January 23, Monday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

How 9/11 Changed My Outlook on Islam

Col. 4:5: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

Jn. 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God.

23As Bible-believing Christians, we ought to disagree with contrary beliefs, but if we are to love our “enemies” (i.e., those with whom we disagree), we should make some effort to know what they actually teach, and then disagree—rather than going just by secondary sources, or worse, hearsays.  So when I started to study about Islam, I discovered—to my surprise— some agreeable things the Koran says about Christ.

The 9/11 occurred less than two weeks after we moved to Chihuahua, Mexico, a city about 250 miles south of El Paso, Texas.  After this happened, I knew I had to get a copy of the Koran.  It so happened that my family and I already had plane tickets to visit my father in Philadelphia for his 70th birthday bash at the end of October.  Crossing the line at the border, which took forever because of extra security measures, was another reminder that as a missionary who taught, among other subjects, missiology, it was imperative that I understood Islam.  After scouring several bookstores in Philly, I was disappointed to find only a copy that contained excerpts from the Koran; later, when Florida pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn  the Korans, I was screaming, “Give a copy to me!”

After eventually securing a Koran and reading it—along with several books on Islam—I discovered that while Islam considers Mohammed as the highest ranking of all the prophets, including Jesus, it actually seems to present Jesus as more than just a prophet—maybe even “better” than Mohammed.  For instance, while the Koran presents Jesus as a worker of miracles (raising the dead and healing the lepers), no miracle is attributed to Muhammad (29:49b: “My mission is only to give plain warning”).

While Jesus is said to be without blemish, Muhammad is told to seek forgiveness for his sins (40:55b: “Allah´s promise is true.  Implore Him to forgive your sins”).  The Koran even says of Jesus, in semblance to John 1:1, “a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honored shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God” (3:40).

Of course, there are several substantially conflicting teachings about Christ in the Koran that can hardly be bridged with the Bible.  What I discovered from the Koran, however, is sufficient to “conduct [myself] with wisdom toward outsiders (like Muslims), making the most of the opportunity” (Col. 4:5) by, first, presenting myself as a curious inquisitor.

My advice to you: Islam, with its 1.7 billion adherents, isn’t going away; therefore, get to know Islam and the Koran.  Know the key differences so as to realize that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God (discussed tomorrow); utilize any similarities between the two to begin dialoguing with them.

Prayer: Lord, the presence of many religions in the world is quite daunting to our faith, since we believe that salvation is found only in Jesus.  Help me, Father, to understand and appreciate world religions; impart to me the necessary knowledge and wisdom to speak to them about our Savior Christ.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 25


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read John 20:31: But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

1 Jn. 2:23: No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

The Koran declares, “Say: Allah is One, the Eternal God.  He begot none, nor was He begotten. None is equal to Him” (112); “Allah forbid that He should have a son. . ..”  (4:171).

Questions to Consider

  1. What is a key difference between the Bible and Koran over the Sonship of Christ?
  2. Is that difference trivial or essential? Can we consider those who deny the Sonship of Christ as having the Father?
  3. John 3:36 (NIV) says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Can you make a theological sense of this passage?

Note

  1. Whereas the Sonship of Christ (but not in a physical sense) is crucial to the centrality of the Christian faith, Islam denies that God (Allah) has a son.
  2. This is an essential difference, because Scripture declares that those who deny the Son do not have the Father—meaning, believing in God without believing in the Son is not part of the New Testament faith, that is, a saving faith.
  3. The wrath of a holy God toward sinners is the default position, and it is the substitutionary death of the Son that perfectly satisfied this wrath. Thus, it stands to reason that if one rejects the Son and his atoning work, then, God’s wrath will continue to remain on him.

EVENING REFLECTION

Where were you when 9/11 occurred?  How did it change your world?  Well, if you are like the rest, the change didn’t last too long, unless you were directly victimized by the terror.  One thing that will never change is that the Son died on the cross to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).  In contrast, the Koran says: “[The Jews] said, ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus Son of Mary, the messenger of Allah,’ but they killed him not nor crucified him but it seemed so to them. . .. But Allah took him up to himself.”[1]  Ultimately, Muslims need to be convinced that Jesus died for their sins.  Would you pray right now for missionaries serving in Islamic countries that they would clearly, boldly, and lovingly share the good news of Jesus Christ?  Pray that you would be equipped to speak cogently to a Muslim neighbor about Christ.

[1] However, Koran 5:17 appears to say that Jesus did die: “Say, who could prevent Allah from destroying the Messiah, the Son of Mary, together with his mother and all the people of the earth?

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