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Why I Am a Christian 2 (Islam)

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“Why I Am a Christian”

#2: “…and Not a Muslim”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 14, 2007

Text:          1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Theme:      The cross makes all the difference.

Goal:          To better understand our own faith by learning about Islam. Also: To reflect on how to treat people of other faiths.

Introduction

I encourage you to come to the Christian Unity Service next Sunday night at the First Congregational Church. It’s the beautiful white church next to Pine Knob, or should I say DTE. It will be a great time for the churches around Clarkston to affirm their unity in Christ.

Last week we talked about atheism. Today we’re talking about Islam. We live in a society that is increasingly diverse; and it’s important that as Christians we reflect on our faith. Why are we Christians and not atheists or Muslims or Hindus? How should we relate to people of other faiths and people of no faith?

You’ll discover as I’ve discovered that by learning about other faiths, it helps you understand more about your own faith. So our goal in this series is twofold: 1) To help us deepen our own faith, and 2) To help us be better salt and light in our diverse society.

On your outline you’ll see…

A. Brief History of Islam

          “Islam” = “submission”

          “Muslim” = “one who submits” (to God)

It’s interesting that we call ourselves “Christians” because we follow Christ; but Muslims do NOT call themselves Muhammadens, because they do not worship Muhammad the way we worship Christ. Although they honor Muhammad as the greatest of all the prophets, they believe he was just a man who pointed the way to God. So the real point of Islam is to “submit” to God.

We Christians, however, believe that Jesus Christ was more than a prophet; more than a man who simply pointed the way to God. We believe that he was God in the flesh who deserves our worship.

Although Muslims do not worship Muhammad, they consider him to be the greatest man and prophet who ever lived. They do not believe that Muhammad started a new religion but that he simply restored the original faith of Adam and Abraham.

They believe that God gave the Koran (their Bible) through Muhammad. So let’s look briefly at…

          Life of Muhammad

1. Muhammad born in Mecca, 570 A.D.

[PUT ON SCREEN MAP OF MECCA AND MIDINA]

His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six years old. So he was…

2. Orphaned, poor childhood

He was raised by his uncle Abu Talib and grew up rather poor. As he grew older he became a shepherd and a trader and did rather well. At the age of 25 he…

3. Marriage

…a wealthy widow by the name of Khadija. Although Khadija was fifteen years older than him, they enjoyed a happy marriage and had two sons who died in infancy, and four daughters. Muhammad became a…

4. Successful merchant

…well-respected and prosperous.

5. Age forty: (610 AD) first revelations

He believed that the angel Gabriel spoke to him and called him to become a prophet. After a couple of years of personal struggling with his call, he became convinced that God has really spoken to him, and so he started…

6. Preaching in Mecca

At first many of the people rejected him. Their economy was intertwined with worshipping all sorts of gods, and Muhammad preached that there was only one true God; and they didn’t like that. He ended up having to…

7. Flight to Medina, 622 A.D.

…a town about 200 miles north of Mecca, where he was welcomed. Medina ended up become his home base. No longer was he just a religious figure, but he was now becoming strong politically. He was able to unite several of the tribes and he ended up becoming the ruler of Medina.

Muslims today celebrate Muhammad’s flight to Medina. They call it the hegira, which means “flight.” The Islamic calendar starts in 622 AD. So this year for devout Muslims in NOT 2007 but 1427. You would think it would be 1385 but they use lunar years not solar years.

Over the next several years after 622 Muhammad…

8. Established Islamic community

…in Midina, becoming stronger and stronger, while his home town of Mecca had all sorts of trouble, so that in…

9. Returned to Mecca, 631 A.D.

…with a force of over 10,000 men and took over Mecca with very little resistance. He forgave the leaders who had fought against him in recent years, winning their support and appreciation. Most of the surrounding Bedouin tribes followed suit, giving up their gods to believe in Allah, the one true God.

Muhammad allowed the Christians and the Jews to remain and not change their beliefs, but he made them pay special taxes and tributes. Muhammad…

10. Died 632 A.D.

…at the age of 63 of a sudden but natural death.

Now Muhammad did NOT write the Koran himself. He received revelations from God over a 23-year period. As Muhammad received these revelations he would share these with his devout followers, who would memorize his sayings and write some of them down. After Muhammad died his closest followers wrote down what he said.

It’s interesting that the Koran is not in chronological order and does not tell a story the way our Bible does. It’s basically a collection of sayings. It’s a little shorter than our NT and it has 114 chapters or suras; and generally the longest chapters are first.

Now let’s talk briefly about…

          Spread of Islam

          1. About 1.3 billion adherents

Roughly one out of five people on the planet today are Muslims.

