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The Gospel for Muslims | prepared by Travis Gilbert
The Cross and the Crescent
Bros. James
Roy Dearmore
men who have exemplified with their lives
the glorious truth that the Gospel
is to be proclaimed to all peoples.
The Gospel for Muslims
The Cross and the Crescent
Table of Contents
Preface.......................................................................................................... 7
#1 – What and Where is Islam? ..................................................................... 9
What is Islam?.................................................................................................. 9
Where is Islam? ............................................................................................. 12
#2 – Misconceptions ................................................................................... 14
Muslim Misconceptions ................................................................................. 15
Christian Misconceptions ............................................................................... 16
#3 – Commonalities and Differences ........................................................... 18
Undeniable Commonalities ............................................................................ 19
Irreducible Differences .................................................................................. 21
#4 – The Gospel for Muslims ....................................................................... 24
Bibliography................................................................................................ 29
Is There a Jihadist in Your Church Nursery? ................................................. 31
The Gospel for Muslims
The Cross and the Crescent
Why this series? Why spend time discussing the Cross and the Crescent; Christianity and
Islam? The first reason is obvious. The Gospel is global. The Gospel is for every people and
language group. Praise God for passages like Romans 15:8-13, Psalm 117, and Revelation 5:910! The second reason why we need this series parallels with why I wanted to prepare for and
teach it. As a teenager, all I knew about Islam is what I had gleaned from stories out of the
Arabian Nights: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, and Sinbad the
Sailor. In other words, I basically knew nothing about Islam. Of course, I understood the
tensions that existed between Jews and Arabs, but I did not know much, if anything, about
My ignorance never bothered me, however, because all of that was so distant. Muslims
were people I saw on TV or read about in the paper. I certainly did not know a Muslim, and the
only Muslim names I heard were the names of athletes and entertainers who had converted.
Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Cat Stevens
became Yusuf Islam. While I was in high school Notre Dame had an electric WR/K-PR named
Raghib Ismail. Everyone called him the Rocket. Growing up these were basically the only Islamic
names I knew.
That changed my senior year in high school. When an Iraqi dictator named Saddam Hussein
invaded the tiny Arabian emirate Kuwait. I joined the Army straight out of high school, while
our nation was involved in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Suddenly, I was
becoming exceedingly familiar with this Middle Eastern world.
Then in 1993 a group of Muslim men attempted to bring down the World Trade Center in
New York. Eight years later another group devastatingly succeeded. In between those two
attacks on our soil two of our embassies in Africa – Kenya and Tanzania – were bombed; as was
the USS Cole in the port of Aden off the Yemeni coast. Following these attacks our nation began
and is still fighting a global war on terror that is primarily located in Iraq and Afghanistan; two
Islamic nations.
Do not get the wrong impression. This series is not about the geopolitical conflict between
the United States and Islamic extremists. I do want to point out that our two civilizations are no
longer, and have not been for some time, oceans apart. I have no desire, and will spend no time
over the course of this brief study discussing politics, military actions, or terrorism. The problem
we have, I believe, is that too often we frame the discussion about Islam in geopolitical and
military terms. That is easy to do, but I am more interested in this question: How should the
followers of Jesus Christ understand Islam in light of the Christian faith, and how may we reach
them with the Gospel?
For the Sake of the Gospel,
Travis Gilbert
Garland, TX
October 2010
The Gospel for Muslims
The Cross and the Crescent
#1 – What and Where is Islam?
I have to state at the beginning of this series that I am no expert on Islam, but I do have an
interest. That interest has driven me to study. I also have a new brother in Christ who was
raised in the Islamic culture. I live in a neighborhood where Muslims are ever present. I want to
know more about these people and their religion, not just out of intellectual curiosity, but from
a desire to be used by God to share the Gospel of grace with them. My source material for this
series is a collection of books that I highly recommend, as well as personal conversations with
“John Thomas”. I encourage you to check out some of the books for yourself, and I especially
encourage you to personally engage and befriend John.
My goal with this series is not to equip you for the winning of arguments, but to equip you
for the winning of Muslims to Jesus Christ! Let’s begin this study this morning by asking and
answering two questions: What is Islam? Where is Islam?
What is Islam?
Islam is the religion’s name and it means “submission or
surrender.” A Muslim is one who submits. Islam began with the
supernatural visions and revelations that Muhammad claimed he
received from God through the angel Gabriel (Jibril) beginning in AD
610. The word Qur’an means “the reciting” or “the reading,” and the
Qur’an is his reciting of the revelations given to him. Muhammad was
illiterate. He dictated parts of the Qur’an, while the rest came from
the writings of disciples who remembered his teachings.
Figure 1 Islamic Crescent
Six Core Beliefs
#1 – Allah
There is one God and his name is Allah; an Arabic term that literally means “the deity.”
Muhammad was reared in a culture of pervasive polytheism. His central message to this
polytheistic culture was that there was one God who had revealed himself through the
prophets. The one unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk which is worshipping other gods besides or
in addition to Allah, to blaspheme Allah, or assign “partners” to Allah. Christians are guilty of
shirk when they worship Jesus as the divine Son of God or prayer in Jesus’ name.
#2 – The Prophets
Muslims believe that Allah has sent 124,000 prophets (nabi – “prophet”; rasul – “apostle”),
beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad, the seal of the prophets. Muslims identify
25 primary prophets; which are the ones mentioned in the Qur’an. 22 of those are found in the
Bible. Every prophet preached a consistent message: repent and return to Allah. Each prophet
had a specific task. Noah was “the preacher”, Moses “the lawgiver”, Jesus “the Word”, and
Muhammad “the seal” (the final conclusion). Each prophet added something new to the body
of revelation. Muhammad, in the Qur’an, completed the revelation.
