Volume. XXIII, No. 12
Sunday, 21 September 2008

From the Pastors Heart: Conversion Compared

 Many people have asked me about other religious beliefs, especially, Judaism and Islam.  One of the most frequently asked questions is about God in those religions.  Are we worshipping the same God with the Jews and the Moslems?  The difficult nature of this question is shown in two areas.  The one is that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is a part of the Christian Bible.  After all, Christians call upon the same God of the Jews in the Old Testament.  The other is that the God of the Moslems is understood as the one and only God.  There is no other god beside him.  Thus, he must be the same God, we, Christians, serve and worship.  To understand this difficult and tricky issue is important because if their god is the same as the Christian God, there is no need of conversion on their part.  If conversion is not necessary, then we have three religions offering the same faith. 

First, we may begin with Judaism.  It is not easy to define Judaism by doctrines.  However, if we study the Gospels, we may find the concept of God in the Jewish religion and teachings of Jesus about God.  Jesus spoke to the sick of palsy, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5b).  It was a stumbling block to the Jews who said, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7). The disciples of Jesus hungered and they plucked the ears of corn and ate.  It happened to be a Sabbath day.  Such act was considered a breach of this holy day by the Jews, and the Pharisees asked the Lord in Luke 6:2b, "Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days?"  In fact, Jesus sometimes healed the sick on Sabbath days (cf. John 5:9).  Jesus replied in 6:5b, "That the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath."  Jesus called God His Father, which made the Jews furious.  Listen to what they had to say in John  5:18, "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."  Jesus claimed His equality to the Father, of which the Jews were offended.  Jesus said that He and the Father are one in John 10:30.  The Jews were so angry that they wanted to stone Him to death. Jesus asked them for a reason. Their reply was, "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."  Again and again, it is true to say that the Jews understood what Jesus was talking about Himself, but did not want to believe in Him.  They correctly understood Jesus talking about Himself as God.  Here is a clash between the unbelieving Jews\' understanding of God of the Old Testament and the God of Christian faith.  In fact, we must know that there were many Jews who came to believe in Jesus Christ during the apostolic age.  For example, Acts 6:7 says, "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."  They understood the Scriptures and repented of their sins and came to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.  To the contrary, there were Jews who did not believe in Jesus and who gave a death verdict against Him.  They were pleased to crucify Him.  Thus, if we come up with a small conclusion about the matter, we may say that the unbelieving Jews did not have the correct view of the God of the Old Testament.  Thus, we cannot say that the concept of God in unbelieving Judaism is the same as that of Christianity.  Of course it does not mean that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament.  What I am saying is that the God of Judaism repudiates the faith of Christian religion.  Simply sharing the same Bible does not guarantee the same quality faith.  There are many sects and cults using the King James Bible.  However, using a good translation of the Bible does not guarantee the correct nature of their faiths.  We must not forget that three thousand Jews came to the Lord on the Pentecost in Acts 2.  They had to listen to Peter\'s preaching when he said about Jesus as the Lord and Christ in verse 36.  In Acts 2:34, he quoted from the Old Testament to talk about the resurrection of Jesus.  The quotation says, "The LORD said unto my LORD, sit thou on my right hand."  Two "LORD"s are from one same Greek word.  Having heard him preaching, people believed in Jesus.  After all, they understood God in the light of His revelations.  There is a danger to put the concept of God in the Jewish religion in general into the same way of understanding of the Christian God.  The unbelieving Jews may be very close to the right understanding of the Biblical God because they have the true revelation of God, but they need to know and believe Jesus as the Son of God being equal to the Father.  In order to make this point clear, the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the book of Hebrews.  He talks about the Lord Jesus in chapter 1, and it also deals with Moses, sacrifices and priests, and one-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Going back to Judaism is not permissible.  The unbelieving Jews are not the true Jews.  They need to know and believe God as Jesus has revealed.  Thus, we would not easily say that the God of the unbelieving Jews is the same as the God of the Christians.  The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, but the unbelieving Jews need to repent of their unbelief and to believe in Jesus.  The point becomes clear if we know that the Orthodox Jews do not consider Jews who convert to Christianity as Jews any more.  They see the God of Christianity being different from the God of their Judaism. 

