Lesson 1: Introduction
We are glad that you want to reach out to Muslims. What an amazing adventure you’ve begun! Many Muslims respond to Christian websites because they are interested in spiritual matters and want help in their spiritual journey. What a joy and a privilege it is to be part of God’s work in the lives of other people!
These lessons will help you better understand Islam and how to respond to Muslim seekers and share the gospel with them. The author is a missionary currently living in a South Asian Muslim country. He writes with South Asian culture in mind, but many of the principles can be broadly applied to most other Muslims. If in doubt, check with a cultural expert from the country you are dealing with.
As you continue to learn and respond to seekers, keep in mind the acronym LIP: Love – Inform Yourself – Pray
Having an attitude of love is so important. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Love needs to permeate everything we do and say. Love shows humility and respect to others and tries to understand their point of view without being conceited or judgmental. When you respond to a Muslim, you need to be able to honestly say, “my dear Muslim friend.”
It is critical to be able to communicate to Muslims in a way that they understand and appreciate. This might mean using terminology that’s different than what we’re used to, or learning to think more creatively about the way in which we communicate spiritual truths. In order to communicate with Muslims more effectively it is helpful to learn how they view the world and what they believe, and to communicate within that framework rather than expecting them to understand ours. And this is exactly what this training series is all about!
Prayer is essential to any ministry endeavor. We are in a spiritual battle. Satan does not want more people to worship God and enter his kingdom, so he tries to keep as many as possible in bondage to him. The only real, lasting change is that which comes when God works through the prayers of his people. Be sure to set aside adequate time to pray for each person you relate to. You could even write out a prayer for them in an email response.
We are looking forward to the journey ahead!
Lesson 2: We Agree!
Did you know that Muslims believe a lot of the things we do about God and Jesus? We’re all aware that there are many critical differences between Christianity and Islam, but it is helpful to keep in mind that we do share commonalities with each other. Starting with a foundation of shared beliefs and values is helpful as we develop relationships of mutual respect through our correspondence.
We will discuss some of the differences between what Muslims believe and what the Bible teaches in later lessons. For now, here are some Islamic beliefs that we as Christians agree with. You may be surprised at how many points of agreement there are!
- There is one God and he created the world. God is important in daily life, and how we live our lives matters to him. Life should be interpreted from a spiritual perspective.
- Everyone has sinned against God. We have all broken God’s laws and rebelled against him.
- Jesus is the “Word of God.” This is stated 93 times in the Qur’an. Jesus was born of a virgin and performed many miracles. He even raised dead people to life.
- Jesus is the “Spirit of God.” Jesus was without sin and he ascended into heaven in bodily form. In fact, he was the only prophet who was sinless and who ascended directly to heaven.
- God has revealed himself through “Holy Books.” We can know what God expects of us by carefully studying these books.
- God has revealed himself through a series of prophets. These prophets include Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.
- It is important to live a moral life – to be modest and pure – in order to please God. People should remain sexually pure until they are married. Women should dress in a modest way to avoid tempting the men around them.
Remember, these are all Muslim beliefs! Of course they are Biblical teachings too. Although Muslims may place greater or lesser emphasis than Christians do on some of these points, many Muslims are eager to discuss spiritual matters.
Muslims already agree with us on a number of spiritual issues and it can establish positive rapport to point out these areas. So what else do they need? What do we Christians have that they don’t? That will be the subject of our next lesson!
Lesson 3: Jesus
In the last lesson, we talked about the common ground that we share with Muslims. What, then, do Muslims lack in regards to faith? The answer, quite simply, is Jesus. We all need Jesus! Muslims need Jesus. Christians need Jesus. Everyone needs Jesus! Muslims need Jesus to transform their lives. They need the Holy Spirit to indwell them and change their hearts. This is the same for every person on earth.
How do Muslims hope to get into heaven?
Part of the answer to this question is found in the most significant tenets of Islamic faith, which are often called the “five pillars of Islam:”
- Declaration of faith: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is a prophet of God.”
- Prayer: Five times a day.
- Giving: 2.5% of one’s yearly income should be given to the poor.
- Fasting: From sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan every year.
- Pilgrimage: Whoever can afford it should make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her life.
Some of these “pillars” aren’t bad practices at all – especially prayer, giving, and fasting. Jesus spoke about all three during his time on earth. The problem, then, is the motivation, the heart attitude, and the purpose that someone has in doing these things. Many Muslims hope to earn God’s favor through good works. (Of course, this is not limited to Muslims! Many people in the West believe they will go to heaven if they accumulate more good deeds than bad.)
Muslims desperately need to understand that Jesus is the answer to their hope for salvation. Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). It’s only through him that we have hope in life after death. It’s only through Jesus that we can have a relationship with God and truly please God. It’s only through Jesus that we can truly be submitted to God. It’s all about him!
Make sure in your responses that you talk more about Jesus and less about religions.
A book that goes into this in more detail is “Muslims, Christians, and Jesus”. It’s written by a Christian missionary to Lebanon named Carl Medearis. He discusses the profound yet simple truth that Jesus is what Muslims really need. We highly recommend this book for supplemental reading.
Lesson 4: What is the Gospel?
As Christian Bible Leaders/Teachers, we are often confronted with objections that Muslims have about Jesus. It is important to be able to address these. Many of the lessons in this series will address specific objections or complaints that Muslims have about Christianity. However, after we answer the objections that someone has, it is good to be able to share Jesus with him or her in a way that we think he or she will understand and appreciate. Today’s lesson will focus specifically on how to creatively share the gospel in ways that a Muslim seeker will appreciate.
In the last lesson we mentioned that what Muslims really need is Jesus. We have the amazing opportunity to share the gospel – the good news of Jesus – with Muslims. But what is the good news about Jesus? And how do we share it with Muslims? Is the good news that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, descended from David, who will rule forever? Is it that Jesus came to defeat the powers of Satan and we can share in his victory through the power of his Spirit? Is it that Jesus is the Lamb of God who gave himself up as a sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross for us? Or is the good news that Jesus came to reconcile and restore the broken relationship between man and God? Of course, these are all true! They are all aspects of the good news. There are many facets of the gospel, and many ways to express what Jesus came to earth to accomplish.
