Self-sacrifice is the Christian worldview
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I was invited to church by some friends. I don’t know why I said yes, I just did. I said yes to go to this church. And you can tell I’m a talker. I don’t mind talking. I’m a talkative guy. I’m expressive. He invited me to church, beautiful sunny Sunday morning, I got in that car, and I was upset because I was seeing all this evidence, and I wanted Islam to be true, but realizing the Bible might be true. Got in the car, they’re asking me, “What’s wrong? What’s the matter? Why are you so quiet?” “I don’t know. It’s Sunday morning. It’s beautiful outside. We should forget this church stuff. Let’s go do something fun.” “No, no, no. You promised.” So I said, “Okay, fine. I’ll go.” So I went, and I was at the church service.
Now, some of you may have had this experience where the pastor is talking to you. You’re the one he’s talking to. He read your Facebook posts, Twitter account. He broke into your email. Something he did. I don’t know what he did, but he’s got your number. Now, when you walk out of that service, you are alive. You’re like, “Oh, my goodness, I’m convicted. I got to do something about this. My goodness,” And you’re ready to go. You see God’s power there.
That happened to me that day, and I didn’t like it one bit because here’s what the pastor said. I remember everything about that service, everything about it. I’m at the last row in this huge auditorium, and he said, “God has been knocking…” No, sorry. “God has been leaning on the door of your life for your whole life. If you would just stop leaning back, the door will slam open, and He’ll flood every room in the house and clean you. Is that you?” I knew it was me, knew it. I knew it. Walked out of that church service even more quiet now.
Now, one of my friends who had invited me to church is now my wife, Nicole. She wasn’t my wife, but we were walking and we had some friends ahead of us and walking around the parking lot. Now I’m Lebanese so I’m fiery, Mediterranean, I get emotional, but I’m not going to cry in front of a woman. That’s not going to happen. But I hunched over in that parking lot, feeling this weight on my shoulders, like I was being crushed. I closed my eyes and saw a vision of these two enormous books that I was holding up like Atlas, and they were crushing me. I’m sobbing openly in this parking lot, hunched over, and I’m saying, “It’s too heavy. I can’t do it. It’s too heavy. I can’t do it. I can’t decide. I can’t decide.”
You see, I’d built a fence for myself to sit on. I couldn’t decide Islam or Christianity, so I built this little fence that was sort of a Chrislam, so to speak, on there. But it wasn’t one of these nice sort of rail fences you can sit on and enjoy the day. It was one of those chain-link deals, with the points on top, where no matter how you shift, it hurts? I was sitting on that fence, and I hated this fence, and I’m sitting there in this parking lot being convicted of this.
Now, I’m crying, Nicole is crying. She’s crying because she’s, like, “He’s huge. If he falls down, who’s going to pick him up?” Now, I didn’t become a Christian that day. What happened that day was I realized that I hate this fence, and I’m going to tear it down, link by link.
So I graduated law school, passed the bar exam. My friends were either working or in school. So I had eight hours a day basically to sit around and study this stuff, and I made it my mission, eight hours a day, to study Islam, Christianity, and every other -ism you can think of, but mostly Islam and Christianity. And I was finding the evidence for the Gospel, for the resurrection of Jesus specifically, and the authenticity of the gospels to be so compelling. I found it compelling.
I remember sitting at the desk in my parents’ den. I was still living at their house at the time, sitting at the desk in their den. On the left side of the desk was all my evidence for Islam piled as high as my eye, notes, sticky tabs, emails from imams, you name it, books, whatever, on the desk. All my evidence to the Gospel, for the resurrection of Jesus, on the right side of my desk. Again, as high as my eye. Playing on the computer behind me over the internet in the dial-up days, you know the … Remember that? You guys even know what that is?
Used to be torturous. A four-minute video would buffer for 15 minutes. It was this debate between a Christian and a Muslim on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. I was literally surrounded by the evidence, literally surrounded by it.
I found the evidence for the Gospel, for Christianity to be so compelling, for the resurrection of Jesus specifically, to be so compelling I knew it was true as a historical fact. I assented to it in my mind. I knew it was true, but it didn’t take the longest journey it can take 17 inches south from my head to my heart, would not go. I would not embrace it. I began to ask out loud, muttering to myself. “Why, God? Why? Why can’t I accept it? I know it’s true. Why can’t I embrace it? Why can’t I embrace it as true? Why, God? Why?”
Then answer literally walked by. My dad walked by, and he smiled at me, proud that I was studying to be a good Muslim. How do you reach over to his heart, pull it out of his chest and do that to him? How do you do that to him, with the whole family, to myself? I wasn’t ready to give up that level of comfort in my life. But as CS Lewis says, “If you look for truth, you will find comfort. If you look for comfort, you will find neither comfort, nor truth. Only soft soap in the beginning and in the end, despair.”
I was at that point. I knew right then and there. It’s not that I couldn’t believe. It’s that I wouldn’t believe because of the cost, the price I would have to pay. I thought, “Whatever Jesus did for me, it wasn’t enough for what I was going to have to go through.”
But then I began to read the Bible a little more, and see something. See, I believed Allahu Akbar, God is great, the greatest possible being. Then I realized something. You read scripture, and you see something. I was reading the Bible more and more, Roman 5:8, because of this, I’ll close. Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
We kind of breeze past those Christians. I didn’t, as a Muslim. You see, I admired people who showed true love, the greatest expressions of love. What is the greatest way you can express love? Sending someone a nice note, showing up at work or class or whatever, surprising them, and giving them a little gift. Oh, sure. That’s great. That’s partly about you. You want to be Romeo, she’s Juliet, we want to have this nice little thing going on, right? It’s about you, too.
But when you really know someone loves you, it’s when they’re willing to do something for you that hurts them and benefits you only. Self-sacrifice is the greatest expression of love there is. And it stood to reason. If Allahu Akbar, if God is the greatest possible being, then the greatest possible being would express the greatest possible ethic, which is love, in the greatest possible way, which is self-sacrifice.
He is not doing that in Islam or any other system of the world. No worldview has Him doing that. The only place where the greatest possible being expresses the greatest possible ethic in the greatest possible way which is self-sacrifice is the Christian worldview because He does that at the cross for you and for me. God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. We sacrifice for those who love us back while we were sinners. Those who hate God, He does that for us. That is a love no worldview knows. If Allahu Akbar, if God is great, then that’s the God who He is. That’s when I realized I could trust Him, and I would gain far more than I would lose, and He would be the one I would gain. That’s when I finally realized He’s worth it, and that’s when God made me into a son out of a stone.
That’s it. Thanks, guys.
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