By John Smithwick
Pillars of Christianity- Keys to effectively reach those of world religions
If we look at Jesus, we observe by His teachings and presence how he removed barriers which separated people from the love of God and the light of the glorious gospel. He established bastions of the heart and soul that set apart Christianity from world religion. Jesus has captured the hearts of masses since He began His ministry by removing the requirements of world religion that deny relationship and demand performance, that replicate behavior modification through law and He replaced it with heart transformation. Like Jesus, you and I can do the same instead of debating. So, what are those distinguishing factors, bastions of heart transformation? They are “stand-alones” that set Christianity apart from world religion and I like to think of them as pillars. They are the 7 pillars of peace, power, passion, presence, purity, purpose, and prosperity.
Again, these were not derived from extensive research, although I do believe in research and am an avid student of the word myself. However, these pillars have emerged through the years, experientially on the field, by the leading of the Holy Spirit while breaking through the barricades of global religions to reach the lost.
Pillar 1 – PEACE
The first pillar is peace. We in Christianity have eternal peace with God our creator versus the total uncertainty of world religions. They are never certain. Romans 5:1-2 NKJ says, “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Oh, we know that we have peace with God. We live in this state of peace. When leading people to Jesus and afterwards asking, “What are you feeling right now,” one of the things I will hear them say is “I feel light” or “I feel tingling”. Another descriptive phrase they’ll say is, “I feel peace.” Alec Baldwin gave his brother Stephen Baldwin, a well-known actor, a hard time about his Christianity. The public was very aware of the situation so a news reporter early on asked Steven, “So, what is this about religion? You getting religion, becoming a Christian or whatever? Can you explain?” Steven Baldwin opened up and shared that he had fame, made millions, and had what most would consider true success, yet the one thing all that hadn’t given him was “Peace”. Through a relationship with Jesus he now had deep down peace. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I was with some of our staff while we were filming a chief Buddhist monk in Thailand. He had trained monks under him for over 50 years. We talked in circles for a little while but he finally admitted two things to me. The first, was that it is better to be a man than a woman in having a chance to reach nirvana. At the bottom of it all, they believe and practice Buddhism with the precept that if you are a woman you have no chance when you die to reach nirvana. In their practice, if you as a woman (mother) have a male child and he serves in the temple, hopefully he will earn enough merit to rid you of the karma in your life. Young boys are given by their parents and go through an elaborate ‘Going Forth’ ceremony through which they join the monastery and serve out their time. We in western culture talk about good Karma or bad karma. But, in Asia when they talk about karma they are fundamentally talking about sin. There’s not good karma. There’s only bad karma. Karma is simply humanities awareness of its sin nature. So, her son’s service as a young monk in the monastery is a woman’s only hope to reach nirvana, their ascendency over sin. They actually believe that all women must be reincarnated as a man to ever even have a chance at reaching nirvana. (No wonder there is such breakdown in these cultures when it comes to the value of women and children; and this breakdown fuels the atrocities of human trafficking and the sex slave trade). But it’s not just Buddhism, in one of our Global Ventures T.V. episodes I was talking outside a Hindu temple to some Hindu men who admitted as well to me saying, “We are very lucky. We are very fortunate that we were men.” So, there’s a huge uncertainty in the world religions simply based off gender. If you’re a woman you are told by your male counterparts throughout the whole culture that you don’t have a chance. That’s the underlying belief. But, even the chief monk that I interviewed had such uncertainty; he opened up to me and disclosed his skepticism. I asked him, ‘If you practice Buddhism perfectly do you know for sure that you will reach nirvana? He said, “No. No, there’s never any way to know for sure that you will reach nirvana.” That was the second thing he admitted to me. However, in Christianity, we have that certainty. In these settings, we can pick up right then and there and share how in our hearts we have peace with God all mighty through Jesus. It’s an open door into the gospel. We are literally containers of peace because Christ, the hope of glory lives in us. Jesus said as recorded in John 14:27 he has peace that the world cannot give, and that He gives it freely to us. What is that peace? It is the peace we have attained through Jesus Christ that invades every aspect of our lives.