The Gospel for Muslims
#3 – Angelic Beings
Muslims strongly believe in an active spirit world. From Jibril who appeared to Muhammad,
to the fallen angel Shaitan (from the Hebrew Satan), and to demons called jinns. Many Muslims
believe that two angels sit on each shoulder, one recording their good deeds and the other
their bad. During prayer they will turn and address these two angels. When a Muslim dies,
before he is taken to heaven, the angel that recorded his bad deeds is allowed to beat him as
#4 – The Holy Books
Muslims believe that the messages of the prophets are found primarily in four holy books:
the Taurat (Torah), the Zabur (Psalms of David), the Injil (Gospels), and the Qur’an. Each book,
when given, was an accurate and authoritative word from God, but the first three have been
corrupted by the Jews and Christians. The Qur’an was given to restore the message, and unlike
the other holy books its message cannot be corrupted because of Allah’s supernatural
protection is upon it. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the words of Allah, not the words of
Muhammad, and that its content has eternally existed in heaven and in Arabic. For this reason
any translation of the Qur’an out of Arabic is not considered the Word of God. The vast majority
of Muslims are not Arabic speakers. They still quote and pray the Qur’an in Arabic, even if they
don’t understand the words they are quoting, because they believe the words of the Qur’an
have their power when they are spoken or written in Arabic, whether the hearer understands
them or not!
The Qur’an is about four-fifths the size of the New Testament. It contains 114 suras
(chapters) and around 6,000 ayats (verses). Ayat means “sign”; thus an ayatollah is a religious
leader, among the Shiites, believed to be “the sign of Allah.” The Qur’an is arranged by size,
largest sura to smallest, except for the first, brief introductory sura. Since it’s a collection of
recitations, there is no narrative order and very little historical context. It is mostly a collection
of prohibitions, instructions, and condemnations with a few allusions to the stories of the
prophets, and celebration of Allah.
The Qur’an contradicts itself. In the early suras it speaks of Christians and Jews as “people
of the book.” But in the case of Jews especially, they strayed far from Allah, but in the case of
Christians they are the Muslims’ “nearest friends.” For example, Sura 5:82:
Strongest among men in enmity to the believers (Muslims) wilt thou find the Jews
and the Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find
those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to
learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And
when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their
eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we
believe; write us down among the witnesses.
The Qur’an even tells Muslims that if they doubt the message Muhammad gives them to
check with the Christians, “those who have been reading the Book from before thee” (10:94).
But in other places it commands Muslims to slay unbelievers.
The Cross and the Crescent
#5 – Final Judgment
On the day of final judgment Allah’s verdict on the final destiny of every soul will be
revealed. For those who followed Islam faithfully a paradise awaits. JD Greear writes that
heaven was repeatedly described as: Three rivers apparently flow through heaven: one of pure
milk, one of pure water, and one of whiskey (a strictly forbidden substance on earth). Faithful
Muslim men are awaited by 70 eternal virgins. He never could get a straight answer as to what
faithful Muslim women have to look forward to in heaven. Muhammad evidently didn’t talk
much about women, and he said that more women go to hell than men.
Most Muslims believe each person must walk a tightrope over hell into eternity, carrying
their bad works on their backs. Therefore, the more bad works you have done, the more likely
you are to topple into hell. They also believe that most
people will spend some time in hell.
#6 – Decree
Allah has decreed all things – good and bad. This is
the doctrine of fate; specifically a fatalism that is prevalent
in Islamic society. From this core belief has arisen the
common Islamic phrase, “If it is Allah’s will.”
Five Pillars of Islam
#1 – Shahada
This is the Islamic confession of faith. You may have heard it before: “There is no God but
Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” This is the basis for everything Muslims teach and
believe. This acknowledges the absolute oneness of God (tawhid). He has no equals, partners,
or competitors. They believe Christian’s are polytheists because we worship Jesus as God. The
confession of faith is literally sewn into the Saudi Arabian flag.
To become a Muslim simply repeat the shahada three times. This confession is whispered
to newborns; repeated throughout life and in daily
Figure 2 Flag of Saudi Arabia
prayers; recited over a Muslim’s dead body which is about
to be buried. Simply put, this the heart of Islam.
#2 – Salat
The ritual prayers which must be offered facing towards Mecca and five times daily: just
before dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and sometime around midnight.
Different physical postures are required during the prayer time, and ritualistic cleansings
(wudu) precedes the prayers. The prayers are seen as a means of earning merit and removing
sin, and prayers offered in a mosque are worth 25 times a prayer said at home or in the market.
Friday is designated for congregational prayer in a mosque. Men are required to attend but not
#3 – Sawm
This is the ritual fasting during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic
calendar. During this month – which occurs at various seasons of the year since the Muslim
The Gospel for Muslims
year is lunar – Muslims are not allowed to touch food or water, or to be intimate with their
spouse from sun-up to sun-down. Of course, before the sun rises and after it sets they eat like
kings. Some reports indicate that food consumption during Ramadan goes up not down.
Ramadan is special because it is believed to be the month that Gabriel first appeared to
Muhammad. Performing this fast is a great source of pride to Muslims. It distinguishes them
from the followers of other religions and proves, they believe, their moral superiority.
#4 – Zakat
Muslims are expected to give alms, specifically 2.5% of their overall estate, and other
freewill offerings are encouraged. The Qur’an places alms giving as central to a Muslim’s
salvation, zakat means “purification.”
#5 – Hajj
Every Muslim is expected, at least once in life, to take a pilgrimage to Mecca. This is the
highlight of a Muslim’s life, and poor Muslims will save their entire lives for this trip. A trip to
Mecca accords the same merit as 50,000 prayers in a mosque. Some Muslims believe that every
step taken toward Mecca in the course of the pilgrimage blots out a sin committed in the past,
while to die en route is to be included in the number of the martyrs. Heaven guaranteed.
Where is Islam?
Islam has a global reach. You’d be mistaken to think that the majority of Muslims are
Arabs. There are almost 200 million Muslims in Indonesia alone. That is about the same number
as live in all the Arab countries combined, and it makes Indonesia the most populous Islamic
nation in the world. There are more Muslims in China than there are Southern Baptists in the
entire world. Islam in the 21st century has adherents on every continent. Islam is the second
largest religion in Europe, and it will soon
Top 10 Largest Muslim Populations
surpass Judaism for that spot in North
America. In England, there are more
Muslims than Methodists, and more
1. Indonesia
2. Pakistan
144,788,000 Presbyterians combined in the US. One UN
3. India
131,213,000 populations study estimates that by 2025
4. Bangladesh
118,512,000 30% of the world’s population will be
Muslim. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims
5. Turkey
in the world today, but only about 6% of
6. Iran
67,610,000 the Christian mission force in the world has
7. Egypt
64,647,000 Muslims as their focus.
