Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Part II - A Case Study (Part I is here.)
I have often exhorted myself, and those who would listen to me, to ask the Lord to lead me to the people He wanted me to minister the Word. There have been striking answers to this prayer, especially when traveling. A personal encounter with an Iranian man illustrates the basic principles found in Part I of “Partnering with God.”
|Iranian man with traditional |
bread called naan.
After praying and trusting the Lord for Him to place me where He wanted, I asked this man if I could sit in the airplane seat next to him. In asking him, I established a friendly contact, even though he had no authority over the seat. As we waited for the Southwest airliner to takeoff, I talked to another man who was on the other side of me. He was talkative, but from his appearance was a part of the youth culture that usually argues about everything traditional. At this stage, I just left the circumstances to the Lord’s management. As the plane’s departure drew near, the young man noticed that the plane was not full and moved to seating more to his liking.
The Iranian man was quiet and generally withdrawn, but I made myself friendly by asking where he was coming from. He said he was traveling from Iowa and to Southern California where he was employed. I sympathized with him that the state’s football team had been defeated in a bowl game in the last week. He had informed me that he had graduated from that University. I then asked where he was employed since he had a college degree. He said that he was working for an airline. At this point, I felt familiar enough to introduce myself since we were going to be spending a considerable time together on this flight. I gave him my first name and he gave me an ordinary American type name that didn’t fit his physical profile.
I asked him more about his job. We talked about the unsettled conditions of the country and world, especially about airlines. After that, I observed that much of the unsettled conditions affecting the airlines concerned religious affairs, adding all religions had moral standards, although they differed in ceremonial practices. He agreed and volunteered that he personally did not practice any religion although he did believe in God.
Then, I observed that most all religions believed in some kind of life after death and some kind of blessedness or judgment. However, that only one world religion professed to have a savior who did something to save those less than perfect. All but one left their people with an uncertain eternal future. The man acknowledged this reasoning that no one could be certain if he had done enough good things to compensate for his bad acts. This was especially so since their god might not give the same value to what they had done that they would.
I agreed that all religions, except biblical Christianity, did not profess to have a savior in their religions, and, that without a savior, a person’s eternal future was in doubt or that perhaps the religion did not have a firm standard of right and wrong if a savior was not thought to be necessary. After all, punishments in this life were not equal to the terrible things some have done. Therefore, a just god would have to give punishment in the life after death if justice was to be done. Failing this, that kind of god didn’t even have a sense of justice that men have and that whatever good after death (salvation) people might expect must come from a god who would be one’s savior. With an earned or merited salvation, sinful man would be his own savior. Further, this would not honor his god, but man making inadequate man to be an inadequate savior giving a doubtful salvation.
The suspicion logically comes that this religion comes from man and not the Creator since man must be his own savior. My seatmate acknowledged that my logic had some merit.
I continued by observing since the Creator God is the sovereign over his creation, in the final analysis, He was the judge of it all also. Furthermore, only the Creator Judge could in some way be the Savior, especially since when humankind sins, it is ultimately against Him. For as Creator, He determines what is compatible within his creation. Therefore, He must also determine what is necessary to reconcile an offender. The problem is that violating what is acceptable to Him is violating Him. Since He is infinite, the forgiveness must have a corresponding worth. Since man is finite, he cannot make a restitution of infinite worth. Therefore, the Creator must somehow do the saving of the offender, since only He is infinite.
I observed that no world religion offered any savior, let alone one of infinite power to compensate for one sin let alone that of all mankind. The ONLY EXCEPTION is the Savior revealed in the Bible, that is, Jesus Christ. I further observed that Islam honored Jesus as a genuine prophet, but that their leaders alleged that Jesus’ teachings were unreliably preserved. I went on to assert that this didn’t present a good picture of the Islamic God that sent Jesus with a revelation if he couldn’t preserve the message given the prophet Jesus.
I reminded him that all human beings that have lived long enough, know they do things contrary to the innate moral standards that the Creator instills in them. My Iranian acquaintance assented to this agreeing that men need a savior, because the best men can do to atone for personal sin is at best uncertain. All men have the inbuilt need for certainty, especially when the issue is an eternal state in Hell or Heaven.
Creator God, on the basis of responsible love, has provided all that man needs. These are man’s stewardship to use in the world in harmony with God’s design. In making man in the image of God, He not only gave man the responsibility of choice, but decreed Himself to be the payment for man’s redemption from before the foundation of the World, as God’s sacrificial lamb. This, Jesus did in His death, burial and resurrection. Even non-Christian literature testifies that early believers preached this message from the very beginning. These provisions come from love, but each man must receive them by faith.
On the other hand, Islam requires meritorious works without certain promise of eternal life except through violent Jihad. The slightest violation by an Islamic, whether in act or attitude will endanger or destine the individual to death or Hell, and the only sure way to Heaven is to die in a violent Jihad. Redemption by faithfully observing the requirements of the Qur’an and the Five Pillars gives no certainty or promise. Allah performs no act of redemption for his people’s or other’s sin. It offers no savior.
In contrast, the God of the Bible asks the opposite of meritorious works, i.e., faith. The mindset from which saving faith grows is: “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33 KJV). And, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:10–12 KJV).
Jesus’ assertion to be a part of the Creator God cannot logically be rejected because since man was created in the image of God, all men are more than just material. Even Islam speaks of the real identity of man is to go to Heaven or Hell when his body dies. This means that there are at least two parts to all men, physical and spiritual. Further, since angels who are spiritual beings can have physical appearances, how can Islamic teachers assert that a part of God cannot assume a physical existence? Also, if God is all powerful and sovereign, why can’t He take on a human expression? All this is what the reliable Bible portrays Jesus to be. The Old Testament prophecies in the Bible, confirm what the New Testament says about Jesus. I pointed out a study I made of the Old Testament prophecies about the person, work and even the timing of Messiah’s coming, all of which has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.
As the airliner was landing in Los Angeles, I asked him if he wanted me to lead him in calling upon the Lord Jesus to be his personal Savior. He consented and I prayed. I gave him my name and address so that he could write me for answers to any questions that he had. I warned him that family members would oppose him, but that God would be with him.