When Christians stand for truth in a pluralistic culture, conflict is inevitable. Increasingly, that conflict is with our own government. Today, Dr. Erwin Lutzer begins a series on Christians in conflict and how we can live in view of those conflicts.
Stay with us. From Chicago, this is The Moody Church Hour, a weekly service of worship and teaching with Pastor Erwin Lutzer. Today, we'll hear the first of four messages on Christians in conflict.
Later in our broadcast, Erwin Lutzer will speak on what happens when religions collide. Our service today begins with The Moody Choir. Evermore His praises sing, Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise the everlasting King!
Father, like He tends and spares us, where our feeble frame He knows, in His hands He gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely it is mercy for still. Gracious in the hearts adoring, ye behold Him face to face. Saints triumphant, thou big for Him, gathered Him from every race. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Praise with us, O God of grace! Praise with us, O God of grace! Amen!
Amen! Praise my soul, the King of Heaven. We hope that you've already praised the Lord, not only because the choir sang about it, but in your own devotional time before you came here today as you prepared your heart for us to worship together. And in a few moments, we are going to be participating in singing hymn number 723, Soldiers of Christ Arise. Our scripture reading this morning is by Bruce Nelson.
Bruce is actually a seminary student, and he is also an intern here with us serving here at The Moody Church. You'll notice the passage of scripture that he will be reading is from Psalm 34, and we will have the privilege of participating. We're going to bow our heads to pray, and immediately following the prayer, I'm going to ask that you stand, and then Bruce Nelson will come and lead us in the reading that is in your bulletin. Would you join me, please, as we pray? And our Father, we do praise you, the King of Heaven. Thank you that Jesus Christ has brought us to God, and that through him we have access into your presence, and that you are here not just because you're omniscient and omnipresent, but you are here because you've revealed yourself to your children. Make this a transforming moment for all of us, we ask, as we worship you acceptably through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. Let us now stand for the scripture. As Pastor has mentioned, our scripture reading this morning is from Psalm 34.
Please follow along with me with the bold print. I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord.
Let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. The Lord redeems the life of his servants. None of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. This is the word of the Lord.
This is the word of the Lord. In all the broken ways, knowing this heartless soul, take every virtue, every rest, and glorify the Lord. Where any hope is done, let all your prophets rest.
We will walk to Christ alone and send the King above. Would you bow with me as we pray? Before I pray, I want you to pray. And in this moment, I want you to give yourself to God.
And then would you just express your heart's cry to God on behalf of this country. Father, we cry to you because you are the God of the nations. We thank you so much for the freedoms that we have in this country. Thank you that in grace you allowed us to live in a country where we can meet in an atmosphere like this and publicly.
Forgive us, Lord, for taking it for granted. But we pray for our brothers and sisters in countries such as Iraq, where believers are systematically being exterminated and they must move and leave all their belongings. We pray for them, Father. Father, we've cried to you before and we have nowhere else to go and pray for your wisdom, for your guidance, for all of the political activities in the United States.
We thank you that ultimately at the end of the day, you are the one who is in charge. Now, Father, we pray for ourselves. We pray that our faith will be increased.
May we be courageous people. May we be people who lovingly share the good news of the gospel and to tell others that what Jesus has done for us, he can do for them. Thank you for all your people who are involved in ministry here and we need so many more. And we pray today that even as the offering is received, that it may be with deep gratitude that we can be a part of all that you want to do. Thank you for your grace that has brought us this far and we trust that the grace of God will bring us home.
Thank you for the memory of those who have gone on before us, whether it's Helen Needham or other believers, we thank you that they've left a legacy of prayer and impact that continues. Help us to be faithful until we see you face to face. Now, Father, we do love you.
We wish that we love you more, but we do love you and we love your son. He has captured our hearts. We pray in his blessed name. Amen. Praise God, all of you, come as he's born. Praise him, all nations, here we come. Praise him, all of the earth, here we come. Praise God, all of the sun and moon, all of us. Amen.
