Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Reasons to Get Going

“Jesus said … ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’.”

Ah, these little sayings that sometimes escape our notice.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it very exciting, and yet also not a little embarrassing, when I come to realize a verse I’ve known all my life has waaaay more to it than I ever realized.

This is one of those verses. Let’s break it down.

The Life

Let’s start at the end, with the easiest one. Then let’s work backwards, towards the things that are a bit more involved.

“I am the life.” We know what this means, don’t we?

One thing for sure we know is that it means resurrection to eternal life. We can see this from the context, because Thomas has just said to the Lord that he does not know where the Lord is going. But it’s to Calvary, and then beyond, to glory.

But life is not just eternal life. We can see in scripture that life and death are features of our own lifespans. What I mean is that a person can be “dead” and still be walking, as in Ephesians 2:1-2. It says “you were dead”, and yet “you walked”, and even that you had a whole “course” of life. So you were not absolutely or literally “dead” in a physical sense; physically, you seemed to have life, but actually, so far as real living is concerned, you were dead to God — not only headed to a lost eternity, but in no positive, regenerating or enduring relationship to him in your lifetime, as well. You were simply cut off from the wellspring of life.

Dead men walking.

But the Lord Jesus came to produce life, not just in the future, but now; to enliven and resurrect all that was dead in your life. Particularly, he came to create that relationship that brought you into a situation where you have value to the Father, and to establish the dynamic connection with him, by the Spirit. Your life now counts. It matters, and is of infinite and eternal value. It has been salvaged, restored, and glorified in Christ.

Your life has come to life.

Enlivening now, and life in eternity … a seamless garment, the weaving of which is commenced and completed in Christ. He is “the life”. Believe it.

The Truth

Thomas’s complaint, “We don’t know …” speaks of his confusion. He’s asking “What’s the truth here?” He’s implying “I don’t have it. I don’t know.” And he doesn’t.

Many people mistake their own confusion about truth for some kind of proof that truth must not exist. They are nihilists who sense they do not know the truth, so become skeptical about the whole idea of truth. But if you think about this even for a minute, you realize it makes no sense. It’s like saying, “I’ve never been to Boston, so there must be no Boston.” The first statement actually gives no reason to believe the second.

Some others become relativists, who suppose that if nobody has the full truth, then maybe truth doesn’t exist. And then, absurdly, they often conclude that truth is probably whatever anybody decides it is. Of course, if truth is just anything a particular person decides it is, then nobody else has to believe it. In fact, nobody else should believe it, since it is, by definition, only a figment of one person’s imagination.

Still other people take no position on truth at all. Rather, they just sit back and say, like Pilate, “What is truth?” After all, there seems to be no way to find any single, clear truth, if such exists; and to risk believing or investing yourself in a thing that is probably not the truth is bound to end up being bad when eventually the thing you thought was the truth proves not to be yet again. A posture of uncommitted distance makes it easier to stay flexible and to move when new information appears over the horizon; and today, we are all awash in seas of new information. So no one wants to risk declaring the truth and standing by it.

But the Christian can take none of these positions. After all, a Christian by definition believes in the one who is the very embodiment of the truth itself — the absolute truth, the final truth, about everything.

Here’s the real truth. He’s the Alpha and the Omega, the one through whom the world was made, and the one who is the heir of all things. When this world was fashioned, it was as a stage for the Son of God to put into action God the Father’s love and salvation. It was for him it was made. It was for him you were made. Not only that, but when the drama is played out, it will be revealed that only that which had relevance to him had any value at all. So if you want to know the truth, then ask yourself, “What is the relationship between this situation and Jesus Christ?” Find that, and you will understand the whole truth of the situation.

The truth, then, is not inaccessible. It is centered in the Son of God, to whom we are directed by the Spirit of Truth, who has been given by God the Father to lead us into all truth. We are not skeptics, not relativists, not confused … and never alone. We have confidence to find the truth, believe the truth, and live the truth, through Christ.

He IS the truth.

The Way

But what of the way? What does it mean to say that Christ is “the way”?

