WAS TURNER REALLY LOOKING FOR 'SPIRITUAL CHRISTIANS'
I could understand Turner if he had complained about the lack of spirituality in modern Christianity - surely this is a challenge to us all? The effectiveness of our Christian life can be seen in our ability to witness in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with authority (Acts 3 and 4).
Do non-believers in the world, and those seeking the truth in the church, see evidence for the 'new life' in Christ? (John 3v3; 2 Corinthians 5v17)
If God's Spirit is not at the root of our lives then no 'fruit of the Spirit' - holiness - can be found on the branches (Galatians 5v22). We are warned that 'in the last days there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lust - these are the ones who cause divisions, 'wordly-minded, devoid of the Spirit' (Jude v18-19). 'Sensuality' and 'having not the Spirit' are inseparably coupled in those who cling to the Adam-defiled nature. Scripture divides the earth into 'Jews and Gentiles' and Paul was not afraid to state bluntly, so none could be confused, that 'all are under sin' (Romans 3v9) and the Holy Spirit then proceeds to give us an 'X-ray' study of ourselves from head to foot: 'their throat is an open grave', with their 'tongue they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood' (Romans 3v13-15). The Spirit concludes 'there is no fear of God before their eyes; by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin' (3v20).
The holiest man who ever lived cannot stand before God in his own righteousness - God opened the door to the perfect way when He nailed His Son to the cross of Calvary. King David recognised the insurmountable weight of sin when he wrote in Psalm 143: 'enter not into judgement with thy servant, for in Thy sight no man living is righteous' (v2). As David recognised the hopelessness of his position - 'my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me (v4) he appealed to his God to 'teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God (v10). With confidence he could appeal to the Spirit of the Living God to 'revive him' and in 'Thy righteousness bring my soul out of trouble' (v11). For those who are in Jesus Christ, righteousness is twofold - imputed and imparted. Imputed righteousness is worked for the believer by Christ - the justification which lets him stand righteous before God - whereas imparted righteousness is what Christ works in the believer. David's prayers show that he recognised that this righteousness was not in him as it is not inherent in any of God's children. But, like David, we receive the benefit of it by faith, as if we had effected it ourselves, and with him rejoice that the Davidic Kingdom is fulfilled in Jesus who is called 'the Lord our righteousness' (Jeremiah 33v16).
What a difference in David's prayer for sanctification and protection (Psalm 141), compared with the 'Roman X-ray':
'O Lord, I call upon Thee; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to Thee! May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. Set a guard, O Lord, over my 'mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing....'
David's 'X-ray' reveals a patient attending the Heavenly Health Service which can put every body member right. The child of God is 'led by the Spirit of God' (Romans 8v14) into putting to death the deeds of the body. We are not under obligation to the flesh - because the 'mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God' (Romans 8v7-8). How do we tell when we are living in the flesh? David knew - it showed in what came out of his mouth and in the path that he walked (Galatians 5v19-21). Do we consider that David rightly fitted many of these 'titles'? How could David commit adultery with Bathsheba and send Uriah to certain death (2 Samuel 11)? How do we view the lives of believers in Christ? Simon the Pharisee was quick to judge (Luke 7v36-50):
'If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him - that she is a sinner'.
Jesus killed this line of reasoning forever, and also put the root of our behaviour into full view, when He replied with the parable of the Two Debtors:
'A certain money-lender had two debtors. One owed a years wages & the other owed ten years wages. When they were unable to repay he graciously forgave them both - which of them therefore will love him more?'
Simon could not miss the point: 'He who is forgiven little, loves little.'
Truly we insult the Son of God when we fail to consider that He paid the greatest price for the poorest goods! And if we truly believed that we had been saved from eternity in Hell would we continue to sin? And would our witness to those trapped in darkness - such as the cults - be transformed?
How does the Buddhist religion really compare with the perfection that is in Christ?Buddhism
YOU Must Make the Effort!
"Buddha" - the "enlightened one."
