Monday, May 17, 2010


I've made it a practice through the years to pray for and communicate with many of the missionaries we have serving under SBC entities around our country and world. One such missionary goes under the blog name 'Stepchild.' His posts are always interesting, sometimes off the wall, and always instructive.

This one I especially like. It has a thought nuance about the gospel I find interesting to say the very least. It is so good I want my few readers to see and enjoy it too. Thanks Stepchild.

"Oftentimes, our modern need to be right can lead us to put the gospel in the box of our apologetic. The problem with doing this is that we can miss the implications of the gospel. We ignore what it can mean for what we’re sure it must mean.

A good example of this is our use of John 14:6 to underscore the exclusivity of Jesus as savior. He claims to be the way, the truth, and the life; we tend to add emphasis to the 'the.' We want everyone to know that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

The problem is that in our efforts to underscore this universal truth (and it is, no doubt, universally true), we loose some of the “good news” found within. The good news isn’t that Jesus is the only way, but that there is a way at all. That in God’s grace and beautiful plan, He provided a way for us to see and to know Him. For those who have tried to reach God through the many “ways” that the world offers, to anyone who has no hope that such a way even exists, this is truly good news!

That Jesus is the only way, that’s actually the “bad news” side of the gospel. It’s the truth that our idols don’t, won’t, and can’t save us. It’s the offensive, stumbling block that makes many rich young rulers turn and go away sad.

My question is this: Are we so focused on communicating the exclusivity of Jesus that we fail to communicate the amazing truth that there is a Way at all? Yes, Jesus is the only way; but by starting the conversation with this, are we insuring that people don’t hear that He is A way to God?

Are we so afraid of syncretism (people trying to fit Jesus into their own pagan frameworks) that we err on the side of sabotaging the effective communication of the gospel?"

Worth the read don't you think? Again, thanks Stepchild.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

It occurred to me this morning, while I was at rehab (actually, two things occurred to me, and I've already posted about the other one), that the only reason God made the earth was to provide a place for man. And the key to the reason for that is that, "in the fullness of time" .. presumably when all those who will be saved, are .. that the earth will pass away with fervent heat.

So, when the bride of Christ is complete, He will have no need for earth, but we will have need for an earth to match our perfected resurrection bodies, and fit for habitation by The Bridegroom and His bride.

If there's any truth in that, then, well, WOW.

Bob Cleveland said...

Oh .. forgot to mention .. Stepchild's point is very well taken, and has extremely wide applicability to scripture. As Joseph Garlington said in my (all-time) favorite sermon, if we learn a new way to look at scripture, God will show us a lot of things we never knew were there.

Aussie John said...


What more is there to say:

"Oftentimes, our modern need to be right can lead us to put the gospel in the box of our apologetic. The problem with doing this is that we can miss the implications of the gospel. We ignore what it can mean for what we’re sure it must mean."

".......if we learn a new way to look at scripture, God will show us a lot of things we never knew were there."

Paul Burleson said...


This is one of those posts, in fact one [Stepchild] of those unique persons, that/who intrigues me to no end. It's like seeing something.. but knowing there is more below the surface that you don't see.

As I said, I think it's worth the read.

Chris Ryan said...

Wow. Just Wow.

I love the quote about ignoring the "can" for the "must." Honestly, that is one of the things about many preachers that I find incredibly annoying. They all complain about how hard it is to preach a new Easter sermon, but I preached a Palm Sunday sermon this last Lenton season that had my grandparents (who haven't missed church ever - not even Sunday nights) saying they had never thought about it that way. And I understand why it happens, there are time constraints and you worry that if you take too many liberties with the text then you may not actually be using the text, and you fear offending the great expositors and preachers that came before by saying, "Yeah, but what if...". But in so many sermons that I have heard, it is the "but what if" 's that actually make the Gospel seem present, and the Word of God seem alive and powerful.

Robert Frost said that "something there is that doesn't love in a wall." I say that "something there is that doesn't preach in saying the same things over and over." Mr. Frost was far more eloquent than myself, obviously.

Security word: unyeping (un-"yep"-ing - stopping being a "yes" man)

Paul Burleson said...


You've joined the ranks of Bob Cleveland in in commenting under the most interesting verification words imaginable. I REALLY like this one... unyeping (un-"yep"-ing - stopping being a "yes" man) ;)

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I remember during my Clinical Pastoral Education days, reading an evaluation from my supervisor after the completion of my second unit (there were four units...three months a piece).

