Monday, February 24, 2014

Should Christians Practice Yoga?

Introduction

Yoga seems to have taken the world by storm. However, many remain unconvinced. So let’s maintain that yoga is rapidly gaining popularity.

Minimally and popularly, Yoga (Transcendental Meditation – TM1) is understood as a path of union with the divine in Hinduism. Yoga is any type of exercise (physical, mental or spiritual) that promotes an individual’s journey to a union with the divine.

The human psyche is usually tempted by that which is popular. In the world of marketing, the supreme endeavor is to invade into people’s minds by luring them with USPs (unique selling propositions). For instance, the slogan of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is, “Every bite of these crispy, golden flakes is just as delicious as the first.”2 Apparently, consistency, texture, flavor are some of the USPs of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.  

If Kellogg’s corn flakes are popular, we are motivated into tasting it at least once. If we like it, and can afford it, then we constantly consume it.

But if our doctor advises us against corn flakes, we are quick to eliminate corn flakes from our regular diet. But is it easy to eliminate that which we are addicted to? It may be easy for a minority, but for the majority, eliminating an addiction may be difficult and torturous.

So is it wise to exercise caution before integrating anything new? I would most surely think so.

It is in this backdrop we are to evaluate yoga. In other words, are we to practice yoga because of its popularity?

Yoga’s Development

You could watch this 20 minute video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KsIWDhuvyY) when you find time  to gain an initial understanding of Yoga and its development.

Some of us belong to a generation where we have observed yoga grow from minimal to a rapidly gaining popularity. But generations from now, people will consider yoga as something that has always been in most popular existence. Unless they research, they would not be aware that yoga grew in popularity in recent years.

We ought to be cognizant of this developmental dynamics of yoga. For to gain popularity, the promoters of yoga strive hard to disconnect yoga from its religious significance. How else would they lure non-Hindus to practice yoga?

This is one of the primary USPs of yoga today – that yoga is not a religious discipline and that yoga is not specifically a Hindu religious ritual.

Some Christians and Christian churches bite this bait to practice yoga. Then they become so dogmatic about yoga that they assert that yoga is fully compatible with Christianity. This is where mortal danger creeps in.  

Please watch this video where practicing Hindu’s are agitated, and quite rightly so, about the secular world disconnecting yoga from Hinduism. 





Our society, consumed by consumerism, desires to make a few quick bucks at any cost – even at the cost of disconnecting a religious component from its religious roots.

Yoga In Light Of Christianity

If you desire to understand the real power of yoga, you should read “Death of a Guru” by Rabi R. Maharaj, a former yogi. 3 Reading this book will not give you an opinion that yoga is non-religious. Yoga is a Hindu discipline.

Christians and Christian churches who practice or support yoga should think through their decision.

Did Yoga begin as a Christian practice? No, yoga did not begin as a Christian practice. Why? The Bible does not teach yoga explicitly or implicitly. This is certain.

Since yoga in its core spiritual essence is salvational, is there a similarity between yogic salvation and salvation taught in the Bible? The Bible teaches that man is saved (receives his eternal life) by the grace of God through his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation for mankind is only through Christ (Acts 4: 12; Romans 10: 9). Salvation, most surely, is not through yoga.

Contrarily, Hinduism teaches that man unites with his maker through yoga. The Vedanta philosophy, based on Upanishads, 4 teaches four paths to liberation (Atman is the Brahman):

1. Karma yoga (selfless service to work off karma)

2. Bhakti yoga (path of devotion)

3. Jnana yoga (path of knowledge)

4. Raja yoga (path of formal meditation)

Some may say that “Hatha yoga” (physical exercises towards self-transformation) isn’t salvific, so practicing Hatha yoga is not a concern. But Hatha yoga is deeply rooted in Hinduism. 5

Therefore, man is either saved through Christ or through yoga, certainly not through both. When Christians practice yoga, they are negating Christ.

But you may ask, “What’s wrong if I practice yoga only for exercises?” This is the juncture at which one falls into the enticement of those promoting yoga or Transcendental Meditation (TM).  

