People often ask, what about other religions: aren’t all religions basically the same? Don’t all faiths lead to God; aren’t they all just different paths up the same mountain? What makes one religion better than another?

Maybe you’ve heard the fable about the blind men and the elephant, which is often cited as a picture of religious tolerance; that truth is perceived differently by different people. ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ is a story of six blind men (or men who are in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it’s like. Each one feels a different part and creates their own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective. Each provides only a part truth and it’s often suggested that it is only in religious tolerance and a coming together of all the major religions do we find the whole truth. The problem is, although that might work in describing different parts of an elephant, it doesn’t work in describing the way to God. It is true that all the major religions in the world have things in common but it is also true they differ massively on several fundamental points. The story was made into a poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887). Here’s his version of Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” – quoth he – “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” – quoth he, –
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said, “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” – quoth he, – “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

The fact is, all religions do contain some truth but that does not mean all religions lead to God, regardless of how genuine or sincere people of different faiths might be. All religions do not lead to God any more than all planes taking off from Heathrow go to New York! And being devout or sincere doesn’t mean that people are right; people can be sincere and still be sincerely wrong… just look at suicide bombers!

Again, all the major religions of the world contain some truth and they all share certain morals and things in common, but all the other religions are the wrong path. How can I say that? Because Christianity is not a part of the elephant; it is the elephant! We need to discover that for ourselves; we need to find the way to God; we need to find the truth, because the life we live only finds true meaning when we discover the purpose for which God created us.

‘Blaise Pascal, seventeenth-century French philosopher and mathematician, said that inside every person is a God-shaped vacuum, a sort of hole in the middle of our beings. We have, he said, a need that only God can meet.’ Citation

What are you using to try and fill the void or hole in your life? Material possessions; mood-altering substances; sex; career success; the pursuit of intellectual growth; excitement; adventure? You may as well give it up now – it won’t work! Citation In the New Testament book of Acts, Paul explained it like this, to the philosophers in Athens: ‘God…made the world and everything in it… He gives life… to everything… He satisfies every need… His purpose was [that we should] seek after God… feel [our] way towards him and find him – though He is not far from…us. For in him we move and exist…’ (Acts 17:24-28 NLT). ‘You can’t wring enough meaning out of [material things and] secular accomplishments to satisfy your soul. The hole you’re trying to fill has an eternal dimension that only Christ can fill.’ Citation How can I say that? We will come to this shortly…

I read that Robbie Williams, the pop star, once went on a shopping spree in Los Angeles. He bought seven cars, including a brand new Ferrari, a brand new Porsche and a brand new Mercedes. Within a week he wished he had not bought any of them. Robbie Williams is ruthlessly honest about his self-obsession and addictions. In his song, Feel, he sings: “I just want to feel real love… There’s a hole in my soul… You can see it in my face… It’s a real big place.” It is God who implants this desire ‘to feel real love’ in humanity. This ‘hole in my soul’ is common to all human beings. It cannot be filled by cars, wealth, success or drugs. It is a God-shaped hole. It is a spiritual hunger and thirst. Jesus said that if we come to him and drink, he will satisfy this spiritual thirst by giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us (John 7:37). Citation


I remember my own search to fill the God-shaped hole in my soul. Back in 1993, my wife, Suzanne and I joined an explorer’s course so that we could investigate the Christian faith for ourselves. On that course there was a man named Roy who had recently become a Christian and had been filled with the Holy Spirit. I noticed him immediately, the very first week, because there was something about him; something about his face; a glow that radiated joy, and a peace that was somehow magnetic. Roy and I ended up becoming close friends and business partners. But I remember at the beginning of the programme the leader asking each of us what we were hoping to find or gain by attending the course. When it was my turn I pointed across at Roy, the smiley man in the corner on the room, and said, “I want what he has.” At the time I wasn’t able to articulate ‘what it was that he had’ other than, maybe, a knowledge and love for God. But in my heart of hearts I wanted to know the same joy, peace, forgiveness and acceptance that my friend had. I wanted to receive the Holy Spirit. Sometime later, both Suzanne and I did receive the Holy Spirit and our lives changed forever as a result. And that’s the difference between Christianity and any other religion: it’s literally life changing! You know, I have never met an atheist (or an agnostic) who can say: ‘Do you know what, atheism has really changed my life… you should have seen my life before I became an atheist!’ But every Christian can say that! Jesus said He is the way to God. If He was right, and I believe He was, then there can be nothing more important in this life than our response to him.


