Category Archives: Bible Study

Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Free Seminar Apr. 17-18, Stow OH

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A Study of Psalm 91

The following is the text of a sermon presented by Melvin Gaines at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on August 5, 2007:

I was leaving work Friday evening and had just finished walking to my car when a gentleman who was dressed in slightly dirty clothing approached me. He was headed for a shelter up the street to take a shower and he asked for some money to get himself a meal for the evening. I told him that I was sorry but I could only spare two dollars, but that was enough to get himself a couple of burgers on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.  He said thank you, and he went on to explain his present circumstances.  He said that he was here looking for work and that he had been through a great deal of difficulty over the last few days.  He had no money and was looking for his wife who was somewhere in the area, but they lost track of each other and she was missing. She had just gotten out of prison within the last week or so, and she had tried to steal some wine from a grocery store in East Cleveland, and she also deliberately tried to get arrested right in front of some police by violating an open container law.  The gentleman went on to say that he was starting to smell and needed to get a shower, thanked me for my generosity, and then he continued on to speak with more information about his own circumstances. He said that he has run into a lot of people here that have called him all kinds of names and treated him poorly. He said he was called a crack head and a dope addict, but he seemed to not mind very much about this because he felt as though he still had protection from the Lord.  He said this because he had a verse he was claiming in the midst of all of his troubles and difficulties, and that verse was Psalm 91. He then finished up stating again that he had to go because he really needed a shower.  I told him that he would be in good hands if he remains focused on Jesus.  He said thanks again, and I asked him if he had a bible.  He said that his wife had it with her in her purse.  I gave him a bible and told him to take it so that he could once again focus on the Word and Psalm 91.  He had a wonderful smile of gratitude on his face as he left and expressed joy in the midst of sadness.

I do not know the gentleman’s name, and I doubt that we will ever cross paths again, but he mentioned Psalm 91 as being the verse that he was clinging to at this time in the midst of his difficulty.  He was very clear in his communication to me that he was going through an extreme difficulty, and yet he still managed to smile.  How can a person manage to smile when there is nothing but bad news and trouble all around?  The gentleman had problems that he spoke openly about…his wife was missing…and may have even created problems on his own, but when all was said and done, he seemed to understand that life was not centered around his own circumstances, but on the One that was greater than himself, his enemies, and his problems.

Let’s examine Psalm 91 in greater detail, and we can learn some truths that relate to where faith really matters.  We will look specifically at verses 1 and 2, and then later examine His promises to those that show true faith in Him.

Psalm 91:1-2      

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

This psalm begins with a statement of who God is.  He is the God who is all-powerful and is our protection, that is, if we choose to live under His care and protection.  What is protection?  It is a covering.  It is shelter.  An umbrella has great symbolism in demonstrating this truth.  We know what an umbrella can do, but in order for it to be effective, we have to open it, and not just open it, but stand under it or walk beneath it for protection from the rain or the hot sun.  It requires a simple act of opening it and then holding it over our heads.  In the same way, God is our protection, but we have to do a very simple thing in order to realize His protection…we have to make a decision to come under it.  We have to submit to Him and to His will.  In order to be protected by Him, we have to see the need for His protection and then take refuge in it.  Look at Isaiah 25:4-5 to describe how God is like the ultimate umbrella of protection:

Isaiah 25:4-5

For You have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the humble person in his distress, a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat. When the breath of the violent is like rain against a wall, like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of barbarians.  As the shade of a cloud cools the heat of the day, so He stills the song of the violent.

Going back to Psalm 91, verse 2, the key word used to connect the protection of God is the word “trust”.

The word trust is an action word that requires movement…taking a position.  It is a word that is claimed when making a decision as an act of faith.  This has everything to do with putting on the full armor of God that we have studied in Ephesians 6:10-19.  When we put on the full armor of God, we are relying upon His strength, His energy, and His protection to withstand the enemy, the Devil.  We have faith that His protection is sufficient for us, and when we realize His covering, we rejoice in it.  We are able to, as stated in verse 1, “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.  When you are running for cover when you are trying to get out of a hard rain, what is the feeling that you experience once you reach shelter?  You feel a sense of relief, of course.  We can rejoice when we feel rest in His shadow and relief in His covering.

