Yakup Korkmaz (pseudonym), Missionary to the Muslim World
Ambassadorship and our Sanctification (2 Cor. 5:20)
You are sent to live in a city of one million people, and there is not one church. Not only that, you find out there is not one Christian in the city. Bibles or Christian materials are not sold in any bookstore. However, you are sent to this city for one reason: to be an ambassador for King Jesus.
Aside from the difficulty that you are the only Christian living in this city—King Jesus, his book, and church have been misrepresented to these people for over a millennium. They think followers of Jesus are polytheistic, drunken, promiscuous, war-mongering brutes. The city-dwellers have also been taught that King Jesus’ words have been changed and corrupted, and that churches are no different than places of idol worship. In this context what would you do to best represent your King, his church, his word, and his followers?
I have had to try to answer this question since I moved to the Muslim world in 2002. Over the years I have found that obedience to the call of ministering in whatever context God calls you to, has a direct correlation to an increase of faith and sanctification.
Sanctification through the word of God (Jn. 17:17-19)
Is the Bible your only rule for faith and practice?
As an Ambassador for the King I did not want to represent America, or American culture to those that I was sent to reach. I was made keenly aware of how important this was when my Muslim friends asked me questions such as: Do Christians drink water standing up or not? Do you really eat pork? How do you purify yourself? How do Christians use the bathroom? Afterwards why don’t you clean yourself with water? How do Christians bury their dead? How many times a day must you pray? What is and when is the Christian fast observed? Why do you believe in a book that has been changed and corrupted? Why do you believe in three gods?
I was scrutinized. Every word, action, or response was taken to be “Christian”. I was forced to examine every belief I held, and every action performed through the lens of Scripture. I began to realize that many low-level beliefs that I held were not necessarily biblical, but rather formed from my Bible-Belt upbringing. I also was challenged in my theological beliefs concerning the person and work of Jesus, and the authority and reliability of his word. I would have never been challenged to search the word so deeply concerning these, if I would not had gone as an ambassador for the King.
I also was aware that new converts could only evaluate belief, and practice from the Bible, as they had no previous Christian background to lean on. Some BMB's (believers from a Muslim background) do not have access to Christian resources in their languages. I did not want the new disciple to ask me, “I see you believe this or that, or do or do not do this or that, but I have read in the Bible here that….” As I searched the Scriptures afresh, God began to sanctify me from previously assumed doctrines and practices (or lack thereof). This removal of what I presumed to be biblical Christianity helped equip me as an ambassador to represent him better, and my culture less.
As I began to answer the “why” of each question asked, my faith was strengthened because I prayed through each and studied God’s word to find the grounds that justified my answers. I fell in love with Jesus and his word more deeply because of this. I trusted him, and his word - which empowered me, and I felt equipped to then declare him boldly, even to preach at the steps of mosques. I was more concerned about making him known than my culture or a denomination. (See 1. Pet. 2:2, 2 Tim. 3:17, Heb. 4:12; 2. Cor. 4:5).
Sanctification through Spiritual Disciplines
When you are called to serve, you do not have the luxury to have spiritual “off time”. I remember one of our interns telling me it was hard for him to have his “quiet-time”. We were in a Muslim city of 20 million people, crammed streets, and his apartment was full of people. There was no place, and no time for what he believed was “quiet-time”. He told me he did not feel prepared unless he had his “quiet-time,” and he went on to explain that is when he confesses his sins. I told him in this context, you must walk with the Lord from the time you wake till the time you sleep, and you must confess your sins and repent not during a “quiet-time”, but as soon as the sin is committed. You must be constant in prayer, have the word stored in your heart, and be prepared to give a defense to Muslims that will ask you questions (1. Thes. 5:17. Ps. 119:11; 1. Pet. 3:15). The intern had been trained to compartmentalize his spiritual life, starting with a “quiet-time”. I reminded him his entire waking moments must be quiet-times, and that many in the world do not even know this concept exists. In countries I have ministered in like Pakistan, many may live in one room with ten others, and in mega-cities there is no place to be “alone”. Cultures in the East tend to be more collective rather than individualistic. The intern needed to adjust his idea of spiritual disciplines, and make them as natural as breathing.