We should emphasize that fanciful and un-provable traditions abound concerning Buddha but, like every other religion outside of historic Judaism and Christianity, there are scant written details of the lives of the founders. Unlike the Hindu religion, Buddhism points to an individual founder and can look back to a date for its beginnings. The man who formulated Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama, who was born a Hindu about 560 B.C. at Lumbini in what is now Nepal, near the border of India. Tradition says that when Gautama was born, a seer prophesied that he would become the greatest ruler in human history. The seer added that if Gautama were to see four things: sickness, old age, death, and a monk who had renounced the world, the boy would give up his earthly rule and discover a way of salvation for all mankind. Gautama*s father, wanting him to become a great earthly ruler, built a palace for his son and gave orders that neither the sick, the old, a dead body nor a monk could be allowed near the palace. Gautama grew up in this way, protected from the world. He later married a beautiful girl, Yasodhara, who bore him a son.
But the gods had other plans for Gautama and one day, as he rode through the park that surrounded his palace, he saw a man covered with terrible sores, a man tottering with age, a corpse being carried to its grave, and a begging monk who appeared peaceful and happy. That night, as Gautama reported later, he began to think about the look of peace on the face of the monk. He began to wonder if there was more to life than the luxuries of his palace. Late that night he took a last look at his sleeping wife and child, then left the palace forever.
Gautama, 29 years old, was determined to solve the riddle of life, so he shaved his head, put on a yellow robe and wandered the countryside as a beggar monk. First he studied the Upanishads with the finest teachers, but he could find no satisfaction in these writings. Then he tried to find salvation through self-denial. He starved himself until he was a walking skeleton, but this brought him no happiness either. Finally, he sat under a tree for 40 days and nights swearing that he would not move until he found what he was searching for. During this time, Mara (the evil one) tried to make him give up his quest. Then, at the end of the 40 days he experienced Nirvana (the final state). He felt that he had found salvation. From then on, he was known as "Buddha" or the "enlightened one."The Middle Way and the Four Noble Truths
After this experience, Gautama Buddha went back to the world of man to preach and teach about the meaning of life and his way of salvation. Soon, he founded the Sangha, an order of monks. By the time Gautama Buddha died, 45 years later, many thousands had accepted his religion.
In some ways, Buddhism is similar to the Hinduism from which it evolved. But in other ways, it is quite different. Buddha denied that the Vedas and the Upanishads were divine writings. He said they were of no help in finding the way of salvation. He also denied that man has an atman (soul) which is a part of the paramatman (world soul), and that the present world is maya (unreal). He did accept the Hindu teachings on reincarnation along with karma (the duty one has to perform according to his station in life).
Buddha*s theory of the "Middle Way" describes a spiritual path of salvation that winds between the complicated religion of the Hindus and the world of sensuality that he had known. He strongly opposed the caste system of the Hindus which teaches that a person must reach the Brahman caste through reincarnation before he can attain moksha, the infinite. Buddha taught that nirvana (the infinite) is for anyone regardless of caste and this made Buddhism very appealing, especially to the lower classes.The Four Noble Truths
Instead of the hard-to-define teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism offers clear, firm rules for its followers. When Buddha preached in Benares, India, he presented the four main principles of Buddhism which came to be called the "Four Noble Truths."
1. Suffering is universal. By this the Buddhist means that the very act of living must include suffering. In each of a person*s incarnations, he must suffer. Salvation (nirvana) is to be released from this unending cycle of suffering.The Eightfold Path
2. The cause of suffering is craving (selfish desire). Man remains in this endless cycle because he is too attached to the world. The Buddhist calls this tanha, or desire.
The cure for suffering is to eliminate craving. Since to live is to suffer, and since suffering is caused by craving, if craving were removed, suffering would be over. This was Buddha*s great discovery: if a person could put an end to craving, he would put an end to suffering.
Eliminate craving by following the Middle Way--the Noble Eightfold Path.
Thus Buddha claimed to have done what the Hindus could not do. He isolated the cause of man*s inability to escape from the endless cycle of death and rebirth, and he gave it a name, tanha.
