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Posts Tagged ‘The Bible’

Steve Chalke, often called the “Billy Graham of the UK,” on January 15 came out in favor of committed, faithful, same-sex relationships, and posted the following video that explained how, as a long-time evangelical Christian and Baptist pastor of a network of Oasis churches in England, he came to this controversial decision about same-sex relationships and the church:

After the video was published, the BBC interviewed Chalke, and followed up with an interview with American conservative Baptist preacher-educator-sociologist Tony Campolo about his reaction to Chalke’s announcement. Campolo posted the following excerpts of these interviews on his website, Red-Letter Christians:

Click photo of Tony Campolo to listen to radio interviews

Click photo of Tony Campolo to listen to radio interviews

I bring these interviews and video to your attention because, as Campolo writes in a supplemental post on his website:

Steve’s public declaration . . . represents the first time that a major evangelist and leader in the Evangelical community has come out in support of same-sex relationships.  Discussions about what he has done will reverberate from churches, youth groups, seminaries, Bible schools and denominations.  Both those who support same-sex partnerships and gay marriage as well as those who oppose such developments will look upon Steve’s declaration as a watershed.  It is one more evidence that a major shift is taking place on this controversial subject, not only within mainline Christianity, but among Evangelicals.

Indeed, same-sex issues that are upfront in our society, in the voting booth, in the military, and on television shows are also confronting us in our families and in our mainline and evangelical churches.

Last year I had to face this issue as a church leader who was part of a committee that was commissioned to explore and recommend the direction that our congregation should take in response to our denomination’s decision to approve the ordination of gay clergy—a decision that had already resulted in some congregations choosing to leave the denomination.

While our 3,000-plus-member congregation eventually voted not to support our denomination on the ordination issue, we chose to stay within the denomination and be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) to our denomination and mirror the grace and love of Jesus to gays within our families, churches, and our society.

In a similar vein, Campolo ends his post with:

For my own part, I remain conservative on the issue, but I agree with Steve that the attitudes of many churches are homophobic and cruel.  Whether or not we change our positions on accepting same-sex relationships or even gay marriage, we Evangelicals have to face the reality that the time has come for many of us to change our attitudes towards gay people, and show something of the love and grace of God in the name of His Son Jesus.

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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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