The Gospel for Muslims

The Gospel for Muslims

Thabiti Anyabwile, who grew up in a nominal Christian family in North Carolina, converted to Islam while in college. While there, he became — in his own words — “something of the campus Saul, opposing the gospel and anything having to do with the biblical Jesus.” But, God didn’t allow him to stay there and he returned to Christianity. Today, he serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands.

He has written a new book called “The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement To Share Christ With Confidence” in which he shares ways to stir confidence in the gospel, equipping the reader with the basics necessary to communicate clearly, boldly, and winsomely. It is not an exhaustive apologetic to compare Christianity with Islam, but is meant for the average reader as a helpful guide.

Recently, Anyabwile did an interview with Trevin Wax at Kingdom People. Wax asked Anyabwile why it is that Christians feel nervous about sharing their faith with Muslims and why they should be instead be confident. This is what Anyabwile said:

Many Christians seem to accept two myths when it comes to sharing the gospel with Muslims. First, many Christians tend to think every Muslim has memorized the Qur’an and is likely a radical. That’s the “super Muslim” myth.

Second, many Christians think they need to be world class apologists, able to answer ever Muslim question or critique of Christianity. That’s the “I’m so inadequate” myth.

The result of these two assumptions is that many Christians harbor a lot of fear when it comes to speaking with Muslims. And that fear causes a crisis in confidence—they doubt that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. They shrink back, telling themselves that they don’t know enough, that their Muslim neighbor is more confident, and that it’s probably no use.

The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. If we are Gospel-believing Christians, with even a basic understanding of the “good news,” then we know all that we need to know in order to effectively reach our Muslim neighbors and friends. The power of God is not in our wisdom or in our techniques; those things threaten to empty the cross of its power (1 Cor. 1:17).

But the gospel itself, that is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. In the message of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, sacrificial death for our sins, glorious resurrection, and second coming in glory, God has placed His power to make sinners new, to raise spiritually dead men to life, to change the hardest human heart into a heart that loves God, to justify us and satisfies His righteous wrath. What we need is confidence in the gospel, for God makes the gospel to triumph in every nation.

It is a very good interview. Go here to read the rest as you can see answers about how he came to faith, how the Trinity is important in Christian evangelism of Muslims and how hospitality is important. You can find his book here.

Pastor Matt Chandler rejoices in God’s goodness in suffering is his own life

If you have never heard of Matt Chandler, he is a man who loves God deeply and has served well as the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Park, Texas. On Thanksgiving morning, he suffered a seizure in his home and it was discovered that he had a tumor growing in his brain. This past Friday he underwent surgery as neurosurgeons removed it. This is a message he taped for his congregation before his surgery. Please keep Matt and his wife and three children in your prayers. He loves God deeply and his life points to God’s greatness. Here is his message to his church and for all of us.

This is the update posted Sunday by the elders at The Village: Matt was moved out of ICU on Sunday and continues to get plenty of rest as part of his recovery, per doctor’s orders. Please continue to pray for patience during this recovery time and to honor family-only visitation until further notice.
Pathology results of the tumor are due sometime mid-week, and we will keep you notified whenever possible.

What sustains us — God’s grace

Matt Perman says this is his favorite John Piper sermon. I would agree with him. And, in light of what I posted yesterday, I say this not because it is John Piper preaching it, but rather because it gets me thinking about God’s grace — his sovereign grace, as Piper puts it – and how wonderful it is. I love the examples Piper uses in this sermon, but we could all come up with other great examples of God’s grace in our lives. Here are four good points to take away from it:

Jeremiah 32:36-41

Now therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning this city of which you say, “It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence,”  “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.” For thus says the Lord, “Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I am promising them.”

Four Promises of Sovereign, Sustaining Grace

Notice four promises of sovereign, sustaining grace.

1. God Will Be Our God

God promises to be our God. Verse 38: “They will be my people and I will be their God.” All the promises to his people are summed up in this: “I will be your God.” That is, I will use all that I am as God—all my wisdom, all my power, and all my love—to see to it that you remain my people. All that I am as God, I exert for your good.

2. God Promises to Change Our Hearts

God promises to change our hearts and cause us to love and fear him. Verse 39: “I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me always . . . (v. 40b) I will put the fear of me in their hearts.” In other words, God will not simply stand by to see if we, by our own powers, will fear him; he will sovereignly, supremely, mercifully give us the heart that we need to have, and give us the faith and the fear of God that will lead us home to heaven. This is sovereign, sustaining grace. (See Deuteronomy 30:6Ezekiel 11:19-2036:27.)

3. God Promises We Will Not Turn Away from Him

God promises that he will not turn away from us and we will not turn away from him. Verse 40: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” In other words, his heart work is so powerful that he guarantees we will not turn from him. This is what’s new about the new covenant: God promises to fulfill by his power the conditions that we have to meet. We must fear him and love him and trust him. And he says, I will see to that. I will “put the fear of me in their hearts”—not to see what they will do with it, but in such a way that “they will not turn from me.” This is sovereign, sustaining grace.

