In case you were unable to join us* for the epic, 6.5-hour Bible study we had with virtual-David-Platt a few weeks ago, I wanted to share some highlights from the night.
But before we get into the details, let me say one of the MOST IMPORTANT things we learned is that we are blessed beyond measure here, with our freedom and access to the gospel. We can speak what we want, when we want, believe what we want, and pretty much do what we want. Let us not WASTE this freedom, and let us PRAY for those who don't share it (like believers in INDIA, which was our country of focus for the night).
I'm excited to share that we raised almost $1300 that night for the Persecuted Church around the globe. Praise God for the generosity of our people! Now, what else did we learn?
The topic was: A GLOBAL GOSPEL IN A WORLD OF RELIGIONS, and the night was focused on:
- Discussing the basic beliefs of Animism, Hindusim, Buddhism, Islam and Atheism
- Discerning how they differ from Christianity
- Discovering ways to build bridges from those false religions to the one true Gospel
From the start, we learned some eye-opening stats on the current (and future) state of our world. Here are just a few:
- There are nearly 10,000 distinct religions and para-religions in the World, and 270 of those religions have followings of over 500,000 individuals.
- Christianity is the largest of these groups (at 1.9 billion followers), but that is only 1/4 of the World's population, and vastly overestimates the reality of people actually following Jesus (the 1.9 billion includes all self-identifying "Christians," from Roman Catholic to nominal cultural Christians and a lot of things in-between).
- By 2050, the number of Muslims will nearly EQUAL the number of Christians in the world. Between now and then, the number of Muslims is projected to increase at twice the rate of the world's population.
- The world is moving: Between 2000 and 2010 alone, nine countries gained over 1 million international migrants
- The presence of Christianity is moving: by 2050, 4 out of every 10 Christians will live in Sub-Saharan Africa
- By 2050, the subcontinent of India will have the largest Hindu population in the world AND the largest Muslim population in the world
- By 2050, Christians in North America are projected to decrease by 12% while the Nonreligious are projected to increase by 10%.
We were challenged with the question, "Is the gospel worthy of our CONFIDENCE and the COMMITMENT of our lives to make it known in the world?" With a resounding answer of "YES!" we were reminded of that gospel, and the importance of speaking it with clarity. This simple acrostic was given (with much deeper explanation) to help:
- G: God's Character
- the gospel is good news about GOD
- O: Offense of Sin
- the gospel addresses the problem of humanity's sinful REBELLION against God
- S: Sufficiency of Christ
- the gospel centers around JESUS CHRIST
- P: Personal Response
- the gospel is a call to REPENT and BELIEVE
- E: Eternal Urgency
- HEAVEN is a glorious reality for everyone who believes the gospel; HELL is a dreadful reality for everyone who does not believe the gospel
- L: Life Transformation
- all who believe the gospel are a NEW CREATION, and are forgiven, justified, reconciled and adopted
We were reminded as well that all who believe this gospel will be SAVED from their sin, and all who believe this gospel have been SENT into the world.
With all that information, the reminder of our command and commission, and the confidence of the Holy Spirit in us to complete the task before us, we were introduced to the five major religions around the world (who they are and what they believe) and given practical tools for how to share the gospel with people from these worldviews and beliefs.
There is NO WAY I can even begin to summarize the final 4-hours of fast-paced information-fire-hydrant from that night. Please see the bottom of the page if you want to go deeper. I want you to go deeper. For now, let me briefly introduce you to these five groups and hope that it sparks a desire in you to learn more, pray more and engage more:
- NOT just found in Africa
- NOT just tribal peoples in villages and jungles wearing masks and dancing around fires
- NOT just primitive people with no education
- The most eye-opening section of the night for me was this one on Animism. The reality is, most of what we label as "post-modern relativism" and "vague spirituality" that is rampant across our culture today is actually just an Americanized Animism.
- Animists belive that the physical world is interpenetrated by spiritual forces, and that objects and events have spiritual significance and causes
- Know anybody who uses a lot of "spiritual" vocabulary but has no knowledge of God or love for Christ? We would call that person an Animist. Be watchful for Animism creeping into nominal and cultural Christianity, around you and even in your own heart.
