For a long time it seemed like the big question many people wanted to answer was “is Christianity really true?” So, we worked out important arguments about the reliability of the Bible and the historical nature of the resurrection. Yet, it seems that the question has shifted. Some people might actually agree that the Bible is a reliable book, and even that the historical evidence points to a real resurrection, but then still not believe in Jesus. Why? Because, in their minds, even if Christianity is true, they’re not sure it’s good.
People look at the Christian faith and here’s what they see:
Jesus is exclusive
In Matthew 28:18-19 Jesus says, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
He’s saying, “I’m God.” The only one who has all authority in heaven and on earth is God. And Jesus says, “That’s me.” He’s making a comprehensive statement that every other religion is false, and that he is the only way to eternal life. He’s saying, “People from every nation on earth need to believe in me to be saved. You are not a disciple, you are not a Christian, and therefore, you are not saved unless you believe in me.”
That’s offensive! That means your Muslim friends, your Jewish friends, your Mormon friends, your agnostic and your atheistic friends are all believing something false, and are not headed for eternal life unless they believe the truth about Jesus.
Jesus is exclusive, and for many people that does not sounds like good news.
Jesus is demanding
Matthew 28:20 Jesus says that his followers are to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he has commanded.
Jesus does not say, “Teach people to observe my commandments, as long as contemporary culture agrees with what I say.” Jesus does not say, “Teach people to observe my commandments, unless by 2019 in America some of them seem out of date.” No, Jesus says, “Teach people to obey all my commandments.” Period. And just in case you didn’t know it, Jesus gave some weighty commands. (For example, just read through Matthew 5.)
He demands that we obey all of them, even the ones that are wildly unpopular today like his commands about the dignity of every human life including the unborn, commands about the definitions of marriage and gender, and commands about human sexuality.
Jesus is demanding, and that can cause people to doubt his goodness.
Jesus is a judge
This age, this world as we know it, is going to come to an end. Jesus, the one with all authority in heaven and on earth, is going to come back. On that day, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. You, me, and everyone in this world is going to stand before the judgment seat of Jesus. All of our failures to keep his commands will be exposed, and we will receive a sentence.
Lots of people in our world think that no one should judge them, that no one should tell them how to live their lives. So, when they encounter Jesus the judge, this does not sound like good news.
So how do we respond to this? Far from shying away from these things, we want to show people that Jesus’s exclusivity, Jesus’s demands, and Jesus’s judgment are all actually good. This is not the bad news that comes before the good news, this is part of the good news itself. Here’s why that’s true:
It is good to know the right way
Many people will argue that it’s arrogant to say your faith is right and someone else’s is wrong. Yet, it’s not arrogant if there really is a right way to go, and that’s Jesus’s message. In John 14:6 he says, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Telling people that, even if it offends them, is always good news. It’s not arrogant, it’s loving.
Jesus may be exclusive in the sense that you must believe in him to be saved, but he is also wonderfully inclusive in the sense that anyone can come to him. Anyone who knows Jesus will find the way, the truth, and the life, and it is good to know the right way.
It is good to obey God
It is true that Jesus makes many demands on his followers. Yet, here’s what you need to know: because Jesus is a good God, everything he commands is for your good. Jesus is the one who made life, surely he knows what the good life is. This might be one of the most important things for you to see in the Bible and believe with all your heart: Following Jesus really is the best life there is.
Psalm 1:1–3 says, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
When you walk in the way God commands, you find joy, and peace, and life that nothing else can offer. God is not just some cosmic legislator or policeman passing down and enforcing laws. He is a kind king, with your very best in mind, and you can trust him. So, yes, Jesus is demanding, but it is always good to obey God.
It is good that justice is coming
Each year Merriam-Webster choses a “word of the year.” Do you know what they chose for 2018? Justice. There was lots of talk about justice last year. Conversations were all over the news and social media about justice for women, justice for immigrants, justice for minorities, justice for the poor, justice for the unborn, and on and on we could go. Our world is desperate for perfect justice. And here’s the good news of Christianity: Justice is coming!
King Jesus is coming back, and he is going to perfectly and eternally set this broken world right. There will be no more evil! There will be no more sin! There will be no more injustice! The fact that he is a judge, and that no evil will ever go unpunished, is really good news.
The hard part to admit is that all of us are part of the problem, and all of us justly deserve punishment for our sin. Evil is not only “out there,” it’s “in here.” Yet, if you trust in Jesus, your punishment has already been served. He took your just sentence himself at the cross. He paid for your crimes. All of them. That is the good news you get to share with your friends and your family. Not only can you share good news that Jesus is coming back to bring perfect justice to this world finally and forever, you can share the good news that no one needs to face the punishment we all deserve.
You can trust in Jesus, and you can be forgiven. Fully, finally, and forever. There is no better news than that.
So, yes, Jesus is exclusive, but it is good to know the right way.
And yes, Jesus is demanding, but it is good to obey God.
And yes, Jesus is a judge, but it is good to know that justice is coming.