Won’t a Good Moral Life Get Me to Heaven?

June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a common misconception, but it’s something that we really need to ask ourselves and think about. God is a Holy God, righteous in every way, even one sin cannot dwell in his presence. He is all powerful, all present, and all knowing. He desires us to be holy. We find this in the following verses:

Matthew 22:37-38

37Jesus replied, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

 

Leviticus 19:2

2″Say this to the entire community of Israel: You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

 

The point is not about how good or bad we are, the point is how sick we are. We have a disease called sin that leads to death and judgment. This disease causes us to rebel from God and to use other things as idols to satisfy our needs. We find this in the following verses:

Isaiah 59:2

2But there is a problem–your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

 

Isaiah 53:6

6All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.

 

Romans 3:23

23For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

 

Romans 6:23

23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

This rebellion, pride, arrogance, and feeling that OUR works are sufficient actually make us enemies of God. We find this in the following verses:

 

Proverbs 15:25

God smashes the pretensions of the arrogant; he stands with those who have no standing.

 

Proverbs 21:4

Arrogance and pride – distinguishing marks in the wicked – are just plain sin.

 

Jeremiah 50:31

“Do you get it, Mister Pride? I’m your enemy!” Decree of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies. “Time’s run out on you: That’s right: It’s Doomsday.”

 

Matthew 23:12

If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

 

Galatians 6:3

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

 

I would then say it is important to consider these matters and take them seriously because God is the true Judge. His verdict is eternal. We find this in the following verses:

Hebrews 9:27

27And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment,

 

Matthew 10:28

28″Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

If the person I was sharing with still was not convinced that his good deeds were not sufficient for salvation, I would then share with him about sins of commission and sins of omission, and then follow that up with the story of the rich young ruler. If they were convinced I would then transition to the atonement, conversion and eternal life focusing on the fact that people are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

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Cultural Obstacles to the Gospel in a Hindu Context

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

In addition to the stumbling blocks identified by Pani, I would offer three other obstacles to the gospel. The first obstacle is determining proper contextualization of “cultural” elements by identifying bridges and barriers to the gospel. The second obstacle is realizing our own ethnocentrism to identify personal and cultural idols. The third obstacle would be using the understanding of contextualization and ethnocentrism to shift focus to empower and enable the indigenous church.

Culture is similar to religion in that it is so varied and vague that it has become no longer useful. I would offer that it’s time we define “cultural” elements as social organization, customs and traditions, language, arts and literature, religion, forms of government, and economic systems and ask missionaries and academics to attempt to use these elements to make their arguments and offer solutions wherever possible. Ethnocentrism is judging other cultures by the standards of your own while assuming your own culture to be the best. Until we understand the implicit beliefs that we have acquired through our own development psychology and how the gospel can help us to identify and work through them then the cultural bias of ethnocentrism will be a major obstacle.

In order for the indigenous church to be empowered we will have to continue to seek transformation in moving from a short-term to a long-term view. As missionaries we will have to move from placing the primary focus on results to developing relationships with great depth and intimacy. In situations of great uncertainty and ambiguity it is a natural tendency to rely on preconceived and idealistic notions , and past experiences or the experiences of others, but sensemaking requires a great deal of cultural research and reliance upon God’s will in order to discern his mission, in this case for the Hindu.

Training, research, prayer and sharing best practices can help us to deal with the obstacles before us so that the gospel might be preached effectively in a Hindu context.

D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)

Cultural Religion vs. Unadulterated Gospel in the Hindu Context

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Do you agree with the high caste Hindu who stated that these missionaries have been totally unable to distinguish between the cultural religion they tried to preach and the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ as seen in the New Testament?

I do not agree with the high caste Hindu who stated that missionaries have been “totally unable to distinguish” between “cultural religion” and the “unadulterated gospel” of Jesus Christ. I think the high caste Hindu is using hyperbole, an exaggeration to evoke strong feelings and create a strong impression. First, I think this is unfair to the missionaries that have left their homes to live out the gospel among the Hindu people. Two, I think this statement vastly underestimates the difficulty in making sense of foreign cultures and discerning how to best share the gospel message. Third, the terms “cultural religion” and “unadulterated gospel” are not defined so the reader can only guess the meaning.

I assume that the Hindu would define the cultural religion of the Pharisees as Judaism, and the cultural religion of Western missionaries as some type of Phariseeical Christianity neither which lead to salvation. If so, I would wholeheartedly disagree that Western missionaries somehow have not been able to preach a saving gospel message the Hindu people. Finally, I would argue that the “unadulterated” or “pure” gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament was because of the messenger not the message. Jesus preached repentance due to the Kingdom of God being upon us, but he lived out the gospel in his death and resurrection (without sin). Missionaries, as fallen people living in a fallen world will most definitely have difficulty in overcoming their personal worldview in order to understand the worldview of the people to which they hope to minister.

D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)

Reaching the Jains with the Gospel

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Key challenges in reaching the Jains with the gospel are that the Jains are not of one mind, either in lifestyles or in religious beliefs. No ultimate authority exists for the Jain community. Many Karnataka Jains are wealthy, educated and of high caste. The Jains maintain very close family relations that are related to their religious beliefs. Many of the marriage and social customs follow those of the greater Indian society. Other challenges are the close knit community and social structure, the emphasis of philosophy over religion and the cross. According to Dr. Martin’s lecture other challenges that have been observed are that Jains seem very open to speaking of other religions. However, they make it clear that a change of religion would not be acceptable to them. Of these challenges I consider the greatest challenge in reaching the Jains with the gospel relates to the matter of authority (Karnataka Missions Network, 31).