He wrote:

Though he "hears" the patient at more than surface levels... he tends to move into a premature evangelical stance thereby avoiding the patients potential connection to the gospel at more profound levels in the patients "story"

For many years I scoffed (at least on a surface level) at that observation. I assumed that my supervisor was a "liberal" who was not confortable with the exclusivity of Christ as the "way, truth, and life"

However, over the years, in quiet moments that observation has continued to nag at me.

I have slowly "come around" but have never been able to crystalize my thoughts on the issue...until now.

Paul Burleson said...


It's things like what you just said that make this blogging deal a pure delight sometimes.

I have a sense that this guys thoughts have resonated with more than a few of us.

Aussie John said...

As I've thought about and re-read your post, a few more lessons learned from my own history as a church leader have come to mind:

Evangelicals have developed the disastrous ability when dealing with, those who differ with them (i.e. comments on Wade's and Debbie's blog), or whom they think may not know our Lord and Savior,to approach others in a combative manner. "You are wrong. I am right! Therefore you MUST believe what I tell you; or else!"

There appears to be no sense that the person we are speaking with IS A PERSON, our equal as a human being,who has the exact same right as we have to believe what they do,or believe, whether WE think they are correct or not.

The same pious, holier than thou attitude causes such people to think it is beneath them to sit in the dust, in which they consider the other is sitting,and simply show love towards them, and interest in them and their lives.

It is far too easy to forget that we, of all people are most, privileged and blessed, and there is absolutely nothing of that position for which we can take credit.

It is not our right to insult those brethren who believe differently, and it is not our right to intrude our beliefs, no matter how correct, into the life of another, we MUST EARN that right and privilege, and that with their consent.

My concern in this matter is that it very is possible to be very knowledgeable about the Bible and our theology, very sincere about what we believe, zealous, and passionate in evangelism, and remain lost, or plain disobedient towards the Lord of the church.

Putting on a good show doesn't cut it with God, as the fruitless fig-tree , which Jesus cursed discovered.

Bob Cleveland said...

Aussie John:

Your comment touches on something that has been all up in my face this past couple of months. The term "Embrace the Grace".

When that phrase popped up on my keyboard, I was struck by the absolute need to surrender to God's grace .. to realize that Jesus didn't "wrestle just enough salvation to save us, from a begrudging God..", but this whole thing started with God's immeasurable grace in the Garden of Eden, and came to its ultimate expression, and fullness, on the cross.

We're not just in under the wire, we are swimming in an ocean of His grace. His love. His mercy. Not ONE BIT of it came because of our "goodness", which we have no claim of. I had to give up on any thought of any righteousness of my own.

Seeing myself in that light lets me understand how God sees me; how Jesus sees me, and finally, how I must view others.

It also enables me to do that.

I am still blown away by the thought. Perhaps some day I'll get over it.

But I hope not.

Mrs. Austin said...

"The good news isn’t that Jesus is the only way, but that there is a way at all. That in God’s grace and beautiful plan, He provided a way for us to see and to know Him."

"Grace" is used weird, to me, here. Makes it sound as if He created humans as an experiment didn't really like the experiment but decided that He didn't want us to go to waste so by shear arrogance provided a way to know Him.(the creator that made us flawed in the first place)...Now I could be looking at this statement all wrong but to me this is not a good argument.

"That Jesus is the only way, that’s actually the “bad news” side of the gospel."

I agree with this statement.

Rex Ray said...

Sorry, but I see the emperor with no clothes.

My first grip is I hate to read something where I spend more than half my time in a dictionary.

“That Jesus is the only way, that’s actually the “bad news” side of the gospel.” “The good news isn’t that Jesus is the only way, but that there is a way at all.”

When a building is on fire, the good news is NOT ‘Folks there is a way out’ but ‘Folks this is the way out.’

“Jesus is the only way; but by starting the conversation with this, are we insuring that people don’t hear that He is A way to God?”

How can a person not hear? “He is A way to God” when the yell is: ‘This is the ONLY way out!’

Jesus said if he was lifted up, he would draw all men to him.

We hardly get his head above water by saying He is A way. My humble opinion of course. :)

Paul Burleson said...

Mrs Austin,

You have caught something a lot of people are unwilling to admit. Your statement..(the creator that made us flawed in the first place).. recognizes the condition..'flawed.' Only we [Christians by my definition] believe it came about through the freedom of choice with which man was created and that choice made by man is what we call 'the fall.' Flawed we are as a result.