Well, the agenda today can be simply stated. How do we live as authentic Christians in a pluralistic society, a society of many different religions? That question was brought home to me this past week. I spent a few hours in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this past week, flew there Monday morning and came back Monday afternoon, Monday evening. Spoke to some pastors in a hotel and then we went over to the Capitol, the state Capitol, surely one of the most beautiful in all of America. I was told that some weeks ago there was a prayer meeting that was planned by evangelicals. Evangelical Christians went to the powers that be and said, can we have a Commonwealth prayer meeting? And the answer was yes. And so they had a prayer meeting, but a Buddhist wanted to pray and was denied.
Well, that made front page news in Harrisburg. These intolerant Christians, who do they think they are by excluding others? Why are they so incredibly intolerant? There was a rabbi who actually wrote a letter to the newspaper in response to the controversy. He says that we have many different faith traditions here in Pennsylvania, in the Interfaith Alliance, a national network of people from 70 different faith groups. We've met with Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Brethren, and many other committed Protestant Christians.
We've encountered Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Baha'is, Sheiks, Unitarians, Wiccans, Atheists. First I read that I thought, now, why are atheists in the community of faith? Come to think of it, they have more faith than any of the other groups listed here because they believe that nothing times nobody equals everything.
And I think that takes a lot of faith. So they belong here. God bless them. We've encountered Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and others right here in central Pennsylvania. And they are not guests. They are Pennsylvanians, part of that rich cultural fabric. Certainly our legislators must understand how insulting it is to have such a large part of their constituency unrepresented.
Well, that would be an interesting permitting to have all of those 70 groups represented. Now, there was another way that I began to realize the kind of changes that we have in America. I went into the Supreme Court room in Harrisburg. There you have seven chairs and the justices sit beneath a picture of Moses and very clearly spelled out the Ten Commandments. So that is there. That's not been touched.
That's been there 100 years or more. But when they hand out the Supreme Court booklet for tourists, it's very interesting. And I know that you can't see this that far away. And if you're listening by radio, you can even see less, I'm sure. But you'll notice that here in this panel, there are seven justices and above them are the Ten Commandments, but they are censored out.
They are actually out of focus and they cannot be read. Now, to be fair, in the rest of the book, there is a picture of the Ten Commandments along with the other kinds of law, the law of Justinian and the law of the Greeks and so forth. So the Ten Commandments is mentioned there and it is pictured, but not above the justices, even though that's what hangs above them, even as they deliberate. Now, why is it that they censored out the Ten Commandments?
Well, I can understand that probably there was opposition. They said, you cannot privilege Christianity. You cannot privilege the Judeo-Christian heritage.
We must be favorable to all religions. And therefore, the Ten Commandments have no place in hanging above the justices as they do their work. Did you know that there are those who want to rewrite the textbooks in America and they want to rewrite these books and take out references to God and the pilgrims and their Bible? And I've actually read the reason they say is because it privileges one religion, namely Christianity, above the others. And you're not supposed to privilege one religion above another. Sin basically no longer exists in America, but there are still two sins left. One is eating chocolate and the other is privileging Christianity above other religions.
So the question is, how do we live? Now, that's the agenda for the next 20 or 25 minutes. And by the time I'm finished, you're going to have your answer. But before I turn to the scriptures, this is going to be a different kind of a message. If you're visiting here at The Moody Church, I want you to understand that normally the pastor does not give a lesson in history. But we're going to look at history because history is then going to illuminate the text of scripture and will understand its importance and its relevance, particularly for those of us who are Americans.
Now the history. In the early days of the Christian church in Rome in the first century, it was absolutely unthinkable to the Romans that one could be a good Roman citizen and at the same time be a Christian. It's not because they objected to people worshiping Jesus. All kinds of gods were worshiped, and if you wanted to worship Jesus, you would have that freedom. The trouble that the Roman authorities had was that there were Christians who were worshiping Jesus and claiming that he was lord over all the other religions, that he was king of kings and lord of lords. And they said that cannot be tolerated because if you believe that, you cannot be a part of our commonwealth, you can't be a good citizen. We have to understand that the glue that holds us together is our Roman religion with all of its diversity and polytheism.
You must fall into that to be a good citizen. When the Christians said no, they were thrown to the lions. Now later on, after the time of Constantine, he crosses the Tiber River in 312 and Christianity gained a lot of power and a lot of adherence. Now Constantine and subsequent generations, they said, let us Christianize the empire. At last, the Christians were in charge. And now the Christians had the ability to persecute the heretics. At first, the sword belonged to the pagans.
