by The Rev. Bruce Keseman
Sola. That’s Latin. You’ll learn a lot of Latin this week. Sola means “alone.” Maybe you already knew that. If you didn’t, I guarantee you’ll know it by the end of this conference.
Sola. That’s a word that offends some people. Especially when they understand what it implies. Sola may offend our sinful natures when we understand what it implies. But it’s a word that should cause you to rejoice.
In the town of Collinsville, Illinois—which, by the way, is where our esteemed organist, Mr. Chris Loemker, lives—they had a big to-do a few years ago. Don’t blame Mr. Loemker for the to-do. He didn’t live there yet. What was the to-do? Would they have about prayer at their high school graduation or wouldn’t they? They discussed. They debated. They argued. And they decided. They decided to compromise. Which is to say, the devil got his way. They decided to have a prayer. A non-offensive prayer. A non-sola prayer. An “all religions are created equal” prayer.
The principal said, and I quote, “There will be no reference to Christ or anything that is of a particular religion. There may be a reference to a supreme being.” Unquote.
I don’t know what the principal believes. But that school’s policy seems to imply that one religion will get you to the Father as well as the next. Jesus begs to differ. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
How do you get to God? Through Jesus. Any other possible way? Nope. Christ alone. When it comes to getting you to heaven, Jesus flies sola.
Did you notice the one name, the only name, the principal specifically said would not be mentioned in the graduation prayer? “Christ.” Jesus. The only One who can get us and our prayers to the Father is the only One they specifically say won’t be mentioned.
Maybe they don’t want to offend anyone. But then we don’t want to offend anyone either. When you’re talking to your friends, especially your non-Christian friends, and the conversation turns to religion, do you say clearly, unequivocally that Jesus is the only hope for us sinners? Not if you’re a typical Christian.
Why? Why are we so hesitant to say that Jesus flies sola? Isn’t it because we don’t want to offend anyone?Isn’t it because when we say that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, we’re saying that Jews and Muslims and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hindus and Buddhists—and a whole lot of our own friends—are going to hell? So we don’t offend them. We refuse to tell them about the One who took care of their eternities and ours on a cross.
There may be another reason we’re hesitant to say Jesus and Jesus sola—alone—can get us to the Father. I’m not sure we believe it. Your pastor may have taught you in catechism class that Jesus is the only way. But isn’t it possible that your pastor is wrong? Hmm? Isn’t it possible that all these different religions—or at least most of them—worship the same God we do but just call Him by different names? Who are we to claim that we’re right and everyone else is wrong? (Actually, we don’t claim that we’re right. We claim that God is right. There’s a big difference!)
But don’t Muslims and Buddhists and Jews and Mormons all teach the difference between right and wrong—just like Christians? And don’t they all urge people to do what is right and not do what is wrong—just like Christians? Doesn’t that make all those other religions as good as Christianity? Yes! It does make them as good as Christianity. As long as you always do what they say, as long as you always do what is right, they are every bit as good as Christianity.
But if you are like me, if you are a sinner, if you fall short of the glory of the Father, then you need something those other religions don’t offer. You need a Savior. You need Jesus.
Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” We call that house with many rooms “heaven.” On the way home from this conference, our youth group is staying in a hotel. It has many rooms. And they are all “no smoking” rooms. No smokers allowed. In our Father’s house there are many rooms. They are all “no sinning” rooms. No sinners allowed.
For good reason. If God allowed sin in heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven. It would be this messed up earth all over again. More sorrow. More pain. More death. More zits. That’s what came into this world when we brought sin into this world. That’s what would be in heaven if God allowed us to bring our sin into His heaven.
So heaven is “No sin allowed.” But we are filled with sin. Which is why we need the Jesus that no other religion offers. We need the Jesus who flies sola.
The Father did not lay your sins on Mohammed. The Father did not lay your sins on Buddha. The Father did not lay your sins on Joseph Smith. The Father laid your sins on Jesus. Christ and Christ sola—alone—has been to the cross for you. Christ and Christ sola—alone—has removed everything that would keep you out of your room in the Father’s house. So Christ and Christ sola—alone—is the way to the Father.
Not just any god will do. You need the God who puts His Son on a cross for you and then raises His dead Son to life for you. Any other way will lead you awayfrom the Father and into hell.
So Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Isn’t that rather exclusive? Yes. But in this case exclusive is good. Exclusive is God’s way of being inclusive. Exclusive is His way of including every sinner who has ever lived in the category of people whose sins have been paid for.
Let’s say you and I are in a high rise building. In Freeburg, Illinois, where I’m from, a two-story building is a high rise. But let’s say we’re in that six-story residence hall I’m staying in across campus. Way across campus. And let’s say that in this Texas heat, that six-story residence hall spontaneously bursts into flames. When that happens, there are probably fifty different windows that we could jump out. But the firefighters have a net under only one window. If you happen to know which window has the net, I’d really appreciate it if you did not say, “Oh, pick any window; one is as good as the next.” Be exclusive! Tell me which one will save me.
School officials in Collinsville, Illinois, and people all over the world may imply that all religions are pretty much the same, that you can jump out any one you’d like. But there’s only one with a net. There’s only one with Jesus crucified and risen for you. Maybe that offends some people. But personally, I kind of like not having to guess which window has the net, which one will save me.
How can you be so sure that you can trust Jesus? How can you be sure He’s the net that will catch you? Well, there have been countless religious teachers in the history of the world. All of them lived. All of them taught. All of them died. And all of them are still dead. Except one. Jesus. He was dead. But He came back to life. That is why you can entrust Him with your eternity. If any one else dies for your sin and then rises to life, you can trust that person with your eternity. But none will.
That’s why Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” When it comes to your salvation, Jesus flies sola. Christ alone. That is not a reason to be offended. That is a reason to rejoice. For you, dear Christian, have been baptized into that Christ.