The 'grace' of it all is that we were owed nothing but the consequences of that fall. It was freely chosen. But God chose to do something about it. That is the point the author is making. That is a gracious choice on God's part since 'grace' is simply defined as unmerited or undeserved favor.

When he said this.."Jesus is the only way, that’s actually the “bad news” side of the gospel," he was referring to ''bad news in the sense that it destroys all other efforts we make to correct the human situation ourselves. That's bad news for people who think they can correct the problem on their own. "Not by our works" is true we believe.

He wasn't denying that Jesus IS the only way with what he said here as his words indicate....."The problem is that in our efforts to underscore this [Jesus is the only way] universal truth (and it is, no doubt, universally true.)" I agree with him on both points. The good news AND the bad news.

I do believe that Jesus is the only way to correct the relationship we messed up because of our choices originally and now personally. But I realize you do not see it that way. I respect your right for disagreement and I also appreciate your spirit in doing so. As you know, since we've communicated by other means, I love you regardless of the differences of belief. ;)

To bottomline what Stepchild is saying..We [christians by my definition] believe God graciously stepped in when we had no hope of fulfilling our original purpose of a real relationship with Him, our creator, and in the sacrice of His Son given in human flesh, Jesus, He made possible that relationship. That is Grace at it's best.

THAT is a truth, we believe, that is worth hearing. I know personally it is a truth worth believing as I have and it has changed my life in ways I would have never believed possible.

Thank you for commenting and thank you for giving this blog a hearing/reading.

Paul Burleson said...


See what I said to Mrs. Austin for what I think Stepchild was saying. My humble opinion also. ;)

Paul Burleson said...


I've been thinking. [Dangerous I know.] The illustration you used.."When a building is on fire, the good news is NOT ‘Folks there is a way out’ but ‘Folks this is the way out"..I've used all my life and as you and I both know, no illustration can be pressed too far as they all break down eventually.

That said, I've been thinking. Using the building on fire concept, we have to admit several things. One is that the fire may not be obvious to all. Some might argue there IS NO impending disaster.

Two, if some hear the cry, "the building's on fire," and the shouter looks and sounds like a nutcase, given the danger is NOT obvious to some, there might be less willingness to hear the shout as valid.

Some in a crowded theatre may not heed someone saying "here is the ONLY way out" even if the danger IS obvious unless there is something about the messenger [uniform etc.] that lends itself to believablity and trustworthiness. They may just frantically try to find their own way out. So the messenger does have some influence for good or bad on the hearers.

Finally, while death could come at any moment and while our Lord could return at any moment, we still have the command to "as we're going make followers" indicating that building a relationship is helpful along the way as we give the message. In my opinion we ought to build it BECAUSE we genuinely love them rather than to get them to believe our message. That could wind up being manipulation and people are not unaware of our purposes. I'd rather mine be one that builds relationships. I know you want the same thing. I'm just thinking out loud you understand.

Bob Cleveland said...

Think of a kid getting locked inside an old freezer. The absolutely most important thing is that there DOES exist, a way out. Once that's true, then we can identify what & where, etc.

Think of lost mankind. The most devastating, humiliating, discouraging, condemning condition I can imagine would be that there were NO way out. No remedy for the condemnation we'd be under.

And if THAT would be the dominating thought, then so would the existence of a way out be the most important thing.

Biggest wonder: that God wants to save ANYBODY. Next biggest: that He wants to save ME.

And I do agree He did not build flaws into us. He gave us the power to choose. It is only our sin that perverted our creation, thereby limiting the scope of what we could even choose, without His intervention.

(Yes I am a Calvinist).

Afterthought: I recall a mine accident years ago in which several miners, who had been told to wait for rescuers, sat in the mine and eventually were asphyxiated by carbon monoxide: the plain fact was that they could have simply stood up and walked out of the mine. But they didn't even know there WAS a simple way out.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

When the Titanic was sinking...

Some saw the warning signs but felt things would be ok.

Some believed that things were bad, but not detrimental.

Some were sleeping...

Some were eating, dancing, and drinking...

Some were yelling "disaster" but few were listening.

Sounding a alarm has it's place. "The ship is sinking and disaster is near!"

But on the Titanic as well as in life the warnings (of iceburgs), the alarm (The ship is sinking!, the evacuation procedures (THIS WAY... ladies and gentleman towards the lifeboats), and the distress call (MayDay!) often go ignored.

