If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Philippians 3:4-9, ESV)
The Apostle Paul has much in common with Mohamad Faridi, one of the missionaries to America that is featured in Mission Nation Publishing.
As he says in the passage from Philippians 3 above, the Apostle Paul had “more reason for confidence in the flesh than just about anyone.”
He was circumcised on the eighth day. Strange that Paul would list as a possible source of confidence something he had nothing to do with, that was totally all done for him by his parents, his circumcision. There are those who would never think of putting confidence in something like infant Baptism because they were too young to make a decision about it.
Well if Paul can list circumcision on the eighth day as a possible source of confidence, something that he had nothing to do with, then we an certainly think of Baptism as a source of confidence.
He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, blameless when it came to righteousness under the law.
But when he came to know Jesus, what did he think of all of his accomplishments? He counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. He willingly suffered the loss of all things because he considered them to be rubbish.
What he valued above all was to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own that came from the law, but having a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.
During the Reformation, Martin Luther fought mightily against the idea that we are saved by our own good works. As someone put it, we are saved by good works, it’s just not our own good works. We are saved because of all the righteous things that Jesus did on our behalf. Holy Baptism is so precious because it clothes us with the righteousness of Jesus.
Mohama Faridi was originally from Iran. Much has been written by different news organizations about Muslims coming to faith in countries like Iraq, Syria and Egypt, but hardly any information is available about Christians in Iran.
Faridi had an extraordinary devotion to Islam, much as Paul had for Judaism, the religion of his fathers. He was as zealous for Islam as anyone could be. On one occasion he beat himself for nine straight days to show his devotion and submission to the Muslim god Allah. When he went to beat himself again on the tenth day he collapsed and could not continue.
When he was eighteen years old Faridi joined Iran’s Revolutionary Army. He chose to experience what it might feel like to be a martyr for his faith by lying down in an open grave.
He was as committed as any Iranian militant to war against “enemies of Islam.” Israel and America headed the list. And then everything changed. What once seemed impossible, happened.
Faridi heard the Gospel from a friend in Iran, the good news that a God of love became present in this world to show His concern for His creation. Up to now the only god Faridi had known was a distant god of anger; a god who required all to submit to him. Faridi knew he would never be able to please this god, no matter how many beatings he inflicted on himself. He knew he was on a path to destruction.
His friend shared a New Testament with Faridi. He took it home and started reading it alone in his bedroom. And he started to pray. The more he prayed, and the more he read Jesus’ words, the more the love of the Heavenly Father poured into his soul. Faridi felt a peace and a love he had never experienced before.
When he told his family he had become a Christian, as they say, “all hell broke loose.” His father beat him and said, “leave this house – you are no longer my son.” He literally lost everything as the Apostle Paul had done.
But Faridi was not alone. He found refuge in another family, the family of God, the underground Iranian Christian church. Faridi spent months, going from house to house, meeting warm, loving believers in Jesus. He was also in constant danger.
Eventually he was able to escape to Turkey, but even there being a Christian with the name Mohamad Faridi put him at risk. Finally, with the help of the United Nations, he was brought to America. Now, he wants all Muslims to know the peace he found. He has formed a ministry called Destination Ministries through which he goes out and speaks to groups about helping Muslim see the rescuing power of Jesus. He has written a book about his life called Forsaking My Father’s Religion.
Faridi says: “When you look at my life, I was a hard core, fanatical Muslim. If no one spoke up, and spoke the Gospel to me, what would have happened to me? These people are reachable.”
When we look at the lives of Paul and Mohamad Faridi it makes us think, what would we give up for the Lord? Our family? Our occupations? Our reputations? Our possessions? Our lives?
But that’s not where we are really to look. We look at Jesus and all that he gave up for us and for our salvation. God sent Jesus, his Son, into the world thinking that the world would respect him. But God’s people, the ones who should have respected the Son of God, threw him out and killed him. Yet through the power of his resurrection from the dead, Jesus, the rejected One, becomes the cornerstone of our faith.
Most missionaries to America know what it is like to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel. They are willing to do so because of all that Jesus gave up for them and the peace they have in knowing that they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.