4. God Promises to Do This with Infinite Intensity

Finally, God promises to do this with the greatest intensity imaginable. He expresses this in two ways, one at the beginning and one at the end of verse 41: “And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.” First he says that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace with joy: “I will rejoice over them to do them good.” Then he says (at the end of verse 41) that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace “with all [his] heart and withall [his] soul.”

Cancer and the Christian: There is no such thing as a divine accident

Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

— John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Cancer

RachelBarkeyRachel Barkey is dying of cancer, and she knows it. She battled breast cancer for four-and-a-half years, but was recently diagnosed with terminal bone and liver cancer. On March 4, she spoke to a group of about 600 women in Richmond, British Columbia. “The gospel is not just a ticket to heaven. It is a whole way of living,” she told the women in attendance. And what does that mean? It means a woman who is coming to the unexpected end of her life and the imminent removal from the  family she loves can stand in front of hundreds of women (and thousands more via the Internet) and speak clearly about what faith really is and her confidence in God. What a beautiful testimony to a great God. This woman knows why she was put on her earth and, even in her illness, she is doing it. She is glorifying God. Please watch her talk or listen to it.

Clayton’s Story: A young man at the end of his life

Clayton McDonald was taken from the earth to eternal glory on March 16 at age 18. These videos are powerful because they show a young man who saw life more clearly than most people.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

Fear not, trust God and act

I have read and heard this story before, but it is a great example of how we should not be quick to proclaim what spiritual gift we have before we understand what a great God we serve.

John Piper, who preaches before thousands of people each year, was once absolutely terrified to do public speaking. He describes the terror that gripped him from grade 6 to the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Wheaton College:

(I)t wasn’t funny. It wasn’t like when you get butterflies in front of a group or your knees shake or whatever. It was never funny. It was blood earnest because I simply couldn’t do it.

And it was absolutely humiliating when I was forced to try. Like when we had this training union thing in church where you had to give parts that lasted one minute. And I would hold a card, and it would shake so bad. And everybody would start to look at their laps. They would feel so tense. And I would go home and cry, and my mother would try and…

His breakthrough came when he let go of his deep fear and trusted God to help him. And, as he pleaded with God, he made a vow that he would never let his fear master him. I love this story because, first of all, it shows what kind of God we serve. After all, who could listen to a passionately speaker like John Piper and imagine him being afraid? This is how God works. And I appreciate how Piper always points to God’s merciful hand on his life. That is humility and that honors God.

So, when I hear a story like this it brings hope to my life. What am I so afraid of that God is willing to handle better than I ever could? Am I perhaps nursing fears that are keeping me from really enjoying a closer relationship with God? We serve a great God, and he never ceases to amaze how he works powerfully in our lives for His glory.

Spurgeon’s words still ring true: God is at the bottom of it all

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

— Ezekiel 11:19-20

Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher from the 19th century was saved when he was 16. His recounting of how it came to be is good to remember for all of us:

I can recall the very day and hour when I first received those truths (of election and effectual calling) in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.

One week-night when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, “How did you come to be a Christian?” I sought the Lord. “But how did you come to seek the Lord?” The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

Being second is a good thing, just ask Jason Castro

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to help at a youth retreat that our two children attended with other kids from our church’s youth group. Like most events involving teens and preteens, there was a lot of activity, food, laughter and little sleep.

But the important part of the weekend, the meat in the sandwich, were a series of lessons we did together about how to put Jesus Christ first in our lives. Now, these are church kids and youth group kids, so this is a message that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to them. But, they’re just like us adults in that a simple message can often get confused when you’re living in the everyday world of U.S. culture.

So, it was very helpful when our youth pastor, Mat Ingram, went over passages like the story of the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 or how we will reap what we sow as it talks about in Galatians 6. It was good to sit there knowing all these kids were hearing these things without the distractions of everyday, normal teen life bearing in on them.

Along with the messages, we would also watch testimonies from various people called “I am second.” The idea was that instead of striving to be the most important person in their lives, these people had seen the light and made Jesus No. 1 in their life. It was good for these kids — all of us, really — to see that everything this world has to offer is never going to be as satisfying as what Christ has to offer us.

Here is what Jason Castro, of American Idol fame, had to say about being second to Jesus Christ:

Lots of people in life have their ideas of what’s real and what’s not and sometimes they think faith isn’t real and I feel bad for them. But there were times on the show when I wouldn’t laugh at a joke and they were like, “Are you really that religious?” And I would tell them, “I just don’t think it’s that funny. I don’t think it’s right or something to laugh about it.” It is a challenge to stand up for what’s right, especially when it’s not cool, but being cool is overrated. Cool is a joke, cool is a perception and I don’t think it’s real. What is real? God is real, God is cool. I wish more people knew the real God and how cool it really is. Just imagine something bigger than you like your dad when you were a kid, you just want to know about him, and he can do so many things you can’t, and there’s something very cool about that.

Click on the image to see video of Jason Casto explaining why he is second.
Click on the image to see video of Jason Castro explaining why he is second.

And there are more great testimonies of the way God does great things for humble people, including Darrell Waltrip, Brian Welch (formerly with Korn), Greg Ellis and Stephen Baldwin.