". . . I found a copy of the English Bible with references . . . The first few days I spent in picking out of it . . . the Gospel of Matthew. In the reading of this gospel what impressed me most was the fulfillment of the prophecies of Christ . . . The search for the fulfilled prophecies gave me an exciting time. As a Muslim I was taught to believe that all the previous scriptures pointed to the coming of Muhammad, the last of the line of the Prophets beginning with Adam, but my study of the Bible proved to me conclusively that Christ was the last of all to come as God's final Messenger, and being His Son He could not be superseded by another . . . The passages in the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, helped me a great deal to understand the nature of the death of Christ: "He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed . . ."
J. A. Subhan
Nothing is free in this world,
The question merely is:
"Who pays the price?
Who bears the cost?"
Forgiveness is not free
In the sense that no one pays;
That it does not matter who does.
Always someone must pay,
Someone must bear the consequences,
Must bear "the load of sin" that's left behind.
The forgiver forgoes the cost of the priceless vase,
The host picks up the tab.
Divine bounty scatters gifts abroad,
Of his fulness have we all received.
He who can and has the heart
Bears the other's burden -
Takes it upon himself;
The burden borne,
The cup drained to the last bitter drop;
Forgiveness may be free to you and me
It may be free but not cheap.
He Himself "took away our illnesses,
Himself lifted our diseases from us."
"Behold the Lamb of God;
It is He who takes away the sin of the world."
The cup of bitterness,
The lonely Cross of agony and anguish,
The forsaken horrors in Love's name;
He bore them all for our sake.
Now for ever flows
From the Throne of God
The life-giving River of forgiveness and grace,
To all God's scattered children of every race.
When I was a young man, I visited my uncle's home shortly after a political strike had led me to drop out of college for a brief time. One reason I enjoyed going to his home was the large collection of books he had in his library. My uncle was not only an avid reader and scholar but he was also an author and poet.
One day I came across a book written in Urdu verse by my uncle. It was called A Prayer of a True Christian. Its theme was that since Christians had missed the way, Muslims were their true successors. It ended with the prayer, "Do not lead us in the way of the Christians, but make us walk in the straight path of Islam."
I didn't realize it then, but that book was destined to become the first of a series of unusual events that served to revolutionize my life.
I was raised in an orthodox Muslim home, and our entire family was fully and actively engaged in the practice of Islam. In fact, there was a nearby mosque that was under the patronage of my mother's family. On my father's side, too, the family provided religious instruction and leadership in the Muslim community. When I was three years old, my mother died in an epidemic that wiped out thousands of people. My sister also died in that plague, and one of the earliest pictures in my mind is that of my twenty-two-year-old uncle being prepared for burial. All of that made a solemn and lasting impression on me.
My grandmother, who was a very fervent Muslim, brought me up. At an early age I was sent to the local mosque to learn Arabic and to memorize the Quran. All of my family were so regular in prayer and fasting that we were called "the maulvi family" by everyone in the community. Islam dominated our lives from morning to sunset; it was truly woven into the warp and woof of our daily existence. I remember seeing my father delirious with fever get out of bed to say his prayers five times a day. Even though we took a keen interest in Islam and sought to gain a firm understanding of it, I must admit that we also used the name of Allah in taking presumptuous oaths and in telling lies. This was an integral part of the way of life of everyone in our town.
Until I was about twenty years of age, my view of the Christian faith was the typical misunderstanding that is prevalent in Islam. I had no intimate contact with Christians and what I knew about their beliefs was derived from the Quran and various mullahs. Although my father had a copy of the New Testament, I never cared to read it, nor did I see my father read it. I was simply indifferent to the whole matter of the Christian faith.
In an unexpected way, however, my indifference began to be undermined. It all started with the reading of my uncle's book, A Prayer of a True Christian. But it wasn't any particular statement in the book that affected me. Rather my attention was directed to the footnotes my uncle had included in it. In them I found certain references made to the Bible. Then I remembered the New Testament my father had and I went to get it. My curiosity had been whetted. I wanted to know what the Bible actually did say.
As I searched the New Testament for those references, I was struck by the fact that it presented something very different from what I had been taught in my childhood. I became so interested in it that I went on to read the rest of the New Testament. I found this to be a startling experience. The entire atmosphere of the New Testament was fundamentally different from that of the Quran. The teaching that God is love and that he demonstrated his love for us in Christ's sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection, the Sermon on the Mount,* the revelation that salvation is by grace alone - these are categories in which a Muslim does not even think.
