Subject: Christianity and Islam Part 2 – Salvation and Works
Romans 4:5 “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
In December of 2001, American soldiers in Afghanistan discovered Abdul Hamid hiding in a prison fortress, shot in the leg and holding his AK-47 after fighting with Al Qaeda and the Taliban against the US. After cleaning off all the dirt and soot, it became obvious this was not your normal jihadist, but a 19-year old American teenager named John Walker Lindh from San Francisco, California.
Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas describes the transformation of a quiet California teenager into a member of Al Qaeda: “He grew up in possibly the most liberal, tolerant place in America, yet he was drawn to the most illiberal, intolerant sect in Islam, the Taliban… Most teenagers, when they rebel, say they want more freedom. John Walker Lindh rebelled against freedom… He wanted to be told precisely how to dress, to eat, to think, to pray. He wanted a value system of absolutes, and he was willing to go to extreme lengths to find it… Lindh became critical of America as a land that exalted self above all else. Americans were so busy pursuing their personal goals, he said, that they had no time for their families or communities. In the Islamic world, by contrast, he felt cared for by others. ‘In the U.S. I feel alone,’ he said. ‘Here I feel comfortable and at home’… he became a self-described “jihadist,” a holy warrior, and told our reporter that he supported the September 11 terrorist attacks.”
Chuck Colson, in his article ‘The Strange Odyssey of John Walker’ (Dec. 17, 2001), explains: “Walker was the first misled by the way Americans talk about religion. In what is sometimes called ‘civil religion’, all religions are considered to be equal. Not just in legal terms, which is proper in democracy, but also in validity and truth. Our culture, starting at the top, sends the message that all religions are essentially interchangeable and equally good for individuals and for society. But that’s not true. And it brings us to the second way in which Walker was misled. Since September 11, many of our elites have bent over backwards to obscure, even hide, Islam’s true nature. That’s why people like Walker and his parents believe that Islam is a peaceful faith. That’s why they bought into the utopian vision they had been sold.”
John Walker converted to Islam for the works-based absolutism it offered him – the chance to align himself with a belief system that was based on his efforts to win approval, versus the moral relevancy he saw in American Christianity. As surah 23:102-103 in the Qu’ran confirms: “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide.” But Lindh totally missed two sinister elements of Islam: the consequences of jihad and the lifestyle of fear and doubt that your works may never satisfy Allah.
In ‘Unveiling Islam’, Professors Ergun and Emir Caner describe this lifestyle of fear and doubt for the Muslim: “Misery versus magnificence ultimately will be resolved statistically. Muslims believe that each person must be 51 percent good. Therefore, those who know they have lived a life of misery and shame have no hope of heaven if they are nearing death. Accordingly, they live in despair and destruction, for they can expect only hell. The divine balance scale is the ultimate demonstration of precise mathematical judgment. Each person is literally accountable for each act performed. Consequently, the scales become more important as one approaches the end of life, especially for those who are on the edge. They have to work harder, live better, and give more. Then, they can hope, the scales will tip in their favor.”
In sharp contrast stands Christianity. Our verse this week, Romans 4:5, explains not only the futility of trusting in your good works to please the God of the Bible, but also the confidence of trusting in ‘Him who justifies the ungodly’ because God then counts you as righteous. Pull out your bibles right now and read Romans 3:20 through Romans 4:8. In these twenty verses, Paul makes it crystal clear that trying hard through doing good will never gain God’s approval. But on the contrary, trusting your life in the hands of Jesus Christ as your Savior gains total approval and eternal life with God.
How is this possible? Read again our verse this week, slowly: it is Him, Jesus Christ, who justifies you, the ungodly, to God His Father. And Jesus does this by literally presenting your name to the Father as belonging to Him, because by trusting Him to forgive your sins and surrendering to Him as your Lord He has purchased you with His own blood. And now that you are His, He will never let you go.