Next he worked out a system by which man could rid himself of tanha by a system he called the "Eightfold Path."
The Eightfold Path consists of eight ways of right living:
(1) right viewpoint, (2) right aspiration, (3) right speech, (4) right behavior, (5) right occupation, (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right meditation.Twentieth century forms of Buddhism
Buddha claimed that whoever could follow this Eightfold Path would eventually reach nirvana, a release from the endless cycle of death and rebirth. When Buddha was asked to define the state of nirvana, he always said that he had never tried to solve this question. His mission was to show man the way to escape the suffering of life, not to describe what he would find once he had been liberated.
Hinduism says that life in this world is meaningless. Buddhism says that life in this world is quite real. It involves real suffering, but because of this suffering, the world must be escaped.
Buddhism has always had great appeal for the peoples of the East. Unlike the elitist ideas of Hinduism, Buddhism offers a precise definition of man*s problem along with an exact "plan of salvation" for everyone.
Buddhism was popular in India for several centuries until it was driven out by "reformed" Hinduism and the new Muslim faith.
During the first thousand years after Christ, while the gospel was being carried all over Europe, Buddhist monks took their religion along the trade routes to China, Japan and Tibet. Today, from Ceylon to Japan, there are probably half a billion people who follow the teachings of Buddha.
The teachings of Buddha compared to the Bible
Twentieth-century Buddhism takes a wide variety of forms.
In Tibet, it is demon worship; in Japan, the militant, nationalistic cult of Soka Gokkai. But the two main forms of Buddhism are Hinayana and Mahayana.
Hinayana means "the doctrine of the lesser way," referring to the belief that only a fortunate few can find nirvana-- those who absolutely follow the way of Buddha. Since this was a derogatory name given by critics, the name was later changed to Theravada Buddhism. Theravada (the way of the elders) emphasizes the monastic life. This branch of Buddhism has become very wealthy through gifts of land and money for monasteries. Theravada Buddhism is dominant today in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.
Mahayana, the teaching of the "greater way," teaches that Buddha believed that salvation is for all people. Buddha taught that only man could save himself, but Mahayana developed the idea of a saviour God.
This was their reasoning:
Buddha had remained on the earth for 45 years. He could have gone to nirvana. Instead, he decided to stay to save mankind. Thus Buddha (and others like him) was a saviour to mankind and can still be called on by the faithful.
From all this, you can see that Theravada and Mahayana differ radically in their opinion of Buddha. To Theravada, Buddha was only a teacher (as Buddha himself claimed), but Mahayana has raised him to the position of a saviour-god for all people. Because of this, Mahayana Buddhism is by far the more popular. It is influential in China, Tibet, Japan, Vietnam and Korea.
Buddhism still enjoys phenomenal growth, not only in Asia, but in the West, so we must ask the question, "How well does it answer the needs of mankind?"
Buddhism claims that wherever it has gone it has raised the ethics of people, promoting honesty, sexual morality, and sobriety. On the other hand, Buddhism criticizes the 'Christian' West for wars and the use of nuclear bombs. This is as illogical as the claim that Christianity produced Nazism and Buddhists cannot ignore the trouble caused in recent years in Southeast Asia by ambitious Buddhist monks.
Buddhism also claims that it is designed to do away with suffering. This would be more convincing if Buddhists were active in social work, but actually they have done almost nothing in this field. The Buddhist thinks that escape from suffering should be brought about by one*s own personal struggle and frowns on interfering with another human's problems. This makes it as selfish as the Hindu caste system which 'Mother' Theresa went along with for her own selfish reasons.
The Buddhist has a fatalistic view of life--suffering is part of life. It cannot be removed. Each person must find his own way of escape and not worry about other people. Contrast this with the Christian view. Five hundred and twenty years after the death of Buddha, Jesus appeared to bring full and abundant life, not only in the world to come, but in this world. Buddha claimed to have found a way, but Jesus claimed that He is the way. How do these two claims compare?
How Christianity is Superior to Buddhism
Buddha said that "to live is to suffer," but he gave no reason for suffering.
