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Tag Archives: Soteriology (The Study of Salvation and the Gospel)

How to Share the Gospel With Muslims by J.T. Smith

Editors’ Note: Christians didn’t discover the need for missions in the Muslim world on September 11, 2001. The Middle East is the homeland of our faith, too, the site of many great acts of God’s miraculous redemption. Long before the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan that clear fall day, Christians debated why the church has struggled to gain a hearing for the gospel where the call once sounded freely. Yet in the last decade, debate has intensified as we agonized over the depth of many Muslims’ hostility toward Christianity. Missionaries and academics have wondered aloud whether the problem extends beyond Western politics, military intervention, and spiritual bondage to the very way we present the gospel. Could our methods be to blame? Could more sophisticated contextualization unlock many more hearts for Christ?

These are the questions we asked experienced pastors and missionaries to answer this week. Whether you’re planning to take the gospel overseas yourself or supporting those who do, we hope these articles will help you make wise, informed decisions about this great missionary challenge of our generation.

“How do you pray?”

Ahmed and I had been sitting at a little teashop talking about various things when he asked this question. Like many other Muslims, he was curious about how Christians pray. I began to explain how our hearts need to be purified in order for us to approach God in prayer. He agreed and wanted to know more. “What do you say when you pray?” he asked. I told him that we can speak to God as a loving father. I then went on to show him the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6.

“Is that from the Bible?” he asked. “Yes it is,” I answered. He responded, “That’s beautiful! Can I get one?” From the beginning, it was obvious that God was working in Ahmed’s life to draw him to Jesus. It was a blessing to introduce him to Jesus the savior—whom he had only known as Jesus the prophet.

As we talk about Insider Movements and how we should or shouldn’t be sharing Christ with Muslims, two dangers can emerge. First, people can become a leery of Muslim evangelism out of fear of doing so incorrectly. We should have no fear in sharing the gospel with Muslims. It is the gospel that we are sharing, after all. It is powerful to save!

Second, we must remember that Muslim evangelism should not be merely talked about and debated on blogs or in academic circles. It is something that should be done wherever we find Muslims. In that endeavor let me offer some words of counsel to all who seek to make Christ supreme among Muslims.

Ground yourself in the fact that God is sovereign in salvation.

Muslims come to faith by a supernatural work of God, by which the Holy Spirit opens their hearts (Acts 16:14) and grants them the gift of repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). We believe that a Muslim coming to faith is not intrinsically connected to our form of contextualization, but rests solely on God’s divine intervention (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 115:3; John 6:64-65) and our humble obedience to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 9:38, 28:19-20). God is not concerned with glorifying a method; he is concerned with glorifying his Son. Strategies are useful and necessary, but none of them offers the “key” to Muslim evangelism.

Be diligent in working to understand the local culture and determine the best way to present the gospel.

God’s sovereignty is not meant to make us lazy, careless, or vague in our evangelism. It gives us hope, because our finite attempts to share the gospel are backed by an infinitely powerful Savior who has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Wanting to present the gospel clearly and knowing that God’s grace is irresistible are not mutually exclusive.

When it comes to understanding the local culture, we should seek to do two things:

(1) Know Islam. We need to ask ourselves, What are Muslims longing for? What keeps Muslims from attaining this? Don’t be afraid to read the Qur’an or other religious sources. These things will give you great insight into Muslims hearts and minds.

(2) Use their language. When I say “language” I’m referring to two things. First, speak their actual language. If you want to see a church planted among Arabic-speaking Muslims, learn Arabic. If you’re working among Pakistanis, learn Urdu. If among Bengalis, learn Bengali. Second, speak the language (figuratively) that communicates to them. My wife and I lived and worked among Arabic speakers. We learned early on that we could not get people to listen by presenting a beautiful apologetic syllogism proving Jesus is God. We had to use stories, parables, and passages from their religious books.

Center your gospel presentation on Jesus and the Bible.

The degree to which Muslim-background believers seek to retain their previous religion correlates with how we present the gospel to them. In other words, if we use the Qur’an extensively in our evangelism, we risk encouraging a sentimental attachment to it. Muslim-background believers may see the Qur’an as the means by which they understood the gospel and therefore have a harder time letting it go. If we present the gospel as fulfilling their previous religion, we open ourselves up to future problems.