We tend to associate Islam with the Middle East because it’s in the news all the time, but the fact is only 15% to 20% of Muslims are Arabs. The greatest population of Muslims is in Asia…

          2. About 778 (900) million in Asia (69%)

          3. About 6 million in North America (.5%)

Likewise, on the internet I found different statistics for the…

4. About 200,000 in Detroit area

I found an interesting article that was in the Detroit News in 2004. It’s entitled “The Remarkable Moderation of Detroit Muslims.” Here’s just a part of it…

“The study provides an interesting profile of the active Muslim in the Detroit area. The average participant in a mosque is 34, is married with children, is well-educated, is an immigrant or born to immigrants, makes more than $75,000 a year (but is a little stingy when it comes to giving to mosques), is either progressive (38 percent) or traditional (28 percent) in religious practice. The average Muslim is also politically conscious (68 percent registered to vote), a bit ethnocentric — there is some evidence of ethnic clustering around mosques — and is a political liberal (supports affirmative action, universal health care and tough environmental protection laws) but is socially conservative (worried about sexual promiscuity).

According to the institute’s report, there are 33 mosques in Metro Detroit, up five in the last three years. The average number of people associated with each mosque is about 1,968, which means that roughly 65,000 Muslims attend mosques and mosque-related activities. Based on this count, the institute estimates 125,000 to 200,000 Muslims live in Metro Detroit. (www.ijtihad.org/Moderation%20of%20American%20Muslims.htm) (Detroit News, July 2004)

You’ll see on your outline the two major groups of Muslims. I just quickly run through this chart …

Sunnis                                             Shiites (Shia)

Follow Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law Follow Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali
Majority Party (85%) Minority Party (15%)
No central spiritual authority Hierarchy: one imam, dozen or so ayatollahs, many local mullahs
Fairly uniform Split in major divisions
Mecca as only pilgrimage site Also tombs of Ali and Hussein
Vague expectation of future leader, the Mahdi  An important imam went into hiding hundreds of years ago and will return as the Mahdi

[SHOW THE MAP OF SPREAD ON THE SCREEN]

Most of the fighting in Iraq right now is between the Sunnis and the Shia. Each would like to have political control.

Let’s move on to the…

B. Basic Beliefs of Islam

Muhammad taught and Muslims believe that…

          1. God (Allah) is one

There are not many gods; there’s just one true God.

          2. Angels and spirits

They believe that God (Allah) has sent many…

          3. Prophets and books (Bible and Koran)

…over the centuries. They believe in the OT and the NT. The Koran reflects many of the stories in the Bible. They believe that Abraham and Noah and Jesus were true prophets of God. However, they believe that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet. They believe in a final…

          4. Judgment

…where everyone will stand before God and give an account for their lives. And everyone will go to heaven or to hell. They believe that God is the absolute sovereign ruler of the universe. Nothing happens apart from his…

          5. Decrees

God is in complete control. On the surface it sounds very similar to our Christian faith, doesn’t it? We’ll see in a moment that we’re actually very different.

Muslims have…

Five Pillars (Worship Practices)

          1. Confession

Every person who truly submits to God (Muslim) will say, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

          2. Prayer

They should pray five times a day. Devout Muslims will have set times that they try not to deviate from.

Illust: You may have seen in the news recently I believe it was five Muslim men praying at an airport. They were on their knees praying together before they were to board to plane. And the authorities got so nervous about it, thinking that they may be terrorists who were having their final prayers that they detained the men from going on the plane. It became very controversial whether the authorities had violated their civil rights. They are to…

          3. Fasting

…during the day-light hours of the month of Ramadan, which is roughly our December. They are to give…

          4. Almsgiving

Their zakat is their annual contribution –kind of like our tithe. Except their zakat ends up being about 2.5%. So if you don’t like giving 10% as a Christian you may want to become a Muslim and give just 2.5%!

At least once in a lifetime, they are supposed to make a…

          5. Pilgrimage to Mecca

…where they will walk around the ka’ba (the large cubic structure) seven times. [PUT PICTURE OF KA’BA ON SCREEN]. Muslims around the world face towards the ka’ba when they pray.

So these are the Five Pillars or worship practices that Muslims are to perform. Let’s talk very briefly about…

          Jihad

We could talk weeks about Jihad but I really want to get to how our Christian faith is different and I want to look up some Scripture; so let me say quickly that…

          Literally means “struggle”

          “Greater jihad” = the inner struggle to submit to Allah

          “Lesser jihad” = the outward struggle to defend Islam

Generally speaking the radical Muslim groups, like al-Qaeda, interpret Jihad as “Holy War.” Osama bin Laden and his kind are struggling against the United States and all unbelievers. Their goal is to conquer the world for Allah!

