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Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 4, 2023 12:01 am

Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 4, 2023 12:01 am

We have been entrusted with a great calling to take the gospel of Christ to the people of this world, Muslims included. Today, James Anderson provides ten points of practical advice for engaging in evangelism with our Muslim neighbors.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

More Muslims are coming to Christ in our day than ever before in history. God is working out His plan of salvation in the Muslim world today. Are we ready to join Him in that work? Are we ready and eager to be instruments in His hands for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ? As the redeemed people of God, the scales have been removed from our eyes. And we know salvation.

We know the God who saves. And that knowledge of the good news and how experiencing the freedom of the Gospel should move us to desire to share that truth with others. This is the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind and the final day that we'll be hearing from James Anderson's Exploring Islam series.

It's also the final day to request your very own copy at renewingyourmind.org. As you share your faith, increasingly you'll encounter Muslims and you may need to interact with Islamic beliefs or even the Quran. That's why we're dedicating this time this week and have made the entire series available to you. So how should we talk to Muslims about the good news?

Are there things that we should keep in mind? Well, here's James Anderson to help equip you for the task. There are many amazing things in this world, but I think that one of the most amazing things is a seed.

Nothing we've invented can rival it. It's just a tiny little thing, unimpressive to look at, but if you plant it in the right conditions it has everything that it needs to become a fruit tree or a flowering bush or a vegetable plant which then produces more seeds and on and on it goes. But seeds won't grow in just any conditions. They need to be planted in the right soil. They need to be watered.

They need warmth. We don't make seeds grow, but we can do things to help them grow well. Evangelism is a little like that. We're given the seed of the Gospel and we're told to sow it liberally. We don't make the seed grow. We can't change people's hearts, but we can do many things to remove obstacles and to encourage the conditions for planting and growth.

As Paul said to the Corinthians, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. Well, what I want to do in this final lecture is to give you some gardening tips, some practical advice on planting and watering, some practical advice on sharing the Gospel with Muslims. Now before I get started, I want to confess that I am not an expert in this area, so most of what I'm going to share with you leans heavily on what I've learned from others, those that I consider to be fathers in the faith.

So I just want to let you know this isn't all from me by any means. Okay, let's work through these pieces of advice. Number one, treat each Muslim you encounter as an individual. Treat each Muslim that you encounter as an individual. Treat each one as a unique individual rather than a clone of what you consider to be the ideal Muslim. Now of course the fact that they identify as a Muslim gives you a good initial idea of where they're coming from. But as we've seen, there's a great deal of diversity within the Muslim world. Just think for example if you were to sit on a plane and you meet someone next to you who claims to be a Christian.

Well that tells you something for sure, but it doesn't tell you a great deal. Even within particular Muslim groups, each person has their own individual life history and experiences. And so really the point here is that the first step in evangelism is to listen, to listen to what the person has to say, to tell their story. So strive to know the person as an individual before you try to apply what you know about Islam and Muslims in general. Here's tip number two, take time to develop friendships with Muslims and to build a foundation of trust.

Take time to develop friendships and to build a foundation of trust. This is a general principle for evangelism of course, but it is particularly applicable in the case of Muslims, who can sometimes be wary about forming relationships, friendships with people outside of their immediate community. In addition, Muslims who live in the West are very aware of the stereotypes that get placed on Muslims by people like us. And so it takes extra effort to overcome that initial barrier of suspicion. Along the same lines, we must be aware of making our relationships with Muslims, or indeed with anyone, contingent on their conversion to Christ, as though we're only befriending them in order to see them become Christians.

And if they don't become Christians, then the friendship is going to come to an end. We should be careful to avoid even the appearance of this. Even if we don't intend it, we can inadvertently give that impression. We need to be wary of that. As we think about building relationships, building friendships, remember too that hospitality is a very important means of doing that.