8. Nigeria
Islam is global and local. In North
9. Algeria
31,729,000 America there are more than 13,000
mosques. The majority of Muslims in the
10. Morocco
The Cross and the Crescent
descendants, but Muslim communities are growing through conversion as well as immigration.
This is especially true in the African-American community, and I’m not talking about conversion
to the Nation of Islam, an organization that has been on the decline since the late 60’s.
Muslims live in my neighborhood. Their kids go to school with my kids. We shop at the
same stores. Their presence will continue to increase in this country. This is not a reason to
despair! This is an opportunity for Christian witness. So what will we do? Rather than reacting
with fear, suspicion, or apathy we should be equipped and ready to share our faith with our
new neighbors and friends. The British evangelical Ron George writes, “God was so concerned
that Muslims hear the Gospel that He has brought the mission field to the churches.”
How will we respond?
The Gospel for Muslims
#2 – Misconceptions
In discussing the theological difference between Christianity and Islam there are two
dangers that exist. We must avoid both pitfalls.
The first is an angry, and often arrogant, dismissal and denunciation of all things Islamic.
Nothing is gained when Christians characterize Islam as the heinous, wicked religion of
pedophiles, polygamists, and misogynists. That only reinforces misunderstanding and mistrust.
Few, if any, will be lead to Christ through such an attitude. The Gospel message is offensive to
the unconverted heart and mind, but the messengers of the Gospel should not be. As Timothy
George writes, “We dare not mitigate the scandal of the cross, but sometimes what is
scandalous is not the cross but we ourselves.”
We are “scandalous” when we fail to approach and treat people, specifically Muslims, with
the respect and forbearance due all people made in God’s image. It also happens when we
confuse preaching the Gospel of Christ with the promotion of our particular culture. Our Lord is
our example, and our Lord’s message was offensive to those who did not believe. He never was.
Never forget 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and
ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.”
All of us are familiar with the Great Commission, especially from Matthew 28:19-20. Let us
not forget John’s record of the commission. In John 20:21, “Then said Jesus to them again,
Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” There is a direct
correlation between the content of the message we preach and the character with which we
preach it. John 20:21 dovetails well with 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:
and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope
that is in you with meekness and fear.” Defend the truth and proclaim it with gentleness and
This series is not written with a “My God’s better than your god!” attitude, and interactions
with others should not be flavored with such an attitude.
The second pitfall which we must avoid is pluralism. In our postmodern culture the trend is
to downplay the difference between all faith perspectives; to avoid talk of conversion; to
encourage spirituality that is bereft of any Biblical framework. George writes in his book Is the
Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad about a university educated Muslim man who after
many years of searching for the truth trusted in Jesus Christ. When he informed one of his
“Christian minister” friends, the minister’s reply was, “You disappoint me.” How pathetic.
As Christians, we should of all people be interested in and committed to respectful, honest,
and humane behavior towards and dialogue with all people groups. That does not mean we
preach some relativistic, pluralistic, generic Gospel. We have a message to deliver to all people
everywhere regardless of their religion (or if they claim none). 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then
The Cross and the Crescent
we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ's
stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
We “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” Jude
3. Let’s just do it without contentiousness.
In order to contend for the faith, calling Muslims to be reconciled to God, and doing so with
gentleness and respect, even as Jesus did, it is important for us to clear up misconceptions that
we may have about Muslims, and to understand misconceptions that they normally hold
towards us.
Muslim Misconceptions
Relationships between Muslims and Christians are challenged from the start by suspicions
each has toward the other. As J.D. Greear writes in Breaking the Islam Code,
“Some of the things Muslims and Christians find most offensive about each other are
indeed true, and disagreement about them simply cannot be avoided. However
knowing that these obstacles exist will help you deal with them prudently.”
Christians Worship Three Gods
Muslims misinterpret the doctrine of the Trinity. Badly. How could Christians believe that
God had sex with the Virgin Mary to conceive Jesus Christ? Of course, I am equally offended by
this (mis)understanding of the Trinity. This is not at all the Biblical understanding of that
important doctrine, but it is what the Qur’an teaches.
Christians are monotheists; not tritheists! The Lord our God is one God. The idea that Jesus
our Lord is the result of physical intimacy between God and Mary is blasphemous. Still, this is a
prevalent misconception Muslims have towards us, and many “Christians” have helped this
misconception propagate. Take Thomas Jefferson as an example:
“When we shall have done away with the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian
arithmetic – three are one and one is three – when we shall have knocked down the
artificial scaffolding reared to mask from view the very simple structure of Jesus; in
short, when we have unlearned everything which we have been taught since His day
and got back to the pure and simple doctrines He inculcated, we shall then be truly
and worthily His disciples.”
All Westerners are Christians
Greear tells two stories two illustrate this point. Where lived – Malaysia – MTV was
popular. Many performers wear crucifixes or crosses (and little else). Many Muslims naturally
assume that they were all Christians because they were from the West and they are adorned
with Christian symbols. One college-aged Muslim friend asked him to throw her a “Christian”
birthday party. When he asked what she meant, she described a party with dancing, drinking,
and smoking like she saw the Christians doing on TV.
Muslims have little to no concept of separation of church and state. Therefore, western
countries are “Christian” nations and their leaders are “Christian” leaders. He was asked once
why the “church” bombed Iraq.
The Gospel for Muslims
There is a massive difference between cultural Christians and genuine followers of Christ,
but Muslims are generally unaware of this.
The Crusades Never Ended
Islam is not just viewed as a religion but as a political entity, and Muslims view others from
that prism. Western wars – like in Iraq and Afghanistan – are seen as extensions of the
Crusades; as attempts to take Muslim land and institute Christian rule.
Debating the justness of the war on terror will most likely be unhelpful; even if you believe
the war to be just (as I do). What do you hope to gain from such debates? What we should
make clear is that Christ never intended His church to be a political institution that fought
earthly wars. Remember, we are not trying to win arguments. We are trying to win people to
Jesus Christ, and He will one day set every record straight, establish perfect justice, and
vindicate all earthly wrongs. Until then our role is to proclaim the Gospel.
The Bible has been Corrupted
Muslims believe that the scriptures have been corrupted and changed by Christians. They
believe that the Pentateuch, the Psalms of David, and the Gospels are indeed holy books from
Allah, but they also believe that Christians have perverted these books.
Christian Misconceptions
All Muslims are Terrorists
It is true that violence in the name of Allah is an inextricable part of Islamic history and
doctrine. Islam has virtually no concept of freedom of speech or thought or action. While I think
it is wrong to continually describe Islam as a “peaceful” religion, as former President Bush
continually did, I believe it is just as wrong to identify most Muslims as suicide-bombers in
waiting. Listen to J.D. Greear, who lived among Muslims for two years:
“I simply mean that you don’t usually need to fear that your Muslim friend is plotting
your assassination. Some Christian apologists will insist that Muslims are peaceable
despite Islam, and perhaps this is true, but they are peaceable nonetheless.”
All Muslim Women are Oppressed and Unhappy
Here are three things to keep in mind about women in Islam.
#1 – The Qur’an and Hadith do foster oppression
Islam was birthed in a society that held women in low regard, and it did little to change
that. The Hadith says that 80% of hell’s occupants are women, and that the witness of a woman
is only half of that of a man in court “because of the deficiency in their brains.” Muslim men are
to warn their wives twice about misconduct, showing them the whips on the walls before using
them. Women are sexual objects, which is one reason why they have to where a hijab and stay
in the house.
The Cross and the Crescent
#2 – Many Muslim marriages are happy
There are exceptions to this, and in many Muslim nations marriages are arranged. There
are certain cultures in which women face greater oppression and abuse, but, by and large,
women do not see themselves as oppressed.
#3 – Women are often the most ardent defenders of Islam
Women can often be the ones most resistant to change in Islam, even with barbaric
practices like female circumcision. Many Muslim women in the West call for reform in how
women are treated in Islamic culture, but rarely for an end to Islam. You are wrong to think that
Muslim women view themselves as victims in desperate need of rescue and eager to convert
out of Islam.
Caricatures are funny on paper, but not in relationships. We will not be able to engage in
friendships with Muslims if our knowledge of them is dominated by caricatures. If we do not
have friendships with them how may we be used by God to present the Gospel to them? We
live in a world of stereotypes. Show love to someone by seeking to really understand them.
Psalm 57:9-11:
“I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the
nations. For thy mercy [is] great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. Be
thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: [let] thy glory [be] above all the earth.”
The Gospel for Muslims
#3 – Commonalities and Differences
So far we have discussed what Islam is, where it may be found, and we have briefly
examined misconceptions that Muslims and Christians have towards one another. Now we will
talk about the commonalities that Islam and Christianity share. Timothy George begins chapter
one of his book “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?” with this:
“How would you characterize someone who believes in the literal, verbal inspiration
of Scripture, who holds that Jesus is God’s virgin-born Messiah, that Jesus healed the
sick, raised the dead, bodily ascended into heaven, and will one day return to do
battle with the antichrist and in the end truly reign on the earth? This person knows
that Satan is alive and well on planet Earth, that angels and demons are real forces
to be reckoned with, and that after death everyone on earth will go to one of two
places – the burning fires of hell or the beautiful palaces of heaven. This individual
does not believe in evolution, but believes that God created the world in six literal
days. This person happens to be a tee-totaler, is strongly pro-life, and is committed
to traditional family values. Women are highly regarded in the religious community
to which this person belongs, but they do not function as preachers and leaders
there. This person is also deeply patriotic, regards pacifism as weakness, deplores
the separation of church and state, and believes that government (ideally) should
enforce God’s will in every area of society.
Do you recognize this person as a strict, conservative, Bible-believing Christian?
Well, maybe. But he or she might just as well be a devout, conscientious Muslim!
More than any two religious traditions on earth, Christianity and Islam share both
striking similarities and radical differences. Historically, the relationship between
Christians and Muslims has been strained at best. All too frequently it has been
marked by bloodshed and violence. But there is a verse in the Qur’an that presents a
helpful perspective. This verse tells Muslims, “You will surely find that the nearest in
affection to those who believe are the ones who say, ‘We are Christians’” (5:82).
The world’s second largest and fastest growing religion shares some similarities with
Christianity, but they are only surface similarities. It’s worth noting that these commonalities
are shared by Judaism as well.
Essentially, all religions are about the same thing: life’s brevity, death’s certainty, search for
meaning in a life of pain and suffering, and the longings of the human heart. Of course, the
genuine, Biblical Christianity is not just another religion. We know from God’s Word that He has
provided what no religion – including a hollow, ritualistic Christianity – is able to provide:
eternal life, victory over death, purpose, and fulfillment. Only Christ’s finished work on the
cross and resurrection from the grave is able to rescue fallen humanity from its sin. Still, there
are some surface similarities between Christianity and its two Semitic cousins Islam and
All three originated in the Middle East, and each has a connection to the patriarch
Abraham. Besides that, each religion shares five characteristics.
The Cross and the Crescent
Undeniable Commonalities
All three affirm that God is the Creator who has
made known His will to mankind. The idea of the
samsara, the wheel of life, which is a key aspect of
eastern religions, is rejected by all three. In Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam history is considered to be
the story of God working out His purposes, and each
have a defining moment in their history: the Exodus,
the Incarnation/Resurrection (I don’t think those
two may be separated), and the receiving of the
All three possess books held to be holy and
Figure 3 Samsara, the wheel of life
inspired by God. Judaism’s book it is what Christians
refer to as the Old Testament, and of special
importance is the Torah – the books of Moses (Genesis – Deuteronomy). Other important
books to the Orthodox Jew are the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Of course, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments form the Christian’s Bible. (It
must be noted that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox include more books.)
