I don't like the sound of the word "heathen" but for lack of a better word I use this word to describe most of the Japanese people's spiritual condition. Only in the case of a Shinto person would I use the word "pagan". Pagans believe in many gods whereas a Heathen's knowledge of God is virtually nil.
The Japanese are extremely busy people and sometimes I have only 15 minutes or less to sit down with them with a Bible in my hand. Where do I start to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a person totally ignorant of the Bible? I first explain to them why the Bible is the Divinely inspired Word of God. I learned how to do this in about one minute in a way they can easily understand.
First I show them a Japanese Bible and point to the Chinese characters (Seisho). This translated literally from Japanese means "Holy Writ" However the first character "sei" can be broken down into 3 simpler characters that mean "king", "mouth" and "ear". There is no dispute whatsoever with the Japanese that the character sei is composed of these characters for it is as clear as spelling out the 3 letters of a 3 letter English word.
I believe the early Chinese had knowledge of the Book of Genesis and other books of Moses when they first created their ideographs.
I explain that the "King" in the character Sei is God. From His "mouth" He speaks His Word. The "ear" of the person who hears the Word is one of His prophets. The prophet then writes down the Word on paper - "sho" which literally means writ, writing. When the Japanese hear it explained in this fashion, they will often give me a reaction the shows understanding. "Oh I see!"
My second task is to try to convince them that their relationship with God is lacking. This is also pretty easy, believe it or not. It takes only about 2 or 3 minutes. I try to avoid using words like "sin" or "sinner" because these words in Japanese are the exact same words meaning "crime" and "criminal" and therefore too strong for a Japanese to accept in his or her spiritual relationship with God. Instead I try to work on their acknowledging the Lord in their daily lives and showing Him thanks and appreciation. I ask them, "When you woke up this morning, did you thank God for another day of life?" The answer is invariably a no. They readily acknowledge that God is not a part of their everyday lives. I say, "According to the Bible, God is the creator of all life." Isn't it strange that though God created us most people do not acknowledge Him or give Him much thanks or appreciation?" Again most Japanese will readily agree with this point. There is no argument or offense for them to hear it. I ask them, "As parents wouldn't you be sad if after your child grows up he or she doesn't show you much appreciation or even acknowledge your very existence?" They of course agree they would be sad. "Well God is sad when we don't acknowledge Him in our daily lives! It's only in times of trouble do most people pray to God asking for help!" The Japanese have an actual expression referring to praying to God only when in trouble as "kurushii toki kami danomi", and so they can readily relate to this point. "And if God doesn't answer them according to the way they think God should answer their prayer, many said, 'God doesn't care about me.' or 'There is no God!'" They also acknowledge this.
Next I explain who God is: The Creator of the universe and all life. How to do this? With the Japanese you have to begin at the Beginning with Genesis chapter one verse one! I open the Bible and point to Genesis 1:1 and have them read it out loud. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Then I ask them to read Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image....." and I ask them, "Is this what you were taught in school?" "No" is their reply. "Well then, what were you taught in school?" They usually do not come up with a clear answer to that question and so I tell them, "You were probably taught that the world created itself." They agree.
Then I show them Genesis 2:7 and say, "Let's see what material God used to create us." And they read, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground,..." Then I say, "Our bodies were made from dirt! This has even been scientifically proven. Everything we eat to sustain our bodies originally comes from the ground!" All Japanese can readily relate to this statement. Farming is still a vital occupation in this industrialized country.
After that I explain a bit about the Garden of Eden and have them read from Genesis 2:15-17. I show them God's only prohibition on the first man and women was not to eat from the knowledge of good and evil. Most Japanese have some knowledge of this story in Genesis but will invariably call the forbidden fruit "the apple". They are surprised to know that the Bible doesn't call it an apple. Sometimes I tell them that mankind is continuing to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in a spiritual way resulting in the knowledge of evil inventions like the Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They readily agree that nukes are evil having the sole purpose of taking life indiscriminately.
Then I explain briefly who Satan is, and that he lied to Eve in the Garden to cause them to disobey God. I have them read from Genesis 3:1-12. These Scriptures are key to show them why humans lost their direct relationship with the Creator!
Sometimes the women laugh when they read how Adam passed the buck to his wife by saying, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." I explain why the "blame game" is so bad for their relationships to others, and especially in husband / wife relationships. They always agree.
I try to allocate about 10 minutes for all of the above. The next 5 minutes is to explain about who Jesus Christ is, why He came, why He died on the cross, and even what the cross really is: a simple tool used in the Roman Empire to execute criminals. Most Japanese would not think deeply about these things. I explain that Jesus was born of Mary who was yet a virgin, and therefore His unique Birth sets him apart from all other teachers of religion or philosophy. I explain that He led a normal life till He was 30 years old, began to preach the Kingdom of God, and though He committed no crime against either God or man the leaders of religion accused Him as an evildoer to the Government out of jealously and had Him executed. I tell them that though Jesus died by their hands, God had a purpose for His death. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died for us personally, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us" and our relationship to God is restored to the point of before Adam and Eve's disobedience! And as proof that Jesus is who He said He is, He rose from the dead the third day showing himself alive for the next 40 days to over 500 people!
I then invite them to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. At this they often give me puzzled looks. I explain that by simply repeating a prayer after me, if they pray with all their heart, God will hear them and write their names in the Book of Life and they will be partakers of the life of God! I don't talk hardly at all about life after death in Heaven because this is a concept that most Japanese cannot relate to.
Most Japanese will readily pray with me after hearing the Gospel presented this way. I like to ask them to hold hands with me while they pray. If I am talking to a couple, I have them hold hands with each other also.
I'm sure there are some Christians out there in cyberland who may not agree exactly with the way I present the Gospel. I do invite constructive criticism, but if you strongly disagree with this article, please do come to Japan and preach the Gospel to the Japanese in the way you believe to be best. There are millions going to a Christless grave! Over 30,000 people commit suicide every year! We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature" - Mark 16:15. If you truely know Jesus, I hope you take His commandment seriously and take steps to obey it or generously support those who do.
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