As I walked into the small Indian carpet shop looking to burn the thirty minutes I had left before meeting some friends, little did I know God was setting me up with a divine appointment. One that would impact the lives of an entire family in Chennai, India and open my eyes to why I believed what I had accepted as truth. You see, I grew up in a Christian home and at the time of this meeting with a stranger while I was in India, I had recently begun to question many things about my life and even my faith. Did I believe what I believed because I was told it was the truth by my parents, church, Sunday school teachers and all those around me? Were my convictions really my own and was my relationship with God from my heart or was it out of fear and obligation?
I was around twenty-three years old and at that point in my life I had been traveling world-wide doing full time ministry for three years, holding large evangelistic campaigns. Some in access of over one hundred thousand people in attendance. I had already seen more unexplained miracles happen than, except it was God, could not have been explained. I had witness hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims accept Christ as Savior and here I was doubting my own faith! What if all my work of going to those who had never heard of Christ was pointless? What if even worse, I was accidently misleading people and interfering with their culture?
I think many have had these questions and even more have been too fearful to voice them. I had decided to voice these doubts to God, after all He had to know what was in my heart anyway. So I began to question and asked God to make Himself real to me and not just real, but show me what made my faith different than all the other faiths that existed. I needed to know what set Christianity apart from all other world religions. If I was going to continue to make personal sacrifices, to go to uncomfortable places, eat interestingly strange foods and even risk my life to go around the world to proclaim Christ, then I needed this doubt settled.
Little did I know by walking into the carpet shop that day in India, God was about to erase all doubts that I was secretly carrying in my own heart. As I was looking at all the details of the beautiful, artistic work of the hand sewn carpets, I started a conversation with the Indian man that owned the shop. “Sir, are you Hindu?” I asked. He responded, “No I am Muslim.” With no intention than wanting to just hear what he believed I said, “That’s interesting.” “What do Muslims believe that they must do to one day enter Paradise with Allah for all eternity?” At that moment I had no agenda for my question other than to strike up a conversation and meet a new person. I would soon realize though, not only did God inspire me to ask this question and others in order to erase all doubt in my heart but to also bring this man and his family to know Him. It amazes me how often we seem to accidently say and do things that are no accidents at all. He began to tell me about the beliefs of Islam, the prayers they must pray, the rules they must keep, the foods they must not eat, the good things they must do and so on. Once he had come to an end of his explanation of his religion I asked this question, “If you do your best throughout your life to keep and do all those things you mentioned, will you die certain you will go to Paradise to be with Allah for all eternity?” He responded with conviction, “No, no one can know this except Allah!”
The next question that seemed to fly out of my mouth as if it was not me speaking or my head thinking it was, “We are in India, I am sure you have plenty of friends who are Hindu, what must they do in this life to make sure they come back in the next life as someone better and with a better life experience?” He was happy to tell me all he knew about Hinduism, the personal sacrifices they must make, the offerings they must give to the temples and all the rules and traditions that they must perform. But once again, he was certain that they, too, did not have any guarantee in the next life.
Finally, I asked him about Buddhism. After all, Buddhism was birthed in India and most believe that Buddha was born there and that he made the “greatest sacrifice of all” by leaving his wife and children to discover all that the religion of Buddhism intel’s – to come to enlightenment. I asked my new friend, what a Buddhist must do to get “enlightenment” and tap into their inner abilities and find tranquility and peace. Again, he had a pretty good knowledge of this religion and began to list all the personal sacrifices and works one must do. Guess what? Once again, he admittedly said they, too, had no guarantee that they would ever arrive at their spiritual goal.
Taking no credit for my intelligence being involved with the questions coming out of my mouth, for goodness sake I was doubting what I had held dear for so long myself, the next question even surprised me, “Why do you think there are so many religions in the world?” He thought for a moment to finally answer, “I do not know, that is a good question.” I responded by saying, “Do you think, that whoever God is, that He has put a desire in man’s heart to know Him, to be accepted by Him and find peace with Him?” He immediately agreed with me. I then asked him another question. “Do you believe God is holy?” He said, “Yes, of course!” I then asked, “Do you believe his ways are right and just?” Again he responded, “Of course!” Finally I said, “Do you believe you can live up to God’s standards perfectly, finding total acceptance with God and having peace?” He responded that this is not possible for anyone, God is God!”