- Population: over 915 million people in 51 countries, among 1,235 people groups (1,115 of those people groups are considered unreached with the gospel)
- All Indians are NOT Hindu (and all Hindus are not Indians)
- Hindus do NOT pray to cows
- Hinduism does NOT necessarily have a certain founder, a clear authority, a common creed or consistent beliefs
- Hinduism is a complex set of religions, pantheism mixed with polytheism; sacred writings but with different gurus of varying importance
- Hindus practice their religion however they want, whenever they want to whatever degree they want, but some important components are:
- Yoga (a path of mental, physical and spiritual discipline leading to salvation)
- Mantras (prayers, chants and utterances which aid meditation and worship)
- Ritual Bathing (daily before devotions; periodically in rivers with cleansing power)
- Festivals (celebrating events in history, expressing devotion to gods)
- Population: over 250 million people in 62 countries among 354 people groups (296 of which are unreached with the gospel)
- All Buddhists are NOT vegetarians
- Buddhists do NOT just meditate all the time
- Buddhists do NOT just wear robes
- Buddhists believe:
- all of life is suffering
- the cause of suffering is selfish desire
- we are caught in a cycle of selfishness leading to suffering, where the rule of karma reigns
- the only way to overcome selfish desire, and to achieve salvation, is self effort
- Population: over 1.7 billion people in 149 countries among 2,317 people groups (2,121 of whom are considered unreached with the gospel)
- All Muslims are NOT Arabs
- All Muslims are NOT terrorists who hate Americans
- All Muslims do NOT hate Jesus
- A Muslim is someone who submits to God based on the teachings of Muhammad (as found in the Qur'an)
- Islam means "submission"
- Central Islamic creed: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet"
- The Qur'an is NOT a history, is dictated by only ONE human author, and is considered by Muslims to be the final HOLY BOOK, superseding all other books (such as the Bible, which they consider holy but corrupted)
- A good Muslim will adhere to the FIVE PILLARS
- The Shahada (Confession) that 'there is no god but Allah...'
- The Salat (Prayers) made five times a day, facing Mecca
- The Zakat (Giving of alms) or at least 2.5% of income to the poor
- The Sawm (Fast) of Ramadan
- The Hajj (Pilgrimage) to Mecca
- A good Muslim believes in:
- Holy Books
- Divine Decree
- Final Judgment
An important note: Islam teaches that humans are born spiritually neutral, capable of obeying God's commands, and that they remain this way even after they've sinned. Humans are weak and forgetful, but they are not fallen. Our great need, therefore, is not salvation, but instruction. Consequently, Islam has prophets, but NO SAVIOR. Only Allah determines if a Muslim is worthy to enter paradise.
- Population: Over 1.6 billion people in 110 countries among 287 people groups (198 of which are considered unreached with the gospel)
- Atheists DON'T just believe "nothing"
- Atheists are NOT without a moral system
- Atheists are NOT just communist, left-wing or liberal
- Atheists believe there is no God (or are no gods); Agnostics believe it is impossible to know if there is a God (or gods); Secular Humanists apply atheistic/agnostic belief to a formal ideological system
- Atheism, in general:
- affirms the natural, denies the supernatural
- believes scientific authority is superior to any other authority
- believes ethics and morals are determined over time by results in culture through human discovery and achievement
- believes ethics and morals develop over time through progress in society
SO, in light of all of this (and much, much more) we are given THREE CONCLUSIONS:
- An eternal HELL awaits every person in the world who DOES NOT believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- An eternal HEAVEN awaits every person in the world who DOES believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- God has ordained our MOUTHS to be the MEANS by which the gospel goes to every person in the world.
and THREE EXHORTATIONS:
- Let's PRAY PASSIONATELY
- Let's GIVE SACRIFICIALLY
- Let's GO CONFIDENTLY
- to people right around us
- to peoples around the world
*as a side-note: if you would like to view the content, by yourself or with your Life Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give you access to all 6+ hours of the Secret Church 16 Content