What Do You Believe In?

By: Paul Borthwick


“The United States in having an identity crisis.” The bold print on the full-page advertisement caught my eye. The headline went on, “24 million Americans can’t find our country on a map of the world.”

I was especially interested in what the ad said because part of my job is to make church members more aware of what is going on in the world. Yet I find that quite a few Christians are no different than the population surveyed by the National Geographic. People in our church have told me that Vietnam is next to Surinam, that Africa is a country, and that Communism has been eradicated in the world. (Evidently they forget the People’s Republic of China, where over 20 percent of the world lives under Maoist Communism.)

At the root of our poor knowledge of geography is what sociologists call our “world view.” Our world view determines how we look at ourselves, our world, and our roles in the world. If our world view leads us to believe that we are at the center of the universe, we will usually care little for other countries or cultures.

If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as neighbors in the Global Village or as God’s messengers declaring His glory to the nations (Ps. 96:3), then world awareness will be a natural byproduct of our world view. We will respect other people and cultures and desire to communicate to them.

The Root of the Problem

How can we who follow Jesus Christ develop our world view so that we see our world the way God wants us to? Does it mean buying a world map, taking a cross-cultural trip, or reaching out to an international fiend?

Any of those actions could help, but they still do not get to the root of the problem. We need to go deeper. We need to wrestle with the questions that are at the core of our world view as Christians.

Are you ready to expand your world view? Then wrestle with these six questions. (Note: I will imply or state directly how I answer these questions, but let me encourage you to struggle with them yourselves: How you answer them will affect the way you look at the world. What are your answers?)

1. Do I Believe In Jesus Christ?

Sound too basic? Trust me, it is not. The answer to this question will determine our sense of mission in the world and our outlook on all people (religious or not) who do not follow Jesus Christ.

If Jesus Christ is simply one possible answer on a multiple-choice test of religious options, then I can find peace in Him as my Savior but have no sense of urgency to tell anyone else about Him. I will not be compelled to pray for or preach the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus (Ro. 15:20).

If Jesus is one among many potential “saviors,” I will not be able to catch that vision of the uniqueness of Jesus (which teaches that there is salvation through Christ alone) that drove missionary pioneers like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, or Cameron Townsend to proclaim the gospel at great personal sacrifice.

Someone might respond, “But isn’t believing in Jesus as the only truth a little belligerent? Doesn’t it promote a type of religious cultural imperialism?”

Indeed, some Christians have abused this truth, taking it as liberty to mistreat other cultures and ridicule other religions. Our belief in Jesus as Savior should never be a license to repeat the same mistakes.

But we still must develop a world view built on the biblical teaching that

* there is one God (Dt. 6:4),

* who is the unique Savior (Is. 43:11),

* who has revealed Himself as Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14, Heb. 1:1-3), and that this Jesus – crucified, resurrected, and coming again – is the only way, truth, and life; no one comes to God the Father except through Him (Jn. 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Tim. 2:5).

If Jesus is the TRUTH, then our world view will be enlarged. We can no longer be content with aspirations to reach our culture alone. If Jesus is the unique Savior, we will fully accept God’s mandate to do our part so that His gospel is proclaimed to the ends of the earth – whether that means praying, giving, reaching
out to internationals in our area, or considering cross-cultural ministry ourselves.

So who do you really believe Jesus Christ is?

2. Do I believe in Heaven?

Any follower of Jesus Christ will emphatically say yes! So let me ask it another way: Is my belief in Heaven reflected in the way I plan, the way I make choices, the priorities I live by?

I have found it easy to say I believe in Heaven and yet live as if this life were all there is. In our materialistic world, I can proclaim a hope in Heaven but put my hope in my career, my achievements, or my possessions.

Compare this world view to Paul the apostle’s. He consistently risked his life to preach the gospel because he saw his citizenship in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). He taught that the sufferings of this life were nothing compared to the glory of Heaven; “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal
glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Our lived-out belief in Heaven changes our world view because it suddenly awakens us to the fact that life is more than this world and all of the “stuff” we can accumulate. Knowing that Heaven is real inspires generosity, encourages perseverance in the face of opposition, and gives us the joy that Paul had even when he was in prison (see Philippians).

When the first European missionaries to West Africa packed for their mission, they carried their possessions in coffins, because a coffin was seen as necessary equipment. Some estimate that as many as 60 percent died within the first two years of ministry. So why would they go? They believed that Jesus Christ should be proclaimed, and they believed in Heaven!

3. Do I believe in hell?

Over twenty years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book titled Whatever Became of Sin? Perhaps we need a sequel to that book: Whatever Became of Hell?

Although we might discuss topics like the spirit world and the reality of Satan and his angels, we seldom hear much about hell, eternal damnation, or the concept of everlasting suffering for those who have not trusted Jesus.

Dr. Ajith Fernando of Sri Lanka recently completed Crucial Questions About Hell in an attempt to address this oversight.

