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Conversion from Islam to Christ

Greetings All,

This week's 'thought' comes from a Muslim gentleman, Al-Gharib, who shares how God led him to embrace Christ and the Gospel. I have left out many details and give you this shortened and edited version of his testimony (which is still long though shortened)! The full and more lengthy version is available at the following link ( index.html) along with other testimonies. I share if for a couple reasons: 1.) Because it confirms what we have been seeing about the sovereign grace of a holy, loving and all-powerful God as I've been preaching through the book of Ephesians. 2.) It also it shows how God works through the power of His Word and by His Holy Spirit to bring people to faith in Jesus -- including some who are initially the most resisitant.

Contrary to what we are often led to think, conversion from Islam to Christ is not all that uncommon (that's why I included the link). Through dreams and visions and God's working in providence; through the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit working through the testimonies and love of Christians everywhere, God is doing powerful things in the hearts and lives of many. Sometimes we can tend to forget that. As one man put it, "When God determines to save, save he will." Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 1:11: "In Him (Christ) we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will..."

We often mistakenly think that one must actively seek Christ before God will "respond" by reaching out and saving that person. Yet Scripture frequently points out the fact that it is just the opposite -- it is God who sets His sights upon us, and reaches out in love to us, and seeks us out long before we ever have any inkling of seeking Him (and even as we procede to run from Him).

 As Tozer rightly noted in His classic work, The Puruit of God: "Before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man. Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect as it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow."
Michael Rusten notes of Harlan Popov, the Bulgarian atheist turned Christian pastor, "Harlan came to understand that he wasn't seeking God, God was seeking him." Enjoy.

"I was born and raised in an Arab-Muslim country. My parents and their forefathers were Muslims for generations. When I was born, my father named me after his ancestor, the prophet Muhammad... During my growing and educational journey, I received a balanced Islamic education at every level. When I reached adulthood, I was a very typical Muslim, who has tremendous zeal for his religion and culture. I was very proud of my identity to the point of looking down on all non-Muslims. I was anti-Western (Christians) and I hated the Jews. My encounters with Christians had some tremendous impacts on my life, both positive and negative. However, I was determined to be a Muslim.

After graduating from college and working as employee for a little while, I started my own private business by using my father's money, which I inherited. Running my own business was neither easy nor pleasant. My lack of experience in trade made success difficult. My business went bankrupt and I accumulated debts that I couldn't pay back. I realized that I would soon end up in jail and no one would rescue me. To avoid this disaster and also get revenge for my failure, I decide to sell everything that I was able to and then vanish from sight. My plan was to disappear until I could recover, otherwise never to return back home. Through my experiences at work and my first business I was able to learn what no school or university can teach. I learned about the reality of society and life... I fled to a very far land where none of my debtors or even our justice system could reach me...

While I was totally hopeless and all my plans were screwed up, a bright idea appeared. An acquaintance advised me to associate with Christians perhaps they would help me. He assured me that unlike the Muslim brothers, Christians would help me and even provide me a job. Regardless of my sentiments against Christianity and Christians (Westerners), I decided to follow the friend's advice, to go to Church and to try my chance. I had no proper idea about Churches and the difference between them. Anyway, my motive wasn't to look for a new religion or God but finding a way to exit from my turmoil. One Sunday morning, I found a church in the newspaper.
 I went and I attended their service, it was very different from what I expected but I enjoyed it. During that first visit I didn't make any friends, but within a few weeks I made several. Most of the Christians there were friendly and nice to everyone. They welcomed me at their Church services and at their home gatherings, even though I told them that I was a Muslim. Out of curiosity, I joined several of their activities. My bad attitude toward Christians began to change and I began to appreciate them...