To rejoice is a mindset of faith.  The joy in your life is the distinction that others see when you are in the midst of God’s covering and protection.  This is not about how God blesses you or shows you favor, for the one that is going through a hard time yet still able to find rest in Jesus is experiencing anything but favorable circumstances.  To rejoice is indeed a choice, but it is a choice that is made with the conclusion that God is greater than any and all of our circumstances.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22         

Rejoice always!

Pray constantly.

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Don’t stifle the Spirit.

Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things.

Hold on to what is good.

Stay away from every form of evil.

These verses are some of the easiest that you could ever begin to memorize, and yet carrying out the action of these verses is very difficult for a person who cannot get beyond their circumstances.  You will not be able to rejoice or pray if you are not looking to the Lord for comfort.  The greatest obstacle to putting on the full armor of God and coming under His protection is to in some way, shape or form have total focus on yourself.  Self-focus is the greatest hindrance, and Satan’s greatest ally, to following Christ and to remain in the faith.  You will not accomplish the message of these verses without faith in Jesus, who is our rest, refuge and protection beyond our circumstances.

In Psalm 91 there is an important “if-then” statement that is better than a guarantee because the Lord is faithful in His promises.  The first statement is about faith in the Lord as a refuge and what He does for us in return:

Psalm 91:9-12    

Because you have made the LORD—my refuge, the Most High—your dwelling place, no harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.

For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.  They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.

Do you believe in angels?  Angels are real.  Angels are God’s servants that are moved and dispatched about the earth to assist in your covering and protection.  The angels are God’s agents of protection for you.  They are there to assist you because you take the step to have faith that the Lord does indeed protect you.  We need His protection because Satan knows these very words in Psalm 91:12 and tried to use them in the tempting of Jesus (see Luke 4:9-12).

What does this mean as far as our act of faith in the Lord?  My interpretation of this is that if Satan himself is quoting Scripture, doesn’t it make sense that we are as prepared as we can be with the knowledge of God’s Word?  What is one of the components of having the full armor of God?  Look at Ephesians 6:17 (Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word).  Ephesians 6:10-11 is what I call a battle cry, which begins with encouragement in its statement that the Lord is strong, much the same way that Psalm 91:1 declares His strength.  Verse 11, however, implores us to put on His armor to withstand the tactics of Satan.  How did Jesus respond to Satan’s temptation?  With Scripture, of course!  How are we to defeat Satan?  With God’s protection fortified by Scripture.  In order to have Scripture as a resource, you have to take the time to read and study God’s Word!  Don’t expect to be consistent and successful in your practice of faith if you remain anemic and weak in your knowledge of God’s Word!

Psalm 91:14-16 summarizes the faithful believer’s reward for following Jesus Christ and trusting in His protection:

Psalm 91:14-16

Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him; I will exalt him because he knows My name.  When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.  I will rescue him and give him honor.  I will satisfy him with a long life and show him My salvation.

God promises that our trust and faith in His protection goes beyond our circumstances and that He will remain with us through our difficulties.  His promise of salvation is referenced by Peter in Acts 4:12, where he states “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”  Peter referred to Jesus Christ, which is the Cornerstone of our faith.  The cornerstone of a building has an important function in that it is strong and provides support for the structure.  The structure of our faith remains strong when we rely upon Jesus.  Our strength in overcoming adversity is our trust and faith in Jesus.

Jesus keeps all of His promises, but we will never reach our fullest potential when we are inconsistent in our faith.  How much more can we do in our own attitudes about our expression of Christ in our lives when we look at someone like the gentleman who had two dollars and a Bible, and yet he could still smile in the midst of his tears?  It is not about how much we have, but it is about much we can have with Jesus in our lives.  He is our refuge, our strength, our protection, and our salvation.

