Is Christianity Too Narrow?
• To nonreligious people, religion almost always includes some odd—and even narrow-minded things—such as:
• Hypocrisy (in its worst incarnations)
• But when people attempt to bridge the gap between God and us, the seen and unseen, the temporal and eternal, by definition, it’s bound to include some unusual things.
• The problem is when these things are human additions rather than genuine attempts at
connecting with God.
• Religion is humanity’s attempt to reach God.
• Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity.
This is not new. In fact, the Bible speaks to the narrowness of religion and how to maintain faith in a culture of unfaith.
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
• Paul demonstrates how to maintain faith in Jesus among a people who are not comfortable with exclusive claims about God.
• Paul asked the Athenians questions, complimented their search, and then, when asked, proclaimed the truth with gentleness and respect.
• When Paul preached about Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18), he began to contrast Christianity with other religions. Most religions can be described as humanity’s attempt to reach God. But Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity. Through the person of Jesus, God extends grace to everyone. His gift is broad, available to anyone who will receive it.
“All claims are exclusive. The Gospel is an exclusive truth but it’s the most inclusive exclusive truth in the world.” - Timothy Keller
How do we know this?
God’s exclusive claim
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
*The cross and its necessity
Someone has to pay the price for our sin and rebellion against a holy God. Either we’re going to pay it ourselves, or Jesus, the sinless, blameless Lamb of God, already did for us.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
God’s inclusive heart
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
1 Timothy 2:1-6
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
The emotional response to faith
People don’t care, ignore the issue, neglect it or cast it off as long as possible to live how they want to.
"I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political." --Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means (London: Chatto & Windus, 1946), pp. 270, 273
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Does your lifestyle prompt others to ask why you live the way you do? If not, what needs to change?
• Are you satisfied with practicing religion and striving to reach God? Or will you accept God’s free gift and reconciliation through Jesus Christ?
I pray that our church can be a community of people who are so winsome that the world cannot ignore it. I pray that we’ll be bombarded with questions about why we do the things we do (or don’t do), go the places we go, and hang out with the people we do. And then I hope we have the faith, the courage, the gentleness, and the respect to share our faith boldly and humbly.
• Imagine if we all were able to do that this week. Would the world accuse us of being narrow- minded? I hope not. I hope people will say that we’re the most welcoming, loving, and inclusive people they know.
God provided a way for everyone to have peace, forgiveness and eternal life. This is profoundly inclusive—not exclusive. Following Jesus is different from every other faith on earth in that He sacrificed to get to us, rather than us sacrificing to get to Him. Most religions boil down to humanity trying to reach God, but Christianity is God reaching humanity.
Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019