When we share the gospel with people, we can choose what dimension of the good news we focus on first, based on what we think they are interested in, or what their felt needs are. As an example, let’s think of some of the titles of Jesus. In Western Christianity one of our favorite titles for Jesus is “Son of God,” which is found throughout the epistles but which Jesus himself uses only four or five times. When Matthew wrote his gospel to a Palestinian Jewish audience, he presented Jesus as the Anointed One (Christ in Greek), the Jewish Messiah whose coming had been foretold by ancient Jewish prophets. When John wrote his gospel to a Jewish audience that was heavily influenced by Greek thought and culture, he presented Jesus as the eternal Word of God (Logos in Greek). Logos was a Greek philosophical concept understood to represent the eternal Divine Reason (or mind, or logic). When Paul wrote his epistles to Greek- cultured audiences he often presented Jesus as the Lord (Kurios in Greek) – a title that Jesus himself rarely used. Thus, we can see that different authors of scripture felt free to portray different aspects of Jesus’ identity in different cultural contexts.
There are some aspects of the good news about Jesus that Muslims often understand and appreciate well, but other aspects that can easily lead to misunderstandings, if we’re not careful. Here are some aspects of the gospel that Muslim seekers often find confusing and may not appreciate as easily (especially if we don’t explain them well!):
– The Son of God. Many Muslims don’t understand what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, they may think we mean that God had sex with Mary, and Jesus was their child! It is good to avoid using this term with a Muslim seeker unless and until we have explained what it actually means. Unfortunately, we Christians often don’t even know what “Son of God” really means. The sonship of Jesus is only one aspect of the good news. (We will talk about this misconception of Muslims in a later lesson).
– The crucifixion. Many Muslims reject the idea that Jesus was crucified because they think it makes God look weak. (Muslims argue, couldn’t God have protected Jesus and spared him from humiliating torture and death?) Jesus’ death is one part of our good news. (Again, we will deal with this in more detail later).
Here are some aspects of the gospel that Muslim seekers often find intriguing and compelling:
– Mediator. Jesus is our living mediator, providing people the way to God; there is no other way to God except via Jesus. (John 14:6). Many Muslim societies already have a concept of needing someone to mediate between people and God. Some consider Muhammad to be a mediator, others Ali, others the Agha Khan, and others even a local deceased saint. However, all of these are dead, but Jesus is alive – and this is something Muslims will acknowledge.
– Honor and shame. Jesus came to restore honor to those who have been shamed. (John 12:26). When we follow Jesus, we accept the restored honor and we live to bring honor to Jesus and his father. Honor and shame are important concepts in many Muslim societies.
– Victory. Jesus came to launch the kingdom of God on earth and to defeat Satan
(Matthew 4:10; 12:29). God gave Jesus complete authority in heaven and on earth, and Jesus has power over evil spirits, over illness, and even over death. As children of God, we can share in this authority and victory. In many Muslim societies, people are quite aware of the power of evil spirits, so Jesus’ authority over evil spirits may be very attractive.
In this training series, we will be looking in depth at how to share the gospel with Muslims. We’ll discuss how to explain the confusing aspects of the good news that are often misunderstood. But let’s remember that our good news is multi-faceted; there are different ways to view Christ’s redeeming work, some of which may appear more beautiful in certain cultures than others.
Lesson 5: But the Bible Has Been Changed! (Part 1)
Over the next few lessons, we will be addressing some specific objections Muslims have to the Christian faith. Many Muslims have serious misunderstandings and misconceptions about our faith, which hinder them from following Jesus. It is important for us to know what these objections are, to understand why Muslims might think the way they do, and to think through how to address these issues in a helpful and positive way.
A common objection that many Muslims have to Christianity is the idea that the Bible has been altered and therefore cannot be trusted. Let’s take a look at this objection and how to respond to it.
In Islam, it is understood that God gave a series of revelations to his prophets; this is how he communicated with people on earth. God gave Moses the Taurat (i.e. Torah), David the Zabur
(i.e. Psalms), Jesus the Injil (i.e. Gospel) and Muhammad the Qur’an (also spelled Koran; it literally means ‘recitation’). Each book was understood to bring God’s message to the people of that time, and to confirm previous messages to other prophets. In addition, although the Qur’an doesn’t say this at all, popular Islamic theology teaches that more recent books supersede (take the place of, are more authoritative than) the older books. According to this thinking, since the Qur’an is the final holy book, it is the most relevant today. (By the way, you might decide to use the Islamic names for the parts of the Bible listed above, such as Injil instead of New Testament, because the Islamic names are more familiar to them.)
Since the Bible and the Qur’an appear to disagree on many points, Muslims claim that the original Taurat, Zabur and Injil were changed and the Bible we have today is full of errors. There are verses in the Qur’an which – Muslims claim – say that Christians changed the Bible. Muslims point to the fact that we Christians are consistently changing our Bible by producing new versions and translations of it. Which version is the true word of God? In contrast, the Qur’an has not been changed. People all over the world use the same Arabic Qur’an that has not been altered since it was first written in the 7th century A.D. In fact, when the Qur’an is translated into another language it is not considered the genuine Qur’an, but a mere interpretation of it. The real Qur’an only exists in the Arabic language, Muslims believe.
There are some interesting points to note about this accusation that the Bible has been changed. First of all, Muslims who are willing to listen may be interested to realize that all the verses in the Qur’an that are used to prove the Bible has been changed actually don’t say this at all. They merely say that Christians at the time of Muhammad twisted the meaning of the Bible with their words. That is, the Qur’an accuses Christians in Muhammad’s day of verbally teaching a message that was different from what the Bible says. Whether this accusation was true or not, the Qur’an does not accuse Christians of altering the written text of the Bible.
Secondly, Muslims who are willing to listen may be interested to note that there are a number of verses in the Qur’an that state that God’s words can never be changed. For example, Surah 10:64: Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter – There is no changing the Words of Allah – that is the Supreme Triumph.
