I am sixty years old, born in Portland, Oregon, and now live in Mill Valley, California. I became a Christian at age twenty-one. I am married with five children and eight grandchildren. I was ordained in 1966; most of the time my denomination has been Baptist.
The first spiritual truth I knew was that I was a lost and hopeless sinner. This is while I was in the military. My life was ordinary, no crises, but after hearing the message of Jesus and the cross, I understood for the first time that He died in my place, taking my sin upon Himself. The second truth I learned was that Jesus is the Savior, raised from the dead, who loves me and would give me the gift of eternal life.
I have been in the ministry ever since my ordination, most of that as a pastor, and have seen many hundreds become followers of Jesus. For Christians this means conversion, or the new birth, one and the same thing. We are not born Christian, though we might be born into a culture heavily influenced by Christianity. But this can be problematic since we can mistakenly believe that we are Christian due to our physical birth.
Now, as to the issue of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism worshipping the same God—yes and no. Certainly Judaism and Christianity see the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Creator God. Islam, however, worships Allah, and Allah was a local deity worshipped by people of a particular area, the area where Mohammed lived.
Mohammed was born in Arabia and lived in Mecca. He belonged to the Quraysh tribe that controlled the worship at the Ka’bah shrine, which contains the “black stone.” This shrine was the center of idol worship with more than 360 idols being honored. The Arabic word for idol is “ilah” and “al” is Arabic for god. Allah, a combination of these two, and was the name for the primary god worshipped in Mecca. In addition, Allah was the name pre-Islamic Arabs used for the moon god, which was represented by the crescent moon. This symbol, the crescent moon, was used for many idols in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, it was common among pre-Islamic Arabs to pray facing Mecca and to observe a fast one month a year. Mohammed incorporated many pre-Islamic religious concepts into the Qur’an. Mohammed merely declared that only Allah would be worshipped to the exclusion of all other idols. Allah was essentially then the name of a local moon god.
The claim that Islam worships the same God as Judaism and Christianity is false. This is not to say that Muslims are not people of good will who are seeking peace. Some may and some may not. My concern is spiritual not political. If I had a merely political agenda, I might overlook the theological differences between the religions. However, the issue that transcends all others is a personal relationship with God. Error here is ultimate, the greatest of all enemies.
Now Judaism, in rejecting Jesus as Messiah and Savior, makes a mistake. To worship the Son of God, Jesus, is to worship God the Father. He who has the Son has the Father, but he who does not have the Son does not have the Father. To love one is to love the other. The Scripture is plain on this point. Many Jewish people do trust in Jesus, however. And Muslims may also trust in Jesus—anyone may. The names of the various religions are merely man-made designations. The fact is there is one God and we are all made in His image. I am not personally concerned about religious labels, but I am a follower of Jesus Christ, He is my Lord and Savior. He is not God of the Christians; He is the Lord of heaven and earth.
Many groups claim the God of the Bible as their God—groups like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on. But they reject or deny what the Bible says about the Messiah in both the Old and New Testaments. Are we Christians bound to accept the picture of Jesus that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, give us? They say Jesus is the archangel Michael and not Emmanuel, God with us, despite, for example, what the prophet Isaiah wrote (see Isaiah 7:14). Am I bound to accept the pronouncements of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because groups like the Mormons say their prophet is the latest prophet superseding all others, am I bound to believe this? The Mormons say their Book of Mormon is the final truth and all that came before is good but not the final revelation of God. Do I have to believe this?
Mohammed claimed to be the final prophet and the Qur’an to be the final revelation. Am I bound to believe this? Numerous so-called prophets have come along with new versions of truth—so what! They each diminish or do a re-make on Jesus so they can insert into the place of the Lord Jesus Christ their own prophet, revelation, or holy book. No, we are wise to this in America; these prophets and angelic revelations—they are a dime a dozen.
I live in a free society that has freedom of religion. My faith is personal, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. I did not choose God anyway, He chose me. He called me and gave me faith in Jesus, His only begotten Son. I am not a Christian because I was born one, I did not even want to be a Christian. But when God, by His Holy Spirit, showed me that Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, had died in my place, had taken all my sin upon Himself, and through His resurrection gives me the gift of eternal life, well, that was enough for me. I did not figure anything out, I did no good religious work; no, God changed my heart, helped me repent, and gave me faith.
This is the Gospel. Please know that I wish all the people of the world would live in peace and harmony. I have no anger or resentment toward Muslims. For what it is worth, I am also the manager of a baseball team, and I just appointed as my primary coach a Muslim man. And my leadoff hitter and second baseman is also a Muslim.
Would you be a Muslim if you did not have to be? Could you walk away from Islam? What might happen if you decided to be an atheist or even a Christian? You made no choice in the beginning—you were born Muslim, so then you had no real choice about who you are and what you believe?
America is my country, though I do not think all we do is correct. I am a Christian first, an American second. Being an American does not commend me to God in any way. Christian does not equal American and vice versa. Wherever I live the Scripture commands me to be a good citizen. We do stand for freedom and an open society, and these are great things. I hate war, as anyone would, and I wish there weren’t a reason for a war on terrorism. But there is, and we can pray that it will end soon and we can all live in peace.
Would the destruction of America solve Islam’s problems? Would the destruction of Israel solve Islam’s problems? Is not the problem sin and rebellion in the human heart? Isn’t the human heart deceitful and desperately wicked, as the prophet said (see Jeremiah 17:9). Perhaps Muslims might feel superior and vindicated, if America and/or Israel should fall, but would that stop the warfare that constantly goes on within the “Muslim brotherhood”? The problem is a proud spirit and evil that lurks within—and it was for all this that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died in our place, taking the death and judgment and hell upon Himself that we would have to bear, if we were to die unforgiven. Jesus was sacrificed instead of us; He atoned for the transgressions of those who believe in Him.
Over and above all that goes on in this crazy world, there is the reality of God. Let us seek Him, let us honor Him, let us worship Him, let us love Him. He has made this possible through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).