If My Sins Are Forgiven, Can I Do Whatever I Want?

Dear Muslim readers,

As a follower of Jesus, my Muslim friends often say, “You Christians think you can stick your sins on Jesus, and then sin freely. You think you can do whatever you want if you are forgiven. Isn’t that true?”

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I answer, “Astaghfirullah! (an Arabic expression of disapproval or shame, meaning “God forgive me”) God forbid! No! We love God so much for what He has done for us through Jesus, that we desire to be free from sin to honor Him!”

As the Bible says, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” (Romans 6:1-2). Forgiveness from God should lead toward a growing purity and holy life in the one forgiven.

In this blog post, let me share more with you about how I believe the Bible itself answers this very important question about a person being forgiven, but then doing whatever they want. I have 6 points:

#1 – Many people who call themselves “Christians” are simply not followers of Jesus. They have not truly repented. If they had, there would be true change in their lives: change in their attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. The Bible says you become a “new creation” – a new person – when you repent of your sins, receive his gift of forgiveness, invite Jesus to take over control of your life, and commit yourself to following him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new creation (a new person). The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Matthew 7:16 – You will know them by their fruits (how they act).”
1 John 1:6 – “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
1 John 2:3,4 – “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

#2 – When you have genuinely accepted Jesus as the Savior of your sins, you want to live for him, obey him, follow him. Your heart is filled with gratitude which overflows into a desire to not do “whatever you want,” but to do “whatever He wants.” You just want to please Him and live for Him!

2 Corinthians 5:9 – “we make it our goal to please him.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

#3 – The primary motive in avoiding sin as a follower of Jesus is not fear of hell but love for Jesus and for Almighty God.

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
2 Corinthians 5:14 – “Christ’s love compels us.”
1 John 4:19 – We love Him because He first loved us.”

#4 – While fear of hell is not a Jesus follower’s primary motive for pure and righteous living, a healthy and reverential fear of appearing before God the perfect Judge after death (to judge one’s works, not his/her sins) is a solid Biblical motivator.

1 Peter 1:17 – “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in the land.’”
1 John 2:28 – “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

#5 – When a person commits their life to Jesus and begins to follow him, there is a change in the heart. The Bible actually says you gain a “new heart.” There actually takes place something like a spiritual “heart transplant!”

Ezekiel 36:26 – “I will give you a new heart.”

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#6 – After a person becomes “born again,” a new power (grace) comes into their lives – a new power to resist sin.

Titus 2:11, 12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

When Jesus comes into your heart following true repentance, there is true change. Jesus himself called it being “born again” (The Holy Injeel, The Gospel According To John 3:3). For some people, this change is virtually overnight. They stop swearing, gossiping, envying, boasting, lying, rebelling against parents, stealing, drinking, using drugs, and engaging in immorality right away. In essence, they stop living for themselves and begin living for the Lord. This gives them new joy, new freedom, new purpose. They feel alive for the first time in their lives.

For others, the change is slow but sure – like a butterfly coming out of a cacoon. Old sinful habits like those just mentioned die hard, but they do eventually die for one who sincerely follows Jesus. It takes time. Years. And it is a battle – a real and constant battle! A battle against 3 adversaries: this world’s anti-God system, our old desires which creep back in, and our adversary the devil.

To all my Muslim friends, please see from these Biblical truths that we who are really followers of Jesus can’t just “do whatever we want” after we receive the gift of forgiveness. This would go against everything we believe!

Do followers of Jesus still sin? Yes, we do. Of course. We fail every day.

But generally speaking, the forgiveness we have experienced actually motivates us to forsake (abandon, desert, leave, turn one’s back on) sin and live for God out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends!

Did Isa – Jesus – Die On The Cross. . .Or Was It Someone Else?