The Qur’an is Islam’s holy book. Each Muslim believes that every word was given to
Muhammad by God, and he recited those words verbatim to his scribes. While a few similarities
exist between the Bible and the Qur’an there are a vast number of crucial differences; not the
least of which is the message communicated. Here are a few others:
 The Qur’an was revealed to one person over 23 years.
 The Bible was written (under divine inspiration) by many people in several
languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), over the course of about 1500 years.
 Muslims regard only the Arabic as from Allah.
 Christians strive to put the Bible in the language of the people.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a passion for the oneness of God. Idolatry is a major
heresy in all three religions. Paul describes conversion in 1 Thessalonians 1:9b, “how ye turned
to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
When God speaks of Himself as a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24;
5:9; 6:15; 32:16; 32:21; Joshua 24:19) it is not describing petulance. God alone is worthy of
worship, and He will not share it with anyone or anything else. As Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou
art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and
for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
The Gospel for Muslims
In Western society monotheism is no longer en
vogue. Atheism, pan-theism, and poly-theism are seen
as more enlightened or more natural viewpoints. Take
for instance Gore Vidal’s opinion as stated in a lecture
given at Harvard:
“I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever
to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism,
Christianity, or Islam — good people, yes, but any
religion based on a single... well, frenzied and
virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as,
say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an
ethical and educational system that has worked
pretty well for twenty-five hundred years. So you see I am ecumenical in my dislike
for the Book. But like it or not, the Book is there; and because of it people die; and
the world is in danger.” (Harvard Lowell Lecture – 4/20/1992)
Figure 4 American author Gore Vidal
No doubt many evil things have been done in the name of God and Allah, but this
destruction does not issue from a commitment to the one true God. Instead, it signifies a return
to idols. Culture, kingdom, ethnicity, power, territory, and politics are valued more than God,
and so atrocities are committed for them in God’s name. That’s idolatry.
Besides, genuine Christianity is much more than monotheism.
All three religions have a missionary theme, albeit Judaism has consistently lagged behind
in this area. Evangelism, however, is not a New Testament invention. It is intertwined with the
Old Testament narrative (Isaiah 11:10; 49:6; Deuteronomy 4:6; 32:43; Psalm 96; 117). In the
New Testament, Christ not only commanded and empowered His church to “go” but He
demonstrated the going with His own life. The Gospel is for every race, culture, and language
Islam is also evangelistic, and Muslim traders as well as soldiers carried Muhammad’s
message to Europe, Africa, Asia, and now that message is being declared in this hemisphere.
And I do not mean in a Rick Warren sort of way. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe
that God is the God of creation, history, and the final judgment. All of life is marching towards a
grand finale in which they will play, according to their beliefs, a significant role.
For all the commonalities that exist between Christianity and Islam there are many
irreducible, irreconcilable differences, and they may all be sectioned off into four categories.
These four main areas of contention are: view of God, nature of Christ, view of man, and the
nature and authority of the Bible.
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Irreducible Differences
Nature of God
As we’ve mentioned already, Muslims and Christians both believe in the oneness of God,
and both hold to the sovereignty of God, and the holiness of God. There is a great departure,
however, when the character of God is discussed. The Qur’an speaks only of Allah’s attributes,
but says little to nothing of his character. Whereas the Bible reveals to us not only God’s
attributes, but His character. In other words, we learn not only that God is, but we learn who
God is. This is foreign to the Muslim.
Islam does very well in teaching the transcendence of God. That means the “otherness” of
God. He is completely other than His creation, because He is perfectly holy, just, merciful, pure,
loving, and so forth. The 99 Names of Allah are found in the Qur’an that enumerates his
attributes, but no indication of how to enjoy relationship with him. In fact, in Islam that is
unthinkable. God is not only transcendent, He is immanent – existing with us.
I have often heard that Christianity is loved-based and Islam fear-based. Technically that is
true, but that simple statement belies the fact that love is replete in the Koran. One of the
ninety-nine beautiful names for God in the Koran is al-Wadud which means “He who loves.”
Every surah except one begins with the words, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the
Merciful.” BUT in the Qur’an love is something God does, not that which God is.
In the New Testament we clearly (and gloriously) read that God IS love! Love is not just an
activity of God, love is His essence! His love is neither accidental nor conditional.
 Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us.”
 1 John 4:8 – “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
 1 John 4:10 – “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent
his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.”
This is what makes God’s love so amazing. He IS love, and He shows me His love. Me. I am a
sinner. I do not just commit sins. I am sin. Sin is my nature (Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 8:7; Mark
7:15; Romans 5:12). BUT God shows His love for me (and for you) in that while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us. Praise God for His powerful, unconditional, purposeful, redeeming,
sanctifying, and satisfying love for me, a chief sinner whose best righteousness is nothing but
filthy rags! God shows us His love because He is love. Meditating on this deep love of the Father
(yes, my Father!) caused me to begin to sing in my heart the marvelous hymn of Stuart
Townend – How Deep the Father’s Love.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
The Gospel for Muslims
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
No devout Muslim can call Allah father, for this would compromise his divine
transcendence. As a believer I unabashedly cry out to God, “Abba, Father!”
 Galatians 4:6 – “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son
into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
 Romans 8:15 – “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye
have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
View of Christ
Jesus is more than a carpenter, and He is more than a prophet. The Qur’an both admits and
denies too much about Jesus. He is mentioned in fifteen surahs and ninety-three ayats. He is
referred to as Isa al-Masih – “Jesus the anointed one” – eleven times, and Isa ibn Maryam –
“Jesus the son of Mary” – sixteen times. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was virgin but, but not
divine. His pre-existence and incarnation are flatly denied, as is His death and resurrection. In
the Qur’an He does miracles, but none of His miracles over nature are recorded. The Sermon on
the Mount is absent, as is the parable of the two lost sons, and His teaching on the new birth
and His divinity. The Islamic view of Jesus is warbled, confused, and provides no comfort,
because there is little comfort in a Jesus who is no more than a prophet and far less than the
One come from the Father full of grace and truth.
