A ten-year-old boy who never should have waded out in Lake Michigan without knowing how to swim. Me. I can still remember the terror and helplessness of going under for the second time.
I'm alive today because someone on the shore saw me drowning. He jumped in and saved my life.
Then there were those 33 Chilean miners, trapped for 69 days in a collapsed mine a half mile down. Until that rescue capsule was lowered down that newly-created shaft. The rescuers brought every miner out alive.
Houston. Hurricane Harvey. Whole neighborhoods, suddenly a lake - and people stranded on their rooftops. Until the rescue chopper came and lifted them to safety.
A makeshift mine shaft and rescue capsule. A chopper hovering above a house surrounded by floodwaters. And a man reaching to rescue a drowning boy.
And a man nailed to a cross on a skull-shaped hill near Jerusalem. Where the only Son God has gave His life for the greatest rescue mission in history.
They all have this in common: people would have died except someone stepped in with a way to live. There were not many ways for them to be saved. Just one. But, thank God, there was one!
There may be no more audacious - and controversial - statement Jesus ever made. "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me" (John 14:6). And as I delve more deeply into the teaching of Scripture, it's clear there's no convenient "off ramp" from that claim.
The apostles declared, "There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "There is only one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity - the man Christ Jesus. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone" (1 Timothy 2:5).
In our tolerant, inclusive, open-minded culture, those are fighting words! "How can you say there's only one way?" Even those Bible folks - "evangelical Christians" - are retreating from that exclusive claim. Fifty-six percent believe there are many paths to God other than faith in Jesus Christ.
It's not a casual issue. Eternity never is. I can be wrong about many things and not pay an awful price. But not about being right with God when I die.
There's a reason an instrument of torture and shame - the cross - has been the identifying symbol of Jesus' followers from the beginning. Because "this is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him...He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).
Among all the great religions of the world, no one else even claimed to die for our sins. Every religion, including the Christian faith, gives us a moral code to follow. And if God-pleasing goodness is what it takes to get to God's heaven, then we can take our pick from the menu of religions.
But the Bible makes it clear that human sin is not a matter of breaking some religion's rules. It is, in essence, my raising my fist and saying, "God, You can run the universe. But I'm running me, thank You." It is refusing to let the God who gave me my life be God in my life. Spiritual hijacking. Punishable by death.
"The wages of sin is death...the soul that sins shall die...your sins have separated you from your God" (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:20; Isaiah 59:2). There's only one way to pay a death penalty. Somebody has to die.
And Somebody did. God's one and only Son. He - and He alone - could and did take our place and pay for our sin. The only One who can forgive my sin is the One who paid for it. With His life.
Before there were churches. Before there was Christianity. Before anyone had been called a Christian. There was a cross - where the very One I defied and denied paid my death penalty. That's the unspeakable love that captured my heart.
So, it isn't about which religion is right. No religion could die for my sins. I don't need a religion. I need a rescuer! His name is Jesus. Who paid the price for every person's sins, whatever their religion. "For God so loved the world that He gave His...Son..." (John 3:16).
There are many religions. There is only one Savior.
If there had been any other way to remove the sin that keeps us out of heaven, why would God have ever sent His Son to die that brutal death? I can't imagine walking up to that bloody cross, looking Jesus in the eyes, and saying, "By the way, Jesus - there are other ways."
For me, the issue is not "why is there only one way?" It's that there IS a way where there was no way. I was drowning. And the Rescuer came. And died so I could live.