I am not against the proper use of the Qur’an in evangelism. I am concerned with how much we use it. We should not give it center place in our gospel presentation. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Muslims must believe Jesus is their savior, and this belief can only come from the Scriptures. The story of redemption cannot be told from the Qur’an.

Don’t force your ideas on them.

Muslim evangelism can be messy; discipleship can be even worse. Each convert I worked with was different. I made it a point to preach the gospel and let it linger, giving them the time and freedom to think through the implications and determine how they should be applied in that particular culture. We should not attempt to impose our ideas or forms on Muslim-background believers. This means we shouldn’t impose either Western or Islamic expressions of Christianity on them. This is where much of the tension comes from.

We all have an idea of what we hope to see, and how we do Muslim ministry will be determined by our desired outcome. Insider Movement advocates envision implanting the gospel in a Muslim culture with the hopes that it will grow like yeast and lead to transformation from the inside out. In order to do this, they believe, the message must take on Islamic form. Anything less will be viewed as foreign and suspect. Others argue that Muslims need to be called out of Islam and gathered into a separate body with a clear Christ-centered identity. Anything less, they claim, would be viewed as syncretistic.

I would argue that both are correct. The gospel will take on a form of the culture that it is speaking to; if it doesn’t, it will not be understood. But the gospel will also speak with a prophetic voice within the culture that calls for transformation. It goes in and calls out. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures and let the Spirit transform lives and communities.

In the end, expressions of the church or faith communities among Muslims may challenge all our views at some point. However, if these expressions are orthodox in their beliefs, Christ-centered in their view of the gospel, and not deceptive in their practices, we have cause for rejoicing. May God give us wisdom, grace, patience, and boldness as we seek to share the gospel with Muslims.

J.T. Smith and his wife have been ministering to Muslims for the past ten years. They have spent the last four and a half years in the Arabian Peninsula seeking to plant churches among Arabs. This article originally appeared on http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/05/15/how-to-share-the-gospel-with-muslims/

 

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Book Review: Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Brilliantly Integrating the Gospel in all of Life

In 2009 I took a core group of leaders with me from San Diego to Dallas, Texas for an Acts 29 Boot Camp. The highlight for all of us while we were there was hearing Jonathan Dodson give a Biblical Theology on the Person and Work on the Holy Spirit from the Old and New Testament. I knew great things were going to come from this man’s life upon hearing him speak.

I hope that this will be the first of many books that Dodson writes integrating the gospel with all of life. What he does in this book in a very cogent manner is demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses in “traditional” discipleship and shows how the gospel should not be bifurcated, but central to the pre-Christian and post-Christian’s understanding of discipleship. He makes a great case for the “Great Commission” becoming the “Gospel Commission” and shows how repentance and faith in the context of community are constants in the gospel-graced disciple of Christ.

Tackling discipleship biblically, theologically, and practically Dodson has given pastors, church planters, and all kinds of Christians a wonderful handbook for understanding biblical discipleship, and how to practically live out the gospel in the context of community.

The best part of this book is how it exalts the gospel of Christ by pointing to a grace based discipleship that doesn’t err toward the extremes of self-righteousness, nor of antinomianism, but simply living out one’s new identity in Christ. According to Dodson, discipleship is our identity in Christ and everything else we are is related to our distinct roles as a disciples of Christ.

Our new identity in Christ has three distinct aspects that are developed in the book: rationality, relationship, and being missional. He also demonstrates that we must not err on the side of being only vertical (pietistic), nor horizontally oriented (missional). We must seek to diagonally balance the vertical and horizontal aspects of our identity in Christ — the head, heart, and hands aspects of discipleship in the context of community.

I highly recommend this book as one that will increase your understanding of, and application of the gospel – no matter how long you’ve been a Christian. It is one of the best books on discipleship to come out in a long time.

*Jonathan K. Dodson (M. Div; Th.M, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.

 

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Book Review: The Gospel Centered-Life by Bob Thune and Will Walker

A Phenomenally Christ Centered Workbook

 I think that the most important concept that Christians can formulate in their minds is how the gospel applies in our lives every day. The authors describe this workbook as “a nine-lesson small group study intended to help participants understand how the gospel shapes every aspect of life. Each lesson is self-contained, featuring clear teaching from the Scriptures and requires no extra work outside of the group setting.”

The Gospel-Centered life is designed to do the following:

1)    Deepen your grasp of the gospel as you see your need for continued renewal.

