Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gain the World, Lose Your Soul; Forsake the World, Gain Eternal Life

In the last two days I have finished reading two books. The first, Revolution in World Missions by K. P. Yohannan, was about modern Christian missions throughout India, China, and southeast Asian nations. The premise of the book is to persuade North American Christians to support native missionaries in these nations for several reasons. The book was very thought-provoking and has awoken me to the need for native evangelists to be helped by westerners in carrying the Gospel to their own people. The book made many assertions that I didn't necessarily agree with (and some that I did), but I was glad to examine my own assumptions on the basis of the challenges leveled against the way that I-- and western Christians in general-- seem to think about God's plan for missions and for bringing His Gospel to the nations.

The most welcome challenge to my way of thinking was the one which called attention to the affluent way in which so many of us live. The book powerfully showed how so many American Christians hold on so tightly to their possessions and their money, as though these things actually belonged to us, and as though God had given them to us for our own pleasure. The truth is that everything that we "have" is not ours, but a trust from God. He blesses us so that we may be a blessing. He gives good gifts to us so that we may serve our neighbors, not so that we can collect a mountain of worldly goods. The money we have is not ours to stockpile; we can't keep it anyway. We would do well to remember that we ought to store up our treasures in heaven and to give away our treasures in this life for the good of our neighbors, and especially the advancement of the Gospel. After all, what will please God more for us to do? Buy another new car or a bigger house or a more expensive, cutting edge electronic toy OR "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Mark 10:21) I am reminded of the parable of the Rich Fool (check out Luke 12:13-21).

The second book that I have just finished is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The overall thesis of this book is the extremely set-apart life of the true disciple of Christ. The disciple of Christ, in responding to His call, gets up and leaves everything in his previous life completely behind to follow Christ. Bonhoeffer reminds his readers of the intensity and extremity of the Christian life. We have died to sin and to the world, living now only in and for Christ. This book, like Yohannan's, challenged my reliance on and attachment to my worldly comforts. I have to admit that usually this kind of challenge would make me uncomfortable, and I might even be tempted to turn on it with a deaf ear. But lately, some very deep part of me has been longing for this completely revolutionary, intense life in Christ. I don't want normal, I don't want easy, I don't want comfortable. I want to be challenged and to rely on Christ's provision for the strength to meet the challenge.

This post is another Reading Rainbow post: Don't just take my word for it, read it yourself-- especially the Bonhoeffer book.
"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15b)


Elise said...

Emily gave me Revolution in World Missions because she had two copies; I haven't read it yet. But I went to a Sunday school class for a few weeks at Grace and the teacher relied on that book; he had done some missions work in an Asian/Middle-Eastern country (can't remember) and really felt the power of what the book said.

I was telling Tony what I knew of it once and he said "oooh, one of my missions professors hated that book, said it was full of flawed thinking." So that makes me go "hhhmm!" I cant remember what he said the professor didn't like. But I knew basically what you described, and that sounded good and intriguing to me.

I love you!!

did you ever think about the fact ARE being radical? You up and moved across the ocean, after raising funds, and are living in a little apartment where you at first knew no one, to teach english and share christ's love.

Gail said...

Hey Ash, I have actually read both of your suggestions; the Bonhoffer book years ago - while still in college, but the other just within the last 6 months. I feel like we need to follow these native missionaries around and see how they do what they do so we can learn to do the same in these United States!

Love you, Mom

revalkorn said...

I don't agree with everything Bonhoeffer says in his books, but I found "Cost of Discipleship" strangely compelling. I first read it during my freshman year of college, lo so many years ago.

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." Now I'm going to have to dig my copy out of whatever box it's still packed in. My wife's going to love that.