Not long after this, I saw one of my former college classmates who was a Christian and I thought that this was a good opportunity to get some of my questions answered. I had been particularly puzzled about the doctrine of the Trinity and the meaning of redemption through Christ. My friend was unable to answer my questions, but he told me about a Chriatian professor who could help me with these problems.
When I went to see the professor, I was pleased that he patiently answered my questions. For the first time, I felt that I was beginning to understand the meaning of the Christian faith. Formerly I had known it in a remote and distorted way. I thought of it as the foreign religion of Europeans, and especially of the British who occupied our land. But I had never seen the Christian faith truly lived and demonstrated in their way of life. In spite of my prejudices and misunderstanding, I was beginning to glimpse something of the nature of genuine Christianity.
One day a friend of my father observed me going to see the Christian professor and he went and told my family. When I arrived home, I went straight to my bed because I was so tired. All of a sudden I was awakened from my sleep by the blistering pain of my father's walking cane across my back. My father was furious; he was enraged by the mere fact that I had been talking to a Christian! He beat me so severely that I had welts all over my body. As far as he was concerned, there was no justification for what I had done. Since it was inexcusable in his eyes, he refused to talk with me about it.
When I awoke the next morning, my aunt treated my welts and bruises. My father appeared inflexible, and I didn't know what to do. It seemed that I had no option but to leave home. When I left I had no posessions but the shirt and trousers I was wearing. I went to a Christian of whom I had heard and I told him what had happened and that now I was on my own. He not only received me but he also gave me a letter to someone who would help me in another town. The love and care of these true Christians touched me very much. And although I was leaning more and more toward the Christian faith, I still had not embraced it at that time. But I was on the path to certainty, and after much study and reflection, I was led to believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. This was followed by baptism as the act that made it decisive in public.
God had used my difficulties to bring me to himself in genuine repentance and faith. When I left home I knew I was taking a big step. I didn't know where I was going. I walked for many miles without anything to eat. But I had a Bible and I read and re-read it. I had many questions but I spent long hours studying and talking with a Christian who was able to help me. In my doubt and loneliness, Christ became a reality to me.
I returned to Gordon College to complete my studies and to become a teacher. I studied philosophy and psychology and earned my B.A. in English. Some years later, I went to the United States where I earned an M.A., and that was followed by a B.D. Through all those years I was on my own, without any financial help from home. I taught Urdu some of the time, but I hardly had enough money for food and books. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ was with me and many times God answered prayer and supplied my needs. Moreover, I could not begin to count all the times Christians were kind to me and helped me through many difficulties.
I placed my trust in Christ fifty-two years ago, and he has never failed me. In all of these years I have not once regretted the step I took. I can also say that I never had any doubt about Christ. Of course, there were things that I wanted to have clarified. But as to this one fact - the fact that Christ loved me and gave himself for me on the cross - there has been no doubt. I am totally satisfied with him. To me the most wonderful thing has been that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself because God is love. For me there has been nothing beyond that; there is nothing beyond that. I have never had any doubt that he is the perfect, complete revelation of God. I have never had any doubt that no one is ethically or morally superior to him. This certitude has kept me going against all kinds of opposition. If there had been anything short of this, I would have gone back long, long ago.
The pivot, the center, the grip of the whole thing has been Christ. I claim nothing for myself. It is his doing, not mine. If I had to choose again a thousand times, I would do exactly the same thing. Even in the darkest moments, I have never regretted it. That is of his mercy. When people say that I have given up a great deal, I tell them that I have not given up anything. I have received more from him than I can ever say.
I would never have known God as my heavenly Father but for the revelation that has come to me in Christ. My entire experience issues out of this hold of Christ on me. Only the person of Christ gripped me and held me all these years right from the time I first read the New Testament.
