A Pastor’s Letter to a Muslim

Earlier today I wrote a letter in response to a man who worships with our church and who also presents himself as a Muslim. The gentlemen is kind and caring; he is always smiling when I see him. He writes of our distinct faiths (Christianity and Islam) but he also mentions we worship the same God. I have dealt with the mistaken notion that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all worship the same God here, but wanted to share with my friend about the distinctive nature of God’s grace.

It’s not often that a pastor has the privilege of writing people of other faiths. In an age of so-called tolerance, few of us possess the civility to talk about the differences in what we believe. Too much of the time we talk past one another and shout over one another on TV talk shows. This is unfortunate and hurts the free expression of our faith. I thought I would share the contents of the letter with you.

Please note: the names presented in letter below have been changed.

Dear Mubid,

Thank you for your kind letter. I am so pleased that you are worshipping with us at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. We are, as you mentioned in your letter, devoted to making sure God’s Word prevails and our desire is to love others as we endeavor to connect all people with the grace of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want you to feel at home in our church and I am so happy to hear of how you have felt welcomed by our church. My prayer is that we show you every kindness. My hope is that you find our church family welcoming, friendly, and warm for years to come.

You mentioned in your letter that, “The belief in Jesus is fundamental to embrace Islam.” We as a congregation are eager for everyone to come to know Jesus Christ personally and experience God’s free gift of salvation that is available only through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since even our best moral efforts cannot make us acceptable to the one true and perfect God, we strive to share the message that all people are far worse than they have imagined but they are also far more loved than they can comprehend. Allow me to explain this last sentence.

You mentioned the distinct faiths of Islam and Christianity. One thing that I am praying you to experience while you are with us is God’s grace. The Bible speaks of the “riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Grace is an unusual thing and it is a “big deal” for Christians. God’s grace causes believers in Christ to be humble people because they have not earned God’s favor but have received God’s mercy as a gift. God’s grace is a gift as God Himself gives it to people. Grace is where God treats people with goodness and mercy when they deserve only punishment. Instead of receiving what we deserve, God shows His kindness toward sinners. When we have received His kindness through Christ, how can we be anything other than humble toward others?

The Bible clearly states, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). And this a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. Because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. Allow me to say that again: because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. A Christian’s certainty of God’s acceptance is not because they are righteous or because they are good. Instead, our certainty rests solely in the death and resurrection of Jesus alone.

There are numerous laws in the Qur’an as there are in the Bible. The law in the Bible acts much like a mirror. The law shows us our sins like a mirror shows us what we truly are. Again, the law acts like a mirror so we see our sinfulness. Once we see our sin, we know we need a Savior.

Again, it is my prayer that you experience the grace of God for His grace is reserved only for those who trust in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection as the payment for their sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Because Jesus was both God and man, His sinless life and death stands in the place of sinners who place their faith in Him. Only God can grant forgiveness of sins and Jesus had the right to forgive us (John 1:12). Again, I want you to experience the grace of God. I want you to experience the sweet life where you know the God of heaven loves you and accepts you based on the death of His Son. I want you to experience the grace of God so you will be free to love others from the love you have experienced in Christ.

Thank you for taking time to read my letter. You are kind and thoughtful and we are so glad you are with us. I would like to sit down with you and enjoy a cup of coffee with you in the days to come. This would give us more time to talk. Please know I will be praying for you.

May Christ richly bless you,

Scott Maze

Pastor

North Richland Hills Baptist Church

I’m a New Christian – What’s Next?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to several new Christians. While these new Christ-followers range in age from near retirement to the beginning years of college, their question is the same: “Now that I am a Christian, what do I do next?”

I can understand why many people have asked this question as many churches and pastors are quite skilled at explaining how to become a Christian but we are tragically neglectful in pointing new Christians to the next step(s). In light of this confusion, let me encourage you to pursue four avenues simultaneously.

1. Understand Grace. Unlike every other religion, Christianity teaches grace. Christians are made by grace. There is nothing like it in the entire world for the Biblical view of grace is without comparison. Few words capture the essence of Christianity like the word grace. Grace is used to describe Jesus Himself (John 1:14, 17). And Jesus’ impact upon his followers is grace on top of grace (John 1:16).

Grace was, no doubt, explained to you in the process of your decision to follow Christ, but what may surprise you is that you’ll spend the remainder of your days exploring and discovering new vistas of God’s grace for you. Grace is God’s kindness and mercy toward you when you don’t deserve it. Grace is God’s actions toward you when you deserved hell itself. But grace is also the way you are built up in the days after your conversion (Acts 20:32). So, grace starts your journey, but it is also acts as your guide in navigating everything else (Titus 2:11-12). Pay close attention so that you can experience everything grace has to offer.

2. Go to Church. So many Christians hear the message of grace only in terms of their own individual lives. The false start of Christianity is that you can live this life in isolation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity brings you a new family. You’ll need this family in the coming days. You’ll need their encouragement, their love, and their accountability.

The church needs you in the coming days as well. As you mature, other Christians will need your love and your encouragement. God designs every Christian with certain gifts and your gifts make up the church just as every your physical body needs the various parts of your body.

Staying connected with a church cannot depend on when you feel like it. Instead, you must make a decision to participate in a church and follow through even when you do not feel like it. If you go by your feelings, you’re likely to find tragedy and loneliness in the coming days as you fail to stay connected to other Christians (Hebrews 10:25).

Make sure the church you choose has at least three ingredients to it.

2.1 Be Sure the Church Teaches the Bible. Every pastor has their own personality. Whatever his personality, he should continually ask you to track with him in the pages of the Bible.

2.2 Be Sure You Are Involved in Small Group Bible Study. Besides knowing God’s Book better, this will provide you with a excellent opportunity to make friends with other Christians. Don’t settle on friendships that are only, “Hello,” as you enter the worship center and, “Nice to See You,” on the way out. The Bible continually calls on Christians to show hospitality to one another (1Peter 4:9). You’ll need counsel from others and you’ll give counsel to others on a wide-range of matters. Plus, longterm Christians friends will bring you a great deal of joy throughout your life.

2.3 Be Sure You’re Church Connects You to Different Generations. It’s been said that the American church has been racially divided for a long time. Yet, today’s church is also generationally divided. More and more of our churches are styled to make themselves attractive to one generation. You can’t let this happen to you. You’ll find so many good things come your way when you connect to people outside of your generation. Younger men need older men and older women need younger women (Titus 2:2-3).

3. Read Your Bible. I know it can be confusing when going to a bookstore to find a Bible as there are so many choices. Nevertheless, find a readable translation such as the English Standard Version (my translation when preaching) or New American Standard Bible, the New King James Bible, or the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Once you have found a translation, you are comfortable with, I would encourage you to read the Gospels first. Be sure to look the Table of Contents over as you’ll notice the Bible has an Old Testament and a New Testament. You’ll want to find the New Testament where the first four books are called Gospels. I would encourage you to start reading there.

When reading the Gospels, you will essentially reading the best biographies on the life of Jesus Christ. If you read straight through the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) you’ll find they repeat themselves a great deal. That’s fine as people have read and reread these stories their entire lives. You will continue to come back to these pages for comfort and inspiration for years to come.

4. Share the Gospel with Your Friends and Family. There will be some massive changes in your life as well as some gradual changes. The people closest to you will wonder why you have changed. I want to encourage you to share your experience with Jesus Christ with them as you weave the story of the Gospel into your story. Paul would often do this (see Acts 24 and Acts 26).

One of the best ways to share what has happened to you is to invite your friends and family to your baptism. While baptism doesn’t save you, it’s important as it communicates to everyone around you the important change that has occurred in your life. You’ll want to follow through with your conversion by being baptized just as Christians throughout time have done. Your friends and family can participate in this special time by coming to church with you on the day you’re baptized.

So there are four items that I encourage to put into practice in your life. There is much more to see and learn in your Christian journey and that will come. But be encouraged by God’s love and mercy for you. You were a rebel and God’s grace chased you down!