You may defend your practice of TM by quoting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who stated that TM is not a religion, “Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural program for the mind, a spontaneous, effortless march of the mind to its own unbounded essence…. Transcendental Meditation provides a way for the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence — active and silent, point and infinity. It is not a set of beliefs, a philosophy, a lifestyle, or a religion. It's an experience, a mental technique one practices every day for fifteen or twenty minutes.”6

But Maharishi also declared that TM is yoga, “Maharishi explained that Transcendental Meditation is Yoga. “I had to give it a new name—Transcendental Meditation…”” 7 Therefore, TM is yoga, and yoga is a Hindu practice.

Yoga has nothing to do with Christianity. In reality, yoga or TM is deeply spiritual and very much non-Christian.

At the heart of TM is a deep distortion of other religions to prove a point that these religions are harmonious and not hostile to each other.

False Teaching In Christianity To Encourage Yoga

Some false teachers within Christianity who encourage yoga8 emphasize that the yogic codes such as Yamas and Niyamas can strengthen our appreciation towards the Christian teachings. They maintain that the yogic codes resonate with the Christian moral teachings.

“Ahimsa” (non-violence) is one of the “yamas” (restraints) of the yoga sutras of Patanjali (an Indian sage - considered to be an incarnation of the mythical serpent Anantha, as some believe). It seems Ahimsa resonates with the Christian moral teaching “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Similarly, one of the “Niyamas” (observances) of Patanjali’s yoga sutras is “Saucha” (Cleanliness or purity). Saucha teaches the necessity of purity or cleanliness in body and mind so to attain union with God. Apparently, Saucha resonates with the cleanliness teaching of Matthew 15: 16-20, and prayer, fasting and Scripture reading that focuses on the cleanliness of the heart.

Exposing The False Teaching

At the heart of the false teaching that yogic codes are essential to appreciate Christianity is the notion that all religions should converge, and truth (from various disparate worldviews) is always convergent.

This is Syncretism (fusion of divergent religions) in full force. Syncretism presupposes an inadequacy of any single religion to comprehend the divine on its own.

But every Christian should understand that God can be adequately understood from HIS Holy Word – The Bible. Christianity does not require Hinduism or one of its practices, namely yoga, to help understand and believe God and HIS Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the significance of these similarities between Pathanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas with the Bible? None! There is absolutely no significance! So what if two worldviews teach similarly? Does similarity in teaching syncretize religions? No!

Hinduism and Christianity are two fundamentally different religions (Godhead, salvation etc). Certain points of interconnect in the teachings of these religions will certainly not harmonize these religions.  

Application

While it is a given that a Christian is to move away from yoga, what should he / she do when forced to do yoga?

Today’s dilemma is the teaching of yoga in schools. Our children are forced to attend these sessions.

It would be wise to move the child to another school where yoga is not a necessary subject. So the child can opt out of yoga. If moving the child out of the school is not possible due to various restrictions, then it’s vital that the child is aware of yoga’s danger. At the most, the child can go through the motions without getting involved. But educating ourselves and our children is of utmost importance.

What about stretching or breathing exercises? Anything that comes under the brand of yoga is a no-no. Stretching or breathing exercises is not a problem. So, one can do these exercises as long as it’s not connected to yoga.

Christians practicing yoga should get out of yoga by repenting and seeking forgiveness from God. It may not be an easy transition, but if we remain in Jesus through fervent prayer and reading of HIS Word, HE will surely deliver us.

Conclusion

Please think about this. Our God, the God of the Bible, is an Almighty God. HE says, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32: 27, NASB; cf. Genesis 18: 14a).

When nothing is too difficult for our God, why do we run to other gods through practices such as yoga? Running to other gods portrays a lack of trust in our God. While we run to another god, we are running away from the true living God.

Do we need yoga to heal us? Can the living God not heal our bodies and minds? Praying to our Heavenly Father and obeying HIS commands revealed in the Bible is the most viable solution for any of our problems.