And of course, a very biblical means as well. Of course, if you're going to offer hospitality to Muslims, then you've got to be careful about what you serve. It has to be halal food, of course, and you need to reassure them about that. And maybe a vegetarian meal would be the safest option. But when we think about hospitality, that means not only giving hospitality, but also being willing to receive hospitality as well.

Many Muslims consider it the greater honor to give hospitality. And so if you get that opportunity, jump at it. Here's tip number three. Take time to correct misunderstandings about Christianity, the Gospel, and the Bible. Take time to correct those misunderstandings. We've seen that among Muslims today, many of the obstacles to accepting the Gospel are based on misunderstandings. Quite often, very basic ones about Christianity, about what Christians actually believe, about what the Bible actually says. We've considered the doctrine of the Trinity. It isn't polytheism.

It doesn't commit the sin of Shirk. We thought about misconceptions about the divine sonship of Jesus, that it isn't a biological sonship. Recall that many Muslims think Christians believe that God procreated with Mary. That's of course not what we believe. The idea that manuscript variations in the New Testament are really corruptions of Scripture. We need to correct their views about what these variations actually are. And then the relationship between grace, faith, and works. Many Muslims think that because we say we're saved by grace through faith, that that means we can live any way we want.

And they look at some Christians and they actually get that impression. So we need to correct their misunderstandings about the role of works in the Christian life, obedience. The next piece of advice is closely connected to the previous two.

This is number four. Don't feel that you need to present the entire Gospel all in one sitting. The Gospel message, of course, can be summarized in a few sentences. But in order for someone who lacks any Christian background to understand the Gospel message, it needs to be unpacked. And that takes time and effort and patience. So don't feel that you have to unpack the entire Gospel in just one conversation over just one cup of coffee. In fact, trying to do that may actually be counterproductive.

It's just too much to take in from a Muslim who is coming with such a very different set of categories and assumptions, not to mention serious misperceptions about Christianity. Now, the obvious exception here would be those occasions when you don't think you'll get a second bite of the apple. You've got one chance to share the Gospel. Well, in that case, go for it.

But if you know that you're going to be with someone for a while, take time. That's okay. Number five, tip number five. Take time to discuss the holiness of God so as to communicate the seriousness of sin. Take time to talk about the holiness of God to communicate the seriousness of sin. Muslims generally have a low view of sin compared with the biblical view. In theory, for Islam, any sin against Allah is worthy of punishment, perhaps even hellfire for a time. But in practice, sin is often explained away, excused, as due to ignorance or weakness or external temptations, a satanic temptation.

What Muslims need as much as anything is to understand the sheer holiness of God and the infinite offense of every sin as an act of cosmic rebellion. You know, several years ago, I attended a Christian conference and had the opportunity to go out for lunch with some old friends of mine. We went some distance from the conference center and we decided to get a taxi back to the conference center. Well, as we were in the taxi, one of us who was sitting up front struck up a conversation with a taxi driver who turned out to be a Muslim.

I think he was from Egypt. In the back seat, some of us were thinking, well, what can we leave with him that would have the gospel message? To our shame, none of us had a copy of one of the gospels or a gospel tract. But one of us, it turned out, had a bag full of free books from the conference. One of those conferences gives away free books and he had a bag full. And so we were going through this bag to think which of these books could we give away? Biblical theology and the life of the church?

No, that's not really going to work. Well, at the bottom of the bag, what did we find? A copy of Dr. Sproul's The Holiness of God. And we gave it to that taxi driver. We left it with him.

And I didn't realize back then just how appropriate that would be. Tip number six, talk about how Jesus deals with our defilement and shame as well as our guilt and sin. Talk about how Jesus deals with our defilement and shame as well as our guilt and sin. Muslims, especially those raised in a non-Western culture, are typically more used to thinking in terms of cleanness and uncleanness, honor versus shame, rather than guilt versus innocence, what we would consider legal categories. Here's what one missionary to Muslims, Bruce Thomas, has observed from his interactions with Muslims over many years.