No source of absolute authority exists in the Jain religion, however this claim is exactly what the Bible maintains regarding itself. Gospel proclamation among the Jains will constantly struggle with this authority issue. In regards to the authority challenge I would also suspect that accepting God’s redemptive work being accomplished through the sacrificial death of Christ will prove to be an enormous challenge to the Jain mindset (KMN, 31). Jains not only practice non-violence toward all animals, but to all living matter. However, the Jains do have a concept of doing the greater good, that is, it is permissible to harm another being in order to attain a greater good . They will build temples that require digging and possibly killing underground life. They permit injury to humans if that injury is inflicted while defending one’s family or a temple (KMN, 15). This greater good concept may provide a gospel bridge to the Jains in relation to Jesus stating “Tear down this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days.” John 2:19.

This challenge must be addressed using the various strategies to reach the Jains that was discussed in the lecture. Fervent and strategic prayer encompassing and leading up to a missionary connecting with the Jain community. Cultivating relationships in the community to build social capital with a long-term perspective and authentic investment in the community. Pursuing an indigenous lifestyle in dress, diet and no use of leather or fur. Due to the value placed on non-violence in the Jain community, discerning how to be present the overall story of the cross in a manner that is least offensive culturally. Seeking bicultural or expat Jains in the States for fact-finding or feedback or a church in Bangalore to partner with in his efforts to evangelize and gain influence among the Jains. Finally, as opposed to many lifetimes of ridding oneself of karma, the Christian is saved in only one lifetime. Salvation through faith, not works!

Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks

June 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pani’s three unnecessary obstacles placed in front of the gospel by western missionaries are cultural superiority, rights and rebellion, and control. The problem of cultural superiority is portrayed as Western arrogance, demonstrated by narrow-mindedness and lack of teachableness versus Eastern humility. In Pani’s view cultural bias is demonstrated in the inability to differentiate between Hindu culture and Hindu religion.

The problem of rights and rebellion is depicted as a struggle between Western individualism, demonstrated in personal creativity versus Eastern community which views this individual expression as rebellion. Pani argues that Western protest mentality and imperialistic attitudes work together to build a church in India “liberated” from Hindu society. Pani contrasts what the Hindu sees as “social order”, the Protestant sees as “subjugation and despotism”. The Hindu sees assisting “rebellion”, the Western missionary sees assisting in “liberation”. Pani ends his argument on rights and rebellion by stating that, “the early church was focused on the liberation of the soul, not the exercise of personal rights.”

The problem of control is represented as an opposition between Western self-determinism and Eastern fatalism. The Western mindset intent on external control versus the Eastern mindset of self-control. Pani ends this section on control with the the statement that while, “one system teaches people to expect less of God, the other system teaches people more of self.”

D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)

Eastern Religious Traditions vs. American Christian Evangelism in Gospel Witness

June 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chinese popular religion is a mix of many different traditions and emphases, including major festivals. Evangelism in the western mindset tends to be very individualistic focusing on the need for a personal relationship with God, individual judgment upon death, individual sins and the opportunity for an individual decision to follow Christ. However, Chinese culture is group oriented either communal, communist or collectivist focusing on the relation of the individual towards the group. Attributes and characteristics that Americans are comfortable with in sharing the gospel will put off the Chinese. A unified witness from various Christian groups has a greater impact on the culture and it is very important to include those who have come out Buddhist context in witnessing.

American culture is very direct and easily confrontational in that Americans are usually not at all hesitant to let someone know agree or disagree, to take a vote and pronounce winners and losers. Chinese culture however has less direct interaction due to the importance of face. Many Asian cultures won’t vote but will talk until a consensus is developed, then make the decision based on the consensus as a face saving measure. There are also special relationships known as guanxi that are supposed to function as the conduit for every important social transaction.

Missionaries must adopt the role as learner to be able to distinguish between the religion and the culture so that the gospel can be truly at home, “incarnate” in the receiving culture. The gospel has not gained traction to the Han Chinese primarily due to missionaries disparaging everything Buddhist and the literature being very judgmental. People movements only take place when the gospel becomes incarnate, and effective Christian witness must not despise the Buddha or Buddhism.

American culture allows for public displays of emotion, but Chinese typically hide their emotions in a public setting. When witnessing to a Buddhist culture we should allow for philosophical discussions as well as power encounters. Personal people contact should be used over public preaching. A long-term focus, planning range of Christian ministries that target the whole individual. Keep focused that the message is Christ not a denomination or ourselves.

The above matters become significant in relating the gospel when we consider the nature of American Christian evangelism as individualistic, confrontational, and often emotional (Corduan). There are so many different people groups variations in Asia it is important not to assume any cultural or religious uniformity. Many of the traditional religions in Asia are non-exclusive in their thinking mixing and matching their emphases making it very difficult to present that there is only one way. Ultimately, however, we must remember that the gospel is not proposing the change of cultures, but the change of hearts.

The Roman Road for Sharing the Gospel

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

1. Who God is

Romans 1:20, “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 men are without excuse.”

Romans 11:33-36, Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

2. Who Man is

Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.”

Romans 3:10, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”

Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

3. Who Christ is

Romans 1:1-4, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God– the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 8:3, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”

Romans 8:31-32, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

4. What Christ has done

Romans 3:22-26, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

5. What You must do

Romans 10:9-13, ”That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

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