What Christians Can Learn From Other World Religions

Title: What Christians Can Learn From Other World Religions

Text: Luke 11:1, Thessalonians 4:3-5, Matthew 5:11

Time: August 2nd, 2012

 

I’ve just finished up a message serious on the other major world religions – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I basically gave a critique of the top three problems in each faith. For example, I explained how in Islam, Jesus is given short shrift to Mohammed and the Bible is placed lower in value than the Koran. So I basically pointed out some shocking problems with these rival religions to Christianity. I have no problem warning people to stay away from these false religions if they haven’t gotten too close already, or if they are participating in one of them to flee it, as soon as possible. Why? Because as we examine all the major world religions we quickly realize that, contrary to popular opinion, they don’t all teach the same thing. In fact, at core, they teach totally different things altogether – which is why they are separate religions and haven’t merged together. For example, to be a true Muslim requires that one not be a true Christian or Jew. To be a true Hindu is impossible if one is a true Jew, and so forth. About the only mixing and matching that could take place is between, say, a Jew and a Christian; or a Hindu and a Buddhist. But for the most part, religions are incompatible with each other on core teachings. But having said that, what can a Christian learn from the other world religions? I’ve just completed a message series critiquing the major world religions, but now I’m asking the question, “How can Christians learn from these faiths?” Now for some Christians, that’s the wrong question to ask because they might say, “If these religions are wrong or false, then we shouldn’t be trying to learn anything from them.” True enough, as far as doctrine goes, I would agree that Christians have no business, for example, snooping around the Koran, trying to find some truth in Islam. Why? Because in Christianity we have a complete revelation from God in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation; we don’t need additional religious truths in order to believe and live out the Christian faith. But I’m not talking about doctrines per se, I’m asking a different question – “What can we as Christians learn from members of other religions?” And in answer to this question, I believe the reply should be, “We as Christians can learn some things from others that can even help us be better Christians.” For example, one of the illustrations I’ll make in this message today is that as Christians we can learn some things by watching the total commitment we see in members of other religions; and we can learn from it. Not that we learn from the religion itself, but we learn from the religious person’s commitment to what they believe, even if it’s false. We can admire their dedication, for example, and learn from its example for our lives as Christians. So let me unpack this a little further and point out three areas that we as Christians can learn from members of other religions.

 

First, Christians can learn prayer devotion from members of other religions. Luke 11:1, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” Jesus spent much of his time in prayer and also in teaching his disciples to pray. But often today, Christians are sorely lacking in prayer, especially in the midst of our busy, secular and modern world. But when we look at members of other world religions we often see a greater commitment to prayer on the part of followers than within Christianity. Who cannot help be impressed with Islam’s call to prayer five times a day – and see Muslims drop to their knees and pray during these times? We’ve all seen pictures of Islamic mosques full of adult men bowing down in prayer during a prayer time. But it isn’t just in places of worship that prayer takes place, but also outside or anywhere the call to prayer is given – one sees Muslims drop everything and pray. This dedication to prayer shames us as Christians because of our general lack of prayer commitment. It isn’t just Muslims that often put Christians to shame in respect to prayer, but also Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It’s inspiring to see adults taking prayer so seriously, because often in the Christian community individual personal prayer is never seen except for brief moments in a church service. It’s as if for large segments of the Christian church prayer simply doesn’t happen. We know that Christians do pray, but can we truly believe they do so with as much devotion and commitment as some Jews and Muslims? It doesn’t seem like it. And then we can also admire the devotional lives of members of eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. They don’t so much pray as they do meditation or reflect, but what they do in the way of a personal spiritual discipline far exceeds what many or even most Christians do in real prayer. Apart from the theology behind the practice, we must admit that it looks like a pious Hindu or Buddhist takes his or her spiritual discipline of prayer or meditation or reflection – whatever you call it – more seriously compared to most Christians in respect to prayer. In eastern religious tradition members go off apart from society for hours, days, sometimes weeks or more in order to get out of the business of life, away from the distractions of daily living, and get alone with God – or their concept of Ultimate Reality. Now we know their theology is confused and erroneous, but their dedication and zeal for spiritual reality is commendable. Would that most Christians pursued the true and living God with as much devotional enthusiasm. Now we should never try to copy any of the major world religions in how they do spiritual devotions, but can’t we let their commitment challenge us to be more zealous towards the true God? There’s no question that, generally speaking, Christians in the West are more materialistic and less spiritually motivated. Shouldn’t we be challenged by the piety of members of the major world religions to not just talk the talk but walk the walk of our Christian faith more passionately? No question.

