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Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 8

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

Recently, we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

Here is his discovery of…

THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS

bursting

No doubt, on the basis of Sura al-Nisa, Muslims have rejected the Biblical account of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension:

“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain…” (Sura al-Nisa’ 4:157-159)

Elsewhere, of course, the Qur’an refers to the death of Jesus. But Muslim expositors offer conflicting opinions on some of these relevant verses. The following are significant passages, as translated by Pickthall:

 “Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (Sura Maryam 19:33)

 “(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I am judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.” (Sura Al Imran 3:55)

 “I spake unto them only that which Thou commandest me, (saying) Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things.” (Sura al Ma’ida 5:117)

But is Pickthall’s interpretation of mutawaffika (“I am gathering thee” Sura Al Imran 3:55) and tawaffaitani (“Thou tookest me” Sura al-Ma’ida) correct? Some respectable Muslim commentaries translate this verb “to cause to die”, indicating that the death of Jesus preceded His ascension into heaven.

In any event the Biblical accounts leave no room for various interpretations about the time, place and circumstances of Jesus’ death. He was crucified, He died, and He was buried. His crucifixion took place outside the walls of Jerusalem. It happened when Pilate was governor of Judea. These are facts of history. The Bible repeatedly refers to the death of Jesus in unambiguous language. Just as clear in the Bible is the connection of the death of Jesus with His resurrection from the dead and His ascension, as well as the purpose of these three great events.

Thus these and other passages of the Qur’an became clear to me in the light of my reflection on the New Testament portrayal of Christ. Not only did all these passages reveal the special relationship which Jesus had with God; surely they indicated also God’s special purpose in sending Jesus, His Word and Servant, into this sinful world. Once more I recalled the booklet, the heart of forgiveness to all sinners through Jesus alone, through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. As I read the Bible more and more, it spoke to me and cleared my doubts, one by one.

 Next:  THE COMING OF MUHAMMAD

To see the full series click here.

Photo by jurvetson

Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 7

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

Recently, we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

Here is his discovery of…

sunburstThe Term “Son of God”

 

Through further study I also began to understand how the Biblical significance of the term “son of God” differs from the Qur’anic understanding of “son of god.” The Qur’an denies that God begets, or is begotten, in a physical sense (Lam yalid wa lam yulad). Eventually, however, I accepted that Jesus could be called “the Son of God” (as the Bible explains this term) in a spiritual sense, in the same way that He is called God’s Word. Here again I was grateful to the Qur’an for serving as a bridge to a fuller comprehension of the Biblical significance of the term “Son of God” when uniquely applied to Jesus.

 Next:  THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS

To see the full series click here.

Photo by pellaea

Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 6

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

Recently, we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

 Here is his discovery of…

The Sinlessness of Jesus in the Qur’an

water droplet

One of my chief doubts concerned the sinlessness of Jesus and His authority to forgive the sins of others. It was difficult to avoid the contrast between the sinlessness of Jesus and the Qur’anic records of the sins of the other prophets. Thus the Qur’an addressing Muhammad in particular says:

 “That God may forgive thee thy former and thy latter sins, and complete His blessing upon thee, and guide thee on a straight path.” (Sura al-Fath 48:2) (cf: Sura Ghafir 40:45; Sura Muhammad 47:19)

Since no laden soul can bear another’s burden (Sura al-Fatir 35:18) then how can he or anyone of these prophets bear another’s burden?

But the Qur’an quoting the angel Jibra’il, says of Mary’s son:

 “He said, I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.” (Sura Maryam 19:9)

This fact is supported by a Hadith which says: “each human baby is touched by Satan’s finger at birth, save Mariam and her son.”

The Gospel also clearly indicates the purity and sinlessness of Jesus. “Can any of you prove me guilty of Sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?” John 8:46) The Gospel further states that He takes away our sins:

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He (Jesus) appeared to take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:4,5)

Was it in order to bear the burdens of others that Jesus Himself was an unburdened soul? Though the Qur’an declares Jesus as pure, it really offers no clue to the purpose of God in bestowing upon Mary a faultless son.