Thank you, Jesus.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.


Spring Break 2012: God’s Love Languages This Weekend

Spring Break 2012

Our Annual Relationship Conference Series continues with discussion about how God speaks in His special way to you:

Hosted by Melvin Gaines

God’s Love Languages for Your Life

A special weekend retreat for everyone where you can rest, relax, renew and recharge!

Everyone has at least one love language. Do you know yours? Marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman first introduced The Five Love Languages almost 20 years ago.  Today, love languages are not just for married couples…they are also relevant to you and your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ!  Knowing how you can best hear God speaking to you will only help you to grow and understand more about your relationship!  Our seminar will explore all of these languages and give you insight into your communication with God that you may not have realized before!  With your participation, this relationship seminar promises to be a fun, relaxing and fulfilling experience!  Singles and married couples are welcome!

Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay only $79.00 plus tax.  When booking your room ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church special rate.  Please book your room reservation today (maximum of 4 guests per room).  A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests.  Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center  •  comfortable amenities  •  newly remodeled  •  restaurants nearby

For start times and additional information, call 234.206.0345.


Sunday School Today: Christ’s Coming For His Saints

Every Bible student is thrilled to be able to read about events that are still in the future. Only in the Bible is the future revealed. Let’s consider some of these events in the order in which they will happen.

The next event to occur on God’s calendar is the coming of Christ to take His people home to heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.15 For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This is known as the “Rapture” of the Church. Christ will descend from heaven, the trumpet will sound and the bodies of believers who have died will be raised. Then, living believers will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.  It will happen in the “twinkling” of an eye.”  Th1s passage of Scripture is the play-by-play account of this event.  Read it slowly and carefully, because it is about you if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior today.

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

51 Listen! I am telling you a mystery:

    We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,

    52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

    For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible,

    and we will be changed.

    53 Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility,

    and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.

    54 Now when this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility,

    and this mortal is clothed with immortality,

    then the saying that is written will take place:

    Death has been swallowed up in victory.

    55 O Death, where is your victory?

    O Death, where is your sting?

    56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

    57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory

    through our Lord Jesus Christ!

    58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Note the following facts about the coming of Christ.

A.  It may happen at any moment.  Revelation 22:7

B.  Only those who are truly saved will participate.  1 Corinthians 15:23

C.  Not all believers will die but all will be changed.  1 Corinthians 15:51

D.  They shall be like Christ.  1 John 3:2; Romans 8:16-25

Romans 8:16-25

16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to futility —not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it —in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits —we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.


Sunday School Today: Witnessing to the Nation of Islam

Our Summer Sunday school session on the study of Christianity, Religions & Cults involves the comparative study of Christianity and its foundational principles to some of the world’s more popular religious organizations.  While knowing the principles of each, it is just as important to know how to witness to those persons who are members of a different religion as to the benefits of Christianity.  Today’s lesson was based upon a reprint of an article from the Winter 1998 issue of the Christian Research Journal.

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM

Witnessing to the Nation of Islam

by Jerry L. Buckner

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called for the Million Man March to take place in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995, and black men across America responded. The response was so enthusiastic that not even the march on Washington by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., surpassed the crowds that Farrakhan was able to bring together. Why was the Million Man March so effective? Many saw it as a way the black community could stand together. Moreover, it encouraged black males to stand up and be men in their homes and communities.

The official membership of the Nation of Islam has been estimated to be between 19,000 and 30,000. Others have said they have 60,000 across America. Whatever the case, they have far more influence than their numbers would indicate, as the Million Man March demonstrated.

The Nation of Islam represents a serious threat to the Christian community. The growing presence of the Nation of Islam and their attacks on essential Christian doctrines make it difficult to continue ignoring them. The black church must awake to the challenge. There have been two problems the black church has faced in rising to this challenge: (1) the lack of evangelism in fulfilling its role to the community and (2) the lack of biblical discipleship for church members.

