The Jesus Conversation -- The Unthinkable: A Muslim Follower of Jesus?
By Tim Timmons, ASSIST News Service On September 22, 2016
Faisal preaching about JESUS
NEWPORT BEACH, CA (ANS - September 21, 2016) -- A Muslim follower of JESUS.... I know this sounds like a complete contradiction, but it's true! People from any culture can genuinely become a follower of JESUS. This is why JESUS' mandate to all of his disciples is to MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS (nations-cultures).
If it weren't possible to be a follower of JESUS in any culture, then JESUS would have specified that you can only be a disciple (follower) of JESUS by denouncing your culture. If it weren't possible to be a follower of JESUS in any culture, then JESUS would have directed those he personally encountered to beware of the beliefs, traditions, and gods of their cultures...but he didn't! He was primarily concerned with the person's relationship with him. (Samaritan woman, Roman official, Syrophoenician woman, the royal official, the demoniac of Gadara).
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An interesting example of a seeming contradiction is found in the life of Peter. God gave him a vision three times, commanding this faithful, religious Jew to kill and eat animals that were unclean and forbidden. Peter refused, yet God said to him, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be." Acts 10
Peter was perplexed, because this thought of violating his religious and cultural traditions was very much out of the box, even heretical thinking to most people at the time. But God's thinking is greater than man's way of thinking. We have the same kind of perplexing situation today. The tense Christian/Muslim narratives that exist today make it unthinkable that a Muslim could actually be a follower of JESUS.
I want you to hear the story of my friend, Faisal. Faisal's story is one of the most unique and genuine transformations I've ever witnessed. We have so many friends who are Muslim followers of JESUS and they share their stories well. When it comes to what it means to be transformed enough to not only follow JESUS as your Master, but to enter into the process of making disciples of JESUS among your peers, Faisal serves as a great model.
"I was born a Muslim in central Uganda," he says. "My Dad was a Muslim religious leader taking care of two districts in the central part of the country. He was an ambassador of the Ugandan Muslim Supreme Council, a body that oversees all activities of the Muslim community in the country. He spent 35 years supporting initiatives for the spreading of Islam.
"As I was growing up, he taught me that Islam is the only true religion and that I should observe the Pillars of Islam and spend my time encouraging all my Christian friends to convert to Islam. I am very proud of my heritage and I identify myself as a Muslim, according to my family, people, and culture and I enjoy breathing that air.
"When I joined one of the Cornerstone Academy schools, where I was accepted as a Muslim, I learned more about JESUS. His message transcended what I had learned, while growing up. What I began to learn created what I can call an internal struggle within me, what in the true sense of Islam I would call 'jihad'.
"During that time of feeling the internal struggle one morning at around 3 a.m., I heard a voice saying, 'Don't fear! Follow JESUS, because he is a word of truth.' I tried to check around to see who could have said that to me, but I did not find anyone. It was a strange experience. Later, I shared it with my friend.
"I tried to resist this call to JESUS, because I thought all followers of JESUS are Christian and I did not want to become a Christian. I believed JESUS to be exclusively related to Christians and therefore, as a Muslim, I have no relationship with JESUS, even though JESUS' character and personality are so attractive and relevant to mankind. I also thought that I had to stop praying at the Mosque, join a Church or Christian gatherings and worst of all, I knew I could not tell my Dad that I had converted to Christianity. I remembered some time back, one of my elder sisters had converted to Christianity and things did not go well for her. She lost the relationship with the family and left home."
He went on to say, "A similar situation almost happened to me as many of my Christian friends tried to convert me to Christianity and they encouraged me to start going to Church. My Dad was not happy with this and sent me away from the family for a period of two years. I was sleeping in a Church building all that time and no Christian friends took me to their home. This is the most painful experience I have ever experienced in my life.
"However, during this time of being all alone, I started studying the Injil (Gospels) with a very big motive of knowing who JESUS is and how can I live my life as a follower of JESUS. I found myself loving JESUS, because of his genuine concern for the total welfare of those he encountered. It was demonstrated, not spoken and included healing, moral teachings, crossing of social barriers, comforting, calming, freeing, touching the untouchables and befriending sinners. It was a genuine unconditional love!