Pillar 2 – POWER
Mark 16:15-20 and John 14:12 are the two cornerstones of everything we have pursued and accomplished by Gods’ grace through Johns Smithwick Ministries International, Global Ventures. They are scriptural declarations for the second pillar which is power. Mark 16: 15-10 (NKJ) 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. John 14:12 (NKJ) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
These scriptures talk about the power of the gospel and the power through us as believers to work miracles. I want to broaden this in referring to those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. We know that John prophesied the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:11, Jesus foretold it in Acts 1:4-5, and the accounts in Acts 2 and Acts 10 describe the baptism of fire which Jesus had foretold. We truly have the unlimited, self-sustaining, unstoppable power of God if we are in Jesus and have also been baptized in the Holy Spirit. We know that and it is reality. We’ve gone out and seen the miracles as we have ministered to people. I remember an old man I ministered to in Thailand who was what we would say “a real tough cookie” regarding opening his heart to the gospel. In the same setting God gave me a word of knowledge for a young couple that I encountered right after talking with him. What is “a word of knowledge”? It is God in His infinite love and power revealing something supernaturally that you could not know otherwise. By His power God suddenly reveals this knowledge of present circumstances in another persons’ life that you had no way of knowing, because He he wants to reveal Himself to them. God has all knowledge and because God had given me knowledge of their need I could speak right to where they were hurting in their present circumstances.
Two stories unfolded in this setting. The first story is about an old man who was sitting among a little group of locals who were gathered around tables in a type of tiny, thatched-roofed tienda, a little road-side shop. Some were waiting for a bus it seemed. Others were just sitting sipping on a tea or a soda pop and our GV team began to share the gospel. I went ahead and gently took lead in sharing for the team. I took lead because I could see that the people weren’t going to receive Jesus with the team that was sharing. The reason was because the old man began to oppose my team. He began to ask questions directly, harshly. We could feel it, the opposition to the Gospel. So, I just gently stepped in and began to answer his questions through the interpreter, Bob Scott, who was with me. The man was quite old and we knew in many Asiatic countries people will not go against the oldest person who is speaking, especially if it’s the oldest male. Our elderly gentleman sure fit the bill, because he was weathered and wrinkled and missing his front teeth. Although he was militant, I just kept lovingly answering him back. Right in the middle of his opposition, on the inside, I was thinking, “we’re going to lose the whole crowd.” Before, when the team was ministering, the people were ready and I could see it in their faces until this obstinate, aged man began speaking. But, suddenly it was as though he turned on a dime. I answered the last question and he said most emphatically, “Yes, yes, fine I believe now. I’ll receive this Jesus.” It was so abrupt that these thoughts raced through me, “Really? That easy now?” And, as soon as he said that the rest of the people began to pray with him the prayer of salvation. He had huge crocodile tears running down his face. In Asian cultures, it is very unusually for men to show emotion. He was laughing and crying all at the same time. Why? He was experiencing that peace, that unexplainable joy which happens in the new birth. In the same road-side tienda, there was a second scenario. It was a young couple in the group who I noticed wasn’t praying so I went over to talk to them. The man threw out a real strong argument asking me would you become Buddhist if I came to your country and started telling you about Buddhism? In my mind, since I didn’t know how to answer, the Holy Spirit began to take over and lead. If we will step out into these situations that aren’t comfortable, He will meet us and give us the words to say to meet the peoples’ needs. I heard myself say, “If you did come to my culture, my country, and you know much more about Buddhism than I do, what would you tell me that Buddhism could do for me?” I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty good,” after I had said it. This young man went on to say how Buddha would give you a wonderful way of living your life and that you will benefit morally from it. Numerous Asiatic religions espouse that the goal of all religion is to make humanity better. In many cases this is largely true. So, I went on to agree with him saying, “You know what, that’s true I know Buddha has some wonderful teachings and many of them are about morality and living morally.” Then I asked about a need that every person has in Thailand and America. “What could you tell me that Buddha could do to remove sin from my heart?” He and his wife had gone to university and he was very confident. As he was sharing, the word of knowledge began to flow and I began to pick up on the fact that she couldn’t get pregnant. After I asked the question about removing sin, he hung his head and then he looked up and he said, “Even if you do these things it will not remove sin.” I turned it on him gently, graciously and not in a mean way. I asked, ‘You knowing Buddhism better than I do, what if you endeavored to keep all these things and you did, would it remove sin from your heart?” He replied, “Even if I kept these rules perfectly it would not remove sin from my life.’ This is where the pillar of power became a link to share the gospel. That’s when I began to explain about Jesus removing sin, taking our sin at the cross. But, it was the power of that supernatural gift, the word of knowledge that truly spoke to them, captured them. I said I want to pray for you and asked, “Do you want children?” I could tell at that time what I was sensing was right. I could tell as her eyes began responding in tears. I went on and shared with her that I would pray that she could get pregnant. I told her that God wanted this for her and her husband, and that he would do this by His power because he loved them . They made a 180° turn from being proud and haughty to not only wanting me to pray for her to get pregnant, but also, to pray and receive Jesus as savior and Lord.
