Ramadan 24: Getting to the Gospel (part 2)

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18–20)

This is Part 2 of our Getting to the Gospel articles on sharing the Gospel with Muslims. We are discussing eight simple things to remember as you’re loving Muslims with the Gospel. Read Points 1-4 in the previous article. In a sense, sharing the good news of Jesus with the lost is always very simple. But there are a few nuances in the contextualization of your conversation that can help you proclaim Christ with clarity.

Here are four follow-up points to remember as you seek to engage Muslims with love and faithfulness:

5 – Win souls, not arguments.

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:27–29)

Sharing the Gospel with anyone is hard work, but not because we’re trying to win an argument. Our toil is against our fleshly pride seeking to be right or protect our image in front of others. Our hard work is done in surrendering to the Holy Spirit, and praying that the message of Jesus will find receptive hearts.  Paul wrote: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This is never truer than when we engaging Muslims with the Gospel. We are fighting for their souls out of love, not struggling against them in conversation.

“Typically, if we’re thinking about winning or losing debates with our Muslim neighbors, we’ve lost sight of what really matters. We’re not engaged in a contest where points can be scored and win-loss records tallied, with the victor earning bragging rites.” – Thabiti Anyabwile

As Thabiti Anyabwile points out, avoid “Bible ping-pong” that can become a battle of wits to see who is the most prepared. Any Muslim who has learned under an imam will feel like they have all sorts of support to argue. Inaccurate facts about the Bible attack the identity of Jesus — don’t get wrapped up in feeling like you have to defend the authority of Scripture. Stand firmly on the Bible as God’s Word and remember that it the most historically accurate work of religion. Be confident and gracious in Christ.

6 – Define repentance & faith.

Muslims must grasp the weight and gravity of Ephesians 2:1-10 in order for them to see the glory of Christ crucified. In their current worldview, God dying sounds too shameful to even consider. Allah is said to be too holy to ever come down to earth and interact with mankind — but they are missing the beautiful love and holiness of Jesus! There are some commonalities in our religious language, but make sure that you’re defining terms according to how the Bible uses them. Use Christian terms because they will have meaning for a Muslim and it will differentiate Christianity from Islam. We can’t tip-toe around the gravity of sin against our Holy God and the identity of Jesus.

“God didn’t just forgive us, He paid for our sin!” – Kambiz Saghaey

Repentance: Make sure to explain the cost and gravity of the sin nature passed down from Adam (original sin). Our sinfulness goes deeper than the bad decisions we’ve made. We were born sinful, cursed by our part in the original sin of Genesis 3 (David explains Psalm 51). Sin brought permanent shame to the human race, but Jesus entered this world and took on the shame in our place — overcoming it!

“Repentance, like faith, is an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and hatred of it), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead).” – Wayne Grudem

Faith: First, faith is enabled by the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and need to be reconciled with God. This is necessary for salvation. The Bible teaches time and again that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is not a faith that we simply “muster up” from within ourselves, but it is a gift from God. Second, faith always produces good works but is not a result of works. Forgiveness and faith and not an excuse to live sinfully, because the Christian is now identified by new life in Jesus (Romans 6:1-11).

“Genuine repentance and faith require turning from the old life of sin lived apart from God and turning to God through faith in His Son. A person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone apart from any works of righteousness. In our evangelism we must make these truths clear because Muslims use the same words with very different meanings. One way to clarify the Christian understanding of conversion is to use uniquely Christian language, such as “born again,” “rebirth,” and “new creation.” – Thabiti Anyabwile (The Gospel for Muslims)

7 – Remember the cost of conversion.

Following Christ costs us everything. Grace in salvation is priceless, a higher price than we could ever pay. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13, we are to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling,” but that “it is God who works in you.”

Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that, reminding them of the call to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24).