Of course, Islam denies Christ’s crucifixion and therefore His resurrection. While they admit
someone died on the cross, it was not Jesus, because Allah would not permit one of his
prophets to endure such a humiliating death. They are taught that Allah pulled a switch at the
last second, and while the Jews and Romans believed they were crucifying Jesus, it was really
The Cross and the Crescent
someone else; most likely Judas. If there is no death, then there can be no resurrection, but if
there is no crucifixion and no resurrection then there is no hope of redemption from sins. There
can be no Christianity without the crucifixion/resurrection. There can be no Islam with it.
Nature of Man
While Islam readily admits that man commits sin, it does not admit, as I stated earlier, that
man is sin. This means they deny original sin, that man is inherently sinful. Man is foolish, weak,
ignorant, disobedient, arrogant, and in need of guidance but not of salvation. Islam denies that
Adam’s sin has any effect on mankind. Adam did sin, but he repented. Allah forgave him, and
that was that. While scripture is clear that by one man’s sin, sin spread to all men.
 Romans 5:12 – “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by
sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”
Islam views Christianity as a weak religion which robs man of his dignity because it views
man as a fallen creature who has to come begging for his salvation. Whereas Islam provides
man with dignity and says, “Rise up! You are morally capable of fulfilling Allah’s will for
Authority of Scripture
Islam considers most of our Bible to be Holy Books – the Pentateuch, the Psalms of David,
and the Gospels, but they believe they have been corrupted over time by the Jews and by the
Christians. Nevertheless, there are several places in the Qur’an where Muslims are encouraged
to consider the scriptures.
The Gospel for Muslims
#4 – The Gospel for Muslims
Genuine conversion is not reformation but regeneration. The old nature dies and a new
birth occurs. Yes, this means a new nature is created, with new desires, passions, and behavior,
but these new things are the result of not the means to the new birth. I say this because it is
not just born again believers who live morally upright lives. Sincere Muslims lead respectable,
morally upstanding lives as well. If you were to look at the lives of many Muslims, especially
those who have converted from another religion (or from no religion) you would see a drastic
change and improvement. The shell would look great, but the core would still be filthy and
rotten, because reformation is useless and ultimately powerless unless it has been preceded by
regeneration. Thabiti Anyabwile’s story is a wonderful illustration of that.
The only thing that may bring about regeneration rather than reformation is the Gospel of
Jesus Christ!
Romans 1:14, 16-17:
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the
unwise. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto
salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For
therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The
just shall live by faith.
We are debtors to the Texan and the Muslim, to the educated and the uneducated, the
sophisticated and the unsophisticated. We have a blessed obligation to proclaim to them the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation to
everyone who believes. With this fourth and final lesson I want to talk about the Gospel for
Do not misunderstand. The Gospel for Muslims is the same as the Gospel for westerners.
There is only one true Gospel. What we must understand, and what my goal is for this series, is
to know how to communicate the Gospel to Muslims. This is what Paul meant in Galatians 2:7
when he spoke of “the gospel of the uncircumcision” and “[the gospel] of the circumcision.” He
was not speaking of two different Gospel’s, but of communicating that one message of
salvation to different people groups: Jews and Gentiles. The same Gospel, presented differently
to address different questions. (This lesson will lean heavily on J.D. Greear’s book Breaking the
Islam Code, specifically chapter six.)
There are three keys words which summarize most Western presentations of the Gospel:
formula, forgiveness, and death. By formula I mean Gospel presentations that have a logically
reasoned outline. The Four Spiritual Laws is a prime example.
1. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
2. Sin has separated us from God.
3. Jesus Christ has paid sin’s price, making the way to God open.
4. We must individually receive Christ as Savior.
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In a western mindset the primary problem we sense is a judicial guilt before God, and so
the need that must be addressed by salvation is forgiveness, and it was by His death that Jesus
took care of our guilt. He purchased our forgiveness and removed out guilt.
Now there is nothing wrong with those words, ideas, or presentations. Remember,
however, we are discussing presenting the Gospel to Muslims, and Muslims react against all
three elements of this presentation. The idea that Christ’s death was required in order for God
to forgive us is offensive to them. They interpret it as…
 Limitation on God’s power
 Makes us more merciful than God.
 Guilt is not something that can be transferred
 Sin aren’t so much paid for as weighed on the scales.
It would be easy for us to say, “But that’s all wrong and nonsense!” Yes it is. Still, how will
stubbornly stomping our feet and saying the same thing, only louder help communicate the
Gospel to Muslims? The Gospel message is what Muslims (and anyone who would be saved)
must hear. The cross will always be scandalous, no more how it’s presented, to the
unconverted mind (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). The issue is not how we may make the Cross
inoffensive. We cannot. The question is: How may we best present that message? Greear
suggests building the presentation around three words: cleansing, victory, and story. The Bible
is the story of how Jesus Christ came to earth to remove our defilement and shame and defeat
the curse of death.
The Gospel gives purification from sin. Jesus taught that defilement is an inside out
proposition; it comes from the heart. Mark 7:14-16:
And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto
me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that
entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are
they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
Video – Islam, indeed all “religion”, is consumed with an outward defilement, but it’s only
an outward symbol of true defilement: our sinful hearts. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can
wash away my sins. Only the shed blood of Christ from His cross is able to cleanse my defiled
Another great Biblical passage that illustrates this is Mark 5:24-34. Muslims relate well to
the woman who suffered with the issue of blood insofar that they immediately understand the
rejection with which this woman lived. (Muslim women are not permitted to participate in
prayers or fasting while in their menstrual cycle.) They are moved at the story of a woman who
would have been unable to serve or pray to God for twelve years. They recognize her alienation
and despair. They are shocked when she touches Jesus, because her touch would have defiled
Jesus; at least in their thinking. But Jesus does not recoil in disgust or harangue this woman.
Instead He called her “daughter” and assured her that because of her faith in Him, she had
indeed been made whole. Muslims learn that with Jesus touching the unclean thing not only
did not make Him unclean, but made the unclean one clean.