Thirdly, there are also a number of verses in the Qur’an in which God instructs Muhammad and all Muslims to heed the message of God’s earlier revelations – the Bible. Therefore the Bible must be reliable! For example, Surah 10:94: And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers.
So how can we respond to a Muslim who argues that the Bible has been changed? For one, we can gently point out how the Qur’an doesn’t actually say this, but in fact it says the opposite. And how do we know the Bible is reliable? We’ll discuss this in our next lesson!
Lesson 6: But the Bible Has Been Changed! (Part 2)
In the last lesson we discussed a common objection that Muslims have to the Christian faith: “But the Bible has been changed!” In this lesson we’ll look at how we can respond when a seeker brings up this objection.
Perhaps the best – and easiest – way to respond to this accusation is simply to ignore it and see if the seeker is willing to study the Bible anyway! Oftentimes it’s not worth arguing about it because the objection does not necessarily keep someone from reading the Bible. If an internet contact is willing to read the Bible, his or her arguments may become irrelevant as he or she personally encounters the truth of God’s Word. The Bible is a powerful story, after all! You could tell your seeker, “I understand you think the Bible has been changed. That’s ok. But would you like to study it anyway? You could start by reading about the life of Isa in the book of Luke in the New Testament (Injil). If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them.” You might be amazed to find that some people who don’t yet accept the Bible’s authenticity are still willing to study it!
If someone isn’t willing to study the Bible because they think it has been changed, there are several ways you can respond. One good way to address the issue is to express shock at the idea that God’s word has been altered, and to ask clarifying questions. For example:
“God forbid that his word be changed! That is not possible!”
“My dear friend, can you tell me when the Bible was changed? Was it before or after the time when the Qur’an was written?”
“Can you tell me who changed it and why?” “Which verses of the Bible were changed exactly?”
“What kind of God would he be if he could not protect his word?”
Most Muslims will not be able to give you an answer. The idea that the Bible has been changed is simply something that they have been taught to believe.
You might also give evidence for the Bible’s reliability. For example, there is a complete copy of the New Testament from 350 A.D. housed in the British Museum in London (called Codex Sinaiticus). This was found to be the same as the New Testament we use today. The New Testament was completed by 100 A.D. We have 13,000 fragments of copies of it from 100 to 350 A.D. that all agree with one another. In addition, there are early Christian writings from the same period (from the Church Fathers) that all agree. These fragments and writings must all have been copied from the same sources. When was there time to change the text?
If you would like to learn more on the subject of the Bible’s authenticity, visit:
Lesson 7: Inspired by God
Many Muslims have some misconceptions about the Bible – what kind of book it actually is and how it was written. It may be good to clarify some of these misunderstandings. If we talk about something and assume the other person knows what we’re talking about, but they think something different, then we may not be communicating very effectively.
Much of the material in this lesson can be found at http://www.arabicbible.com/islam/q_christian_practices.htm. This website also deals with what Muslims think the word “gospel” means. It might be good to clarify this term as well, but we will not go into it here. I’m sure you know it means “good news.”
Muslims who accept that the Bible is inspired by God and are willing to study it may view the Bible and the Qur’an in the same way. Muslims believe that God directly wrote the Qur’an himself. The original text exists eternally in heaven, and an angel transmitted each word to Muhammad. Some Muslims may therefore assume that the Bible was authored in the same way, and they may be confused to learn that the Bible was actually written by a number of men over a period of about one thousand years!
The Bible is actually a “library” or compilation of 66 different books that were gathered together over the centuries into one volume, which in English we call the “Bible.” Each of the writings was inspired by God. This doesn’t mean that an angel transmitted the exact words to the author, but rather we believe that God’s Spirit directed their thoughts and experiences so that they wrote down exactly what he wanted them to.
All of these writings are united by a consistent theme – The revelation of how God cares for mankind. Immediately after God created the world, he called to Adam, “Where are you?” From then on, God continues to call us. The Bible tells how God reveals to us his law (through the Ten Commandments and other commands), his righteousness (in allowing his own people, the Israelites, to be defeated by their enemies and exiled, so that they would repent from their sins), and his mercy (in bringing the Israelites back from exile and forgiving their sins). And most importantly, the Bible tells us how God sent Jesus to show us his love and forgive our sins.
In the Bible, Jesus is called the “Word of God.” The Bible is also called the “Word” in the sense that God speaks to us through the Bible. This might be a good point to clarify with Muslims because it might be confusing if both Jesus and the Bible are called the “Word of God.”
Lesson 8: Who is Allah?
Who is Allah? Are “Allah” and “God” two different words for the same person, or are they two different gods? While this question may not come up directly in the communication you receive, it is an important issue to understand because it will affect how we respond to seekers.
Muslims and Christians have very different understandings about the character and work of God. The Islamic and Christian concepts of God are quite different. However, it is still possible (and often helpful) for us to use the word Allah in reference to God – the Creator of the universe – in our communication with Muslim seekers, because that’s the word they already use and know.
But is it really ok for us to use this word? Does it refer to a different deity? This is an important issue, to be sure! If I have a friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon and he tells me that he prays to God every day, will I tell him that he’s actually praying to a false God? No! Rather, I will want to correct his misconceptions about God and explain to him the true nature of God as described in the Bible. Similarly, if I have a friend who is secular and believes that God is an evil judge who likes punishing people for fun, I won’t waste time telling him that the God he is describing is a false God. Rather, I will use the same word for God that he uses, even though his concept about God is wrong, and tell him about God’s true nature according to Scripture.
Therefore, just because we have different understandings of God doesn’t mean that we are worshipping separate deities. For example, we believe that God exists as the trinity, three persons in one: God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We believe this is central to the identity of who God is. However, Jews in the time of the Old Testament (and today!) did not believe that God exists as three persons in one. They did not have a concept of the trinity; they did not believe in a triune God. Would we say the Jews of the Old Testament were worshipping a different God? Of course not! Rather, like Jews today and also Muslims, they just did not have a full and accurate understanding of the nature of God. Our job is to help people come to a fuller understanding of who God is and how he works in the world.
