Tag Archives: community

Salvation and the Church: The Apostles Were a Mixed Up Group

Today’s message summary of November 12, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Church is a place where we learn how to live for Jesus Christ.  It counters how people have learned to live according to the world’s standards.

A person will truly change not just because someone tells him to change.  The true change will come with the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.

In understanding the word “apostle,” one first has to note that the word was never found in the Old Testament.  It was only presented when Jesus used the word.  It was a word used at sea concerning the ships that first went out.  The ships were “sent out” before the rest of the fleet.  Jesus applied this term to people.  If you take the example of the apostles, Jesus sent them out before the church even comes into existence.  He sent them out beforehand with a message.

Of the people that Jesus chose to be apostles, they were a mixed up group of people!

All but one of the disciples were from Galilee, which turned out to be a hotbed of activity and rebellion against the Romans.  Nazareth was within Galilee, where it was spoken, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46a)

There was a controversy with Jewish authority (a religious group).  Jesus was concerned about what was being taught within these groups.

The apostles witnessed miracles–things that no other person could do.  They may not have completely understood what they were seeing, but yet they witnessed them.  The miracles said something about Jesus, and that He was different from everyone else.

The apostles received private instruction–it was time alone with Jesus.

The apostles witnessed His resurrection.  They saw Him in His new body.

They were able to see things that no one else had seen.  In all of this, they could not even begin to explain all that they had witnessed to others.

Remember that Jesus was involved in two major ministries at that time (in the same way that today’s church is involved with these ministries today):

  1. Calling and training the twelve. (While there was emphasis on the twelve, there was other teaching and instruction that was taking place.)
  2. Healing and teaching in the community. (Jesus spoke to crowds of people and provided valuable wisdom and knowledge.)

The condition of our very society should be a flashpoint as to how the church is to respond, as the church is indeed the light for a dark world.

The church is to train people within its walls to be able to go out and execute Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), and that is to make disciples of other people–to win people to Jesus Christ and to bolster up and encourage other believers.

The apostles become Jesus’ traveling companions.

The disciples are those who receive Jesus’ teaching and even the direction of the apostles.

The community receives the teachings, and members of the community also go out in an effort to reach others.

Luke 10:1, 17

After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go.

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”

The apostles were godly men who showed their sincerity by following Jesus; yet at the time of their calling, they were ignorant, narrow-minded, superstitious, and full of Jewish prejudices and misconceptions.

And yet, God calls these men.  They soon learn that Jesus taught them differently from what they had heard in the past.  Even though they were considered godly men, it was Jesus’ words that gave them the ability to look at their own hearts and minds.

The apostles were aware of their own Jewish traditions, but lacked understanding as to their true meaning and application.  They also had prejudice (Jews verses Gentiles, Samaritans) and superstition (ghosts).  This is a lot like many of us today.  Many people have ongoing misconceptions about what the church represents.

The apostles has much to unlearn of what was bad.

They had much to learn of what was good.

There were old beliefs that were incorrect that needed to be challenged in order to make room for new beliefs to be recognized and understood.

The greater number of disciples (70) were occasional followers.  The (12) apostles would be with Him most of the time.  They would become His traveling companions and His real ministry companions.  He was teaching them in order to be able to send them into the world.

Mark 3:13-15

Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him.  He also appointed 12He also named them apostlesto be with Him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons.

Matthew 13:36

Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”

Matthew 6:5

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by the people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!”

Luke 11:1

He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

Godly men need to learn how to pray.

Matthew 5:1-2

When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  Then He began to teach them…

Jesus is still teaching today if you find the time to be with Him.

Are you willing to learn?  Ask Him to teach you.

Do you desire to know more?  Ask Him for more.

Look at these men who Jesus selected (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16)

  • Peter and Andrew were brothers (John 1:40-41; Matthew 4:18)
  • James and John were brothers who left their father (Matthew 4:21)
  • Matthew was a government tax collector
  • Thaddeus was known by three different names, including Jude
  • ..a zealot…a killer and hater of Romans
  • Judas was a deceiver and a thief
  • James, son of Alpheus, brother of Matthew
  • ..one who learns, spoke Greek
  • ..also known as Nathanael; was skeptical (John 1:45-49)
  • ..a doubter; was unsure (John 20:27)

Some of the brothers were bidding for a position within their role as apostles (who sits on the right hand of God or the left).  This mixed up group of people had to learn from Jesus what was really important.