Second, we must deal with Islam.  Is Allah in the Islamic faith the same as God in the Christian faith?  At this point, we must understand that Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity as tritheism.  They also consider the incarnation to be impossible.  They do not associate anything or anyone with God.  Thus, there is no way for them to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Besides, Jesus is considered as a prophet, interior to the prophet Muhammad.  Thus, the attributes and nature of Allah are different from the God of the Christian faith.  I must admit that there are some similarities between Christianity and Islam.  For example, both religions say that there is no god but God.  Thus, both promote monotheism.  There are confessions of faith, practices of prayer, fasting, and belief in eternal judgment.  In these points, we may say that Allah must be the same God Christians believe.  However, there are also clear differences between these two religions.  First, there is no concept of original sin in Islam.  It makes huge differences between the two religions.  When it denies the original sin, it means that man is born good, or at least clean.  Basically, Islam teaches that all humans are innocent by birth and they become sinful only when they consciously commit a sin.  This teaching makes lots of differences from Christian teachings of sin, salvation, and Savior.  If every human being is good, and sin is committed only when a person consciously commits a sin, then any Savior is not necessary, and sinners themselves may rectify their sin problems.  Here is a common notion of sin in Islam: "In Islam, a sin is an act against the will of Allah.  We have the ability to abide by His will and this is the meaning of the word Islam. Still we have the ability to ignore His will or deliberately oppose it; due to the fact that God has given us freedom - though within limits."  In this way, there is no concept of vicarious atonement (or substitutionary atonement) in Islam, which excludes any necessity for the presence of Saviour.  The forgiveness of sin depends on sinner\'s attitude.  Muslims need to perform good deeds to obtain mercy before God, while Christianity teaches that spiritual deeds are the fruits of our salvation.  Muslims are taught that they need to learn to do what is right.  Thus, basically, Muslims are saved by their merits and works.  The Muslim community sees the difference between Islam and Christianity to the extent that any Muslim convert to Christianity must be cut off from the benefits of the community life and that such person should be regarded as nonexistent or "dead."  Such practice must give us sufficient ideas whether these two religions are worshipping same God or not.  In a sense, we may say that Allah is Christian God because there is one God; thus, all men and women must that one and unique God.  However, as we have observed so far, it seems that there are two different teachings of God, man, salvation, or Savior in Islam and Christianity.

As I have been talking about conversion so far, Christian conversion is unique and necessary for one\'s salvation.  I am thinking to write one more lesson about conversion next time.  God bless!


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope




Kitchen Rosters today - Team under Sis Tabitha Heah on duty.

Those who have completed their BBK course and intend to seek Baptism, Confirmation & Membership please see Ps Ki or any Session member ASAP.

2008 BPNYC camp forms and program are available on the YAF Board.

Please note: There is only Fellowship “Coffee & Cookies” after Worship Service next Lord’s Day.

Helped needed: For transport & refreshments for Senior Citizens’ Fellowship Meeting. If able to help please let Sis Peng Ha Yeo know.

YAF Election for new committee on Fri, 3 Oct, nominations to be in by 26 Sept.

RPGs for Oct-Dec 2008 now available on the literature table.


Looking Ahead

YAF Retreat 30 Sept - 1 Oct.

AFG Retreat 3-6 Oct.

Special Lecture on “Creation and Evolution” by Dr Carl Wieland on Friday, 17 Oct 2008. Please keep this date free for this important event, and invite your friends.

Sunday School Family Sports’ Day on Sat, 18 Oct.

Sunday School Teachers’ Training Course commences Sun, 19 Oct.

2008 BPNYC will be held 1-5 Dec 2008 (Melb)


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Bro Wai Kin & Sis Mavis Wong & family (Adl); Sisters Marion Chan (Melb); Joyce Chen (Tokyo), Lehia Paauwe (Perth), Maureen Tan & Peng Ha Yeo (Adl), Maybelline Tan (Syd), & Giok Yeo (Thailand/S’pore).

Church activities: BSAG, Joy & Maranatha; E-Ministry; ECM; Ladies’ Fellowship; Wed Prayer Meeting & Bible Study; Sparks4Christ; YAF Activity.

Successful Surgery: Sis Lyna of Cambodia in USA. She is able to eat & drink again. Praise God for the surgeons who performed the surgery.

God’s mercy & help for all of us.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing -Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Rev John (at Hampstead) & Mrs Christine McKenzie; Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements,  Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan, Dn David Yeo’s mother; Bros Tommy Brooks, Colin Creaser, S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, Hans Ziegelmann; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Auntie Oei, Fiona Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; & others who are having chemotherapy and radiotherapy and those in affliction.

For recovery: Sis Sheila George (Accident - Banga lore); Mr Yew Shing Chan (ICU, RAH); Mr Yeom (surgery - S Korea).

Cambodia Missions - Pastors & believers in cities, towns and villages in Cambodia.

Laos Missions - Believers in Laos.

India/Pakistan Missions - Pastors & Believers.

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim

Pastor Ki: future ministry.

Pr David Weng: ministry in Hope.

YAF September30in30 & Street Evangelism: Salvation of those who received tracts.

9th Anniversary Thanksgiving next Lord’s Day: Rev Dr Patrick Tan & Ebenezer B-P Church, Melb.

Journey mercies: Sisters Marion Chan, Maybelline Tan, Giok Yeo (Adl), Smrithi George (Melb/Adl), & Maureen Tan (Perth) & others  travelling

Job - Bro Cong Pham

For strength & guidance for those under stress with their studies & work.

New church van ($60,000) by end of 2009.

Coming YAF & AFG retreats - Speakers & participants

Persecution: God’s protection of believers in Orissa State, India.



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