In many languages of the world, Allah is the only word for God. In fact, in many countries Christians themselves use the word Allah for God, and many translations of the Bible also use Allah. It is interesting to note that the Arabic word Allah originates from the same root as the Hebrew word Eloah (singular for Elohim), which is one of the words for “God” in the Old Testament. Allah is a great word for God. In contrast, most scholars believe that the English word “God” originated from a proto-Germanic word that referred to a pagan deity, before Christianity entered northern Europe.
In conclusion, most Muslim contacts will understand us just fine whether we use the word God or Allah. We can feel comfortable using either word as we communicate with seekers. The important thing is that we help them understand what the Bible says about the true nature of God, how he is working in history, and what he requires of us.
If you would like to read more about this topic, there is an excellent article by a Bible translator and scholar, Rick Brown; some of the ideas in his article have been used in this lesson. The article is titled “Who is Allah?” and it can be downloaded from this link: http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/23_2_PDFs/Brown_WhoisAllahv2.pdf.
Another article, linked below, explores the difference between how God is perceived in the Qur’an and in the Bible: http://www.answering-islam.org/Who/incarnation.html.
Lesson 9: The Trinity
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions that Muslims may have about Christians is the idea that Christians believe in three gods. Why do Muslims think we believe in three gods? Well, during the time of Muhammad there was actually a heresy in one of the eastern sects of Christianity, the Mariamites, that is referred to in some early Christian writings. This heresy taught that the Trinity consisted of three separate Gods: God the Father, Mary and Jesus. Muhammad apparently heard about this teaching and assumed that it was what all Christians believed. This concept of “Trinity” is condemned by the Qur’an and by Muslims today.
Ironically, of course, we Christians do not believe in such a Trinity! We can therefore agree with Muslims that this is a false teaching. It is important for us to reassure them of this because it is often – and not surprisingly – a big stumbling block.
Islam has a very strong emphasis on the oneness of God. This is understandable because Islam began in an area where people believed in many gods. During his time, the prophet Muhammad denounced the idolatry of his own people and united them around a common belief in one God. From a Muslim’s perspective, the worst sin you can commit is to associate anything or anyone else with God, or to say that he has partners. Therefore, Muslims are highly offended when they hear that Christians worship a trinity of three gods.
Of course, we believe in one God, just as Muslims do! The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” Jesus quoted this verse in Mark 12:29: “And Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.’” It is important for us to emphasize to Muslims that we also believe that God is one.
It’s not always easy to explain what the Trinity actually is. Using analogies such as water (which exists as ice, liquid and steam) is often unhelpful because it sounds like we’re comparing the Creator of the universe to a cup of water.
Probably the best approach to take in explaining the Trinity to Muslims is to simply focus on what the Bible actually says. After all, the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the text of the Bible. The concept of God having three persons, of course, does appear. As Muslims see how the scriptures show God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit interacting with each other and what they do, they may begin to appreciate how God exists in three persons. For example, in Mark 2 Jesus says he has the authority to forgive sins. The religious leaders know that only God can forgive sins. What is the obvious conclusion? Jesus has the same nature as God.
When most of us think of the Trinity, we usually think of it terms of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. This is the phrase used in Matthew 28:19: “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” However, it’s helpful to remember that this is just one way of referring to the three persons of the Trinity. In the New Testament there are over 60 passages that refer to the three persons of the Trinity together. In all these passages, the most common name for the first person of the Trinity (whom we usually refer to as “the Father”) is simply “God.” The most common way to refer to the second person of the Trinity (whom we usually call “the Son”) is simply “Christ,” followed by “Lord.” The word “Son” is used in the New Testament only rarely to refer to the second person of the Trinity. Why does this matter for us? Well, titles such as “Christ” and “Word” (of God) are often understood well and appreciated by Muslims. Using such terms to describe the Trinity may help us communicate more clearly and accurately.
The Qur’an itself actually testifies that Christians do believe in one God. Surah 29:46 says:
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book (Christians), except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say (to the Christians), “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).”
Surah 5:82 says:
Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians:” because amongst them are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.
According to these passages in the Qur’an, Christians are not pagans, but are believers in one God.
One helpful resource on the internet is:
http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/index.htm#common_questions. This is an index of common questions regarding Jesus’ divinity.
Lesson 10: Son of God (Part 1)
Is Jesus the Son of God? Perhaps the most common objection you’ll hear from Muslim contacts is that God cannot have a son. Muslims reject the idea that God had a son because they believe Almighty God could never have relations with a human woman.
In this lesson, we will discuss what the term “Son of God” does NOT mean. Secondly, we’ll look at what the Bible really means when it calls Jesus the “Son of God.” Thirdly, in the next lesson, we’ll see how we can respond to the objection from Muslims that Jesus is not God’s son.
- What “Son of God” does NOT mean.
Part of the reason that Muslims reject the idea of Jesus being the “Son of God” is due to a misunderstanding. Many Muslims think that Christians believe Jesus is God’s son in a physical sense, just like human fathers have sons. The idea that God came down and had relations with a woman is blasphemous and disgraceful to Muslims. Of course, this idea is blasphemous to us as well! Jesus is definitely not God’s son in a physical sense! This is not what the word “son” means in this context. Therefore, as Christians, we agree with Muslims that there is only one God, and that God did not have relations with a human woman. We must reject this idea of “Son of God.”
- What “Son of God” does mean.
Sometimes, as Christians, we don’t fully understand what is meant by the term “Son of God.” We use the term without fully grasping its significance, and that makes it difficult to explain it to others. It’s like when someone asks you to define a word – you’re supposed to give the definition without actually using the original word. Could you explain the term “Son of God” to someone without using the words “son” or “father”? It might be good to learn more about this term so that you explain it clearly to Muslim seekers.
The New Testament refers to Jesus as the Son of God a number of times; for example, at the announcement of Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:26-38), at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and during his trial (Luke 22:66-71). What does it mean that Jesus is God’s son? Of course, “son” is used in a spiritual and metaphorical sense, not a physical sense. As an illustration, the New Testament also calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”, but this doesn’t mean that Jesus was actually a baby sheep! Rather, calling Jesus God’s “lamb” shows that Jesus was sinless and perfect, and that he was going to be offered as a sacrifice on our behalf. In the same way, we can look at the term “Son of God”, and instead of just taking it at surface value we should attempt to understand what it means.
