January 24, Tuesday

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

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

24After reading a story about Christian mission work in a Muslim country, a reader commented, “Since when did we consider the Muslims to be unbelievers?  They do not need to be converted because the Christians and Muslims believe and worship the same God.”  This person’s point isn’t entirely without merit, since both the Syrian Christians and Jews referred to God as Allah before the rise of Mohammed in the 6th century.  But upon a closer examination, because the original meaning attached to the name Allah underwent a dramatic makeover in the Koran, anyone who says that the Christians and Muslims worship the same God is either ignorant or condescending toward religion itself.

The best way for me to show the difference is to take you back to a meeting in 1999, where I had an opportunity to share with an audience of about 100 people—equal number of Christians as well as Muslims.  I began the talk by saying that if I had an opportunity to be either Allah or the Christian God for a minute, I would want to be like Allah in a heartbeat.  I then read from the Koran where it says, “Obey Allah and Apostle.  If they give no heed, then, truly Allah does not love the unbelievers (3:32); “Allah does not love the evil-doers” (3:57).  I reasoned that since I, too, don’t love the people who don’t believe me, as well as those who do evil, I can readily relate to Allah.

After taking a pause, however, I changed my tune, saying, “What I really needed before becoming a Christian, was a God who would’ve loved me even if I didn’t believe Him and was doing bad things.  And there is such a God—and that is the Christian God.”  I, then, read Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Unlike Allah of the Koran, the God of the Bible “is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Lk. 6:35).

After the meeting, a Muslim man shared how he had never seen the difference quite like that.  No, he didn’t become a Christian that day, but I hope that he eventually placed his trust in Christ—the greatest expression of God’s love toward fickle mankind so undeserving of such amazing grace!

Prayer: God, I exalt and worship You today.  Help me not to be intellectually lazy and naïve to the point of believing everything the media reports and what the academia spews out.  Clarify my thinking on Islam, so that I can present a cogent and sensible presentation of the gospel to the next Muslim I meet.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 1


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Eph. 2:8-9 (NASB): For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Rom. 10:1-3: Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the main difference between salvation by grace through faith and the way the Jews  went about it?
  2. If how the Jews went about to establish their own righteousness represents world religions—such as Islam and Buddhism—then what is the main difference between the latter and the Christian faith?
  3. What would you say to a Muslim who believes that he must keep the Five Pillars of Islam—confession (“there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”), daily prayers, almsgiving (zakāt), pilgrimage to Mecca, and fasting—to be saved?

Notes

  1. Whereas salvation by grace through faith requires no works contributed by the person desiring to be saved, the Jews tried to establish their own righteousness by keeping the moral laws as well as works of the law (circumcision, Sabbath keeping and eating kosher).
  2. Whereas the Christian faith is God’s attempt to save men, world religions are men’s attempt to save themselves through their own efforts.
  3. I would share that Jesus is not merely the second most important prophet, but He is, in fact, the Son of God. Then I would tell him that Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross made his works (keeping the Five Pillars of Islam) unnecessary to be saved.

EVENING REFLECTION

Do you have any Muslim friends or co-workers?  Have you ever tried to talk to them about God?  Of course, we need to establish a relationship before talking about such a serious matter like one’s faith; however, the first thing we need to do is to pray for them.  Even a gifted theologian and preacher like the apostle Paul asked his friends to pray for him, saying, “Whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19).  Would you begin praying for this Muslim individual so that you may have an opportunity to share the mystery of the gospel with him or her?

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