Tom: My conversation today and next week will be with Elijah Abraham. Elijah is a Christian from a Muslim background, so due to his conversion and the nature of his ministry, there is a security concern and a necessity for protecting and keeping him and his family out of harm’s way. Nevertheless, as one who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and called to ministry, he has been used of the Lord with both boldness and caution as God gives him opportunities.
Elijah, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Elijah: Oh, thank you so much, Tom. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, and it’s a privilege to be in the show.
Tom: Okay! Elijah, you know, I and our listeners are aware that there are all kinds of testimonies, some incredibly dramatic and some not so dramatic. For example, my five children all have a testimony of being saved by Jesus, and I find that wonderfully exciting as their father, but I wouldn’t exactly call their testimonies dramatic. There are a few issues that they had to overcome.
I got saved out of Roman Catholicism and that had a bit more drama. I faced being ostracized by some extended family members and Catholic friends with whom I spent my youth, but I’ve interviewed former cult members who were cut off from their families, some – you know, and I’m thinking about former Amish who were turned away from their communities with only the clothes on their backs.
Now, to some degree, all conversions force weighty decisions, but I can’t imagine what a Muslim faces before he or she decides to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. Share some of your thoughts that you had before turning your life over to our Lord and Savior and the testimony of how that took place.
Elijah: Well, being a Muslim is not just following Islam as a religion for spiritual living. It is really an identity; it’s who you are. Being a Muslim also means there is a strong loyalty to your Muslim family, your Muslim culture, and of course to Islam. So for me and for every convert from Islam must consider all these factors – knowing that leaving Islam means being disowned by your own blood family, by your own culture, alongside with losing your own identity. At the time when I accepted the Lord, or a faith in Jesus, I had to really consider the huge price that I had to pay to follow Christ. I knew that price offered my eternal life, and I had to follow Him, but it took me a while to really understand that I have a new identity in Christ and in the church. You see, in Christ (and you know the Scriptures as well as I do), now I am a child of God. I am coheir with Christ and a member of the family of God. When I left Islam, I lost all my blood family members. They disowned me. Yet the Lord has replaced them with a global family called the church. That to me is a great blessing.
Having said that, you see, leaving Islam was not just considering the fact that I just mentioned, but I had to also consider the apostasy law of Islam. You see, leaving Islam meant death, meaning I would face death penalty, and not just from my own family, whenever they see me again, [but] the Islamic government, if I ever lived under, but also from any Muslim around the world. The apostasy law still applies on me today as I’m speaking, meaning once a Muslim finds out that I used to be a Muslim, that means he or she has the right to kill me. It would be easy, of course, for them to do it in a Muslim country rather than a Western country, because, according to Sharia law, they would get away with it! They are honoring Islam! They are doing away with the apostate. That is why when I share the gospel with a Muslim seeker, that he is really close and he wants to follow Christ, I must share with him or her the cost of following Christ. There is a sense of mourning. There is a sense of loss and loneliness and pain to follow Christ, all in the process of making that decision. That’s why it is so critical for the body of Christ, the church, to step in and help the converts who came out of Islam through this difficult time of transition and time of loss. The church must become his or her new family because they lost the family that they came with and the identity they had all their lives.
For me, I left Middle East, I was born in Middle East, and during difficult circumstances 37 years ago, the Lord delivered me out of the jaws of war and despair. I was 13, 14 years old. My dad smuggled me – cost him almost $100,000 to get out of the country. I lived in Europe for about seven years, and came to the United States – now this is my 30th year, 31 years in the United States.
But when I first came here, I started having spiritual crisis. Why am I here? What was my goal? School I could not finish. I was lonely, I was fearful. Then I thought, Well, Allah is punishing me for not being a good Muslim. So I became a very devout Muslim. I studied the Quran, the Hadid, Sharia law, I grew a beard, praying five times a day, begging Allah to help me. The one thing that really got my attention is that Allah did not respond to me. He did not answer my pleas, my prayers, and my requests, and that got me on a search, on a journey, spiritual journey, trying to find God who created me, because a God who spoke the universe into existence, He sure can speak to a guy like me.
