I am about to share a very candid, “no-filters” view of my life as a missionary kid. FYI, a missionary is someone who goes to another country to share the gospel. I can still hear my dad say, “Gospel means?” and my sisters and I would answer, “good news!”
The First Edition
The Christian faith is centered around the gospel and the spreading of that message. I grew up on what I consider the far end of that lifestyle. From the day I was born, I watched my dad and mom give all of themselves to sharing the good news that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection purchased our freedom from sin and death. This act of atonement on our behalf secured eternal life for anyone who believes in Jesus.
I saw my dad reach out to strangers on the street, the mechanic working on his car, the woman at the checkout counter, and anyone who would listen. Somehow, in a rapidly changing, increasingly anti-Christian world, he always found the one person wanting to hear. Over and over, they would say, “No one told me Jesus did that” or “I didn’t know God loved me.”
What is the Gospel?
It’s interesting what the gospel has become. It is easy for me to tell you what it meant to me as a child, but you probably already know. You may have seen it graffitied on a wall or written in black under some famous athlete’s eyes. The gospel that a child can understand is summed up in that all too familiar memory verse. I remember reciting it in English and in Hindi as a child.
What an unbelievably incredible story that verse speaks volumes of the character of the God who would sacrifice His only Son. Who does that? It speaks of God’s grace that would create forgiveness for someone who had not yet asked for it and His mercy in becoming the Savior who provided mercy.
I believed this message with all my heart when I was seven years old. What I saw were the crumpled gospel tracts in the trash and the scowls of those who thought my dad was trying to “convert” people. I wondered if leaving family, food, language, and culture was worth it to reach people who didn’t want to know.
Was the gospel worth being an outcast?
The missionary life to me meant being singled out as a fanatic or religiously intolerant. Of course, it was somewhat comforting that Jesus experienced the same thing but on an infinitely greater scale. He stripped Himself of all heavenly glory to become a human being to save the world, to save me.
If Jesus could give up being a king, I could give up a few earthly comforts from a child’s perspective. Still, Jesus could walk on water, heal people, and calm violent storms. All I wanted was to belong and to fit in.
The Biblical perspective doesn’t allow for fitting in. If anything, it makes you stick out in a world that is all about blending in.
The Problem With the Gospel
The Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is a way. It teaches that Jesus is the only way. Instead of saying you can work your way to salvation, God’s Word says you must have faith that only Jesus can save you. A message like that will guarantee you many enemies and very few friends. To a world that is all about freedom of choice, you will be labeled as intolerant. But, what does that mean – intolerant?
To me, injustice is intolerable. Injustice is having to pay for someone else’s crime. Yet, that is what Jesus did. I can prove to you that the very freedoms we enjoy today came from Him. So why did the author of freedom submit to intolerable injustice to save mankind? Why did Jesus take the path of suffering to give us freedom? The Son of God could have forced us all to believe and saved Himself a lot of trouble. I’ve done that.
Truth Plus Love
When you care deeply, you sometimes act strongly. I have the most profound burden and concern for the beautiful people of my country. Many times, I have heard someone say, “I was born this way, and I will die this way.” What if I could prove that no one was born that way, that we all always belonged to the Creator, the Only Living God, and that we created religion to divide us? Because I can.
I desperately want to share what I have found to be true with them – to let them decide between two things, not just be embedded into one. Only one option is not a choice. It’s like knowing only half of the story that will dictate your very happiness.
That brings me to my second problem – Christians are hypocrites. If they won’t hear me out because of the label “Christianity,” how will they know about Jesus? And, believe me, I understand why Christians are often hated. Not only are you immediately the odd one out if you choose to follow Jesus, but there is the issue of the messed-up people God uses.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek “hypokrites.” In Shakespearean times, this term applied was applied to play-actors disguised to look like someone they were not. The definition of a “hypokrite” is someone who “interprets from behind a mask.” Basically, every famous actor is a great hypocrite, but that’s not what I mean.
When human beings take it upon themselves to interpret God’s truth “from behind a mask” of their own understanding or ambition, the truth becomes relative. And truth that can be molded to fit the narrative is a lie.
An actor is exactly what a Christian should not be. Is it possible to create a costume Christianity – an image of beautiful angelic robes and halos parading on a stage awash in ethereal light and sound? Yes, it is. The problem is everyone can see through it, and it’s not pretty. What’s worse is, the gospel goes from being “the good news” to fake news.
So, where did Christianity go wrong?
I ran across a reference to the word “gentile” that gave me a little insight into why many Christians appear fake. In ancient Biblical texts, the word gentile referred to anyone not Jewish (of the Israelite nation). In the Old Testament, the Bible referred to non-Jewish belief systems as “heathen.” However, a heathen and a gentile are two different things. A heathen in the Bible was anyone who practiced human (child) sacrifice as part of their religious rituals. Every ancient religion once practiced this ritual according to their own sacred texts, and God hated it!
