To Consider: Let’s Magnify Jesus

The following is the lead article in the September/October issue of Intercede, our bimonthly prayer publication. To download the full version of Intercede, click here.

Cross image

Let’s Magnify Jesus

By Dick Brogden

Cairo traffic is terrible. Noisy, loud, crammed, crazy drivers and traffic jams from eight in the morning until eight at night. Cairo taxi drivers are entertaining and varied: some are out-of-work professors, some are toothless peasants, some are gentlemen, some are creepers. Almost all of them are Muslims. We have found that taxis are incredible places to talk about Jesus.

The other day I got in a taxi and noticed the ubiquitous Quran on the dashboard. “I notice you have a Quran,” I said to the driver. “Have you ever read the Bible?” He smiled and told me that he never had. “Have you ever heard about the gospel?” I continued. He shook his head “no.” “I have a covenant with God that I will try and spend five minutes in every taxi ride and tell the driver about the gospel,” I told him. “Can I take five minutes and share with you the good news of what God has done?”

He nodded his head and turned down the radio. I had played the God card—what could he do? And off we went talking about Jesus.

Almost invariably when I start to talk to Muslims about Jesus they tell me: “We love and respect Jesus.” After twenty years of experience in the Muslim world, I learned that similarities with Muslims are not where we should spend our time. We agree with Muslims on the non-transferrable aspects of who God is (omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent), but we do not agree on several crucial points about God — the premier one being the nature of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to talking with Muslims, I want to super exalt Jesus and share who Jesus claimed to be. When a Muslim tells me that he loves and respects Jesus, I slap them on the knee and say: “That is marvelous! I am so glad that you believe Jesus is God! This is wonderful news!” They are usually surprised and quickly state that they do not believe Jesus is God. I point out that they do not really respect Him then—for that was His express claim and we sally forth into a wonderful and respectful conversation about who Jesus claimed to be in the Scriptures. Our conversation is centered on what makes Jesus unique: His deity. Dissimilarities are more important than similarities in witness to Muslims.

To love Muslims is to share with them (in the first conversation) about Jesus and His Word. We don’t believe in “friendship evangelism” if it means to hang around an Arab Muslim for two years before you get around to sharing the gospel. We believe in being friendly to all, and telling everyone about Jesus and the Bible—and then spending our time (pursuing deep friendship) with those who are interested in learning more about Jesus. Every encounter with a Muslim therefore is an opportunity to talk about Jesus—and we intentionally talk about Jesus as He is. Jesus is God, and this is a crucial point in evangelism of Muslims. We should not talk about Jesus in a way that Muslims want to confine us to—they are very pleased to talk about the non-threatening, make-everyone-happy Jesus—but that Jesus does not exist. We must talk about Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible and the earlier the better.

I have repeatedly found that to super exalt Jesus to my Muslim friends by proclaiming His divinity never closes the conversation. It inevitably leads to deep, powerful, intimate discussion on who Jesus really is—not just on who we want Jesus to be. Our witness to Muslims is most effective when it is based on who the Scripture reveals Jesus to be. And Jesus is clearly, quickly, and comprehensively extolled as divine in every Gospel and epistle.

Dave Bish points out that you cannot avoid talking about the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus if you are going to be faithful to the Biblical witness. You start from the Gospel of Matthew: Jesus is called Immanuel in 1:23, and then God’s son (2:15). The first verse in Mark refers to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Luke 1:35 tells us Mary’s child will be the “Son of God.” John 1:1-5 and following pull no punches and establishes Jesus as divine. The gospels resound with the deity of Jesus. Jesus’ favorite title for Himself was “Son of Man,” a reference to deity (not humanity) as he was referencing the revelation of God in human likeness as described in Daniel. “Son of God” is a messianic title: Kingship over all the nations forever. Bish affirms: “Trinity is unavoidable if we want to know who Jesus is . . . avoiding Trinity means avoiding who Jesus is and what he came to bring us into. If I do that with a Muslim I may as well just become a Muslim because my ‘good news’ is going to sound more like ‘fear God and behave’ than receive Jesus and enter into relationship with his Father as we share in Jesus’ death and his resurrection.”

Understanding the Islamic and Quranic view of Jesus helps us realize why the immediate, compelling, and open proclamation of the divinity of Jesus is so important. Central to Islam, central to the Quran, is the refutation of the deity of Christ. The cardinal Islamic theology is tawheed—it means the indivisible unity of God. The central Islamic Creed is called shahada and it can be translated: “There is no deity but God (Allah), and Mohammed is the messenger of God (Allah).”