John 13:34-35

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 8:31-32

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus can take anyone, regardless of their past, and transform a person to become a faithful servant of God.  Jesus just wants you to come.

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Teamwork

Today’s message summary of January 31, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Scripture tells us that Jesus was on a mountain as He looked over Jerusalem–and He wept.  He wept because He did not like what He saw.

When you look at the city of Akron, what do you see? Sometimes we see that things aren’t very good, but we also need to pay attention to those things that are good. Good things are happening, and sometimes they are overlooked.

We have a hand in the good things that are taking place here. It is good to recognize that things are positive in the community, but it is up to us to be involved. It takes many hands to accomplish this. We all have to be willing to help. Many hands make up a team.

One of our elders, Ken, has been involved with a neighborhood football team, the Titans. In his community involvement, all of us are involved.

We are planters. We are teachers.

A football team has to be successful on the field. Someone has to carry the ball. Others have to block. There has to be cooperation on the team.

In the life of a Christian, there has to be teamwork, as well. Some will run with the ball while others will block. Everyone must use their talents to accomplish the goal of proclaiming the gospel. The team’s success of reaching people for Jesus Christ is most important.

A coach for a team is a lot like a pastor. Both are coaching, but just on different fields. A team works well both on the field and off the field, as well. God gives those individuals who are working with our young people the gift of patience. It is important to have a very important part of a young person’s life in order to create a positive influence.

Let’s look at a few words:

Team – A group of people working together.

Community – People living in a particular district for a common good. It is a team of people who are working to make it better.

Church – A group of people who worship together for the good of one another (public worship).

For one to be able to participate in any community event is a divine gift from God.

Acts 17:28

For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

What comes out of a person’s life is left up to him.

A team will practice in good weather or bad weather, such as wind, rain and cold. It’s a choice that, at times, has to be made to desire to get better as a team.

Matthew 12:35

A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.

What do you choose–good or evil?

Ministry – It comes from the Greek word meaning to serve.

The word “ministry” has somehow been misused and is only defined within the arena of the church. Ministry has become a clerical/church word that most people never apply to themselves. It seems too grand for ordinary people. Ministry is a professional word.

All that is needed is people who are willing to give of themselves.  People who are willing to serve in the community.

When people serve they teach.

1. They teach attitude. There is an attitude of a winner and a loser. In life, we win some and we lose some.

2. When you serve you teach people to shine. You teach them to do their best, and then live with the results.

3. When you serve, you teach others about failure. We are not going to win all of the time, we live in our failure. We live through it while we are preparing for the next game.

4. While serving others, you give them purpose and meaning in life. They are important.


Step Back to Step Forward in Christ

A message text from Melvin Gaines for Sunday, August 17, 2014:

This past week, I was able to take the opportunity to use a paid day from work as a volunteer at a charity of my choice.  I selected The Emergency Assistance Center in Northfield Center, which is the largest food pantry in northern Summit County.  I was able to meet Joyce Hunt, the Executive Director, Lori, one of the staff members, and a group of volunteers.  The ministry there has grown in the last couple of years since Joyce came on board, and they have extended their footprint beyond the Nordonia Hills area.  They also serve the needs of residents in Twinsburg, Richfield and Boston Heights.  The need has grown over the years where they are servicing over 700 clients per month who are in need of food, clothing or even hygiene products, and they always serve every person who comes through the door with a smile and the love of Jesus Christ.  A person can select what they want according to guidelines established, and they also get free meats and bread.  The Emergency Assistance Center has partnerships with churches in the area and businesses throughout Greater Cleveland—and all without one dollar of government grants or assistance.  It is all done through donations and the selfless efforts of 60 volunteers.  They are making a difference in the community to thwart hunger and provide a lifeline to overcome poverty.  Joyce and the staff readily admit that without all of the volunteers, they could never keep up with the demand and maintain the ministry, and they absolutely believe that God is in the midst of all of it—and that He is to be glorified.

Here is one more way that kingdom work is going on for the glory of God—and giving credit where credit is due…to God and for His glory and purpose.  The testimony to others is in the sharing of the love of Christ.

Notice how all of the heart and soul of ministry certainly begins with our collective efforts of service and duty for the kingdom, and yet we see how people sincerely attribute their efforts, and especially our successes, to God.  When we see testimonies like this, know that God Himself is at the very center of our Christian faith and ministry.