God will answer our prayers. God surely has a good and a just reason even if HE does not answer our prayers according to our desires. However, it is mandatory to trust in the living God – the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We do not need yoga to be united with God. We only need to believe in Christ and offer our lives as living sacrifices to HIM, for God to dwell in us (John 14: 23).

When we honestly seek to love and obey the Triune God, HE will enlighten our hearts with HIS understanding, and will empower us to be HIS true disciples. Amen.


Endnotes:
1 Transcendental Meditation (TM) was promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who merely followed the philosophical thoughts of [Swami] Vivekananda and Yogananda. While Maharishi promoted TM, the popular English rock band Beatles popularized TM.

TM is yoga says Maharishi, “Maharishi explained that Transcendental Meditation is Yoga. “I had to give it a new name—Transcendental Meditation—because I felt Yoga has been commonly misunderstood in terms of the physical level alone.”

Maharishi said that a great Yoga truth is that “Yoga is superior action.”

“When you want a superior quality of action, then you should practice Yoga on all levels,” Maharishi said. “Yoga is a good word, but it should be properly understood and practiced beyond the physical level. The result will be a rapid, holistic evolution of life.”” (See more at: http://www.tm.org/blog/yoga/maharishi-on-yoga/#sthash.XcTwTbXg.dpuf)

2 http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/KelloggrsquosCornFlakes.html

3 http://globeservejournalofmissions.org/?p=206&m=200805

4 “The treatises that deal with brahma-knowledge are called the Upanishads and so pass for the Vedanta…The Upanishads more clearly set forth the prime Vedic doctrines like Self-realization, yoga and meditation, karma and reincarnation, which were hidden or kept veiled under the symbols of the older mystery religion.” (http://www.hindunet.org/upanishads/)

5 ""Lotus position” is one of the postures of Hatha yoga. Lotus is a deep symbol of Hinduism." Need I say more that Hatha yoga is a hindu discipline? (http://www.hindunet.com/faq/39.html)

6 http://www.tm.org/maharishi
[Question:] “What is Transcendental Meditation, exactly?

Maharishi: Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural program for the mind, a spontaneous, effortless march of the mind to its own unbounded essence. Through Transcendental Meditation, the mind unfolds its potential for unlimited awareness, transcendental awareness, Unity Consciousness — a lively field of all potential, where every possibility is naturally available to the conscious mind. The conscious mind becomes aware of its own unbounded dignity, its unbounded essence, its infinite potential.

Transcendental Meditation provides a way for the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence — active and silent, point and infinity. It is not a set of beliefs, a philosophy, a lifestyle, or a religion. It's an experience, a mental technique one practices every day for fifteen or twenty minutes.”

7 http://www.tm.org/blog/yoga/maharishi-on-yoga/


8 http://christianspracticingyoga.com/wp/yoga-our-perspective/yamas-niyamas-pranayama/




















Monday, February 17, 2014

Do Angels Visit Us Now?

Angels are God’s special agents. The Bible uses various terms for angels – ‘spirits’ (Hebrews 1: 14), ‘sons of God’ (Job 1: 6, 2: 1), ‘holy ones’ (Psalm 89: 5,7), ‘watchers’ (Daniel 4:13, 17, 23), ‘powers’ (Ephesians 1: 21), and ‘thrones,’ ‘dominions,’ ‘principalities,’ ‘authorities’ (Colossians 1: 16).

Angels, although obviously inferior to God, are superior to man (Psalm 8: 5, Hebrews 2: 7). Angels serve mankind, especially children (Psalm 91: 11-12; Matthew 18: 10; cf. Acts 5: 19, 12: 15).

However, I do not subscribe to the belief that there are individual guardian angels (one angel for every person), for the Bible does not offer any convincing support to this notion.

The Bible cites various angelic visitations (2 Kings 6: 15-17; Luke 1: 11; Acts 12 et al.). Angels have appeared in their original form or in human form (Genesis 18: 2; Joshua 5: 13-14; Mark 16: 5 et al.).

If angels appeared to people during the Old and the New Testament days, we can reasonably expect angelic visitations now, unless there is a divine prohibition for angelic visitations.