Further the Qur’an attributes qualities to Jesus which it attributes to no other prophets or apostles. He is described as God’s Word and a spirit from God:

 “O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion, nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His Word , which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him . So believe in Allah and His messenger and say not ‘Three’ – Cease (it is) better for you! – Allah is only one God…” (Sura al-Nisa’ 4:171)

Thus also the angel Jibra’il addresses Mary with the following words:

“…He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.” (Sura Maryam 19:21 cf. Sura al-Anbiya’ 21:91)

Whatever else the Qur’an has stated about Jesus, it surely has established Him as a unique person: His relation to God as God’s Word and a spirit from God; His creative activities, His healings, His raising from the dead (Sura Al Imran 3:49); His ascension into heaven and His presence in heaven today.

 Next:  THE SON OF GOD

To see the full series click here.

Photo by byrne7214

Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 5

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

Recently, we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

 Here is his discovery of…

THE CLAIMS OF JESUS

puff Again the old tension arose in my heart as I read the Gospel in secret. On essential points it clearly differed from my own Islamic beliefs. How puzzling for a Muslim and yet how thought-provoking were the following words of Jesus!

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” John 17:3

 “Yet to all who received Him, to all those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

 “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

I had no one who could explain the meaning of these verses to me. Yet I continued to ask God for guidance. He explained me through His spirit.

Next week:  THE SINLESSNESS OF JESUS IN THE QUR’AN

To see the full series click here.

Photo by aussiegall

Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 4

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

Jesus Loves You

Last week we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

 Here is his discovery of…

THE LOVE OF JESUS

Before I met my new Christian friends, I had strong feelings against Christians because I heard such bad reports about them. Yet when I observed the pastor’s character, his way of life, and his attitude toward Muslims, I knew that the accusations I had heard against Christians certainly did not apply to him. This made me think. Was his love greater than that of the Muslims? Had the Messiah Jesus done more for him than my prophet had done for me? I was confused for I held the opinion that apart from Muslims, anyone else, including the Christians who believe that God is the Messiah, is an unbeliever ( Kafir ) and is rejected by God. As the Qur’an says:

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:72,73)

I remembered also how I thought that because I was a Muslim who had submitted myself to God, I was holier than Christians. But as I became more aware of my own sinfulness, I realized that the pastor was the one who had submitted himself to God, for his character proved it. I could tell that his love came from Jesus Christ.

Like a magnet the love of Jesus attracted me. I thought that if Jesus were my master too, how I would love him! Yet, when the idea of becoming a Christian crossed my mind, I rejected it as an evil thought from Satan – for I was a Muslim.

Next week: THE CLAIMS OF JESUS

To see the full series click here.

Photo by kyz

Theological Musings of a Former Muslim: 3

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization

wonder

Last week we ran the testimony of a former Muslim who turned to Christ. Now in a new series, we have decided to share the theological details of his conversion, quoting both the Qur’an and the Bible. We ourselves do not claim to be experts in either, but we do feel it could be of great value for others to see the scriptural issues and conclusions that “Sam” went through during this process.

 Here is his discovery of…

THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE IN THE QUR’AN

I noticed also that the Qur’an refers especially to the Torah and the Gospel, exhorting me to believe in them because they are “guidance and light” (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:46). Another verse in particular came to my mind often:

 “And if thou art in doubt (Muhammad) concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture before thee…” (Sura Yunis 10:94)

When I read this verse, I remembered the Christians and their booklet. According to Islam, Christians also are ahl ul-kitab (the People of the Book). If the Qur’an encouraged Muhammad to share his doubts with Christians, then why not me? Yet it was difficult for me to approach Christians. I had so little contact with them. Besides, my family would hardly approve!

Not far from my home there is a Christian Church.  I decided to go there secretly. When we arrived the pastor of that church received me and began to share the gospel. After some discussion the Pastor suggested that I read the Bible with a prayer for understanding . I obeyed his suggestion and I continued my reading of the Bible.

An awareness of my own sin never left me. It gnawed at my heart continually. After few days, I felt again a strong desire to see the pastor. I had to share my difficulties and doubts. The Pastor encouraged me and answered my questions about Christian beliefs and practices. Most of his answers satisfied me.