“Son of God” actually conveys many meanings. It conveys the close relationship Jesus had with God. Jesus was beloved of God, like a father might have a beloved son. The term refers to the fact that Jesus is God’s eternal Word in human form who reveals God to mankind. In many instances in scripture, the term refers to Jesus’ role as God’s Messiah; the anointed, promised king who will rule with God’s power and authority. The term is often used in scripture to show that Jesus has the moral characteristics of God, especially righteousness and holiness. It shows that Jesus is the way to God. It shows that Jesus is appointed by God to rule and save his people. And it is used to show that Jesus has always existed, that he is eternal, and that he is of the same substance as God. All of these ideas, therefore, comprise the meaning of the term “Son of God.”
There is a series of two excellent articles on this topic, written by Rick Brown, a Bible scholar who has lived and worked in Muslim countries for many years. We recommend these articles if you would like to learn more about what the term “Son of God” means and how to explain it to Muslims:
Part I: Explaining the Biblical Term ‘Son(s) of God’ in Muslim Contexts
Part II: Translating the Biblical Term ‘Son(s) of God’ in Muslim Contexts
Here’s another article on the subject; this one is shorter and easier to read (Article No. 82 – How could Jesus be the Son of God? Can God Take a Wife?): http://www.arabicbible.com/islam/q_christian_practices.htm
In the next lesson we’ll look at how to respond to Muslim seekers who object to Jesus being the Son of God.
Lesson 11: Son of God (Part 2)
In the previous lesson we discussed what the title “Son of God” does and does not mean. Now we’ll look specifically at how to respond to objections from Muslim contacts.
3. Responding to Muslim objections
When we respond to Muslim contacts who argue that God can’t have a son, it is important to keep things in perspective. Arguing about a particular term is less productive than explaining Biblical truth. If a Muslim accepts all of the meaning of the term “Son of God” (e.g. as described in the previous section) but still doesn’t like using the term because it evokes confusing thoughts and emotions, that’s fine! It’s just a term. There is no value in getting a Muslim to accept that Jesus is the Son of God if he or she does not understand what it means. In the Bible, Jesus is also identified as the Lamb of God, as the Son of Man, and as the Messiah. These titles also convey Jesus’ power and uniqueness, and they are just as important as the title “Son of God”!
First of all, we should strongly agree with the contact that God is one, and that he could never have physical relations with a woman. Neither the Bible nor any Christian pastor teaches this. Secondly, we should reassure the seeker that the word “son” is used in a spiritual sense. Thirdly, explain what the term actually means, as described in the previous lesson. However, keep in mind that many of the concepts of Jesus’ identity are very deep and not easy to understand, especially for people who’ve never heard the truth about Jesus before. It might take time for a seeker to come to understand and accept who Jesus is. We need to do our best to patiently explain the truth in ways that are easy to understand.
Here’s a good example of how to answer a question from a contact about Jesus being the Son of God: http://www.nayajeevan.org/resources/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85:answers-to-typical-muslim-questions&catid=28:muslim-templates
Lesson 12: Did Jesus Die?
Did Jesus actually die? How could God let his beloved prophet be murdered? Many Muslim seekers bring this objection up, so it is important to know how to address it.
Before we talk about how to respond to this objection, it is crucial to understand why Muslims so strongly object to Jesus’ death. Muslims are taught that this is what the Qur’an says. (In actuality, the Qur’an is ambiguous at best; it can even be argued from the Qur’an that Jesus did in fact die, but we won’t get into that here. The important thing for us to know is that Muslims are taught that the Qur’an denies Jesus’ death.) In addition, Muslims believe God is all-powerful and they cannot understand how God would allow one of his most important prophets (Jesus) to be tortured and murdered. That would make it seem that God was weak and helpless because he was unable to prevent Jesus’ death. Muslims believe that God is certainly neither weak nor helpless, so he would definitely have prevented Jesus from dying.
Muslims don’t understand the reasons why Jesus needed to die; they don’t see the purpose in his death. Once a contact understands what the Bible says about the purpose in Jesus’ death, it will probably be easier for him or her to believe that Jesus did, in fact, die. You can check out http://bible.org/article/why-god-became-man for a thorough reasoning of why Jesus had to die.
You might quote from Old Testament prophecies that predict Jesus’ death (e.g. Isaiah 53) and show how Jesus’ death fulfilled these prophecies. The Old Testament sacrificial system was dependent on the death of an animal, often a lamb, for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, it was very powerful when John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God” (John 1:29). It pointed to the fact that Jesus would die for the sake of others as a sacrificial “lamb.” Jesus’ death was necessary for us to be able to experience God’s forgiveness once and for all. God forgives us, but it is through Jesus that we receive forgiveness. Jesus is the means by which God forgives us because he completely fulfilled all of the requirements of God’s sacrificial laws when he lived and died. We know that God is always willing to forgive, but there has to be action on our part in accepting and following Jesus.
As with other objections, one of the best ways to address the objection to Jesus’ death is to encourage the seeker to read an entire gospel account of Jesus’ life (the book of Luke is a great one to start with). You could encourage them, “Why don’t you read about the whole life of Jesus? Then you will know what the Bible says about how and why Jesus died and you can form your own opinion.” As the Muslim seeker comes face to face with the dramatic story of Jesus’ birth, his teachings, his miracles, his death, his resurrection and his ascension, the Holy Spirit can work in his or her heart to bring home the truth of the story.
In addition, if the situation seems right, you may want to point to some historical and scriptural evidence for the validity of Jesus’ death. This article goes over a number of different people who give testimony as witnesses that Jesus did, in fact, die: http://www.arabicbible.com/islam/crucifixion_of_jesus_christ.htm.
Lesson 13: A Christian Nation?
