Back in 1998, I traveled to Thailand with a worship band from our church. Missionaries throughout the region of Asia gathered in Chiang Mai for a two-week retreat with their families, and we led them in worship each day. One sleepless night during our trip, I searched the hotel room for something to read and found a book on Buddhism in the drawer of the nightstand. It looked similar to the Gideon Bibles that used to be placed (and still are in some places) in hotel rooms around the U.S. This book began with the story of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of the religion, and followed with an overview of the basic truths that frame Buddhist belief and practice. I noticed that many concepts and terms were similar to those of the Christian faith: meditation, scripture, prayer, wisdom, morality, freedom, awakening, and spiritual growth. But I quickly came to this conclusion: Buddhists seek to reach a state of enlightenment, following the path of the Buddha, but there is no belief in a personal god — no king, no rescuer, no creator, no father. Not even halfway through, I closed the book because I was filled with such emptiness, hopelessness, and loneliness as I read this book. No direction or connection was found.
The first Christians often referred to themselves as The Way (Acts 9:1-2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14). Where did that name come from? Although we find the origins of the name go back as far as the book of Isaiah, the most obvious connection is found in John 14:6, when Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus didn’t and still doesn’t call his disciples to just follow a mere belief system, a path, philosophy, or way of life — He calls us to Himself. We walk by faith, following a personal Savior, a King, who guides us into all truth and who shares His life with us. He lives among us and leads us into joy and victory through Him. Our King desires a relationship with you that is real and personal, rooted and grounded in love. Jesus didn’t just say, “Follow my teaching,” He said, “follow me.” Our world needs a ruler, a savior, a victor. Christ, the King of the universe, clothed himself in love and humility so that we, His followers, might know Him here and now and to live more fully and abundantly to bridge the gap between our world and His kingdom. Just as He called those 12 ordinary men, He calls to you and me today.
Pilate once called Jesus the King of the Jews, but we, His followers, know him as the Way, the once and future King and Lord overall. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He rises above all other kings and powers, both seen and unseen; He exposes the mere puppetry of Satan and his forces, masquerading as pagan deities, which are really no gods at all. He leads us in a joyful procession to His future kingdom, not of this world, built on justice and love, grace and mercy, forgiveness and truth.
Pastor Dave Hook