(Dear Muslim friends: as you read the title of this movie clip, I am very aware that you don’t believe that Jesus was/is the Son of God. I want to assure you that the Bible teaches that this is a spiritual relationship between God and Jesus, NOT a physical one)

DID ISA – JESUS – DIE ON THE CROSS. . .OR WAS IT SOMEONE ELSE?

Yesterday was a day celebrated by Christians around the world. It is called, “Good Friday.” It is our remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

I know that you – as Muslims – believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but that God took him up to Paradise and put his facial image on someone else – maybe Pilate, maybe Judas, maybe someone else.

But I wonder, would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words with nails in their hands and feet as they were being crucified:

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

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Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as their bones were being put out of joint (part of the effects of crucifixion)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were being mocked and ridiculed by Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders and people who were watching (yes, this happened to Jesus)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were suffocating (the ultimate way a victim dies in crucifixion)?

My Muslim friends, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died that first Good Friday on the cross.

Not Pilate.

Not Judas.

Not anyone else.

Because no one else can love like that.

No else can love like Jesus.

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My Dear Muslim Friends: I Love You Too Much. . .To Be Silent

Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

My Arab Muslim barber often says to me, “Mr. Mark, I love you too much!” I know he is using the word “too” with the meaning of “so” and it always warms my heart. Believe me, I feel the same way about him! He is a very special person to me and I love him.

A few years ago, I heard about a Christian woman in the Middle East who was meeting for coffee with several Muslim women. Suddenly, a Muslim man – a relative of one of the women – came into the room and began to preach Islam to the Christian woman. Among other things, he told her that her doom in hell was sure unless she repented and took Islam for her religion. I found her response very interesting.

After a few moments of careful thought, she simply replied to him to him with real honesty and sincerity, “Hamza, thank you for telling me these things. Your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.” She was saying in essence,

You love me too much to be silent and I greatly appreciate it.”

In my own life, I remember an experience with a Muslim man from the Middle East who was attending a university in the United States. We became friends and had many wonderful times of discussion about faith issues – sometimes until 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. On one occasion, Omar related that he had walked by an American restaurant with another Muslim friend. As they looked in the window at those who were eating, Omar said with real concern in his voice, “Abdullah, all these people, going to the hell-fire.”

I asked Omar for an explanation of his comment. He explained that in his mind – in his way of thinking – these people were not Muslims and were in danger of hell. I could see that it clearly pained him and I deeply respected him for that. He cared about the eternal destiny of those people and because of that care, it was hard for him to be silent.

Now some – if not many – of my Muslim readers may not agree with Omar or Hamza’s theology regarding who goes to hell but here is the point I want to make in this blog post today: we should not be silent about what we believe.

No, silence about finding a source of water is not a loving way to live when people you know are dying of thirst.

In light of this, please consider 3 thoughts:

#1) Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, if you love someone, you don’t want them to go to hell. Isn’t that right? It disturbs you to think about it. It actually hurts deeply to think of someone – especially someone you care about – suffering that horribly, and for that long, in fire!

#2) To my Muslim readers: if you believe that submitting to Allah, obeying the Qur’an, and following the life and teachings of Muhammad is the only way to Paradise and that for a friend to knowingly reject these teachings will send him or her to the hell-fire, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! As I understand it, it is your duty – your religious obligation – to “invite” your friend to follow the ways of Muhammad and embrace Islam (this is “dawa”).

#3) The same goes for my Christian readers: if you believe that following the ways of Jesus as taught in the Bible is the only way to Heaven and that for a friend to knowingly reject his teachings and sacrifice for sins will send him or her to hell, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! Your love for God and your friend compels you to share the “Good News” of Jesus death and resurrection and his offer of forgiveness of all sins with your friend (this is “evangelism”).

So. . .as I close, I want to say to any Muslim who has spoken or will speak to me about your faith, thank you for caring for my eternal soul by speaking of the Qur’an and the teachings and ways of Muhammad to me. As in the story of the woman above, your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.

