As we see in Hebrews chapter twelve, once we “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” we will be aware of how we should then live. Now the writer teaches us about the value of peace and holiness. It is difficult to live in peace with others until you have made your peace with God.
Pastor Haik Hovsepian in Iran (who was martyred in January 1994) once preached on the topic “Salvation or Religion.” It was a very powerful message that goes through five differences between religion and salvation in Christ. Thousands of his tapes on this topic have been distributed in Iran.
One of the people who recently got hold of this tape is a Quran reciter. He has a very powerful voice and many times he has been invited to recite the Quran in different mosques in Iran. He also passionately recited about the life of the Imams (Muhammad’s descendants), who have died in mourning ceremonies in order to make people cry. He used to be a very religious person himself.
When he got hold of the tape with the sermon of Haik, he realized that through religion he cannot be saved. He was in captivity of some immoral sins such as alcohol abuse and adultery. He was a very high-tempered and depressed person too. When he heard about the difference between religion and the salvation of Jesus, the Spirit of God spoke to his heart. He was so moved by the message that he listened to the tape a few more times. Every time he listened to this tape, he felt even more convinced that he needed the salvation of Jesus, until he finally gave his life to the Lord.
Then he was not only liberated from the captivity of his sins, but also from the captivity of the religion with which he was identifying. There was an extraordinary joy and happiness in his face after this experience. In the past, he wore black shirts, as his job was to make people in the mosques cry. But after experiencing Jesus in his life, even his shirts changed to lighter colors! He is now using his voice to sing for the Lord and shares about Jesus wherever he goes.
Being a well-known person among Muslim religious leaders and other people, one evening the secret police knocked at his door. Two weeks later, they released him from prison on bail until his trial time. He had to borrow half of that money from his relatives. As he lost his job as a Quran reciter, he does not have any source of income, so it is difficult for him to live and to pay the money back to his family. But he is trying to live at peace with all people and show God’s holiness in his life. Praise God for the faith of this brother and for his steadfastness in following Jesus.