This week's thought comes to you from a man named Daniel Fuller, in a superb book called, "The Unity of the Bible." In his foreword to the book John Piper wrote in 1991: "No book besides the Bible has had a greater influence on my life than Daniel Fuller's 'The Unity of the Bible.' When I first read it... over twenty years ago, everything began to change... It changed my life because it is so honest. No hard questions are dodged. No troubling texts are swept under the carpet. There is a passion for seeing all Scripture as a whole."
This selection compares Christianity with Islam, or more accurately, shows why Islam, in contrast to Christianity, is unable to truly satisfy the ultimate yearnings of the human heart. I found his insights fascinating. Enjoy.
Islam's Inability to Satisfy the Heart Fully
"In perusing the paradise passages in the Koran, one notes that the ultimate blessings for the Muslim do not go beyond a superabundance of the most pleasurable things to be enjoyed in this life. There is no indication whatsoever that heaven's joys culminate in fellowship with God.
In comparing Islam with Christianity, we may find it helpful to reflect on one of the 'thoughts' of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the famous French Mathematician and philosopher. He wrote...'Man once possessed true happiness, of which nothing now remains except an empty trace which he vainly tries to fill out of his environment. Yet all these efforts are inadequate, because the infinite abyss [in the human soul] can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is, by God Himself'...
This fits the testimony of the Bible which tells us that during this life, fellowship with God is the only thing that satisfies: 'Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever' (Psalm 73:25-26). The same great hope is held out for the hereafter: 'And I -- in righteousness -- I will see your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness' (Psalm 17:15).
As does the Koran, the Bible refers to heaven as a place free from the miseries of this world; only the heaven of the Bible, however, includes enjoyment of intimate fellowship with God... Pascal's reasoning seems sound that the inner desire of humankind can never be met by earthly pleasures, but only by such fellowship with God. How then could one living in a Muslim heaven find contentment for eternity doing nothing more than lounging in gardens through which cool streams flow, being served by diffident maidens? But to have fellowship with a God who is like Jesus Christ would constitute a joy that could never become commonplace.
Why does the Koran lay no emphasis on the ultimate blessing of having fellowship with God? One plausible explanation is that the blessings of a Muslim heaven are regarded as wages paid by God. They honor the individual as a work-person who has had the skills, strength, and character necessary to meet some need in God the employer. So it would be incongruous in this system to consider fellowship with such a deficient God as a reward for one's praiseworthiness in meeting his [God's] needs.
Precisely at this point the uniqueness of the God of the Bible becomes most evident. For he, 'is not served by human hands as if he needed anything' (Acts 17:25). To the contrary, this God works on behalf of, or for the benefit of, those who trust and hope in Him. And he is so complete in himself that in thus working he finds his greatest joy...
Israel's religion was the direct opposite of those practiced by the surrounding peoples. In their religions God was the client for whom the people must work in order to get from him certain blessings regarded as wages, something earned. But for Israel it was just the reverse: Israel was to regard itself as the client for whom God was working as long as the people trustingly obeyed his divine directives for their welfare.
So, when the situation in Islam is exactly reversed in Christianity, and God is the praiseworthy worker who meets the needs of his believing people, then having fellowship with such a God becomes most desirable. We can thus conclude that Islam, in comparison with Christianity, promises a heaven that falls far short of being what the human heart craves for most... We conclude, therefore, that the Bible, for whose truth we earlier provided sufficient evidence, sets forth a message well worth our expending the time and energy to understand. Only by appropriating its message will the God-shaped vacuum of the heart be satisfied, completely and forever."
Psalm 16 affirms the truth of Fuller's premise: "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 27 does the same: "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."
The God of the Bible is a God of grace who serves His people (undeserving as they are) -- carrying, upholding, and rescuing them (Is. 46:1-4). The God of Islam bears more the resemblance of a taskmaster demanding he be served.
Likewise, once justified by faith in Christ, the Christian walks in grace, and has the blessed assurance that God accepts them and is pleased with them (Rom. 8:1-2 / 8:28-30 / I John 5:11-12). The Muslim on the other hand can never be sure.
It's no wonder then that the ultimate treasure the heaven of the Bible promises is sweet and pleasurable fellowship with God, while the ultimate treasures of the heaven the Koran promises consists only a superabundance of earthly type delights with no mention of intimacy, pleasure, or fellowship with God.
Pascal was right: "The infinite abyss [in the human soul] can only be filled with an infinite and immutable object, that is, God Himself" -- the God revealed to us in the Bible, and supremely in Jesus. He is what every soul truly craves, for He alone is able to satisfy the deepest yearnings of the soul, and restore the lost sense of happiness humanity once had when they walked in pleasant fellowship with Him in paradise.
"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." (Rom. 11:36)
He Himself is our great reward, Pastor Jeff