At first blush, “indivisible unity” and “no deity but God” seem fairly innocuous and even consistent with Christian theology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both are a denial of the deity of Christ, and without a divine Christ, Christianity falls apart. Christ has to be both fully man (only man can die) and fully God (only God can rise from the dead). Tawheed denies the deity of Jesus. The shahada—“There is no deity but God” is also a denial of the divinity of Jesus. The shahada is in essence proclaiming “Jesus is not God.” When the Islamic creed declares—“Mohammed is the messenger of God”—it is essentially saying: “Jesus is not the God/Man. He is not the intermediary between God and man. He has no right to advocate for man before the Father.”

Every time the prayer call sounds—five times a day—voices are lifted to the heavens that deny and insult Jesus. Cairo has over 4,000 minarets. This equates to 20,000 plus daily Islamic prayer calls, which are defiant shouts to the heavens: “Jesus is not God.” When we understand that the essence of Islam is anti-Christ, that all the forces of Islam are arrayed to deny Christ’s divine claim, we can see both why there is so much pressure to downplay the deity of Jesus, and so much importance on boldly lifting up our voices and declaring Jesus is God. Should not the heavens receive in Muslim lands the fearless assertion “Jesus is very God of very God!”

I have never experienced the exaltation of Jesus in witness as a hindrance or an obstacle to Muslims. When we clearly, firmly declare that Jesus is God, it always leads to extended conversations. Have some Muslims been offended? Yes. But let us not equate denial and rejection with misunderstanding. You can understand the claim that Jesus is God and still be offended at it. The gospel is offensive. The deity of Christ is offensive to Muslims. Have many Muslims listened and some (eventually) fallen at the feet of the Divine Savior? Yes. Jesus is worthy of worship by all peoples.

Your starting point in witness to Muslims informs your methodology. If you think that Islam is benign, a neutral ideology and system that can be redeemed, you approach Islam one way. Those who consider Islam kindly see truths in the religion and the religion’s text that can be built on and redeemed. If however, you think that that Islam in essence is evil, demonic and uses small truths to intentionally distort the deity of Jesus, you approach Islam very differently. Recently elected Pope Francis had this to say in his first homily: “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: ‘Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.’ When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.”

Let us magnify Jesus in the ears of our Muslim friends. We believe Jesus is God. The Bible reveals Jesus is God. Islam denies that Jesus is God. We have two choices. If we are over-worried about offending Muslims, we will align ourselves with Islam’s central goal: the suppression, rejection, and rebellion to the deity of Jesus. If we are overjoyed at the supremacy of Christ in all things, we will open our mouths and declare Jesus as divine. I affirm from experience that you can boldly, winsomely, clearly, freely declare to Muslims the deity of Jesus. It is being done daily in Cairo. It is being done around the world by believers that Jesus has rescued from Islam. Nik Ripken interviewed Chinese believers who suffered terribly in communist prisons for their devotion to the divine Christ. They exhort us, “Don’t give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution.”

We profess Jesus is God. This is our testimony. This has always been the undiluted testimony of the Church. The declaration of the divinity of Jesus is how we magnify Him. Let’s magnify Jesus.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “To Consider: Let’s Magnify Jesus”

  1. Glenn says:

    Point me in the right direction to learn to do this for myself to my Muslim friends and families. I am an eager student, but just can’t find the right material to start learning the correct techniques to this group of people. Thank you for the article.

    • GI_team says:

      One place to start is our Resources page. There, click the Publications tab and you will see five booklets that are available for download. Start with “Sharing your faith with Muslims.”

      From there we encourage you to join us every week for Jumaa Prayer on Friday. You can find out more details about Jumaa Prayer under the Get Involved page. We believe that prayer is the tip of the spear to reaching Muslim peoples, and as we pray for them, our love for them grows.

      It sounds as if you already have an awareness of Muslims in your community, so from this point it is a matter of introducing yourself. As encouragement for this, read a recent blog post by a friend working with Muslim immigrants in Madrid, Spain: http://mark-cannon.com/2013/08/23/what-i-learn-as-a-stranger-to-muslims/

      If you have specific questions beyond this, feel free to contact our office. We do offer Muslim Awareness Seminars for churches; we just need an invitation from a pastor.

      God bless!

Leave a reply