was 14 years old, I was home alone and painting with oil paints in the
finished basement of our house in Arlington Heights. Now, if you’ve ever
painted with oils then you know they take forever to dry. I was impatient, so
I did something stupid — I plugged in some heat lamps to try to dry the
Before long, a fire broke out among the rags soaked with turpentine and the
table and entire corner of the basement were immediately engulfed in flames.
I ran to the phone and called the fire department. When I returned I saw that
the fire was out of control, with orange and yellow flames climbing the paneled
walls and lapping the ceiling, which was directly beneath the living room. I
knew that if the fire burned
through, the whole house would be destroyed — and then I’d really
be in trouble! So I grabbed a bucket of water from the laundry room and dashed
over to throw it on the fire, but that didn’t help very much. The basement
was rapidly filling with black, sooty smoke. I started choking on the fumes
and was becoming disoriented. And I couldn’t see the stairs anymore --
the lights went out and the smoke was too thick.
That’s when a horrible realization hit — I couldn’t save
I wouldn’t be able to find the route out of the basement before I would
Fortunately, not long after that, a police officer arrived and opened the door
basement. He stepped onto the stairs and began shining around a big flashlight.
“Police officer!” he called out. “Anyone down there?”
Now, intellectually, I could have analyzed the situation. Things were serious
in the basement; if I stayed down there much longer, I’d die from the
smoke and fire. But the police officer knew the one and only escape route. He
was a trained professional and fully capable of leading me to safety. What’s
more, he held a big flashlight to illuminate the way for me.
But it wasn’t enough just to analyze the situation. I had to take a step
of action. I had to
put my faith in that police officer — a faith based on facts — by
letting him reach out
and rescue me. So I followed the light, and he put his arm around me and led
safety, away from the inferno.
Many years later I faced a spiritually equivalent situation. After nearly two
investigating the claims of Jesus,
I knew He had unique credentials and credibility.
And based on what He had said, I realized for the first time that I couldn’t
save myself. Unless I took up Jesus on His offer to pay the penalty for my wrongdoing,
I was going to remain separated from God forever.
I was hopelessly lost, but Jesus was calling to me and reaching out to rescue
me. He was
fully capable of leading me to safety. He knew the way to eternal life; in fact,
He was the
And He didn’t need a flashlight because, as He said,
“I am the light of the world . . .he who follows Me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
But it wasn’t enough just to know that. I had to act on it. I had to take
a step of faith —
not an irrational step, but as this entire series has demonstrated, a rational
step that was
firm and secure because it was based on the track record of Jesus’ trustworthiness.
And so on November 8, 1981, I allowed Jesus to drape His arm around
my shoulder and
lead me out of the darkness, away from danger and into a place of safety, forever.
If you’re part of the 84 percent of Americans who are convinced Jesus
is the Son of God, that’s a good first step. But if you’ve never
acted on that belief, then the truth is that you’re still in danger. Let
Jesus put His arm around you and rescue you and lead you to safety, once and
for all. Before your head hits the pillow tonight, tell Him in a prayer that
that’s the desire of your heart.
When you do, and as you grow in your relationship with Him, you’ll find
out what I have
• That Jesus is the way —
He’s the path to a lifetime of adventure, fulfillment, challenge, and
• That He is the truth —
and He will provide you with wisdom that works for everyday life and for the
turbulent times as well.
• And He is the life.
He — and He alone — can give you confidence for your future, for
all of eternity.
By Lee Strobel