Have you ever heard so much talk about God and prayer as we have in this past month? Everywhere I go I see signs that say, "God Bless America" - it's on gas station signs, grocery store signs, bank signs, billboards, it's everywhere! America has all of a sudden gotten very religious. There have been vigils and candlelight prayer services in every town. People who hadn't said "God" except in profanity for years are all of a sudden very pious and reflective.
Lest anyone think this new religiosity is a reason for rejoicing for Christians, think again. America wants God's blessing. America wants God to protect us from more horrific visions of airliners flying purposefully into buildings filled with people. We want God to be near us as we board our aircraft. We want Him to protect us from the horror of thinking about what it was like when the towers collapsed. We want Him to guide our military and allow us to flex our muscle and launch our missiles with impunity. We want God's blessings, but do we want God? Are we willing to live in submission to God who said:"Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16)?
Who is the God that everyone is praying to? You hear a lot about "people of faith," and tolerance, and how we are all worshiping the same God but by different names. But there is no such thing as a Christianity that stands side by side with Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, and says, "We worship one God under many names."
Christians believe, fundamentally, of necessity, that there is one true God. This true God is not Allah. This true God is not Krishna. This true God is not the god of Joseph Smith or Buddha or the Jews. This true God is the Lord Jesus Christ!
Titus 2:13 (NKJV) looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Jesus Christ is God. And as God He seeks true worship, worship based upon a knowledge of who He is in reality, based upon His revelation to man. He does not grant to man the freedom to worship Him in a manner that pleases the creature rather than the Creator. God is particular about His worship. His worship is intimately, vitally connected to truth. Without truth, there is no worship of the Christian God.
John 4:24 (NKJV) "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Despite the resurgence of prayer, many who are praying are not praying to God.
Prayer to a nebulous god is now acceptable in this country, but don't you dare mention the name of Jesus. A California judge recently told city officials in Burbank, California that prayers are allowed, but not to Jesus.
For decades, the Burbank City Council has invited religious leaders of various groups to offer an opening prayer, according to City Attorney Denis Barlow. One prayer, however, had repercussions. "This particular person ended the prayer, 'In the name of Jesus Christ,'" Barlow said.
Barlow said the prayer annoyed an activist in the audience, who filed suit. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently ruled against the city. He did not ban the prayers, but ordered the city to monitor the content, specifically citing prayers that mention Jesus as being a problem.
The disciples in the first century faced the same problem:
Acts 4:18 (NKJV) And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
Acts 5:40 (NKJV) And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
This judge says it's okay to pray, just not to Jesus. People, there is no sense praying to any other god, because there is no God but Jesus. Jesus himself said that we are to pray in his name:
John 14:13-14 (NKJV) "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. He is the only true God.
We've learned a new vocabulary in recent days: Islam, Allah, Jihad, Taliban, Mohammad. For most Americans those were all distant, irrelevant words, but now they seem somehow important to all of us. I think that it would be profitable for us to look this morning at what Islam believes and how it differs from Christianity. Hopefully, you can use what you learn today to better share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Islamic religion was founded about 600 years after the birth of Jesus Christ by Muhammad. What we know from history is that Muhammad established the first Muslim community in a town called Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Both terms: Islam and Muslim imply "submission" one who is wholly surrendered to the will of Allah (their word for god). As with most of this world's religions, Islam consists in belief and practice.
The Pillars of faith (Iman) in Islam are distinguished from the pillars of religion, because they focus on the system of belief rather than merely ritual worship. The "Pillars", or the truths, upon which the Islamic faith is premised are:
To believe in Allah (God) in His Existence, His right to be worshiped, His Oneness, His Attributes, and His right to legislate
To believe in God's angels
To believe in the Holy Quran and the other Holy Books, (Torah, the Gospel of Jesus, the Psalms of David)
To believe in God's Messengers, of whom Adam was the first and the Prophet Muhammad was the last
To believe in the Resurrection and the Day of Judgment
To believe in Divine Pre-ordainment
This list of the Pillars of Faith is accepted as basic to belief in Islam by every sect and school of thought.
The basic Muslim practices are:
The "witness", "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah".
Ritual prayers (six times a day).
The paying of alms (offerings).