We all at Global Ventures know so well how notable miracles like blind eyes, deaf ears, crippled legs instantly cause people to believe right on the spot. But, sometimes if we are not careful we can overlook the flow of words of knowledge and the supernatural power of that nature. We don’t want to miss any opportunity. It is the power of God that so speaks to these cultures. I have asked nationals, up close in some of the filming, “Can you show us any works of power, or have you seen miracles of healing?” Whether it was the voodoo priests in Haiti or those in other world religions, they all answered no. In fact, the voodoo priest admitted he could only get people demon possessed. In that scenario, we had just seen blind eyes opened and crippled people begin to walk and other miracles the Lord had worked. He admitted that he could not bring the miracles as we know them. In 25 years of ministry I’ve never found a guru who could tell me on the spot, yes I’ve worked a miracle of power. I’ve never seen it in all my travels.
We have seen in world religions, contrived man-made rituals immersed in humanities’ wisdom as efforts to create power that removes fear, pain, hopelessness, the maladies of life without Christ. But, the scripture tells us that man is to rest in the power of God. He demonstrated that power through Jesus and the early apostles’ miracles, sign, and wonders. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 Paul emphatically states, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” The greatest manifestation of God’s power is the power that raised Christ from the dead.
Pillar 3 – PASSION
Passion is more the international word for compassion. In the Spanish and French languages when saying the word passion, it would be understood as love. So, the third pillar or ‘P’ is passion as in compassionate love. I remember in another nation a Muslim man was the taxi driver who would pick me up to take me where I was going for events and to one of the restaurants of the local town. With this taxi driver, right away he and I connected and he began to open-up and share about how he had disowned his daughter. I could tell this was a point of great grief for him and come to find out he had warned her. He was saying most vehemently with his hands, face, and vocal inflections, “I told her to stay away from that guy! That there was nothing good on his mind! Only one thing, and I warned her but she went against everything, everything religiously, everything morally. She broke my wishes and broke my heart! Now she wound up pregnant and he has left. So, I disowned her.” This was the Muslim thing to do. Despite all his seeming fervent fury, I saw past the intensity and his passion to his pain. I knew only the love of God could touch his heart in this situation and began to share the story of the prodigal son that Jesus told in the gospels. And as I began to speak, I included him as I said, “You know, our God, our Father God is like this father in this story. Our heavenly Father is like that. He doesn’t reject us and I’m sure now your daughter has seen the error of her ways. I’m sure that if ever there was a time that she was so sorry for what she had done, it’s probably now. She is probably wishing that she could come back and live in your home. She’s probably wondering how she’s going to make ends meet. And, no matter how we look at this situation, we musts face the fact that there’s about to be a little child born to your daughter. How is she going to provide for that little one? How is she going to feed…How is she going to care… I’m sure she wishes she could come and tell you, ‘Dad you were right.’ If we are like our heavenly Father, the story in the Bible is told that the father was constantly looking for the son that had taken his inheritance and squandered it. The son had spent it all on rivalry and horrible living and now He was living among the pigs. What disgrace this son must have felt as that father was looking at him. But, disgrace, that isn’t how God views us. He is looking longingly and lovingly.” This Muslim man hadn’t said much and I looked at him thinking, “Oh dear, is he upset.” Then, as I glanced over, there was a big tear rolling down his cheek. He didn’t say much. All he said when he dropped me off was, “You have spoken the truth. You have spoken the truth.” I got a knock at the door that evening. It was the taxi driver and he was with his wife. She seemed like if she wasn’t born again that she was at least Christian friendly. They were standing there and he was beaming ear-to-ear and said, ‘I am about to go with my wife and invite my daughter back into my home. Would you pray and bless our home?’ At that time, I wasn’t as keen in evangelism. I was younger then, but I grabbed their hands and blessed their home and prayed for God to bless it. No doubt they were impacted by the love and compassion of God. This was an encounter in the pillar of passion, the compassionate love of God. 1 John 4:19 says it all. We love Him because He first loved us. Jesus said in John 13:34 that we are to love one another as He has loved. We know from our own personal experiences and from the scriptures that it is the love of God that draws us to repentance, Romans 2:4. But, this compassion and passionate love that moved Jesus and abides in us by the Holy Spirit is void in global religion. That love is the greatest singular distinguishing pillar of Christianity because it was God’s motive for sending Jesus. It is that compelling and constraining force which flows through us to transform the hearts of the hopeless.
Pillar 4 – PRESENCE
The memory is still quite vivid of my first missions trip the summer of 92’. I was a student at Oral Roberts University and decided to go to the Peoples Republic of China by the Lord leading. While there on the ground I was teaching English as a second language to the English majors at a university and developing relationship. Through that relationship I had the opportunity to visit a temple. Now, of course, communism still reigns supreme in China, but, back then it was even more strict and demanding. Things have softened over the years because of more dollars and exposure flowing in from the west plus increased engagement with free enterprise. In this account, I visited a traditional Buddhist temple where an array of different Buddha statues was on display. They had different facial expressions, some contorted. Some were standing and others sitting and each was stylized differently. People were burning their little sticks of incense. I remember people coming and going but not so much worshipping, just looking and observing. I remember the first impression I had and it was, absolutely, dead. The place and atmosphere was just dead. It was so nothing. It hit me like a slap in the face, the religions of the world themselves outside of Christianity and relationship with Jesus, they are just dead. They are empty. I didn’t feel a spirit. I didn’t feel a weird goose bump. It was just dead. I looked and thought to myself, “How can people worship these ugly faces and statues of Buddha.” This scenario made no sense in my 20- year-old mind. I wondered why would anyone after seeing and tasting the life of God even consider this? But, see, that’s just it. Most of the world has not tasted of the life we know with the one true and living God. For the most part, they’re trapped in these systems that are dead. Stepping back and looking at a life of encounters over the past 20 years or so, yes there are spiritual manifestations and practices that show up like what I have described. However, on a grander scale in most of these areas of worship, the devil has people bound up and immensely oppressed from cultural religious practices and beliefs because it started during infancy and is carried out generationally.
A glaring memory is the first time we went out to that temple by the sacred river and watching this mother with her precious child go and buy little creatures beside the stream. A variety of critters are always available for purchase at these religious river sites. One could pick the snail paying a certain amount and put that in the bucket, then carefully select and pay for the turtles, or the el, each of them supposedly appeasing a need. Releasing each creature into the sacred river was to bring the person a different blessing. It is believed the el will help one navigate through the affairs of life or the turtle will provide protection. When a person bought the tiny little snails strung on a stick and dumped them into the river saying a Buddhist prayer it was supposed to cause one to do well in community. It broke my heart as I saw this little mother squatting down beside her baby with a tiny orange, corroded, dirty bucket dipping down to scoop up little critters. No doubt it wasn’t the very first time mother and daughter had done this together. As I saw that mother taking the child and helping the baby hold its delicate hands in the praying position, bowing her little head and then praying, it just broke my heart!
