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).
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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.