So, when Jesus proclaimed freedom and a direct relationship with the God, He became a thread. How could Christianity be controlled before it set the world free? Simple. Created a version that still maintained control. Adapt Jesus’ words and bind the freedom He gave His life to bring.
It seems like an easy way to hide historical facts is to either change the facts or change the meaning of the words. We wouldn’t do that…would we?
We would, and we did.
Gentiles and Heathens
Over time, the word gentile came to mean those who were Christians. The word gentile crossed over to Anglo/French to become “gentil.” In English, genteel is translated as “gentleman, gentlewoman, or landed gentry.”
As I followed that trail, I found that Christianity slowly and surely came to mean “well-educated, well-mannered, and well-dressed.” That’s a far cry from the sinner Jesus came to save. This idea of hiding your true identity has existed since the beginning of time. Jesus described such a lifestyle as a whitewashed tomb. Beautiful on the outside – rotten on the inside, and everyone smells it. Jesus entered that tomb and transformed it. He was the only God in the flesh who stood in the gap between Perfection and the human masquerade, between righteousness and religion – the true High Priest.
What is so wrong with religion? Religion is really man’s understanding of what God wants. It is man trying to buy God’s favor by good deeds. If God can be bought, we are all gods.
God’s gift of an eternal relationship with Him is intentionally free. When men created religion that made them middlemen and mediators between God and the seeker, Jesus becomes the enemy. After all, if a priest’s livelihood depends on being the mediator, he wouldn’t appreciate God wanting a direct relationship and cutting him out, right?
The other problem is how indescribably big God is. Only someone who is fully God and yet utterly human can mediate the terms as no human being can. Does such a person exist? Yes!
Jesus as God, negotiated the contract between God and Man. Then, He disguised Himself as a human being and fulfilled the contract on our behalf.
How’s that for a costume party?
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus -1 Timothy 2:5
So, if proper conduct, piety, and paying for God’s favor is a false religion, how do you recognize a true believer? It’s really simple. God is love. This grace-full love isn’t just any kind of love. God’s love never fails to change lives, and that is the proof.
So, how do you get God’s love to flow through you? Again, the answer is so simple – you ask and then you step into Love.
Remember this – real change is not sudden and dramatic. It takes time, sometimes the entire course of someone’s life. In other words, every true believer in God starts out broken before taking the journey to becoming whole. That’s what God does through Jesus. He makes us whole. This journey is not a ladder to somewhere. It is the filling of an empty life with eternal and abundant Life – God himself.
The Worst Ambassadors
If God’s love is real, why aren’t Christians perfect in love? In the age of social media, we all get to see the unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions that reveal the actors underneath. I’ve worn the disguise, and it got me thinking – I don’t need to be a Christian to pretend to be perfect. It’s all the rage, and everyone’s doing it even without the label. So, maybe what we all need is a dose of real honesty.
Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life. I can give you all the scientific, archeological, and historical evidence to prove that, but here is what matters. Putting all that we believe aside, I am flawed, and so are you. That flaw is called sin, and it’s deadly. It’s also not what you may think. For more about what sin really is, please see my article “Making Peace.”
If we can admit that we are not perfect, we’re are halfway there. The other half is to ask for help from the only one who is perfect. That’s totally righteous.
To anyone who believes, Jesus becomes your “righteousness” (perfection in God’s eyes) that starts on the inside. Righteousness is God reversing the fallen state of man to the state we were created for. You first experience true love that replaces everything else. Instead of anger and frustration, you find peace. Tears are turned into joy (FYI, laughter being the best medicine was God’s idea). Self-obsession turns into compassion for others. And gentleness – not gentility – colors all your relationships. The end result? You don’t need to pretend to be happy. You actually are – from the inside out!
God wants you to be perfect plugged into joy, not sainthood. And once you discover that amazing grace, you can’t wait to tell your friends!
Honk If You Love Jesus
The other idea that has been tugging at me is I don’t think Jesus necessarily wanted me to shout His message from the rooftops or from a position of influence and power. I know that sounds sacrilegious from a missionary kid, but please hear me out. I’ve searched and studied my Bible, and this is what I can tell you…
Jesus Isn’t There
I believe that the Jesus who ate with sinners and tax collectors, who washed His friends’ dirty feet like a servant, and who saved a prostitute from being stoned to death, is not there. He does not shout out the truth and then lunch with the elite leaders who don’t mingle with the laity.
Where Is Jesus?
Jesus is the real deal. You can find Him on a grassy knoll sitting with the crowd, feeding them real food and life-giving words. With no thought for His own safety, He is standing in the middle of the crowd, touching blind eyes, healing the lame, and giving hope to the helpless, all without a mask.
He Hears You
Jesus isn’t sitting on a stage in a three-piece suit, graciously accepting the accolades of the masses. He is out on the street listening to the one who thinks no one knows, sees, or cares.
