A Radio Host was speaking to Stephen McGowan about his almost 6 years as a hostage with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. He was seized in 2011 and released in 2017. He says to survive he converted to Islam and then learnt more about Al-Qaeda. He says that 90% of things people, such as radio, TV and newspapers say about Al-Qaeda are not true. To this he adds … converting to Islam is what made him live in the desert. “I was a Christian beforehand, I believed in God and it was a big mental battle but at the end of the day, it was about survival for me. It was a very difficult decision. Converting to Islam was a huge decision, it took me days and I was hated but it was the best decision I made because it allowed me to start to live.” When saying he was a Christian … he added that he was not a very good one.
I would like to analyze what he is saying about converting to Islam and that he was not a very good Christian. Firstly, one is either a Christian or not a Christian. To say he was not a very good Christian makes him fall into the bracket of being Christianised but not Christian. Secondly, to convert to Islam means he converted from something into Islam. Because he was Christianised and not Christian means he actually converted from paganism to Islam.
The first issue we need to establish is “what is a Christian?” A Christian is a person who was chosen by God before creation to be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1:4). This means that through mercy and grace, God reaches into human life to perform the greatest miracle by convincing lost sinners that they need to flee to Jesus, believe His sacrificial death was in their place as substitute, confess their sins, be pardoned and turn in repentance and faith to live a new life as God’s child. All this work is prompted and enacted in the heart and will by the Holy Spirit who gloriously births the willing soul into God’s Kingdom. This is what is known as “being born again”.
2Ti 1:8 by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
(Also reference John 3:3-7).
The second issue to establish is “is there more than one God?” As you read through the Bible, you find that there is but One, True, Living God Who created and sustains all existence. Look at the following passages:
Jer 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. 11 “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’” 12 But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
Jn 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
1Jn 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
1Th 1:9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
The God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is the same–Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons. He has one Kingdom existing of believers from the Old and New Covenants. This Kingdom, called the Kingdom of God has its King in the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. The only way into this Kingdom is through Jesus (Christianity), not through any other religion.
The third issue to establish is “whether one born again might be lost?” In other words, once a person has been regenerate and included into the Kingdom of God, may that person lose or leave their salvation and convert to another religion? The Biblical answer is a decided and emphatic “no”!
Jn 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.
The Holy Jealous Love of God will never permit that any soul that has come under the Blood Washing of His Precious Son will be lost!
Where I respect Stephen McGowan’s courage to survive in the desert for so long as a hostage, reading the Scriptures above informs me that a true Christian will never surrender to another god (or other gods). When you read of the martyrdom of many who lost their lives to Islam or Communism (to name just two), you realize what Paul means when he says:
Phil 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Dear God, in the eventuality of persecution that is life threatening, help me to honour You, even to the point of death because I know that death would mean immediate entry into Your glorious and majestic presence. Amen.