Look at this. Perhaps the greatest need felt by Muslim people is not for assurance of salvation from sin, but for deliverance from the tyranny of being in a near-constant state of defilement. Now, of course, that doesn't mean that we don't talk about assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sins, Jesus paying the penalty of the law on our behalf and so forth.

Of course, we want to talk about those things. But it also makes sense to find a point of contact with Muslims that connects with their concerns and anxieties about how they relate to God and their spiritual state before God. And those are genuine concerns which the Gospel actually addresses.

Indeed, there are a number of biblical passages which can be very fruitful to discuss with a Muslim. For example, the story of Jesus healing a woman suffering from bleeding, which is in three of the Gospels. You remember the woman's problem? She had this constant bleeding for many years. We think of it as a medical problem, but for her, it was a religious problem. She was in a constant state of uncleanness, and Jesus healed her from that. Luke chapter 17, Jesus cleanses ten lepers. This wasn't just a medical issue, it was a religious issue for them.

They were outcasts. Mark chapter 7, Jesus responds to the criticism of the Pharisees about hand washing, that his disciples weren't washing their hands. And Jesus points out that defilement comes from inside rather than from outside. And in the process, Jesus declares, all foods clean. So this is a passage that speaks directly to Muslim concerns about ritual purification and dietary restrictions. Acts chapter 10, Peter's vision of the unclean foods. Again, God declaring these things clean. Note also the relevance of what is called the purity code in Leviticus and Numbers.

You know, these two Old Testament books seem very strange to Western Christians. But the concern with purity, with cleanness, is entirely understandable to many Muslims. Tip number seven, aim to direct conversations toward Jesus. Focus on his true identity and mission.

Seems like an obvious point, doesn't it? But it's easy to get diverted in practice to matters of cultural differences or ethics or politics or secondary points of disagreement. The heart of the issue between Christianity and Islam is this. Who was Jesus and what did he come to do? Who was Jesus and what did he come to do?

That is what we want to talk about. Tip number eight, quote from the Bible frequently and confidently and treat your copy of the Bible with respect. You know, some Christians have been hesitant to quote from the Bible when dealing with unbelievers, including Muslims, because they think, well, these non-Christians don't accept the Bible as an authority. And in the case of Muslims, perhaps they think, well, the Muslim believes the Bible is untrustworthy and corrupted, so they'll just dismiss it out of hand. So I won't quote from the Bible.

I think that that is a big mistake. You really should have your Bible open when talking with a Muslim for two basic reasons. First, because the Word of God carries its own power and authority. The Bible is powerful and authoritative regardless of whether the person that you are speaking to believes that it is the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit can and does work to bring about a direct conviction on hearing the Word of God. But the second reason this is important is because it will show Muslims that you trust the Bible no less than they trust the Koran. And in connection with this, it is a good idea to treat your copy of the Bible with respect. Just think about how Muslims treat their Korans with respect. Well, we want to give the same kind of impression, not because we think that the Bible is sacred in the way that they believe the Koran is, but just showing respect for the Word of God. Now, this point about using Scripture leads naturally to the next piece of advice.

And this is number nine. One of the best things that you can do is to encourage a Muslim to read one of the Gospels. One of the best things you can do is encourage a Muslim to read one of the Gospels.

Ironically, you can actually enlist the Koran on your side, because there are verses in the Koran that affirm the Christian book and say that it was sent down to give light and guidance. And so a Muslim who claims to take the Koran seriously ought to be very interested to read the Gospel, the Injil. Now, which of the four Gospels would be the best choice? Well, Luke's Gospel may be the best choice to begin with, followed by John's Gospel. It's interesting that the Koran refers to Jesus as the Word of God, or the Word from God. So, you know, John's Gospel, chapter one, the Word of God. Matthew's Gospel may be seen as too Jewish, which could be problematic for some Muslims, depending on their cultural background. Many people think Mark's Gospel would be the best choice, because it's so short and accessible. But it's probably not the best first choice, because in the very first verse of Mark's Gospel, he refers to Jesus as the Son of God.

