Sunday, March 20, 2016

How a Muslim Holiday can Help Your Muslim Neighbor Understand the Gospel



This Thursday evening (August 31, 2017) is the beginning of the Islamic holiday of Eid Al Adha. This holiday provides an excellent opportunity for you to share the gospel with your Muslim friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  Muslims receive friends (including non-Muslim friends) for several weeks after the holiday to celebrate.  So if you miss the exact day, that's alright.

Eid Al Adha celebrates the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, but then not having to because God provides a substitute sacrifice.

When I had the opportunity to live among Muslims for fourteen years, I longed to help my friends understand the core of the gospel, namely that Jesus Christ died as a substitute sacrifice to rescue us. I learned about the customs and traditions of my neighbors, and I also learned from other Christians who had been working to share the truth of Christ with Muslims.  The Lord helped me to take what I learned from others and refine a method of explaining the gospel which I used many time.  I would like to pass that method on to you.

 


A Father is Asked to Sacrifice His Son

Just as Christians around the world celebrate two major holidays, Christmas and Easter, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid Al Fitri and Eid Al Adha.  For Eid Al Adha, Muslims sacrifice animals and give some of the meat to the poor.  They do this to commemorate the time God tested Abraham by asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, but then provided a substitute sacrifice at the last moment.  While the Quran is not a true revelation from God, Muhammad did include portions of Bible stories in the Quran.  While the stories in the Quran include corruptions, sometimes they retain enough truth to make them useful for introducing the gospel.  The story about Abraham being tested, originally told in Genesis 22, is also found in Sura 37:100-107 of the Quran.  The English translation given here is one of the most popular among English speaking Muslims, from The Noble Quran (parenthetical notes are part of the translation):

100. "My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous."
101. So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy.
102. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: "O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what you think!" He said: "O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha' Allah (if Allah will), you shall find me of As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.)."
103. Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering);
104. And We called out to him: "O Abraham!
105. You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward the Muhsinun (good-doers - see V.2:112).
106. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial
107. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (i.e. ßÈÔ - a ram);


Here’s a step by step example of how to share the Gospel beginning with Eid al Adha and the eight verses above from the Quran:

Step 1:  In order to get the conversation flowing smoothly, begin by asking your Muslim friend how they celebrate Eid Al Adha.  They will probably discuss things like sacrificing animals, giving meat to the poor, and visiting family.  Your sincere interest in their life is important.

Step 2:  Ask them, “What does the story that Eid Al Adha commemorate?”

Step 3:  Ask them to read the story about Abraham from an English translation of the Quran, Sura 37:100-107.  Some Muslims only have the Quran in Arabic, so be sure to bring your own copy of the Quran. (Or you may use an online version from the internet.) Most Muslims believe that only the original Arabic is the true Quran, and so want to see the original Arabic alongside any translation.  So, I recommend that you bring a copy of the Quran which has both English and Arabic, even if you are like me and don’t speak Arabic. 

Step 4:  Ask them what lessons they learn from the story.  Be sure to affirm any reasonable lessons they share, like how important it is to obey God.

Step 5:  Share what you learn from the story.  Say something like this:

To me, the first seven verses talk about how much people should love God.  Abraham loved God more than anything, even more than his own son. We should love God so much that we will do anything He asks us to do, no matter how hard it is.

But the last verse talks about something even more wonderful than people loving God.  The last verse is about how much God loves people!  Verse 107 tells us that God did not make Abraham sacrifice his son.  Instead, God saved Abraham’s son by redeeming his son with a substitute sacrifice.

The sacrifice is called a “great sacrifice”.  I don’t think that means that the ram was a very special ram.  I think it means that the ram is a symbol of God’s very special love for people.

Imagine I owned a cow.  One day while I was away from my house one of my neighbors was having a party and needed a cow and came and took mine and fed it to his guests.  When I came home my cow was missing!  My neighbor admitted that he took the cow, and he offers to redeem it.  He then gives me a chicken to redeem my cow!  How would I feel?

Of course you can't redeem a cow with a chicken!  The value of the cow is way more.  Neither does it make sense for God to redeem a human, like Abraham's son, with an animal.  So the animal must be a symbol.

Every time I have shared this, my friends have wholeheartedly agreed that the animal must be a symbol.  I then point out that symbols always symbolize something. Symbols always point to something else.

Step 6:  Ask them to read John 1:29:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV)

Ask them what they think John meant by saying that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Step 7:  You can now explain that the ram God used to save Abraham’s son was a symbol for Jesus, who saves all of us.  Just like the ram was killed in place of Abraham’s son, Jesus died in our place.  We all deserve to die.  Jesus is the only person who ever lived who never sinned.  He did not deserve to die.  But God loves us so much that He gave Jesus as a substitute sacrifice to save us.

Step 8:  Ask your friend if this makes sense.  Then, if they have followed along this far, invite them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Four practical notes about using this method:

1.  This method requires preparation.  You will need to purchase a copy of the Quran with both English and Arabic. (Or you can use one online, but a physical copy may be a little more effective.)  You will also want to practice this method with a friend several times.  The preparation you make will be worth it! How much more time do people spend preparing for things like an athletic contest, an academic test, or even a party?  You are preparing to win souls!

2.  Muslims believe that it was Ishmael, rather than Isaac, whom Abraham was asked to sacrifice.  But notice that in Sura 37:100-107 the son’s name is not mentioned.  I recommend simply referring to him as “Abraham’s son” to avoid a distraction.

3.  Sometimes it will not be practical to use this method.  Remember, it is alright to use other methods which you might already know to share the gospel with your Muslim friend, such as “The Roman Road”, “The Four Spiritual Laws”,  or just putting the gospel in your own words. A short, simple method designed to help Muslims understand that they cannot be saved by good works may be found here.  The simple gospel message is incredibly powerful!

4.  There are strong forces opposing our Muslim friends accepting the gospel. We are utterly dependent on God’s power.  Actually, we are always completely dependent on God in evangelism and ministry. It is just more obvious when trying to win someone who may pay a very high price for accepting Christ.  So pray a lot!  And trust God.






Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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