And it took me a while in search until the Lord led me to a church, which, they did not understand my background. I – really too shy, too suspicious – [they] did not understand. I wanted to know if God really lived there. And a series of events within that church community and the family, they – just the love of Christ they showed me. And of course I had typical Muslim objections during the sermon and the preaching that . . . I followed Christianity like a Muslim. I made the decision to follow Christ like a Muslim. What does that mean? By works! I thought Jesus did that for me, let me do for Jesus. But the problem is they did not understand my worldview, where I came from, and my theological objections to the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the authenticity of the Scripture, the sinful nature of man. All of these things they assumed that, just because I came forward and said, “I want to follow Jesus,” they assumed that I understood what Christianity is about, I understood what biblical doctrine is about. And unfortunately, in a lot of churches in America, they go on a lot of assumption, when they face having someone, a man or a woman, seeking Christ without really clarifying why they are seeking Christ, why they come to church, what they are looking for in Christ. And it took me six years, really, in the church, thinking I was saved, but I really wasn’t. I was just cultural Christian.
And not until I met my wife in church, and saw her life, and it’s so different spiritually – I mean, so different from mine, and the peace and the contentment that she has, and that really intrigued me and got me thinking about my own salvation. It took me a process of studying the Scripture, and of course I compared the Bible with the Qur’an and I realized the Qur’an is not true. But I got in the Word of God and I just asked the Lord to help me: If I’m lost, convict me. But if I’m saved, assure me. I really don’t want to live this way. Well, brother Tom, that’s exactly what happened. God convicted me from the Word of God and others, through series of events, and meetings, I got saved at a men’s rally, men’s prayer meeting and rally, and a number of preachers were preaching. And that’s when I surrendered my life to the Lord and I asked Him to save me and I repented of my sins. And it wasn’t, really, a dramatic experience, because it’s not like fireworks, whatever, but just that peace, that contentment, that I’d been working so hard to earn, but it was free, freely given to me! And that, to me, really blew my mind on that, and I’m for Christ eternally thankful, and I think that’s what we’re going to be doing in heaven is to constantly thank Him and worship Him for what’s He’s done on the cross.
Tom: Amen, amen. You know, as I listen to you, Elijah, I’m just moved by, not just how the Lord worked in your life, but how you put it together and explain things to us. I know – you know, I’ve known so much about conversions of Muslims and so on, but you just bless me to no end, brother, and I hope that our listeners feel the same way. You know, one of the things that I pick out is, going back to the beginning of your conversion and what you faced, as you know, here in the – you know, we have a cultural Christianity in this country, and I’ve seen literally hundreds go forward, and I never heard the gospel! I don’t know what they received, but, you know, there’s an attraction without the content, and certainly – I don’t like the idea of “easy believism,” because that can turn . . .
Elijah: Right, right.
Tom: . . . what was available for you ahead. And, you know, I can’t give you numbers, but it seems to me in this day, we may be in the Laodicaean age of the church, and that many are going to come to the Lord in that day and say, “Lord, Lord, did we not go forward in a church?”
Elijah: Right! And I think you’re right on. I think what’s going on in American church is we are not preaching or teaching the doctrine of suffering and why Christians suffer and are persecuted when they follow Christ. Matthew 10 – of course there are other passages and other talks about persecution – but Matthew 10 is so real to me, because I face this on a daily basis, and especially when I accepted Christ. You know, when He says, “For I came to be a sword – did not bring a peace but a sword, for I came to set a man against his father, father against son, daughter against son, son against daughter-in-law, for a man’s enemy will be the members of his household. If ye love father or mother more than me, [you] are not worthy of me. You shall not carry a cross and follow after me, you’re not worthy of me. If you find your life, you lose it. But if you lost your life, you’ll find it.” That is not being preached in our churches!
Elijah: So when people say, “Yeah, I want Jesus,” they only present Jesus as love, which He is! But they are not presenting Him as a righteous judge, which, if you make the wrong decision, and, specifically, if you don’t have a total repentance in being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, you are facing a cultural Christianity that is not going to lead you to heaven, it is going to lead you to a world of destruction. So I think that’s what [has been missing] in American churches.
Tom: Yeah, I keep going back to Proverbs:4:7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: but in all thy getting get understanding.” Too many times, when I hear a gospel presented, it’s not like there aren’t some elements related to it, but there – it’s not explained! So people don’t have a sense . . . Look, until they become believers, they’re not going to have understanding, on the other hand.
Tom: But it has to be laid out for them: “This is what you’re going to receive.” The Bible is incredible because it talks about suffering with joy! I mean, especially in this age and this culture, wow! That’s anathema! You know, “Don’t give me this ‘suffering’ stuff!”
Elijah: And we’ve seen it on television. You’ve seen it on YouTube and all the videos, when all these brothers who were beheaded by ISIS, how peaceful they were standing and looking at the knife as it comes to their throat! And because they understand when Jesus says, “They might destroy the body [or kill the body], but they cannot destroy the soul. Fear the One who destroys both body and soul.”
