Grace and Truth
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09. COMAPRISONS BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM
Comparisosns 3 - The Prayer of the Lost
3.05 - Requests for Protection Against Falling into Temptation
3.05.1 - Lead Us on the Straight Path
A Muslim's subconscious mind is directed towards the great Allah and his final judgment. It is Allah that a Muslim wants to serve like a slave, in hope of attaining an eternal reward. He seeks help from him for a successful life, one that conforms to all the demands of Islam. He asks Allah to lead him daily in conformance to the letter of the Islamic law. He does not comprehend that he is sinful and wicked by nature. He believes that by being a Muslim he is on the right path and will be acceptable to Allah just as he is. For extra assurance, he prays for the ability to recognize the only true path and the wisdom to tread upon it.
The word for path in the Fatiha is a foreign term in the Arabic language. The root most likely stems from Latin and hints at the Roman cobblestone roads that passed through the Near East on their way to Rome. These wide roads made fast and comfortable travel possible. A light horse-drawn carriage could travel on them speedily, a vast improvement over the slow pace of camel caravans in the desert. The “broad way“, the wide, straight and comfortable road that leads straight to paradise was Muhammad's ideal.
Muhammad knew nothing about Christ's words of the steep and narrow way that leads to life through salvation, nor of the broad and comfortable way that leads to death and damnation. Apparently, Muhammad had not heard much about self-denial in the area of sexuality. He legally had thirteen wives and several concubines. Carrying the cross was for him a foreign concept. He created a religion allowing his men the possibility of indulgence in their private lives. It is no problem for a pagan with several wives to become a Muslim, for Islam allows him this privilege. Those who acquire rich rewards through fighting in a holy war think that they are reaping Allah's blessing for being his victorious helpers.
The only right way for a Muslim is Islam, and the straight path is the Shari'a, Islamic law. Virtually all areas of life are encompassed by this allegedly theocentric system: worship, family life, inheritance, economic matters, the keeping of slaves, rights in war and contracts with believers as well as unbelievers. Everything is regulated in detail, according to Muhammad's teachings and example. Whoever lives faithfully within the framework of these practical laws hopes to be successful in this world and the next. Islam is a religion of the law in which all areas of culture are permeated by the Islamic spirit. This is the straight path for a Muslim.
However, the belief that a Muslim who keeps the Islamic law will be lead directly to paradise is the greatest self-betrayal possible. No man can fulfill the demands of the law. No Muslim has confessed his faith enough, prayed in all the obligatory prayer times, fasted faithfully, or honestly calculated his religious tax. Everyone has made mistakes concerning their family life and in relationships with fellow believers. The law does not save a Muslim but judges him mercilessly. The Shari'a, on which all Muslims build their lives, will judge them and guide them straight to hell. There can be no greater error.
For this reason a Muslim really needs to pray: “Lord lead me on the right path,“ because Muhammad could not say that he himself was the way, the truth and the life. He confessed three times that he had to ask Allah for forgiveness. Every Muslim needs to find the way to Christ, who grants to every repentant believer everlasting forgiveness and his own nature.
3.05.2 - The Path of Those to Whom you Have Granted Grace
The Fatiha characterizes the legal path to God as a “highway“ for those who serve and fight for Allah. The expression for “grace“, which dominates the New Testament, appears here, yet with a totally different meaning.
Grace, according to the Arabic definition of the word, means “to lead a blessed, comfortable, easy and good life.“ Job serves as a good example of this. After Job had been afflicted with boils, passing his severe test of faith, the Lord healed him and granted him more houses, bigger herds and more sons than before. Job was showered with grace from God because of his faithfulness. In Islam, faith is honored with earthly and heavenly rewards. Whoever repeats the testimony of faith, prays five times every day, and fasts daily during the month of Ramadan will be greatly blessed in this life and the next. But whoever is poor, deaf, childless, persecuted, or experiences suffering is obviously under Allah's wrath for having left the straight path of Islamic law.