Now the sword belonged to the Christians. And so they made everybody become a Christian. Forced conversions, 3,000 pagans being converted to Christianity in one meeting at times. And everybody had to profess faith in the Christian God. Mind you, the pagans didn't like it very well and some of them brought their own ideas into the church. For example, the Romans had a God if you were going to buy something, a God if you were going to sell something, a God if you were going to go on a journey. And those gods couldn't be brought into the church, but those assignments were given to saints within the church. And so what you had now is the people who were in charge, the Christians, the Christians in charge, there was no freedom of religion. You look at the history of medieval theology and the history of the church and you find martyrdom. You could deny the Trinity and be burned at the stake.
No such thing as freedom of conscience. Because just like the pagans believed that you had to be of the same religion to be a good citizen, the belief was now that you had to be a Christian in order to belong to Christendom and to be a good citizen within what was called the Holy Roman Empire. Christendom now demanded that you be a Christian. And infant baptism was proof that you were a Christian. That's why when Charles the Great said that all those who are not baptized as infants, those parents must be thrown in jail or put to death. It's not that he was interested in theology, but the similar religion, you see, held the Roman Empire together. Now let's go to the time of Luther.
1517, he nails his 95 theses on the castle door in Wittenberg. Four years later, he is asked to go to Worms. The pope had said that he was to be condemned and put to death. But the emperor, Charles V, did not want to put him to death unless at least Luther was able to be granted a hearing. So Luther comes before the Diet of Worms.
And by the way, this has nothing to do with losing weight or anything like that. Actually, you know, the word diet means like a synod. And in German, the word Worms is Worms. The W is pronounced like a V. Luther goes there a hero.
It is said that 90% of the people in Worms were shouting that they were in favor of Luther and the other 10% were shouting death to the pope. So he comes there as a hero. He's asked, will you recant your writings? He said, I need to think about it.
And they said, we'll give you till tomorrow. Because I may not have another opportunity, I want to read parts of the prayer that he prayed that night. Because he knew that he would not recant. And he also knew that if the law were followed, he would be put to death, if not instantly, within a few days.
So he knows that this is his death warrant. And that night he prays, O almighty and everlasting God, how terrible is this world! Behold, it openeth its mouth to swallow me up, and I have so little trust in thee. How weak is the flesh, and Satan how strong! If it is only in the strength of this world that I must put my trust, all is over.
My last hour is come, my condemnation has been pronounced. O God, my God, help me! Help me against the wisdom of this world. I have nothing to do here, nothing to contend for with these great ones of the world. I should desire to see my days flow on peacefully and happy, but the cause is thine, and it is a righteous and eternal cause.
O Lord, help me! Faithful and unchangeable God, in man I do not place my trust, it would be vain. All that is of man is uncertain, all that cometh from man is uncertain. O God, where art thou? Thou canst not die, thou only hidest thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work, and then he continues to pray, and I must for lack of time skip until the end. I will never separate myself from thee, neither now or throughout eternity, and though the world should be filled with devils, though my body, which is still the work of thy hands, should be slain or stretched out upon the pavement, be cut in pieces, reduced to ashes, my soul is thine, and thy word is my assurance of it. My soul belongs to thee, it shall abide forever with thee. Amen. O help me, God.
The next day, there were more people at the meeting than the previous one, including the emperor. Here's Luther before Charles V, before all of the German princes, and he is asked by Eck to recant. Luther then says those famous words, My conscience is taken captive by the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
So help me, God. Amen. There was a hush in the hall. He was escorted out. Charles V wrote a document condemning him to death, but through some friends, Luther was able to go to the Wartburg Castle and escape, and he lived a normal life and died at the age of 62. But here's the point. The idea that one could stand up and say that my conscience trumps church and state was unthinkable at that time.
Let's go eight years later. The Diet of Spire takes place. Charles has to call the Lutherans because he needs their support in a war against the Turks. So he has this diet and he says basically this, that in Catholic territories, only Catholic services can be held, not Lutheran, but in Lutheran territories, there were at least 14 cities that had Lutheran princes.
