The night was young, but everyone in the night market was packing up and getting out. A storm had been forecasted and the vendors didn’t want their goods to get wet. Since there was nothing left to buy, and not wanting to risk getting wet, my friends and I joined the crowd moving out. In the midst of the hustle, a foreign man in formal attire was still zealously approaching folks. So he came up to me, and asked me about Jesus. Naturally I had my suspicions, but I thought to at least check who he represented before making assumptions.
“Which church do you come from?”
“The church of latter day saints. Where do you come from?”
My church name was actually longer than his, but I wasn’t inclined to say it as it might not mean much to the Mormon. Given the weather, I was not particularly interested in prolonging the conversation either. After pausing a second, and perhaps through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I answered, “Well, I’m from the Kingdom of Heaven!” I continued to walk on, but a friend later told me the Mormon then looked really stunned and hurried off in another direction.
I hope he doesn’t think of me as claiming to be some celestial being; my purpose was to shake his worldview, or belief system.
You see, in the Mormon worldview, there are several categories of the afterlife. And to get into the highest heaven, you need to be baptized as a Mormon and believe in Jesus the Mormon way. That’s not all: after you die, you also need to say the password and give the secret handshake to enter. (Mormons actually practise those at their temple, so they won’t get it wrong later.) That’s what they do to have some semblance of assurance regarding the afterlife.
If that is your worldview, how could a non-Mormon can make the bold assertion that he is from the Kingdom of Heaven?
Well, I am but a mortal, and I would not dare to make such bold statements if Scripture did not teach us so in Philippians 3: our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We could say that Paul is telling his readers that they are already citizens of heaven.
It is Jesus Christ who rescued us out of the dominion of darkness into his kingdom of marvellous light (Colossians 1:13). If we sincerely believe in him, then there is no dispute about our place in heaven. We read the following in John 6: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out .. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
And how does a man then come to Jesus? In humble repentance, begging forgiveness for our sins; and in faith, knowing that in Christ we receive righteousness. Nothing more will suffice, neither baptisms and laying of hands, nor passwords and secret handshakes.
On hindsight, I wished I had the opportunity to explain all this to the Mormon man I met. Truly he had zeal, but not according to the true knowledge of Jesus Christ.
It is sad to see ‘established’ cults such as the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, as well as newer Korean ones (e.g. WMSC), making their appearance throughout this region. The established cults have been in cities with English-speakers for decades. However, the incident I had related in this blog post occurred in Chiang Rai; cult missionaries here do learn the Thai language. To my understanding, these cults struggle to find a foothold in Thai cities, possibly because of existing Christian organisations with local leaders. Instead, they find expansion easier in the rural areas, where they face less ‘competition’ and the villagers are more willing to listen (though I think they would face problems familiar to us, such as unbelieving verbal assent).
According to others there is a dearth of Thai literature targeted at answering the cults. While I believe that is being fixed, I am concerned the shallowness which characterizes many modern churches’ concept of worship will not encourage the use of such literature. A conceivably frightful outcome is the production of ‘prebelievers’ for the cults. We must pray for our God and Saviour Jesus Christ to build his church.