Tag Archives: Gospel of John

Sunday Sermon: Jesus Christ is the Church

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When it comes to their faith lives, folks with a deep conviction can be extremely defensive. I’ve even heard some go so far as to claim that those who don’t follow the same belief system and faith practices they do will even end up in hell when they die.

The fact is that neither you nor I, nor anyone else on this planet, has any idea whether any individual human being is going to end up in heaven or hell for eternity. That lack of knowledge holds for everyone from your local rabbi to the Pope. Our ultimate fate is God’s alone to know.

My own faith is rooted in Jesus Christ. I practice and celebrate that faith in the Catholic Church. That is mostly because it is the church in which I was born and raised. I went to Catholic school for 12 years as a child and teen. I even later graduated from a Catholic university as an adult.

While it is my belief that my Catholic Church is the best way to practice the Christian faith, in no way to I believe it is the only way. In the end, it’s not about the Mass or the building or the priest. The Church is none of those things.

The Church is Jesus Christ. He is not only the center, he is everything.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of  all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the famous verse of John 14:6, Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Nowhere does Jesus say that in order to get to heaven you must go to church – any church. He says that all authority is his. He says that he is truth and life. He says to follow him and his teachings if you want to be assured of eternity with the Father.

Don’t get me wrong, church is important. That is especially true of the Catholic Church. As I’ve written a number of times in the past, Jesus Christ founded His Church. It was important to him to have authoritative leadership and teaching continue.

In Matthew 16:18 we find this foundation: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus founded one Church. The word “catholic” itself means universal.

However, in John 14:16-17, Jesus said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.”

Here Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come into the world. He also states that the Spirit will not only live with us, but will live in us.
 
Jesus founded one Church, and that universal Catholic church continues today, more than 2,000 years later. 
 
However, the Holy Spirit did indeed come into the world and into our hearts. The Spirit has worked to inspire men and women in ways that have contradicted that universal Catholic Church over the centuries.
 
It would be dangerous, in fact totally wrong, to say and believe that any and every possible means of practicing a form of Christianity is healthy and appropriate. 
 
Misguided men have formed many harmful practices over time in the name of a church. Any honest assessment of even the Catholic Church history would show that misguided men can do a great deal of harm in the name of faith and church.
 
Many have seen the abuses within various Christian churches and decided to maintain a personal relationship with the Lord. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not preferred, and you are cheating yourself if this is your practice.
 
In Matthew 18:20 we hear Jesus make his famous church and family proclamation: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” He tells us straight out that when we pray and worship him together, he will be present with us.
 
Whatever church you belong to, and even if you choose to maintain a personal or familial relationship with him, you cannot be making a mistake if your true center is Jesus Christ and his own words.
 
The teachings of the prophets in the Old Testament are excellent for education and inspiration. The preaching of the disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, the teaching of Paul, and other New Testament works are outstanding guides to follow.
 
But the fact remains that where his Word is present, there is truth. If you follow that Word, those teachings, then you are likely to end up in the spending eternity in the presence of the Father.
 
In the end, Jesus Christ is the Church. 

The greatest question ever asked

About a half century ago, literally on the other side of the world, the Reverend Billy Graham was delivering one of his typical fire and brimstone sermons ‘Down Under’ in Australia.

The theme of his sermon that day revolved around what he called “the greatest question ever asked by any man.

That questioner to whom he was referring was a bit notorious. It was Pontius Pilate, the first century Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea who has become legend for having condemned Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion.

While being questioned by Pilate, Jesus stated “…for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

Pilate responded with his simple question that has resounded through history as that greatest ever to be asked: “What is truth?

However, Pilate asks his question dismissively of Christ. As he asks the question, he waves Jesus off and walks away, as if to say ‘yeah, right’ or ‘gimme a break’.

It is not as if Jesus Christ had never answered this question, for he had done so on numerous occasions previously, and none more famously than is presented in the Gospel of John.
In John 14:6, Christ proclaims that he is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Today’s world is full of what have become known as ‘relativists’ who claim, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

In philosophical circles, this has become known as ‘Moral Relativism’, that what is right for you is right, and what is right for me is right. There is one huge problem with all of this, of course. No two individuals, or groups of people, or religions can always both be ‘right’ in a relative way.

If I claim that a certain patch of land is mine, and you claim that same patch of land is yours, then we have a legitimate dispute that cannot be resolved by any claim that we are both right.

As Reverend Graham put it on that evening in Australia, when Jesus Christ makes the statement that he is “..the Way, the Truth, and the Life” he did not stop there. His statement finished with “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This leaves you, and that means anyone reading this, anyone who has been in existence since that time who has heard that claim, with only two choices. You can choose to believe that Jesus Christ was everything that he said he was. Or you can believe that he was a liar, a fraud, and a scoundrel. Your choice.

Jesus’ response to Pilot’s question is the basis of the entirety of man’s decision-making process since the beginnings of Christianity.

The great joy is that so many have come to understand the ultimate truthful answer, that Jesus Christ is indeed the Way to a personal relationship with God, that he is the Truth of existence in every word that he ever spoke, and that he is the Life that we all seek in eternity.

Christianity rose from the humble beginnings of a few dozen close followers to the largest belief system on the planet in just over two millenia.

It did so despite being the direct target of those who would have stamped it out wholly and utterly, at times when it appeared the odds of its survival were insurmountable.

It ultimately grew strong and prospered because at its very heart is that ultimate Truth that is the answer to the greatest question that any man has ever posed.

The answer to Pontius Pilate’s question of “What is truth?” is Jesus Christ.

If you haven’t come to that realization yet, I implore you to look closer. Get yourself a Bible, turn to the New Testament, and read Christ’s words. They will inspire you if you have never taken that time before, and the more you read, the more you will understand.

The more you understand, the more the Holy Spirit will fill your life. The more the Spirit moves within you, the closer you will get to understanding and accepting that Truth. And as we have come to know, the Truth shall set you free.