And that immediately puts the Muslim on the defensive. So, probably Luke's Gospel, best first choice. But it's certainly a good idea to always carry with you a copy of one of the Gospels that you can share.

Number ten, tip number ten. Be patient and persistent in prayer. Be patient and persistent in prayer. Gospel outreach to Muslims requires tremendous patience. There are all kinds of obstacles and challenges. It takes a lot of time and patience to make progress. And it can be discouraging.

I'll be honest, it can be discouraging. And for that very reason, it requires us to soak our efforts in prayer. The points that I've given you here are meant to be practical tips for evangelizing Muslims. And there's really nothing more practical than prayer, calling upon God for help and mercy. You know, it's striking to me how often patience and prayer are connected in Scripture.

Have you noticed this? We are to pray for patience, but prayer itself requires patience. Consider some of these biblical texts. Luke 18, verse 1, Jesus told his disciples a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Not give up. Keep praying. 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 17, pray without ceasing. Keep on.

Keep on praying. Colossians 4, verses 2 through 6. And as I read these, just think about how relevant these verses are to bringing the gospel to Muslims. Paul writes, continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. We must not forget that evangelism is spiritual warfare. We are involved in a real spiritual battle with everything at stake.

Remember what Paul says at the end of that famous passage in Ephesians, chapter 6, where he writes about the armor of God, putting on the armor of God for this spiritual battle. He closes with these words, that we should pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. Well, I'm very thankful for the opportunity to give these talks, and I'm thankful that you've taken the time to listen to them and to grow in your understanding of Islam and the Muslim people around the world and indeed on our own doorsteps. If you've listened to these lectures and digested the material, then you now know more about Islam than the majority of Christians in the West. You're maybe in the top 10% knowing about Islam in this way. The question then is, what will you do with that knowledge?

What will you do with that knowledge? All of us have been called to be ambassadors for Christ. We have a great calling to take God's gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ, to the lost people of this world, including Muslims. Let's not be Jonahs. You remember the story of Jonah and the Ninevites? Jonah had a problem with the Ninevites, but he had a greater problem with God. He thought that the Ninevites were not only too wicked to deserve to be saved, but too wicked to be saved.

How could such hardened hearts repent and turn to the one true God? But God surprised Jonah. God shocked Jonah with the extent of his power and with the extent of his mercy. God wanted the Ninevites to repent and be saved, and he brought it about.

We have the same God as Jonah, a God of power and a God of mercy. He wants Muslims to be saved, and he has the power to save them. And indeed, more Muslims are coming to Christ in our day than ever before in history. God is working out his plan of salvation in the Muslim world today. Are we ready to join him in that work? Are we ready and eager to be instruments in his hands for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ? God has the power to save Muslims and the power to save anyone.

May we never give up hope, being faithful in prayer and making the most of the opportunities that he places in front of us. You have been listening to Renewing Your Mind, and today's teacher was James Anderson from his Exploring Islam series. If you'd like to be better equipped to speak to Muslims or even to educate your children about what Islam teaches, I commend James Anderson's ten-part series to you.

Visit renewingyourmind.org with your donation of any amount to request your copy. Your generosity is helping fuel Ligonier's growing outreach in Arabic. We have a dedicated Arabic website, and an Arabic edition of the Reformation Study Bible is in motion. If you'd like to see or share our Arabic website, the link is found at the bottom of ligonier.org. So please show your support by donating at renewingyourmind.org or by calling us at 800 435 4343. You really are making a difference, and remember, today's offer of Dr. Anderson's two DVD ten-part series Exploring Islam ends at midnight. So far this week, we've considered Islam, but when we boil it down, there really are only two religions, either worship of the Creator or worship of creation. Joining us tomorrow will be Peter Jones to explain further here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-04 03:54:54 / 2023-10-04 04:03:48 / 9

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