The more moderate and liberal Muslims interpret Jihad as the inner spiritual struggle to submit to Allah; and they don’t believe in forcing people to submit to Allah.

         

So let’s talk about…

C. What’s the Real Difference?

On the surface Christianity and Islam seem a lot alike! We both believe there’s one true God. They acknowledge our Bible and our prophets. They even honor Jesus as a great prophet! They believe in judgment day and in heaven and hell.

We might be tempted to think, “Hey! We pretty much believe the same things! So no big deal!”  Yes, big deal! When you scratch beneath the surface we differ greatly in four key areas: our view of the Bible…God…Jesus…salvation.

          1. Our view of the Bible – reliable or corrupt? (2 T 3:16)

We believe that the Bible is reliable, don’t we? We believe that it teaches us the truth about God and about Jesus and about who we are and how we need to live.

Islam tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, it says affirms the Bible is a true revelation from God and we are supposed to believe its teachings. Islam acknowledges Abraham and Moses and Jesus. It even says that Jesus predicted the coming of Muhammad!

On the other hand, it says that the Bible is full of mistakes and corruptions. For example, they say that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross! The Gospel writers simply made that part up!”

Excuse me? The entire NT –all 27 books – is about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again! If you say that the NT is not reliable at that point, how can you trust it for anything else!

Frankly, Islam is completely self-contradictory at this point….

·       Believe the Bible; but don’t believe the main thing that it teaches.

·       Jesus was a great prophet; but you can’t believe half the stuff he said.

·       The apostles were great prophets; but they misunderstand and made up and distorted much of what Jesus said.

It doesn’t make any sense! Muhammad would have done better to totally reject the Bible rather than cherry pick the parts that he liked; because it ends up being self-contradictory.

So our view of the Bible is very different…

2. Our view of God: The Trinity (Mat. 28:18-20)

Later this year I’ll give a full sermon on the topic of the Trinity and why it’s so important, but Muslims deny the Trinity. And here’s another fatal flaw in the Koran. The Koran rejects the Trinity because it totally misunderstands the Trinity. Muhammad thought that Christians believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and mother Mary! The Koran totally misunderstands the Trinity! (sura 5:116)

And he totally misunderstood what the Bible means when it calls Jesus “God’s Son.” Muhammad took that in a literal, physical, sexual way –as if God had sex with Mary to produce Jesus!

Not only that, but Islam says that all the verses that refer to the Trinity are corrupt! So Jesus didn’t really say, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” That part’s corrupt!

So we’re back to the…“The Bible is God’s revelation. We need to believe the Bible! Except for the corrupt parts!”

Do you see how self-contradictory this is? To say that you believe in Jesus and in the NT but you don’t believe that he died on the cross and rose again, is like saying that you believe in Abraham Lincoln and you believe all the history books about him but you don’t believe that he was ever really President of the United States. And all the parts of those history books that refer to his presidency –well, those parts of corrupt! It just makes no sense to say that. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming!

Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1:18. Here’s where we get to the heart of the matter. Islam denies…

3. Our view of Jesus: His deity and death (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

4. Our view of Salvation: works vs. grace (Titus 3:1-8)

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for our sins. In fact, Jesus didn’t die! The apostles either made that part up, or they were deceived into thinking that Jesus died when it somebody else, but God would never have allowed his great prophet Jesus to die on a cross!

Which means there is no atoning death that the NT talks so much about. There was no resurrection that the NT emphasizes so much. If Jesus didn’t die he wouldn’t have to rise again would he?

READ 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-25.

The heart of the Christian faith is the cross of Christ. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Some, like Islam, think its foolishness.

READ TITUS 3:1-8.

Islam teaches that you’ll go to heaven or hell based on your deeds. Like a scale, if you have more good deeds than bad deeds you go to heaven. So there is no assurance of salvation. How do you know which way the scale is tipping for sure? Are all deeds weighed equally or are some heavier than others?

There’s no personal relationship with Allah. Allah has revealed his will. You follow his laws and do good. That’s all you can do.

The Bible, however, says that God’s primary goal is to have a loving relationship with you. It’s not about rules or rituals or regulations. It’s about a relationship with your Creator!

It’s not about you being good enough to make God like you; it’s about accepting God’s love and forgiveness and grace in your life!

Jesus died on the cross for you! The Holy Spirit can come into your life and wash you clean and renew you with God’s love and change your life!