When this subject is discussed, some would vouch for angelic visitations alongside which there are others who would ridicule the belief of such supernatural occurrences. This is a given. But skeptics cannot alter the truth.

Searching for ‘angel encounters’ or ‘angel visitations’ in Google, yields several occurrences of angelic visits. While it may be hard to believe everything we read, the fact remains that such supernatural visits are indeed possible.

Why? Since the Bible says so. Moreover, credible sources have experienced angelic visitations.

J.P Moreland, a very well respected Christian philosopher and theologian, is a distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He explains his angelic encounter in this video. Please take a moment to watch this clip. 





I would not have ventured into writing this blog if I did not have an angelic visitation. But I do believe that I encountered an angel once.

The incident occurred in Mumbai in 2003. I was en route to Hong Kong. The domestic flight from Coimbatore to Mumbai was inordinately delayed, due to which I had only half hour to board my international flight.

But the International airport at Mumbai was a half hour ride by a cab or a bus in moderate traffic (the same time span in which I was to board my flight!). And there I was stranded at the domestic airport during the peak evening traffic hours.

I was informed that the airport shuttle would take me from the domestic to the International airport. But as soon as I got out of baggage clearance I was told that the airport shuttle was scheduled to leave 15 minutes later.

If I were to wait for the airport shuttle, I was sure to miss my international flight.

Time assurances in India aren’t necessarily sacrosanct. I didn’t want to wait for the airport shuttle. I was perplexed and angry.

Just then an auto rickshaw driver approached and assured me that he would take me to the international airport in 15 minutes flat.

I had no other option but to believe him. So I accepted his offer. But he had a word of caution for me! He cautioned me to hold on to the metal rod that was behind his seat. As a compelled passenger, I held on to that metal rod as if my life depended on it.

The next fifteen minutes was probably the most exciting fifteen minutes of my life! Although the auto rickshaw was thundering and weaving through heavy traffic at a very high speed, I felt rather safe!

To cut the long story short, the auto rickshaw driver took me safely to the International airport and I was the last passenger to board my flight.

The airport authorities wondered how I reached the international airport from the domestic in 15 minutes. They knew about the very late arrival of my domestic flight, and they knew the impossibility of the situation to reach the international airport at that time of the day.   

It is customary of the auto rickshaw drivers to extract large sum of money from their helpless passengers. But this man was radical. He took the exact amount his meter reading displayed. 

My friends who were familiar with the Mumbai traffic refused to believe this incident, for they said that it was impossible to cover the distance between the domestic and international airport during the peak evening traffic in 15 minutes.

But this was an unexplainable reality in my life. And even to this moment, I believe the auto rickshaw driver was an angel in human form. Else it was impossible to board the international flight, especially when it was unwilling to wait for one passenger and was scheduled for an on-time take off.

Although I believe in the Bible, this incident reinforced my belief that angels do exist and they do visit us.

But why do the angels visit us? Is there a pattern to their visit? In other words, when do the angels help us?
           
Even a cursory look at the table below indicates the presence of angels to deliver God’s people from their troubled situations. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that when God’s people are in distress, God would send HIS angels to deliver and comfort those in need.

People in Bible
Scripture
Context of Angelic Visitation
Lot and his family
Genesis 19
Deliverance
Hagar
Genesis 16
Deliverance: Instruction amidst duress
Hagar and her child
Genesis 21
Deliverance: Rescuing Hagar and her child
Israel
Exodus 14
Deliverance: Protection
Gideon
Judges 6
Deliverance: Encouragement
Samson’s mother
Judges 13
Deliverance: Instruction
Elijah
2 Kings 1
Deliverance: Instruction
Elijah
1 Kings 19
Deliverance: Encouragement
Hezekiah
2 Chronicles 32
Deliverance
Daniel
Daniel 10
Instruction
Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds,
Gospels
Birth Announcement
Jesus Christ
Matthew 4: 1; Luke 22: 43
Ministering & Strengthening Jesus Christ
Mary Magdalene & Mary
Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24
Encouragement amidst duress
Apostles in Prison
Acts 5: 19
Deliverance
Philip
Acts 8: 26
Instruction
Cornelius
Acts 10
Instruction
Peter
Acts 12: 7
Deliverance
Paul
Acts 27: 23
Deliverance, Encouragement & Instruction


The angels have also visited humans to convey instruction(s) from God. But we need not limit angelic visitations to specific instances such as distress or conveying instructions etc. God can send HIS angels anytime to fulfill HIS holy, pleasing and perfect will. Situations do not limit God.  