2)    Grow as you experience transformation from the inside out.

3)    Be challenged to develop authentic relationships as the gospel moves you to love and serve others.

Each lesson contains the following sections: 1) a Bible Conversation; 2) An article from a primary source that teaches some good in depth content on the topic; 3) Discussion questions related to the content and their practical ramifications in our lives; 4) An exercise to take the discussion from theory to application; 5) The wrap-up gives the leader the chance to answer any last minute questions, reinforce ideas, and spend some time in prayer.

Thune and Walker give a helpful summary of how each lesson is organized and what it is designed to accomplish (the “Big Idea” for study, discussion, and application):

Section One – three lessons answering the question: What is the gospel?

Lesson 1: The Gospel Grid – “If the gospel is constantly ‘bearing fruit and growing’ (Col. 1:6), then everything has to do with the gospel—God, humanity, salvation, worship, relationships, shopping, recreation, work, personality…everything! The objective in this lesson is to establish a framework for talking about the gospel.”

Lesson 2: Pretending & Performing – “Each of us tends to ‘shrink the cross,’ which is to say that something is lacking in our understanding, appreciation, or application of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin. This manifests itself in two main ways: pretending and performing. Pretending minimizes sin by making ourselves out to be something we are not. Performing minimizes God’s holiness by reducing his standard to something we can meet, thereby meriting his favor. Both are rooted in an inadequate view of God’s holiness and out identity.”

Lesson 3: Believing The Gospel – “This lesson turns our attention to the positive aspects of the gospel: what remedies has God given in the gospel to keep us from shrinking the cross and depending on our own effort?”

Section Two – three lessons answering the question: What does the gospel do in us?

Lesson 4: Law & Gospel – “Continue to think about how the gospel interacts with our lives, but now we turn to consider the gospel’s relationship to law. What is the law? Does God expect me to obey it? What is the purpose of the law? How does the law help me to believe the gospel? How does the gospel help me to obey the law?”

Lesson 5: Repentance – “This lesson deals with repentance. In our culture, this usually sounds like a bad thing, but repentance is the norm for gospel-centered living. Becoming more aware of God’s holiness and our sinfulness leads us to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus. Biblical repentance frees us from our own devices and makes a way for the power of the gospel to bear fruit in our lives.”

Lesson 6: Heart Idolatry – “The Christian walk consists of two repeated steps: repentance and faith. Turning our attention to the topic of faith, we focus on how we grow through believing the gospel. The goal in this lesson is to take ‘believing the gospel’ out of the abstract and make it concrete.”

Section Three – three lessons answering the question: How does the gospel work through us?

Lesson 7: Mission – “The gospel is simultaneously at work in us and through us. Inwardly, our desires and motives are being changed as we repent and believe the gospel. As we experience Christ’s love in this way, we are compelled to engage those around us with the same kind of redemptive love. God’s grace brings renewal everywhere, in and through us.”

Lesson 8: Forgiveness – “The gospel that works in us always works through us. It shows its power in our relationships and actions. One key way this happens is when we forgive others biblically.”

Lesson 9: Conflict – “Conflict is something we all experience (regularly), but often handle in very fleshly ways. The gospel gives us a pattern and a means to healthy conflict resolution.”

The Gospel Centered Life is designed for:

1)    “Pastors and leaders who want to spur gospel renewal in their churches and ministries.

2)    Church planters who want to form gospel DNA in the churches they start.

3)    Students and campus ministers who are looking to live out the gospel on campus.

4)    Christians who want to be more deeply formed around the gospel.

5)    Small group leaders who are looking for content that ‘works’ with diverse groups of people.

6)    Missionaries who are looking for simple material to disciple new Christians.”

I can’t recommend this workbook highly enough. Another way I have used this material is in coaching and counseling non-believers and believers. If not the best, its one the best workbooks I know of to help others become more Christ-centered and apply the gospel in all aspects of life.

 

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Book Review: Lost in the Middle by Paul David Tripp

Great Help For Applying God’s Grace To Your Life

 I want to write out the outset that this book (along with “The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul; “Heaven” by Peter Kreeft; “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Pete Scazzero and “Prodigal God” by Tim Keller) has been one of the top paradigm shifting books I have read to help me change my thinking – radically. I also, have to write that I do not have the skill or ability to describe or recommend this book with the superlatives it deserves. I can only write that if you are struggling with “mid-life crisis” this book is absolute MUST reading and I’m confident that you will be much better off by reading it.