After exploring the church for awhile, for several wrong motives, I decided to convert to Christianity and call myself a Christian. It was an outward conversion, but in the inside I was still a Muslim and the same old person. When I got baptized and immediately after my coming out of the water, I secretly confessed in my heart the Muslim's Shahadah (There is no God but Allah Muhammad prophet of Allah). However, only God and I knew what was really in my heart at that time... Islam wasn't just a religion for me, it was a part of my culture, identity, pride and being. As with most Muslims, I enjoyed discussing and to arguing about spiritual matters but was also skeptical, and didn’t just believe things naively. There were times where I leaned toward [Islamic] fundamentalism and there were also times where I leaned toward atheism. When I settled overseas, I had a chance to interact with people from different religions and backgrounds... During my first journey overseas I lived with two foreigners, one was an Arab (outwardly religious) and the other was a Western (worldly Christian). We, the Muslims, planned to convert the Christian. We tried very hard to convince him to renounce Christ and follow Muhammad but he was 'stubborn'. During my last debate with him about Christianity, especially the deity of Jesus, we ended up our conversation something like this:

He asked me: "Do you believe that God is all powerful and nothing is impossible for Him?"

I replied: "Yes, of course!"

Then He said: "Would it then be impossible for Him then to come to earth and to take a human form?"

Before answering his challenge, somebody came suddenly, so we had to change the subject. Later on, I tried to find an answer to prove him wrong but I couldn't. To avoid embarrassment, I simply ignored the matter, since it went against my Islamic belief. We never raised that topic again, but deep in my heart a first seed was sown.

After my outward conversion to Christianity, I began digging in the Bible for clues that could bring Islam and Christianity close to each other. However, I contrarily began to notice that the difference between them was getting deeper and larger to the point that there was no way these two religions could be from the same source... I decided to find the truth at any cost. I fasted for three days in a row without any food, except water and for the first time, I prayed earnestly from my deep heart: I called upon the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. I cried out to the Creator of the universe, the Eternal God whomever He might be. I asked him to reveal to me the truth and nothing but His truth. I made a promise to Him that if He would answer my questions and reveal Himself to me, I will follow His path even if it will be different than Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

I waited for several weeks but it seemed that nothing was happening. I became very anxious and depressed. Finally, I decided to speak out and directly ask the pastor. I still remember, it was a Saturday evening. At the end of our meeting that evening, I told him that I couldn't find anywhere in the Bible where it talks about Jesus being God or about God being a triune God. Immediately and in a relaxed and gentle manner, he opened his Bible and asked me to take a look at the following verses: John 10:30-33: [Jesus said] "I and the Father are One." The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." [Also: I John 5:8-12 and I John 5:20]...

Suddenly, something incredible happened. It seemed as if I was blind or covered by a spiritual dark veil then I began to see. I began to read the Bible in a clear light and with understanding. The words of the Bible became alive while I read them and carrying power within. Furthermore, I began to decode the hidden mysteries of the gospel and the symbolic prophecies. Within a three day period of reading the Holy Scriptures in the light and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I was able to discover many of the answers I was looking for (i.e. the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus, his crucifixion, resurrection…)...

Furthermore, I realized that God is not only a being who hears and answers and does miracles but He is also a God who seeks to develop a very personal and intimate relationship with us. He wants to treat us as close friends, not as slaves... Jesus communicated to me that He is indeed the Eternal God. He truly died on the cross and rose from dead.  He showed me that He knows everything about me in the past, present and future...
 The next morning, I called my pastor and told him about my decision. I also suggested that I must be re-baptized. At first he disagreed to re-baptize me, but since I insisted, he decided to pray about it and seek God's direction. When we met later in the evening, he informed me that he was willing to re-baptize me after God confirmed it to him... I confessed my sin and I received Christ as my only Savior, Lord and God. This time my confession was with faith and total confidence in Jesus. Immediately, I was baptized. When I went into the water, it symbolized my death to my sin, which became buried with Christ. Coming out of the water symbolized my resurrection into a new life, a life in Christ Jesus... Then my pastor prayed for me, for the filling with the Holy Spirit. This time I was truly baptized with faith in Christ and surrendered to Him. I was literally and spiritually born again."

In the Bonds of the Living God and His Gospel, Pastor Jeff