One of the most famous statements Jesus ever made about himself is found in John 14v6: “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When it comes to us coming to the God of heaven, Jesus does not give us advice or directions, but himself. His message is not “Go that way” but “Come to me!” He is not a path or a system, He is what we need. Notice too that it is an exclusive claim: only Jesus is these things. [Jesus is the only way to the Father; his Word is the truth and accepting it brings life.] What is possible through him is possible nowhere else. Jesus is not one option among many – a way to find meaning and direction alongside other equally valid options. What Jesus gives us in himself is definitive – the truth, the life. There is (literally) an eternity of difference between saying “the” and “a”. Citation

Now many people don’t like that because it sounds exclusive! The Bible’s message is exclusive – only those who call upon the name of Jesus can be saved. But the Bible’s message is also inclusive – for all. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16 – which contains the whole of the Bible’s message in a sentence: ‘For God so loved the world [all of us] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever [that includes you and me] believes in him shall not perish [talking about spiritual death] but have eternal life.’ The Bible’s message is inclusive and exclusive: inclusive because it’s for all – God so loved the world [all of us] – and exclusive because only those who believe and call upon the name of Jesus can be saved. People have a choice: how will they respond?

Jesus said, ‘I am the way… and I am the truth.’ ‘Sometimes people say, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you are sincere. But, again, it is possible to be sincere and still be sincerely wrong! Other people sometimes respond to Christianity saying, ‘If it works for you, fine, but it’s not for me.’ ‘But that’s not a logical position. You see, if Christianity is true, it is of vital importance to every one of us. And if it is not true, then Christians are deluded and are to be pitied more than any other people – and the sooner we are put right the better! As the writer and scholar C.S. Lewis put it, ‘Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.’’’ Citation

People often say, just as there are many different paths to the top of a mountain, so there are many religions and routes to God. God, however, says something very different: God says there are many different mountains but only one of them leads to life with Him.

Friends, all religions do not lead to God. The truth is, the only way to know how to get to the top of the mountain is to have been there! Jesus is not a prophet come to Earth to find God. He is God come to find us. This is so contrary to all other religions. – “If we take the five most commonly thought of as the world’s major religions, a brief examination reveals mammoth differences between them. Hinduism believes in many gods; Islam is absolutely insistent there is only one. Buddhism is silent about the nature of God or even whether he exists; Judaism describes his character in detail. Christians believe that in this world there is only one life and one death for each individual; Buddhists believe that we keep returning to this world in a series of multiple reincarnations… Christians, in opposition to all the others, say salvation cannot be earned by doing anything; you receive it as a gift. – It is only possible to believe that ‘all roads lead to God’ if we remain ignorant about these different religions and their views of God. Let me say it again, all religions do not lead to the same point any more than all aeroplanes from Heathrow go to New York!” Citation

‘Never before has there been so much choice in life… Try asking for a painkiller from your chemist. Aspirin or paracetamol? Tablet or capsule or liquid? Brand name or chemist’s own? Regular or extra strength? Small or large packet? It’s enough to give you a headache!’ Citation

‘There is so much confusion and debate in our society about religion. Again, Hindus insist there are many different gods (Shiva, Vishnu, etc.), but the Jews demand there is only one. Buddhists say we are reincarnated after death, Muslims say we are not. Who is right? Certainly, not all of them. According to Islam, the God who demands our ‘submission’ (which is what the word ‘Islam’ means) is too powerful and awesome to live among us. But Jesus taught differently.’ Citation Jesus said to his followers: “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14v7). And Jesus accepted worship due only to God. After his resurrection He commended rather than rebuked doubting Thomas; who fell at his feet and declared with awe, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).

‘It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from all the other religions of the world. Other religions are basically saying they bring you this prophet; this guru or sage who says: ‘This is the way to find God.’ In that sense they’re all the same. But Christianity comes along and says this person is God and he was raised from the dead to prove it.’ Citation

‘Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, Guru Nanak, Confucius and other great founders of religions were undoubtedly amazing people. They had insight, leadership skills and brought inspiration to thousands of their followers. But none of them ever claimed to personally reveal God. None of them said, “Look at me and you will see God.” There is, however, one exception.’ Citation Jesus.