Meanwhile, members of the Nation of Islam have proven themselves to be highly motivated and successful in their outreach efforts in the community. Not only are they encouraging young black males to join the Nation of Islam, but they are also recruiting them from our churches. In addition, they have a strong presence in the jails and prisons. This was how Malcolm X and Mike Tyson were recruited. They are out in the community and on the streets training young black males in their peculiar version of Islam. Should we be afraid of the Islamic threat? No, but we should embrace this opportunity to sharpen our beliefs and strengthen our witness.

BASIC BELIEFS

Many African-Americans, including some Christians, regard the Nation of Islam as a Christian organization that is a positive motivating factor in the black community. A review of their basic beliefs, however, will demonstrate that the Nation of Islam is one of the fastest-growing American cults.

The whole basis of the beliefs or theology of the Nation of Islam is an attempt to answer two major questions: (1) “Who are we as a people?” and (2) “What is sin?” The Nation of Islam denies the essentials of the historic Christian faith. The following list of beliefs includes excerpts from the Nation of Islam’s own writings.

Polytheism. The Nation of Islam is a polytheistic religion. Several references in their literature point to a belief in many gods, and there is reference to a council of 24 scientist-gods who write history. One of them acts as God, while the others do the work of getting the future together for the Nation. Black men are themselves referred to as being gods. “You [the black man] are walking around looking for a God to bow to and worship. You are the God!”1

The Gods Are Not Eternal. According to the Nation of Islam, although the spirit of Allah (God) lives on, the gods are not eternal. “We all know that there was a God in the beginning that created all these things and do know that He does not exist today.”2

God Is a Man. They teach that Allah “came to us from the Holy City of Mecca, Arabia, in 1930. He used the name of Wallace D. Fard.”3 “God is a man and we just cannot make Him other than man, lest we make Him an inferior one; for man’s intelligence has no equal in other than man.”4

“Yakub Myth.” A basic teaching in their belief system is the “Yakub myth.” Yakub was one of the council of 24 black scientist-gods. He rebelled against Allah and the council, causing havoc. He created the white race as a race of devils to strike back at the black race. Elijah Muhammad said that black people are not sinners, but that the white man is at fault for their problems.

The Trinity. The Nation of Islam denies the Trinity. “The Christians refer to God as a ‘Mystery’ and a ‘Spirit’ and divide Him into thirds. One part they call the Father, another part the Son, and the third part they call the Holy Ghost — which makes the three, one. This is contrary to both nature and mathematics. The law of mathematics will not allow us to put three into one.”5 “Making the Son and the Holy Ghost the equal with the Father is absolutely sinful.”6

Deity of Christ. The Nation of Islam rejects the essential Christian doctrine that Jesus is both God and man. Jesus “did not consider himself to be God or a son of God or equal of Him….Jesus was only a man and prophet of Allah.”7 In a four-hour videotape of Louis Farrakhan’s 1994 Easter Service, “The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Imprisonment of Minister Farrakhan,” Farrakhan discusses the crucifixion and relates it to himself, saying, “I am hanging on the cross right now. I’m on Calvary right now and the more I suffer, the more our people are raised to consciousness….you don’t have to look for Jesus. I represent him. I was born to die for you and I love the thought of dying for you.”8

The Holy Spirit. The Nation of Islam denies that the Holy Spirit is God. They view the Spirit as a “spook.”