In Lutheran territories, Lutheran services can be held, but no Catholic services can be held. Well, you can understand that the Lutherans protested, and that's where we get the word Protestant. Whenever you think of the word Protestant, the Diet of Spire 1529. So what the diet said was, the Protestants said, in matters of conscience, the majority has no power. Good line.
But the darker side is this. They still condemned the Anabaptists, that is the rebaptizers, those who were baptized as adults upon profession of faith. The Diet of Spire, the Lutherans agreed that these people should be put to death, if necessary, to stamp out this heresy. You see, a few years before this diet, a man by the name of Felix Montz was a student of Swingley, the great reformer in Zurich, and Felix Montz was drowned because he was baptized as an adult. You couldn't do that in those days because the whole medieval order of the unity of Christendom was going to be broken up.
That was the argument. So they took him and they bound his hands, they put him in a little boat near the Rathaus in Zurich. There's a friend of mine who's here today who grew up in Zurich, who knows exactly where this place is, and they pushed him out and they let him drown in the deep, dark waters of the Lamont River.
And his good friend Swingley says, well, if he wishes to go under the water, why indeed let him go under. If he wants to be baptized, we'll baptize him good and proper and let him drown. Now, beginning then, Anabaptism began to spread, but so many Anabaptists were massacred, whole villages of men, women, and children massacred.
Why? Because they believed that the church should be distinct from Christendom, and they believed that one should be baptized upon profession of faith rather than as an infant. But Felix Montz was the first Protestant to be forcibly drowned by Protestants, of all things. Now, there was no freedom of religion in Europe until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which brings us to America. Later on, the Puritans come and they have a European understanding of freedom of religion. They wanted freedom of religion for themselves, but not for others.
That's why Roger Williams was run out of town because he was a Baptist. But you have the Constitution of the United States of America. The idea that a nation could be unified under a constitution rather than a similar religion was a whole brand new experiment. This, at the grand scale of America, had never been tried before. That we could have one nation under God and we could say, you can belong to whatever religion you like or believe in no religion, and you also are a valid citizen of a great country. This was an experiment that, in history, had been beyond thought.
Nobody believed it could be done. And here we are in America today, believing that it's possible to be a good American and belong to any faith or no faith at all. Now, how do we relate in a pluralistic world? You see, in Europe and America, Christianity has always been privileged. You go to Washington and you find verses of scripture on virtually every government building. I was given a book of all the verses of scripture in the Pennsylvania State House, and it's quite a booklet.
But those days are no more. The question is, how do we live in a pluralistic world where the government may or may not anymore favor Christianity? There are three or four possible reactions. One would be to say that we accommodate our faith, that we say, let's give up the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. I was asked to pray at a political rally years ago, and I prayed in the name of Jesus. And one person was very, very incensed and says, why don't you pray an ecumenical prayer? In other words, don't mention Jesus.
I smiled very kindly and I said, I'm really sorry. But I said, you know, I don't know how to pray in any other way because Jesus is the one who brings us to the Father. Now, what we could do is we could just water it all down and say, you know what? Christianity can blend nicely with any other religion. We can just simply water it down and say that it is nothing but a list of moral duties.
The other possibility is to privatize our faith, to say it belongs only to me and we'll go through our rituals, but we're not going to witness to anybody in this pluralistic world. Just the other day, somebody told me about a pastor of a large church, not in Illinois, but in some other state, who went to get a manicure. Now, just lay aside for that for a moment. Put that on the shelf, okay?
I can use a fingernail clipper and do pretty well in about a minute and a half. But anyway, and he was there and there was a Christian woman present who recognized him. She knew who he was. When he left, one of the women who worked there said to the other, you know, he's the pastor of such and such a church. And the other woman said, no, that's not possible because he's been coming here for three years. If he were the pastor of that church, surely that's something I would know about him. Shame on him. In a place like that for three years, never telling people, explaining to them the good news of the gospel, just living in your little ghetto, you know, we go to church on Sunday, but we don't share Jesus Christ when we get a haircut or when we work with a person next to us at work.
Oh, no, no, no. That's another possibility. The other possibility is militarism, to become very fighting and angry and to say, what are all these people doing with our freedoms and with our country? And we can get more angry than we are repentant.