The fast of Ramadan.
At least one pilgrimage to Mecca in one's lifetime.
Jihad (individual efforts to serve Allah or engage in war against the enemies of Islam).
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today (there's over 1.2 billion Muslims in the world). In fact, over 100 million Muslims live in India alone where they co-exist with the majority Hindu population.
Islam is the second largest religion in Europe and has challenged Judaism as the second largest religion in America. There are Muslim missionaries around the world and tens of millions of dollars are spent every year supporting missionaries and building mosques around the world.
A Muslim leader has been asked in the past to inaugurate a session of the US Senate praying in the name of Allah. There are also different types or groups within Islam. Sunni Muslims consider themselves the orthodox Muslims. Shiite Muslims define their basic teachings differently than the orthodox. Sufi Muslims gather themselves in brotherhoods and emphasize more matters of emotion and the heart. The Nation of Islam in America is actually a mixture of Islam/Judaism/Christianity as well as the occult and racial teachings.
That's a short report on what Islam is. So how does Christianity differ from Islam? The main issue is what we believe about Jesus Christ, but before I get to that, let me tell you what Islam believes about man.
The Quran teaches that the nature of humanity is good, and we did not inherit sin from Adam. Each soul comes into being free of sin and inclined toward goodness and is capable of doing good and, unless taught against its nature, will incline toward good deeds. Keep this in mind as I read this next statement.
One Islamic writer says this, "Throughout the Quran, God teaches us things that are verified by our own observations and experiences. Whether we approach the question of validation as a skeptic or with enthusiasm, the truth of what God teaches us stands out clear from any falsehood. We recognize the truth when we hear it, because it is validated by the realities of life, our personal observations. The Quran, the Muslim Holy Book, is validated by the scriptures of the Bible and the Torah."
Do your observations and experiences verify to you that the nature of humanity is good? And that each soul comes into being free of sin and inclined toward goodness and is capable of doing good and, unless taught against its nature, will incline toward good deeds? If you have children, or have been around children, you can't possibly believe this.
This writer also said, "The Quran, the Muslim Holy Book, is validated by the scriptures of the Bible and the Torah." He is very wrong! The Bible does not teach that the nature of humanity is good, it teaches the exact opposite:
Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;
Romans 5:19 (NKJV) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
The one man's disobedience is referring to Adam. Because of Adam, we are all born sinners. This corruption of man's nature is what is called in theology "Original Sin." This sin is called "original sin," (1) because it is derived from the original root of the human race; (2) because it is present in the life of every individual from the time of his birth, and therefore cannot be regarded as the result of imitation.
It's not that you sin, and that's what makes you a sinner. You're a sinner, you were born that way, and that is why you sin. Every human being born is born with original sin.
Our evolutionary, humanistic society denies this vehemently. Some, it is true, are willing to acknowledge that some people do sin, or even that everyone sins at sometime, particularly if you want to refer to ethical misjudgments as "sins." But, babies sinful? By nature? Nothing strikes at the heart of humanism and Islam quite so devastating a blow as that notion! But how else can we explain why sin is so universal?
This universal tendency to evil has been stated very clearly by a secular agency - the Minnesota Crime Commission. In studying humanity, the commission came to this frightening and factual conclusion:
Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it - his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toy, his uncle's watch. Deny him these wants, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous, where he not so helpless. He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent (emphasis - DBC). If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free reign to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.
Through Adam's personal sin, original sin came to all mankind, and all humanity was corrupted. We are all born sinners. The Quran is wrong! Its teachings are not validated by the scriptures of the Bible, they are refuted by the Bible.
Jesus Christ is God
The heart of the issue is who is Jesus Christ. People need to understand who Jesus Christ really is. Who He is and what He has done can change not only our lives - but our eternity. Who is Jesus? The Bible tells us very clearly in:
Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The word "name" is the Greek word onoma, which can mean: "name, rank, or personality." Here the emphasis is on title of rank above all ranks - position.
What is the name above all names? The movement of verses 9-11 does not stop at the phrase "gave him the name" but flows straight on to the universal confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, which suggests that the significant thing is the ascription of "LORD".