I returned home with a copy of the whole Gospel which my friend had given to me. Although I was very glad to have it, I was afraid that someone at home might see it. So I put the Gospel in a plastic bag and hid it under a stone in the forest. I often went to out of the home to read it, especially St John’s Gospel. One verse, the words of Jesus, gave me some consolation:

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

The words “believe also in me” impressed me greatly at that time. Although I was anxious and troubled, this verse comforted me.

Next week: THE LOVE OF JESUS

To see the full series click here.

Photo by paul (dex) busy @ work

Living Testimony of a Former Muslim

by Melissa Chang |

Islam, Muslim Contextualization, Stories from the Field

 petals

MY CHILDHOOD

I was born on a Tuesday in December of 1967. My father was a Mullah (a Muslim religious leader) in a small village in South India. Everyone in the village respected my family because we were strictly religious. My father’s special duty was to read from the Qur’an in Arabic to our Muslim neighbors. Yet he did not forget to teach his own children.

At the age of five I went to the nearby Madrasa (Muslim religious school) to learn Arabic, so that I could study the Qur’an.

HEARING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS

One Saturday, the market day in my village, when I was going home from school, I saw a large crowd in the market place. I went over and found a group of Christians there. They were telling the crowd about their faith stories from the life of Jesus and selling Christian booklets. I bought two of the booklets.

 1. The New Testament in my language

2.  The Way of Salvation 

I kept my booklet although I despised Christians. When I reached home, I sat down in a quiet place and started to read these books.  As I read, I wondered if the Jesus of this booklet was the same ‘Isa whom I knew about as a prophet. To my mind, the Jesus of this booklet was different from the Jesus of the Qur’an. Now I read that this Jesus could forgive sins. This very forgiveness of Jesus had changed (transformed) many sinners, and it made me love Jesus.

In fact, I considered my heart to be in a worse condition, full of a sinful nature. How could I find freedom from this spiritual disease? The booklet offered the cure. I rejected it because I had been taught that God alone forgave sins – not Jesus, the prophet.

Nevertheless, I could not free myself from the strong argument in the booklet. I became uncomfortably aware of my own sinfulness. What would become of me when I died? I could not escape death or the Day of Judgment. I made up my mind to find out more about Jesus with the help of a correspondence course advertised in this booklet.

DESIRE TO KNOW THE TRUTH

I had very much interest to collect and study the Biblical books.  At the same time I continued all the practices of Islam. I could not forget the name “Jesus” when I repeated it every evening in my recitation of the Qur’an! So I decided to make a study of Jesus in the Qur’an and in other Muslim books. I had learned Arabic in my very childhood, so I could read and understand the meanings of Qur’an.

I found that ‘Isa has a very important place both in the Qur’an and in the Hadith – or Muslim tradition. In the Qur’an it seemed to me that ‘Isa was even more important than my prophet Muhammad. Some of my Muslim friends came to know that I was reading Bible and Bible related books. They gently suggested that I concentrate more on Muhammad. Still I continued to wonder about those Qur’anic passages which referred to Jesus, to His unique birth, and to His marvelous deeds.

Not far from my home there is a Christian Church.  I decided to go there secretly. When we arrived, the pastor of that church received me and began to share the gospel. After some discussion the Pastor suggested that I read the Bible with a prayer for understanding.  I obeyed his suggestion and I continued my reading of the Bible.

An awareness of my own sin never left me. It gnawed at my heart continually. After few days, I felt again a strong desire to see the pastor. I had to share my difficulties and doubts. The Pastor encouraged me and answered my questions about Christian beliefs and practices. Most of his answers satisfied me .

I returned home with a copy of the whole Gospel which my friend had given to me. Although I was very glad to have it, I was afraid that someone at home might see it. So I put the Gospel in a plastic bag and hid it under a stone in the forest. I often went out of the home to read it, especially St John’s Gospel. One verse, the words of Jesus, gave me some consolation:

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

The words “believe also in me” impressed me greatly at that time. Although I was anxious and troubled, this verse comforted me.

Like a magnet the love of Jesus attracted me. I thought that if Jesus were my master too, how I would love him! Yet, when the idea of becoming a Christian crossed my mind, I rejected it as an evil thought from Satan – for I was a Muslim.