Elijah: Again, Matthew 10 tells me that. They understood who they are in Christ.
Tom: Right. And I want to make a distinction here between persecution, suffering, and seduction. You see, the condition that you were in, and as we see certainly in Africa and other places where, you know, the Islamic Brotherhood or their . . . our brothers and sisters in Christ are being murdered for Christ. Now, that’s a heartbreak. You know, if we’re not on our knees for their sake, we’re doing wrong.
On the other hand, what goes on in this country is seduction. So suffering can come through the seduction in the sense that we’re not doing what Christ wants us to do. We’re being drawn away from the faith, we’re being seduced. And . . . so that’s a part – you know, Jesus said, “In the world you’re going to have tribulation” – that’s a part of a tribulation that’s different than physical suffering, per se, but it’s just – well, maybe even more effective for the adversary’s work. I mean, that’s the way I see it.
Elijah: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, talking about seduction not just from within the church with the false teaching, the false prophets, but also those outside the church, from alcoholism, pornography, materialism, and all of that. So yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with you on that.
Tom: Yeah. Now, Elijah, when I came to the Lord, I had a lot of, initially and probably for too long, I had a lot of Roman Catholic baggage, meaning that I had beliefs and practices that needed to be dumped from my thinking – maybe not in actual practice, but my thinking. Now, did you have a similar experience with your Islamic beliefs, that they just kind of hung on for a while?
Elijah: Yeah, absolutely. Islam, like Roman Catholicism, is a works-based religion/ideology, and I had to put ideology there, because we need to define exactly what Islam is. Islam is a social-political system that uses a deity, Allah, to advance its agenda. Islamic salvation is not guaranteed to anyone, definitely not to Muslims. A Muslim must follow strict rules to achieve as much good as possible on this life, then on the day of judgment – this is according to Islamic teaching – on the day of judgment, Allah will determine of them if the Muslim has earned his way or her way to paradise or not. But also, Allah has the prerogative to send the best Muslim to hell and the worst Muslim to paradise if he chose to. So, if the Muslim was a perfect follower of Islam, Allah still can send him to hell if he chose to, because he’s capricious Allah.
Now, Islamic rules are having chains around the Muslim’s necks, and they cannot be freed from. They don’t even know what freedom really means. You know, it brought back to memory when – back to the Gulf War in 2003 that George W. Bush was talking about freedom and wanted to give them democracy to Iraq, they are clueless! They don’t even know what that means, not just from a political side of things, but also from religious ideological Islamic point of view, because Islam does not promote freedom of thought, freedom of speech, equality. So these things are really difficult to overcome.
Tom: Yeah. I did an article – I think maybe a decade, maybe it was two decades ago – and I got into a little bit of controversy. It was called “Roman Catholicism and Islam: Ties That Bind,” and you have just articulated some of the things that are so common, you know, particularly with Allah. As you said, he’s capricious on the one hand. On the other hand, he says that he has the weighing scales. So your good works have to outweigh your evil works or works that don’t mean anything. It was the same in Roman Catholicism! So the point you’re making is that even though it was different, in a sense, we were both under bondage! We were in bondage, right, Elijah?
Elijah: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And there are a lot of people, and they call themselves “Christians,” but they are still in bondage because you’ve got some churches who are so works based, so legalistic – that’s slavery and bondage. But on the other hand, you’ve got some liberal churches abuse the grace of God, and they are really being led astray, and thus they are slaves into liberal theology and abuse of grace. So, coming from your side, you associate a lot with what I’m saying, because you and me and people who came from an “occult” [ a cult] or something like that, we understand what darkness is. We understand what it’s like not to have light in our life – spiritually – and in our life. But what really scares me is those people watching in the pews in evangelical churches thinking they’re saved but they’re really not . . .
Elijah: . . . and they don’t even know they’re in darkness. So that’s really – every church I go to, I’m always presenting the gospel as simple as I can make it, because I don’t assume anything. I don’t assume everybody sitting in the church is born again and saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
Tom: Yeah. You know, you made a tremendous point when you were talking about when you were in a Christian church, and they didn’t recognize that you were into works salvation! Folks, you know, I’ve mentioned this over and over again: there’s only works salvation – all the religions of the world are in works salvation; even atheism is works salvation, okay? That’s a belief system. We are biblical Christians. Christ paid the full penalty for our sins. It’s no longer works. For us it’s a free gift of Jesus Christ! You know, He paid the full penalty, and unless that is preached, and unless – you know, that’s why I so appreciate what you say. I hope that our listeners, especially if you have pastors out there, will come to an understanding [that] the gospel not only has to be given, it has to be explained, because, as you’re pointing out, there may be many in it – there are some cults that are still . . . many Christians say, “Well, they’re Christians,” and so on. No! It’s either biblical Christianity or it’s works salvation. It’s one or the other, and if you have works salvation, you’ve rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elijah: Right. You’re absolutely right.
