Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Many roads, one destination.

An unhelpful statement

‘All roads lead to God’ – The battle cry of our pluralistic age, the rallying call of all those who view Christianity as intolerant and narrow for claiming a universal truth which is the only way to salvation.

‘All roads lead to God’, do you agree?

I do.  All roads do lead to God, every person whether Buddhist or Hindu or Christian will find God but really, it’s the experience when you get there that matters.  Allow me to explain:  Say you’re standing on the top floor of a skyscraper; there are fourteen windows and a single door which leads to the lift.  As you can see, there are fifteen exits to that room and they all lead to the ground but only one of them will give you a pleasant arrival.  One destination yes, but two very different outcomes.

The Bible is very clear that every road that anyone takes will lead them to God:

“For 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”
2 Corinthians 5:10

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God”
Romans 14:12

“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
Isaiah 45:23
The question we must all ask is not whether all roads will lead to God, but rather ‘What will happen when my road leads me to God?’  And that is a different question entirely.  One which God has answered clearly:

“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”
Hebrews 9:27

A single destination

The penultimate destination of mankind is shared by every one of us, to stand in the throne room of Almighty God, creator and judge of heaven and of earth.

 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
Revelation 20:11-12

This throne room of God is the point to which all roads lead.  The Atheist, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Christian, the Agnostic, The Deist will all stand before God’s judgement seat.  On that day only one question remains – on what do you stand before this throne? On what have you put your trust? What foundation have you built your life, work and future hope on?

This is truly an important question because all these roads will not meet for long.  The problem with the pluralistic statement ‘all roads lead to God’ is not what it says that is wrong, but what it does not say, yet should.  What it leaves out is that while all roads lead to this throne room of God, they soon diverge.  The difference now is that there are only two roads, and they will never meet again.

A choice to be made

The great thinker and writer C.S. Lewis described this choice in these words:

 "There will be two kinds of people in the end: Those that will say to God 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God will say 'Thy will be done.'"

Both types of people met God, but both leave on very different terms.  To those who choose their own way God has strong words of warning to give:

“Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
Matthew 25:30

“It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'”
Mark 9:47b-48

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:15

Hell is a place of no return, there is no escape from it.  It is the natural destination of every soul.  It is the absence of God, and with his absence, the absence of every good thing which comes from him.  It is the absence therefore of love, and life, and happiness, and selflessness, and hope, and kindness, and mercy.  It is our ultimate end, eternal death. But why?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Romans 3:23

We deserve hell because we rejected heaven; we deserve death because we rejected life. We deserve lovelessness because we rejected the love that was given to us.  C.S. Lewis says elsewhere that:

“In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.”

And there Lewis touches on the other option.  The other destination, the very opposite of this eternal, loveless death. Life.

A foundation to stand on

Certain condemnation and guaranteed judgement await all who stand before God on the foundation of their own works and righteousness.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”
1 Corinthians 3

However, there is hope, a hope that does not disappoint.  We cannot lay our own foundation, we cannot save ourselves but God has laid a foundation for us, he has set us free. Again and again the Bible tells of this glorious future:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life... 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned”
John 3:14-15, 18

 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
5And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
Revelation 21:1-7

In short, heaven is being with God and in his presence for all of eternity. It is the opposite of hell, the greatest joy possible. It is indeed unimaginably great:

“But, as it is written,

    "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
   nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him" ”
1 Corinthians 2:9

So how can this infinitely preferable alternative be reached? Well, to return to C.S. Lewis’ words, we must say to God ‘Thy will be done’.  We must accept that God’s plan for salvation is greater than ours and it is here that the statement ‘all roads lead to God’ breaks down.  Because only one road leads to an eternity with God, only one foundation stands the scrutiny of God’s judgement and that is Jesus Christ:

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. ­12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:11-12

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
1 John 5:11-12

Christ is the sure foundation on which we must build; he must be our hope and our salvation.  The old hymn by Edward Mote says it well:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

A decision to make

All roads lead to God, but when you arrive at that throne, when you bow the knee at last you do it either in love, or in trembling.  At that moment, many roads converge, but only two leave again.  It is in this life that we choose which path we leave God’s presence on.  It is a decision we all must make, it is a decision which determines eternity.  Do we trust in ourself for salvation, reject God and follow our own path.  Or do we trust in Jesus for our salvation, submit to his authority and follow him everything in this world and eventually into life eternal.
One destination, two very different outcomes.

By God’s grace may we choose the latter.

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