Let me add a word of caution here; while there are good angels that are in obedience to God, there are evil angels that rebel against God. While God’s angels would visit to help us, the Satan’s angels could visit to drive us away from God so to destroy us.

Any angelic announcement or intervention that contradicts God’s Word – The Bible, is from the evil angels, and is to be discarded immediately. The Bible is the final authority for mankind.

It is only when we remain in Christ would we have the ability to discern between good and evil (1 Corinthians 12: 10; 1 John 4: 1 - 3). So let us be watchful of these evil forces.

It is significant to observe that deliverance occurs only during distress. In other words, distress is necessary for deliverance. Therefore, while our innate inclination is to pray for a distress free life, let us pray for God’s will for our lives. And who knows, you may even have an encounter with an angel!

When angels do visit us, may we have the discernment to realize and recognize these supernatural occurrences in our life.

Have you had an angelic visitation in your life? If you have encountered angel(s), please do take a moment of your time to post your experience by commenting to this blog. May God bless and protect us from all harms and dangers. Amen. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Does God Save Those Who Never Heard About Jesus Christ?



This common question requires a reasonable answer.


First, is there a possibility of the existence of people who have never heard about Christ? Yes, there are tribes, even to this day, who apparently live in isolation from the rest of the modern world.1 So we can reasonably assume that isolated person(s), those unaware of Christ, have been and are still in existence. This video is about an isolated tribe in Brazil: 


Second, is this isolated person a sinner? Yes! The Bible says no one is righteous (Psalm 14: 3; Romans 3: 10), so this isolated person is also a sinner in need of redemption.

Third, should we be concerned about the salvation of those who may have never heard about Christ? Yes! We are asked to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so if we are concerned about our salvation, we should also be concerned about the salvation of those around us.
           
Fourth, the three broad and possible theistic answers to this question are:

(1) Yes, God saves those who have never heard about Christ.

(2) No, God does not save those who have never heard about Christ. 

(3) I don’t know (agnosticism).

(Atheists are either clueless about their post-life destination or could assert that there is no existence after death.)

If a Christian submits (1) as a reasonable answer, the answer implies that Christ is unnecessary for man’s salvation!! But historical Christianity affirms the necessity of Christ in man’s salvation.

So is Christ necessary or unnecessary? This tension needs to be resolved when we submit (1) as an answer.

But if we submit (2) as a reasonable answer, we need to justify the fact that these isolated people did not get to choose the place of their birth. If they were born into a Christian home or in the modern world, they would not have been placed in this position.

Then again, when God placed these people in their isolated locations, shouldn’t it be God’s prerogative to ensure that Christ is heard by them? So should not God be blamed for their predicament especially if HE does not save them?

If we resort to agnosticism, we are implying that the Bible does not say anything about this. In contrast, the Bible does have something to say about this situation. If the Bible addresses this situation, agnosticism cannot be reasonably justified.  

The Bible states that God is loving, just, and merciful. If God is truly loving, just, and merciful, HE should save isolated people. If God does not save these people, there ought to be a valid reason as to why HE does not save the isolated.

Now we know that God does not save people unconditionally, for mankind is saved only by faith in Christ through the grace of God. But the isolated people have genuinely not heard of God or Christ, so isn’t the problem in God’s domain?

The problem does not seem to be in God’s domain for the Bible says, “…It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does… (Romans 1: 19-21, Phillips, Emphasis Mine).

This passage states:

1. God has made HIMSELF very clear to man through HIS creation.

2. Since creation points to God, man knows that there is a God from that which are commonly seen and known.

So the problem is not with God. And man is without an excuse.

