“Of all the enterprises in which the human heart engages, none lends itself more to abuse and manipulation than the activities of religion”. Ravi Zacharias ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’
Living here in the East (Bali) I cannot help but observe the manner in which individuals respond to the gospel. In the West, we constantly hear of accusations of the rapacious pastor, the materialistic lethargic parishioner and the watered-down gospel.
No such demons plague the church in South East Asia, is the prevailing view. The belief is that they are a simple people living off the land and the virtue of their rich history.
Then I went on an outreach into the villages and what I saw was equally as heartbreaking and frustrating. What concerns me is that no matter where we are in the world, the good news of what Christ did on the cross is often reduced to the material benefits of serving Him:
“If there was a God who could grant me healing and right standing with the supernatural without me giving up my cow, then I am in. If there is a God who could heal me from my sickness and didn't require me laying out gifts and offerings every morning at my door, or paying exorbitant monetary 'gifts' then I am open to listening to you, oh foreign person”.
The picture in the villages is one of harsh poverty and limited resources certainly. And I do understand that serving God does provide bonuses and I am glad the poor farmer is no longer bound to give of his last livestock for the sake of some animistic ritual or rite of passage. But how sad it is that what Christ has done is so easily thrown on the altar of self-gratification and hedonistic pleasure. How heartbreaking that only when God does something for us is He worth serving.
Somehow God is in the midst
Villagers may not hear “name it and claim it”, or “catch it and grab it”, but somehow God is still only about what I can get. I saw a willingness to come to Christ for healing and for reprieve from spending on lavish offerings but not a willingness to come to Him because He is God and Savior from our sins.
One sad thing I heard from the missionary doing direct work in the villages we went to visit, was that the same persons who would sacrifice a cow that was worth $800 when animistic, would now only give mere pennies in the offering when liberated by the gospel.
What is the remedy? Rapper Chance declares that we need less “candy-coated gospel” and more discipline and obedience. Rebuttals to him say there needs to be a balance. Some express that without touting hope and happiness many believers would be shut out of the areas of influence they have, especially in mainstream.
I can't take on the world and how to fix it. I can't even fix everyone here in the little village I stay in. My hope is that as Paul says, the truth of the gospel will prevail and the heart of man will change.
I never fully understood until now, why Christ turned to the Jews when they asked for a sign and reprimanded them for only following him because they saw the miracles He did. They too wanted bread for the moment, healing of their bodies, wealth and prosperity. But Jesus wanted them to have something greater. An eternal hope; one that doesn't disappoint.
Oh, that our eyes would be enlightened to that 'hope to which we are called', understand the 'power at work on our behalf' as believers, and the 'riches of Christ's glorious inheritance in the saints'. For then we will truly be blessed.
Stacy-Ann Smith - is doing missions in Indonesia and is a child therapist. She is involved with children's ministry and working girls and has a heart to teach them the ways of the Lord.
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