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Sep 20 2017

The struggle for identity

God named Ishmael ‘God hears’ before he was born. Years later, God heard Ishmael’s cry when he was perishing in the wilderness and opened his mother’s eyes to see a spring of water from which she gave him drink – and he lived! Islam claims Ishmael as a spiritual forefather. Today’s Muslims are in the wilderness perishing and crying out for living water. Let the Church pray to the Father to reveal the well of living water, Jesus, so they might live!
The struggle for identity

Probably around 2 years into His ministry, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They responded with the identities of others. Then He asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter got it right: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” and was commended for having heard what only the Father could reveal (Mt 16:13-17). Then Jesus told Peter who he was (vv18-19), and we can be quite sure that at that point Peter had no idea what He was talking about! He was telling Peter how he was known in heaven, but not yet on earth. Our identity is properly defined in heaven.

Muslim identity is in crisis. Islam defines Muslims first as those who submit to Allah’s law or path (sharia) as revealed to Muhammad. Since Muhammad’s revelations, example and teachings show them how to achieve success, they are said to be   winners. The Qur’an teaches Muslims they are “the best people” who must explain what is right and wrong to others, “bidding to honour and forbidding dishonour” (Q 3:110).

But because radical groups like ISIS loudly and publicly claim to be truly submitted to sharia while other Muslims who don’t agree with them are hypocrites, the identity of Muslims is in question. Because Islam’s successful rule throughout 14 centuries ended when the Ottoman caliphate was abolished in the 1920s, Muslims have more recently been claiming to be victims, which is helpful for achieving Islam’s goals in the West where our social systems respond to victims’ needs. And because of the proliferation of Islamic terror, as well as increased Internet access to Christian evangelism, many Muslims have been challenged to discern right from wrong, honour from dishonour.

From the early days of Islam, Muslims have been taught lies (mixed with some truths) about Jesus’ identity. Islam’s creedal statement that “God is one” means that God is unitary. Therefore, Christians are seen as idolaters (mushrikim or “associaters”) because we associate partners (i.e. a son) to God. We know Jesus as Son of God, Saviour, Redeemer, and Lord. Muslims know Him only as a teacher and prophet.

What is the identity of Christians – according to heaven and revealed in Scripture? Dearly loved children of God (1 Jn 3:1). Partakers of the divine nature (2 Pe 1:4). More than conquerors (Ro 8:37). “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Pe 2:9) – to name just a few aspects of who we are from heaven’s perspective. Is Christian identity in crisis as the Lord calls us into mission to Muslims? Is “God’s special possession” confidently declaring His praises among Muslims and loving them as we are loved, or are we shrinking back in fear and content with ignorance and apathy?

Over and over in Old Testament times, Yahweh used tragedy and instability to bring Israel back to Him. Current global instability along with identity crisis is fertile ground for God to establish a new identity for Muslims and to call Christians to rise to their true identity.

Thank God the Father for revealing the excellent way of love. Thank Him for wanting us to know Him, even as we are fully known (1 Co 13:12). Ask Him to help you see yourself as He sees you. Ask Him to send you as He sent Jesus (Jn 20:21). Now ask these things for your church.

Praise Jesus the Son who was obedient to the Father and did and said what the Father was saying and doing (Jn 12:50, 14:31). Pray Muslims will learn the submission of Jesus that is motivated by love and fellowship.

Reflect on the desperate lostness of Muslims. Cry out to Jesus that they would know our Father through His Son by His Spirit, have the same eternal inheritance you’ve been given, and know themselves as heaven knows them. Nothing is impossible for Him!

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About Leslie
Leslie knows by faith and experience that our heavenly Father puts His prayers in our hearts and then listens to our hearts’ cry as we pray them back to Him. We hear God, and God hears us.
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