The heroes and most effective rescuers on that ship were people who sacrificed (out of relationship, love, conviction, chivalry) their seats on lifeboats for those they loved (for others they did not even know)

They were the ones that did was right, even as everyone panicked and the whole ship went crazy.

They were the ones clinging to each other in the freezing water praying, comforting, and preparing in the face of imminent death.

Just two little side observations

Have you noticed that when car alarms were first being used, when they went off people knew something was wrong. Now when they go off we all think "someone needs to go shut that thing off!"

My wife was born and raised in North Texas. Tornado warnings and alarms effect her differently than me. She can sleep through bad spring weather.(not me I will say up all night). If a tornado warning is issued she calmly moves to a safe area. This ole Carolina boy...he panics.

(Speaking of that...hunker down OKIE tonight may be bad)

My point...

Sounding an alarm (even one that warns of true destruction) does not mean that people will listen (or they recieve it in different ways) matter how loud or needed it may be.

Paul Burleson said...


Biggest biggest..RIGHT ON.


Point well taken.

Mrs. Austin said...

I give my child the option of a red lolly pop or a blue lolly pop. I tell him it is completely your choice which one you want BUT if you choose the red lolly pop you can not come to Heaven and not only will you not come to Heaven you will go to a pit of fiery doom. Only the blue lolly pop will save your soul and bring you to heaven. But again it is your choice because you have free will. And remember I love you.

Now to me it would seem kind of cruel to give your child the option in the first place. Because it really isn't a choice it's an ultimatum. Either you choose this or I will turn my back on you and not reward you with the prize of heaven.

So why give people free will? I guess what I should say is why give people free will if you are just going to punish them for not choosing the right "way"?

I have always battled with the concept of free will and still don't get it within the precept of God. You can say it is because God doesn't want us to be robots and worship Him without having a choice yet He wants us to worship Him and give Him our love and devotion or else you will never know His grace. Doesn't seem much like a choice to me...

Bob Cleveland said...

Mrs. Austin,

Paul doesn't need me to answer for him and he can post or not post my comment, but I feel compelled to say it anyway: we don't get to choose a red or blue lollipop. Adam made the choice for us, and condemned us to the wrong one.

Jesus, on the other hand, gives us the opportunity to choose the right one, for those of us who will make the choice.


Mrs. Austin said...

Bob Cleavland,

But what is the virtue of punishing humankind for one man's action?

And did God not plant the tree with the forbidden fruit? Did God not put the snake in the garden with Adam? Even though God said not to eat the fruit was he not setting mankind up to fail? Why put the tree there or the snake? If you truly want your disciples not to sin do not put sinful products/creatures in their garden. And if you decide to introduce them to sin why punish them for the sin that you created?

Just a thought.

This is so interesting though! Love the feedback and the blogs. It is fun learning new things and opinions. I've always been a's in my nature.

Rex Ray said...

As hard as I could to find something to disagree with you; I could not. :)
You did a good job of explaining everything I believe also.

Your example of the Titanic was all fiction but more than likely true.

A true example would be 9/11 where the announcement was made over the PA not to be concerned and keep on working, and on TV “Some air traffic controller is directing airplanes into buildings!”

Rex Ray said...

Ah, Mrs. Austin,
We meet again.
May I add another hard question? Since God is all powerful, why did he allow the devil to be mean?

God’s plan was/is for man to die on this earth and raise him higher than the angels for fellowship through eternity.

If that happened without sin being involved, would we love Jesus the same?
Would we love God as much in NOT knowing how much he loved us that He suffered in executing his Son and putting him in hell in our place?
Would we love each other as much in knowing we had accepted and lived for Jesus?

The bottom line is: “God’s ways are not man’s ways.” Aren’t we glad?

Paul Burleson said...

Mrs. Austin,

As far as I'm concerned keep asking any question you would like to ask. With your spirit maybe you will find some answers and just maybe you'll challenge the rest of us to think through our beliefs on these things. Both things would be beneficial it seems to me. Keep it up.

Now this "Adam as head" thing. I'm not sure I can even give a clear picture of what I believe in a comment section so I feel a post on this subject coming on. :) [I'm not even sure of ALL I believe about it being clear enough in my head anyway.]

But til then..I'm always reminded it is a legal thing being discussed here. Much as were I to contract with someone to kill another person, the law views me just as guilty as the one who does the murder. That's speaking ONLY to the idea of being seen in another's actions legally.

