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Archive for the ‘Converting to Jesus Christ’ Category

This week I was reminded vividly of that question from Romans 8:35, for as I logged on to my daily newsgathering site, I came across a video link that chilled me to the core: Tunisian Muslims beheading a Christian convert from Islam.

The video aired on “Egypt Today” and showed a masked Muslim slicing off the head of a young man who had refused to renounce his Christian faith and return to Islam.

The video evoked in me two pertinent questions posed in Romans 8:35:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (New International Version, NIV)

The Apostle Paul answers these questions in verses 37 to 39:

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (New Living Translation, NLT)

It is this kind of understanding of Christ’s love and assurance that seems to be reflected in the face of this young Christian—an expression of serenity, his lips moving in silent prayer—even as the blade is put to his neck.

This is not the only recent incident of Christians being persecuted for their faith. Just this week, an Iranian court sentenced to death a pastor, Youcef Naadarkhani, for the crime of apostasy—forsaking Islam to become a Christian.

And in Egypt, over 100,000 Coptic Christians have fled the country as a result of growing discrimination, violence, and sometimes, deadly attacks to their homes, churches, and persons.

We are hearing and reading reports of numerous incidents around the world of people being persecuted and killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ, especially when they convert to Christianity in largely Muslim or Hindi regions, or in atheistic countries such as China or North Korea.

A Google search of “persecutions of Christians today” recently turned up 25,900,000 results—articles, reports, statistics of Christians who have been arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their Christian faith.

Lest we think that religious persecution only happens “in those countries” or “over there,” and could not happen in the U.S., the truth is that there are subtle forms of persecution being carried out in our American society—such as censoring religious expression, discrimination, bullying, hostility, and hatred towards people of various religions, including Christianity.

American society has become so secularized and is in such a moral decline, that expressing one’s views based on biblical principles will increasingly bring a backlash of ridicule, abuse, isolation, or retaliation—whether one is in the field of education, sports, politics, entertainment, business, or other areas of life.

In some cases that backlash will be aimed at hurting the offender financially—in denial of promotion, loss of job, blacklisting in one’s industry or career, or in the boycotting of one’s business.

How willing are we to stand firm in our commitment to Jesus Christ in the face of such hostility and persecution? Are we willing to hold true to our Christian values even if it means that our job, career, business, or livelihood would suffer?

And would we, like the young Tunisian Christian, be willing to die for our Christian faith?

Most of us will never have to literally die for our faith, but if we are faithful to our Lord we will encounter opposition from society. To us, Jesus says:

“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too.” (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT)

And the Apostle Peter, writing to the first century Christians who were being tortured and killed by the Romans, encouraged them with these words:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (I Peter 4: 12-16 NLT)

May we be strengthened and protected in our walk and witness for Jesus Christ, whose name we bear.

And may we always remember to pray for the brothers and sisters in the faith who are being persecuted daily around the world.

Grace, peace, joy, and love to you in the name of our risen Lord.

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There are many stories of people who were once antagonistic towards Christianity but were converted to Jesus Christ when they encountered his good news of salvation. The most famous of these was the apostle Paul who later wrote: 

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.  It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—Jews first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. (Romans 1:16-17a, New Living Translation, NLT) 

Muslims today are among thousands around the world who are coming to Christ through his Good News of salvation that they encounter in the pages of the Bible—or as they call it, the Black Book!

Rob Weingartner, executive director of The Outreach Foundation, recently related the conversion testimony of one such Muslim, Hassane (pronounced Haas-sahn).

Hassane was born into a family in which his father was a leading member of the Islamic leadership council of their town in an African nation that was 99% Islamic. His father hoped that one day Hassane would take his place on the leadership council, so he had Hassane begin memorizing the Koran at age three.

As a youth, Hassane earned a scholarship to a prestigious school of around eight hundred students, but he was soon shocked to realize that very few of the students took their religion seriously or attended the mosque where Hassane shared in leading prayers.

So he started offering leadership conferences at the school, and one day he asked the students a question about the prophets. Their answers disappointed and discouraged him, for he realized how little they knew about their holy book. He was about to explain the answer to them when he noticed the raised hand of one of the three Christian students who attended the school.

Thinking that the student had a question about Islam, and seeing this as an opportunity to convert the boy from Christianity to Islam, Hassane asked, “What would you like to know about Islam?”

“No, I don’t have a question. I want to answer your question about the prophets,” replied the boy, who then went on to speak very knowledgeably about the prophets.

This disappointed, then angered Hassane, for he felt that such an eloquent answer should have been given by a Muslim boy—not a Christian who was not supposed to know more about the prophets than Muslims.

So he asked the boy how he knew so much about the prophets. The boy replied that he learned it from the Christian book.  Hassane remembered that his Muslim teachers had warned him that if he ever met Christians, he was never to read their black book.

“This book, is it a black one?” asked Hassane.

“Yes,” replied the boy.

Despite the warnings of his former teachers, Hassane secretly obtained a Bible and began reading it at night for two years to learn about the prophets so that he could be the best teacher on the subject. Then one night he came across Ephesians 2:8-9 which riveted his attention:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.

This shook him to the core and threatened all that he believed and the way he lived his life. Going to his mosque’s Koranic teacher, he said, “You know about all that I am doing—how I am leading the mosque, preaching, teaching, counseling. Does that save me? Does that guarantee my salvation in heaven?”

His teacher’s reply shocked him. “I don’t know if you can be elected to heaven!”

“Something’s wrong!” protested Hassane. “You know all I’m doing in the mosque, and yet you cannot assure me that it will earn me salvation?”

“No.”

Hassane went back home and pondered his future. Despite the dire consequences that could occur if he were to become a follower of Jesus Christ—such as being put to death— he committed to following Christ who alone could assure him of eternal salvation. He then went to his father and told him that he had become a Christian.

As the leader of the town’s Islamic leadership council, the father convened the council to announce that his son had become a Christian. The council voted to put Hassane to death by stoning, but later the members changed their decision because of the high regard they had for Hassane’s father, and banished Hassane instead to a region that was over four hundred miles away.

The council also ruled that Hassane’s twin brother should accompany him to convince him to return to his Islamic faith. The brother stayed with Hassane for ten years and eventually decided to follow Jesus Christ. The brothers then returned to their father and witnessed boldly to him.

Hassane became a church pastor and bible teacher, and today is a national leader for his denomination in his African nation. Over six thousand Muslims have since become Christians, and Hassane’s brother and several others from the Islamic leadership council have become elders in Hassane’s church.

As Rob Weingartner shared this story, I reflected on how a boy’s understanding of the Word of God was the catalyst that not only led Hassane to embrace the Good News of the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, but also, as an indirect consequence, led thousands of other Muslims to become Christians.

The Word of God was not only powerfully proclaimed in the boy’s answer but also in the pages of the “Black Book” that Hassane secretly studied, for as Hebrews 4:12 states:

For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. (NLT) 

And I wondered, “How many of us Christians are able to give an intelligent account of our faith? How many of us have a mature understanding of the Bible to be able to answer someone’s honest question about it?

We might never know the ways in which God wants to use each of us to be the catalyst through which he transforms lives, but let us embrace for ourselves Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, correctly explaining the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) 

We are blessed with the freedom to read the Bible—no matter the color of its cover—and to access the living power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes.

May we not neglect this powerful book of truth!

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