I need more faith to be an atheist than to be a theist. How can I observe the marvelous creation of God and still maintain that this marvelous creation is nothing but a product of randomness? Attributing randomness to God’s creation is absurd and insane.

Yet it was Marx-Freud’s view that the theist is subject to a sort of cognitive dysfunction.  But Professor Alvin Plantinga, one of the finest Christian philosophical minds of our time, negates Marx-Freud’s contention to state that cognitive dysfunction is innate to an atheist, not a theist. 2

The creation points to God. If I have to choose between the causal options of ‘God’ and ‘chance,’ I would certainly choose God as the Creator.

But does this isolated person acknowledge God as the greatest power in existence? Or does he worship a fellow being or a created object as the greatest being? If the isolated person ascribes greatness to himself or a fellow being or a created object, then he rejects God.

Because God has made HIMSELF abundantly clear to the isolated man, he is to acknowledge God as the greatest being. Therefore, I do not see a possibility of this person’s salvation if he rejects God.

But the general revelation (Creation) does not reveal God’s nature or HIS specific deeds (Trinity, Christ and HIS sacrifice etc). Specifically and to our context, knowledge of Christ is an outcome of a special revelation. Creation does not reveal Christ to the isolated person.

It’s a fact that God placed this isolated person in his isolation. Let us assume that the isolated person acknowledges God, yet is ignorant of Christ. Let us also assume that Christ does not appear to this isolated man in any form or manner – through missionaries, literatures, dreams and visions.

If this be the case, would it be justified to say that God would condemn this isolated person to hell?

Some Christians believe that God would condemn this isolated person to hell if he does not believe in Christ. Popular Christian Q&A website ‘Gotquestions.org’ states this, “If we assume that those who never hear the gospel are granted mercy from God, we will run into a terrible problem. If people who never hear the gospel are saved, it is logical that we should make sure no one ever hears the gospel. The worst thing we could do would be to share the gospel with a person and have him or her reject it. If that were to happen, he or she would be condemned. People who do not hear the gospel must be condemned, or else there is no motivation for evangelism. Why run the risk of people possibly rejecting the gospel and condemning themselves when they were previously saved because they had never heard the gospel?”3

This reasoning is based on two disputable premises:

(P1) A Christian will potentially discontinue evangelism and also prevent evangelism due to the lack of motivation to evangelize.

(P2) The isolated man may reject the gospel to be condemned, so it would be better off not to share the gospel to the isolated man and thus have him saved.

Premise (P1) could be disputed by the fact that man is saved by God through the means of evangelism. Man does not save man, for man simply carries the good news of the gospel, but only God saves man.

Moreover, human evangelism is not the only way to save man. God can appear to a man in dreams or visions to save him. 

Significantly, evangelism should not be performed as an obligation. Evangelism is an act motivated by love for God and fellow men. Therefore, evangelism should not cease at any point in time and for any reason.

Premise (P2) can be disputed as well. Even before the isolated man rejects the gospel, he gets to either:

(P2.1) Accept God (through the general revelation)
Or
(P2.2) Reject God
Or
(P2.3) Remain ignorant of God.

When the missionary reaches the isolated man, he is in any of these three situations.

If the isolated man has accepted God, the missionary’s job would be made easier to preach the gospel. Else if the isolated man has rejected or remains ignorant of God, then he could be potentially drawn to the Lord.

If God wants to use us as HIS channels, why should we disobey God?
           
On the other hand, if there is no evangelization to the isolated man, the man who has already rejected God (P2.2), and the man who is ignorant of God (P2.3), could end up being unsaved. So why lose an opportunity?

Therefore, in order to save the one who has rejected God and to save the one who remains ignorant of God, evangelism to the isolated is necessary.



Shouldn’t the isolated man believe in Christ for his salvation?

When the isolated man recognizes his sinfulness (inadequacy) and accepts God through the general revelation, the benefits of Christ’s one time sacrifice is applied to this man by God.

 As in the case of the salvation of Old Testament saints, this man will be saved on account of his belief in God (cf. Genesis 15: 6). The benefits of Christ’s one time atoning sacrifice will be granted to this man because of his belief in God. Therefore, the necessity of Christ is maintained.