At this point I told my new friend that I was a Christian and that we both agreed that God was holy, right and just and that we could never as humans meet His standard. I than asked him if he would allow me to share with him what a Christian believes we must do to be able to find peace with God and enter eternity knowing that we would be accepted by Him. He said to me, “Yes, please share with me?” I said, “Christians believes that for God to accept us, promise us an eternal hope and give us peace in our hearts we must do NOTHING”! He looked at me with disbelief as he asked me, “How can this be?” At this point the lights began to turn on in my head and I realized what God was doing through me. I then shared with Him how Jesus was born without a sin nature, lived up to God’s standards, took on our judgment on the cross, overcame death through his resurrection and in doing so, justly justified us. I explained to him that day that Christianity is the only religion that does not look to one’s self to have right-standing with God but instead looks to God’s love and kindness through the work of Jesus, who gifted that right standing to us. As a result, we live with peace in our hearts toward God, having a sure eternal hope and living with confidence that God is always accepting us. His eyes lit up as he asked me with tears running down his cheeks, what must he do to become a Christian and have this acceptance and peace.
That day in a small Indian carpet shop in Chennai, India, God not only erased my doubts but transformed this man’s heart. I saw this same man about two years later at his shop. He remembered me as he saw me first, calling my name with his Bible in hand, proudly waving it at me. He said to me with joy and excitement, “Brian, I went home and shared with my wife and children what happen the day we met. We are now all attending a church down the street from where we live, learning more and more about Jesus and the gift of righteousness we have with God through Him.”
What happen that day? As David penned in Psalms 17:15 “When I see your face in righteousness and awaken with your likeness my heart will be satisfied.” Both that Indian man and myself discovered the greatest need of the human heart; peace with God. And together we discovered the only way to truly find it. Even though, I had thought at one time I understood the gospel, I realized I only partially had accepted what God really did through Christ.
Today more than ever I understand Paul’s words “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation…..FOR IN IT (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, “the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16&17)
On that day in the carpet shop, God’s way for us to have right standing with Him was revealed. It is absent of our efforts and works and completely dependent on God’s goodness towards us. It is a gift and the only way to receive it is to take it by faith and continue to realize it’s still by faith and not our works. Here is the saddest part of this blog. Today, most Christians don’t even understand this. They are working hard to earn and keep God’s favor and acceptance. In doing so, they live in fear, torment, no rest and constant struggle. In other words, their brand of Christianity looks the same as the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist religion, just having separate rules and different labels but the same powerless ability to change a person’s heart and empower them to live a life of joy, success and to be an overcomer. Don’t settle for that, look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith and allow him to bring true transformation to your life as you rest in His acceptance of you! This my friends is what makes the Christian faith different than all other religions. Without this difference of grace instead of works trying to earn God’s acceptance the Christian faith would be powerless unable to change a person at the heart level. What is sad, is many Christians still reject grace, labeling it as cheap or sloppy grace. In doing so, they present and practice a brand of Christianity that is void of power. They are no different than any other powerless religion that keeps man dependent on themselves instead of God. It only leads to self-righteousness, bitterness, judgmental attitude and eventually burn out. They are still trying to earn God’s acceptance within their own goodness. Let me be clear, you are just as accepted and right with God, on your worse days as you are on your best days when you put your trust in Christ’s finished work and not in yourself. IT IS A GIFT! For this reason, like Paul, I too am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ… for in it the righteousness of God is revealed. And that righteousness is only gained through faith in what Jesus did and not in what I accomplish.
Changing how the World Views God,
Are you looking for a Gospel of grace church that preaches the finished work of Jesus? Do you enjoy ministries like Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack and Lynn Hiles? If so, Reveal Church might be the perfect fit for you. Come join us Sunday mornings at 10 am. We meet at Copper Stone Executive Business Center at 3632 Land O Lakes Blvd. Land O Lakes, FL. 34639. Children’s church is provided for all ages. Pastor Brian has been ministering the gospel of grace message since 1999, with powerful truths that will continue to empower you to walk out God’s best for your life as you stay at a place of rest in Christ. Come be a part of this powerful start up gospel of grace church and help us reach the Tampa Bay area with the message of the finished work of Christ. We look forward to seeing you this Sunday! Come be a part of the grace revolution!