I do know that for God to choose to do it this way made it possible for Him to view all who later are made righteous [relationship restored by the work of the Cross] as being in the person of Christ when He died for sin. If Adam had not represented mankind in some fashion, then Jesus could not represent people who believe on Him when He died on the cross. As Adam's offense resulted in condemnation to all people, so also, Jesus' sacrifice results in justification for those who believe in Him (Rom. 5:18).

It is because of -- legal representation -- that we are able to be saved at all. As Adam's sin was imputed [Credited to our account] to us because of the Fall, our sin was likewise imputed [Credited to His account to Jesus on the cross and Jesus' righteousness is imputed [Credited to our account] to us when we receive Him.

In other words, to bottomline it, if it was not for the biblical representative idea (of one person representing others), then Jesus could not have represented us on the cross and the original mess would never be changed. God is in the business of changing the messes we make. That's Grace.

Mrs. Austin..I thank you for commenting here. Of course, I think you're kinda special anyway. :)

Christiane said...

'the Good News is
that there is a Way at all . . . '

This validates the angelic messengers that came to Mary, and others, and the angelic messengers that announced the Birth of Our Lord to the Shepherds in the fields:

God has come for us, to bring us back to Him, and reconcile us to each other as His children. He has come for us Himself, out of love beyond all understanding:
this is 'The Good News'. :)

Mrs. Austin said...


“God’s ways are not man’s ways.”

Maybe, maybe not. Man was created in His image. God seems to have a lot of human characteristics. He is vengeful(i.e. The great flood/Sodom and Gomorrah), He is jealous(Thou shall have no other gods before me), He has compassion(Jesus). All of these are HUMAN traits.

To me the God of the Bible is more human with a little bit of superpowers. The simple fact that He cares that we are saved or not is a basic human emotion. And was Jesus not human flesh for a brief period on this Earth? So perhaps man's way is God's way.


Love your explanation but am a little confused by it. Are you comparing God's introduction to sin to the law? I agree there are choices you must make in everyday life and with those choices come consequences.

What I have a hard time with is that people would not choose to go to hell or perhaps even heaven. Who would choose to be tortured by an over sized boogieman in a giant oven? Or there are some that wouldn't want to be in Heaven for eternity, they might find it boring or uneventful. But it doesn't mean they would choose hell. So to me its not a choice its an ultimatum.

A blog about Adam and the first sin would be awesome! That story tickles me, your interpretation would be very interesting. I have truly enjoyed chatting about this. I've never had anybody to ask these questions to before...(that was an expert) Looking forward to reading more. :)

Rex Ray said...

Mrs. Austin,
(Isaiah 55:8-9 Holman Translation) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways. (This is the Lord’s declaration.) For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

If we can’t fathom how high heaven is above the earth, we can’t fathom how much higher God’s ways are than ours.

I agree that some characteristics of God look like the characteristics of man Vengeful and jealousy in man can even lead to the sin of murder. But since it’s impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), I believe it’s impossible for God to sin.

Jesus being 100% God and 100% man, made it possible for him to sin – otherwise his temptations by the devil would not have been temptations.

I’d plan to write more but I keep going to sleep as its been a long day. More later.

Rex Ray said...

Mrs. Austin,
I don’t know exactly what you meant when you said, “To me the God of the Bible is more human with a little bit of superpowers.”

To me, that “little bit of superpowers”, is the most ‘critical/cutting remark/ jab/ putdown/dirty dig’ I’ve heard of God in a long time.

Surly you didn’t mean what “little bit of superpowers” sounds like. Of all the miracles God has done, when he spoke the universe into existence was his greatest.

I once was a chemistry teacher and of all I learned – what stands out was the ‘reversal’ of the theory of physics: “matter cannot be created or destroyed”. Splitting the atom destroyed ‘matter’ with a great release of energy. (Atomic bomb)

The energy in the matter destroyed is exactly the energy released in the reaction. The formula for this transformation is E = mc^2 . The c^2 is a VERY large number. A small amount of matter destroyed can result in a great deal of energy released.

I’ve forgotten the small number of gallons of water ‘destroyed’ would equal all the energy produced by electro generators in the U.S. for a year.

Physics says ‘matter destroyed equals energy’; while chemistry says the reverse is true (energy can be converted into matter).

Thus God’s “little bit of superpowers” used his energy to produce everything there is.

If I didn’t know that, I would still believe in the power God. Even my 5 year old cousin dying in China before I was born 78 years ago brings out his power with her last words: “Mama, which one is our house?”