August 24, 2012

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

It is interesting that John, the “apostle of love,” is the one writer in the whole Bible who is clearest on the point that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ – and that’s not to say that other writers are reticent on this point. I couldn’t begin to say how many times I’ve had someone say to me, “How could a loving God be so narrow and exclusive?” or words to that effect. We tend to forget that God is perfectly holy, and what a big deal it is that He made a way for any sinful human being to come to Him. When John was the youngest of the original 12 apostles, and even before that he was a disciple of John the Baptist, it seems unlikely that he committed any of what we would tend to call “major” sins, yet he still understood clearly that he had no hope, no standing before God, apart from the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. I’m reminded of my mother, who was baptized at the tender age of five with the clear awareness that she was a sinner. As she related it to me over 60 years later, she had done something her parents didn’t know about, but that in her heart she knew was wrong, and being raised in a strongly Christian home, that conviction of sin led her to seek forgiveness and salvation in Christ. The biggest barrier to salvation for anyone, bar none, is pride. We just don’t want to admit we’re in the wrong. The problem is, we can’t receive the salvation, the forgiveness, that God has provided through His Son until we acknowledge that we are wrong. The Bible is clear that refusal to believe in Christ is in itself sin. (John 3:18 and others) This puts people who have had no opportunity to believe in Christ in a somewhat different category, which Paul deals with in Romans 2:1-16. The thing is, every human being has violated their own conscience, and pride is the chief thing standing in the way of asking God for forgiveness.

This is of course something I deal with every day. The Japanese are certainly not deficient in the area of pride, even though they are taught from childhood to be self effacing. In their case, it is often pride in being Japanese, and they see Christianity as a “foreign” religion. Also, as many scholars in various disciplines have noted, Japan has a “shame culture,” rather than a “sin culture.” To correct undesirable behavior, children are told, “people will laugh at you,” rather than “that is wrong.” Proclaiming the Gospel is difficult in the original land of Situational Ethics! However, I must not give up, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment, (John 16:7-11) and He can use me to that end as well as anyone else. I have indeed seen strongly Christian Japanese, clear in their faith and good examples for anyone who would follow God. I need to be fully available to God for Him to use me in increasing their number!

Father, thank You for this clear reminder. I ask for wisdom and clear guidance in all my interactions. I get the “How could a loving God…” objection from American far more than from Japanese, but You love them all and desire them all to come to repentance and faith. Help me be fully available to You to that end, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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