We’ll talk about tolerance perhaps next week. Of course we should be kind and respectful to all people of whatever faith or no faith. But I ask you: Have you been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you been washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit? That’s the Good News and the great opportunity that Jesus offers us. LET’S PRAY.

“Father, we know that the cross makes all the difference. It’s not about us doing more good than bad. It’s about you and what did for us. Lord Jesus, thank you for dying and rising for our sins. Thank you for the grace and the love that flow through the cross. There may be some here today who never quite understood that before; but they get it now, and they ask you into their hearts by faith. And all of us, Lord, thank you, for the washing and the renewal that come by your Holy Spirit. We praise you, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”


 D. Reflections on Tolerance

1. Love people; debate ideas. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

2. Respect people; influence them for Christ. (Mat. 5:13-16)

Illust: on the news now: building mega mosque in London

Address terrorism…was Saddam Hussein a Shiite? What is Osama bin Laden? What are most Muslims in Dearborn

Illust: Detroit Free Press on line…Congressman Keith Ellison, native of Detroit

Illust: hand on Koran or Bible?

Illust: Barak Obama…

Illust: Muhammad Ali…

Live the truth; don’t just defend it.

Applying the truth is better than arguing about the truth.

Muslim hysteria erupted anew in September when Pope Benedict XVI, delivering an academic speech on faith and rationality at Regensburg University in Germany, quoted a remark by 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus that Muhammad had commanded Muslims “to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The veracity of the quote aside (it is supported by Islamic historians and the Quran), the pope – twice stating that the quote was not his own – was referring to the emperor having argued that historical Muslim violence was not rational. This ironic subtlety was lost on Islamic leaders and media worldwide, who misconstrued the quote as the pope’s own words and labeled his speech as offensive, thus riling up masses that have a sharia sanction to perceive any criticism of Muhammad as “blasphemy.” The following month, Iraqi Muslims who kidnapped a Syrian Orthodox priest in Mosul added repudiation of the pope’s remarks to their list of demands. (See above, “Christians Targeted in Iraq.”) After kidnapping 59-year-old Father Boulos Iskander on October 9, the Muslim extremists lowered their demand from US$350,000 to US$40,000 but added that the priest’s church must publicly spurn Benedict’s comments. They beheaded the Orthodox priest even though the family paid the ransom and his parish placed 30 large signboards on city walls distancing itself from the pontiff’s comments.


“Why I Am a Christian”

#2: “…and Not a Muslim”

Pastor Greg Henneman

January 14, 2007

Text:          1 Corinthians 1:18-25

What do Muslims believe? How should Christians and Muslims treat each other?

A. Brief History of Islam

          “Islam” = “submission”

          “Muslim” = “one who submits” (to God)

          Life of Muhammad

1. Muhammad born in Mecca, 570 A.D.

2. Orphaned, poor childhood

3. Marriage

4. Successful merchant

5. Age forty: first revelations

6. Preaching in Mecca

7. Flight to Medina, 622 A.D.

8. Established Islamic community

9. Returned to Mecca, 631 A.D.

10. Died 632 A.D.

          Spread of Islam

          1. About 1.3 billion adherents

          2. About 778 million  in Asia (69%)

          3. About 6 million in North America (.5%)

4. About 200,000 in Detroit area

Sunnis                                              Shiites (Shia)

Follow Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law Follow Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali
Majority Party Minority Party
No central spiritual authority Hierarchy: one imam, dozen or so ayatollahs, many local mullahs
Fairly uniform Split in major divisions
Mecca as only pilgrimage site Also tombs of Ali and Hussein
Vague expectation of future leader, the Mahdi  An important imam went into hiding hundreds of years ago and will return as the Mahdi

B. Basic Beliefs of Islam

          1. God (Allah) is one

          2. Angels and spirits

          3. Prophets and books (Bible and Koran)

          4. Judgment

          5. Decrees

         

Five Pillars (Worship Practices)

          1. Confession

          2. Prayer (illust: men praying at airport and detained)

          3. Fasting

          4. Almsgiving

          5. Pilgrimage to Mecca

          Jihad

          Literally means “struggle”

          “Greater jihad” = the inner struggle to submit to Allah

          “Lesser jihad” = the outward struggle to defend Islam

         

C. What’s the Real Difference?

          1. Our view of the Bible – reliable or corrupt? (2 Tim. 3:16)

2. Our view of God: The Trinity (Mat. 28:18-20)

          3. Our view of Jesus: His deity and death (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

          4. Our view of Salvation: works vs. grace (Titus 3:1-8)

 D. Reflections on Tolerance

1. Love people; debate ideas. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

2. Respect people; influence them for Christ. (Mat. 5:13-16)

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