Verse 10 is a pretty direct quotation of Isaiah 45:23 where Yahweh, having declared himself to be the only God and only Savior, vows that he will yet be the object of universal worship. It is this divine honor that is now bestowed upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
These verses in Isaiah 45:20-25 speak of the uniqueness of the only God. In the Greek Old Testament, the LXX, the Greek word "Kyrios", which means: "Lord" is used to represent the personal name of the God of Israel - "Yahweh". In most English versions, LORD is spelled with four capital letters when it stands for the ineffable (too sacred to be spoken) name of Yahweh.
Isaiah 45:20 (NKJV) "Assemble yourselves and come; Draw near together, You who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, Who carry the wood of their carved image, And pray to a god that cannot save.
He is speaking here of the heathen idols, but this would apply to most Americans.
Isaiah 45:21 (NKJV) Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD (Yahweh)? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.
God is saying, "I'm unique, I'm the only God, there is no other God besides Me."
Isaiah 45:22 (NKJV) "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.
This is where our quote in Philippians is taken from, this is Yahweh, the one and only God, that is speaking.
Isaiah 45:24-25 (NKJV) He shall say, 'Surely in the LORD (Yahweh) I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD (Yahweh) all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.'"
It is in Yahweh that salvation will come. In Isaiah 45:23, we see a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God. And in Philippians, this title "LORD" is ascribed to Jesus. Jesus Christ is Yahweh, the Lord! God, the Father, exalted him and gave him the name "Lord," which is the name of sovereign God. Jesus Christ is Yahweh!
The Hebrew word for "Lord" is Adonai. The name Adonai assumed an extraordinary importance in Hebrew speech, for in practice it replaced the personal name of God, Jehovah. No Jew pronounced the word "Jehovah," even when reading the Bible. Instead he said, "Adonai." Not only in popular speech but also in Jewish literature and in the writing and transmission of the Old Testament the word "Adonai" became almost synonymous with Jehovah, the personal name of God. Consequently, when the early Christians made their confession - "Jesus is Lord" - they were actually confessing that Jesus of Nazareth is the God of Israel, Jehovah, the only true God.
Christianity affirms that Jesus Christ is God, Islam denies it. Like Christians, Muslims believe that Jesus was born miraculously without a father. But unlike Christians, Muslims do not take him to be God or the Son of God.
Let me give you a couple of quotes from the Quran. Surah 5 The Table, The Table Spread:
17. In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every - one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things."
The Quran says that it is blasphemy to say that the creator God is Jesus Christ, but this is in fact what the Bible teaches:
Colossians 1:16-18 (NKJV) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
The Qur'an also says in Surah 3 The Family Of 'Imran, The House Of 'Imran:
59. The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be". And he was.
The Quran says that God created Jesus, but the Bible says that Christ created all things:
John 1:1-3 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Listen, people, to the words of the Bible:
1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV) Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also
To deny that Jesus is God is to be antichrist. To deny the Son is to deny the Father. This condemns not only Islam but Judaism as well.
The Quran also says in Surah 5 The Table, The Table Spread:
75. Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!
What is an apostle? The word "apostle" means: "one sent forth of God."
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was "The Apostle":
Hebrews 3:1 (NKJV) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
However, when you read what Jesus said about himself, you quickly discover a major problem with the teaching that he was "no more than an apostle". Jesus made some rather outrageous claims. He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be equal to God. He claimed to have the power to forgive sins. He claimed that he would someday judge the world. He claimed that he had power over death:
John 11:25-26 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Here's the problem: a man who is merely a man and makes these claims about himself cannot be considered "one sent forth of God." He is either delusional, or he is deceptive. A man who falsely claims to be God is either a liar or lunatic, but you can't call him a "one sent forth of God."
In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this very same argument. "Since Jesus claimed to be God, you can't wave him off as a good teacher and nothing else." Lewis said, "You can call him a fool, you can call him a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord." He goes on to say, "But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He didn't intend to." [Mere Christianity, p. 40]
When a person decides what they will believe about Jesus, they have to choose from one of three possibilities. Either he was a liar, and he intentionally deceived people into following him; or he was a lunatic, a paranoid schizophrenic with visions of grandeur; or he was in fact the Son of God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It's one of those three; those are the only options we have.