That's another possibility. The other is to engage the culture, to say, God, you've given us unique opportunities to prove, to prove ourselves in a different kind of environment and welcome the opportunity, welcome the opportunity to live for Christ authentically in a pluralistic culture. And with that, we're turning to God's word.
All right. Would you take your Bibles and turn to First Peter, Chapter three, First Peter, Chapter three. Peter is the one you see who initially drew his sword. He drew his sword when they came to get Jesus because he was a fighter. He said, let's let's fight the people. And Jesus said, Peter, my kingdom is not of this world. You can take your sword and you can put it up into its sheath.
Let's not use a sword here. And Jesus submitted to those who were coming for him to kill him. Peter is writing to a church that has experienced persecution, not the full intensity yet.
That was coming. And he prepares them for it because, you see, the church in history has always, the true church has always been a minority. It has always had to struggle with pluralistic religions, in this case, paganism. And so the question is, how do you live in a pagan society? The book was written to help us understand that. Church has always been an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism. How does it engage culture?
Very quickly. First of all, please notice that we must live by kingdom values. We must live by kingdom values. Wherever God has planted us, wherever your office is, wherever your hospital is, wherever you find yourself working in a factory or building or whatever it is that your vocation is, you should live in such a way that people will say to themselves, why is this person different? Notice the Apostle Paul says in verse 8, 1 Peter chapter 3, Finally, all of you have unity of mind.
That's the kind of unity of mind that is brought about through our love for Christ. Have sympathy. When you walk past the poor, don't simply say, well, that's what they get because they're too lazy to work or it's their fault. In many instances, it is not their fault.
They're locked into a system. Do we have sympathy? Can we weep with those who are weeping? Brotherly love, specifically Christian love.
As we have been loved, so we love. Tender hearted. God, you see, has been tender hearted toward us and tender heartedness in scripture is closely related to forgiving. Ephesians chapter 4, be tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. Be humble. Humility. Clothe yourselves with humility, Paul says.
Why? Because we are sinners. We are sinners. The fact that God has graciously saved us, we had nothing to do with it.
We responded to his grace. The idea of a proud, arrogant Christian is an oxymoron. It is a square circle. It is a donut without a hole. It is a toothpick with a wood shaved from it.
It simply cannot exist. The gospel, if it does anything to us, if it saves us, it humbles us. And breaks us. So that we are not angry people. So that we are not the kind of people who are more concerned about what others are doing to us than we are about our own humility and repentance. And so, Peter here is telling us, look, what you need to do is to remember that you live with kingdom values.
Wherever God has planted you, in a pluralistic world. How did the Chinese church grow so much without television, without Christian radio, without tracts, largely without books? How did the church become so great? It's the way in which Christians lived, one next to another, until one would say to the other, Why are you able to endure this repression so much better than I am?
What is your secret? It was personal evangelism. One person telling another person. Like the old saying goes, one beggar telling another beggar where bread can be found. So, you live with Christian values. You live with a Christian perspective.
We don't have time to go through this whole beautiful text. You can do that on your own reading the next verses, but let's jump to verse 13. Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed. You see, because America has always had a Christian consensus, we've always expected special privileges.
Suffering to us is deemed to be fundamentally unconstitutional. We think to ourselves that there's no way that we should ever have to be challenged about our faith or have the kinds of conflicts that pluralism brings. Well, what he's saying is if you have to suffer for righteousness, understand that it comes with a blessing. It comes with a blessing. Your Bibles are open. Notice chapter 4 verse 12. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings. To share the sufferings of Jesus means to endure the kind of hardship and suffering that you endure because you belong to Jesus.
It isn't because you have cancer or because things are going badly at work. It's the kind of stress and persecution we have because we belong to Jesus. Rejoice that you also may rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. What we should say to ourselves in this pluralistic world when we feel that we are no longer getting a fair shake is praise God. And I hope that there is some persecution and some marginalization of me in the midst of it all because it comes with a blessing. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. You are blessed because that's the way the prophets before you were treated.
So we accepted with optimism. Tertullian in North Africa said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. And he said regarding being in prison, the body is shut in, but all is open to the spirit. The spirit may roam abroad to God. The leg does not feel the chain if the mind is in heaven.