You won’t find Him at a rally, fighting for the rights that He laid down to find the lost. He is beside the young, single mother-to-be who is alone and afraid, offering her His strength.
He Is For You
Jesus is not in a government building creating policies that take freedom from one to give it to another. He is crying out the free gift of wisdom that builds indestructible kingdoms full of abundant life for every single citizen alike – man, woman, and child.
Jesus is not preaching contempt against the one whose lifestyle is against His word. He is right there waiting to show him whose image he was created in – the image of God Himself. He offers unimaginable joy in exchange.
The Lowest Place
I’ve searched for Him in those high places. Jesus, who preached forgiveness with His dying breath, did not spend His life seeking favor from kings, noblemen, and high-priests. He lived for the man on the street, the downcast and outcast alike. He rose from the dead to raise us up to life.
I still get the question, “What makes you think He is the only way?”
First, He said He was, and second, He proved it. He saved me.
Only one thing mattered in my moment of crisis – that Jesus understands every possible sorrow, suffering, and struggle of every human being. I have not heard that of any other god in history. They claim to possess every imaginable superhuman strength, but no other deity has ever claimed to have endured every kind of human suffering on purpose, for me.
Jesus was beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross to die. That is history. He came back to life, proving His power to save is true. That is the proof!
Still, I understand the question. How can I believe someone who lived over 2,000 years ago? I could show you the evidence I’ve researched or show you the testimonies of millions whose lives are changed. In the end, you have to see it for yourself.
What someone claims to be true is important. What someone does to prove it is evidence. I am here today because Jesus did what no one else would. He went where no one else would go, and I can tell you there is no place Jesus will not go to find you. WWJG.
Where Wouldn’t Jesus Go?
This past year, God decided to show me what I believe. In trying to wake up my heart, He broke it wide open. He took me to a place, the darkest valley I have ever been to in my life, somewhere I would never have chosen to go. It’s not a place for any “gentil” Christian. In the middle of that darkness, I found myself reaching out for a lifeline, a hand to hold, someone to show me I wasn’t alone.
Through no fault of their own, those I thought would be there were busy with life or fighting their own battles. I can’t blame them because I’ve been there too.
A Song in the Dark
In the middle of that dark chasm, I did the only thing I know how to do. I wrote a song. The words seemed to be written by someone strong and sure-footed, ready to surrender everything for the truth. It was a surrender of dreams, hopes, and hurts that were still holding on like weights, dragging me down to the depths. Of all that I could not understand, I understood giving up and letting go. In the eye of that storm, when hope disappeared, I heard myself singing that song, crying out for help.
It was just one word. Jesus.
And there He was. In the one place, I never expected to find Him.
There was no magical “poof” – only peace in place of the deafening noise. There was no reappearance of all that was lost but a falling away of all that had weighed me down for years. There was a reassurance that I was not alone and that I would never lack anything good.
Jesus answered my cry for help as He said He would (Matt. 11:28). There is nothing more comforting in a time of grief than a Friend who has also experienced that same sorrow.
Where is God in Suffering?
There are thousands of people on our planet today, looking for God in their suffering, reaching out for a hand to hold, someone to care about what they are going through.
I know now why I want to tell them about Jesus. He is the only one there.
In reality, we live in a world that promises freedom of every choice but leaves us to face the consequences of those choices alone. Jesus took the consequence of my choices and gave me His freedom. That is perfect love.
So, where is God in times of suffering? He is right beside you, always.
That brings me to my reason for writing this article…
I proved long ago that being talented, gifted, or having special skills is not what God seeks. He will use anything to get His message to you. He will use anyone available.
Like a pebble in a shoe, a message in an empty bottle, or a stone in a sling, God will use everything and anyone. The delivery method matters, but the gift matters more.
An Empty Vessel
God uses the broken, but His strength is perfect.
He sends the bitter and the angry with His forgiveness in their hands. So, we can heal together.
God will even use the unfaithful and the faithless, but His love will never fail you, not even in the darkest valley.
If you ever find yourself there, you’ll know I am telling the truth. There is only one name that you need to call and He will be there.
The Only Name
Acts 4:2 - "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
That name is Jesus, and it’s the only name you need to know. That is such good news!
You are not alone. You have the Creator of the universe as your friend, and for what it’s worth, you also have me.
Go-Spell It With Love
That, to me, is the gospel: go – spell it out with kindness. Not self-righteousness. That’s what Jesus did, and for me to be a tiny part of someone else’s journey of being found and being loved – is priceless.
So, “take it all, and give me You, Jesus.” That simple lyric was written about the moment when I found Him. You can listen my song here – Jesus.
For more about finding that peace with God through Jesus, click here.
Questions or Comments?
If you enjoy these articles, I would love to hear from you!
Please write me a note here.