All that written – on with the review. I have personally battled depression my whole life. I am a perfectionist and have had to learn to “chill out” over the years, because I have found that things break, plans don’t work out the way you thought they would, and God is sovereign and I’m overwhelmingly NOT!

In this book Paul Tripp brilliantly exegetes reality and brokenness in this fallen world in which we live. He gives dozens of illustrations from the Bible, and men and women in the 21st century to point out the various manifestations of why so many people struggle with the mid-life years. I have read the book twice (and I’m certain – I will read it again) because so many of the stories are about my own struggles. He brings out in the open so many thoughts, and questions that many of us wrestle with and answers them with penetrating insight, theological depth, and practical life giving grace.

This book is not an easy read. I think the more you struggle with life (especially in your middle years) – the harder it will be to read. I found myself crying, and physically aching as I read some of the stories and analysis from Tripp’s pen. However, in the final analysis the book leads you to a fresh new start and brilliantly applies the gospel to your life. Brimming with hope – Tripp shows very practically how God’s purposes and plans for your life will be fulfilled, no matter what you have done, or how you feel at this stage of life.

I have been immensely helped in so many ways from reading this book. Let me list just five:

1)    It was just flat out helpful to have so many of the things I’ve thought and felt be identified and addressed so insightfully by the author – in other words – “I’m not crazy” – there are actually millions of people that have gone and are going through what I am during this stage of life – and they are still trucking!

2)    I learned to appreciate the realities of God’s design for humanity and how His plans will culminate – my story is a part of the fulfillment of the Great Story of the Bible. Tripp helps you to see that nothing in your life is wasted, and that Christ’s victory on the cross is also your ultimate victory as well. Your failure has been nullified by Christ’s Person and Work on your behalf. We have fallen, but He has picked us up. We have failed, but He has succeeded, and ultimately everything will be made new and perfect again – forever!

3)    I was so encouraged over and over again. Sometimes I feel like a major failure in every area of life: as a Christian, pastor, provider, husband, father, taking care of myself physically, and the list can go on and on. However, Tripp is able to bring out the positive realities that result from recognizing our weaknesses and how that makes God’s grace such a wonderful reality for us.

4)    I felt like I got to sit down with Jesus as I read this book. Perhaps one of the most helpful things he did in the book is show how much we are like the people in the Bible (even though we think we are not). The author has such a good grasp of theology, the Bible, and what God and people are like – that almost everything he writes is penetrating the deepest recesses of your soul. I think Paul Tripp is very wise, because he has a very intimate relationship with Jesus and brings that relationship to the reader in the book. It made me want to know God more intimately, the Bible more than I do, and to walk more closely with Jesus.

5)    It made me even more excited about Heaven and to live for that which will last forever. It made me want to live more simply, for others, and for those things that will please my Master – Jesus. Like many of the Psalms – I started reading the book in a discouraged and depressed state, and by the end of the book I was able to praise my Lord with a smile on my face, and with joy in my soul.

I feel like this review is rubbish compared to how GOOD this book actually is. I can only say that this book will help you to understand your sin, need of a Savior, and need for His grace more than you ever have before. Also, that His grace is MUCH greater than all your sin. One more thing – anyone at any life stage can benefit tremendously from this book – you don’t have to be struggling through mid-life to benefit from this book. Get this book, get copies to give away, and grow in His amazing grace. Thanks, Paul Tripp – and I hope that many more people will read and benefit from this book – I sure have!

 

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Book Review: The Gospel Centered Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

A Fantastic Resource For Making Multiplying Disciples

 Veteran British church planters Steve Timmis and Tim Chester have put together a very helpful workbook for churches that desire to be more intentionally & strategically gospel driven. In three loaded sections this guide (suited ideally for discipleship, leadership teams, or small group’s of various kinds) covers six sessions on the Priority of Mission; six sessions on the Priority of People; and another six sessions on the Priority of Community and the last chapter which is on why “It’s all about the gospel.” This book is ideal as a workbook for church planting core groups, or churches that want to be more missional and multiplicational in their process of making and maturing disciples of Christ.

Each chapter stands alone and contains the following five sections:

Consider this – A scenario—often based on a real-life situation—which raises some kind of dilemma or frustration in gospel ministry.