What is a way? Is it not a path down which one is walking? It is an avenue along which one conducts oneself, a pattern of steps, a series of decisions that form a road. It is a walking — a lifestyle, even.

And do you want to know what sort of lifestyle a human being may lead, if he walks in the truth, so that he arrives at life? Look at the Lord Jesus. He has done it. Manifest in flesh, walking on earth, he has perfectly exhibited what we could never have imagined; that there is a way of conducting oneself on this planet that brings forth the entire approval of God the Father. That there is a way in which holiness and humanness are possible together, and that way has been walked before us by the Son of God. In all that he did, every miracle he did, every word he ever spoke, every deed he ever did, even every thought that was in his heart, he fulfilled the good pleasure of God himself.

Who’d have thought it could even be done? And he left behind him an example that we should follow, so that we too would not give up hope. As sinful and fallible as we may be, so long as we walk in company with him, our way, too, is pure in the eyes of God. We sinners had no way to please God, but Jesus Christ has opened up the way by becoming our way.

But walking in a “way” is not aimless. The way to something is a path with an end, a goal, a point. It’s not a ramble or a roving without focus. It’s a way TO something. And we know what that something is: it is to life. He will bring us to eternal life. But not only to eternal life; he will even enliven us now, bringing us alive on the stage created for the divine drama of salvation and redemption, making us active players in the great plans of God himself. Our dead way will become a living way, and everything we do will count forever.

How do we keep on our way, so that we find life? By walking in the truth, until we get there.

The Threefold Promise

Seen this way, “the way, the truth, and the life” form a triad.

Jesus is saying, “You want to get to life? I will get you there.

How will I get you there? Because you will know the truth, and the truth will transform you.

How will you know the truth, so as to walk in it? I am the way.”

He is the path we walk along, the truth that secures us, and the goal toward which we are directed. The way, the truth, the life.

The Exclusive Value

Finally, let’s look at the little word we’ve been skipping over, even though it’s repeated three times in this one saying. So we can hardly forget it. It’s the word “the”. English teachers will tell you it’s called “the definite article”, meaning we use it to indicate when we definitely mean one thing and not others. It points out one thing and excludes the rest.

To illustrate, if a workman says to his assistant, “Hand me a hammer,” he’s used the indefinite article “a”. He doesn’t care which one he gets. Maybe he just needs to lever something or bash something into a space, so a variety of hammers could do it. But if he says, “Pass me the hammer”, he means he has only one, and wants that particular one. Only it will do. The rest are useless for the purpose.

Likewise, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, he’s not saying he’s merely “a way”, “a truth” or “a life”. Three times he is emphasizing that there are no alternatives, and if you’re going to get this right, it’s going to be exclusively through him.

Any other way you try, any other truth you seek out, and any other life you hope for will all betray you. So it’s of the very greatest seriousness that you take him at his word. No wonder, then, he adds “No man comes to the Father but by me.”

Not only that, but the Father also safeguards this truth. He will not, under any conditions, accept any other way at all. None. If there were another, it would be an insult to the one who is the way the truth and the life; it would mean he was merely optional. Each other alternative would be just as good as he. And God the Father will not allow such a disparagement of his Son … ever.
“There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.”
This is the exclusive efficacy of Christ. No other way, no other truth, and no other chance of life. God the Father has ordained it so. The iron bars against any other way will never be relaxed or compromised.

So we must preach this way, for he is the only way. And we must speak this truth, for it is the only truth. And we must point to this life, for it is the only genuine life a human being can ever have, both now and forever.

This is our gospel. And let no desire to be pleasing to the ears of our culture or winsome to their confusions, relativism and posture of universal inclusion distract us from this mission. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Lose touch with that fact, and you only sing soothing lullabies while you usher others down the wide road to hell.

Are you uncertain? You should not be. The truth has been declared in Jesus. Are you hesitant? Why, in God’s name, when the truth has been made so absolutely clear to you? Are you silent? Have you so little concern for the lives of men, that you can watch them march blithely down the road to hell?

We have the way, the truth and the life. All we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his glory and excellence.

What are we waiting for?

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