Dr. John Ankerberg: God doesn’t want us to be confused about where we’re going to spend eternity. He doesn’t want people to be sitting in church scared. And we want people to be sure that there’ll be no surprises when they get to heaven. They can be certain they will spend eternity with God.
Now, Erwin, you had a great illustration. One time a guy stopped at a motel. And he opened the window and it was completely dark outside, so he didn’t see anything. So he just shut it and went to sleep. Got up in the morning, opened it up, and there was Mt. Rainier in all of its beauty. When the light shines on a topic, things look completely different. And what we want people to see is, Christ may be completely different. We want to see who He is, and we want people to take Him seriously in what He says. Start us off.
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: And, you know, John, before I even expound on that particular topic, let’s remind ourselves that there are so many other ways that people are deceived. And they think that they know Christ, but they really don’t. For example, I was speaking to a woman one time, and she said, “I read this book and it gave my Jesus back to me.” And it was a book that had to do with how Jesus was a boy and did kind things. And she said, “I love Jesus.” I said, “Why do you love Him?” “Oh, because He’s so kind. He’s so wonderful.” I said, “Do you also love Him because He died on the cross for our sins and was raised again?” And she broke eye contact with me and said, “I never thought of that before.”
Let’s just list very briefly ways that people are wrong—we can’t list all of them. But the broad path includes such things as the mystics who believe that everyone comes to God in their own way; everyone has God within them; and they are able to be saved and connect with God. And yes, Jesus is a part of it, but He’s not the Son of God, the one who alone is able to take us to the Father.
John Ankerberg: Yes. Just take popular culture today. I love your idea of the expressway. And, of course, I grew up in Chicago with you. And the fact is, we had expressways that we used to sit hours in, waiting to get to where we wanted to go. And a lot of cities around the world have that same problem right now. So, people know what we’re talking about. But we could change lanes. And popular culture says, “Hey, we’re all going down this road together. And I’ll tell you what, whatever lane you want to choose you can choose. Whatever you want to believe, it’s fine with me. You know, we’re all going the same direction. We’re going to end up in the same spot. So, the fact is, you know, you believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I believe, and if it’s different, don’t worry about.” Jesus doesn’t say that. He says, “I am the way,” and “nobody’s coming to the Father but by Me.” So, they don’t like that one.
Erwin Lutzer: Yes, John, but even those who would affirm what you just said could still be misled. There are those who believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father, but then when you begin to ask them, they think that they receive what Jesus provided for us through the sacraments. And they think that the sacraments are the way. And the problem with that is, you’re never really sure whether or not you have taken all the sacraments; whether or not you have taken them enough times; and so, you’re left in confusion.
Or there are those who believe that Jesus is perhaps the way, the truth, and the life, but they define Jesus as an esoteric person, not the Son of God who died for our sins and was raised again. And then there are those who believe everything that we’ve just spoken about, but they have never personally received Christ as Savior.
John Ankerberg: No, they believe it intellectually.
Erwin Lutzer: They believe it intellectually. They have in their minds an idea of Jesus, and may even believe, as you emphasized, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead; that He is the Son of God. But unless there has been a transfer of trust; unless they recognize that Jesus is the one, the only one; here’s what happens.
And I’ve witnessed to many people on the plane, and in stores, and in restaurants. You ask them, “What would you say if God were to say, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’” Nine out of ten say, “Well, I’ve been a good person.” And then when you explain to them about Jesus and why they have to trust Him, well, they say, “Well, yes. I trust Jesus too.” So, Jesus is added onto all the other things that they do. And they hope that in the end the equation will add up to enough righteousness to make it. And they don’t understand that when God chose to redeem us, He took all of our works and put them on a shelf and said that they are unusable. What He needs to do, what God did, is send Jesus on a rescue mission to rescue us from our sins. And our faith must be in Him alone. It doesn’t even have to be much faith; you know, it’s much better to hold the truth with a trembling hand than to hold error with a sense of confidence. And so, our faith must be in Him alone.
Editor’s note: The content of this article is excerpted and slightly edited from our television series, “How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God – Part 1.”