‘Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Jehovah. Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.”’ Citation

Author, Philip Yancey, writes: ‘Jesus’ audacious claims about himself pose what may be the central problem of all history, the dividing point between Christianity and other religions. Although Muslims and, increasingly, Jews respect Jesus as a great teacher and prophet, no Muslim can imagine Mohammed claiming to be Allah any more than a Jew can imagine Moses claiming to be Yahweh. Likewise, Hindus believe in many incarnations but not one Incarnation, while Buddhists have no categories to conceive of a sovereign God becoming a human being. (…) It is an incontestable fact of history that Jesus’ followers, the same ones who were scratching their heads over his words at the Last Supper, a few weeks later were proclaiming him as the “Holy and Righteous One,” the “Lord,” the “author of life.” By the time the Gospels were written they regarded him as the Word who was God, through whom all things were made.’ Citation

I heard a funny story about a missionary working among children in the Middle East who was driving her jeep down a road when she ran out of petrol. She had no jerry can in her car. All she could find was a potty. She walked a mile down the road to the nearest petrol station and filled the potty with petrol. As she was pouring the petrol into the tank, a large black limousine drew up alongside with two wealthy oil sheikhs in it. They were absolutely fascinated at seeing her pouring the contents of the potty into the jeep. One of them opened the window and said, ‘Excuse me! My friend and I, although we do not share your religion, we greatly admire your faith!’

Part of my own training for ordination in the Church of England included working with other faith leaders; which meant that I had to engage with the beliefs, practices and spirituality of other faiths. I spent considerable time at a mosque, a Hindu temple and debating in a Jewish synagogue. Now, of course, we live in a multi-faith, multi-cultural society and it is absolutely right that we should be tolerant and accepting of others, regardless of their beliefs. And again the fact is, all religions do contain some truth but, that does not mean all religions lead to God, regardless of how genuine or sincere people of different faiths might be.

As C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main points in all the religions of the world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try and persuade myself that most of the human race has always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong, but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.’ Citation


Nicky Gumbel, the founder of Alpha and Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton in London, writes: ‘The fact that Jesus is the only way to God does not mean that we simply write off all other religions as misguided or demonic. Jesus said, ‘I am the truth.’ In him, ultimate truth is to be found and he is the standard by which all truth claims are to be tested. But this does not mean that parts of the truth cannot be found in other religions. Indeed, we would expect to find truth in other religions for at least three reasons:

Firstly, although God’s revelation of himself in Jesus, witnessed to in Scripture, is unique and final, God has partially revealed himself in creation. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19:1). The pinnacle of his creation is human life. As Sir Isaac Newton, the brilliant physicist and mathematician, said, ‘In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence’. Therefore, the psalmist says, only a fool can claim ‘there is no God’ (Psalm 14:1; 53:1) ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that they are without excuse’ (Romans 1:20). From creation, it is possible for men and women to find out the truth about God’s existence and gain an insight into his character: his power and his glory. The evidence provided by creation is available to all, and could therefore be found in other religions.

Secondly, human beings are made in the image of God and God has given us a conscience with which to distinguish right and wrong. As Paul put it, ‘Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law… they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them’ (Romans 2:14-15). Thus, it is not surprising that the essence of ‘the golden rule’ (‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ – Matthew 7:12) is contained in almost every religion from Confucius (551-479 BC) onwards.

Thirdly, in every heart there is a hunger for God. God has ‘set eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep down no one is satisfied with materialism; we know there is more to life. There is a God-shaped gap or hole in the heart of every human being. This hunger drives us to search for God. It is one of the explanations as to why there are so few atheists in the world and why so many seek earnestly after God. Citation

I recall, a few years ago (October 2012), as part of my on-going ministerial training, I had the opportunity to engage with other faith traditions and so I chose Orthodox Judaism and I went to Edgware in London, and was a guest for the evening at the home of Rabbi Natan Levy who runs a synagogue of about 80 Jewish families. (The Jewish religion no longer has priests because they no longer have the temple. Rabbis are teachers and leaders of the synagogue.) I got on really well with Natan and we were both very open with each other in discussing each other’s faith. Natan told me Jews are still waiting for the Messiah and it is something they talk about a lot in their synagogue meetings. He told me that every son born to Jewish parents in every generation wonder if this is the Messiah.

