By David Tulis
The conversion story of a U.S. Navy officer based in Chattanooga highlights a vital distinction between Christianity and its militaristic, blood-soaked rival, Islam.
The clash of civilizations touched down at the workplace of Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, boss in Chattanooga of a Navy and Marine reserve facility that was shot up July 16 by an ordinary Muslim 24-year-old who intended to find’s favor by an act of jihad.
Mohammed’s religion, on one hand, is that of war and invasion that has taken 240 million lives in the past 1,400 years. The system of life and liberty created by God in the person of Jesus Christ is one in which God’s people are given a salvation that none of them earn by any good work or any goodness or holiness within.
Mr. White is in a legal limbo with the Navy. He was allowed to give a public speech about the Muslim attack in Chattanooga, sharing a podium with the federal vice president, Joe Biden, and the secretary of defense, Ash Carter. But he used a private weapon in defense of his men, and faces either court martial or administrative discipline under a series of paperwork-oriented department rules on private weapons on Navy premises. A department probe of the slayings will run all month.
A rally is set for 12 noon Wednesday downtown in front of the federal courthouse in Chattanooga in his support. The gathering is sponsored by a mom of two girls angered at the thought that Lt. Cmdr. White faces a career-ending trial for his pistol’s presence on the job.
Salvation by grace alone
The story about Mr. White’s conversion is poignant because it highlights a distinction within Christianity, and the vast difference between Christianity and Mohammedanism.
His life in Christianity began young as a member of a church-going family. “One night, I decided that I wanted to go to Heaven — I didn’t want to go to Hell,” he says, “Hell sounded terrible to me. So, I decided to pray the prayer with Pastor Stanley. Then, I walked down the aisle to talk to someone about being a Christian.”
He lived with a false assurance about his love for God and God’s forgiveness of his sins. “At that young age, I knew that a true Christian would love God’s Word, His people, singing His praises, would love to do the right thing, and would hate sin. I tried to do those things, but I knew I was forcing myself — a born-again Christian wouldn’t have to force themselves to do those things. I didn’t have the changed heart that I knew I should have.
For months, I would pray “the sinner’s prayer” with whoever invited me to — usually at the end of the sermons. I never felt a change in my heart, but I figured that, since the pastor told me that I’d be saved if I prayed to God to save me, I must be saved — my doubt must be from Satan.
Through elementary and middle school, I believed that I was a Christian, but I started to see things in my life in high school that were concerning to me.”
He read the Bible, but didn’t enjoy it, and found himself not in any sort “One afternoon when I was 15 I was reading Hebrews chapter 12 and came upon verse 6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. My heart dropped when I read that verse. I knew that I had sin in my life. I was doing things that I knew were wrong and had many wrong thoughts and wrong attitudes.”
For two years Mr. White lived in terror and guilt.
Not a prayer, but an act of God
“As I read the Bible and listened to sermons, though, I started to realize that the ‘sinner’s prayer’ wasn’t what saved sinners. For 10 years, I was deceived in thinking that praying a prayer and walking an aisle had saved me from my sins. *** God’s Word tells us, though, that sinners are saved by His grace through faith in Him. ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
Real conversion, Mr. White says, is not brought about by human will or any human act, no matter how humble or grieved the person may be for the sin problem. “If I had the opportunity to ask Charles Stanley about the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ I’m sure that he would say that it’s not the prayer that saves us or the act of walking down the aisle to the front of the church that saves a sinner. Paul, in 1 Cor. 2:14, tells us that spiritual things cannot be understood by men and women who have not been quickened, made alive, by the Holy Spirit.”
In 1997, Mr. White says, he came to understand the power of God to save sinners. “[T]he Lord made my blind eyes to see and gave my dying soul life. There he showed me that salvation was all of Him. I needed not only to repent of my sins — I needed also to repent of my ‘good works.’ I remember vividly when the burden of sin was lifted, and I knew that I was finally at peace with my Creator.
The faith of Mr. White, father of seven children, is in a God who does everything to save His people. It comprises not just outer forms, rites and sacraments, but an internal life that is expected to radiate holiness and God’s standard into every area the Christian touches.
The religion of Mr. Abdulazeez is entirely about externals and forms. It is about compliance. There is no freedom of religion under sharia. No freedom of speech. No freedom of thought. No freedom of artistic expression. No freedom of the press. No equality of all peoples — a non-Muslim like you (a Kafir) always is a second-class citizen to be tolerated. No equal protection under the law, but one law for men, one for women. No freedom to bear arms. No democratic government.
Mr. White, by God’s grace, came to see himself as a wretched sinner whose earlier conversion mistook the operation of God’s grace upon the individual. Mr. White as a boy saved himself with a decision. Only later does he realize he is not saved by anything he contributes in intercourse with God. Quoting hymnwriter John Newton, Mr. White says, “I once was lost, but now I’m found. I once was blind, but now I see. God’s amazing grace saved a wretch like me. His amazing grace can save you too.”
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