In it, he shows how Jesus spoke and taught more about hell than about Heaven. Yet few of us have given much study or thought to the subject. Fernando observes, “When one generation neglects this doctrine, the next generation rejects it.”

How does hell influence our world view? If we ignore the biblical teaching about the eternal fate of those outside of Christ, we can live life quietly, complacently surrounded with nice people whom we never ruffle with discussions about concepts like judgment or the penalty of sin.

But if hell is a reality, and we let that reality affect the way we look at the world, we will be compelled to speak out about Jesus Christ. Our proclamation of the gospel will include an aspect of warning as well as good news. Our prayers will expand to include not only unsaved friends and relatives but also ethnic
groups around the world who have no knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Like Jonathan Edwards or Hudson Taylor, our vision of lost people headed toward a Christless eternity will prompt us to action.

4. Do I believe that Christianity is relevant?

Or, to put it another way, do I believe that our faith addresses the real issues of our world?

John Stott once related a conversation he had with two agnostic university students. As he explained the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, one of the students shot back, “But whether Jesus rose from the dead or not is not the issue, because Christianity is irrelevant to our world.”

That student hit a nerve that should awaken us all. Am I really convinced that the truths I believe in matter in the world today? Does my faith apply to the campus, the marketplace, the neighborhood? Am I living my life as if my Christianity is a private matter that has little bearing on my day-to-day existence? Or am I willing to wrestle with what faith means in contemporary society as we approach the year 2000?

If we believe that “Jesus is the answer,” then our world view expands, because we are forced to wrestle with how issues of faith apply to our modern world. What is the Christian response to AIDS, apartheid, environmental issues, or euthanasia? What does it mean to be a Christian in a society that is increasingly secularized or pluralized?

A bigger world view enhances our witness. My wife and I have had opportunities to proclaim Christ to others by explaining our biblical convictions against apartheid in South Africa and our commitment as Christians to environmental issues. Believing that our faith is relevant to our world, we have struggled to
understand how God wants us to respond to these issues. When we articulate a biblical response, people are more inclined to ask about our faith.

5. Do I believe that God wants to use my life?

Perhaps nothing will shrink our world view faster than a sense of being overwhelmed by the needs of our world. Millions of starving people, the homeless, the Hindus, Moslems, and Chinese – the vastness of need alone is enough to make us shrink back like turtles into the protective shell of a smaller world view.

But do we believe in a personal God who uses broken people to do His will on earth? Do we believe in the God of “mustard seed” faith, who does great things through what look to be insignificant means?

If our view of God reminds us that God uses ordinary people who make themselves available to Him, then we enter the world with hope! If we remember that our God is the God who changed the world through cowards, shepherds, and impulsive fisherman, we will start asking, “OK, Lord, how do you want to use me in this broken world?”

Stephanie asked this, and God directed her into an outreach ministry to students from the People’s Republic of China. Rather than being overwhelmed by the volume of people in China (1.1 billion), she focused on God’s ability to use her life for His Kingdom. She used her gifts of hospitality to build friendships and provide a comfortable environment where the gospel could be presented. In the course of her outreach, she visited some of her friends in China. Through that visit, God directed her to move to
China as a teacher. Now, she touches lives in the enormous city of Beijing.

The God who influenced Egypt through Joseph, Babylonia through Daniel, Ninevah through Jonah, and the world through Paul – this is our God! The needs of the world are overwhelming, but we have an awesome God, a God who will do His work through people like you and me!

6. Whose agenda will I live by?

This final question strikes at the issue of Lordship – who will be the Lord of my life? It is easy to profess to follow Christ without really giving Him free rein in our lives. We may call on Him as needed, but we do not make decisions or set priorities with an absolute devotion to Him as our Master.

When we live by our own agenda, we can tolerate behavior and attitudes that keep our world view narrow. A self-centered agenda can include racist attitudes and feelings of cultural superiority. We might be able to convince ourselves that we do not really need to care much about people outside of our normal sphere of

But when we submit ourselves to Jesus’ agenda, our world view enlarges. Suddenly we find Him calling us to care for those who are socially rejected – our modern day lepers, Samaritans, or prostitutes. He stirs us to go beyond our comfort zone to reach out to people from other cultures, other ethnic groups, other

A recent conversation with a sixty-eight-year-old Christian brother illustrated what it means to live under the lordship of Christ. In contrast to discussing his retirement plans (a normal topic for sixty-eight-year-olds), he discussed how God led him to minister in an enormous Third-World city. I asked him if he had
ever considered retiring. “Well,” he said, “I suppose I could retire, but I’m not really sure that the model of retirement I see in the United States is a biblical model.” Rather than doing something that our culture considers normal, his first priority was to submit himself to the Lord.

When Jesus is Lord, we place ourselves at His disposal as witnesses – willing to go out into our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

(The above material appeared in Issue 74, 1993 of Discipleship Journal.)

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