Sam and Adam reflect on comparative religion and the gospel
1) by Sam Alvarado—
As Ramadan comes to an end, I can’t help but to ponder on what I observed in my neighborhood. Many evenings, especially during the weekend, you could see parked cars filling the streets and large family gatherings in several homes on the block. During Ramadan, my street has been quiet and even some nights, there was little activity. Curiously, I did see a neighbor’s family birthday party eating and drinking late in the day before evening, so I guess some people were not celebrating a strict fast. I can’t help but to be reminded of how Jesus answered a question posed to him by people seeking to be justified before God. They asked him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” Jesus’ reply to this question was that they were to believe on the one whom God had sent. Jesus said this alluding to himself as the one whom God had sent. The people then asked them what sign would he do to convince them. They said that God had used Moses to give them manna, or bread, from heaven to eat and survive in the wilderness. Jesus told them that He, himself was the bread that was come down from heaven to give them life.
We know that Jesus didn’t lie and since He called himself the bread of life given by God, then it seems that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God. It is God who takes the first step in reaching out to us in love. All we can do is believe, and by faith, act on that belief. I know that fasting is a good discipline and it benefits the body but believing what God has done on our behalf through Jesus Christ and living our lives according to this belief is the fast of love and obedience that God requires of us.
2) by Adam Simnowitz—
Not everyone receives the Gospel, that is the message of salvation from sin through faith in the Jesus Christ as good news. In fact, many who have been raised in highly-legalistic religions often view the Gospel as an excuse to sin. As with the reaction that some 1st-people had toward it in the first century, so today many Muslims have the same reaction when hearing that Jesus died for their sins to grant forgiveness to those who believe in Him.
I have a Muslim friend from Syria with whom I have shared the gospel message on many occasions. During one of our conversations, he objected to the idea that people can be forgiven simply by believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. It seemed to him that if a person could be guaranteed forgiveness, he would use this as an excuse to commit whatever sin he so pleased. I told him that Jesus came to save us from our sins (Injeel, gospel of Matthew 1:21). Why then would I return to the very thing that led me to realize my need for Jesus?
I then gave him an illustration. I asked him to imagine that I was his enemy. I tried repeated times to harm and kill him which went on for a long time. One day, he saw me drowning and out of love and compassion, jumped in the water and saved me. Since I was incoherent from the ordeal, it was not until we were on the shore that I looked up and realized that he whom I considered my enemy had saved me! I then said the following, "If I were in my right mind, would I try to kill you? No, I would be overcome with gratitude and quite embarrassed by my behavior towards you. I would ask you to forgive me for what I had done and no longer treat you as my enemy but seek to serve you." At that point the topic in our conversation changed to something completely different. About 5 minutes later my friend exclaimed, "I understand! I understand!" His delayed response took me by surprise but I realized that he finally understood the point of my illustration. Though he did not accept Chris as savior at that moment, a major barrier in his mind had been overcome.
The problem of viewing the Gospel as licentiousness does not arise from the message but rather from misunderstanding it. Islam, as the offspring of rabbinical Judaism, fosters a self-righteousness within its adherents. For those who think they are better than others by reason of keeping certain commands or performing certain religious duties, the message that forgiveness of sins is available by "believing" something seems almost immoral (which is exacerbated by the flagrant debauchery of so many people who profess to be Christian). Misunderstanding the Gospel in this way is a natural consequence of viewing sin in an external way. It is also evidence that such a person is filled with pride, blinded to his shortcomings and failures to uphold the very law(s) he tries so diligently to follow. Such a person has yet to accept the fact that he is a sinner and equally guilty before God as is everyone else.
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from sin and hell is the most humbling thing a person can do. It is accepting God's verdict that we are sinners in His sight and utterly guilty for our sinful choices. There is no offering of excuses as did Adam after eating the forbidden fruit (Tawrat, Genesis 3:12) but rather a genuine acknowledgment of wrong-doing as with David when he humbled himself before God by confessing:
- Against You, You only, I have sinned
- And done what is evil in Your sight,
- So that You are justified when You speak
- And blameless when You judge.
- (Psalm 51:4)
In a passage that Muslims often attribute to predictions of Muhammad, Jesus promised actually that the Holy Spirit would come and convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Injeel, gospel of John 16:7-11 plus two other places in chapters 14 and 15). This aspect of conversion is exclusive to God alone, yet those who bear the message have a part to play. (Prophet Ezekiel 18:32; Injeel 1Tim 2:4 and 2 Pet 3:9). As the LORD has so worked in the hearts of millions over the millenia, so he longs to rescue Muslims even if they presently misunderstand the Gospel. With God, nothing is impossible (Injeel, gospel of Luke 1:37; cf. gospel of Matthew 19:26).
In a passage that Muslims often attribute to predictions of Muhammad, Jesus promised actually not a prophet but the Holy Spirit; that the Holy Spirit would come and convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Injeel, gospel of John 16:7-11 plus two others in chapters 14 and 15). This activity is exclusive to God alone, yet those who bear the message have a part to play. (Prophet Ezekiel 18:32; Injeel 1Tim 2:4 and 2 Pet 3:9) And, as the LORD has so worked in the hearts of millions over the millenia, so he longs to rescue Muslims even if they presently misunderstand or deny the Gospel. But with God, nothing is impossible (Injeel, gospel of Luke 1:37; cf. gospel of Matthew 19:26).
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