Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

From darkness to light and back again!

I was watching a documentary today on some “modern” trends in theology. Actually, it’s not all that modern. Since early Christianity there had always been people who rejected Jesus Christ as Saviour. So I watched the program, mainly because it has to do with many theologians living in South Africa today, some of whom I know very well personally. What amazed me is not so much what they say. What is more amazing is that people can move from darkness to the light and then eventually reject the light. Much of what they say has to do with the historical facts about Jesus – His virgin birth, his dying on the cross as the Son of God, His resurrection from death.
That someone rejects this, is understandable to me. What makes sense to me and to millions of others, will remain foolishness to someone until the Holy Spirit enlightens that person’s life to believe the gospel. In missions this is so often the frustration with which we have to learn to accept: that you explain the gospel to someone and that person does not believe it and then, one day, perhaps years later, magic happens and the person accepts the truth and suddenly things will never be the same in that person’s life, ever again. How can it then happen that someone experiences the freedom which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and then they reject it again? I still have to find an explanation for this.
Listening to the documentary and hearing what these theologians said, saddened me tremendously. I thought to myself what the effects of this would be should I go to someone in Swaziland, perhaps one of my elders who love and serve the Lord with everything in him, and tell him that he no longer needs to believe that Jesus is his Saviour. In fact, Jesus never died. He was never resurrected from the dead. Physically He is still dead, even today. What would I do to that person’s life? I have seen, not once or twice, but over and over again, how people literally become a new being after becoming part of Christ. How could anyone exchange that again for an old life without Him? This amazes me!


Wednesday, June 27, 2007 - Posted by | Mission, Theology


  1. That’s very interesting how that could happen. If I were to see that happen, my first question would probably be “was there ever a sincere acceptance of Christ’s grace to begin with?”. Ultimately only the Holy Spirit will know that, but I think we can make a reasonable conclusion that someone who claims to be born again and does exhibit some signs of rebirth yet then one day renounces Christ is someone who accepted nothing more than an idea and later rejected it. Being spiritually born again isn’t only an idea but a transformation of ones heart, soul and mind. Once that happens the Holy Spirit seals you for the day of eternity. Ephesians 1:13 says “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Then at the end of the letter in Ephesians 4:30 Paul clarifies this further by saying “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Holy Spirit seals us for eternity if we are really born-again in Christ. Once that happens that seal cannot be broken. When Jesus explains the parable to the disciples about the sower who sowed some seeds in Matthew 13, I think he references people who fall away in explaining the seeds that fell on rocky ground and the seeds that grow up among thorns.( See Matthew 13:18-23) If the ground isn’t solid, if a mans heart does not have “good soil” then the word of God that was planted in him will not grow right but rather grow deceptively.

    I haven’t personally known anyone who has done this but I know of some who have. Similarly I am recounting a situation I was in about 3 years ago that ended rather unpleasant with a girl about 20 yrs old. She was a good friend that worked at a coffee shop I liked to visit and do Bible studies at with some friends from Church. After a couple months she began to hang out with us and joined our Bible studies and started going to the same Church. She had already said she was a Christian but wanted to try a new Church, the Church I was attending. This continued for maybe 5 months. Then one day after Church she came up to me and had expressed her intent to start dating me and to get into a relationship with me. After explaining to her that I did not share the same feelings for her and that dating would not be an option, she never called me again nor did she join the bible studies or attend Church anymore. About a month later, I found out that she had also gone back to drinking and partying with old friends. Sadly I felt like what had happened was that her motives for seeking God and for studying his word were contingent on her pursuing me for a relationship. Maybe she was sincere and really wanted to know more about Jesus and the bible but then why did she fall away and return to her old ways after claiming she was a Christian? The only answer I can come up with is that the seed was sown on rocky ground. Having that said, who knows the multitude of reasons people can superficially call themselves Christians and put on an act that looks and sounds like Christ but is fueled by ulterior motives.

    Comment by Bryan | Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | Reply

  2. The situation I sketched may be slightly more complex. These people that I was listening to consider themselves as Christians (or most do, I think). Many of them started off as ministers in a congregation. One of them I knew extremely well while I was still a student and very often visited his home and respected him. But he expressly denies any belief in Satan, in angels, and also in the physical resurrected Christ. Another one says she cannot believe in a God who abuses His own Son to such an extent that Jesus has to suffer and die for our sin. Another one says that the writers of the gospels fabricated their own stories around Jesus and therefore we should also be allowed to fabricate our own stories as it suits us. One professor in New Testament did exactly this and claims that Mary was a prostitute who got pregnant through a Roman soldier and that the child who was born had need for a father-figure and chose God as His Father! Another professor in Greek (he also taught me in Greek I) considers the mysticism and gnosticism on one line with Christianity. In the end they will all claim that they are Christians. But are they?

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Reply

  3. It sounds like they are members of the Jesus Seminar. Anyone who expresses those beliefs can call themselves Christians all they want but I’m thinking of a scripture in 1 John 2:22 that says “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” Even Mormons call themselves Christians. I once met a Hari Krishna man who told me he was a Christian because Jesus wrote the Baghavadgita??? Also, there is no Christianity without the physical resurrection of Christ. 1 Cor 15:12-14 says, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
    The Jesus Seminar folks love to talk about Paul’s conversion where Christ appeared to him yet no body was seen but they will never talk about Jesus’ post resurrection appearances where he not only told Thomas to touch his wounds but also ate meat in front of the disciples. I have a good mp3 teaching on Jesus Seminar arguments if anyone would like me to email it.

    Comment by Bryan | Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. You’re right about them being followers of the Jesus Seminar. In South Africa they’re known as the New Reformation.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Reply

  5. Arnau, thanks for the insight. However, in my view there are two schools. One is the school which you mentioned – that of theologists who claimed to be Christians, who preaches the Gospel or are lecturing on it. However, they have no knowledge of God – they know Him as a historical figure and not as God or as their Savior. The second group is more difficult. This is the bigger group of the current Christian believers in South Africa. This is people who truly believe in God and believe in Jesus as Christ. A common factor in both (although the first group is not believers in my opinion) is that they do not know the Holy Spirit. Jesus ask the Father for the HS to be with us since the day He ascend to teach us, open the word for us, be with us and to lead us to the fullness of salvation. Why is the Holy Spirit such a difficult Person for us to accept? Is it because according to the Word the HS is the Power?

    Comment by Kowie | Saturday, July 7, 2007 | Reply

  6. Kowie, thanks for your remark. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic myself. There is probably some truth in what you say. But then again, I think that this may still be a bit simplistic. I know the one person whom I saw on the DVD very well. I visited his home often while still a student. When I had to preach in class during our homiletics lectures, I often went to him to share my ideas with him and to “tap” from his knowledge. I remember that he was the one, when I asked him how to make a sermon from the Old Testament “Christ-centred” without forcing Christ into the text, that He told me: “Go and find salvation in the Old Testament. This is where you will find Christ.” To this day I still keep that in mind whenever I preach from the Old Testament.
    Could it be that these people come to the point where they just don’t want to acknowledge anymore that they are nothing without Christ? This is very humbling to admit. Could this be the reason that they start proclaiming that there are other ways to salvation as well? I don’t know. I’m also struggling to make sense of this.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, July 7, 2007 | Reply

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