The faith one holds should be able to answer the bigger questions of life in order for it to be authentic and true. It concerns me when Christians and church leaders present a watered down gospel that only appeals to the physical and emotional psyche of the followers; a gospel that does not answer life’s most important questions and cannot be relied on when people face the true tests of life.
When we go for evangelism and we present a gospel that promises good life according to our understanding, then we misrepresent Christ and set up people for disappointment. Salvation is the most important thing that can happen to the life of an individual, it is the event that ushers them from darkness to the kingdom of light. The miracle of being raised from the dead is lesser in importance to that of salvation because spiritual death (separation from God) is far worse than physical death.
Major vs minor things
When people come to Christ, their lives may change for the better, but that is additional to them knowing Jesus. They did not come to Christ for a job, a spouse, a car, food …….…. they came to Christ for eternal life which is knowing God and Christ whom He has sent.
By believing in Jesus, their troubles may increase (as Jesus promised), more enemies could be added to their list, problems never known before could appear, simply put because salvation is like swimming upstream, against the tides of this sinful world. Andrew Wommack says that if you are a Christian and you do not bump into or clash with the devil then you two might be heading in the same direction.
Christianity is finding meaning and purpose in the midst of all situations (good, bad and ugly), it is finding peace even when things don’t make sense, it is being weak in body but strong in Christ, it is being able to do all things through the one who died for us.
I am always conservative when I hear numbers of conversions being reported from the mission field. Am saying this respectfully and not to judge anyone but I have been there and sometimes the gospel that people agree to is not representative of what the bible really says. We paint pictures with our testimonies of how Jesus turned our lives around and now we have this and that (mostly material stuff) forgetting that the person we are ministering to, may come to Christ and lose everything.
Such converts follow Jesus not to know him but hoping to get things from him, like those who followed him for food.
The question is, will their newly embraced faith still hold when they lose everything? Will that gospel you preach hold in persecution and in extreme suffering? Will it hold in the despair of broken relationships? Will it hold in success and in material abundance?
Of course the gospel is not a crash course conducted in one evangelism moment, converts will have to be discipled into mature Christians. The point here is that the true gospel should be shared at that point of evangelism.
So what questions does your gospel answer?
Do the following thoughts come to mind when you think about your faith in Christ: Dying to self, picking up the cross, seeking first His kingdom, loving your enemies, and suffering for the sake of Christ?
If not, again, what questions does your gospel answer? Have you, like many of us focused on the things Jesus said will be added rather than seek him first?
The faith we profess should be able to answer the big important questions of life. Questions of origin (where did I come from), purpose (why am I here), destiny (where am I going) and morality (what is right and what is wrong). If your faith does not answer one or more of these questions, then you should go back to the drawing board and find the answers.
Only by answering these questions can faith be reliable through joy and suffering, only then can it transcend circumstances and culture.
Serving with purpose
Serving others (ministry) is so much more fulfilling and a blessing with the understanding of these fundamental questions.
John 14.3 is a very interesting verse, it comes just before Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, it says that ‘Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God…..rose up from supper and laid aside his garments and took a towel…’
Jesus went on to wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus served his disciples from a point of understanding his identity, origin and destiny. Likewise we should have the big picture of our faith, an understanding of our identity, purpose and the eternal significance of what we do.
If you find a ministry where people often complain, fight, blame each other, seek power and want to be seen then the problem is that they don’t have an eternal perspective of what they do. They simply don’t know why they are there.
Faith that only answers material questions will always fail. It will never see fruits and certainly it cannot be explained and embraced by another generation.
This could be the reason why churches are closing down in Europe. I will give an example of Russia because I studied there. In the early 90s there was a ‘revival’ in Russia, many people embraced Christianity (orthodox, catholic, protestant). The USSR had just broken and individual countries were struggling to find a footing. Russian economy was failing as oligarchs looted the country left right and centre.
There was much lack, people were suffering and faith in God gave them so much hope in the midst of the trouble.
Fast forward to 2013 when I left Russia and the churches there had a record low attendance. Many of those who accepted Christ in the early 90s had left church. My personal opinion is that many of them ‘prospered’ and didn’t feel like they needed Christ anymore.
Just like other parts of Europe, they did not pass on that gospel to their children; I think it is because it did not mean everything to them. Of course children grow up and embrace their own ways but most of them did not see authenticity in their parents’ faith.
‘Faith’ may have answered some questions at the time they needed it but did not transcend their circumstances.
I have to mention here than many have come to Christ because of the circumstances they have gone through and have been able to stand. But they have stood because they went further than the experience, dug deeper, embraced God’s promises and trusted him for more.
Is African Christianity heading this way? Is religious fanaticism our version of belief in God? Are we on the path of a form of Christianity with no power of Christ himself?
This is why prosperity gospel will never stand the true test of life. When God ‘blesses’ them with those material things they have been seeking, those things that never truly satisfy, they will leave, with nothing more to find in Jesus. Most of them will physically come every Sunday and fill the pews, but they left long time ago.
Wonder why it looks like most Christians can’t stand for what is right in society and in government? It is because their faith in Christ does not answer the big questions. To them morality has nothing to do with the God they believe in.
They will pray for a job but never stand for truth when faced with an integrity test in that job. They will pray for a car, a spouse, a house but never for something called God’s leading and direction in their lives.
But our faith should always be the same, in abundance and in lack, in the valley and on top of the mountain, in joy and in suffering, in weakness and in strength, in sickness and in health, in failure and in success.
Have we been presenting a gospel that gives little answers to little questions of life? Maybe it is time to speak the truth, to talk about the cross, about seeking first His kingdom, about dying to self. Maybe it is time to be the true light and salt of this dark world.