Daily I would see the boats come with their nets sometimes multiple times per day. The boat would swoop back down river and scoop up all the little critters that had been bought from the meager resources of villagers. They were carefully returned to the fishing area and money making stands ready for purchase again. It was heart rending. I thought about how this is all these villagers and countless others have ever known and about how they’ve never sensed the presence of the living God of the universe. Yet, we live in the luxury of the Holy Spirit who is with us and lives in us which is the ultimate of being in the presence of God. John 16: (AMP) 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. 1 Corinthians 3:16. Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
I think of getting into Taxis down in Peru, looking at pictures hanging from the rear-view mirror and statues glued to the dashboard of different saints while asking different drivers if they knew that they were going to heaven for sure. Do you know that we have seen repeatedly a storyline where going to an open-air festival in one night the taxi driver would have an encounter with Jesus and pray and afterward say, “I sense something all over me.” One said, “Look, the hair on my arm is standing up.” They are sensing the presence of God. We have driven by elaborate temples where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent, and yet riding down the road in a beat-up shoe box of a car the presence of God comes and fills it in a moment of time as we share Christ. It is so real, so tangible.
Years ago, in the nation of Burma, Myanmar today, I was in a meager home. Most of the homes there are very meager in Myanmar. Some locals went to assemble just 3 or 4 people but more like 5 or 7 had gathered, technically breaking the law. We were assembled to share about Jesus. A man was invited who had been part of the navy, a high-ranking officer. I want to say he was an admiral. He had had a stroke so his arm and leg had been affected. The Christian believer of the home where we were gathered had tried to talk with him. As I was speaking of the simple gospel I felt the presence of God come on me and through me. Thank goodness. That’s what separates us from all world religion. Here was this officer in Burma in a place which at that time was quite a militaristic dictatorship. The government opposed organized religion, Christianity to be more specific. And this man had rejected his neighbor’s attempts to share Jesus, but in one moment of me opening up the gospel to that small group I could tell he was totally engaged. As he listened intently to me, I could feel God’s presence flowing through me to him. (Now God’s presence is always there whether we feel it or not, however this time I felt it.) When I asked who wanted salvation, immediately this man raised his hand high and prayed receiving Jesus as savior and Lord. Afterwards he described why he responded so quickly, “When you were sharing there was something about your face. Your face looked so holy. And I could tell the words you were sharing were from God and were true.” Well, It wasn’t me! It was the presence of God, the glory of God. I felt God’s presence, and I knew this man had opened his heart and was drinking it in. In these type settings, it’s the presence of God that speaks to people and connects their heart to the Almighty.
Unlike the account in Burma, those of foreign religions must wait on their god or gods. An example is when we were in Ethiopia I wanted to share Christ with this witch doctor. My film team was filming me as I reached out to Abara, a witch doctor who considered himself a priest of this spirit god. Abara would supposedly conjure up his god to manifest and give dark prophecies to people. When I asked him to show us his god in manifestation, he said, “I cannot because the god had to be summoned from the mountain across the land, far across the country.” I said, “We will come back later to see.” He said, “No. I must prepare all day. I have to be ready.” His god was inconsistent and temperamental. Thankfully our God is not; He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you to the end of the age, the end of the world.” Thank God, Jesus is closer than a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He’s closer than the breath that we breathe. It is so real and is what the world needs, an encounter with His presence, who He is, and His personhood.
Pillar 5 – PURITY
The holiness of God is pure. God is pure and He is Holy. This purity, the Holiness of God, is one of the pillars that sets Christianity apart and can become a link for drawing the unreached to the heart of the Father. That very purity was so evident to me when our Global Ventures team was down in Belize because it was juxtaposed against morbid darkness. Our media team was there filming and we were directly across from one of their temples of ancestral worship which is pretty much the Belize version of voodoo. In that style of worship, it was quite apparent to us they attempting to call up ancestral spirits and to channel them wanting to contact their love ones. Tracing back in history, many of the people that settled in Belize are from the African cultures where horrible plagues and dark tribal practices thumb print the continent. Tribal traditions of witchcraft have been practiced for millennia in Africa as well as the presence of systematic plagues annihilating masses. From the horrific slave trade and what took place on the slave ships with statistics of how many died, we know there were great atrocities. No wonder these precious people whose heritage and cultural evolution are an outgrowth of such beginnings want to connect with their love ones. They know historically and have seen some die from such atrocities. We had simply collided with the fabric of their culture and everyday life and watched a desire to connect being acted out through Spiritism. You and I know they weren’t channeling what they believed were the spirits of their ancestors.