In order to be able to see God truly at work in your life, you need to take a step backward in order to move several steps forward.

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

 

Exalt you in what way?

By giving you fame and fortune? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

By giving you a bigger house and car? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

If you’re entertaining these thoughts, you are missing the point.

In the context of the verse, the act of humbling yourself in the book of James chapter 4 means having a serious approach to who God is when you consider your overall unworthiness before Him.

James 4:1-10

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

Adulteresses!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

 

God wants to see more from you than someone who talks a good game.  He wants to see how you are truly following Him, and it’s not in what you say or in how much you are doing for Him.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23

22 Then Samuel said:

Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,
to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has rejected you as king.

 

Note that your success in Christ has nothing to do with your own thought process, your own ways of thinking or reasoning—all of these originate in the flesh.  In order to take steps forward in your faith and in your ministry before others, you need to take a step back and humble yourself before Him.  If you choose not to humble yourself, you render yourself useless within His kingdom.

Here’s a point of controversy, for sure—I’m not saying that you can’t do anything without Jesus.  You can do a lot of things without Jesus.  In fact, you can do many things and even see results, but be sure that you understand what those accomplishments mean according to His ways and His standards.  You may have your own standards, but how do they stand up to God’s standards?

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

You can do something without Jesus, but in the end, it amounts to nothing.

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

 

Isaiah wrote about these so-called righteous deeds of the Israelites but he was stating, in reality, that they were nothing more than junk before God because of their hypocrisy.  This verse is commonly known as the “filthy rags” verse.  Gotquestions.org notes that the word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” This is how we are to see how God sees our self-centered approach to the good things that we think we are doing—namely, they are as useless to Him as a soiled feminine hygiene product. [1]

The things that we think we are doing for the Lord amount to nothing that is worth keeping around.  It all comes down to thinking more of yourself than you really are when you are outside of God’s will and live in disobedience to Him.

Jeremiah 13:1-11

1 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy yourself a linen undergarment and put it on, but do not put it in water.” So I bought underwear as the Lord instructed me and put it on.

Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: “Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates and hide it in a rocky crevice.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.

A long time later the Lord said to me, “Go at once to the Euphrates and get the underwear that I commanded you to hide there.” So I went to the Euphrates and dug up the underwear and got it from the place where I had hidden it, but it was ruined—of no use at all.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: Just like this I will ruin the great pride of both Judah and Jerusalem. 10 These evil people, who refuse to listen to Me, who follow the stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and worship—they will be like this underwear, of no use at all. 11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, but they would not obey.

 

Without obedience, your works amount to nothing.

If Jesus is not in it, it isn’t worth doing it.

If Jesus is not in it, you’ve received your prize for your effort.

Matthew 6:1-4

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

God proclaims that your fleshly works, on their own merit, amount to nothing more than soiled products or ruined underwear.  Your works are only justified when you are justified in your humble relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your works will be seen as fruits of the Holy Spirit when you humble yourself before Him.  Only then will He exalt you, and it will be in such a way where you will see His fruits in your efforts and all that you will be able to do is proclaim, “He did it!”

How connected are you with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  Just as we cannot live without an air supply, we cannot be fruitful in the world, and even within the body of Christ, without the presence of the Holy Spirit.  One of the best examples of this is the study of the verses in John, chapter 15, of the vine and the branches.  It reflects the necessity of one very important element in our actions as we exist within a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and it has everything to do with our obedience to His Word, His commands, and His will.

God wants you to see that He values your relationship with Him much more than your service.  Yes, the service is important, but not more important than Him.

If you choose to “do good with works” over a relationship with Jesus Christ, you should know that, at some point in the future, you can’t be fruitful without Him.  There is no substitute for Jesus Christ.  Your ministry depends completely upon the fruitfulness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who enables you to minister to others.

 

John 15:1-8

 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

 

Whether you remain in Him (or not)—he will not desert you or forget about you—He encourages us, and even fortifies us with His very presence.

Hebrews 13:5-6

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say:

The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

 

Jesus is the vine that allows you to be fruitful in your ministry.

Without Him, you cannot bear good fruit.

Jesus will also prune you in order for you to be fruitful.  Pruning sounds a little painful, doesn’t it?