I asked the rabbi how he could be so certain that Jesus is not the Messiah. And he told me their interpretation is that the Messiah, when he comes, will bring about a new world order; worldwide peace and He will reinstitute or re-establish the temple in Jerusalem… Of course the evangelist in me had to respond… but Jesus did bring about a new world order – indeed the whole world records time as either before or after his death! – and he also brought about peace, forgiveness and reconciliation to God… to every nation, tribe, people and language who accept Jesus as the Messiah and turn to Him… and on the point as to whether or not the temple in Jerusalem will ever be rebuilt, maybe it will maybe it won’t but regardless, Christians are now the living temple of God because the Holy Spirit of God resides within us, in our hearts. The rabbi listened intently but…!

Amazingly, the Jewish Rabbis and theologians today still pour over the Scriptures as they have done for generations. They have taught in their synagogues that the Messiah was coming, but they failed to recognise or acknowledge Him when He arrived. Yet the Old Testament Scriptures they read are filled with [Messianic prophesies]. They identified the tribe from which He would be born: ‘The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honour’ (Genesis 49v10 NLT). They described His family of origin: ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [the father of King David]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him…’ (Isaiah 11v1-2). They foretold the virgin birth: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel [which means “God with us”] (Isaiah 7:14) Citation And they foretold where the Messiah would be born. Bethlehem. ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be shepherd of my people Israel.’ (Micah 5v2)

In fact, the Old Testament is full of predictions about the Messiah, or Christ. We looked at this previously but one Biblical scholar has worked out that there are 332 distinct prophecies in the Old Testament, which were literally fulfilled in the person of Jesus (29 of them in one day, on Good Friday). He further worked out that the mathematical probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled in just one man is 1 in 84, followed by 97 zeros (0’s).

1 in 84

Now just how accurate that figure is or how someone actually goes about calculating such mathematical probabilities, or how many zillion, trillion, billion, million that is, is beyond me, but I wanted to show this illustration to, at least, give us some perspective, really, on how improbably it is, that Jesus isn’t the promised saviour, the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke about. At those odds it’s a fairly sure thing that trusting in Christ is the right thing to do, wouldn’t you agree?

And more than a few people have done just that. Jesus said, ‘I am the way…’ to the Father. He is the only One who can bring us into that relationship with God. The church is made up of people. The New Testament refers to the universal church (Ephesians 3:10, 21; 5:23) which consists of all those people worldwide and down the ages that profess or have professed the name of Christ. There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world today (a third of the world’s population), and it’s estimated there’s a net increase of 70,000 in the number of new Christians being added to the church every single day worldwide. ‘The church is growing faster than ever before and Christianity is gaining more members than any other religion. Indeed, it is growing three times the rate of the population explosion. More Muslims in Iran have come to know Christ over the past ten years than during the previous thousand years. In Africa, 20,000 people a day are becoming Christians. Some estimate that there may be as many as 100 million Christians in China alone.’ Citation The church is hardly an irrelevant or insignificant movement and yet there are those in society who think that Christianity is irrelevant and that the church in the UK is not connected to the real world: that’s just ignorance.

Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). He is the only One who can bring us into that relationship with God.

Jesus came to show us the way back to God… so that we can be forgiven and come to know God personally. Jesus came to pay the price for our rebellion; for our ignoring God and choosing to go our own way. He came to die in our place, to offer himself up as a perfect sacrifice, taking our sin upon himself at the cross: Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. And as a result of what Jesus has done for us, forgiveness and eternal life are promised to all who will receive Him. Forgiveness and the removal of guilt, wonderful new life and a restored relationship with God is offered freely; as a free gift to all who will receive it: to all who repent, accept Christ and follow him.

If I had to summarise Christianity, the conclusion would be this: forgiveness from the past and the removal of guilt, fresh purpose and new life here for today, and a wonderful eternal hope for the future. – However, these things, these blessings; forgiveness, a new start, and hope for tomorrow are not forced or bestowed on us automatically, but they are offered to everyone freely.


Friends, it’s our call!

But let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake as a lady called Thelma Howard, an American maid, who missed out on a fortune because she didn’t look carefully enough at her Christmas present. Her employer, Walt Disney, gave her a piece of paper in an envelope every Christmas. Thelma didn’t understand what it was and so she added it to a pile under her bed. After her death her relatives discovered the documents and realised they were shares in the Disney Corporation, worth over thirty million dollars.

God’s free gift of salvation is worth eternally more than that! Your call!