The so-called Negroes think of God in terms of something without form (spirit or spook) and they believe that His throne is somewhere in the sky….The teachings of Christianity have put God out of Man into nothing (spirit). Can you imagine God without form but yet interested in our affairs who are the human beings? What glory would an immaterial God get out of a material world? We also learn that a spirit is not self-independent; it is dependent upon air, water and food. Without it, the spirit can have no life. So how can a spirit be God?9

The Bible. Although they do make use of it when it does not contradict their own teachings, the Nation of Islam believes the Bible has been tampered with by the white man. “The Bible is now being called the Poison Book by God Himself, and who can deny that it is not poison?…the Book can’t be recognized as the pure and Holy Word of God.”10

Atonement and Salvation. The Nation of Islam rejects the essential Christian doctrines of atonement and salvation. “We know we have a Savior. In 1877 a Savior was born [i.e., Wallace Fard]….A Savior is born, not to save the Jews but to save the poor Negro….A Savior has come to save you from sin, not because you are by nature a sinner but because you have followed a sinner.”11

The Human Race. As we’ve seen, the Nation of Islam teaches a racist doctrine that the black race is divine and righteous by nature. They were the creators of the universe, and they are taught they are black gods.

Heaven and Hell. Members of the Nation of Islam do not believe in the hereafter, whether it be heaven or hell. “I have no alternative than to tell you that there is not any life beyond the grave. There is no justice in the sweet bye and bye. Immortality is NOW, HERE.”12 To the Nation of Islam, heaven and hell are regarded as special conditions here on earth now, not as special places to go after death. “The Christians say, ‘Confess the Lord Jesus Christ or you (who are other than the Christians) will burn in hell forever.’ That hell must not be so hot that one can burn in it forever and never burn up.”13

The Nation of Islam teaches other anti-Christian doctrines besides those that have been cited above. But the examples we have considered are certainly among the most significant and should be sufficient to acquaint you with their theology.

WITNESSING TO THE NATION OF ISLAM

African-American Christians and white Christians have different responsibilities in witnessing to the Nation of Islam. Much can be learned from the Nation of Islam itself. If the church can learn the things that attract people to the Nation of Islam, then they will be better able to witness to those in the group. The success of the Nation of Islam is not so much due to what the they are doing but to what the church has failed to do.

The Responsibility of Black Churches. The black church today has been passive and impotent in addressing racism as a sin. The church must address racism in the black community; if this is not done, then many black youths will be lost to the Nation of Islam. The reason why the Nation of Islam is extremely appealing to black men is because they address white racism and have a leader, Louis Farrakhan, who boldly defends black racism. The church must address these issues.

The church must develop a strong presence not only in the black community, but also in the jails and prisons — especially ministering to young black men. Jesus warned, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me” (Matt. 25:43, NIV).

The church must develop economic empowerment programs for the community. The Nation of Islam has a strong economic base and is very good at providing for the have-nots in our society. They have designed a system of economic education and empowerment for the black community. The church can do more than the Nation of Islam in this area, if Christians all work together. The church can develop economic education programs that will have a dynamic effect on the black community.

The church needs to be involved in the communities and clean them up. The Nation of Islam emphasizes eating better, avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking. They work on cleaning up the ghettos and slums by getting rid of drug pushers, prostitutes, and other negative elements in the community. The church can also do these things and more.

The Nation of Islam emphasizes a strong family structure — including fatherhood and black manhood. The church needs to provide mentorship and strong surrogate fatherhood to young black men who are without a good male role model. The church can have Christian black males work with young black males in the community in the areas of developing friendships, providing information, or obtaining jobs while helping them with housing and assisting with their educational activities or endeavors. The church needs to have more youth activities. Much can be done to get youth in the community excited about Christian activities.

The Responsibility of White Churches. It is very difficult for white Christians to approach members of the Nation of Islam in an evangelistic way. This is true because of all of the racism that has taken place. As a reaction to white racism, black racism took form. The Nation of Islam’s emergence was a direct response to racism. Nevertheless, even though it is difficult to approach a member of the Nation of Islam, there are things white Christians can do.

White Christians need to take an aggressive stance against racism in America. They need to join hands with the black church to fight against any form of racism, because it is a sin. They need to strategically join together in an evangelistic reconciliation, a Christlike endeavor, in order to break down the barriers of racism. They need to worship together — a black church coming together with a white church, even exchanging pulpits. They can join hands as co-laborers to reach people in the inner cities. The white pastor can preach sermons from the pulpit against racism. Every person who comes to the local church must be received with open arms, no matter what color he or she is.