Now, you know which one I believe. I believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord of all. Someone who is "no more than an apostle" does not predict and then perform their own resurrection:
John 2:19-22 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
These things are History, not delusion. So to all atheists and agnostics and skeptics we urge this sign, this evidence. First, they did destroy the temple. Jesus was killed, just like he said.
Second, Jesus did build the temple again in three days. He rose from the dead, and for forty days appeared to many varied witnesses, even five hundred at one time, many of whom were still living, according to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6) - a claim that could have been easily disproved in those days so soon after the event. But it was not, nor could the adversaries ever produce the dead body of Jesus. Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead and he did. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to Christianity. Without it, the death of Jesus Christ becomes the heroic death of a misguided martyr, the pathetic death of a deranged lunatic, or the execution of a liar.
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? How do we know? The Bible says he did, and that's enough for me, but let's think this through. What became of his body? On Friday, he was dead, he'd been beaten, crucified and speared. He was embalmed, wrapped with a hundred pounds of spices, laid in a tomb that was sealed and guarded by a Roman contingency. Sunday the grave cloths were beautifully undisturbed, but he was gone. How do you account for it?
Within days, Peter was standing with the other apostles proclaiming to the world that Jesus had been risen from among the dead and that He lived. For the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, or for the Roman soldiers, who had crucified Him and were supposed to guard Him, all it would have taken to silence Peter and all Christianity forever was to produce the decaying, dead body of Jesus. Why didn't they? They didn't have the body, it had disappeared. Where did it go? We have two alternatives: 1. Either human hands had taken the body away, or 2. Christ had supernaturally risen from the dead. If human hands had taken the body, was it friends or foes? His friends were not capable, the tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. Maybe the soldiers had fallen asleep. And while they slept the disciples moved away the huge stone, and got his body out of the grave clothes without disturbing them. It seems very unlikely. Maybe his foes took it. That was exactly what they were trying to keep from happening.
The transformation of the apostles clearly supports a resurrection. When they saw Jesus die on Friday, they were plunged into despair and agony. Then suddenly they were boldly and persistently proclaiming , "He's alive." What happened? Did they say, "Let's pretend He's alive, let's say He rose from the dead?" Then they all went out and laid down their lives for a lie? They were persecuted unto death, some were thrown into boiling caldrons of oil, some of them were burned at the stake, some of them were crucified and all for a known lie? It's psychologically impossible. They sealed their testimony with their blood, because they had seen the risen Lord. He is alive!
The Quran says that Jesus was "no more than an apostle", but Jesus Christ claimed to be God and proved it by the resurrection.
Every devout Muslim will wash before His prayers. This ceremonial washing is intended to purify the pray-er before they come before a Holy God. However, far more important than clean body parts is a clean heart. To truly draw near to God, we must be holy, and the Bible tell us that the only way to be holy before God is through accepting the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as the payment of our sin debt.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus paid the sin debt of all who will believe in Him. He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. Jesus would tell us that prayer is about relationship, and the only way to have that relationship is to allow Him to give you His righteousness. Jesus said:
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
It is only through faith in Christ that anyone will get to heaven. The typical Muslim believes that paradise (heaven) is a place where all fleshly appetites are fulfilled. They also believe that no one can really know if they are going to paradise or not.
Like many others, they believe that ultimately they will either make it to heaven or not based on either their good works outweighing their bad deeds or maybe God will simply decide to let them in. But for a Muslim there is no way of knowing until the final judgment.
Maybe you are here this morning worrying about the same thing. You're just not sure what heaven is and even less sure of whether you will ever get there. Contrary to what many believe, the Bible teaches that heaven is more than just a "happy place" Heaven is where God is! Heaven is where every true believer will spend eternity with Jesus. And how do we get there? It's not anything we can do! It's already been done! Jesus said, "I am the way". He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy:
Titus 3:5 (NKJV) not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
Who is God? Jesus said, "there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior" (Isaiah 45:21). There is a way to know this morning exactly where you will spend eternity. That way is Jesus. Simply by trusting in Him, accepting His death, and resurrection as the payment for your sin debt you can know for sure that heaven is your destiny and Jesus is your Savior!