This is an article from the March-April 1997 issue: The Dramatic Arts

Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

Dear Reader,

Those 39 cult members who "released themselves" from earthly bodies were not exactly "fine Christians." Why??

They believed that they were going where Jesus had gone ahead of them. They were polite, law-abiding, hard working "Total Overcomers" concerned solely for themselves.

They were not very serious in trying to evangelize or to persuade others to join them. They didn't want to care for children. They were obsessed with their own salvation, their own personal "translation to a higher level." They did not seek a beloved Father in Heaven and seek to glorify Him on earth in all the nations. They did not pray, "Thy Kingdom come on earth."

Compare such a salvation-seeking bent of heart with the hymn written by a missionary, Francis Xavier:

My God, I love Thee: not because I hope for heav'n thereby; Nor yet because if I love not I must forever die.

But, O my Jesus, Thou didst me upon the cross embrace; For me didst bear the nails and spear, and manifold disgrace.

And griefs and torments numberless and sweat of agony, e'en death itself; and all for me who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ, should I not love Thee well? Not for the hope of winning heaven, nor of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught; not seeking a reward; But as Thyself has loved me O ever loving Lord.

E'en so I love Thee, and will love, and in Thy praises will sing; Solely because Thou art my God, and my eternal King.

On Sixty Minutes, three survivors, including the daughter and husband of one who "departed," spoke wistfully about the reward sought by the 39, as though they thought they might have missed out.

By Contrast…

Our main business is not getting people into heaven but getting heaven into people; not getting ourselves out of this world but getting the glory of the Living God into this world, into all hearts, everywhere, even if we "die in the process."

But these 39 did not "die in the process" of saving anyone other than themselves. This is pagan religion to the core. It is the all-too- fashionable self-realization of our age--and the denizens of our age will find fault with what happened in Rancho Santa Fe mainly because they doubt these 39 made it, not because seeking a higher plane for themselves seems wrong to them! Rancho Santa Fe, like the rest of America, no doubt, includes many others of the same mind, despite their use of different tactics for reaching personal fulfillment.

That same missionary, Xavier, in India on his way to Japan, is the one who wrote back to his fellow students at the university: "Give up your small ambitions…come East and proclaim the glory of God." That first phrase is the title of a book published by Moody Press (now probably out of print) written by Michael Griffiths, General Director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

Moses, Paul, Jesus--all of them were willing to be accursed if that was necessary to bring God to their people. By contrast, these 39 took a "shortcut to heaven." Getting there themselves was good enough. They did not serve a God who loved this world, its peoples, and all He had created. Is not this the looter mentality--get for yourself?

Dear reader, are you more of a spiritual looter than you are one who lives for others, seeking with every fiber of your being to restore and establish the glory of the Living God?

Can you say with Paul (2 Cor 5:14-15) "The love of Christ controls us…He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him Who died and rose on their behalf"?

Are you willing for people to describe your life, "He saved others; himself he could not save"?

Was Jesus speaking of spiritual looters when He said, "He who seeks to save his life will lose it"?

I am speaking as one who at 72 does not have a lot of time left. My wife has a rare "incurable" cancer that, according to the most recent tests, is progressing not retreating. Last Friday my own doctor tentatively diagnosed me as having two different forms of cancer. A bargain! I paid for only one doctor's appointment--and got two diagnoses for the price of one! Now my wife and I are together again, racing for the finish.

Yes, but all this means, really, is that time is even shorter than I thought (my father died at 94). I'm not unaware of the fact that "to depart and to be with Christ is far better" (for me). But that is not the controlling concern. What crossed my mind when the doctor came up with his twin diagnoses was "O boy, there goes some more time. This will be one more nuisance to deal with. It will cut into our opportunity to serve."

Thus, for Roberta and me, all this simply increases the value of the remaining moments of health and opportunity. Getting rid of personal cancer is not the highest goal. If one out of five of my readers will have to cope with cancer why not I? If three out of four homes will be damaged by this evil, why not mine? So I'm not complaining. (Brave talk! The gruesome symptoms are still ahead.) However, we pray "God deliver us"--because that will give us more time to work. Do we really want to be delivered all by ourselves leaving unrescued the rest of our friends?

Our job, with whatever time and energy we have, is to pray and work as Jesus taught us,

Thy kingdom come (on earth), Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Just give us bread for today, forgiveness as we forgive others, and help us avoid evil.

This simple prayer reflects a very different faith from that of the 39. Yet some churches in California are flooded with people seeking

blessings and miracles, acting as though God can only be glorified if He serves us and saves us personally. Don't we go around urging a "Personal Savior" almost like a "personal computer?"

Is God enlisting Roberta and me in the pitch-battle being fought with the powers of Satan not merely in the heavenlies and on visible earth, but as it is also being fought out at the tiniest level of living reality--at the level of microbiology? Satanically designed cancer cells are now a reality to me. But who's fighting on that front as a spiritual task?

This new insight widens the battlefield. The war itself is still basically the same. One hundred years ago Evangelicals used to fight battles against addictive drugs like alcohol and nicotine, fighting on spiritual, practical and even political levels. Now, we let secular scientists tussle with all that--and we read about it in the newspaper. I have yet to see a hymn praising God for the latest insights into the marvels of His creation on the level of the quarks, electrons, or even the enormously larger anti-virus immune system. Probably many believers are involved in such struggles. But they are behind the scenes of our blazing hero worship of basketball players and others who "win" by a tenth of a second in a foot race. The unsung heros are the ones seeking to unravel the mysterious destructive forces on the level of microbiology. They are not the ones we are mainly cheering on.

