TASS SAADA WAS A KILLER.
He and his friends murdered Jews in Israel. They murdered civilians and soldiers alike. They attacked Christians in Jordan. Sometimes they tossed hand grenades at Christians' homes. Other times they strafed houses with machine-gun fire. They once tried to assassinate the crown prince of an Arab country. They nearly succeeded. And they did all of this willingly. They did it eagerly. Saada certainly did. His nickname was once Jazzar- "butcher." It was a moniker he relished .
Born in Gaza and raised in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in a world of radical Islam and violent Palestinian nationalism, by his teenage years Saada was a cauldron of seething, roiling hatred. His family was close to the Saudi royal family. He once met Osama bin Laden. He became personal friends with Yasser Arafat, a man he long regarded as a hero and in whose name he happily killed. He served as a sniper in the Palestine Liberation Organization and for a time was Arafat's driver and one of his bodyguards.
But in 1993, God gave Tass Saada's life drama a second act.
After marrying an American and moving to the United States- a country he had long hated- this jihadist found Jesus. This violent Radical was one day transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This killer became a man of peace and compassion.
Saada was not expecting to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
To the contrary, when an evangelical friend tried to share the gospel with him, he became enraged. When his friend encouraged him to read the New Testament for himself, every fiber of his being resisted.
"I must not touch the book!" he said.
"Why not?" his friend said. "It's just paper."
"No!" Saada replied. "It's God's Word!"
The two men just stood there for a moment. "Do you really believe that?" his friend asked in shock.
"Yes, I do," Saada replied, hardly understanding the words that were coming out of his mouth. As a Muslim, he had not been raised to believe the Bible was God's Word. He certainly hand not been trained to believe that as a Radical. But he soon heard his friend, "Well, if you believe that, then let me read you what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. Fair enough?"
His friend began reading from the book of John, chapter one, verse one: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
The moment his friend said, "Word," Saada began to shake. He suddenly flashed back to a line in the Qur'an that said, "The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was...the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him."(sura 4:171.)
"Hearing the Bible say essentially the same thing, that Jesus was the Word of God, struck deep to the core of my being." Saada would later recall. "Before I knew it, I was on my knees. I didn't consciously decide to kneel. It just happened. I lost all awareness that my friend was in the room. A light came into my field of vision- a talking light. Now I know this sounds really odd, but this is what happened that Sunday afternoon, March 14, 1993. The light said to me, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.' I didn't know at that moment that those words were what Jesus said during the Last Supper [in John 14:6]. As far as I was concerned, they were a message from Jesus solely for me."
Suddenly, Saada said, he just knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the triune God- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost- existed. He knew with certainty that this triune God loved him. And sobbing with shame at his sin and with thankfulness for God's mercy, he cried out, "Oh, Jesus, come into my life! Forgive me and be my Lord and Savior!"
"I felt as if a heavy load went flying off of my shoulders," he said. "A sense of peace and joy rushed into my heart. The presence of God was so real it seemed I could almost reach out and touch it."
His friend was in shock. He too was in tears. To be sure Saada really understood what he was doing, he explained the gospel in some detail. And then, to be sure Saada was really committing his life fully and completely to Jesus Christ, he led Saada in the following prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins. I ask you to forgive me and wash away my sins by your precious blood. Lord, I can't save myself. I can't take away my sins, but you can. You are the Savior of the World - the only Savior- and I want you to be my Savior. I ask you to forgive me and come into my life. Change me and give me a new heart. I will forever love you and follow you. Now I thank you for hearing my prayer and saving my soul. I know you have, because you promised you would. Now I am yours, and you are mine. I will serve you the rest of my life.Saada not only willingly and eagerly prayed that prayer, he became a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ from that moment forward.(1)
....evangelical leaders inside Iran say they are seeing the words of Matthew 16:18 come true before their very eyes. "I will build my church," Jesus said, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (KJV).(2)
"In Iran," another Iranian Christian told me, "you don't go after people with the gospel. They are coming to you to ask you about the Lord. Let me give you an example. I went to the doctor's office because I was feeling ill. I asked the receptionist if I could see the doctor right away, but she was a veiled woman and a fanatical Muslim. She had no intention of making life easier for an 'infidel', and she told me I would have to wait for two hours. 'You will regret that,' I said with a smile, and then sat down in the crowded waiting room. A few moments later, the doctor walked by to pick up a file. 'Hello, Reverend,' he said to me. I greeted him back. Then everyone in the waiting room asked me, 'Are you really a Reverend?' I said I was. 'How can I know Jesus?' they asked. I told them and five Muslims prayed with me in the waiting room to receive Christ as their Savior. 'See how you will regret making me wait?' I told the receptionist, again with a smile. She has never made me wait again."(3)
In my third novel, The Ezekiel Option, I tell the story of two Christians driving through the mountains of Iran with a carful of Bibles. Suddenly their steering wheel jams and they have to slam on the brakes to keep from driving off the side of the road. When they look up, they see an old man knocking on their window asking if they have the books. "What books?" they ask. "The books Jesus sent me down here to get," the old man replies.
He goes on to explain that Jesus recently came to him in a dream and told him to follow. When he awoke, he found out that everyone in his mountain village had had the same dream. They were all brand new followers of Jesus, but they did not know what to do next. Then the old man had another dream in which Jesus told him to go down the mountain and wait by the road for someone to bring books that would explain how to be a Christian. He obeyed, and suddenly two men with a carful of Bibles have come to a stop right in front of him.
This was one of my favorite passages in the The Ezekiel Option, but it is not fiction. I didn't make it up. It's true. I got it directly from a dear friend of mine who is the head of a ministry in the Middle East. He personally knows the men involved.(4)
(1)Joel C. Rosenberg, Inside The Revolution, How The Followers of Jihad, Jefferson, & Jesus Are Battling To Dominate The Middle East And Transform The World (United States: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2009), pp. 363, 364, 365.
(2)Ibid. p. 386.
(4)Joel C. Rosenberg, Epicenter, Why The Current Rumblings In The Middle East Will Change Your Future (United States: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), p. 220