I have studied more than enough about Christians but the thing is that practically they are not close to religion and there are many divisions in Christianity. All of them are entirely based on different myths. Although there are sects among Muslims, they all believe the same God. They believe in Muhammad (PBUH), they believe in the Four Caliphs, and they also believe in the one Qur’an (Holy Book of Muslims). – Bilal
How would you respond to this comment from Bilal? Muslims often denounce Christianity because they see TV shows and movies depicting immorality and materialism that come out of ‘Christian’ countries such as America. From their perspective, America is a Christian country, in the same way that Pakistan or Bangladesh, for example, are Muslim countries. Therefore, whatever America produces must be “Christian.”
For those of us who are from America or the West, when we’re faced with these types of questions from contacts, it is crucial to humbly admit our failures as a culture and as a nation. Our culture does have a lot of sin and many problems. It’s probably not very productive to point out that Muslim countries have problems as well, but we can remind the seekers that every culture and every country has sin.
We might want to argue that America is actually not a Christian country or a Christian culture, and that the movies and TV shows that portray immorality and other sins are not Christian productions. Although this would be true, pointing it out sometimes isn’t the most helpful approach. It might be better just to acknowledge that countries of every religion have different types of sin, and this is definitely a bad thing.
What matters is whether we as individuals truly honor and obey God. In America, we can explain, there are some people – a minority – who do truly follow God and who reject immorality and materialism. The most important thing is Jesus; he must permeate our hearts and minds. It doesn’t matter what socio-religious community or society we belong to. What matters is whether we have true faith in God and submit to him in obedience through Jesus.
We must emphasize to the seeker that those of us who do submit to God, whether we live in America or in South Asia or anywhere else, should reject all forms of immorality and materialism even if our culture promotes them. But it is only through God’s Spirit living in us that we’re able to live in righteousness.
Lesson 14: Divisions in Christianity
Remember Bilal from last lesson?
I have studied more than enough about Christians but the thing is that practically they are not close to religion and there are many divisions in Christianity. All of them are entirely based on different myths. Although there are sects among Muslims, they all believe the same God. They believe in Muhammad (PBUH), they believe in the Four Caliphs, and they also believe in the one Qur’an (Holy Book of Muslims). – Bilal
You may find that Muslim contacts like Bilal often point to the divisions within Christianity as evidence for the fact that it cannot be the true religion of God. At the same time, they may not even admit that Islam also has many divisions. How would you respond to this issue?
It is important to point out that the differences between most Christian denominations are related to surface issues, such as how to perform baptism or how to choose church leaders. We should emphasize that all true Christians and denominations agree in the important matters; we all believe in one Creator God, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. And of course there is a lot more that we all agree on! In fact, this is a great opportunity to share the gospel with the internet contact. We can explain to him or her about the core beliefs that all Christian groups agree on – that is, the good news of Jesus Christ.
Many Muslims have a certain misunderstanding of Christianity that leads them to scoff at the divisions they perceive. A foundational difference between Christianity and Islam is that in Islam there is only one correct, prescribed way to do certain outward things (e.g. in worship), whereas in Christianity there is much freedom in outward things and it is the heart that matters. Most Muslims do not realize this difference; what may be surface issues to us could appear like very important issues to them.
For example, Muslims believe that there is only one correct way to perform daily prayers – and different Muslim sects have different ways to do them, each believing that their way is the correct and only way. In Christianity, the Bible does not tell us how to perform the outward actions of prayer. We can do it any way we want. So one denomination may choose to kneel in prayer, while another denomination may prefer to stand and raise their hands when they pray. This difference in style of prayer (and in denominations) is not a bad thing, but simply a reflection of the fact that the New Testament doesn’t prescribe many things in relation to outward forms of worship. It can be helpful to explain this to Muslim contacts because this misunderstanding often underlies their questions about divisions within Christianity.
As an example, this is the email that a Christian wrote in response to Bilal:
It is interesting that you say that there are divisions within Christianity. I think that most of the divisions are very superficial – that is, we all believe in a Creator God, we all believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, that Jesus (Isa) is the promised Messiah, that it is through faith in Isa that we are able to enter into a relationship with God. Like Islam, there are sects. There is a larger separation between Catholics and Protestants – but from my conversations with my Muslim friends, this is very similar to the divisions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. It is sad that just as Catholic and Protestant Christians have fought each other in the past, so have Sunnis and Shi’ites. Isa condemned all violence. He said, “I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
This response is good because it is honest about both Christianity and Islam, yet gentle, not aiming to prove one better – and it ends by pointing the seeker to Jesus.
Lesson 15: Can I Go On Sinning?
Hi. I have a question regarding Jesus. If He (peace be upon him) died for our sins, and our evil deeds are already forgiven because of Jesus, does this mean that if you do evil it will make no harm in the hereafter?
Many Muslims object to Christianity because they think we teach that it’s fine to commit sins since we’re already forgiven. (In fact, many Hindus do too, and even Christians are confused on this issue!) Sadly, this idea seems to be confirmed by the immorality of the “Christian” West. What Muslim contacts need to understand is that grace does not mean the freedom to sin all we want. Rather, it empowers us to submit ourselves fully to God. Those who continue to choose sin over living rightly aren’t really committed to or submitted to God.
You might quote a few passages of scripture to support this. Romans 6 and 1 John speak particularly to this issue:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27, NLT)
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Romans 6:1-4)
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. (Romans 6:12-14)
Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to right living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Romans 6:15-18)
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. (1 John 1:5-6)
If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4-6)
Lesson 16: Jesus in the Qur’an (Part 1)
In order to effectively share the gospel with Muslim contacts, it is a good idea to read through the entire Qur’an at least once. One way to share about Jesus with Muslim seekers is to start with what the Qur’an says about him – because it says some pretty unique and amazing things about Jesus! We need only point our friends to portions of the book they’re already familiar with for them to see Jesus’ significance and power.
When we share about Jesus from the Qur’an, the goal is to build a bridge between Islam and Jesus, and to eventually be able to share from the Bible. The Bible has the complete revelation about Jesus; the Qur’an is only a starting point. But perhaps starting from the Qur’an can provide the spark that helps our Muslim friend become more interested in who Jesus really is!
As you read through the Qur’an, pay particular attention to Surah 3 (“Al-Imran” or “The Family of Imran”). One website where you can read this passage in English is: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/k/koran/browse.html. In Surah 3:41-55, God speaks to Mary about Jesus.
