Ex muslim “Nina” explains : Why Muslims are so ignorant about Christianity?
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Question: “Is Christianity a religion or a relationship?”
Answer: Religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” In that respect, Christianity can be classified as a religion. However, practically speaking, Christianity has a key difference that separates it from other belief systems that are considered religions. That difference is relationship.
Most religion, theistic or otherwise, is man-centered. Any relationship with God is based on man’s works. A theistic religion, such as Judaism or Islam, holds to the belief in a supreme God or gods; while non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, focus on metaphysical thought patterns and spiritual “energies.” But most religions are similar in that they are built upon the concept that man can reach a higher power or state of being through his own efforts. In most religions, man is the aggressor and the deity is the beneficiary of man’s efforts, sacrifices, or good deeds. Paradise, nirvana, or some higher state of being is man’s reward for his strict adherence to whatever tenets that religion prescribes.
In that regard, Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship that God has established with His children. In Christianity, God is the aggressor and man is the beneficiary (Romans 8:3). The Bible states clearly that there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). According to Christianity, God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin separates us from His presence, and sin must be punished (Romans 6:23; Matthew 10:28; 23:33). But, because God loves us, He took our punishment upon Himself. All we must do is accept God’s gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Grace is God’s blessing on the undeserving.
The grace-based relationship between God and man is the foundation of Christianity and the antithesis of religion. Established religion was one of the staunchest opponents of Jesus during His earthly ministry. When God gave His Law to the Israelites, His desire was that they “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). “Love” speaks of relationship. Obedience to all the other commands had to stem from a love for God. We are able to love Him “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). However, by Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders had made a religion out of God’s desire to live in a love relationship with them (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 7:12). Over the years, they had perverted God’s Law into a works-based religion that alienated people from Him (Matthew 23:13–15; Luke 11:42). Then they added many of their own rules to make it even more cumbersome (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9). They prided themselves on their ability to keep the Law—at least outwardly—and lorded their authority over the common people who could never keep such strenuous rules. The Pharisees, as adept as they were at rule-keeping, failed to recognize God Himself when He was standing right in front of them (John 8:19). They had chosen religion over relationship.
Just as the Jewish leaders made a religion out of a relationship with God, many people do the same with Christianity. Entire denominations have followed the way of the Pharisees in creating rules not found in Scripture. Some who profess to follow Christ are actually following man-made religion in the name of Jesus. While claiming to believe Scripture, they are often plagued with fear and doubt that they may not be good enough to earn salvation or that God will not accept them if they don’t perform to a certain standard. This is religion masquerading as Christianity, and it is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:1–7 when He rebuked the Pharisees. Instead of pointing people to heaven, these religious leaders were keeping people out of the kingdom of God.
Holiness and obedience to Scripture are important, but they are evidences of a transformed heart, not a means to attain it. God desires that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to grow in grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). But we do these things because we are His children and want to be like Him, not in order to earn His love.
Christianity is not about signing up for a religion. Christianity is about being born into the family of God (John 3:3). It is a relationship. Just as an adopted child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as Father through adoption (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). When we join His family through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He then empowers us to live like children of the King. He does not ask us to try to attain holiness by our own strength, as religion does. He asks that our old self be crucified with Him so that His power can live through us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). God wants us to know Him, to draw near to Him, to pray to Him, and love Him above everything. That is not religion; that is a relationship.
Recommended Resource: Checklist Jesus: A Journey from Religion to Relationship by Jeremy Walker
Question: “I am a Muslim. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”
Answer: People often follow the religion of their parents or culture, whether Muslim, Buddhist, or Catholic. But when we stand before God on Judgment Day, each person must give account for himself—whether he believed in God’s truth. But among so many religions, what is the truth? “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
True Christians are followers of Jesus. How could Jesus claim to be the one and only way to God the Father? Let’s find out in the Scripture, the Bible.
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection
The Bible records how Jesus fulfilled prophecy when He was born to the virgin Mary. He grew up unique from any other human because He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). Crowds flocked to hear His teaching and marvel at His miracles. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and walked on water.
Of all people, Jesus did not deserve to die. Yet Jesus prophesied that He would be crucified and raised from the dead (Matthew 20:18-19). His words came to pass. Soldiers beat Jesus and put a crown of thorns on His head; people mocked and spit on Him; nails pierced His hands and feet into a wooden cross. Jesus had the power to save Himself, but He gave Himself, willingly dying on the cross (John 19:30). Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave!
Why the cross?
As a Muslim, you may ask, “Why would Allah allow His Prophet Isa to be mistreated and killed?” Jesus’ death was essential because . . .
• Every person is a sinner: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Whether dishonoring parents, telling a lie, failing to love God best, or disbelieving God’s Word, we each have sinned against the holy God.
• The punishment for sin is death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). God pours out His wrath against unbelieving sinners by separating them forever in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9). As the just Judge, God will not overlook sin.
• We cannot save ourselves by good works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is a key difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam teaches that a person can earn paradise by keeping the Five Pillars. Even if possible to outweigh bad deeds with good deeds, the Bible teaches that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6b). Even one single sin makes a person guilty of breaking all God’s law (James 2:10). Sinful humans can do nothing to merit heaven.
• God sacrificed His Son for sinners: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God knew mankind’s sin kept them from heaven. God knew the only way the sin debt could be paid was by a perfect One paying the price of death. God knew He alone could pay such an infinite price. So God’s eternal plan was to send His Son Jesus to die in the believing sinner’s place.
Becoming a Christian
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31b).
As a Muslim, you may say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus. I believe Isa was a true teacher, a great prophet, and a good man.”
But you cannot say Jesus was a true teacher and yet deny His teaching that He is the only way, truth, and life (John 14:6). You cannot believe Jesus was a great prophet and yet reject His prophecy that He would die and rise again in three days (Luke 18:31-33). You cannot admit Jesus is a good man yet disbelieve His claim to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70; John 5:18-47).
You cannot consider becoming a Christian without realizing that Christianity excludes all other religions (Acts 4:12). The inescapable conclusion of Christianity is this: either Jesus bears your sin on the cross or you bear your sin in hell. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
As you search the Bible, may God awaken your heart to turn from your sin and trust in Jesus. You may respond with a prayer like the one below. Remember, the prayer does not save you. God alone can save! But the prayer may be your expression of the faith God gives you in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Dear God, I grieve that I have sinned against You. As a sinner, I’m worthy of death in hell. But I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for sin and rise from the dead in victory. I now turn from following my own sinful desires and from trying to reach heaven through my own works. I trust in the Lord Jesus alone as my Savior from sin. I love You, Lord, and submit myself to follow You by Your Word, the Bible. Amen!”
Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord because of what you have read here today? If so, click on the “I have accepted Christ today” button below.
If you have any questions, please use the question form on our Bible Questions Answered page.Recommended Resource: Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norm Geisler