You will be challenged to fast because of the many burdens in your ministry. Countless times we felt compelled to declare a fast in our church, family, and supporting churches. For example, Muslim terrorists would threaten to bomb our church, or the local newspaper would write a slanderous article making us targets for extremists, or we would plan evangelistic trips to remote Muslim villages that had never seen a Christian, all would warrant a declared fast. In fact, as I write this, one of our Kurdish pastors is being targeted by extremist, and we are fasting for him and his family! This is something I was not accustomed to, until I obeyed the call to serve as an ambassador.
[Note about “quiet-time”: I am not saying we should not find time alone to pray. Even Jesus did this (Mark 1:35), but in some contexts it may not be as often as we wish.]
Sanctification through Putting the Flesh to Death (1 Thes. 4:3)
As an Ambassador for the King your eyes, ears, tongue, hands, legs - even your finger nails do not belong to you (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Every waking moment you must yield/submit the individual members of your body to God as tools, weapons, and instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:12-14). Your calling demands this. Your obedience to Christ to make disciples of all nations must challenge you to live holy before the lost. Ambassadors must be holy (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
Stop watching pornography. Stop gossiping. Use your speech to edify and encourage. Do not be drunk with alcohol or be high on drugs, but adorn your body with eternal “accessories” (1 Cor 6:18, Eph. 4:29, Eph. 5:18; 1. Pet. 3:3-4). Use your legs to take you to bless, pray, preach, teach, and do good works. Use your hands to write/text words in a manner that edifies the body of Christ. Stop putting immoral and false teaching into your minds via the ear and eye gate, including some music, movies, tv series, and books (2 Tim. 4:3-4, 2. Pet. 2, 1 Tim. 4:1-2, Eph. 5:6; Heb. 13:9).
Daily submit your eyes, tongue, mind, ears, hands, legs, and every body part to God to be used as a tool, weapon, and instrument of righteousness, for his glory (Rom. 6:12-14).
As you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, you will be at war with the flesh, but the daily discipline of coming to the throne of grace in your time of need (temptations) will train you to rely not on your own strength, but in Christ alone (Mat. 6:33, Rom. 7:22-23, Heb. 4:14-16; Gal. 2:20). Your salvation, and your sanctification is not in and of yourselves. It is in Jesus.
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
Be encouraged--King Jesus that sends you as his ambassadors, will help, sustain, and complete you. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php. 1:6).
Dr. Robert Vincent, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, SC
We huddled nervously, our eyes intent on the man before us, our bewildered faces searching his for guidance. The moment was big. Everything was at stake. A sea of thunderous noise, bright lights, and people surrounded us. An impossible task loomed. . . .
Buried in that tense childhood memory is an incalculable treasure. Our coach wisely chose in that moment not to point our attention to the crowd, or even to the momentous event of which we were a part. He pointed us to each other. “TEAM,” he emphasized, “you can do this, if you do it together. No individual can win this by himself, but you can win it with each other, and for each other.” Even in a Pee Wee League City Championship, the concept of teamwork can be powerful.
By God’s design, we need each other. When He created perfect humans in a perfect garden, He created them to need each other. And within the bond of the New Covenant, all of the members are designed by God to be interdependent. We belong to each other as family. We are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25). We are living stones constituting the same house (1 Peter 2:5), branches growing together from the same Branch (John 15:1-2, 5), brothers and sisters sharing one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6). We are graced by God’s Spirit with gifts on which others depend. He has created us new not only for fellowship with Himself, but for fellowship with each other. God intends to use us in each other’s lives for our mutual growth, and we worship Him when we let Him use us this way.
How mindful are we of this divine design? Do we comprehend it? value it? participate in it? plan for it? Two helpful questions rise at this point: 1) Are we being used by God to be a sharpening influence on others? 2) Do we seek to be sharpened by others?
Our college years are probably the season in life when we are most influenced by our peers. All of us have opportunity for spiritual influence on those near us (Proverbs 27:17). Is my influence sharpening or dulling? Do I choose my friendships with sacred influence in mind? Do I ever prepare to be an intentional sharpening influence on those nearest me? Do I pray for opportunities to serve others “in word and in tongue” and “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18)? Do I weigh my words to consider whether they are constructive and edifying? Do I seek to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)? Do I ever meaningfully “agitate” my brothers and sisters in the Lord to good works and love (Hebrews 10:24)?
