Currently I am researching the differences between Islam and Christianity for a brief Sunday school series I've (un)originally entitled The Crescent and the Cross. The seed for this series has been the recent conversion of a Kurdish man, a former Muslim. His name (now) is John. Speaking with this new and dear brother in Christ, as well as having been inundated with news reports of Islam since 9/11, has prompted me to finally write such a series of lessons. This has involved a lot of reading:
- Answering Islam
- Breaking the Islam Code
- The Facts on Islam
- Light in the Shadow of Jihad
- Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible
- So What's the Difference?
- The Gospel for Muslims
- Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?
As well as some listening, not just to John, but to R.C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb in their teaching series "The Cross and the Crescent". (Which explains why my series title is unoriginal!)
I've been surprised to learn of many similarities between Islam and Christianity. Of course, the similarities are not concrete. Here is what I mean. I have often heard that Christianity is loved-based and Islam fear-based. Technically that is true, but that simple statement belies the fact that love is replete in the Koran. One of the ninety-nine beautiful names for God in the Koran is al-Wadud which means "He who loves." Every surah (chapters of the Koran, of which there are 114) except one begins with the words, "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." BUT in the Koran love is something God does, not that which God is. Similar but not concrete.
In the New Testament we clearly (and gloriously) read that God IS love! Love is not just an activity of God, love is His essence! His love is neither accidental nor conditional. As Paul wrote, under the Holy Spirit's divine inspiration, in Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And in the same chapter wherein we read that Gos is love (1 John 4:8) we also read, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)
This is what makes God's love so amazing. He IS love, and He shows me His love. Me. I am a sinner. I do not just commit sins. I am sin. Sin is my nature (Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 8:7; Mark 7:15; Romans 5:12). BUT God shows His love for me (and for you) in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Praise God for His powerful, unconditional, purposeful, redeeming, sanctifying, and satisfying love for me, a chief sinner whose best righteousness is nothing but filthy rags! God shows us His love because He is love. Meditating on this deep love of the Father (yes, my Father!) caused me to begin to sing in my heart the marvelous hymn of Stuart Townend - How Deep the Father's Love. If you have never heard it before, you need to hear it. If you are familiar with the hymn, praise God for it, and never allow yourself to become familiar with the matchless truth it edifies. Sing with all your might to our great God whose gracious love is deep and amazing.
How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom