A FOCUS ON GOD'S NATURE
Order of Worship
reading: Acts 17:16-31
introduction to Islam
I want to begin by doing two things. First, I want to remind you of the
reading from Acts
17:16-31 that opened our assembly. Paul spoke to the elite minds in Athens by
invitation to the Areopagus. Paul was surrounded by the evidences of active idol
worship. He began his remarks to these elite minds by discussing the basic nature of
"The Deliverer will come from Zion
Second, I want to share with you a second reading, from Romans 11:25-36. Please
read with me.
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this
you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until
the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.
This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins."
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of
God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are
irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy
because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy
shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that
He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of
God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known
the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him
that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all
things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Paul's basic point in Romans 11 is that Jewish Christians have a concept and
understanding of God that is much too small. To most Jewish Christians, it was
unthinkable that God could save gentile people without those people first becoming
Jewish proselytes. To them, idolatrous gentiles had to convert to Jewish ways before
they could become Christians. Paul, who would have agreed with that view prior to
conversion to Jesus Christ, said the reason these Christians thought as they did was
that their concept of God was much too small.
This is the basic point I want to call to your attention: If a person is going to be
transformed (his/her life truly changed), he/she must change his/her
understanding of God. That includes everyone of you. That includes me. That
includes everyone we know. We will not possibly understand God's intent in Jesus
Christ nor will we properly understand Jesus Christ if we do not first change our view of
- Every horrible thing you can imagine has been done in the
name of God.
- More people have been killed or severely hurt in the name of God than in any
other name or cause we can identify.
- Wars have been declared in the name of God (God is often the first recruit
on both sides when war is declared!).
- Persecutions have murdered--in the name of God.
- People who profess to belong to God destroy people who profess to belong
to God--all in the name of God.
- As long as humans can justify their thoughts and actions by sanitizing those
thoughts and actions in devotion to God, they can do anything--no matter
how ungodly it is--as long as they think God sanctions it.
- Before you are tempted to get self-righteous in a sense of moral indignation, be
honest enough to admit we do some awful things in the name of God.
- In the name of God, we divide congregations.
- In the name of God, we brand men and women in Jesus Christ as false
- In the name of God, we feel hostility toward men and women baptized into
Christ whose preferences differ from our preferences.
- In the name of God, we knowingly and deliberately ruin a Christian's
reputation because we consider him or her dangerous.
- In the name of God, we pass judgment on brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Sometimes people cannot see the good things we do in devotion to God
because they cannot get their attention off the bad things we do in the name
- To us, the crusades are just a forgotten footnote in history, and they in no way
represent true Christianity.
- To many people in Iraq and the Arabic world, the crusades are very much
alive and a current truth in the real world.
- The crusades exist as the living evidence of just how evil and vicious
anything that calls itself Christian is.
What is the biggest difference in Christian faith and Islamic
- I realize there are many, but what is the biggest and most basic difference?
- If you suggest that the biggest difference is to be found in their concepts of
morality and concepts of ethics, I would disagree.
- If you suggest that the biggest difference is to be found in their concept of
Jesus, I would disagree.
- "Then what would you say is the biggest and most basic difference?"
- I would say the biggest and most basic difference begins with
Christianity's and Islam's view of God.
- Parts of their view of God is quite correct--they have a much deeper
sense of God's holiness than do many Christians.
- Parts of their view of God is held in common with devout Christians.
- The way we view God must affect our behavior.
- The way we view God must affect our relationships.
- The way we view God must affect our motives.
- However, in a truly fundamental way, the way a devout Islamic views God's
nature and the way a devout Christian views God's nature has some
significant, basic differences.
- It is from the nature of God that the Christian understands redemption.
- It is from the nature of God that the Christian defines forgiveness.
- It is from the nature of God that the Christian understands the concepts of
mercy and grace.
- Do not reduce these critical differences to the mere statement, "They call God
Allah--and that is the wrong name!"
- The word 'Allah' simply means God.
- If you are a missionary to an Arabic people, you will use 'Allah' for the
English word 'God' because that is the word for God.
- The earliest names for the living God are found in Hebrew, not English.
- The Jewish people called the living God by more than one name:
- Jehovah, the Self-Existent God [Jehovah is the English word that
comes from a Hebrew word regarded as too holy to say]
- Jehovah Roi, the God Who takes care of us
- El Shaddai, the God who supplies our needs
- El Elyon, the God to Whom heaven and earth belongs.
- El Olam, the Everlasting God
- El Gibbor, the Mighty God
- Jehovah Melek, God Who is the King
- Adonai, the Master or the Head [actually a title rather than a name, the
title of Lord].
- Elohim, the Source of all that exists
- In English we commonly combine all those names and titles that deal with
God's nature into one small three letter word.
May I assure you, the more accurately we understand the nature of God, the
more radically our lives will change as we serve Jesus Christ. I also assure you that
the better we understand God's nature, (1) we will stop doing some of the things we do
to others, and (2) we will do things in service to God through Christ we have never
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 16 January 2005
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