The white church needs to work with the black church in developing partnerships around mentorship and surrogate fatherhood to black males in the urban cities. One pilot project in Houston serves as an example of successful mentorship. Several white suburban churches joined some urban black churches in an effort to do something about crime in the black community. Their idea was in direct correlation to the fact that most crimes in the black community were committed by young black males who lacked a positive male role model in their lives. The churches provided substitute fathers for many of the fatherless black youths in the city. Results were astounding. Crimes committed by blacks, especially black youths, dropped dramatically. Having a father image made a significant impact upon these black youths.

One thing is certain: We need to develop an agenda for reaching the black community.

Don’ts of Witnessing to the Nation of Islam. Don’t try to convince them to get saved through your own strength. Trust the Holy Spirit to convince them to believe in Jesus. If God could save the apostle Paul, He can also save Louis Farrakhan and members of the Nation of Islam.

Don’t become hostile with the members of the Nation of Islam. They are not enemies to be conquered. They are fellow human beings for whom Christ died on the cross.

Don’t overwhelm them with Scripture. They will not listen if they are overwhelmed.

Don’t use a King James Bible because, according to some Muslims, King James himself translated this version and corrupted it. I recommend using the New International Version or the New American Standard Version in witnessing to them. Don’t use a Bible in which you have written notes or made marks. This indicates disrespect for the Word of God to members of the Nation of Islam.

Avoid all pictures of God, Jesus, or other biblical personalities as white with blue eyes and blond hair.

Don’t use the word “Trinity” because this word often connotes the worship of three gods to the Nation of Islam. You can let them know from the Scriptures that God is indeed one Being, and this one Being exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — three persons.

In dealing with the members of the Nation of Islam, remove all offenses except the cross. They view Christian symbols as offensive.

Do’s of Witnessing to the Nation of Islam. Remember your greatest weapon in witnessing is prayer. This is true when witnessing to any cultic group.

Learn to demonstrate love and patience when witnessing. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

Know what you believe and why you believe it regarding the essentials of the historic Christian faith before you even begin witnessing. Know the original even before beginning to attempt to learn about the counterfeit.

All Muslim groups are different. Know which Black Muslim group you are witnessing to. Share the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as God manifested in the flesh with the Nation of Islam members. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). Remind those in the Nation of Islam that according to the Koran, “No true prophet of God can lie.” If that’s true, since they believe that Jesus is a prophet of God, then Jesus told the truth about being the only truth and way to God.

Let the Nation of Islam members know that true righteousness doesn’t come through man’s so-called righteousness, but through the righteousness of Christ’s perfect life imputed as a free gift to those who believe.

Elijah Muhammad told his followers, “The greatest hindrance to the truth of our people [members of the Nation of Islam] is the preacher of Christianity.”14 My message to you is, Keep on being a hindrance and telling them what is right. Be encouraged! There are many who have come out of the Nation of Islam to become strong Christians in the church.

Dr. Jerry L. Buckner has degrees from California Baptist College, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He is a pastor, counselor, lecturer, and the host of the Contending for the Faith radio broadcast on KFAX AM 1100 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

NOTES

1Elijah Muhammad, Our Savior Has Arrived (Newport News, VA: United Brothers Communications, n.d.), 35.
2Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America (Philadelphia: House of Knowledge Publications, 1965), 9.
3Elijah Muhammad, The Supreme Wisdom, vol. 1 (Newport News, VA.: The National Newport News and Commentator, 1957), 11.
4Muhammad, Message, 6.
5Muhammad, Message, 1.
6Muhammad, Our Savior, 152.
7Elijah Muhammad, The Supreme Wisdom, vol 2 (Hampton, VA: U.B. & U.S. Communications, n.d.), 80.
8Videotape of 3 April 1994 Easter message by Louis Farrakhan delivered at Mosque Maryam, Chicago, Illinois, entitled, “The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Imprisonment of Minister Farrakhan.”
9Muhammad, Supreme Wisdom, vol. 2, 9-10.
10Muhammad, Message, 94.
11Ibid., 237.
12Ibid., 219.
13Muhammad, Supreme Wisdom, vol. 2, 42.
14Muhammad, Message, 18.

