Connecting to Jesus
Some of my moto-taxi friends call me ‘Grandpa Jesus,’” smiles Mr. Morn Va. It must be because he is always talking about Jesus. Mr. Va wasn’t even a Christian eight years ago. Someone took him along for the ride to a big Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The nice fellowship led him to request baptism. “I began to love Jesus,” Morn Va said, but he didn’t really understand. “At first I believed that I needed to do good deeds to be saved from sin,” he told us. After reading his Bible from cover to cover in one year, truth broke through. “Now I believe that Christ died to give me life.”’Grandpa Jesus’ loves to introduce other people to Christ.
Recently, a 30-year-old man named Savuth hopped onto Morn Va’s moto-taxi. He had seen Morn Va go to church. “Why do you believe in a foreigner God?” he asked. “I do not believe in a foreigner God,” Morn Va replied. “I believe in the Almighty God who can save me and deliver me from sin.”
A few days later he had a chance to share with Savuth straight from his now well-worn Bible. “Jesus is the way, the truth, the life,” Morn Va caringly insisted. Savuth was convinced enough to come to church and start studying the Bible. In this Adventist Southeast Asia Projects (ASAP) Ministries literacy teacher, we have a great example of making disciples. Morn Va, a follower of Jesus, is introducing people to Jesus. It’s that simple. Even so, people often get it mixed up. Recently a friend said, “I’ve been in church all my life. Just in the last few weeks I’m learning to love Jesus.” We are not inviting people to a different set of rules or even a different religion; we are inviting them to a vibrant relationship with our living Savior.
Jesus said to Peter, “Come follow Me.” Matthew 4:19. He found Philip and said, “Follow Me.” John 1:43. When He appointed the twelve, it wasn’t just for ministry; it was “that they might be with Him.” Mark 3:14. And He taught Martha that sitting at His feet was “the one thing needful.” Luke 10:42. Whether you are an ASAP worker in Southeast Asia or a church member in North America, your first job is to spend time with Jesus. Your second job is to help others have that connection, too. This is the gospel. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18.
One of the best things you can do for new believers is to help them study the Bible in a meaningful way, finding Jesus on every page. I used to meet weekly in the park with a man named Ray. I asked him to read a chapter from the Bible before he came, then we discussed how it personally applied to his life. It was exciting to watch him grow, even getting victory over his alcohol problem. With my own children, I’ve found it helpful to teach them to ask five questions for each passage they read: (1) What does it tell me about God? (2) What does it tell me about humans? (3) Is there a command to obey or an example to follow? (4) Is there a promise to claim? (5) What is God especially trying to teach me today? The point is we need to deliberately help new followers know how to connect with Jesus through the Bible. It doesn’t just automatically happen.
This is also true with learning how to pray. The disciples heard Jesus praying powerfully with great faith. They said, “Teach us to pray,” and He gave them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer. Luke 11:1.
Like Morn Va, people begin attending church because of friendly fellowship. Others are intrigued by prophecy or a freshly-discovered truth like the Sabbath. However, they may still be far from Jesus. Our job is to connect everything back to the great Center. For example, we can show that the Sabbath is about a relationship with Jesus, and that the people at church are nice because of Jesus.
Making disciples takes time. Our landlady in Thailand, Khru Yuuy, had never known God. In her huge financial difficulties, she had prayed, “Whatever divine beings are out here, please help me!” When we rented her house and she saw us pray, she became convinced it was our God who had answered her prayers. But she had never known the God of the Bible. She knew about gods and spirits who had temples. You had to take an offering and get your help at that specific holy place. Over time she watched us pray in our house, in the car, and at her home. She heard us ask for safety on the road, healing for a friend, and protection from snakes. She learned to talk to God for herself and saw miracles in her own family. Every kind deed, prayer, and story grew her understanding of who our God was. Finally, she watched the Jesus video and agreed to Bible studies. She was the first one baptized in our church plant in Ayutthaya. What a joy to be an “ambassador for Christ, as though God were pleading through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Khru Yuuy learned a lot more about Christianity after that. However, her greatest need remains—a daily connection with Jesus. That is why, whether you are an ASAP national missionary or a church member in North America, we must keep focused on our main job—to be connected to Jesus and connect others to Him.
“God might have committed the message of the gospel, and all the work of loving ministry, to the heavenly angels. He might have employed other means for accomplishing His purpose. But in His infinite love He chose to make us co-workers with Himself, with Christ and the angels, that we might share the blessing, the joy, the spiritual uplifting, which results from this unselfish ministry.” Steps to Christ, 79.
By Scott Griswold of Adventist Southeast Asia Projects (ASAP). Mail: PO Box 84, Berrien Springs, MI 49103. Website: www.asapministries.org.