Tom: Yeah. So, again, when I asked you about maybe that you had some baggage or some thoughts or some ideas that kind of hung on a while, it’s related to this: what were your thoughts before conversion regarding the Jews in Israel, and how long before that changed for you?
Elijah: Oh, I want to go back a little bit about . . . I’ll get into salvation, but I really want us to learn more about some of the struggles as far as the baggage.
Elijah: You know, we talked about the cultural pressure, the family pressure, the loyalty, the identity, but I really want to talk a little more about the theological part of them. You and me have a lot in common as far as you came from Catholic background, I’m from Muslim background. Most likely you struggled with this free gift of salvation [ . . . ] I had the same issue, you know, because it’s works based, so we have that in common. To me at the time, I thought, “This is too easy!” following Christ, believing in Christ. “You’re saying there’s nothing that I can earn my salvation?” And that’s exactly what I’d been told! Nothing that I can do to help God in this process of salvation? Well, yes, there’s nothing I could do! So the idea of a free gift from God was just too hard for me to really understand.
However, there are more issues that I had to struggle with than you who came from Catholic background. You see, you as a Catholic had already accepted the concept of God being a triune God, the doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You also accepted the doctrine of the Sonship of Christ, that Jesus Christ is a part of God. You also accepted that the Catholic Church considered that God inspired the Bible. Of course, they added to the Bible, but considered the Bible as an inspired Word of God.
Well, for me, none of these doctrines were accepted in Islam. So the doctrine of Trinity, the Sonship of Christ, the authenticity of the Scripture, were very difficult for me to accept at the beginning. These three doctrines are the top three doctrines that Muslims object to, because Islam rejects all three. That’s why when we witness to Muslims, we need to learn how to explain the Trinity to a Muslim. We need to learn how to explain the Sonship of Christ, the deity of Christ. We need to defend the Scripture as being true, authentic, never been corrupted – because these are the accusations Muslims have for us. So I just wanted to rewind back a little bit to explain that there are people who came from, whether it be Islam or other cults, who have [ . . . ] objections to our doctrines that we take for granted such as the Trinity, or Jesus being the Son of God. You know, none of that – as far as a Muslim is concerned, these are blasphemous doctrines. How dare you call God three Gods? How dare you call Jesus the Son of God? He is only a prophet, He’s only a man, because Allah never had children, because he’s not triune god. So this is how they see that.
So I want to now transition to your other question about how I [felt about] the Jews of Israel. It was just like every Muslim around the world, I grew up hating Israel, hating the Jews. The existence of Israel nauseated many a Muslim, including myself at the time. And of course, I hated the Christians too, because they believe in three Gods and they love the Jews in Israel. But as a youngster, I was told that the Jews are the enemy of Islam and of the Arabs. I was also told when I was young that the Jews were the enemy of Muhammad and
[ . . . ]. So the brainwashing, Tom, began very early in life for me and for every Muslim child from the moment they really start understanding language. Whenever the phrase . . . I remember this very clearly – whenever the phrase [unintelligible] was uttered, every Muslim, including myself, knew this phrase was identifying Jews and Israel. But my thinking started to change really slowly when I was studying in Europe. I had some Jewish friends that I thought were very kind and nice people, and that really was peculiar to me. I was very confused to why I considered them to be my enemy. They were just human beings like you and me. Then years later when I started to read and slowly understand the Scripture and God’s promises to the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Jewish race, I was studying the hatred of the Jews, that’s when God really changed my attitude and changed my heart toward the Jews and Israel. The Lord has given me a great love and respect for them and the nation of Israel. I pray that they will see Jesus Christ as the awaited Messiah that they’ve been waiting for. This love grows deeper when I visited Israel in 2004 and again in 2010.
Tom: My guest has been Elijah Abraham, a Christian from a Muslim background, and now a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His primary ministry is Living Oasis Ministries – that’s livingoasis.org. That’s an organization devoted to teaching American churches about Islam and the best means for reaching out to Muslims with the gospel. Next week, the Lord willing, we’ll expand upon what the Lord has put upon Elijah’s heart as he ministers.
Elijah, again, thank you for your insights and for being with us on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Elijah: Oh, thank you so much, Tom. I really enjoyed my time with you and being on the show.