The one thing that means the most to me is the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. He is the one person I know who has no double motives. But everyone else has, and somewhere in everyone's life there is a dark chapter; there is something of which everyone is ashamed. Every person hides things even from those who are the nearest and dearest to him. There are some things he will not share - some things he wants no one else to know about. There is at least one room that is locked and bolted from the inside. Christ is the only one who has no such room. He is the crystal-clear Christ, the ideal of perfect manhood. He is transparently real, a person in whom there is no playing at politics and diplomacy. I just cannot get away from this aspect of him in particular. The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection are all of one piece. The Incarnation of the Son of God leads to such a life, the Crucifixion is the result of such a life, and the Resurrection is the logical sequence to such a life. Apart from that I have nothing. Who Christ is and what he has done constitute the beginning, middle, and end of my theology.
All of us who are true believers in Christ are sinners saved by grace. None of us can claim superiority. Loyalty to Christ as demonstrated in our conduct is the essential thing. What ought to grieve us is the tragedy of people deliberately doing evil and setting themselves against Christ.
I returned home a year after my father's punishment drove me away. When my father saw that I had become a Christian, he did his utmost to persuade me to return to Islam. That was a difficult experience and it is not easy for me to speak about it to this day. My father broke down and wept because it was such a shame for his son to become a Christian. But I didn't feel that it was out of real concern for me. It was rather that he, the father of the family, had a son who had fallen away from Islam. I was in tears as he talked with me, and my mother was sitting there crying too as we spoke about it. Then I didn't know what to do. I just closed my eyes. And with my mind's eye I saw the Lord on his cross. I asked myself, "Have I suffered more or has Christ?" There was no doubt in my mind. For me the paramount thing was the love of Christ and his indescribable suffering for me. In my heart I knew that I had no alternative but to cling to him.
Once I had seen the light, I could not turn back. When one sees the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then to whom shall he go? Only the highest and best is good enough for me, even though I fall short. And Christ is the highest and best, and in him are hid all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Christ is the focal point of all we can know of God. And most wonderful of all, he says that he will never leave me or forsake me - no matter how far short I come of pleasing him. This is all part of his free and abundant grace. And it is only by his grace that any of us can be accepted by God. The kingdom of God is something to which people are admitted because of their faith in Christ, regardless of race, age, color, and social position. One of the most difficult things a Muslim has to face when he comes to Christ is loneliness. He is rejected by his own people and sometimes he is not fully accepted by Christians. I taught in a college for forty years and for a few years I was the principal. When I was about to retire from that college, a man made the charge that I would go directly to a mosque and repeat the kalima. After I had taken a firm stand for Christ for so many years, there were still some who had doubts about the sincerity of my profession of faith in him.
This kind of treatment is often what happens to a person who comes from a Muslim background to Christ. A certain degree of suspicion and mistrust are almost inevitable. And frequently one must stand alone - except for the Lord Jesus Christ who never abandons his own. Such an individual must be prepared to face many difficulties and problems regarding his relatives, home, fellowship, marriage, finances, and society in general. Christ must mean so much to him that he is willing to consider everything else rubbish. And though this is not an easy path in some respects, it is the path of true certainty.
He who has gazed on perfection
Can afterwards never accept imperfection.
He looks on the perfect beauty of the rose
But takes the thorn into his breast -
Discontented, restless, nothing satisfies him.
The after-image of the sun
Blinds him to all lesser lights,
The moon and the stars leave him cold;
Even though he must greet
The brilliant perfection from afar.
O perfect Jesus! Love and Truth incarnate!
How can I accept a lesser good
Now that I have gazed on Thee,
The noblest and the best?
Everything is insipid, trivial, tawdry,
Now that I have seen Thy matchless grace.
All beauty palls but what reminds me
Of Thy divine radiancy.
Lord! help me to attain
Something of that same loveliness . . .
Thy love, which alone means redemption;
That walking humbly by Thy side,
Transformed by Thy Spirit,
I may with Thee for ever abide.
Greet the Resurrection Morn with song;
Lift high your voice, join the happy throng;
Sing out the melody in your heart,
The Risen Lord greets His friends apart.
Greet the Risen Christ with joyful praise;
Highest Hosannas to God we raise;
Resplendent holiness, robed in right,
Enthroned in praises, heart's true delight.
Greet the Living Jesus, Lord of Life,
Ever conquering the world of strife;
Eclipsed by death, now radiantly shine
Clouds of Glory round His head Divine.
Greet the Sun of Righteousness whose rays,
Give life and healing to all our days;
Harvest rich the Dying Grain has brought.
Our eternal joy His blood has bought.
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