On the contrary, the isolated man who rejects God and does not know of Christ, will not be granted salvation for he has rejected God to begin with. The isolated man who is ignorant also chooses to be ignorant through his rejection of that which has been made plain to him – God. Hence even he would not be granted salvation by God.

I do not intend to replace God or to stand in judgment over others, but given my understanding of the Bible, this is the best possible conclusion I can submit. Amen.   

Endnotes:
1 http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/rare-video-footage-shows-completely-isolated-amazonian-tribe
2 http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth02.html
3 http://www.gotquestions.org/never-heard.html

Monday, February 3, 2014

Living In Peace When There Is No Peace

The Bible urges its believers to do everything possible to be at peace with each other (Romans 14: 19). Christ is peace and accentuates peace. Christ is the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9: 6). Christ accentuates peace, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5: 9, NIV).

The Bible Recognizes Peacelessness
Isn’t it a fact that peace gains its meaning only during chaos and conflict (peacelessness)?

Consider a world without conflict or chaos. This world then is without evil, for evil causes conflict and chaos. If evil and conflict are nonexistent in a world, then by sheer consequence, peace ensues.

If peace fills that world, and if that world is without a prospect of conflict, any teaching urging people to be at peace would be meaningless. One need not promote peace when all is peaceful and when there is absolutely no threat to peace.

When the Bible urges its believers to remain at peace, evil and its consequential deeds are not only implicit but acknowledged as rampant.

Therefore, we need not be fascinated to observe Christ’s teaching on persecution immediately following HIS teaching on peace. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” was Christ’s statement immediately after his teaching on peace (Matthew 5: 10, NIV).


Do Not Expect Total Peace

Peace, in a worldly sense, is nonexistent during persecution. Persecution is all about conflict between good and evil. When opposing forces of good and evil collide, there is always a conflict. There cannot be absolute peace when evil is rampant.

God is sovereign. HE is Almighty. HE can do anything without contradicting HIMSELF. If God permits evil to exist for a certain period of time, it is reasonable to conclude that there will not be absolute / total peace until evil is totally eradicated.

Jesus’ first coming was not to eliminate evil, for HE did not come to eliminate Satan – the source of all evil and conflict. Conflict will remain as long as Satan is in existence.

Satan and evil will be eliminated once and for all when the Lord returns again. But we do not know the date or time of that much awaited glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, until the Lord Jesus returns to eliminate evil, there will be a state of peacelessness in this world.

If it’s God’s will that there cannot be absolute peace in this world, then one cannot or should not expect absolute peace in this world. 

Evil and conflict is the context of Matthew 10. Conflict is intrinsic in: driving out impure spirits / demons (1, 8), judgment – an outcome of conflict (14-15, 32-33), the analogy of sheep and wolves and snakes and doves (16), persecution (17-23), and fear (26-30).

It’s within the interesting setting of conflict between good and evil that Christ uttered these stunning words, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10: 34-36, NIV).

Implicit in the words of Christ in Matthew 10: 34-36 is the truth that all those who profess absolute or supreme loyalty to Jesus and to the Bible will be persecuted by the evil one.

In fact, anyone who is loyal to what he believes to be as truth will face persecution in one form or another. When an individual aligns with truth, then by sheer consequence, he will overtly or covertly oppose that which he presumes to be a lie.

Then those believing the lie to be truth (even his own family and friends), will oppose this individual, even to the extreme extent of inflicting physical harm upon this person. 

Are We For God Or Against God?
Can a radical Christian withdraw from conflict? No! Please allow me to elaborate.

Before we go any further, let us establish the framework for the term “conflict.” I personally prefer “The Message” version of the Bible for this verse and for this context. “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…” says Matthew 5: 10 (Emphasis mine).

Any mention of ‘conflict’ in this essay refers to a conflict that tempts a Christian to reduce his commitment to God. This conflict could be in any sphere of his private or public life – career, friendship, hobby, marriage, ministry, parenting…

For instance, when a Christian’s faith comes under attack, some Christians, even those with adequate faith and knowledge, would prefer not to address the matter so to be politically correct and / or because of fear.