The Christian Research Journalis a publication of the Christian Research Institute, PO Box 7000, Rancho Santa Marguarita CA 92688; Phone 949.858.6100.


Sunday School Today: Free Will and Sin

MAN’S FREE WILL

There are other beings in the universe, which God has created. These are angels or spirits. They do not have human bodies or souls. They are mightier than we are. They were also created to serve God, but like man, they have a free will.  Some of them fell into the sin of disobedience. Isaiah 14:12-15.

God could have made a number of machines to do His will mechanically. Instead He chose to create beings who could, if they wished, serve Him voluntarily and love Him freely. We cannot quite understand why He would desire to have it so, but the evidence clearly abounds throughout history. Man makes his choices, and God delivers the consequences.

MAN’S SIN

When God created free beings, able to do His will or refuse to do so, He must have known that some would choose the wrong way. And so it turned out. A great angel called Lucifer, now known as Satan, decided to set his will in opposition to God’s. The first sin was not committed on earth but rather in heaven. He was immediately cast out of heaven. Many other angels joined Satan and were cast out with him. From that time on, Satan has sought to hinder the plans of God in every possible way. When man was created with a free will, Satan immediately planned to tempt him from the path of obedience. God had warned man, but Satan succeeded only too well in drawing him into sin as well. The well-known story is found in Genesis 3.

Now God, as the moral Governor of the universe, cannot tolerate in His presence any being who deliberately disobeys His commands. This is why Satan was cast out of heaven when he defied God’s will. The same treatment was necessary for man, and so Adam was driven from the physical presence of God. Genesis 3:23-24.

Sin had entered the human race, and Adam’s nature has been passed on to every member of the human race. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.Romans 5:12. We are all born with a tendency to sin. This nature responds to temptation from without and so we yield and grievously sin against a holy God.

Content courtesy of BBN International.


Sunday School Today: The Holy Spirit Empowers Believers

The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus Christ to come and empower the church (Acts 1:4-8), and emerged as the abiding Comforter and Teacher of believers (John 14:16-17; 1 John 2:20-27). In John 14:17 note that Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit “dwelleth WITH you, and shall be IN you (KJV).” Here the two tenses—present and future, and the two prepositions—with and in, are significant. As previously noted, before Pentecost the Holy Spirit had access to the earth. He was God’s agent in creation. He inspired the prophets. He even came upon such wicked men as King Saul and Balaam. He also regenerated men. But an inseparable union between the soul of the believer and the Holy Spirit was not formed then as it is now. (This inseparable union as now formed is clearly shown in John 7:37-39; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 1:13,14, 4:30.) While, by the special dispensation of God, the Spirit was in the prophets (1 Peter 1:11); yet, as a rule, He was only WITH the people of God until the day of Pentecost. This is further shown by John 7:37-39. Note John’s explanation that the blessing promised by Christ could be fulfilled only when the Holy Spirit had been given, manifestly alluding to Pentecost. Even the presence of the Spirit WITH God’s people before Pentecost was not necessarily permanent. His presence could be forfeited then by sin. Thus it was that David prayed: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Before the day of Pentecost, believers could have the Holy Spirit through prayer (Luke 11:13). After the day of Pentecost, as we shall note more at length later, there is no indication that believers should or did ask for the Holy Spirit. He now abides constantly and inseparably in believers. (John 20:21,22 must be considered exceptional, because the recipients of the Spirit were apostles, or anticipatory of Pentecost.)