The Muslim prays up to 17 times daily, “Lord, lead me on the right path, the path of those who are given grace.“ With these words, he hopes that he is basically walking in the right direction and requires only the help of Allah to keep him alert, so that he can reach the goal of complete bliss in paradise with certainty. Islam offers a life insurance policy that promises a Muslim security in all situations -- in time and for eternity. He is careful not to overstep the restrictions of the “insurance policy“. he will defend and protect Islam, for it represents the essence of his life.
3.05.3 - Not on the Path of Those Upon Whom Your Wrath Rests, Nor on the Path of the Lost
The Fatiha leads the Muslim purposefully onward. It lets him pray repeatedly for Allah to protect him from committing any act of disobedience that would kindle the anger of the Eternal One or prepare him for the fires of hell. The Muslim prays especially that Allah would protect him from religious deception which, in the end, leads only to the place where divine wrath and unquenchable thirst await him.
The last two requests of the Fatiha are uttered by sincere Muslims, so that Allah will protect them from deliberate or unintentional backsliding from Islam. This two-fold request is intended to thwart all the negative influences that might hinder the successful course of a believer's strife.
Expositors of the Qur'an, al-Jalalayn, as well as other notable Islamic scholars, expound these two requests confidently. According to their understanding, those upon whom Allah's wrath is resting are the Jews, because they received the commandments of God but did not keep them. The Lord entered into a covenant with them but they broke it. According to the Qur'an, they were led to the Promised Land, but they turned to other gods. The Muslims say that the wrath of Allah was unleashed upon them for this reason. Therefore they were driven out of the promised land, hounded on every continent of the earth and will not find rest until the Last Judgment. Some Muslims claim that Allah is gathering them together in Palestine so that the Islamic countries can finish the divine punishment and annihilate them along with the state of Israel. According to Islamic belief, the people of the Old Testament live day and night under the continual wrath of the Eternal Judge.
But who are those who have gone astray? According to Islamic belief, these are the Christians. The best proof for this is the Lord's Prayer, which Muslims call “the Prayer of the Lost“. The Christians dare to call God “our Father“, claim that he has a real Son, and believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within them. In the eyes of Muslims, this is a triple blasphemy that can never ever be forgiven (Sura Al 'Imran 3:116). A Muslim cringes at the thought of such a temptation. They say: whoever believes in a Trinity is violating the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods beside Me“ (Exodus 20:3). By committing this crime, the guilty places himself in direct opposition to the Islamic statement of faith. Muslims think that if the Jews themselves were disobedient after receiving their laws through Moses, and are now being pursued by the wrath of Allah, then the fate of Christians will be worse, a fate comparable to someone slowly languishing in a parched desert. They will live eternally in hell, searching for truth and salvation but never finding it.
Those experienced in counseling are deeply shocked by the last two requests in the Fatiha. When Muslims repeat this prayer up to 17 times daily, it seems they are taking deliberate steps to harden themselves. Muslims plead with Allah not to lead them in the way of Moses and his law, and especially to keep them from the heresy of the Christians. By praying in this way, they exclude any awareness of sin; they spurn the Ten Commandments and beg Allah to save them from the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A good Muslim teaches his children that Christians believe in three gods, and that they claim one of them was crucified. Therefore, he warns his children not to believe such lies lest they end up in hell.
The Fatiha is not only the main prayer of Islam; it is also an effective agent that hardens their hearts against the salvation of Christ. What initially appears as a natural form of piety is in reality an anti-Christian prayer. The first Sura in the Qur'an keeps many Muslims from the eternal life which Christ won for all mankind.
This comparison of the Fatiha and the Lord's Prayer shows us that prayer, fasting and deep religiosity cannot save a man. It may be that we, the prayer-weary citizens of industrial nations, find the developing countries with their elaborately liturgical religions fascinating. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that religions are, in the end, anti-Christian powers that fight against the crucified Son of God as they lead their adherents along a path of self-righteousness by works; they stir people up into thinking they can earn eternal life through their own achievements, submission and personal sacrifices. Consequently, the gift of salvation that Christ offers is considered a serious error and is staunchly resisted. All non-Christian religions are based on laws that must be fulfilled. Only Christ offers free and abundant grace to everyone who believes. This is the sum and substance of the Islamic opposition to the Gospel of Christ.