 

Second, Christians can learn the pursuit of moral purity from members of other religions. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” One of the great spiritual failures of Christianity in the West today is the problem of sexual immorality among Christians, despite over two thousand years of moral tradition, despite the Bible’s teaching on the subject, and despite what the church officially says it believes. Still, many or even a majority of Christians participate in sexual immorality of one kind or another during their lifetime. When the Muslim world looks upon the Christians West it judges us as morally bankrupt – which is not totally true, but almost so. Islam seemingly is better at leading its followers into the moral life than is modern Christianity. Author Dinesh D’Souza claims that Muslims are not morally superior to Western Christians because of the strict enforcement of the moral code in Islamic society, while the choice to be moral for most Christians is voluntary. But that only pushes the question further back – “Why don’t Christians volunteer to abstain from immorality out of commitment to the Lord Jesus?” No. Christians can learn a thing or two about morality from Muslims, who seem to take their commitment to moral purity more seriously than most Christians. Now not all of the major world religions agree on morality, although many or even most moral precepts are similar. For example, Hindus and Buddhists try to follow sexual morality. Many of these followers show great self-discipline in the area of sexuality, in contrast with most members of western societies, who display little or no self-control in respect to sex. I wish I could report that Christians are a shinning example of sexual morality in the midst of a dark, immoral world – but I can’t. Unfortunately, Christians display the same lack of sexual self-control as do unbelieving pagans. We could spend a lot of time examining the cause of this moral meltdown and why it has so affected the Christian Church as well, but we don’t have time for that today. My personal feeling is that pastors, church and denominational leaders are mostly to blame in not teaching the people regularly basic Christian sexual morality. In many churches not a word is spoken on the subject. How do leaders think people will learn this if they don’t speak to it? In any case, Christians can, again, learn from members of other religions in respect to morality. Let their moral lives shame us into following the ethical teachings of our own faith better.

 

Third, Christians can learn spiritual commitment from members of other religions. Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” When we look at the New Testament accounts of the early Christian church we see the high level of commitment the Apostles and even regular Christians had to following after the Lord Jesus, no matter what the cost. Christians died for their faith in the early days of Christianity. But when we look around the church today, especially in the established Christian lands such as Europe and the Americas, we see apathy, nominalism, and lack of spiritual commitment. Now because of the fact that Christianity has spread and established itself in the West, we don’t face violent persecution or fear of death or injury for practicing our faith; so we aren’t called upon to die for or even suffer physically for Christ today. But the question most Christians have to ask themselves is – is their any price we are willing to pay to follow Christ today? From the looks of things on Sunday morning, it’s difficult for most so-called Christians to get themselves up and out to church for just one hour once a week. But it’s not just church; it’s prayer also. How many Christians are committed to a daily prayer time of any significant length?  I’ve already mentioned how some world religions shame Christians over prayer, so I won’t go back over this, but just to say it’s a growing problem in Christianity. Then also, there’s Bible reading. How many Christians seriously devote themselves to a regular time of reflecting on the Bible for their own personal spiritual growth? In Islam, Muslims study the Koran, many memorize long sections of it, and take serious its teachings. Don’t many Muslims put Christians to shame in their devotion to the false prophecies of Mohammed? While we have the truth of God from true prophets of God found in the Bible, yet we routinely ignore it or take it for granted. This should not be, but it is. Shouldn’t this motivate us to take full advantage of the blessings we have from God in the Bible? We shouldn’t need other religions showing us up in the area of sacred scripture study. In yet another area of spirituality, the Hindus and Buddhists often seem to cultivate an inner spirituality that is often missing from Christians today. While the slogan, “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good,” does remind all believers that we can’t always be praying, can’t always be reading the Bible, can’t always be going to church, and can’t always be reflecting on our spiritual home awaiting for us in heaven. But this isn’t the problem of western Christians. Our problem is that we find it hard to ever think spiritually in life. While members of eastern religions can help remind us that even though we possess the true spirituality found in Christ, we must exercise the rights and privileges of our inheritance.

 

Members of the different world religions, sadly, often go about pursuing God in the wrong way, but they do so with more commitment often. While we Christians who have the way, the truth and the life, pursue it little, and squander our rich heritage. When we look at all the error and ignorance of the different false world religions it should make us cry. One, we should cry for the sincere people who are being led astray by false religions and false religious leaders. Often these sincere, but misguided, religious people are full of dedication and zeal, but for the wrong cause. This is sad, it’s tragic, and it should make us feel compassion for their lost souls. But two, we should cry for our own poor spiritual condition, even as we live in the midst of the riches of God’s Word the Bible, while living in free lands where we can practice our faith freely and without opposition, where we can pray and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God. We live in a mansion of spiritual riches in the West with our Christian spiritual heritage, yet we mostly ignore all these riches and focus on the cheap and trivial cultural attractions like TV, the Internet, videos, music, recreation, entertainment, materialism, money, and so forth. Now there is nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, but the problem for Christians in the West is that we tend to focus on these things like everyone else and neglect our spiritual Christian riches in the process. While members of the false world religions pursue their false path to God with seriousness and sincerity. This should stop and make us think about the great blessings we have that we don’t use. It was often said in the “glory days” of the Communist Revolution that party members displayed more energy and commitment pursuing the lies of Marxism than did Christians in pursuing the truth of Christ. We could just as easily say that about many of the members of the false world religions – they often display more dedication to their false faiths than we Christians to our true faith. Is it any wonder why the world is in the mess that it’s in? When people follow a lie more earnestly than people who follow of the truth, that’s a recipe for disaster. That’s what we are seeing today. But we could change this as Christians if we just thought about it a moment and decided to live lives that corresponded to the truth we have in Christ. We’d put away worldly things and focus on God’s will for our lives and the world. We’d begin to prioritize the key Christian spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and Bible study. And we’d once again become a witness to the truth of God, instead of feeling ashamed of ourselves because we can’t even match the devotion of members of false religions. Let us use their example to motivate us to greater commitment to our Lord!

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