The Gospel for Muslims
Another aspect of defilement is shame. When Adam and Eve fell they were ashamed of
their nakedness. Listen to how Greear connects this with Islam:
Muslims are so driven to seek the honor that comes from others…because, as naked
souls, they are missing the honor that comes from being approved and accepted by
God. The loss of God’s approval has left a void they desperately try to fill with the
admiration and respect of the community.
Of course, this desire to “maintain honor” leads to all sorts of atrocities, like honor killings.
Only the love and acceptance of God is able to diminish the dependence on receiving honor
from others. Only the Gospel can cleanse our defilement and shame. The Cross was the only
way that God could look upon, and have fellowship with the unclean. The blood of Jesus
cleanses us from all unrighteousness so that we may have fellowship with God (1 John 1:9).
The Gospel is the only victory over the power of sin and death. One reason why Muslims
are offended by the Cross is because it is viewed as weakness. That would be a correct view, if
Christ was sill dead! We should never talk about the Cross without also talking about the empty
tomb! The resurrection needs to be mentioned along with the crucifixion, and there is no better
word to describe the resurrection that victory. Christ’s resurrection was not an adjustment to
the plan, it was the goal all along (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; Romans 7:24-25; Galatians 2:20).
The resurrection is the sum of the entire Biblical presentation of salvation, and it was certainly
the key element of the Apostles’ preaching (Acts 1:22; 4:2, 33; 17:18; 24:21).
Keep in mind the strong Muslim belief that God has no partners; a belief with which we
agree and actually practice, as opposed to our Islamic friends. Here is what I mean. Any religion
that believes and practices works righteousness makes an emphatic statement that we are
partnering with God for our salvation. The Gospel alone demonstrates that salvation is entirely
of God. Isaiah 43:11, “I, [even] I, [am] the LORD; and beside me [there is] no savior.”
Trying to show Muslims that our logic about God’s nature is superior to theirs may not be
nearly as effective as showing them how all the stories of the Bible point to Jesus. Quoting
proof-texts from the Bible that prove our position will probably not be very effective either, as
Muslims will likely just quote back equally dogmatic verse from the Qur’an that contradict the
verse we give. The best idea is to demonstrate how the Bible really tells one continuous story of
God keeping His promise to save mankind by coming in Jesus Christ to die for our sins and begin
a new creation.
Muslims are already curious about the prophets spoken of in the Qur’an, and the stories of
the prophets in the Qur’an are incredibly incomplete. The amazing thing is that the Qur’an
instructs Muslims to consult the “people of the Book” – that’s Christians – from clarification on
details of the prophets’ lives (Surah 5:68-69; 10:94).
Greear states that in places around the world where Muslims are coming to believe in
Jesus, it is happening, in large part, through small group Bible study. He quotes one missions
strategist who says…
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“It is more effective to group people and win them (together) than it is to win them
(individually) and group them.”
Rather than witnessing to a Muslim friend by asking “If you were to die today and stand
before God…” invite them to a Bible study; not necessarily at your church, but in your house.
Here again is Greear:
When I first lived in a Muslim country, I thought I needed to share the whole Gospel
in the first spiritual conversation I had with a Muslim. It was overwhelming for them,
and felt pretty awkward on my end. Much better, I believe, to simply aim at creating
an interest in studying the Bible. It is as they are studying through the major stories
of the Bible that Muslims can most easily encounter the Gospel.
Themes to Emphasize
The centrality of the promise – The promise of salvation is first given in Genesis
3:15, and the rest of Biblical history unfolds and fulfills that promise. How each
story plays a part in the development of the drama should be demonstrated.
The reunion of God and man – God is acting in the Bible to restore what Adam and
Eve lost in the Garden. The stories of the prophets chronicle God’s actions to
remove the poison of the curse that separated man from Him in the Garden.
That salvation belongs to God – From the moment man first needed salvation, God
has taught man to look to him for it. He has taught that salvation only belongs to
Him (Isaiah 43:10-11; Revelation 7:9).
The role of God’s Word in men’s lives – From the first creation, God’s Word has
been His instrument of creation and guidance. He reveals, heals, and recreates
through His Word. He gives it the highest place of honor.
The trustworthiness of God – It is not a limitation on God when He binds Himself to
His promise. Rather, His power is demonstrated in His ability to keep all His
promises. The scriptures demonstrate over and over that God always keeps His
The substitutionary sacrifice – This has been a key element of God’s relationship to
man since the Fall. Salvation by substitution is a key theme in many of the Bible’s
stories, and dominates the Old Testament Temple imagery.
The difference in works based religion and salvation by faith – All religions can be
characterized as either “I obey, therefore I am accepted” or “I am accepted,
therefore I obey.” The Gospel alone teaches acceptance prior to obedience, with
acceptance being based not on our merit but on God’s mercy in Christ.
The glory of God in salvation – God has acted in the Bible in a way designed to
bring glory to His name. The scripture often explains that the reason God has acted
The Gospel for Muslims
as He has is to demonstrate His righteousness and mercy (Romans 3:25-26) to
glorify His power (Psalm 106:7-8; Ezekiel 36:22-23).
This has been by no means an exhaustive study. By every measurement is has been
introductory and general. My prayer and heart’s desire is that his series has helped knock down
fears and stereotypes that we may have towards Muslims and Islam. I hope that we have been
convicted and encouraged to engage Muslims, not for the sake of argument but of friendship,
and with a desire to see them turn to the one, true God. – Video – I want us to be confident and
ready to communicate the Gospel to our Muslim friends in a way that will grasp it. Be
encouraged, the Holy Spirit is our helper in explaining the unchanging Gospel in a way that our
hearers will understand.
Psalm 67:
To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm [or] Song.
God be merciful unto us, and bless us; [and] cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.
That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the
people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad
and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations
upon earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
[Then] shall the earth yield her increase; [and] God, [even] our own God, shall bless
us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.
