This post is adapted from the message Jordan Standridge delivered at the Cripplegate Conference in Washington D.C. on June 10, 2018.
War. There is hardly a more universal phenomenon. It is said that the world has had peace for just 268 out of the last 3,400 years and that more than 4 billion people have died as a result of war. Ever since Cain first went to war against Abel, the world has never known a time without killing.
A lot of ink has been spilled over whether Islam is a religion of peace, whether radical extremists are reading the Quran correctly or not. I don’t want to answer that question. I want to convince you of something far worse. I want to convince you that there is no such thing as a peaceful human being. Every human being is at war. And every human being desperately needs to come to peace terms with God.
Whether it is a sweet grandma who doesn’t know Jesus, a devout Muslim who doesn’t know Jesus, or an evil drug lord who doesn’t know Jesus, everyone is at war with God. The moral mother and corrupt criminal are both desperately prideful and in need of humbling themselves before their Creator.
Therefore, based off of Rom 3:23-24, in order for our Muslims, and anyone else, to have peace with God, the following four declarations are necessary.
Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
1) I am a sinner
A Muslim finds his entire identity in his religion. It controls what he wears, what he eats, when he eats, what he does, when he prays. Everything.
What’s his issue? That he prays to the wrong God? That he believes Muhammad was a prophet? No. None of that is his biggest and ultimate problem. The issue he must come to terms with is that he doesn’t realize his identity is tha of a sinner, and he doesn’t realize what that means. He doesn’t realize that the purity of God will consume every impure thing.
To be a sinner isn’t just a provisional conduct, it is a permanent condition. It isn’t a temporary title it is an incessant identity. The Bible calls it slavery. Slavery is not something you can get out of. Rom 3:10-17 graphically displays the horrible, sinful condition of all humanity. We must help our Muslims friends see the wretchedness of sin and the vileness of their sinful condition. It is because of their sin that they are enemies of God, no matter how much they pray, no matter how much they ask for forgiveness.
2) God is the standard
Any accurate Gospel presentation has to begin with God. You simply can’t explain sin without starting with God. Sin is only sin because it is a lie of who God is. For example, it’s incomplete to say adultery is sinful because God says not to do it. Why does God say don’t do it? It’s not because he’s some angry God who wants to keep us from having fun. Adultery is sinful because God is always faithful. He’s loyal. Adultery is ultimately wrong because it is unfaithfulness to the eternally faithful God.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was at a university and a Muslim told me that on judgment day God would bring out a scale to measure our good and bad deeds. Consider the following verses from the Quran:
“Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in hell will they abide,” (23:102-103).
But the problem with this approach is that the wrong scale is being used. We must help our Muslim friends see that we are on one side and God in his glory is on the other. Therefore, the right questions to ask and help our Muslim friends work through are, what is the glory of God? How glorious is God? How much glory does he have? How much glory does he deserve? How short do we fall of his glory?
Do you see how this affects grace? The more holy God is, the more sinful we are. As a result, the greatest chasm exists between us and God. How short do we fall. How bankrupt are we? How much do we owe him? Why is hell eternal?
We are people who are prone to justify ourselves. It isn’t difficult to look around and find someone who has more problems than us, at least in our eyes. But it is imperative and absolutely necessary to place someone before God.
Adam was able to blame Eve because she was next to him. That wasn’t judgment day. That was the fall but not judgment day. On judgment day, Adam would stand before God alone and no blame shifting could happen.
So we must place ourselves before God. We can still use the scale analogy. But our problem is that on the other side of the scale is God. He is too holy. He is too pure to let us into heaven.
3) I need a substitute
At this point, our Muslim friend has a dilemma. He’s got the wrong scale. He’s living in a world where first of all he’s born neutral. He just has to somehow follow some rules. He has a bank account of zero. All he has to do is make sure he ends up with enough money at the end of his life to buy his way into heaven. But the Bible is clear, we fall far short of the glory of God. While some may be a little more moral than others, we all come not even close to measuring up to God’s infinite holiness. No matter how athletic you are, jumping from an eastern beach in the United States will never get you even remotely close to making it to Africa. How much further do we come short of measuring up to the glory of God with our lives! God is infinitely holy. He’s infinitely glorious. And man falls short.
Picture a glass of water. Let’s say I drop 100 drops of poison, would you drink it? Let’s say I drop 10 drops of poison in it, would you drink it then? What if I only drop 1 drop? What a silly question. But when I ask people on the street, they seem to think they’re ok. Why? Because they see sin not as an identity but as something they can overcome.
You simply cannot save yourself. You need something. So what do you need? What matches God? That’s where the word justification comes in. That’s where propitiation comes in. You need someone to take your place.
Muslims celebrate the sacrifice of Abraham’s son during the eid al-adha. However, their celebration is a commemoration of the type of self-sacrifice they believe it takes to cause God to show them favor. But what’s missing is the fact that God is the one who provided the ram. Why did God provide the Ram? Because Isaac deserved to die! Even though Isaac was just a young man, it would be perfectly reasonable for God to take Isaac’s life because of his sin. And that is why God provided a ram. That ram is a reminder to all human beings that what we all deserve to be punished for our sin. And God has to punish sin. He has to punish those who are at war with him or he isn’t righteous, or he isn’t a good judge.
In Rom 3:25-26 it states that God displayed Jesus “as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
The only way we can be made right with God is through the sacrifice of Jesus. This is because the only thing that matches God is God. The only one who can pay an eternal debt is an eternal being. The only man who has enough glory to match the Father is Jesus Christ of Nazareth who has never been created and has always existed.
4) I need Jesus
Rom. 3:24 states, “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The sweet Savior died on the cross satisfying God’s wrath. He did it all for you. On the cross, he says it is finished. In that instant, he satisfied the wrath of God, and all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life. The struggle is over. The war is won. You don’t need to work, you don’t need to perform, you simply need to come to Jesus and he will give you rest.
Allah says work hard for me and you may be saved, Jesus says I’ll do the work so you will be saved. Allah says die for me and you may be saved, Jesus says I died for you so you will be saved. Some claim Allah says, kill for me and you may be saved. The Father says I’ll let my son be killed so you will be saved.
You need a substitute but the substitute must qualify. Mohammed is dead. Jesus is alive. He is the only one who can save you. He is the only one you need. We are all sinful, We fall short of the true standard, so we need a substitute. And there is only one Savior that qualifies as the one that truly satisfies God, and that is God himself, who died on the cross for your sins.
So how will Muslims hear about this peace? Your lips. You are the ambassador to your neighborhood. You’re the ambassador to your office space. You are the ambassador to your family reunion. And you are letting people know about this war they are engaged in and that the one they are fighting against is offering peace to them. What a privilege we have.