In other words, some would not stand up for his faith so not to offend the person attacking his faith. Alternatively, some would withdraw on account of fear; fear of physical harm or fear of losing a certain benefit (job or reputation).

It is in this very context I believe that many Christians who subscribe to universalism, relativism, postmodernism, and selective agnosticism (especially regarding salvation) do so because of fear and / or to be politically correct or because of other compulsions.

Pray For Inner Peace 

From another vantage point, when a Christian encounters conflict, he / she ought to primarily pray or desire for inner peace. As long as God allows Satan to exist, he will bring disasters upon God’s people.

God, for the sake of HIS loving, just and pleasing purpose, will situationally allow this to happen in a believer’s life. When disaster strikes a believer, inner peace is the first casualty.

Instead of primarily praying for deliverance from disaster, Christians should pray for the peace of Christ to hold them in Christ and with sanity during these moments of disaster, however painful it may be.

Christ came to save people – to make the spiritually dead man to live eternally. Christ also came to equip HIS people to live in peace and at peace with each other even in an environment of conflict.

These are the Lord’s words, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27, NIV).

A radical Christian lives in peace even when he is deeply stressed and troubled, for he loves Jesus and Jesus loves and lives in him.

Contrasting Christ’s Peace And World’s Peace

When a Christian runs away from truth, he gets only the peace of the world. He does not receive the peace of the Lord.

Oh wait, do we have two categories of peace? Yes!

Let us read Christ words again but in a different translation of the Bible. “I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted,” says John 14: 27 (PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

There is a peace that is from Christ and there is a peace that is of the world. The peace that is from Christ is mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit.

But what is that which sets apart the ‘peace of the world’ and the ‘peace from Christ?’

Very simply, the ‘peace of the world’ is a temporary / vulnerable / superficial / incomplete / limited peace that offers partial or superficial contentment in life’s situations. The material benefits of this world offer this peace.

In utter contrast, the peace that is from Christ is permanent and protects the Christian in every situation of life – the good, the bad and the ugly.

For instance, if a Christian’s home (the source of peace) is destroyed by fire, the Christian who is filled with the peace of this world will be anxious, disturbed, agitated, frustrated, angry, hopeless, depressed, and doubtful because it was his home that offered him peace. When his home was taken away from him, this Christian loses his peace.

In stark contrast, the Christian filled with the peace from Christ will be stable, totally faithful and dependant on his God even during terrible disasters (cf. Job 2: 10). The Christian filled with Christ’s peace will display negative emotions fractionally or will not display the emotions displayed by a Christian filled with the peace of this world.

In fact, people consoling the Christian who is filled with the peace from Christ, would be re-energized in his / her spirit. Such is his influence on others during apparently endless moments of extreme disaster and persecution.

Receiving Peace From Christ


How then do we receive this peace from Christ? This verse says it all, “I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all” (John 15: 5, PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

A radical Christian will not run away from conflict, although his family members may be the channels of conflict. During moments of conflicts and disasters, he will not fear; his faith in Christ will not decrease. He will be at peace with himself, his neighbors, and with God always.

Yes, Christ came to offer HIS peace. HIS peace will keep us sane and in Christ always. Christ’s peace is ours when we remain in Christ and Christ in us.

A Christian who thinks that he / she is yet to be filled with the peace of Christ should ask Jesus in prayer. We will not be perfect in this world. We are all growing in Christ. Ask HIM without giving up (Luke 18: 1). This is living radical Christian life.

If you are not a Christian, and if you are not at peace, then you need Jesus in your life. Give your life to Jesus and HE will carry you through.

In conclusion, our world will not experience total peace as long as God allows Satan’s existence in this world. When a Christian lives for Christ, he will stand for the truth always. So a Christian will live amidst peacelessness (conflict and chaos). But he need not remain in a state of peacelessness. He can receive peace from Christ in an ever increasing measure, all through his life, and even through moments of pain, and thus live in peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV). Amen.