I believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. I know that sounds terribly arrogant and callously dismissive of faiths that others deeply cherish. I would also add that I believe Jesus is the only way in spite of the woeful historical record of many claiming Christianity to be a life defining faith but sadly failing to demonstrate to the world a Christian character that is commensurate to their confession. As I hope to share in this article, the veracity of the sole efficacy of Jesus’ atoning death for humankind transcends the hypocrisy of Jesus’ adherents, my own failings embarrassingly included.
Exodus 33:18-23 is a deeply instructive text for our conversation. We are introduced to the holiness of God in dramatic fashion. Moses wants to see God’s glory, His literal presence…not a voice, not a shadow, not a manifestation…God. Even then, the offer God gives is that only His goodness would pass by Moses, not His face, and still with just His goodness, Moses would not be able to withstand Him fully. He is safely hidden in the crevice of a rock, God’s hand covers Moses until His goodness fully passes, only allowing Moses to see God’s goodness on departure, “…see My back, but My face will not be seen.”
We spent a few days this week in the Shenandoah Mountains. The cabin had a fire place so we indulged in roasting marshmallows…if you hold the marshmallow close enough to the fire, it eventually combusts without having any contact with the flame. Even the brief encounter Moses had with the goodness of God “roasted” him a little! When Moses came down from the mountain, his countenance was glowing so brightly, he had to wear a veil when speaking with people (Exodus 34:29-33).
The Old Testament continues to instruct us in the inability of people to withstand God’s presence, not just the goodness of God Moses encountered but the fullness of His divinity. God’s glory lived among the people of Israel but only the high priest was allowed to enter the inner most chamber of the temple and only once every year. Even still, this manifestation of His glory in the holiest of holies was not the literal presence of God, only a measure of fullness, as in the same way God orchestrated Moses’ Sinai encounter.
There are four words in the Bible that are very dear to me: atonement, redemption, justification, and propitiation. They give birth the most glorious of confessions, “I am at one with God, rescued from myself, just as if I am perfect, because Jesus paid it all.” God’s desire is not to just have encounters with us that necessitate mediation of sorts, but rather, His desire is once again live within us as He did with Adam and Eve. Have you ever considered how God breathed on them, not just endowing them with biological life but beyond, spiritual life, eternal life. The death that God spoke of with Adam and Eve if they disobeyed was not a physical death, it was a spiritual death, the departure of the indwelling Spirit of God.
The phrase that Jesus died for our sins has many interpretations for countless people. For me, I understand His death as the miracle that makes possible for God live within us once again. Jesus is spoken of in Scripture as Emmanuel, translates as “God with us” not just referencing the wonder of incarnation but also the marvel of indwelling. I am Moses. I am woefully imperfect. My very nature longs for self –governance, self-rule. As Greg Gilbert in “What is the Gospel” so eloquently articulates, we all suffer from an innate state of rebelliousness, as creatures resisting the yes gracious but also unapologetically sovereign rule for our Creator. We cannot even withstand looking face to face with the goodness of God, as with Moses, not to even speak of His fullness, His holiness, His glory. Yet, God’s desire is to live within us once again and our deepest need to be ruled by Him as He dwells within us.
There is nothing I can do to earn Him. There is nothing I can do to prepare for Him. There is nothing I can do to bridge the chasm that separates my humanity from His Divinity…yet I am desperate for Him. Jesus.
Matthew 22:11-14 gives a parable that speaks to our utter reliance on Jesus. We cannot expect to be in God’s presence until we are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness for even on our best of days, our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Until I accept that there is no hope for me to be reconciled to my God, unto the measure of His indwelling Spirit, an indwelling reconciliation, I suffer from the arrogance of my humanity. And when my epiphany comes, that which I can see face to face is my impoverished spiritual state, Jesus is there.
I made a vow of devotion to Jesus in December of 1990. On that day, I took my first spiritual breath. There are many religions in the world that offer a faith to follow. And with humility I would ask that you meditate upon the holiness of God and the inadequacy of your own humanity and ask yourself how could such a condition be remedied? No other belief system articulates God’s holiness, our desperate need for His indwelling presence, and Jesus’ divinity that takes upon Himself the means of our sacred reconciliation as does Christianity…the veracity of the sole efficacy of Jesus’ atoning death.
Are you at one with God, rescued from yourself, just as if you are perfect, because Jesus paid it all…for you?