A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Islamic View of Christians: Do We Set Up Partners with God?


In Sura 4 of the Qur’an, verses 47-48, we read: “O ye People of the Book! Believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you, before We change the face and fame of some (of you) beyond all recognition, and turn them hind wards, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of Allah Must be carried out. Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed.” [The Kindle Qur'an (Definitive English Edition), Islamic Studies Press.]

According to the above Qur’an passage calling Christians (“People of the Book”) to believe the Qur’an, warning us of certain consequences if we do not, to “set up partners” with God is the unforgivable sin. Muslims believe Christians have “set up partners” with God—that we are actually not monotheists. They believe we blaspheme God by worshipping Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Qur’an says Christians are lost in sin due to believing in the deity of Christ. Needless to say, Christianity and Islam aren’t compatible. They’re mutually exclusive religions. If one is right, the other is wrong.

Do we who worship Jesus “set up partners with God”? Are we monotheists or not? I believe the above Qur’an passage is from a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Godhead (or Godhood). We don’t believe in three gods! We believe in one God who exists in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Father, Son, and Spirit are one God! Muslims will sometimes argue, “No man can become God.” They think we’re saying Jesus, born a mere man, somehow ascended to godhood. The truth is, God the Son became a man. Can an omnipotent God not take on flesh if he so chooses? There’s only one God, and he has no partners in Godhood, but the nature of Godhood is more complex than human nature. No one exalted anyone into Godhood, but rather, one person of the godhood “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:7-11 ESV). 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Problem with Islam


Houston, we have a problem—seven masjids. We have one in Smyrna, and we’re all aware of the one in Murfreesboro. Talk radio goes on and on about the problem of Islam. One Nashville area host has gone so far as to call “pastors” in America cowards for being unwilling to talk about Islam openly. By pastors he means preachers, but, thankfully, not only do we not use that title for our preachers, but the judgment wouldn’t stick anyway. At Highland we’ve had a 13 week class, a Saturday seminar, a combined adult classes, and are working on hosting a debate, or discussion (whichever you want to call it). We’re not done yet. We have a problem with Islam, and we’re addressing it.

What is that problem? Is it that all Muslims want to conquer us and force conversion, or at least force Sharia Law upon us, or else kill us? Some of them do want that. I hope it’s true that most don’t. Either way, that’s not our fundamental problem with Islam. Is it that they mistreat women? Absolutely not! Muslim men don’t mistreat their women at any greater rate than other men do, and their basic teachings about women aren’t all that different from the Bible. In fact, the modesty practicing Muslims expect of both men and women is commendable, and certainly much closer to what our 1st Century brothers and sisters would have practiced than the typical American standard today. Is our problem with their politics? Well, from a political perspective I do have some issues with Sharia Law, but that’s not the real beef with Islam. The real problem is “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). They’ve been deceived by a system of religious teaching that doesn’t truly originate from God. They are worshipping him “in vain,” “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9).

The truth is in Jesus! (Ephesians 4:21). There’s no other way to be saved and reconciled with God than through Jesus! (Acts 4:12). Our problem is there are millions of souls seeking submission to God, but finding only rebellion, because they aren’t seeking through Christ. Our aim is to strive with God in prayers for them, to keep on learning more and more about them, and to build relationships with them, and open dialogue with them, so that we can reason together, in the hope that some of them, perhaps even many of them will come to see the truth about Jesus and so be saved. Please pray for our upcoming class, debate/discussion, and for all our future efforts to this end. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Islam


Islam—what comes to your mind when you hear the word? If you adhere to the religion of Muhammad, you hear “submission” to God. If you’re from the western hemisphere, you may hear a challenge to your way of life, a threat to fear and oppose, a subject of interest to learn more about,  or simply the name of a religion you believe is false.

Islam is the Arabic word for “submission,” and a Muslim is “one who submits” to God. I am committed to living in submission to God, but I don’t believe the Koran is truly the word of God and don’t accept Muhammad as his prophet. I follow Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life,” convinced “no one can come to the Father except through him” (John 14:6). I believe what Peter said in defense of the faith: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “Islam”—I just hear the name of a religion I believe is false.

Muslims believe Muhammad was God’s last prophet. The Qu’ran is their scripture—the words of Muhammad written down by his followers. They also live by the Hadith, writings about the life and deeds of Muhammad. They seek to organize their societies—and ultimately all the world—under Sharia Law, the Islamic system of government. They believe in six pillars of faith: Allah, angels, books (Qu’ran held as superior), prophets (Muhammad held as greatest), the Day of Judgment, and predestination. They believe in The Five Pillars (of Action): Shahada (“witness” –statement of faith, called the creed), Salat (ritual prayers toward the Ka’bah in Mecca) – five times daily, Sawm (obligatory fasting in the month of Ramadan), Hajj (“the great” pilgrimage to Mecca) – obligatory at least once in life if possible, which involves ritual movements, and animal sacrifices, and Zakah (giving alms). Jihad, which means “the struggle,” is also a fundamental belief in Islam, and though it does refer to “holy war” at times, it generally means the daily struggles believers face in this life.

