We’ve all heard of the Tale of Two Cities, a great book I read when I was a teenager because my class teacher required it. Plus, the movie was impressive. But today, I want to address two buildings across the street from each other. So close, but they represent two totally opposite schools of thought. On the northwest corner of Plano Parkway and Custer Road, there is one of the largest Islamic mosques in the Metroplex. On the Northeast corner sits The Hope Center, a totally Christian facility housing over sixty ministries. Abiding Fathers has its offices there.
Only a 100’ wide street separates them, but that is where it really begins. The worship and work in each are poles apart. It all centers around works and grace. Both have faith at their forefront, and both would be characterized as religions, just two of thousands today. But they are the two largest in the world, with billions of worshippers. Maybe 50% of the world’s population today. That is significant.
The divide between them stems from what each believes about God and the means of salvation. Ephesians 2.8,9 really captures the difference. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Both have their own set of scriptures. Islam has the Quran, while Christianity has the Bible. One addresses their supreme being as Allah, a monotheistic god, and the other, Almighty God, triune in nature but one.
It would be hard to ever outdo Muslims relative to their good works. For these are the means of salvation in their religion. Their good works versus their not so good works are tabulated over their lifetime. Allah could still at judgment day, not invite even the best Muslim into Paradise. Thus, never having assurance of salvation. But across the street in Plano, assurance of salvation is guaranteed by the grace of the cross of Christ. John said it so well. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (I Jn. 5.13,14).
So close, but so far away! A believer’s work is ordained by God and has been established before the creation. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2.10). One does good works to earn possible salvation, while the other does good works through faith in the One who has provided salvation. All of this began thousands of years ago, with Abraham. He had a child, Ishmael, through Sarah’s handmaiden; and the miracle son, Isaac, with Sarah, his wife who was well past childbearing age. One represented works of the flesh, while the other was an act of faith in God who had promised.
Jesus, from the cross, said, “It is finished”. He, by grace, became our propitiation, our substitute. And he taught a very clear lesson as it relates to eternal life. He was answering Thomas, who asked, “how can we know the way?” Not only for Thomas, but for every soul who has lived, is living now or will be alive in the future. This is a universal truth that must be believed, received and embraced.
‘Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do you know him and have seen him”’ (Jn. 14.6,7).
Hopefully and prayerfully, those who are so close, but yet so far away, will in their lifetime trust Jesus, the only way. Sometimes it’s just as simple as crossing the street. And as Christians who know the way, we are encouraged, even commanded, to show others The Way.