It was in this setting where we met a young man who gave us his personal testimony. His name was Kareem. We were by the ocean side next to the temple. Kareem was staring, looking out at the waves as they came in on the shore. As we talked with Kareem he began to describe how these ceremonies and culturally accepted channeling of evil spirits frightened him, freaked him out, because it always involved blood. They would usually give pigs and things of that nature in blood sacrifice rituals. Other people involved in the ritual would get him and force him into the temple, even though he said he didn’t want to go in and take part. If a person was open, they would try to persuade that one to perform the channeling of the supposedly ancestral spirits. Kareem began to talk about how he had lost a loved one. He said, “I knew it was him.” Speaking of an incident after the love ones’ death. “He died at a young age, and I knew it was him because, that moment the ancestral spirit came to this other family and they began to mock like they were dribbling a basketball.” Come to find out Kareem’s relative loved basketball and the family member this evil spirit came to (channeled through) would act like they were shooting a basketball. No doubt that was a familiar spirit, a demon that had hung around the family and knew them.
Clearly, other spirits that people try to channel and be in contact and relationship with are not pure. They are not holy. They terrorize people. We have seen first hand how their eyes roll back in their head, and they shake in weird ways. The people subject to the spirit moan making ghastly noises producing fear amongst the people. The result is the opposite of peace and blessing. In contrast with moves of Gods’ Spirit we hear people say there is a great sense of joy and the peace of Gods’ Holy presence in and on them. With channeling, we observed the very opposite. We can know things of God and yet at different junctures get a deeper revelation. During this encounter, I was jolted by the reality that God is a Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is good and pure and never forces anyone to do anything other than that which is right, just, and Holy. In the Old Testament, He is described as a Holy God. In John 14 we find out that God not only possesses the attributes of being Holy, He possesses literally one of the triune parts of God, the Holy Spirit. In John 14 Jesus begins to talk about the Holy Spirit and describe the personality and attributes that He, the Holy Spirit, has. John 14:16-18 (AMP) “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you.” We see in this pillar of Christianity how the quality of purity of Holiness is something that separates our God from all other religions. It offers them the free-gift of God that doesn’t require anything but receiving. Other religions try to debase when it comes to Spiritism, to debase humanity, and put down precious people. But, we bring a holiness comprised of love that purifies and frees the oppressed from such powers. This is a simple entrée into the message of salvation when sharing with people like Kareem .
Pillar 6 – PURPOSE
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my all-time favorite scriptures when talking with people, “For I know the plans that I have for you, God says, they are not plans of evil but plans of good to give you a future and a hope.” This scripture sums up the crown jewel of hope for the soul of man. God’s plans contain each persons’ hope for their life on the earth and eternal future in heaven and it is good. Most of the world does not believe or have the idea of god or their gods as being good and having a good plan for their lives. They don’t even have hope. But, hope as it is presented in this scripture and others is more than just about this life. We hear politicians and others talking about hope, however, they are not referencing the age-old concept of hope the Bible is referring to. If it’s hope for humanity, we are talking about the life to come. Jesus is the Hope of Glory to the world. He is the life to come. Jeremiah 29:11 embodies a future and a hope as in the future plans for ones’ life in the earth and eternal hope through Jesus Christ. God, the God we know, has both fully in mind and has fully provided both. If we carefully read the scriptures not only do we experience the future and hope of Jeremiah 11, but also, the Bible tells us His purpose in 2 Timothy 1:9, “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” So, God has a good plan for our lives that is the future we live out each day in the earth and then a hope being the life to come throughout eternity. It’s all in one giant package in and through Jesus. The world does not have that. One of our dear Christian leaders Naam, who was formerly Buddhist did not have that. Before she received Christ, she would regularly go and seek hope from multiple Buddhists monks. She was never sure of her future and had no hope, her purpose. She is a woman and therefore had no assurance of her eternity. She was not even sure of her present life before her salvation experience. Naam described how a monk had told her that by age 25 she was going to be in coma or have some abominable thing happen and she would be dead. In contrast, our God is a God of purpose and those purposes were set in heaven even before the foundations of the world. How beautiful and powerful. The wonder of it all is we can turn this into a platform to bring forth the gospel by simply reading this scripture of hope with the lost and talking about how in our personal lives our hope for the future was transformed by the presence of Jesus and God’s provision.