Of course, our influence is felt not only by what we choose to say and do, but in the things from which we opt out – choosing not to repay evil for evil or return a threat (1 Peter 2:23); to not be deceitful to others (Ephesians 4:25), critical of others (Philippians 2:3), to not be discontent with our circumstances or to complain about others (Philippians 2:14); or to say no to our willful flesh that wants to use our freedom in Christ selfishly (Galatians 5:16).
The apostle Paul teaches us that we are called to a freedom to serve each other in love (Galatians 5:13). Envision that . . . a freedom that voluntarily enters a new kind of slavery that selflessly serves my brothers and sisters in love. Spiritual fruit in my life enriching theirs.
The impossibility of loving even my Christian neighbor as myself reminds me of my need to walk by God’s Spirit. The Spirit walks, and my need is to walk by Him (Galatians 5:16), to keep in step with Him (Galatians 5:25), measuring my strides with His, moving in the same direction, content with His pace. If I ask, “What does walking by the Spirit look like in this specific situation?”, I can be grateful that God’s Spirit has breathed out a wealth of guidance in the Word, marking out sure steps on which to set my feet.
Good teams consist of good teammates. Good teammates use their influence to make those around them better. Brothers and sisters, will we help each other forward in our spiritual journey?
Pastor Dick Hester, Lebanon Baptist Church in Roswell, GA
Milk the cows!
God wants to be wanted, and a casual, half-hearted attempt at seeking Him will not work. There are dozens of commands in the Bible to seek the Lord, and many promises for those who do. Let me paraphrase a few: “...and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul...Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually...When You said, ‘Seek My Face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your Face, O Lord, I shall seek.’”
If you are going to choose to actively seek the Lord, where would you look and how would you do it? I believe the place to go is intense personal prayer and purposeful corporate prayer, with an agenda or a strong desire of asking God to meet with you. God promises that He will be present in these prayer encounters. Psalm 16:11 says, “...In Your presence is fulness of joy.” God’s promise is that “if we seek Him, we will find Him and, if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us”. We must draw near to Him to really experience Him--as if we took a trip to heaven and saw Him and heard Him!
Have you ever lost something that was very important, and you could not find it even as you desperately looked for it? My wife and I lost our passports, which we knew we had to have to go on a ministry trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo. The plane tickets had been bought and we were leaving in 2 days, when we discovered our passports were not in the place where we always kept them. This was crazy! We did find them after much searching and frantically racking our brains, trying to remember where they could be.
God tells us in His Word that if we would seek wisdom we would find it, but only if our seeking is “with our whole heart”--not casually. I think that casually or lazily seeking wisdom from the Lord in prayer is a subtle indicator that we think we can really do it on our own; while we would never say “I don’t need God for this; I can figure it out,” that’s actually what we’re saying if we’re not praying earnestly. But then comes the situation that pushes us into a corner, and we have no clue what to do or say . . . then we're desperately seeking God’s wisdom in prayer. Wouldn’t it be so much better if our seeking the Lord was an every day attitude of humility, of understanding our desperate need, and a faithful discipline of prayer--daily, at least!
I don't think dairy farmers ever say, “What do you think? Shall we milk the cows today?” They always milk the cows every day. It is a discipline. One of the foundational spiritual disciplines is spending time with God in prayer daily--examining our lives and confessing all known sin to Him, and reviewing the day and thanking God for all that He gave us strength to do. This ought to be a daily duty. It is easy to become undisciplined in doing the basics every day...every day...every day... Once a single day is missed it’s easier to miss another day...and another...and another, and soon you have backslidden away from God, Who is our Nourishment for spiritual growth. Our peace, strength, and joy are gone and we begin to struggle in relationships. You always milk the cows, and you always do the basic disciplines. In making the basic spiritual disciplines a daily “duty”, some would use the word, “legalism”. If a farmer was haphazard in milking his cows we would call him lazy, irresponsible, even stupid; soon we’d also call him bankrupt. A Christian who is faithful in the spiritual basics is wise, committed, and very blessed of God!
I take Insulin twice a day for my diabetes to control my sugar; it is effective in keeping this disease in check. Those are a part of my routines which I must never miss, and no one calls those legalistic or being too rigid and inflexible. They are routines which are essential in my life now and it is just wise. So when we jump from physical health disciplines to spiritually being faithful, regimented, and diligent, why call it “legalistic”? Those of us who love Jesus with all our hearts and don't want to backslide from Him (and know how easy it is to do that) are disciplined in the basic foundation of prayer...every day...every day...every day. They milk the cows!
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.