Today is the Today I’ve been waiting for, and I have to say that, while I’ll disagree with the way it was handled, I’m impressed and didn’t expect it to be handled as well as it was. Kudos, Today Show.
The main focus was salvation in Christ alone, which is the core of Christianity, although two parts annoyed me enough that my wife had to pause the TiVo and tell me, “Yes, I know. Be quiet and watch.”
1. What’s wrong with this sentence: “Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the only guaranteed way to heaven.” Figure it out? It’s the word, “Guaranteed.” In a Larry King Live interview , Rev. Joel Osteen said that faith in Christ is the only guaranteed way to heaven. (It’s not in the transcript, but the transcript is incomplete. Look for heaven on the page, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) By saying this and not “only guaranteed way to heaven,” you imply (and Osteen says) that those without faith in Jesus Christ can get to heaven. While the Roman Catholic Church teaches this for now, the Bible does not, nor does orthodox Christianity. As one speaker today said, “If there were another way, God wouldn’t have had His Son die on the cross.” (I’m not sure that’s word-for-word, but that was the gist.) We go to heaven because Jesus died to take away our sins. Faith alone saves, nothing else. Period.
2. But that leads to my second objection. You’ll argue that it’s a question of semantics, but hear me out. “Heaven is for all who ask Jesus to be their Lord.” Wrong. I’ve never done so, but I’m going to heaven. Why? Because it doesn’t depend on me.
I remember struggling with the words of my LCMS Lutheran Sunday School teachers. They taught me, “Jesus did everything for you to get to heaven. You don’t have to do anything.” But I thought to myself, “Except believe.” Honestly, it wasn’t until I arrived at seminary that one of my peers (Thank-you, Jay.) straightened me out. I realized that “and that not of yourselves” in Ephesians 2:8-9 modified “faith,” that faith is a gift of God, not a human work. Only then did I understand that you really don’t have to doanything. Even faith is a gift and work of God.
Why does this matter? Because I am saved and will live forever solely based on the work of God, not on me. None of it depends on me. This is excellent news, because if I had to make some kind of decision to believe, I don’t know whether I’d be sincere enough. Whenever it depends even the slightest on you, there’s no certainty, and you’re back in the camp of the Muslims, Jews, and every other religion in history. But when everything rests on God, you can be sure.