Now, that's a very, very optimistic view of imprisonment. And I do not want to glorify martyrdom. I do not want to glorify martyrdom because I don't know how you and I would do if we had to die for our faith. I hope that we do so valiantly in the name of Jesus. But let's not criticize those who perhaps haven't endured martyrdom too well because we've not been there. So we approach this with humility. But I will say this, that even the persecuted church that we talk about and we should be praying for our persecuted brethren and we should be lobbying for our persecuted brethren and doing all that we possibly can to change their environment and their circumstances. But even in the midst of that, there is God's blessing because the scripture says that ultimately nothing can destroy the Christian.
Nothing can destroy him. The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever. So we approach it with a sense of perspective and hope and optimism. We live with kingdom values. We go deep into the culture. We don't avoid the culture.
But we remain distinct within the culture. And we live with kingdom values. And then let me say also that we live understanding our testimony and being willing to share our testimony.
Notice what the text says. I'm now in verse 15. But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy.
Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within you. Yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience. By the way, one of the reasons that we can teach people personal evangelism and they can learn it all and still don't evangelize and still don't witness is because if Christ is not sanctified in your heart as Lord. If you've got other agendas that mean more to you than Jesus, it's hard to witness. If your heart is cold and you're kind of indifferent and the passion for Jesus is gone, it's difficult to share your faith.
What you want to do is to just retreat. Like one woman said, I don't want others to know that I'm a Christian at work. Because I've got some issues in my life and I don't think that I'd be a good witness for Jesus. Well, God bless her. I understand what she's saying, but she'd better take care of those issues so that she can sanctify the Lord as God. And then give a defense. The word defense in Greek is apologia, from which we get apologetics or apology. Doesn't mean that we're apologizing for our faith by no means.
It means that we're defending it. Are you able to defend your faith? If somebody says to you, well, you know, I think Jesus is one way among many.
Are you able to answer that question? You say, well, I don't know. You know, there have been so many books and I know somebody who's preached a lot of sermons on those kinds of topics that can be used to study and to learn and to say, I need to be able to answer that so that I can give a reason for the hope that is within me and I can tell people why I belong to Jesus Christ and not to some other faith. And what are the roots of our faith? You see, we learn then, we learn then to do apologetics by lifestyle and when we're asked, and sometimes even when we aren't asked but there's an open door, we share with others the reason for the hope that is within us. That's the way in which we live in a pluralistic world. Now let me give some practical suggestions and then I'll say like Luther at the Diet of Borums, Ich bin Hindorch, which is to say, I'm out of here.
That's the way he ended it when it was over. First of all, respect other people's freedom of conscience. You expect them to respect your freedom of conscience, you respect their freedom of conscience.
Notice what the text says. When you are giving a reason for the hope that is within you, yet do it with gentleness and respect. You respect other religions. Sure there's going to be conflict, sure there's going to be misunderstanding. Remember this, that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, it's entirely possible statistically that you would grow up Muslim.
And if you were born in China, you might be Buddhist. You see, what we need to do is to realize that we're dealing here with real people in real situations, in real contexts, so we don't come with an attitude of superiority, we don't come with an attitude of anger, but we do in humility give a reason for the hope that is within us. We do it with meekness and we do it with fear, not judgmentalism and superiority. So we respect other people's religions. Secondly, we dialogue with them. We dialogue and we learn. As I was preparing this message, I thought to myself, you know, one of the tragedies in my own life is that I know so few of other religions in any kind of an in-depth, intimate way. I'd like to get to know other religions. In the work that I do, I'm somewhat isolated. What an opportunity God has given us by bringing so many different people from so many different countries and so many different religions to the shores of the United States.
And then at some point, you can accommodate, but at some point you can't. When I was in Istanbul a few years ago, I had a guide, a Muslim guide, for an entire day. He met me at the hotel in the morning and we didn't come back until after dinner that night.
And he was giving me a tour of Istanbul, going to all kinds of interesting places, and it was just he and I. He said that he was a very devout Muslim and that because of his devoutness, he'd prefer if he could pray during the day. Muslims are to pray five times. I know that there was one time, I think, in the morning and one time in the afternoon, I told him, look, when it's time to pray, you simply go into the mosque, you stay there as long as you want, and when you're finished, you come out and I'm going to be outside waiting for you. I said, I want to respect your faith.
