FROM THE MOSQUE TO THE MESSIAH
When I was eighteen years old, I entered a large public university. Soon, it became obvious to me that many students were there to obtain a degree, find a high-paying job, and get rich. Others were interested in amassing intellectual knowledge. And, many students desired to go out drinking and partying on the weekends while others were trying to find satisfaction through relationships with girlfriends.
None of these things were new to me, but for the first time in my life, I started to consider for what I was living and why I was alive. I saw in my own heart the same selfish motives that I saw in those around me. It became a period of thinking and searching - a crossroad in my life.
At that point, there seemed like so many directions in which to turn. I started to read different books on philosophy, meditation, religion and history. As a member of the university soccer team, I tried to improve my ability through constant practice, hoping that maybe I would find fulfillment in athletics. I even went one semester without eating meat!
On one occasion, I happened to acquire a Bible. Since I was reading many other books, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to read it, too. I began reading the story of how God created the heavens and the earth. But very little of the Bible made sense to me. Nevertheless, I read on into the New Testament (Injil) about the life of Jesus Christ. I was surprised that the life of such a famous prophet was contained in such a short book. You can imagine how much more surprised I was that the entire story of Jesus' life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection was completed in a few pages! The account was then retold by three more authors! Despite some confusion, I felt strangely drawn to this prophet, Jesus, who suffered at the hands of disbelievers.
Up until that point in my life, I had never been to a Christian church. My father was an immigrant from Iran and my American mother had converted to Islam. From the time we were little, my brother, sister and I would go to the mosque (Islamic Center) with my parents every week. There we learned about God, his prophets, his books, his angels, the day of judgement, and life after death. We also learned surahs (verses) and prayers from the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book. The teacher recorded how many of the thirty-five prayers we had completed during the week.
Like many teenagers, as I grew older, I began to lose interest in religion. I became more interested in playing sports, going to parties, and having fun. This continued through my high school years. By the time I was ready to go to college, most of these activities, too, had already begun to seem empty and meaningless to me. This brings me back to my first year at the university. The more I began to read about Jesus in the Holy Injil, the more I began to believe. A great struggle issued. Confused and desperate, I often cried out to God, "Was Christianity, Islam, or some other faith the true faith?"
I also began to wonder if I was going to heaven after I died. In Islam, as well as in many other religions, a person would go to heaven if his good deeds outweighed his bad deeds. Poor Fred! I had already realized that I was a selfish person. No amount of willpower could help me live up to the standards of Holy God.
Then, I read in the Holy Injil that Jesus said we must trust that He, Himself, would change our hearts: "Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin ... If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:34,36). This was a different message! God knew that we are all sinful, but He is so merciful that He sent Jesus to set us free.
Little by little, I began to believe more strongly in Jesus as the Savior. Instead of trying to overcome my sinful ways solely by my own willpower, I now felt that I didn't want to live like I used to. Jesus had changed my heart! Before I realized it, I had stopped cursing and partying. More importantly, I felt my heart being changed from within as I turned away from selfishness toward Jesus.
As I returned to college for my sophomore year, I began to look for other people who had an experience similar to mine. Although the great majority of Americans profess to be Christians, I realized that only a small minority of them really know and love God.
Soon enough, I saw a sign about a Christian meeting on campus. I attended this meeting, although I felt somewhat awkward. I soon realized that God was as real and important to these people as he was to me. Eventually, I began going to the small church that organized these Christian meetings on campus.
As I expressed my heart to God in prayer and read more about Jesus in the Holy Injil, my faith began to grow. Sometimes I would go through times of doubting whether God was near tome, but he always proved Himself faithful.
Once, a Muslim scholar came to the university to give a lecture about "Muhammad in the Bible." He claimed that the Bible actually points to Muhammad as the prophet who was to come after Jesus. Again, I became confused. I delved into Bible study using the Muslim scholar's pamphlets and I found that his conclusions were either incorrect or taken out of context. Jesus had indeed been crucified for our sins once and for all. He is the "author and finisher" of truth and faith.
Since then, I have married my Christian wife. We have dedicated our lives to serving Christ and sharing His life and love with others.
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