FINDING THE LIGHT

I continued to read the Holy Bible with care and attention. In it I found treasure such as I had never dreamed of – it has the power to speak to those who really want to find God’s revelation and guidance. It showed me my real self, my sinful and guilty heart, and showed me also that I was spiritually blind. It asked me to bring all my sins and problems to God in the name of Jesus the Messiah. He came to this world searching for me! He died for my sins and rose again; He went up to heaven, and He will come again. I became convinced that the Holy Bible is indeed the Word of God.

The Holy Bible brought the answers to the problems which worried me. Its living word was able to satisfy my soul. What I had never found before in my religious experience, I now discovered. I became sure that the Holy Bible faithfully and accurately recorded the works and teaching of Jesus – this mystery of God’s eternal Word coming into our world as man. Now I became convinced of the truth of His death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming, which before I had not understood and had even hated.

No doubt, many Muslim friends will continue to think that the Holy Bible is corrupt and abrogated by the Qur’an.

Yet let him – especially if he is conscious of God’s holiness and his own sins – give serious thought to its message. Then let him, as I have done, draw his own conclusions.

A GREAT DECISION

On January 26, 1985 I surrendered to Jesus the Messiah. I confessed all my sins and accepted Him as my personal Savior and Lord, and by baptism in 1986 I was united to Him and His fellowship.  I could feel divine power entering into me.  I rose from my knees a changed man with peace in my soul, joy in my heart, and assurance in my mind. And today I still have that same joy, hope and assurance. Although I could not explain it, in my heart I believed that all my sins were washed away through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that I had received power for a new life of love, and that the Lord Jesus Himself was reigning in my heart.

But the same day I was sent out of my own home. I could not see my mother, one who I was extremely close to. My father died when I was at the age of 5. Till now the door of my own home is closed before me.

IN HIS SERVICE

I had five years of systematical Bible training from two Bible colleges in India and graduated in the year 1989.  Soon the opportunity came to work with a Christian organization in the area. This gave me a chance to go to different parts of India to tell the Good News. I continued to do this for about one year. During that time I learned more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I am grateful to the Lord and to my friends in this team who gave me the opportunity to work with them. They helped me during difficult times.

My present concern is to bring the Good News of God’s light to my own people wherever they are, especially in my own area. May they accept the invitation of Jesus Christ which He gives to all to know the great Salvation of God.

I did not choose Him, but He chose me.  To God be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Photo by The Big Quack

The Struggle of Contextualization

by Melissa Chang |

Contextualization in Missions, Cultural Sensitivity, Muslim Contextualization

boy prayingOne of the most difficult struggles in church planting and missions in new cultures isn’t just the culture shock, it’s figuring out the fine line between respecting the culture of a people without watering down the gospel or compromising its message. For example, according to a blog called LeakeSpeak, here are a few questions faced when Muslims become Christians:

  • By what name do you call God? Do you tell people that Allah is not God and then try and introduce them to the one true God, giving him some other name? Or do you say that Allah is the one true God and then try and help lead people to a clearer understanding of his true nature?
  • Can a believer worship God in a mosque? Or should s/he never go to a mosque again after beginning to follow Christ?
  • Muslims customarily kneel and pray five times a day. Is this an okay practice for a follower of Christ to continue, or should a Muslim-background believer be encouraged to avoid it?

In a comment posted later, the author tried to show us what the line might look like from an Americna perspective. Here is his comment:

Taking it back to an example in our own culture, which of the following would go over better with you if you were a non-Christian parent in the U.S.?

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he continues to live in your community as an American, and you see a radical change in his life, OR

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he’s therefore no longer of this world, so he renounces his U.S. citizenship, refuses to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, burns his passport, will never watch a baseball game again because it’s the American passtime, and abstains from apple pie because that’s also too American.

Obviously, it is of utmost important to find that line that continues to maintain culture, without compromising what the very basics are of becoming a Christ follower. The services might change, the music will certainly change…but there is so much more to consider.  What is the bottom line of what it means to follow Jesus and how can we only pass that on to the new believers without forcing our own culture upon them?  That is the question.

Photo by Terminalnomad Photography

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