Biblical background – A relevant Bible passage together with some questions to help you think it through.

Read all about it – A discussion of the principle, both in terms of its theological underpinning and its contemporary application.

Questions for reflection – Questions that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection.

Ideas for action – Some ideas or an exercise to help people think through the application of the principle to their own situation.

I think this is a phenomenal resource that helps a church think through how to contextualize the gospel message in its own unique setting. It is concise, deep, Christ exalting, biblical, gospel oriented, God-glorifying and extremely practical. I can’t recommend this resource highly enough.

 

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Booklet Review: The Gospel and Scripture by Mike Bullmore

Very Helpful Primer on Reading the Bible Christo-centrically

Experienced preaching professor and pastor Mike Bullmore writes how the Scriptures are necessary to the gospel, and how the gospel is necessary to the Scriptures. Bullmore expands upon several well-articulated ideas in this little booklet:

Firstly, “While Scripture itself is not the gospel, all Scripture is related to the gospel, and the gospel is Scripture’s reason for being. The gospel is the Bible’s main and unifying message.” In other words, if you read the Bible and miss the message of the gospel, then you completely miss the point of the Bible. The purpose of the Bible is to declare the gospel through all of its historical accounts, genres, prophecies, etc.

Secondly, “the Bible exists both because of and for the gospel. The key is that the gospel is the message of Christ. The Bible in all its parts points to and explains Christ in some way.” God will accomplish His plans of redemption through the reading and hearing of the Scriptures, pointing to us to Christ, and salvation being accomplished through the working of the Holy Spirit through the vehicle of the Scriptures.

Thirdly, the Bible does these specific things:

It initiates faith: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

It gives new spiritual life: “You have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23).

It helps us grow spiritually: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2).

It sanctifies: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

It searches the heart and convicts: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It liberates: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

It refreshes and renews: “Give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:25)

It revives and enlightens: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)

Fourthly, it’s an absolute necessity to read the Bible with humility: “Humility is absolutely necessary—an active, eager, humble, even joyful anticipation of God’s Word working its purpose in our lives.”

Fifthly, “if we are going to read the Bible rightly, we must see it in all its parts as it relates to Christ.”

Sixthly, the entire Bible is a book of stories with one primary story line: “The Bible is God’s story, and its storyline is the gospel: God’s plan to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation through Christ…If read as a continuous narrative, its storyline is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. If read as a collection of theological perspectives, the themes that emerge are God, sin, Christ, and faith. The message of both readings is the triumph of God’s eternal, redemptive purpose.”

Seventh, “The good news is the singular and majestic theme of Scripture: through the sinless life, substitutionary death, resurrection, present ministry, and triumphant return of Christ—when all things, ‘things in heaven and things on earth,’ will be united in him (Ephesians 1:10)—God will accomplish his perfect purpose with humans and all creation (Romans 8:21).

I highly recommend this little booklet as an excellent introduction to the gospel, how to read the Bible, and that you purchase many copies to have on hand to give away. It is concise, simple, clear, and shows how all of the Scriptures point to Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.”

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Bible Study Helps

 

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Book Review – Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It by Paul David Tripp

Typical Tripp – Christ-Centered, Biblical, and Immensely Practical

If you have ever asked yourself questions like: Why is it so hard to find satisfaction? Why is it so hard to find a good relationship? Why do I keep getting myself more and more into deeper debt? Why does it seem like life keeps getting more difficult? Why am I suffering so much? And many other questions like these – than this is a fantastic book for you.

Paul Tripp writes with theological acumen, numerous biblical examples, brilliant illustrations, and practical insights in showing how we were made for eternity and that we need to factor in our lives the fall and the future in order to live in the now. Our current life is simply preparation for our ultimate destination. He shows how we typically view current realities without an eternal perspective and how devastating these consequences are and then shows on the flip side how we were designed to live with Christ at the center of all of life and how living with a forever mindset has gracious overtones leading to great peace and joy.

Tripp delineates specifically how having an eternal mindset makes a substantial difference in our lives in our relationship to God, those closest to us, at work, in our priorities, etc.

I highly recommend this book as “must” reading and an excellent choice to give as a gift to those who are disillusioned, deceived, discouraged, and without hope in this life. The gospel is clearly articulated here over and over in masterful brilliance shows how Christ is our only satisfaction in the now and how all our dreams will be satisfied in eternity through a personal relationship with Him.

 

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