To My Brothers and Sisters of the Middle East and North Africa:

Greetings

I am glad to be your brother in Christ half a world away. I hope Jesus continues to reveal himself to you. My prayer is that you would grow to know how much He loves you.

I’m eager to meet you here or there. It is exciting to serve such a wonderful God. May His name be praised. I pray that God will lead you and keep you secure and that your love and faith would grow.

I am happy to introduce myself. I studied to be a nuclear engineer as a young man. I did not grow up as a Christian. Now my whole family follows Jesus; My father, mother, brother and his family, my sister and her family, and my wife and children. Now I am a pastor and missionary.

My wife and I worked in Latin America with street children for two years. We have planted two churches.

The Gospel

There is a problem. I’m not sure that the church in the Middle East and North Africa context understands the issues surrounding the Gospel. I do not know if the main subject in contention known.

The American Church has played an historic role in the spread of the Gospel worldwide. One in three people in the World are now followers of Christ.

“A century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%).”

Today, the vast spread of the Gospel is due to Christians around the world, not the United States and Europe. This is great but we still have a problem. Here is something that highlights the problem.

In the United States two of every three people claim Christianity as their religion. I’m native to America. I can speak from experience that if these who claim Christ truly were following Him, I would live in a virtual Heaven on Earth. However, I do not.

Why are so few Christians Christ like in America given so many so called Christians? Why do we abort children? Why the pornography? Why are there so many divorces and drug abuse? I would like to say that in my country it due to those who do not believe. However, that isn’t the case. It is done by many who claim to be Christians!

We have done a great job of evangelizing around the world. So what is the problem? Maybe it is discipleship? Maybe we haven’t done a great job of teaching the Bible? Maybe they do not understand what the will of God is?

The Gospel that is preached here and has been propagated through the world is this: “We have sinned against God and are condemned. Christ died on the cross for our sins. If we confess our sins asking forgiveness believing in Jesus, He will forgive the sins and grant eternal life.” It is complete! It is all done, now you’re going to Heaven. Nothing is required.

This gospel is the one that is preached. Maybe it is the one you promote. I hope it isn’t the one you live down to.
Some are baptized and others read their Bible. Large numbers go to church and some evangelize. Others speak in tongues and seek signs and wonders. Many go onto be pastors and Christian leaders.

In your experience: Is the Sermon on the Mount lived out amongst you? Do you remember the last time a church called it’s people to Matt 25:34 -46, to care for the prisoner, hungry, homeless or even to care for the widow and orphan mentioned in James 1:26? I would bet it is rarely mentioned and it is even more unusual to see it carried out by pastors or parishioners.

What about John 15, how do you know God? What does the Bible teach? How do you know you are forgiven and truly His? Is it really through stating a creed “I believe in Jesus the son of God for the forgiveness of my sins?”

What about James, Hebrews and 1 John that give us the answers to these questions? Have we reconciled these questions? Do we have Biblical answers?

John the Baptist, Jesus and the Disciples preached the Kingdom of God. Do you know what they preached? Is this what you preach? How did believing in Jesus fit into this message? It must be put in order to understand.

I like the word Muslim, ”’Muslim’ is an Arabic word meaning “one who submits to God.” Is Christianity somehow different in this regard? Are we required to submit to God or can we live without obedience? Is Christianity a scholarly pursuit or one of the senses, experiencing the presence of God; a mere feeling?

To be Christian means to be like Christ. It is to submit to God in obedience to sacrificial love! When you believe what follows is submission; you love. In our weakness we give and learn the depth of His love through loving others as a lifestyle. Yes, just like Jesus!

1 John 2:5-6 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. NIV

It is blasphemy to call Him Lord and not live sacrificially for a dying world. To not give our all as Jesus and continue to call ourselves by his name has been the most destructive force to the salvation of mankind than atheism. So called believers have done more damage to Christ than all the persecutors in History.

They should see Jesus in us! And then they will know Him by the same way we will. Revelation belongs to those who self give like Him. This is the irresistible love of Christ.

John 14:21-24 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” NIV

You can read that the revelation of God comes through obedience; this is the true demonstration of love toward God. And those who do not obey His command to self giving love do not know or love Him. If there is no obedience, there will be no revelation.

Read and understand John 15, it will enlighten you. You can go to church, pray, meditate, memorize scripture and be just as lost as when you began. These are good but not the main issue.

Matt 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” NIV

Does this only apply to the teachers of the law and Pharisees or are our teachers the same? Are our leaders under the same warning? I not trying to hurt our leaders but reform them. Yes! Yes, this sounds audacious but, yes! They are good men but mislead. They are loved and we need them desperately.

They are having a profound impact, so let them go all the way. We need them, but we need them to lead. They must lead us in the Christ way not in the way of an Americanized version of the Gospel.

2 Peter 2:20-22 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” NIV

This word tells us to continue in the Way. We start living as Christ through our trust in Him. Trust that He is God, trust that he will resurrect us from the dead and deliver us to Heaven. We believe He is here with us through His Spirit to help and guide us. But, there is no forgiveness to those who begin in the righteousness that comes by faith and turn back. Stating a creed doesn’t save but only faith in Jesus that leads to self giving love as Jesus did.
Much like a suicide bomber, we give our lives. We do it to rescue, moreover we do it daily. Not just one explosion and we are on our way to paradise, killing the infidel. It is our life for the life of the enemies of God. It is mercy!