Lengthy, hands-raised worship services can become Tibetan prayer- wheel turning unless we truly meet the Living God on His terms. When I hear people singing "Majesty, majesty, worship His majesty" I sometimes wonder what precisely they are thinking about. Our worship and His Will must be closely related or our religious services will drift into mere religiosity.

Majesty? The National Geographic reports that when the Hubble telescope focused on one of the emptiest areas of the sky, and only covered a tiny sector the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length, that tiny sector revealed hundreds of major galaxies, each with billions (not millions) of suns! What a God!

But, now, His Will is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. He's in a war ! Our task is to glorify the Father by joining His war and seeking to remove all that is an affront to Him and the purposes of His Creation.

Rancho Sante Fe is one of the few places in the world where 39 people could hole up in a multimillion dollar mansion and not be bothered by outsiders. That's the place to go when you want to be left alone, when you already have what you need and you don't want anyone to bother you. Being there is already to "be on a higher plane," so to speak.

But our homes are not supposed to be merely havens of quiet and restoration. They are to be the barracks of God's soldiers who daily emerge to fight His battles, whether they be battles against blatant sin or unrecognized evil in small places like cancer cells. If each solder fights just for personal survival the battle is lost.

Okay, these cultists made a legitimately living for themselves. Our society essentially forces most people to benefit others in order to get what they need, and the 39 did what was necessary to bring in the bacon--and buy new tennis shoes for their "trip." But their work in this world was not calculated primarily to be a contribution so much as simply a way of making a living in order to escape.

Just "making money" is profoundly and ultimately different from seeking to render "our utmost for His highest" so that His "kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

How many Evangelicals have divorced the "making of money" from the magnifying of the Lord? This generally comes to light as people retire. They were working, say, for, forty years, doing useful things, beneficial things. But why? Just to make a good living, or in a role which was a maximum contribution for them in the global war of God on earth? Was their daily work the conscious attempt to glorify the Father by setting right the things which dishonor and disgrace Him? And the salary and the benefits being secondary to the value of their labor as they maximize their contribution, not their income?

Some people see their work merely as a means of making a living, seeking the best salary available. But when we let work we like, and the salary level we seek determine our choice of earthly labor--in so far as we have a choice--our work may not be a spiritual experience but a desert wasteland from which retirement is a wonderful escape. But pity those for whom such an escape has no major precursor of lifelong seeking of His Highest in daily labors in the here and now, in fellowship with a God who is at war with evil. n

Three events loom up in my immediate future:

--Here on campus one whole day will be given over to the Southwest meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society. A major element will be the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim blocs.

Recently people were stung with fury when the Southern Baptist Convention made a reference to evangelizing the Jews. This is seen as unwarranted cultural imperialism. Most Jews don't think they have anything to learn from Christians.

The same reaction comes from thinking Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. These vast religious traditions don't see any major advantage to Christianity. They see Christians fighting Christians in former Yugoslavia, in Northern Ireland, in Rwanda, etc. And, as we pointed out last time they all stand appalled and revolted by the wreckage of the American family.

But, is what we are trying to give them is the unstable, damaged "freedom loving" American nuclear family? Are we really setting out to sell to the world the idea that young people ought to get married and hive off into their own little worlds to make a mess of things?

Or are we trying to introduce them to Jesus Christ? Isn't this why the strategy of the Jesus film is so central?

Christians may have highjacked the person of Jesus and been just as untrue to His true meaning as Jews who want to have nothing to do with a Jesus who was a true and pure representative of the spiritual import of their own scriptures. I can see why they would consider Paul a turncoat who was a Gentile lover. It is unfortunate in the extreme if they do not discover their own heritage lived out in Spiritual perfection in Jesus.

But, is our best foot forward to try to persuade sober, seeking Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim families to agree to a list of Evangelical doctrines? I truly believe that we Evangelicals have many truly precious truths to share, that's true. But Jesus himself almost seemed cagey about prematurely dumping out the truths behind the stories He told and the deeds He did.

Isn't it like urging the multiplication tables upon a gang member who is out of sorts with his parents? Those tables will come into the picture later on. Right now that young person has more of a relationship problem than an intellectual deficiency. But, come to the conference and this will be pursued further.

Ro 2:29 But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.

How far shall we go in pealing away the accretions of the movement called "Christianity" in trying to get back to the Biblical core of God's message to us?

The Second Thing

On our campus April 17-19 will occur a world-level meeting sponsored by the AD2000 Movement devoted specifically to exploring the nature and challenge of the 142 "Gateway Clusters of Unreached Peoples." A small but incredibly important conference, this will acknowledge first off the fact that almost all of the Unreached Peoples in the world are part of larger "clusters" of peoples---some already reached-- and that mission strategy must take this larger context into account. Writing up profiles of individual peoples always requires this larger recognition. This small (200 or so) conference will consist of researchers and strategists to some great extent.

Another conference a few days later but a "world" further away geographically is what I call the first global level, multisphere mission strategy conference.

The Third Thing

This conference, in South Africa at first glance might be understood as NINE conferences in one simply meeting at the same place. But it is much more than that.

If you were accused in court (as they say) of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convince the jury against you? You've heard that, I'm sure.

What is a real Christian?

OK, but are you a REAL Christian? Or, have you ever thought that someone who calls himself a Christian might not be a "real Christian?" What does it mean to be a real Christian, and is there a better word for it?

A lot of time is lost, it seems to me, arguing about the use of the word Christian. Meanwhile…

All of a sudden the Orthodox Jews have decided that it is time to define the word Jew more precisely, and they now have a definition which rules most of the Jews in the world!

Does that sound like any Evangelicals you know? People who have ruled out of heaven almost every other kind of Christian?


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