Pillar 7 – PROSPERITY
The world religions don’t aspire and preach that these gods are going to prosper you, that they will help you. In fact, just the opposite. Some foreign religions believe you are to rid yourself of everything in this world. It’s almost Gnosticism. You need to rid yourself in Buddhism of the delights of this life. That’s why many Buddhists now wear saddles. But in olden times it was considered that you were much more devout if you didn’t even own a pair of sandals as a Buddhist monk. One went everywhere barefoot until they awakened to the real world. Stubbing your toe on worn metal protruding from sewer covers is dangerous because your foot is the part farthest from your heart and is slow to heal. Finally, the Buddhists monks realized they needed some leather slippers or sandals. Their whole philosophy and the religion in its’ entirety is to abase yourself. For them it is not at all that God wants to bless you. Our God is just the opposite. Look what the psalmists says Psalms 35:27, “Let them shout for joy and be glad who favor my righteous cause. Let them say continually Let the Lord be magnified who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servants.” He’s a good God. It pleasures Him and gives Him joy to prosper us.
What is the mission for all of this?
From these many accounts, clearly I have been privileged to experience face-to-face, life encounters with people in regions throughout the world for past decades. Academics, by its inherent nature and appropriate to the vernacular, will approach world religion from a text book stance. But, text books aren’t living breathing people. That is why doctors have residencies and therapists complete an internship so they can put the clay of the text book on the potters’ wheel and design it to meet the needs of those who are sick and infirm physically and mentally. Likewise, to reach the unreached, if we have text book knowledge but we don’t have something that can match the hearts of people, it is incomplete. We can learn all about the “what” and “why” of what they believe and how they carry it out, but in the end, it won’t impact for change. Why? Because, we are not connecting with people’s hearts where the pain, hopelessness, helplessness, fear, and disappointment hold them captive. Short-term mass evangelism mission trips are the residencies and internships for doing just that. When done right, short-term missions can have a profound long-term impact on people who are going and here is why. On that trip, we will encounter first-hand parallel events like those you have just read about. You won’t just take your luggage. You will skillfully utilize these pillars of Christianity that are doorways to topple barricades by connecting the heart of the unreached to the love and light of God. Not only does that change their lives for eternity, but also, it has a long-term impact on you and I who are carrying the gospel to the lost. Those experiences give us a reality of God’s life in and through us that can only come by way of direct, eye-to-eye, face-to-face contact with people who are unreached and untold. When God touches our lives through His divinely appointed encounters in foreign lands and it’s for the life transformation of others through His presence and gift of Christ, we are branded magnificently for life with His love. Even a once-in-a-life-time experience of this nature seals the reality of the unreached masses whose convoluted religious lifestyles and hopelessness are trumpeting desperation for truth and love from the one true and living God. Hopefully, this article sheds light on the simplicity of the gospel and how to connect it through world religion commonalities. When we grasp the reality that Jesus through his life, death, and resurrection dealt with matters of the heart like peace, power, prosperity, passion, presence, purity, purpose and that those are the “stand-alones” in Christianity which respond to the seeking of the masses, short term missions becomes adventuring with Christ. It has a long-term ripple effect in a life, a family, a village, and a nation. You and I at any time can step into that mission because within each of us is the ministry of reconciliation and Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and preach the gospel.