No Middle Ground
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Joh 3:17-18)
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (Joh 3:35-36)
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (Joh 14:6)
If there is one thing about Christians that irritates non-believers more than anything else, it is probably the claim of uniqueness of Jesus and the exclusive means of salvation through Him. This exclusivity is not a claim of one religion or manner of worship over another. It is not a question of one Christian sect or denomination over some other, either. The uniqueness of Jesus is about Jesus himself. It is a claim that there is no one like Him before or since, nor can there ever be another like Him. Whether you have a religion or not, worship God in a church or not, call yourself Christian or not, the claim about Jesus is that there is no salvation apart from the person of Jesus Christ. It is your relationship to Jesus that determines the condition of your soul. If He does not save you, you cannot be saved.
Non-believers may dismiss all the miracles of Jesus, including the resurrection, and belittle them as harmless superstitions and fables. But when we claim that only by faith in Jesus can any man be considered good, it is treated as some horribly intolerant attitude that just can't be accepted. On this doctrine, however, there can be no compromise no matter how offended some may be. It is "The Way" of Jesus or "No-Way" with no middle ground in between.
One of the common complaints is that this exclusive belief in Jesus means I condemn everyone who doesn't believe the same way. Let's get it right up front: Jesus said that man's refusal of God's grace is what condemns man. I can only repeat what Jesus said, take it or leave it as you will. I can no more condemn someone than I can save them. This belief in the exclusiveness of Jesus in no way changes how I treat other people. "All have sinned and fall short" is what Jesus taught. We are all in the same situation with regard to God. All need Jesus, you and me both.
So often I hear attempts by well-meaning people to try and compromise the claims of Christians. People will say that they can accept our belief in Jesus so long as we don't try to claim it is the only way. They say they can accept Jesus as a good teacher and wise man, just not some unique, divine incarnation of God. Some may even treat Jesus as one of many "world teachers" who give us an understanding of spiritual truths. But, they say, there are many great moral teachers, and you should combine the best of each, or choose the one most appropriate for your personality. I won't disagree that the world has seen many wise men who taught sound moral principles. But to put them on the same level as Jesus is total rubbish.
Where do they get the idea that Jesus was good and wise? What evidence for that claim can be produced? If you say Jesus is good and wise based on the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel, you can't also say he was only one of a number of good, wise men. Jesus' own words prevent that. Jesus is the one that said the things quoted above. He is the one that said there was no middle ground. If you claim that it was only his disciples who declared Jesus the unique savior of mankind, then why not say that his disciples made up all the statements of Jesus and be done with it? In effect, those saying Jesus was good and wise but not the unique Son of God and Savior of mankind are simply picking things from the Gospel to fit a pre-conceived idea. They have set their own understanding up as the final arbitrator of truth. That's why I call it rubbish. Either accept Jesus for what He said He was, or just quit lying and making stuff up. The claims of Christians are that Jesus and his teachings are not something you can add on to some other philosophy, and there is nothing to add on to Jesus either.
Non-believers in Jesus who try to create a middle ground can be understood somewhat. Unfortunately, there are many who claim to follow Jesus and then try to create their own middle ground as well. These are the people who declare Jesus as savior yet continue to rely on their own good works as a means of attaining righteousness. It's the belief that they can get credit for any good they do while throwing all the bad away by claiming the forgiveness of sin by the blood of Jesus.
That type of thinking implies that a man could theoretically do only good and thereby not need a savior at all. Perhaps, they will say, in a practical sense it isn't possible, but the attitude is there. It's the attitude of I'll do all I can and when I can't do anymore, or mess it up some how, then I'll turn to Jesus for forgiveness. It cheapens God's grace to a kind of get-out-of-hell, ace-in-the-hole, card that is to be played when and where needed. That is another type of middle ground that puts a person with one foot under God's grace and one foot in the field of man's self-righteousness. Again, there is no middle ground, and that type of thinking is just as dangerous as denying Jesus altogether.
That half-baked reliance on Jesus is born out of pride and egotism that wants to have something to boast about. It sets man's goodness on an equal footing with God. It is compounded by a lack of faith. It is a way of saying that what Jesus provides is not quite enough and we better get busy building up something to show to God to prove we are worthy and to fill in for what Jesus doesn't do. Oh, we'll rely on Jesus to save us, but only if we can't get the job done ourselves. More rubbish, is what I say.
Along the same line is the middle ground of the part-time Christian. This is the person that creates a religious compartment in his life and then goes along most of the time ignoring the things of the spirit. Its six-days for me, then one day for God, this person thinks. He separates his life into a worldly existence of doing what he wants and needs to get a good life, be successful, and only now-and-then putting his endeavors aside to do a little worship, prayer, or charitable works. That type of living is not in any way following Jesus. Jesus demands it all. All of our life belongs to Him. He paid the price of our redemption and we are to rely solely on Him in all our endeavors. Most, sadly, never come to that point of total commitment and trust and never see the miracle working power of Jesus because of it.
There are many other types of middle ground that people try and map out. There are those who rely on their Bible study, their well-reasoned theology, their understanding of prophecy, or some other such thing to lead them and save them. All of these can be summed up as man's attempt to stand apart from God and rely on man's own knowledge and will power for all or part of his existence. It is nothing less than manifest human pride and rebellion. It is an unwillingness to give to God all the glory and honor. It is a lack of faith in the power of Jesus to save and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead and transform us.
To truly come to Jesus is to recognize that there is no middle ground. There is no partial acceptance of Jesus, only a total laying down of our will in return for salvation. We are either standing behind Jesus, relying on Him for our covering, or, we are standing in front of Jesus with nothing between us and the world, the flesh and the devil. That's not a good place to be.
There is no middle ground.