We had some very interesting conversations, by the way, that I will tell you about sometime in another context, but I respected his faith. In the afternoon, he washed his feet, he went into the mosque, and he said, come in with me. So I went into the mosque and there I saw just hundreds and hundreds of men bowing and saying prayers. And then he knelt and he said to me, he said, you can't stand when you're in the mosque and everybody's praying. He said, why don't you just kneel down? Hmm, why don't you just kneel down? I said to him, look, I'm glad that I have the privilege of seeing everything here, but you know what?
I'm just going to go and I'll meet you when you're finished. And I went outside. You see, I couldn't kneel down, because even though Allah and Jehovah have some similarities, they have such radical, radical differences that this isn't the same God. And so I said, there's no way I can bow down.
And then I met him after he came out of the mosque. In other words, what we do is we go as far as our conscience allows us to go, but then we don't overstep that conscience and we say to ourselves, I can do A, B, C, but I can't do this. That's the way we live in a pluralistic world. And we do so dialoguing and understanding. You know, when we send missionaries to the mission field, we expect them to learn the culture, to learn the religion that they are going to. And what we need to do is now in America is to look at America as a mission field.
It's a mission field. That is to say that we need to understand better other people, other religions, and then speak Jesus Christ within that context. Finally, we have to be ready to die for our faith. It's been the whole history of the Christian church. And who do we have for our example? Well, your Bible is open, isn't it? You'll notice it says in verse 18, for Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.
There's our example. Jesus lived when religions collided. The religion of Judaism, which had calcified based on the Old Testament with many, many traditions, conflicted with Jesus, who was trying to help them to understand that he was the son of God and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. And as a result of the collision, he was crucified. And in the process of that crucifixion, God accomplished his work and it is through the suffering of Jesus that we are brought to God. Every single believer, therefore, should be willing to die for his faith and perhaps that can even happen to you and to me.
And that's a topic for a future time. But here's what the text says, is that Jesus suffered. He was righteous.
We are unrighteous. When he died on the cross, he got what he didn't deserve, namely our sin and our unrighteousness. And because he died on the cross, we now can get what we don't deserve, namely his righteousness, that he died in our place to bring us to God. And so as I come to the end of the message, I finally come to the focal point as to why Moody Church exists, why you and I are still left on this planet. It is to help people to be brought to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who suffered in the place of sinners. The wages of sin is death. And he said, I will take the eternal death of the cross so that you will be exempt, so that you will be declared as righteous as I am. I mentioned that Helen Needham died this past week.
Jerry Newcomer, also another member of ours, had her memorial service yesterday. When they arrived in heaven, they arrived in heaven as if they were Jesus, based totally upon the merit of Christ. We live differently because we have been saved differently by the generosity and the grace of God our Lord. Let's pray. Our Father, we ask in Jesus' name that you will help us in the midst of a culture that is pluralistic. Help us, Father, as you've brought to America so many different religions of the world, so many different opportunities, so much for us to learn that is new and different. Help us to be humble witnesses of your saving grace. And we pray that even those who have listened to this message, perhaps on the internet or radio or right here at The Moody Church, who've never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, may see that the way to God is through him and through him alone.
Thank you, thank you that you died for sinners like us. In Jesus' name, amen, amen. Well, we end with the Gospel and we sing about the Gospel. 480, Come every soul by sin oppressed, there's mercy with the Lord.
That's the bottom line. We come to Jesus to receive mercy and forgiveness. 480, let's all stand to sing. On today's Moody Church Hour, Pastor Lutzer spoke on When Religions Collide, the first in his four-part series on Christians in Conflict. Even among Christians, there are wide variances in doctrine. Next week, join us as our focus turns to what happens when beliefs collide. Sometimes we make bad decisions, but God can meet us in our need even when we choose the second best.
Pastor Lutzer has written a book on Making the Best of a Bad Decision. It Can Be Yours is our thank you for your gift of any amount to The Moody Church Hour. Call 1-800-215-5001.
That's 1-800-215-5001. Or you can write to us at Moody Church Media, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Online, go to moodyoffer.com. That's moodyoffer.com. Join us next week for another Moody Church Hour with Pastor Erwin Lutzer and the Congregation of Historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church.
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