The Bible agrees that suffering is everywhere, but it provides an explanation for suffering.
Romans 8:18-23 says that the entire world "groans" and that all men suffer because of sin. Romans 5 tells us that when Adam sinned, he infected the entire bloodstream of humanity with sickness and suffering and death. The Bible also declares men are sinners by choice. In the biblical view, sin is basically rebellion against God.
Buddha correctly observed that suffering comes from a desire for the things of the world.
Christians call these desires temptation. James 1:13-15 points out that a man is enticed from within, by "evil desires," "lusts," and passions or appetites which tend to get out of control. When a person yields to these temptations, he sins. The result of sin is spiritual suffering and death (Romans 6:23). Christians agree that the cause of suffering is selfish desire, but they disagree with the Buddhist way of removing this desire.
Buddha taught that the only way to rid oneself of selfish desire was through self-effort. For centuries his followers have tried to stay on the Eightfold Path, but many have found that "the heart is deceitful above all things. . . and beyond cure. Who can stand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) and will sabotage the best of human intentions.
For a person to master himself, he must have a higher source of strength. But Buddha is agnostic. He ignores the possibility of help from God. The apostle Paul (Titus 3:3-8) reminds us that every Christian was once a slave to desire, to all sorts of selfish hungers, but that Christ came into the world as God and as man to supply the strength to overcome these desires. Without the help of God the only way to end desire is to die. But with God, we can become ''new creatures" who die (figuratively) to selfish desires. (cf. John 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20.)
Buddha said that to end desire one must follow the Eightfold Path: right viewpoint, aspiration, speech, behavior, occupation, effort, mindfulness, meditation. These noble ideas are much like those taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).
What choice must man make?
The problem with Buddhism is that its goals are beyond man*s ability to reach.
Jesus didn't just set standards of this kind, but also gives strength to live a life that is pleasing to God. Christ shares in the life of the true believer. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave His disciples a perfect illustration of how to be a successful Christian. He compared Himself to a grapevine and His followers to the grapevine*s branches, because He knew His disciples would be familiar with this plant which grew all over Palestine (John 15:4-7):
4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.
Jesus went on to say (v9-10):
9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.
Jesus Christ gives His followers two vital ingredients for effective living: power and authority. The Christian increases or limits that power in direct proportion to how much of his life he really shares with his Lord and how obedient he is to his Lord.
Christ does not simply give the Christian a list of commandments and orders to obey. He promises to help the Christian grow and change and develop, just as a vine, a bush, or a tree grows under proper care.
The Buddhist on the other hand has eight guidelines for the right way to live, but Buddha promises him no power to live that way. And Buddha has no real authority for saying these eight steps are right, noble as these eight steps may sound.
Christ says "I am the way" (John 14:6) - He did not say 'a way' or 'another way' - and He proved His power and authority by rising from the dead. That same power and authority is available to Christians, but many Christians never fully realize what Christ can do for them because they don*t really live their lives in Him.
Buddha taught: "You yourself must make the effort."
Christ teaches: "Turn yourself over to Me and I will give you power to live successfully." Since Christ is Almighty God - a claim never made by Buddha - He has the power to always assist the Christian in his life and death - even if it means dying for the Christian faith, as did Stephen when he was stoned to death for witnessing for Christ (Acts 7:54-60)
Every man, Christian or otherwise, faces this choice: doomed self-effort, or yielding everything to Christ as Saviour and Lord.
When Christians accept Christ only as a Saviour, but fail to obey Him as Lord, they short-change themselves and in some respects are no better off than the Buddhist who grapples with craving (selfish desire) in his own strength. The Christian recognizes, that even though he is "saved through faith in Christ," there is still craving (selfish desire) in his life. That craving is there because he has not turned everything over to the One who has plainly said, "Without me (without living all of your life in me) you can do nothing." The Christian must make Christ Lord of his life. It is this failure that explains the problems exhibited by Graham Turner and Lolicia Aitken in the Daily Mail article on Buddhism in 1994!