He said: My Lord! appoint a sign for me. Said He: Your sign is that you should not speak to men for three days except by signs; and remember your Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and the morning.
And when the angels said: O Marium! surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the world.
O Marium! keep to obedience to your Lord and humble yourself, and bow down with those who bow.
This is of the announcements relating to the unseen which We reveal to you; and you were not with them when they cast their pens (to decide) which of them should have Marium in his charge, and you were not with them when they contended one with another.
When the angels said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah).
And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and (he shall be) one of the good ones.
She said: My Lord! when shall there be a son (born) to I me, and man has not touched me? He said: Even so, Allah creates what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is.
And He will teach him the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injil.
And (make him) an apostle to the children of Israel: That I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.
And a verifier of that which is before me of the Taurat and that I may allow you part of that which has been forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a sign from your Lord therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah and obey me.
Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him; this is the right path.
But when Isa perceived unbelief on their part, he said Who will be my helpers in Allah’s way? The disciples said: We are helpers (in the way) of Allah: We believe in Allah and bear witness that we are submitting ones.
Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed and we follow the apostle, so write us down with those who bear witness.
And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners.
And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, so l will decide between you concerning that in which you differed.
The acronym “CAMEL” will help you remember the important points in this passage:
C – Chosen
A – Announced by angels M – Miracles
E – Eternal
L – Life
In our next lesson we’ll discuss what these important points are, and how to share them with seekers.
Lesson 17: Jesus in the Qur’an (Part 2)
In our last lesson we looked at a passage about Jesus in the Qur’an, surah 3:41-55. Now we’ll take a look at what unique things this passage actually says about Jesus and how we can share that with Muslim contacts.
We can remember the important points from this passage with the acronym “CAMEL:”
C – Chosen
A – Announced by angels
M – Miracles
E – Eternal
L – Life
In Surah 3:42, we see that Marium was uniquely chosen for Allah’s special purpose – and that purpose was for her to give birth to Isa.
Announced by angels
In the Qur’an, Isa’s birth is the only birth announced by angels (3:45). Marium’s child Isa would be the Messiah, and would be worthy of regard in the world and in heaven.
The Qur’an reports several miracles that Isa would perform during his lifetime. In Surah 3:46, he spoke to people when he was still a baby in the cradle. In Surah 3:47, his mother was a virgin when he was born. In Surah 3:49, he creates a bird out of dust, breathes life into it, and it comes alive. He also heals the blind and people with leprosy, and raises the dead to life. No other person in the Qur’an does these kinds of things. (Interestingly enough, the prophet Muhammad never performed any miracles, and when asked to do so, he pointed to the Qur’an and said that it was his miracle from God.)
Isa is the only person in the Qur’an who is said to have gone up into heaven (Surah 3:55). In this passage, Allah promises that at the Day of Judgment those who follow Isa will be above those who disbelieve. This is crucial because even the prophet Muhammad didn’t know where he’d end up on the Day of Judgment.
Here’s an example of an email response to a seeker:
My dear Muslim friend,
Thank you so much for encouraging me to read the Qur’an. I’ve finished the first three surahs and have discovered an amazing truth that gives the hope of eternal life in heaven. Please join me in my discovery by reading Surah al-Imran 3:42-55.
As I read, the first thing I noticed is that Isa is holy. As I read ayah 47, it says that Isa came directly from Allah and that he did not have a father. I could only think of one other prophet who did not have a father and that was Adam. I know that Adam walked with Allah in the garden because when Adam was first created he had no sin. Because Adam was holy he could be in the presence of holy Allah. After Adam disobeyed Allah, he could no longer be in the presence of Allah. It only took one sin to disqualify him from being with Allah. Allah is 100% holy, and nothing unholy can be in his presence. That means that if anyone wants to go to heaven to be with Allah, he must also be holy.
This surah tells me that Isa is holy. Would you agree with me that Isa never committed a sin? He never killed anyone. He never had sexual relations with a woman. He never tried to make himself rich. He lived his entire life without committing any sin. Isa is holy.
Then, I noticed in ayah 49 that Isa did many miracles. The one that amazed me the most is that Isa raised people from the dead. It seems that people fear death the most. Do you know any other prophet who has been given the power over death?
Lastly, I see that Isa knows the way to heaven. If I look at ayah 55, I see that Isa traveled the straight path from Allah to earth and returned to Allah in heaven. I know that if I were to come to your home that you would be the best person to give me directions. You know your home and the surrounding area.
I know that I am a sinful person. Though I have done many good things in my life, I am still a sinner and share Adam’s curse. I know that by my own power I can never become holy enough to be with Allah in heaven. Out of all the prophets, which one do you think is most capable of helping me get to heaven?
I am looking forward to your reply, Robby
Lesson 18: What Do You Think of Muhammad?
As you respond to Muslim contacts, someone is bound to ask your opinion about the prophet Muhammad. This can be a very delicate subject! We would recommend that you don’t introduce the topic of Muhammad yourself, but if the seeker asks your opinion, it is good to have a thoughtful response ready. The reason it’s good to avoid the topic is that it is far too easy for us to unintentionally show disrespect to the seekers and to offend them. We don’t want turn someone off to Jesus simply because we were insensitive or disrespectful. The Apostle Paul preached about Jesus to polytheists in Ephesus for more than two years without blaspheming their goddess Artemis! (See Acts 19:35-37.)
One book that gives a good suggestion of how to respond to a question about Muhammad is The CAMEL: How Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus by Kevin Greeson. The following is a quotation from this book:
This is the big question. Muslims take great offense at those who would profane their prophet. The best bridge to overcome the barrier of Muhammad is to simply say: “I agree with what the Qur’an says about Muhammad.”
The Qur’an does not say that Muhammad was the greatest prophet. It does say that he was the “seal of the prophets” in surah al Ahzab 33:40; seal only means the last, not the greatest. (Please note: We are not saying that Muhammad is a true prophet or the seal of the prophets; we are only making you aware of what you might face from the Qur’an.)
Then ask your friend to read surah al Ahqaf (the Sandhills surah) 46:9 in which Allah instructs Muhammad to say: “I am no new thing among the messengers, nor know I what will be done with me or with you … I am but a plain warner.”
