I AM The Way the Truth and the Life
John 14:1-11. Christianity is not defined by its boundaries; it is defined by its center. Some of you may have been exposed to a simulation of Christianity, a mock version, that focused predominantly on the boundaries, some real and some fabricated; Christianity was presented as a moral code, a list of religious activities, things to avoid and things to perform. Illus: Richard’s pastor. For others, it may have been theological minutia, or denominational distinctives and traditions or a mystical experience (Illus: man trying to teach me how to speak in tongues). When you focus on the boundaries, it produces legalism, a powerless legalism. It leads to cold religion giving you rules to live by without giving you the motivation or power to live by those rules. Or it leads to elitism, holding up an experience and making it the criteria for whether others are in or out. But Christianity is not defined by its boundaries; it is defined by its center. What is at the center of Christianity is the Historical Person, Jesus Christ as he is revealed by eyewitness testimony in the Christian Scriptures. (These eyewitnesses reported his character and recorded his claims.) To be a Christian is to personally know the Historical Jesus. Personally knowing Jesus Christ means knowing who the Historical Jesus is and entering into personal relationship with Him.
Knowing Who He Is. Historical Jesus: Jesus as he is revealed in the eye-witness accounts of his closest followers. In John, seeing how Jesus, according to the eyewitnesses, revealed himself. He wants us to know and believe certain truths about who He is. He is the eternal Son of God, one with the Father, co-equal and co-eternal, taking on flesh and coming among us to reveal the Father (if you know me, you know the Father), at the cross revealing the Father’s relentless commitment to judge sin and his relentless commitment to save sinners. John 3:16-17. Here Jesus makes another I AM statement defining who He is. He is wanting us to believe this, to embrace these claims as true.
Life – Source of all physical life (all things were made by him). Fullness of life (abundant life, radical life, ultimate life – reoccurring theme.) He is eternal life (the life that kills death, that undoes death, stripping it of its finality). John 11: sin brings death and gives a voice to death, “I will be the end of you: I will put you in the dirt of this cosmos and your flesh will be destroyed; and I will put you before the God of this cosmos and your soul will be condemned.” But Christ is the Life that kills death. Christ says to death, I will be the end of you. You cannot bring about their condemnation because in my crucifixion I have borne it. You cannot bring about their destruction because in my resurrection I have destroyed you and just as you could not hold me, you will not hold those who belong to me. In Him was life and that life was the light of men – light: salvation, flourishing…all in Him.
Truth – He is the embodiment of Ultimate Reality, the embodiment of all God is, all that we are intended to be, fleshing out in actions all that we are created to do. He is the standard by which our lives are to be directed and by which they will be assessed.
Way – This is the emphasis of the passage. We need a way to the Father. Our failure has alienated us from him and has brought his just displeasure and condemnation upon us. Christ is the way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. By living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died, he has made a way for us to come to the Father. He has not come to show us the way and tell us to do our best to follow it; He is the Way. Full Forgiveness and Acceptance in Him. This is the simplicity of the Christian Faith. Illustration: Direction to Concession at MSG. We do not become Christians by following instructions or by embracing an ethical or a moral code or even a list of theological propositions. We do not become Christians by performing any specific religious works or having any mystical experiences. We become Christians by embracing a person, the historical Jesus of Nazareth. This is the uniqueness of the Christian faith – that salvation and fullness of life, and truth and human flourishing is found in a person. Illus (TJK) Christianity is neither a Western nor an Eastern religion. The Greeks, Western religious thought, taught that life and truth are in the realm of eternal ideals; and you find salvation and life by escaping the temporal world and getting in touch with these eternal ideals through contemplation and intellect – you need to be a philosopher, to be a contemplative. Eastern Religions see life as a kind of force that you tap into through mystical experience; so you need to be a mystic. Christianity is neither Western nor Eastern. The problem with Eastern and Western religions is they leave out children. Jesus welcomed children. A child cannot be a philosopher or a mystic but a child can meet a person, they can know and believe in a person. Christianity is personally Knowing Jesus Christ and it involves knowing Who He Is. But it is more we have hinted at…
Entering into Personal Relationship. It is possible to believe all the facts and claims about Jesus and still not be a Christian. You can have factual knowledge without personal, experiential knowledge, just like I can see pictures and know facts about the Caribbean without ever going there personally, or know about Shakespeare without ever experiencing the beauty of his plays. Being a Christian is not simply believing the right things about the person of Jesus, it is believing in, trusting, personally knowing the person these facts are about. The language of John 14 (knowing, believing, loving, obeying, abiding). For two people to move beyond simply knowing about to personally knowing each other – personal investment and personal commitment. I am willing to invest my life into you and have you invest yours into me and to make a commitment to the relationship. There is personal devotion. Mind, Affections, Will. Christ and personal devotion to him is the core that defines Christianity.
It’s your devotion to the Historical Jesus that keeps you far from the boundary’s edge, not your commitment to the boundary’s edge that keeps you devoted to Historical Jesus. John 14:15. Illus: worship as single devotion “wedding and marriage a form of worship.” Imagine a wedding ceremony where the vows were “I do not take Marsha, or Kim, or Jessica…to be my wife. I will do everything in my power to not love those women.” NO. In marriage, I do not live the married life by focusing on not committing adultery or on not neglecting my wife’s emotional needs. I live the married life by focusing on loving my wife and giving myself to her exclusively. When I do that, putting at the center NOT the law of “don’t pursue other women,” but rather the calling “pursue this ONE woman with all your emotional and physical energy,” I will stay within the boundaries of married life – as the expression of my commitment to my wife, not staying in the boundaries as the essence of being married to my wife. Application: Non-Xn: Believe in Him, not just about Him. Xn: Focus on knowing and loving and trusting him. Get the Core Correct.
Side Note about Resources: These are exclusive claims that Jesus is making. Many in our culture have some understandable objections to the exclusivity of Christ. Meet with a pastor, read a book we recommend. Secondly, Christianity has gone horribly wrong when it has left the center and focused on the boundaries. It has resulted in legalism, division, even bloodshed. When it has focused on the center it has resulted in a loving community of people who work to bring about human flourishing. In it’s earliest days it was glued to the center. Illus: Christianity and the Epidemics that hit the Roman Empire. For those who were glued to the center, who know they are great sinners and that Christ is a great savior, who claim no superiority over any other human being because they have no righteousness - their only hope is in Christ and Christ crucified. Those who because of their focus on the center were free from the fear of death and free from the bondage to self, risked their lives. Those who have at the center of their lives a Christ who laid down his life to rescue his enemies, the weak, the helpless, the unfit and incapable, they lay down the lives to help the weak, the needy, and even their enemies. When those who professed the Christian faith strayed from the center and focused on the boundaries, they committed gross acts of injustice and cruelty, but the answer was not less Christianity or no Christianity, it was deeper Christianity. It was a return to the center. Illustration: William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King. What about you?
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