There are many good points about the Muslim way of life. I honor those among them who are trying to live in submission to God. I honor them for their modesty and charity. I wish no harm upon any of them and don’t believe war will help either our relationships with them or theirs with us. However, the religion of Muhammad and the true religion that comes through Christ are contradictory. Both cannot be right. It is, therefore, my mission to help Muslims see the truth in the gospel and so come to submit to God the right way, that is, by accepting the Lordship of Christ. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Human Sacrifice

The Sacrifice by Mats Eriksson

Sacrifice has always played a central role in true religion. In the earliest times God taught man to offer animal sacrifices in worship, and the practice was organized into a detailed religious system under the Law of Moses. In ancient Israel, the blood of animals flowed like a river from the altar of God.  

Yet, “the blood of bulls and goats” was never the kind of sacrifices God deeply wanted. “And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1Samuel 15:22 ESV). David wrote, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17 ESV). The kind of sacrifice God has always desired from each of us is the sacrifice of ourselves—that each of us would recognize his goodness and power and willingly sacrifice our own wills for his.

The old hymn that went, “Less of self and more of Thee,” and finally “None of self and all of Thee,” used to scare me as a child. I wanted my own way. I wanted to be in charge of myself—to do what I wanted to do. And so I did, and, God help me, often still do. However, as I have lived, and “tasted,” I have seen “that the Lord is good.” I find this God who sent his Son as a human (and divine) sacrifice for me, to redeem my life from the absolute ruin that always comes when I try to make my own way, to be ever calling me to do that which I have always found the hardest thing to do—to let go of my own will, and let him fully have me. The words of Paul are my devotion for the day: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1 NAS). 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Christians and Homosexuals

Photo Courtesy S. Bragg
Since "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," millions of words have been exchanged in person and through the media for and against homosexuality and for and against the "Christian" response to Mr. Cathey's support of the Biblical definition of marriage. Some have maligned Christians for supposedly hating homosexuals simply because most of us have attempted to support one of our own who believes as we do. Do not others do the same? I intend to move on to other things, but felt compelled to write one more post first.


The Bible clearly classifies homosexual behavior and identity as sin. Enough said. Bible believers all agree that it is sinful to engage in homosexual behavior (including indulging same-sex attraction lust) and/or identify oneself as homosexual. We're called to attempt to convert every living soul to Christ's way of living and thinking, and that includes convincing them to realize the truth about homosexuality. We cannot ever stop preaching about the sin that is homosexuality. Anyone who embraces it and does not repent and accept the Lord's way will face condemnation on Judgment Day. Some will argue my having spoken about condemnation will turn homosexuals away from listening to the good news of the cross and empty tomb. I agree. It will turn some off. However, it has to be addressed, as no one can be a Christian and continue in homosexuality. If we speak the truth in love, it won't turn the open-minded ones off. Many have turned away from same-sex attraction temptations to embrace the love of Jesus. The apostle Paul mentioned homosexuals in a list of those who "will not inherit the kingdom of God" and then said, "and such were some of you" (1Corinthians 6:9-11). Note the word "were."


For a very long time I have known and loved people who are tempted with same-sex attraction. Some have overcome the temptations with God's help. Some continue to embrace the sin. Some are still in the midst of a struggle and sometimes overcome temptations and are sometimes overcome. I love them all and want the best for them all. I can empathize with their struggles. I too have weaknesses. Some I have overcome through Christ. Some I struggle with; sometimes overcoming, and sometimes being overcome. Being a Christian isn't about thinking I'm better than others. It's about being real honest with God about my sinfulness and trusting in the righteousness of Christ (John 3:19-21; 1John 1:5-10). 


Some of the world's most talented individuals are homosexuals. There's no denying it. Most Americans and Europeans can list several very famous actors, musicians, artists, etc., who are well known to be homosexuals. Sir Ian McKellen is a homosexual and has masterfully portrayed one of my favorite literary characters, Gandalf, on the silver screen. My first year out of High School I went to Memphis College of Art and there met several very talented artists who were homosexuals. I never mistreated any of them. At the time, I wasn't trying very hard to honor Christ myself, so I don't think I ever spoke against their lifestyle at all, even though I believed it was wrong. Had they asked what I thought about it, I would have told them in as meek a manner as I could have. I'm sure of that. Most of them were very kind to me, and I might have eventually numbered one or two of them as friends had I stayed in Memphis long enough. I count one fellow believer who struggles with same-sex attraction to this day as a friend, and pray for this individual's strength and growth in the faith. May God bless every soul who struggles with these temptations to realize the rightness of his decrees and find the strength to turn away from their sins and be purified and blessed in his benevolent grace!


Alright, I'll wrap this up as quickly as I can. There are some among us who want to vilify the Biblical definition of sexual purity. It remains right, and those who would be right with God and in tune with nature will ever identify homosexuality as sin and flee from it (1Corinthians 6:18). I can't speak for every believer, but as for me and my house, we will hate the sin, but will continue to love the sinner just as the Lord does. Christian brother and sisters, spread the love AND the truth, and let's take a little more of this misguided world enslaved to various lusts (Titus 3:3) and set it free! (John 8:32). 


I will gladly offer loving counsel and advice to anyone who suffers from same-sex attractions willing to have an open mind about what the Bible says, and if I cannot help, I'll help you find someone who can.