In addition, I want to say to you, my dear Muslim friends whom I love:

Please allow me to share with you what I believe about Jesus. He is the man I believe to be the one and only Savior from sins and hell-fire that you and I – that all people – so desperately need. I say with heartfelt love and incredible concern: your eternity depends on how you view Jesus and what you do with him as a result of that view.

Please have the courage and commitment to truth to pray something like this:

“O God, please show me who Jesus really is. Please show me if he was just a prophet or. . .if he is something more. Show me if he really did die for my sins so I can be forgiven and be in Paradise forever with You.”

Jesus once said these words to a woman at a well in Palestine (Injeel, Gospel of John 4:13-14):

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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I have found living water in the desert of my thirsty soul. It comes from Jesus.

It would indeed be a crime for me to be silent and not tell you about it.

I love you so much, my Muslim friends.

I love you too much. . .to be silent.

Dear Muslim Friends: Do You Fear Hell? You Don’t Have To. . .

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Dear Muslim friends,

“Do you fear hell?”

I usually don’t start out my blog posts with such a serious kind of question. But this is a subject that is really on my mind today and is incredibly important. I wanted to get right to the heart of the matter.

Please allow me to share a few brief experiences I have had with some Muslim friends regarding fear of hell.

A few years ago, I was with a dear Muslim friend from Bangladesh, enjoying a meal together. We were having great conversation about life and faith and at some point I asked him, “Do you fear hell?” His answer really impacted me (and hurt me on the inside). He looked down and said with real seriousness and a sadness in his voice and facial expression, “Every day.”

Another time, I was driving with a Muslim friend from Yemen and I asked him the same question. He replied with surprise, “Who wouldn’t fear hell? Can you imagine burning your hand in a fire? Then try to imagine your whole body burning. Can you imagine that? Of course I fear hell.”

While taking Christians on a tour of another mosque in Michigan, a very kind and well spoken imam said, “Your good deeds can outweigh your bad deeds and you can still go to hell.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because God is King. He can do whatever He wants.” (Wow, I have to admit, that answer shocked me.)

Dear Muslim friends, may I share with you why I don’t fear hell?

First of all, let me say that it’s not because I am such a good person. It’s not because my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds on a scale on the day of judgment. It is certainly not because I never sin, because I sin every day – against the Lord and against people. I sin every day – either in my actions or in my thoughts. I sin every day – in what I do or in what I should have done. And I am not alone. The Injil says that we all have sinned and that we all have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).

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No, the reason that I don’t fear hell has nothing to do with my goodness. It has everything to do with God’s goodness. And just as importantly, with God’s promise. You see, God has promised that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice will be completely, totally, and forever forgiven. Imagine it. All sins forgiven. Washed away. Every single one. All shame removed.

I have followed God’s way, His path. I have chosen to follow Jesus as my Savior. Because of this – and only this – I have God’s incredible, amazing, stunning promise of forgiveness in my heart:

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And because of this – and only this – I do not fear hell.

God. . .is a promise maker.

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And God. . .is a promise keeper.

He can change His mind.
But He won’t.

Why?
He promised.

This is my hope and prayer for every man and every woman: that they not be plagued by a constant anxiety about hell but that they might know an incredible peace in the deepest part of their soul. That they might know that heaven can be their eternal home and that their sins can be completely and eternally forgiven.

This is God’s amazing promise to all who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice of love.

Dear Muslim friends: “Do you fear hell?”

If you do, please hear these words: “You don’t have to. . .”

I MUST Warn You: “Every Bridge To Paradise Is Out. . .Except One!”

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

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Imagine yourself driving alone on an extremely cold, rainy night – the rain is pouring down, the visibility is low, the road conditions are slippery and dangerous.

Imagine that you near a large bridge ahead but somehow, some way, you are able to see that the bridge is not there! It has collapsed.

