A 21st Century Convert from Buddhism and a 19th Century Scottish Preacher

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

This past summer, at my denomination’s General Assembly meetings in St. Louis, I enjoyed getting to know a Korean brother who was a committed Buddhist until he came to Christ at 55 years old. As he tells it, he wasn't a nominal or cultural Buddhist either, but was dedicated to meditation and studying Buddhism in Chinese. I asked him what finally brought about the change in his life. "The grace of God!" was his reply. I said "Amen!” to that but pressed him further. What was it that attracted him to Christ? It is no small thing, after all, to be dedicated to one religious faith your whole adult life and then suddenly change.
He said that he ultimately found Buddhism to be incomplete and unsatisfactory. In Buddhist meditation, which he practiced often, he sought to empty his mind. According to Buddhism, it is thought that all suffering is caused by desire. Thus, if you want to be free from suffering, you need to be free from desire. Do not want anything or be attached to anything, whether good or bad. Emptying your mind is a way of detaching oneself from the world and its desires. However, he said it was very hard to do because when he tried to not think about anything, all sorts of other thoughts immediately flooded in... or he fell asleep because he had been trying to meditate too long.
Rev. Thomas Chalmers, 1780 - 1847. Preacher and social reformerRev. Thomas Chalmers, 1780 - 1847. Preacher and social reformerIn the midst of his dissatisfaction with Buddhism, he heard the Gospel and realized that it was Christ that he was looking for. Even so, as a new believer, he was still somewhat confused about how Christianity related to his old faith and his attempts to empty his mind. In the midst of this confusion, reading Thomas Chalmers' sermon, "The Expulsive Power of New Affection”, made a huge difference in his life. If you've never read this classic sermon by the 19th-century Scottish preacher, Chalmers argues that you can not truly get rid of desires for sinful things apart from focusing on positive things, namely the grace and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Old desires need to be replaced with new ones. Although Buddhism teaches that the goal of meditation is emptying your mind, that is ultimately impossible. Our minds are always going to be filled with something. Our minds will be filled with sin or with Christ. As Chalmers preached, we can rid our minds of sinful thoughts by filling them with godly thoughts. That’s the key biblical truth that helped this Korean brother get on a firm foundation in Christ that paved the way for further growth in faith and understanding.
The grace of God is working today to change hearts and renew minds… and from beyond the grave, a nineteenth-century Scotsman is preaching to a twenty-first-century convert from Buddhism. You never know how the Holy Spirit will use Biblical truth, clearly and powerfully presented, in unexpected ways and places.
If you'd like to read Chalmers sermon, you can read it online for free or on Kindle for $0.99 (affiliate link)
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