Friday, May 31, 2013

Peacemakers or Troublemakers?

Another home run from my dear friend and mentor, Bob Russell.  Great insight, wisdom, and encouragement here for Christians to stand firm in the truth of God.  Please read!

Blog Post #1 from Bob

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Louisville, Kentucky this week.  His appearance is attracting a lot of media attention and evoking a number of thorny questions.  When considering your response to this eastern, “holy man,” take a moment to review the following information.

Who is the Dalai Lama?
He is the traditional governmental ruler and highest priest of the dominant sect of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia.  He is understood by Tibetans to be the essence of perfect knowledge and compassion.  Though not a perfect analogy, we might say what the Pope is to Roman Catholics the Dalai Lama is to the Buddhist religion.

What is the Buddhist religion about?
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama who is estimated to have lived from 566-480 B.C.  It’s reported that Gautama renounced his princely title and became a monk, depriving himself of worldly possessions in the hope of comprehending the reason for suffering and the truth about the world around him.  He maintained that the culmination of his search came while meditating beneath a tree, where he finally understood how to be free from suffering, and ultimately, to experience nirvana.  Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and represents the final goal of Buddhism.

Following this epiphany, Gautama was known as the Buddha, meaning the “Enlightened One.” The Buddha spent the remainder of his life journeying about India, teaching others what he had come to understand.

What is the difference between the beliefs of Christianity and Buddhism?


There is no creator (Buddhism is non-theistic.)  “in the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth”  (Gen. 1:1)
Man has no soul “What can a man give in exchangefor his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

There’s no need of a Savior
“All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23)“the wages of sin is death”  (Rom. 6:23)“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3) 

There is no heaven  (cycle of rebirth involving karma)  
“I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3)

Truth is discovered through Human meditation  

“The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom”  (1 Cor. 1:25)

The purpose of life is nirvana – personal happiness 
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God” (John 17:3) 

Personal goal – Self realization
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matt. 16:25)

What did Jesus say about other religions?
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”   (Matthew 7:15)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)

*For a more in-depth comparison chart explaining some beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhism go to Under Tibetan Buddhism on the first page, click on “Compare.”

Blog Post #2 from Bob

A few readers posted objections to last week’s blog that contrasted the beliefs of Buddhism with Christianity. Since the Dalai Lama was in town, one man suggested it was, “not very welcoming to our city” and “flame-throwing” to even bring up the subject.

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest speaker at an event that was intended to encourage Christian educators to find ways to share Biblical truth in their schools. Some in the community immediately protested that the seminar was inappropriate because it violated the separation of church and state. As a result of opposition, many Christian teachers choose to keep their convictions to themselves rather than stir up controversy. They don’t want to cause trouble.

Since Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers”, some think followers of Christ should always bend over backward to avoid disagreement. Since our culture has become increasingly anti-Christian, it’s suggested we ought to be more discreet about our beliefs so the world doesn’t despise us even more. Why agitate the bully?

I’m not surprised when the world objects to what Christians believe. Jesus warned that carnal men would reject the truth because they love darkness rather than light. What does surprise and disappoint me is that some who claim to follow Christ are so fearful of the world’s disapproval that they allow tolerance to trump truth. It seems they mistakenly regard Christianity as just another system of moral guidelines instead of the worship of the person of Jesus Christ.

Truth matters! If a sign says, “Bridge out- stop!” it matters whether it’s true or not. If I dial a ten-digit phone number, it matters if I get one number wrong. If I cash a check at the bank it matters that the decimal is in the right place. Jesus made it clear that our belief in Him really mattered. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” also said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” and that he would set brother against brother and parent against child. He said, “If the world hates me don’t be surprised if it hates you.” The peacemakers Jesus promised to bless were not those who ran from conflict, but those who courageously brought reconciliation between a sinful man and a holy God through the proclamation of the gospel. Without Jesus there is no peace.

Jesus also said, ‘Blessed are you when men persecute you, revile you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be glad for in the same way they treated the prophets.”

The prophet Elijah was called a, “troubler” by King Ahab because he insisted the three year famine in Israel was God’s judgment on the nation for its sin.

John the Baptist was accused of being a troublemaker because he publicly criticized King Herod for living with his brother’s wife. John was so intolerant and outspoken about evil that he got arrested and beheaded.

The Apostle Paul was often accused of being a troublemaker. In his sermon on Mar’s Hill he contrasted the Athenian belief in many gods with the Christian faith that there is one true God, “…who made the world and everything in it.” Everywhere Paul went he caused a revival or a riot – sometimes both. But he endured threats and imprisonment because a few responded positively and were saved.

It was said of the first-century Christians “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here”. (Acts 17:6) The early Christians weren’t despised because they believed Jesus was God. The Romans tolerated many deities -one more wouldn’t have mattered. The early Christians were arrested, tortured and sometimes set aflame on crosses because they insisted that Jesus was THE ONLY God. That was too exclusive – and it caused big trouble.

Those who follow Christ today are not commissioned to, “go into all the world and preach that Jesus offers a good example of compassionate behavior – one of the many equally valid belief systems.” No. We are commissioned to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

Since our secular culture is becoming increasingly hostile to all truth-claims, believers are going to have to “toughen up” to survive. Instead of manufacturing a make-believe, wimpy, effete Jesus that is just a figment of our imagination so we can be accepted by the world, examine the Scriptures and note the claims of the real Jesus. He claimed that God created the world. He claimed to be God in the flesh. He claimed to be the only way to salvation. He claimed to have conquered death. He claimed to be the source of eternal life. He claimed the Bible is true. He claimed marriage is between a man and a woman. He claimed false teachers should be identified and opposed. He claimed we could be saved through trusting Him – not by our good works.

Those claims sounded outrageous and troublesome to Jesus’ religious contemporaries who were attempting to pacify the Roman authorities and avoid conflict. So they conspired to have Jesus crucified, “…lest we lose our place and this nation”.

There’s a difference between being a peacemaker and an appeaser. And there’s a difference between being a troublemaker and an agitator. Christian evangelism should attempt to, “make the teaching about God, our Savior attractive” and not deliberately antagonize.

However, we can’t water down the truth just to avoid controversy either. We can’t pretend Christianity is just one of a number of good religions and leave the impression that maybe they can all be blended together. Our goal should be to speak the truth in love. If some label us, “troublemakers” because of that, we are in pretty good company.