I recently spoke with a pastor who is of Sudan. He oversees many churches and pastors. The pastor is great and devoted in his service. We spoke while he was in the United States various times on the subject of the Gospel.
One day in a small group he looked sick. The leader of the group asked him “What do you have to say?” He bowed his head “I’ve been listening to Cliff and I now recognize I have been preaching a half-gospel!” He saw. What a humble servant of God.

What an impact he will have on the pastors he serves!

I believe most pastors will receive this admonishment. I hope to encourage them and see them lead to the fullest of their potential. Much depends on their eyes being opened and ears being healed.

God’s Mandate

The following scripture is very revealing. Salvation is knowing God. This is the goal of our faith, eternal life. We will be in the actual presence of God! The prophet shows that caring for the poor is what it means to know God.

Jer 22:16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?”
I love scriptures like this. I’m a simple guy. I like scriptures that nail it down for me. Salvation is knowing God. And this scripture is very clear. It supports the other scriptures previously mentioned. Serving the poor and needy is what it means to know God!

Look at Isa 58:6-12 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” NIV

I didn’t quote the rest of Is 58 but it continues on. This is well worth studying. Do not spiritualize it but read it in the sense that the writer wrote it. It isn’t about helping the spiritually oppressed, spiritual wanderer, or spiritually hungry…it says what is says. It should not be modified to mean something else. It says help the oppressed, wanderer, and hungry.

It says to stand up for justice, set the oppressed free, share food with the hungry, shelter for the wanderer, and clothing the naked. This of course is not a finite list but some simple examples of compassion.

Most of this is self explanatory but I will pause to discuss injustice and oppression. This is a road of discovery. This will take exploration, both for you and the church. Who are treated unjustly and who are oppressed? For example in our country blacks were mistreated this way and Christians stood against it. The most notable Christian leader was Martin Luther King who was black himself. He was supported by other Christians including white Christians.

Notice He promises our light will shine forth, personal healing, righteousness will go before us, and the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard. What do each of these mean.

Light and righteousness…these bring to mind the scripture in Matt 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” NIV

Through your service people will see God in you and glorify Him. This will result in the salvation of many.
He promises healing. We can only surmise the type of healing He is speaking of. Some claim absolute healing for believers. I do not believe this is what the Bible teaches. I trust Him for that which he promises; he promises healing and he will choose how.

Matt 25 was previously mentioned. Let us look at it closely. It is the difference between Heaven and Hell. A creed won’t extract anyone from this reality. Just believing won’t get you out of loving.

Matt 25:41-46 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” NIV
What do you think?

When I read this as a new Christian I thought “Well, I’m a Christian so I won’t go to Hell. It doesn’t apply to me.” Do you think I drew the right conclusion?

But who is Jesus talking to? Non-Christians? Jews only? If I ignore this am I secure with God? Is this a core value of God?

He makes this clear that the righteous will go to eternal life. This is because of their faith; they obey the command to compassion. Yet those who did not show compassion were called cursed and are told to depart from His presence. Then they are cast into Hell; eternal punishment. Why?

Because, this is the issue. God is love! His command is love. Jesus lived a life of compassion. He went to the cross and died for those who were against Him. Loving is how you know God. The love of God dwells in you as a result. This is the issue of faith.

Do you trust Jesus such that you will live sacrificially for those around you? This is the line in the sand!

Models: Church/Individual

The challenge we all have is one of discovery. We ask what can I do? Who will I do it with? Will my pastor lead? What will my lifestyle look like?

I’ll answer these questions and give ideas on what you can do to begin living the Jesus lifestyle.

Thankfully, it isn’t complex once you have decided to trust Jesus for salvation and understand His will clearly: a self giving lifestyle.

Here is what you can do. Find poor people and discover what you can do to help. Where are they? Are they in jail or prison? Are they foreign workers? Befriend and help them.

You will learn a lot. It is a learning process to discover who you can help. Pray and move. God will show you. As you progress you’ll improve on how to find the needs and truly help.

Do it with your closest friends in the church. Invite others who want to serve to meet, pray and plan together. Let your pastor and elders know what you are doing and invite them. Let them know what you have been learning.

It is great if the pastor will lead. When he gets a conviction that this must be done he will be used by God to transform the church and the community. If he doesn’t lead understand that it is hard for him to change quickly. Do not give up. Do your work with friends. Let him know what you are doing and again invite him to come.

Walk the streets meet people and talk to them. Pray with them and learn the needs. Always keep your loving ears open at work and pay attention to the needs of everyone. Earn money to provide for you and your family. Give to the needs around you.

Watch and see how your light will shine and God will be glorified. See how God reveals Himself to you. Watch how the depth of your relationship with God grows. See your wisdom grow. See people lifted from despair. See your prayers answered.

I recently interacted with a South Korean man. He owns a small store and gas station. His business is failing. His employees and customers steal from him, killing his business. His wife left him a few years ago and he has worked 7 days a week, 16 hours a day for the last five years. He is tired and is considering suicide.

On the Tuesdays I help him at his store. Through this he has been asking me about church. I will serve him because of compassion. I hope he will come to Jesus.

See! It is simple we only must open our eyes and care.

Tell me your stories, I would love to read them.

May God bless you with revelation of His love and may He pour it out through you.

Your Brother in Love,

Cliff Williams


2 thoughts on “To My Brothers and Sisters of the Middle East and North Africa:

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