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The Facts on Islam, John Ankerberg, John Weldon & Dillon Burroughs; Harvest House
The Gospel for Muslims, Thabiti Anyabwile; Moody
Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad, Timothy George; Zondervan
Breaking the Islam Code, J.D. Greear; Harvest House Publishers
Answering Islam, Norman Geisler & Abdul Saleeb; Baker Books
Light in the Shadow of Jihad, Ravi Zacharias; Multnomah
Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible, John MacArthur; Word Publishing Group
So What’s the Difference?, Fritz Ridenour; Regal
Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel; Charisma House
Infidel, AYaan Hirsi Ali; Free Press
The Cross and the Crescent, RC Sproul & Abdul Saleeb CD teaching series
The Jihadist Next Door;; Andrea Elliott for the NY Times, January 27, 2010
Beyond the Wall; Map of the Muslim World;
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life; “Mapping the Global Muslim Population;
The Gospel for Muslims
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Is There a Jihadist in Your Church Nursery?
— Monday, February 1st, 2010 —
— By Dr. Russell Moore —
I don’t know him, but it kind of feels like I do.
He grew up just across the state line from where I did. He memorized the same Bible verses
I did, probably using the same Sunday school curriculum I did. He went to Vacation Bible
School, probably doing the same crafts and singing the same songs. He walked the aisle down a
Southern Baptist church, just like I did, and was baptized, by immersion, in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
And now he fights for Allah in an Islamic jihadist terrorist group.
This past Sunday’s New York Times magazine features a story about Omar Hammami, a
leader of an Al Qaeda-linked African terrorist group. Like many jihadists, he has a Muslim
father, and deep resentment against the United States.
Unlike most radical Islamic jihadists, he grew up in an Alabama Baptist church.
Omar’s father moved to the U.S. from Syria, and married an Alabama girl, a Baptist. His
father liked the Bible Belt, the Times says, because “the women he encountered didn’t drink or
smoke.” They gave birth to a son, and he grew up, like his Mom, in Bible Belt Christianity, with
everything from youth camp to Christmas cantatas. Young Omar professed faith when he was
six, and won 60 dollars for naming all the books of the Bible in a “sword drill.”
But Omar was deeply conflicted, the Times article contends. With his father’s larger family,
which he would meet while traveling to Damascus, he would be confused by the two religions.
His father’s relatives told him he’d be lost eternally if he didn’t submit to Islam, just the opposite
of what his home church said. He wondered, the article says, how Jesus could pray to God, when
Jesus is God, without being “a narcissist.”
In the end, he chose Islam, but he rejected his father’s moderate religion for the most
virulent form of terrorist rage, and now trains himself and others for war somewhere in Somalia.
It’s easy to read about Omar and to let your blood pressure rise in disgust. Who could leave
all the blessings he had given to him in order to fight with bloodthirsty killers? It might even be
easy to wonder what was wrong with the witness of his home church, as though there’s any
church in history that didn’t have prodigals.
But, if you think about it a little bit longer, you might realize that Omar isn’t as strange as
you think.
I wrote above that I felt like I know Omar, even though we’ve never met. In some ways, I
feel like I am Omar. I’m internally conflicted too.
I find myself often drawn more to Bible Belt morality than to the gospel. When I go without
prayer, I can still recognize the goodness of a just social order, a loving marriage, a stable
community. But, when that happens, I don’t see myself as a sinner and, as a result, I don’t see
God in Christ. I see God in myself. Unless I see myself in Christ and him crucified, I see God as,
at the core, justice, not love, as solitary, not a Trinitarian community of love. When I forget
about the gospel, I imagine that God is seeing me in terms of some cosmic scale of my good
deeds and sins. That leads me to pride or despair. And it’s crypto-Koranic, not Christian.
The Gospel for Muslims
I love my country. I hate terrorism. And I’m hawkish on the war against radical Islam. But I
sometimes act like a jihadist too. Every time I believe that God’s vengeance ought to be
administered by me, rather than by the Cross or the Judgment Seat, well, that’s something other
than the gospel (Matt. 26:52).
I don’t want to bring in the reign of God with bombs or box cutters, but I sometimes want to
do it with my words, with a well-crafted rebuke, or even with my keyboard. Every time I do
such, I act as though my God is a capricious, blood-thirsty idol who is sending me into the world
to condemn instead of save it — instead of a loving Father who sent his Son into the world to
save it instead of condemn it (Jn. 3:17).
That’s what I mean when I say I’m internally conflicted. It’s hard for me, sometimes, to see
my way to the Place of the Skull. I’ll bet that’s true for you too. And I’ll bet our church nurseries
are filled with babies and toddlers, just like Omar was not long ago.
They’re singing “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” and they look awfully cute. But one day, and one
day soon, they’ll be looking to us, and to our lives — not just our songs and Bible stories — to
see if we really believe in the gospel of Christ — or in something else. They’ll wonder whether
we really believe God is love and God is Trinity and God was in Christ reconciling the world to
Let’s remember what’s going on here. Yes, our government should protect us from
murderous cells, like the one with which this man has aligned himself. That’s the God-granted
responsibility of those who “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:3-5). But let’s also take note of what we
can learn from this tragic example, what we can learn about ourselves and about the next
generation for which we’ll give account. Let’s remember the gospel.
And, while we’re at it, let’s pray for an ex-Southern Baptist named Omar. He was confused,
he says, on a trip to Damascus. He was confused enough to believe he could, with weapons, wipe
Christianity off the face of the earth. He’s not the first.
You and I heard the gospel because of another jihadist’s trip to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus
was filled with indignant zeal and, armed to the teeth, he thought he could terrorize the name of
Christ off the face of the earth. What stopped him wasn’t a set of arguments. What stopped him
was Christ. And the gospel he found on that sandy road was later propelled, through him, across
the world right down to wherever you, and Omar, first heard it.
God saves sinners like us, and like a repentant ex-terrorist who called himself the “chief” of
them (1 Tim. 1:15). This same Apostle said his story on the Damascus Road happened that way
for a reason: so that “in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an
example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).
As long as that’s true, there’s still hope that Omar could find Jesus, even on the road back
from Damascus.
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