After viewing a recent TV interview where British Muslims were asked about the atrocities being committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, something occurred to me.
Those who are fighting and willing to die for the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria include radical Muslims from the United States, the UK and Europe. Why are they willing to forgo “the good life” in the West and sacrifice their lives? It’s because their ultimate hope and desire is to please Allah and be allowed into paradise where they will enjoy 72 virgins forever and ever. If they die while engaged in jihad for Allah, their “good works” will automatically outweigh their sins and they will enter paradise. There is therefore no grace or mercy from Allah. Each gets only what he or she deserves in terms of their works in the determination of whether they go to heaven or hell.
While these radicals might only be a tiny minority of the 1.5 billion Muslims on earth, they clearly take their faith very seriously and are totally committed to it. They are “real” Muslims who take the Quran most seriously, analogous to disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to obeying their Lord.
Contrast these ISIS radicals with most American evangelical Christians.
Evangelicals are taught that they are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Now that their eternal salvation is a settled issue, in many circles their focus is on the various benefits which they can receive and enjoy from God right now—which include solving life’s many problems and of course material blessings as well. This is the reality of what inexorably happens to Christianity in a materially blessed culture like America.
As a result of this emphasis American evangelicals do not spend much time considering and working towards their reward in the next age when Jesus Christ returns. They do not focus on storing their treasure in heaven. Their commitment to serving their Lord pales in comparison to the commitment of the Islamists who are trying to make it to their paradise by fighting and dying for Allah.
However, Scripture teaches….
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Is it not ironic? As taught today, God’s grace and mercy through Christ guaranteeing our heavenly inheritance to come (2 Corinthians 1:22) have resulted in many lukewarm Christians. At the same time, the terrifying uncertainty of one’s personal salvation afforded by Islam has given rise to ISIS and its totally committed radicals who demonically chop off people’s heads while giving praise to Allah.
It’s apparent that many Christians fail to grasp what God has done for them through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This includes the eternal reward which Christ will give them at His Judgment Seat in accordance to what they have done, whether good or bad (1 Corinthians 5:10). Otherwise they would set their hearts and minds on things above. They would set their hope on the grace to be brought to them when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. They would obey the Lord and follow him as his fruitful disciples.
John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…
But we have failed to disciple the Lord’s people, and as a result they seek rather to receive from God whatever they can get in this life. Heaven is far off, and can wait.
But the militants of the Islamic State look forward to martyrdom now as a means of the forgiveness of their sins and receiving their reward of 72 virgins in their afterlife.
Yes, it is truly ironic. God’s “grace” as typically taught in the United States today has resulted in a generation of pampered, lukewarm Christians whose goal is mainly getting from God whatever they can in this life—with heaven a distant, vague and misty hope. At the same time, “works” as taught in the purest form of Sunni Islam has given rise to a generation of radicals who are so eager to please Allah and enter paradise that they will behead woman and children and then insha’Allah suffer death in battle for him.
(Surely the grace of God as taught by Paul in his difficult-to-understand epistles cf. 2 Peter 3:16 did not result in lukewarm believers like today.)