“Our Muslim friends’ religious identity and behavior, their interest and occupations, as well as their personal relationships and search for personal meaning are under constant scrutiny by fellow Muslims.” – Mike Edens

You won’t have to remind Muslims of the persecution they will face. Great shame will come on their entire family as a result of their decision to follow Christ. They will have read what the Qur’an says about converting to Christianity. Converting to Christianity will ostracize them from every current relationship they have. In the worldview of eastern Muslim peoples, he or she is not only rejecting Allah or Islam. They reject their father and mother, brothers and sisters, and childhood friends.

Muslims will immediately understand Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23-62 more deeply than most of us in the western world ever will. Don’t expect them to immediately repent and turn to Jesus on the spot, but plan to invest much time in deep conversations about Jesus — and love them well.

8 – Jesus is worthy.

Never forget that Jesus is worthy of all glory and honor. He is worthy of our worship, and the worship of those lost in the lies of Islam. He is worthy of our complete devotion, and faith to uphold our trust. Just as God was faithful in Scripture, He will never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Our obedience to the Great Commission, when led and enabled by the Holy Spirit, exemplifies our deepest worship of Jesus Christ.

Nearly two thousand years ago, Paul and the other apostles founded the first-century churches on the truth of who Jesus was. They were persecuted physically, financially, and emotionally. They were arrested, beaten, marginalized, burned, crucified, and murdered. Tertullian accurately wrote in 197 A.D.: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

“For the Christian, divine boldness comes from communion with and the filling of God the Holy Spirit. That’s how the apostle Paul—a man gripped with the fear of death—could speak so boldly in the face of persecution and resistance. That’s how he could be stoned, left for dead, and still drag his broken body back into the very place of his persecution to continue preaching the gospel of our Lord on the next day (Acts 14: 19–20).” – Thabiti Anyabwile

As western Christians, we can not begin to understand the physical, financial, and relational cost for a Muslim to begin following Jesus. But, we can abide in Jesus with them and remember together that Jesus is worthy of all. He is worthy of our lives because, as the Bible tells us, that is the only way to come to Jesus. By God’s grace, may we humbly renounce our comfort and identity, and take on our new life in Christ with a life of worship to His glory.

Kambiz Saghaey: A Story of Faith from North American Mission Board on Vimeo.

Prayer:

Jesus, you are eternally worthy of our worship and the worship of all of your creation. Forgive me if I’ve ever turned evangelism into a task or intellectual argument, and grow in me a holy passion to see Muslims come to faith in Jesus. Enable me to live out repentance and faith in my own life, and help me to boldly proclaim the truth of your Gospel as a gift by grace, through faith. May I never shy away from pointing to your glory. May I never claim any part of the credit for my own salvation or growth in you!

Give me compassion and wisdom as I share what the Bible teaches of the worship and discipleship you require of us. Help me to be faithful as I walk out my daily life, and help me to bring new believers along with me as you continually make me new each day. Show me how to humbly lead others as we follow you together.

Go & Do:

“So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.'” (Acts 4:18–20)

The book of Acts is full of fantastic sermons from Paul, Peter, and others. Read 2-3 of them today, and take note of their boldness and clarity in communicating the Gospel. The Apostles were mere men, but the Holy Spirit guided them to faithfully proclaim the Gospel in all sorts of situations and to all types of audiences. We can learn much from the Apostles fervency, boldness, perseverance, contextualization, and proclamation. Here are some examples:

  • Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2)
  • Peter in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3-4)
  • Stephen’s speech and stoning (Acts 7)
  • Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8)
  • Paul’s address to the Areopagus (Acts 17)

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Resources:

A Story of Faith (video) – Kambiz Saghaey

Engaging Our Muslim Friends with the Gospel (video) – Kambiz Saghaey

Do You Listen Enough When You Evangelize – Karen Pearce (IMB)

Understanding Social Pressure in Islam – Mike Edens (IMB)

Missions Isn’t So Glorious But Jesus Is (audio session) – Missionary in Syria (Cross Conference)

Evangelizing Muslims: An Interview with Thabiti Anyabwile – Trevin Wax

Is He Worthy? (song) – Andrew Peterson

Any 3: Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time (book) – Mike Shipman

The Gospel for Muslims (book) – Thabiti Anyabwile

Acts video playlist – The Bible Project

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