Charles Templeton was once a Christian evangelist and the preaching partner of Billy Graham. He and Graham were best friends in the 1940s and 1950s. Many thought Templeton would be his generation’s biggest evangelist because he was a better preacher than Graham. But then Templeton went to a liberal seminary and lost faith. He even tried to talk Billy Graham out of trusting the Bible, but Graham stood firm in his faith. Graham became one of history’s greatest evangelists and Templeton became Canada’s most notorious critic of Christianity. His book, “Farewell to God”, gives his reasons for rejecting the Christian faith.
Strobel asked him why he no longer believed in God. Templeton raised questions that bother many people: Why would a loving God allow pain and suffering? How could God send people to hell? How can Jesus be the only way to God? After a couple of hours, there came a dramatic turn. Strobel asked Templeton what he thought of Jesus. Templeton said, “He was the greatest human being who ever lived. He was a moral genius. He was intrinsically the wisest person I’ve ever encountered in my readings.”
Strobel replied, “It sounds like you really care about him.” Templeton replied, “Well, yes, he was the most important thing in my life. I know it may sound strange, but I have to say.. I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. In my view, he is the most important human being who has ever existed.” Then as tears flooded Templeton’s eyes, he said, “And if I may put it this way – I … miss … him!” And he broke down weeping. Then, abruptly, he waved his hand and said, “Enough of that.” Changed the subject and ended the interview.
Like Templeton, many have left Christianity but miss Jesus. So how does a person come back.
The Way Home is Jesus.
Have you ever walked away from God? Maybe you’ve wandered far from your spiritual home. You rarely pray anymore. You don’t search the Bible. Yet something inside of you wants to return. Or maybe you’ve found the Christian life is too demanding and feel like giving up.
Some people have a strong sense of urgency that they need to get back to God, or even get to God initially. But they just aren’t sure how.
In John 14:1-6, Jesus tells us that God has a home for each of us. And like many, Thomas wanted to know how to get there. For some, there’s a spiritual emptiness, confusion and unsettling feeling. You’re drifting and can’t find an anchor. Something’s missing – Jesus.
The Tollway is Paid.
In our searching for meaning and peace in life, Jesus offers Himself in Matthew 11:28-30. It would be nice if I could tell you that the way home to Jesus is an easy highway. But the way home is actually a toll road. A toll had to be paid and it’s a steep one. But the good news is Jesus has already paid the price for you. The theological term is ‘substitutionary atonement.’ This simply means that Jesus paid the penalty you deserved for your sin when He died on the cross. When you receive Him, you receive His payment and your forever home is Heaven.
Performance is a Trap.
Imagine if someone paid your toll on a real toll road. Some people might be proud and not want someone to pay for them. Others might want to try to pay anyway. But the truth is, you can’t pay for something that’s already been paid for. You just accept it.
Can you imagine someone who tells God, ‘I want to pay part of the price to get to Heaven by doing good things.’ It doesn’t work that way. Or maybe others think, my debt is paid so I should try to pay God back by being the perfect Christian and doing things that will keep God happy.
But this is a performance trap. There’s nothing you can do that will cause God to love you more than He already does. You need to accept God’s love and love Him back and watch how He changes you to be what He wants you to be.
Life with Gratitude.
We have a choice: Performance or Grace. It’s not near as important how good you are as how good God is. He loved you before you did anything. All He wants from you is to receive Him, love Him, follow Him. He’ll do the rest.
There’s a lot of things we feel like we ought to do: read the Bible, pray, go to church, serve in a ministry, give money, etc. These are all good, but only good if we have the right motive. Give out of gratitude. Read the Bible and pray out of a sincere desire to draw closer to the God who loves you so much. Go to church because you want to worship God.
So that’s the best way to travel down the tollway of life. Grateful. We can’t earn eternal life on the front end or try to prove ourselves worthy on the backend. We’re just sinners who have been saved by grace.
Let me urge you to be honest with yourself. Maybe you are someone who doesn’t know the way Home. You need a roadmap. It’s in the Bible and we often call it The Romans Road.
Step #1- Admit your sin (Romans 3:23)
Step #2 – Realize the consequence (Romans 6:23)
Step #3 – Receive Jesus (Romans 10:13)
Before I end this, I want to tell you the rest of the story about Chuck Templeton. It turns out Templeton’s 8 objections to Christianity were the same ones Strobel had. So Strobel sent him a copy of his new book, The Case for Faith. Templeton’s wife, Madeline, wrote Strobel and said he had bad Alzheimer’s, cancer, and blind in one eye. But read him the manuscript. Stobel never knew if Templeton came back to Jesus. But his wife did say that right before he died, he said all excitedly, “Can you see them? Can you see them? Angels are coming to take me Home.” Maybe, this Prodigal son finally came home. Will you?