Likewise in surah al Imran 3:144, Allah says of Muhammad: “Muhammad is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him.” We see in these passages that neither Muhammad nor his followers claimed that he was the greatest prophet.
Then you can ask your friend: “What is life’s greatest question?” The greatest question of life is, “What will happen to me when I die?” We see from surah al Ahqaf 46:9 that Muhammad did not claim to have a certain answer to that question, for himself or for his followers.
Then, you can take your Muslim friend to the Injil. Show him passages such as John 6:47 and especially John 14:1-3, 6: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am…. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Clearly Jesus does have the answer to life’s greatest question.
Once again, the goal is to lead seekers to Christ, not defeat them with our logic and proofs.
Lesson 19: Christianity and Islam are Both Okay
If you Christians will read your Holy Book properly, then I don’t think there is much difference between us and you because both are Allah’s Books, and the religion is of the same Creator. To bring peace to this world and the people who live in it we all need to study and research the different Books, so that we may get the similarities between different religions. And on the basis of those similarities, we can bring all people and nations together and make this a peaceful and beautiful creation of Allah. Amen.
You may receive emails like the one above from internet contacts who believe that there is no significant difference between Christianity and Islam. In addition, some internet contacts may write about the need for Christians and Muslims to keep peace and understand each other. These are great emails because they give us the opportunity to respond and explain the uniqueness of Jesus!
In responding to this issue, it is best to avoid simply comparing the two religions – which would involve making comments or judgments about Islam, the Qur’an or Muhammad. Instead, simply focus on talking about Jesus as the Bible describes him and as you have experienced him in your own life.
As an example, this is the response that a Christian wrote to Khattak:
Thank you for your email. You said there is not much difference between Christians and Muslims. Have you actually read the Injil? I would be interested to see how you find it compared to the Qur’an and what you think about it. I have read the Qur’an as well as the Injil, and I have found both similarities and differences between the two.
I would like to share a story with you from the Injil. This story is from the book of Mark:
“And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to Jesus a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
“Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’–he said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:1-12)
This is a very interesting story for several reasons. I would like to ask you several questions.
- How did Jesus have such power to heal the sick?
- If Jesus had the ability to heal the sick and to forgive sin, then who is he?
…. I look forward to hearing what you think about this, Khattak. Luke
This is a good response because it does not simply compare Islam and Christianity in order to prove one better or the other wrong. It admits both similarities and differences, which keeps a friendly tone. Sometimes if we only point out differences, we appear to be bent on creating division and hatred in the world and between us and our “seekers.” And once again, it concludes by pointing the seeker to Jesus Christ, the rightful center of our attention.
Lesson 20: But My Family Will Reject Me!
You may receive emails from internet contacts who fear that their family will reject them if they turn to Christ. In Muslim cultures, family relationships usually play a very important role in the life of an individual, especially in major decisions like deciding whom to marry. It’s understandable, therefore, that a person’s family would be offended if they feel that their son or daughter (for example) has disowned them and joined a foreign religious community!
If someone writes with this concern, it is important to encourage him or her that their changed life will be a testimony to their family. As the seeker allows God to work in their life, God’s Spirit will change their heart and their outward behavior will begin to reflect the inward change. As they begin to live out the fruit of the Spirit, their family should notice the change and appreciate it.
It is also important for the seeker to realize that they don’t need to completely turn against their culture, family and heritage. Not everything in Muslim culture is bad. It is important for us, as Christians, not to place prejudice in the minds of seekers. Muslim culture does have its problems, but so does every culture, even those most influenced by Christianity.
For example, as a contact begins to follow Christ, she could decide that she will continue wearing the same conservative clothing she always did, rather than switch to western clothing that her family perceives as immodest. Even though she has freedom in Christ to wear modest clothing even if it is not the most extreme burka (Islamic total covering), this decision may help her family to appreciate the change in her life as a good thing.
It’s always good to point to Scripture. The Bible teaches us that there will be difficulties and persecution if we follow Christ:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)
I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim 3:12)
God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful. (Rev 14:12)
We cannot solve all their problems for them, but we can teach them to trust the Lord who saved them and who loves them and promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Lesson 21: Testimonies
You might enjoy watching some of these testimonies of Muslims who have come to faith in Christ: http://www.muslimjourneytohope.com/watch.asp.
The evangelistic website where the testimony is found has a number of interesting resources, including links to other websites. Their focus is on Muslims in the Middle East (who speak mainly Arabic and Farsi), rather than South Asia, but the resources are still helpful: http://www.muslimjourneytohope.com/default.asp.
Even if you are not a Muslim background believer (MBB) yourself, your testimony is still of great value as you dialog with your Muslim seeker. Describe your relationship with Jesus as a living God who loves you, answers your prayers , and works in your life to turn you away from sin to holiness. These are important themes that will attract a Muslim seeker to Christ. Try to describe these things without using Christian jargon and theological terms. Instead, replace the standard Christian terminology with a phrase that explains the meaning.
For example, instead of saying, “Let me give you my testimony,” say, “Let me share with you what Jesus has done for me.” The list of potentially confusing words is long! Choose carefully.
Lesson 22: Resources for Seekers
Here are some online resources that you can direct seekers to:
JESUS film online in multiple languages:
Urdu Bible online:
English Bible online:
English Bible online, starting with Luke 1:
Lesson 23: Resources for Christians
Here are some resources that may be helpful to you as you learn to respond to Muslim seekers. These are NOT resources that you would give directly to internet contacts (see the previous lesson for that). These are books and articles that you as a Christian ministering to Muslim seekers may be interested to read.
Muslims, Christians and Jesus
A book by Carl Medearis.
The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross
A book by Nabeel Jabbour
Muslims, Christians and Jesus: Stories of Faith
An article by Carl Medearis. This is a brief, encouraging article with stories of Muslims seeking Christ.
The Qur’an online:
This is an excellent website with many articles on various topics.
This is a website with many informative and helpful articles.
The Naya Jeevan templates page contains numerous email templates that may be helpful to you as you compose your responses.