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 God.
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
mystery--so that 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,
"The Deliverer will come from Zion
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 God.
- 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
- 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
- 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 of God.
- 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 faith?
- I realize there are many, but what is the biggest and most basic
- 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
- 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
- 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 done before.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 16 January 2005
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