Part two of yesterday’s sermon.
(…continued) So what might this scorn and reproach look like today? We live in a free country and we pride ourselves on that. So what would you have to say to get yourself in trouble today? Well, how about something like this?–
You, my friends, are all sinners, lost and condemned before God, and without hope. But God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to give you hope, to show you the way back to God, and to die on a cross for you so that your sins may be forgiven. Jesus rose from the dead, and offers that same resurrection from the dead to you. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. So, as Jesus says in this morning’s Gospel, ‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 10:32-33).
Any of that sound familiar? Of course it does. That is the basic, Christian Gospel message that has been proclaimed for 2,000 years, and every word is either from the Bible or solidly based on the Bible’s message. Deny any part of that, and the whole thing crumbles and there is nothing left.
I am pretty safe in saying something like that here in church on a Sunday morning. But in today’s culture, those are all fighting words and many people will respond with–
Sin, what do you mean sin? Who are you to judge? And God? What makes you so sure there is a God anyways? And what makes you think Jesus is so important? There are many religions in the world, and who’s to say yours is the best and Jesus is so special? And God sending his son to die on the cross—isn’t that like child abuse? And isn’t heaven just pie in the sky when you die?
And on and on. There have always been differences of opinion on these things, but never has our culture been so openly hostile.
Earlier this month, the United States Senate was holding a confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, the nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In his questioning of the nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders referred to an article Vought wrote in which Russell Vought said this: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology; they do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” That statement sounded very odd in that setting. After a heated exchange, Bernie Sanders said, “This statement is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world. This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms… we must not go backwards.”
That little exchange says much about our culture and it raises significant questions about our faith; so it is worth taking some time to think about these things more deeply.
#1) I agree with Bernie Sanders– that statement by Russell Vought does ‘sound’ hateful—and narrow, and exclusive. But people of every faith have very definite convictions about the truth of their own beliefs, which would indeed contradict and falsify the beliefs of other religions. And, there is within every religion a wide variety of opinions about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ with God. That is in not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.
#2) There was nothing in Russell Vought’s testimony that gave any indication that he would discriminate against anyone in his work in the Office of Management and Budget. The statement Sanders quoted had to do with Vought’s belief about what happens in the afterlife. The position Vought was nominated to fill has jurisdiction only in this world, and has no jurisdiction in the world to come. So unless there is evidence of an intent to discriminate against Muslims in Vought’s government post, why should Bernie Sanders care what Vought’s beliefs are about the afterlife?
#3) Regarding the life to come; after carefully looking into all the options as if my own eternal life depended on it (which it does), I have chosen to base my beliefs about these things on the Bible. And the Bible makes it very clear that it matters what you believe and it matters what you do—and it matters for all eternity. And the Bible says, believe in Jesus; Jesus, who said “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” Acts 4:12 says, “Jesus is the cornerstone, and salvation is found in no one else;” and so, says John 3:16, “Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life.”
#4) So does that mean, as Russell Vought says, that all Muslims stand condemned? I don’t know, and that is not for me to judge. I do not know how God is going to sort us all out in the end. I am content to leave that up to God. But I do know that if Muslims are to be saved, they will be saved by Jesus, and whatever arrangements Jesus has made for them, because Jesus is alive and Muhammed is dead (even Muslims believe that– check it out). All speculation aside, it is best to do what the Bible says and look to Jesus for life and salvation…
I believe in what the Bible says about God, and I do not believe what the Koran says about Allah. And if you aren’t going to believe in the Bible, you have to decide what you will base your beliefs on, because you can’t just make it up as you go on this. Nor do you want to ignore God in your brief time on earth, for there are many stern warnings in every religion about making that foolish and serious mistake. (continued…)
What Russell Vought also said:
John 14:5-7a — Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.”
Acts 4:11-12 — Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
John 3:16-17 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.
–Ancient Jesus prayer