3.05.4 - And Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Every Christian can know from the Epistle of James that God does not lead anyone into temptation, for each individual is led astray by his own desires (James 1:13). When Jesus taught us to ask our Father not to lead us into temptation, he referred to the sanctification of his followers -- those who have already received forgiveness for their sins. Everyone has character flaws, peculiar sins and bad habits which, when examined carefully, prove to be glaring deficits and incredible bondages to ungodly powers.
With the request for protection from temptation, we implore our Father in heaven to keep us from indulging the sins of our flesh. We beg him to teach us, discipline us and to help us triumph through the power of his love, so that we will not desert him but continue to live by the strength that he provides. The forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ has already sanctified us. There is no greater holiness than the cleansing and justification we receive through faith in the Son of God. It is for us to remain steadfast in this grace, to mature in the fruits of the Spirit, and to strive not to bring shame upon the name of our Father.
Jesus was led into the desert, being tempted in our place. Satan did not confront him immediately but waited until he had fasted and prayed for 40 days. Although the tempter called Jesus the Son of God openly, he called the truth of his divinity into question, using this as a springboard to tempt Jesus to save the world as a bread provider rather than by suffering on a cross. From this incident, we can see that religious exercises neither save nor secure a person. Satan purposely targets religious people, making them want to fulfill the law by their own strength, along with sowing doubts about their salvation and awakening lust in them. He seeks first and foremost to shake our confidence in our heavenly Father, just as he did with Eve and then Adam, our first parents. After he had achieved this, it was quite easy for him to tempt them to increasing backsliding from God, to inner turmoil and to deliberate disobedience. Jesus willingly suffered our temptations and remained victorious. We need to remain in him, not slipping away from the grace of God for even one second, so that we shall not fall from his eternal love.
If there are deliberate offenses, character deficiencies and favorite sins in our lives, which sometimes hinder us from being led by the Spirit of God, then the sources of these temptations must be willingly renounced. It was not for nothing that Jesus said to his own: “He who follows me must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me“ (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23). Remaining in the grace of God causes a severe spiritual struggle. We do not fight against enemies around us, as required by the demands of an Islamic holy war; rather, we experience a constant battle against ourselves. We should resist the tempting voices arising within us, flee to Jesus and judge ourselves in the light of his countenance. The Father will strengthen us to resist falling into temptation if we ask him humbly. He will not allow us to rush headlong into disaster, for no one can pluck us out of his hand (John 10:29). His grace will remain victorious in the life of every broken believer.
3.05.5 - But Deliver Us From the Evil One
No one should ever think that he is more intelligent or stronger than Satan. No person can understand or overcome the devil by his own power. He is mighty and is the father of lies. That is why Jesus taught us to cry out to our Father to save us from the craftiness and power of the tempter. The children of God especially need protection and deliverance after they have received salvation through Christ. Those who are actively serving Christ and have experienced real persecution know what the cry “Father, save me!“ means.
Regrettably, many do not take the devil seriously anymore and play him down. However, with the current craze for parapsychology, we have every reason to believe that the period of demythologization lies behind us. This trend is becoming more perilous, as more and more people take up direct contact with spirits and the dead. Television has presented such practices directly before the eyes of the masses. We must stay awake and sober, so that we will not be overpowered by the reality of evil. The Bible teaches clearly that the whole world lies in the evil one. (1 John 5:19) The risen Christ commanded Paul to open the eyes of the people, so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:15-18). Anyone who contradicts these testimonies, claiming that Satan and hell do not exist, is naive, superficial and disobedient to the Word of God.
The lies of Satan certainly sound reasonable, but in reality they brainwash people and make them spiritually dull and blind. Humanism maintains that man is naturally good and requires only a good education for proper development. This would make the need of turning to God and being born again unnecessary. Religions and cults convince their adherents to save themselves through good works and great sacrifices, yet this approach immunizes them against salvation by faith in Christ. Materialism in East and West presents people with a delusive picture of a full and prosperous life, promising a paradise on earth; yet materialism denies the existence of the soul and its longing for God. Moreover, a concealed or blatant occultism often accompanies materialism with healings, wonders, appearances and bondages through powers of darkness. The rejection of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the persecution of believers in the Triune God is the most apparent indication of the present rule of anti-Christian spirits.