When was the last time that Jesus used His pruning shears on you?  Was it a moment of discipline?  Believe it or not, you should be encouraged by the fact that you were indeed shown the way to repentance, for repentance means that God loves you and desires to draw you back into fellowship with Him.  Your return to fellowship means that God is pruning you to return you to fruitfulness.

Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly
or faint when you are reproved by Him,
for the Lord disciplines the one He loves
and punishes every son He receives.

Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

What work does Jesus need to do in your life to make you more fruitful?  Does he need to do some minor pruning—or more than that?

With the knowledge that obedience to Jesus Christ keeps you fruitful, you can now see God working in your life of fruitfulness by showing the love of Christ to others.  He chose you to do the work.  What an honor it is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.

11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.17 This is what I command you: Love one another.

Your work in Christ will show the love of Christ to others.  You were selected to do the work for His glory.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

 

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

1 “Why are all of our righteous acts considered filthy rags?” (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http:// http://www.gotquestions.org/filthy-rags.html

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


The Christian and Missionary Alliance Mission Statement

logo_text living the call

Our mission is to know Jesus Christ; exalt Him as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King; and complete His Great Commission:

  • Evangelizing and discipling persons throughout the United States, and
  • Incorporating them into Christ-centered, community-focused congregations,
  • Mobilizing them for active involvement in a missionary effort designed to plant Great Commission churches among both unreached and responsive peoples worldwide.

Here at Akron Alliance Fellowship

Here at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church:

1. We gather to worship God.

2. We learn His Word and incorporate it into our lives.

3. We portray the character of Christ as a servant.

4. We influence others by showing His love and compassion.

5. We pray for each other and our community.


Blessed Are The Merciful

In the beatitudes (Matthew, Chapter 5 and Mark, Chapter 6), God is bringing to his people the focus of His New Covenant through the words of His Sermon on the Mount.The words “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3; Mark 6:20) should make one have the desire to examine himself or herself as to where they are spiritually. Have you considered what the damage of sin and what it can do to others in the community? Do we express sorrow and cry for others in the same way that Jesus cried for those who were lost in Jerusalem? Do we have a hunger and a desire for righteousness (Matthew 5:6)?Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy(Matthew 5:7).Mercy is when a person receives and understands what it is. In order for it to be best understood, it creates an interaction with another person. Mercy is more than just giving a person a lenient sentence as punishment; in contrast, it is understanding the need of the other person and fulfilling the need of the person. Mercy requires action.

Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!

God’s mercy is an ongoing act of compassion. While He does ultimately judge righteousness, His mercy is rooted in His righteousness, and it is those who practice righteousness that can exhibit mercy. It takes God’s mercy upon us to give us direction and focus to remain clean and be obedient to Him. His mercy is not anything that we deserve. We are deemed righteous because of our obedience to Him.

Deuteronomy 13:17-18
Nothing set apart for destruction is to remain in your hand, so that the Lord will turn from His burning anger and grant you mercy, show you compassion, and multiply you as He swore to your fathers. This will occur if you obey the Lord your God, keeping all His commands I an giving you today, doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

The people addressed here were living in an area where they were surrounded with sin and sinful practices; yet, God granted them mercy and showed them compassion. It would not be recognized by the people without their obedience and quest for righteousness.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire loyalty (mercy) and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Matthew 9:10-13
While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Learning to be merciful is to see the needs that a person has in his or her life.

Hebrews 2:17-18
Therefore He (Jesus) had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.

Jesus was our example in everything, even in the demonstration of mercy because He relates to our battles in the flesh. He was our merciful high priest in rendering His service for each of us.

Matthew 11:2-6
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent a message by his disciples and asked Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”

God’s mercy is also upon those who are disenfranchised–the blind, the handicapped, and all of those who have ailments or the less fortunate or the disadvantaged. The dead also refers to the spiritually dead, and God uses His word to revive them.

It is the mercy of God that sees the need of those who are at a disadvantage. The Holy Spirit helps us to examine ourselves and to see our need for Jesus Christ and to also see the world we live in through His eyes. If we see things His way, we will readily see the need for mercy and compassion.

We pray that the Lord gives us the desire to be meek and humble, and not fearful of those who are in sin and carrying out sinful and destructive behavior. We pray for the persuasion of righteousness and for its influence on others to turn to Jesus Christ. We pray for our ministry to others in that, because Jesus has shown us mercy, we can be merciful to others. Lord, minister to us, and we’ll give You the praise, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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.

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