There are 2 things I need to clarify and underscore from what I said in Kingdom 50. First, please note that the 4 questions approach I shared in Kingdom 50, is only an approach. Not a formula. That actually is more for us to understand the good news clearly in our own minds first before we attempt to share it with others. And before we can share anything, I said this already but let me say it again, we need to discern if the person is listening in the first place.
A long time ago, I read this somewhere, someone said the problem with Christians all over the world is that they are always trying to give answers to questions that people are not asking. If you are not asking a question, the answer someone is trying to give you is quite meaningless, right? I mean imagine if someone comes up to you and tries to teach you how to bake a cake when you never asked for it, and you have no interest at all, nor do you see any reason why you should be interested in that. You might say, but surely salvation and the meaning of life is not the same as baking a cake. Isn’t the meaning of life and the eternal destiny of people the most important thing of all? That’s what we might think, but not everyone thinks that way.
Many people have concluded that there are no answers and no one can be certain. That’s because of, I think, a pervasive skepticism and unbelief nowadays, that has been spread from the West to the rest of the world. As soon as you try to share with anyone, many think you are trying to impose your views on them. I’m not saying don’t share with anyone unless they are seriously seeking. Because perhaps your sharing might start that seeking in them, but the question I think we need to ask is, how can people first of all come to the point of seeking answers to the meaning of life? Something we need to think about. I’ll talk more about this later.
Second point is this, when I said the rich man did not need to be told that he needed to be born again, I do not mean that he does not need to be born again. Everyone needs to be born again. Jesus said that’s the only way to enter into God’s Kingdom. But the fact remains that Jesus did not tell him that he needed to be born again. What he needed to hear was something else. Each person needs to hear only what he needs to hear at any given point in time. Whether people realize it or not, I believe everyone is actually on a spiritual journey of discovering the meaning of life and each person is of course at a different point on their journey. What may be relevant for one may not be relevant for another.
We live in a very diverse world. In one part of the world, in affluent Europe, people are fighting to have the right to euthanasia, or assisted suicide. In another part of the world, people have been pushed by forces beyond their control to end their lives. More than 100,000 farmers in India committed suicide in the last 10 years. Talking to someone contemplating suicide in Europe would be very different thing from trying to talk with a farmer in India who is about to commit suicide. What is necessary and meaningful for one might be totally meaningless for another.
So we need to discern where each person is at on their spiritual journey. If someone is trying to survive and their attention is focused only on trying to get their basic needs of water, food, clothing and shelter met, they will probably not have the time or attention to think about the meaning of life. We must help them with what they need first. It will not do to talk with them about becoming disciples of Jesus until their basic needs are met first. Jesus fed the hungry before He told them that life is more than food. Otherwise how can the good news be good news to them? We would have to be the good news to them first before we can meaningfully share the good news with them.
Some of you have heard me share about the woman who showed up at a church after an earthquake. This happened somewhere in India. I won’t mention where. She showed up asking for some rice for her family. The guy at the church told her that she had to listen to the gospel first. She looked like she had probably walked many miles to this church and she looked like she really needed a drink and some food, but this guy took no notice at all of that. To him, the most important thing was she needed to be saved. Never mind if she and her family had not had any food to eat or water to drink in days. He did not even ask her if her house survived the earthquake or if anyone had died or was injured and needed help. The poor lady was so disgusted and disappointed by that church worker’s response, she walked away in tears. What would she think of Christians and of Jesus after that?
We might say c’mon people should not be so confused in their minds. Christians or the church is not the same thing as Jesus or God. But you know what, not many people can distinguish between the two. And why would anyone be interested in hearing about the God that someone worships if that person comes across as an uncaring religious bigot, right?
On another point, I already mentioned this in Kingdom 49 about how people nowadays are not as simple as they were 30 – 40 years ago. I think many people might need healing or a straightening out of some twisted ideas in their minds first before they can even understand the gospel. I’ve been teaching in many countries. After 23 years of interacting with people from many different cultures and nations, I’ve found that not many people can think clearly. I think like how there are adult literacy programs for people to first learn how to read before there is any point in giving them a tract or Bible portion to read, I think for some people there might be a need to teach them to think first before we can share the gospel with them. Somehow in their growing up they might have missed some vital processes that are necessary for clear thinking.
So many people, including the educated, are so confused in their minds by their culture and their environment and their upbringing, and the biases and prejudices that they have absorbed, that they simply cannot see past the cobwebs in their minds to understand a simple presentation of the gospel. A lot of this I think has to do with their worldview which I shall talk about later.
I recently met 4 neurosurgeons that were trained by the most prestigious Christian Medical Hospital in India. They told me that the West and Christians should have stayed away from India completely. They attributed all the problems in India to the West and to Christians. They said the West and Christians had done nothing for India. This is despite the fact that they themselves had obviously benefited from the medical training they got from that hospital which was set up by Western missionaries. How they could reconcile that self-contradiction is hard to understand, but clearly what they needed was something else before the prejudices in their minds could be removed. Otherwise all that I was trying to communicate to them was being filtered and was being misinterpreted.
It’s not just bias and prejudices in cultural upbringing that affect the minds and understanding of people. There are also deep emotional wounds that affect the minds of people. Many young people today I think are so damaged in their minds and emotions by their exposure to distorted ideas of reality that they cannot even appreciate what love is, or what responsibility or accountability is, or what trust means. In that case, how can we talk to them about an abstract God who loves them or that they are accountable to Him and will be judged by Him, or to put their trust in Him? In other words it is not such a straightforward thing to share the gospel with people. Some people have to go through healing and others might need to go through various stages of having their filters removed first before the truth can be appreciated.
This is true even for people who are in church. Jesus asked people, “Who do you say I am?” Some saw Him as a good teacher. Some saw Him as a prophet. Many today see Him only as the founder of a religion. Nothing more than that. Even in the church, many in the church today see Him as someone who died for them 2000 years ago to save them from hell. And today? Well today He protects us and blesses us. You know what I mean? I could be wrong, but in my estimate I think more than 90% of people in churches today have yet to have a real encounter with Jesus.
Even in the gospels, we see that Peter had 3 encounters with Jesus, before the stark reality of who Jesus is, finally hit him. The first was when his brother Andrew brought him to meet Jesus. The second was when Jesus healed people and cast demons out of people in his mother’s place .. or was it his mother in law’s place in Capernaum? The first two encounters made no impact on him at all, it seems. It was the 3rd encounter, when he caught no fish at all, after a whole night of fishing – you know the story – that’s when he finally gave his life to Jesus. What was it that finally opened the eyes of Peter? Something for us to think about.
Having given you the 4 questions approach, I must share with you how I came to know the Lord. When I first heard the gospel, all that my friend told me about why Jesus died on the cross for me, actually made no sense at all to me. But when he told me that God has been waiting for me for a long time, waiting for me to return to Him, it was like God Himself spoke those very words into my heart at that very moment. Later that night, alone by myself, I got down on my knees and gave my life to the Lord. Not just accept Christ so that I can be saved. In fact I wasn’t even thinking much about hell or that I needed to be saved from anything. In my case I actually heard God calling me to Him and I surrendered my life to Him.
BTW, I was once in a missions conference .. this was many, many years ago, and the speaker asked how many in the audience came to Christ and gave their lives to Christ when they first heard the gospel. There were only 2 hands that went up among more than a thousand people there. One was mine and then there was another guy. We were the exception. Usually people take longer before they come to the place of surrender. But the point is this, at the end of the day, it’s not a question of being convinced in the mind. Every person needs to have an encounter with God and hear Him calling them to Himself.
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it