What possibilities are available for us to escape or overcome these demonic powers and to save us from the ever present temptation of falling away from Christ's salvation? The Bible tells us 175 times that believers of the new covenant live “in Christ“ as if in a shelter. They have been translated to his dominion of protection and have the privilege not only of having their sins freely forgiven, with the overcoming of their character weaknesses through the grace of sanctification, but they can also realize that God is a secure fortress where they can be kept safe. He who follows Christ lives in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit in an eternal security (Matthew 18:19; John 17:21-23).
An African evangelist explained this mystery of born-again Christians to his children in a story. He told them: “I was wandering alone on the grassland when I suddenly heard a noise behind me and saw a black water buffalo charging towards me. I ran as fast as I could. The buffalo ran too, gaining ground. I almost lost my breath. It got so close to me that I could hear its breathing behind me. Then, I suddenly saw a large, open crate directly in front of me. With a mighty leap, I jumped inside. While still in the air, I could see that in the large crate was another crate with iron bands; and inside this crate was yet another. I actually had landed in the middle of the third, innermost crate. When the animal crashed against the sides of the outer crate, grunting and thrashing its horns wildly, I did not feel a thing. I was saved and triple-secured.“ Then the evangelist continued: “In the same way, in a spiritual sense, we are grafted into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through baptism. Thus, the enemy has no power over us.“
No man can save and protect himself from Satan. No one can be drawn out of the mire of his sins by his own hands, nor can he be freed from demonic chains. To be saved, everyone needs a strong Savior who stands on the firm foundation of God's own righteousness. However, we need to cry loud and clear: “Father, save me!“ he does not force his salvation on anyone. Faith in Christ demands that we clearly renounce all religions, ideologies, humanism, materialism and occultism. Faith in the Son of God means the full and willing devotion to the only Savior that the Father sent to us. What a comfort! Even before we asked our Father in heaven for salvation from Satan, the Victor over sin, death and evil powers is already standing by our side. Whoever trusts Jesus completely, committing himself to him forever, will experience his authority and will remain safe throughout all eternity.
The problem is that quite a number of Christians want to live in Christ and in the world at the same time. This is impossible. Nobody can enter a car with one leg turn the key and begin to drive while his other leg is still outside on the ground. He would be torn into pieces. The same happens with Christians who do not abide fully in Christ. You can either be fully in Christ or only in the world but never in both.
The last word in the Lord's Prayer is the evil one. Jesus not only revealed a new, unique name for God at the close of the Lord's Prayer; he also exposed Satan and made his true identity known. Satan is the original source of evil, the wholly evil one, the source of all that is bad, the tempter to rebellion against God, and the deceiver who leads people to fall away from their Creator. He himself wants to be considered as God. He would like the whole world to worship him, to cling to him, to serve him alone. He wants to make us godless and evil, just as he himself is. During his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus gave Satan one last chance to repent, commanding him clearly to worship God and to serve him alone. But Satan did not prostrate himself before the Son of God; he refused to bow before Christ, God incarnate. He did not want to submit himself to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He chose to remain in his rebellion and departed.
In his temptation, Jesus denied the riches, power and glory of this world, preferring to take the judgment of God for our sins upon himself by hanging on the cross of Calvary. He decided to reconcile mankind with his Father and to divert the judgment we had earned through his suffering. His humility, gentleness and obedience triumphed over evil. Jesus' faith, love for the Father, and hope did not waver, even during the final moments on the cross, as the Father forsook him for our sake. Jesus loved and prayed for his enemies, clung fast to the faithfulness of the hidden Father, thereby remaining victorious over Satan. Because of this, we need not fear the evil one. Jesus, the Victor, is standing on our side. We are under his protection.
If we look at the Lord's Prayer as one unit, we will see that all requests lie between the two names our Father and the evil one. This throws light upon our human predicament: We live in constant tension between good and evil. We are standing in the middle and are pulled in both directions. To which end will we allow ourselves to be directed? Which end do we pursue? Christ is waiting for you, calling you and drawing you gently to the Father. Are you responding to his love for you?