Miraculously, you are able to slide to a stop just at the edge of the collapsed bridge or you and your car would have plunged into the icy waters below. You would have surely been killed by the impact, drowned, or frozen to death. But somehow by the mercy of God you saw that the bridge was out.

What would you do then? Surely you would breathe a huge sigh of relief and thank God for saving you from dying. Right? But. . .what then?

There are people who are traveling behind you. Many people. Some of them you know. Some of them you don’t. But they are coming and if you don’t find a way to warn them, they will certainly plunge to the horrible doom you were rescued from.

In your mind you picture the horrible images of carnage and destruction that await them!

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Your mind races.

How can you warn them that the bridge is out?

1) Call 911 and leave it all up to someone else – the professional rescuers – to save people?
2) Quickly make a sign and hold it up for oncoming drivers to see: “Danger – Bridge Out Ahead!”
3) Stand on the side of the road and wave kindly – but timidly – to oncoming cars?
4) Stand on the side of the road and wave frantically – yelling and screaming at oncoming cars of the danger ahead?
5) Stand in the middle of the road – refusing to move – risking your life to stop traffic to save people from dying?

Or. . .would you do nothing because of what people might SAY to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

“Who do you think you are?”
“You shouldn’t be here!”
“You’re intolerant!”
“I know where I’m going and how to get there!”
“Mind your own business!”
“Get out of my way!”

Would you do nothing because of what people might DO to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

laugh at you. . .
mock you. . .
curse you. . .
throw things at you. . .or even. . .
beat or kill you.

What would determine how you would act on that cold, rainy night?

Fear of what people would think of you?

OR. . .

Concern for what would happen to them if they kept going?

The prophet Solomon (Sulaiman) said we must do something! God Himself is watching:

Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help
.
If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know —
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Message)

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Rescue. . .
don’t stand back and let them die.

Don’t try to disclaim responsibility
by saying you didn’t know about it.

For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew!
And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Living Bible)

My dear readers – whether you call yourself a “Muslim” or a “Christian” or something else – I love you. I care about you. That is why it is my absolute duty before God to warn you that every spiritual “bridge” you are trusting in on the Day of Judgment is out except for one.

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The only “bridge” you can trust to cross over into Paradise is the person and work of Jesus.

God looked down upon you and me and knew that we could not do enough good things in this life to cross over safely into Paradise. He sent the Prophets to warn us. They were mocked, laughed at, rejected, even killed. Then He sent Jesus. He sent him to die. To be sacrificed. In your place – and mine. For the shame and punishment of your sins – and mine. How do we respond? By accepting the free gift of that sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. By giving our life to Jesus in humble, loving gratitude and then becoming his lifelong followers.

This is the bridge that God Himself has built to save us.

There is no other bridge. There is no other way:

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (the Injil, the Good News according to John, chapter 14, verse 6).

Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one” (the Book of the Acts of Jesus’ Apostles, chapter 4, verse 12).

My dear friends, I WARN you because I LOVE you.

I warn you because I CARE.

Every bridge is out.

Every bridge except one. . .

That bridge. . .is JESUS.

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Postscript:

To my “Muslim” readers, what I am trying to do – boldly and unapologetically – is to plead with you to examine the claims of Jesus in the Injil. To read about his life and yes, his death and resurrection. To see that no one loves you like he does. To see that no one else has given their life for you like he has.

You can trust your good works to get you to Paradise but I MUST warn you. . . that bridge is out. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to repent (turn away) from your sins and follow him as your Savior. Will you answer that call?

To my “Christian” readers, I fear for so many of you. Why? Because you are trusting in your good works to get you to Heaven. Maybe you said a “sinner’s prayer” but let me ask you, “Are you living for Jesus?” “Are you following him?” “Have you given him your life?” Or did you just pray at one time long ago for “fire insurance” but without real repentance from sin and real commitment to Jesus? It won’t work. I warn you. . .that bridge is out.

It’s time to quit playing games with God, with yourself, with your eternity. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to follow him.

Will you answer that call?