Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Christianity Or Islam?

The world is rapidly changing. Western culture is post-Christian. Much of the world is in the throes of turmoil - ancient nations are tottering on the brink of collapse - uncertainty and confusion abound. While new ideas still fascinate many people. In the midst of all this, the religion of Islam has become dominant force in many parts of the world and claims to be the final religion of universal peace. How should Christians react to this new presence, often in our midst? Just how do we form a Christian view of Islam? Does the Bible say anything about this subject? Yes certainly, the Bible claims to be the unfolding revelation of God's purpose fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. So, any view we form of Islam must face squarely what Scripture teaches about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. A biblical basis To gain a Christian view of anything, in the first place we must gain a biblical view. Biblical Christianity is grounded in the historic person of Jesus the Christ, or Messiah, his life, death and resurrection. Jesus was born in Judea of the kingly line of David at a time when Judea was occupied and under the control of the powerful Roman Empire. In his person Jesus fulfils the many promises God gave in the Old Testament Scriptures of One who would come to deal with the deep problem of mankind's fall into rebellion that took place at the beginning of human history. This deliverer would be an anointed king, a Messiah, a Saviour and Redeemer - one who frees others at great cost. The Bible is the book of redemption and the Old Testament looks forward to the great climax of the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of the Redeemer, the Suffering Servant of the Lord; events that are explained by the final revelation of the New Testament Scriptures. All of the Old Testament prophecies, and there are many very detailed ones, (see Isaiah 9:1-7, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9, Psalm 22:1, Isaiah 53:12) focus on Jesus the Messiah or Christ. He reveals God as the Saviour who is rich in forgiving mercy and grace to all who turn back to God through faith in Jesus, his mediator. This is God's final and best word to mankind which will continue to be proclaimed until the end of the age. Utterly unique The Lord Jesus is matchless, beyond compare - he is unique. Openly he claimed: 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst' (John 6:35), 'I am the light of the world' (John 8:12), 'I am the door of the sheep' (John 10:7), 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep' (John 10:11), 'I am the resurrection and the life' (John 11:25). He also made other exclusive claims. His Person and work answer fully to the terrible problems of sin and guilt in a broken, fallen world. He alone is the Saviour of sinners, who came from the glory of heaven, as none less than God Incarnate in order to lead a pure, spotless life and go willingly to death on a cross, bearing sin as the sinner's Substitute. Uniquely, he rose from the dead in triumph on the third day, vindicated and exalted. He is alive for evermore. All that Jesus does fulfils the Old Testament Scriptures. There is a glorious finality about all he is, all that he does, and all that he says. He is the climax - 'God with us' - his sacrifice for sin is fully accomplished, effective and never to be repeated. He is unsurpassable - Jesus is Lord! The best good news Now the gospel, the good news of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, is to be proclaimed to all the nations so that his people may be called and gathered into his universal Body, the Church. Through this good news, God calls people to repent and put faith in Christ alone. As they are enabled to respond and turn to Christ, they are justified by faith alone - given a right standing with God, not on account of any self-righteous works, but trusting only in Christ's perfect righteousness, and precious blood, shed for their sins. Jesus is now the Lord and head of his own people. And as Creator and Redeemer, he will return at the end of this age to judge all mankind, and to usher in the new heaven and new earth in which his people will dwell forever with him. God's eternal purposes are progressively revealed throughout Scripture, and realized in and through the Lord Jesus, for the glory and praise of God. Biblical Christianity is thus one seamless, Christ-centred self-disclosure of the Person, the accomplishments, and purposes of God as Creator, sustainer, Redeemer and re-creator of his people, and of all things - the entire cosmos. Scripture - infallible bedrock One of the remarkable things about Jewish history and the Old Testament Scriptures is that there is no evidence of the text being either intentionally or maliciously corrupted. This was, in part, due to the intense awareness of the Jewish priests that they were the custodians of written divine revelation, even when the prophets were so often scathing of the people's idolatry and waywardness. This is borne out by the way the prophets proclaim how the people had abandoned God and turned to false gods and idolatrous worship. Jeremiah provides a typical example: 'From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers' (Jeremiah 7:25-26). Yes, many of their kings and priests did corrupt the religion that God had revealed to them, leading many of their people astray, but the striking thing is that they did not corrupt the Scriptures that witness against them how they had corrupted their religion! This is very surprising - and the two things are quite different. Any reading of the Old Testament shows that the Jewish people often come under the severest divine censure and are frequently chastised and judged. However, they are never completely abandoned, and the divine promise of a Redeemer continues to shine as a beacon in the darkest times. Jesus accepted every detail in the Old Testament Jesus stamped his own approval on the Old Testament Scriptures, and he did this in many ways. He often quoted from them; never called them into question, but always affirmed that they would be fulfilled in the smallest detail, because verbally spoken by God. This is a most important argument. Jesus is 'the way, and the truth, and the life' (John 14:6). His flawless and radiant life, backed up by his unsurpassed teaching, are in full view for all to see. Jesus challenged a large group of religious leaders with, 'You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God' (Matthew 22:29). He often referred to himself as the Son of Man, a title of exalted stature, and told his disciples that 'everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished' (Luke 18:31). Jesus never gives a hint of criticism of the Old Testament Scriptures. He endorses them in everything down to the finest detail, and says He is the fulfilment of their central hope. Jesus also endorsed the particular books of the Hebrew canon that were used by the Palestinian Judaism of his day, saying that, 'everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled' (Luke 24:44). These names correspond exactly to the thirty-nine books used in our Old Testament today. He is the central theme and focus of the Old Testament Scriptures. Any charge of wholesale or even minor corruption cannot be substantiated. A Christian view Islam accepts Jesus as a Prophet, but strenuously denies his clear teaching about himself and also his claims to a unique relationship of an eternal Sonship (never thought of in mere human terms) with God the Father. In view of this, Christians must patiently and gently share how Jesus' disciples also entertained thoughts of how a crucified Messiah would bring the most appalling shame imaginable - until after his resurrection. Then the wonderful truth began to dawn on them as the Holy Spirit enlightened their grieving minds that Jesus had come from the eternal Father with this one purpose in view. As he had already said to them, he had come, 'not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45). Light and darkness The wonder of biblical revelation is that God in Christ comes down to our level, apart from sin, to reach us in our fallen, sinful condition. He comes near to find the lost sheep in grace, mercy and forgiving love. He comes to find his own! But let us be absolutely clear: Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. The Christ revealed in Scripture is pre-eminently Saviour, Redeemer and Lord. The saving message of Christ transforms lives and cultures beginning in the inmost heart and soul and radiating outwards. But the imperialism of the nominal "Christian" West, as seen either in the past or the present, is FAR FROM a clear expression of biblical Christianity. Any evaluation of Islam will take into account that it combines a mixture of teaching ranging from Arabian tribal religion, to Jewish Old Testament ideas from patriarchal monotheism, to Persian Zoroastrianism, and to early distorted sub-Christian teaching. As such, Christianity and Islam are not facets of a deeper original religion, and that once the present superficial differences are resolved, we can all settle down to world peace. What is the real issue between biblical Christianity and Islam? All hinges on the Person and work of Christ. God has revealed his best and final word in Christ, once crucified and raised forever, a word full of grace; a rich undeserved salvation by which people are 'born again' by the Holy Spirit of God and transformed from the inside - a word for all who have not yet heard from whatever background. Come to the living Lord and Saviour today, and receive his welcome, peace and joy!

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