"A big surprise for me was to discover that according to the Gospels, JESUS was not a Christian. And JESUS never urged or required anyone else to become a Christian. To me, JESUS was greater than any religious classification. I came to the conclusion that JESUS is universal. He came for all cultures and that included my Muslim culture. After going through all of my internal struggles, I realized that following JESUS did not require me to abandon my Muslim culture. It's not a matter of religion or culture; it is about the revelation of God's truth as conveyed by JESUS' transformation of my heart.
"Immediately after that I went back home and reconciled with my Dad. After making this decision, I did not have a supportive environment to help follow JESUS within my Muslim culture, until a friend of mine introduced me to your daily blog, THE 180. I printed them out every day and read that message. I was so happy, because, at least, I found someone with the same revelation that people can follow JESUS within their respective cultures.
"It's difficult to explain what happened in me. I felt a definite renewal in my heart, as if a real connection was created inside me. I felt everything was new inside of me. Even though the Qur'an talked about JESUS, I just knew I had to follow JESUS, no matter what. I had only known doing what I was taught to do, but now with JESUS I found an inner peace and freedom I had never known. JESUS came to me with a supernatural, higher level of living, along with the power and freedom to do the things I knew I was to do.
"The message of JESUS to me was a call to a lifestyle that inspired me to share his message of love and peace with my Muslim community. With this inspiration in mind, a few friends and I have committed to work toward providing space to Muslims to proactively reflect on the teachings and person of JESUS. We also are learning how we can relate better with Christians.
"I knew that our lives must be in line with the values of compassion and unconditional love JESUS taught. When we understand, realize and experience the depth and meaning in the message of JESUS, we are better able to move others toward transformation in JESUS.
"I and a few friends have initiated small groups around different universities in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, composed of Muslim and Christian friends who sit every week to reflect on the teachings and person of JESUS. In addition to these nearly 20 universities, we meet in a weekly core group that sits every week in Kampala, Uganda. This work is not affiliated with any religion. Our focus is on JESUS alone. JESUS came to establish the Kingdom of God, not another religion.
Faisal now uses THE WAY JESUS Curriculum to make disciples of JESUS. For it was JESUS' mandate to "make disciples of all nations (cultures)".
After Peter's vision, he was surprised by the servants of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, a devout and good man, but a non-Jew. They took Peter to the house of Cornelius and when Peter heard Cornelius' story and saw the people gathered to hear him, he said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." (Acts 10) Peter finally "got it". This is exactly the word used here for understand. "Oh, now I get it!" JESUS is at work in all cultures. Peter got it! Do you get it?
Note from Dan Wooding: Tim Timmons has now teamed up with the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Tamrat Layne, and have just completed a purely JESUS Curriculum, THE WAY. This unique JESUS curriculum is all about small group discipleship -- and it works! The first volume contains 12 Study Sessions on Personal Transformation, including two invitations from JESUS: "Come & See!" and "Come & Follow!" (Volume II: People Transformation is to be released by the end of 2016.)
"If you want to make disciples of JESUS, then why not use JESUS teachings and methods exclusively? Church growth books and seminars rarely train how to make disciples of JESUS. Leadership books and summits rarely speak of making disciples of JESUS. Very few spiritual leaders rarely make JESUS' primary mandate as their primary mandate," says Tim Timmons.
"Making disciples is JESUS' mandate for all who choose to follow in His steps. For most of my life I've been convinced that JESUS was serious about making disciples, But, along with most everyone else I was confused about how to make disciples of JESUS. The ever-popular thinking about discipleship is that it is the passing along of information -- either teaching one on one or teaching in a group. Discipleship doesn't happen in a Bible study, no matter how good the teaching is. It rarely happens in the typical small group." (To read the full story about this, please go to:http://assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/2127-the-JESUS-conversation-a-revolutionary-JESUS-curriculum?highlight=WyJ0aW0iLCJ0aW0ncyIsInRpbW1vbnMiLCJ0aW0gdGltbW9ucyJd).
Photo captions: 1) Tim Timmons and his wife, Diana, with Faisal. 2) Faisal preaching about JESUS. 3) Printed copies that Faisal made of Tim Timmons blog. 4) Tim & Tamrat in Ethiopia, discussing the next steps for THE WAY. 6) THE WAY front cover. 7) Tim Timmons with Tamrat Layne.
About the writer: Tim Timmons is a teacher, mentor, author and speaker. He and his wife, Diana, have five children and 16 grandchildren and presently live in Newport Beach, California. Check out the following websites: www.timtimmons.com, andwww.tamratlayne.com. Tim can be contacted by email email@example.com.
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