So You've Left?
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
Greetings from Israel!
I want to assure you that I am no stranger to the struggle of faith. I spent my upper class college years and graduate years in an intensive time of skepticism. I made it through to the other side with strong convictions on the truth of the biblical faith. I could not understand my acquaintances in those years who so easily walked away from their faith. The issue of the meaning and purpose of this life - if there was a Creator - and of life after death were so momentous that I could not just abandon the search, I had to give myself to it totally. My search for deeper truth continues to this day. Through intensive study and lessons learned through life's experience, I am convinced more than ever as to the veracity of biblical faith.
I want to pose five questions to you on the issue of leaving the Messianic Jewish faith. Please consider that many leave our faith simply because of the social conditioning of our culture, especially in college-university years. They think they have become more sophisticated, but have never read a serious, high-quality book by any scholar on the issues of faith and reason. They have not sincerely asked God to show them the truth. A good book like Christian Overman's Assumptions dealing with worldviews explains how this happens. Here are my five questions.
1. Is God really there? When I speak about God, I am speaking about an infinite personal God revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel and the God of Yeshua in the New Covenant Scriptures. The evidence for the reality of God today is as great as ever - perhaps greater than ever. Why? Because it is impossible to explain our existence on this planet without recourse to an intelligent designer. In the last decade, this truth convinced the leading atheist philosopher of the last half of the 20th Century, Professor Anthony Flew to reject atheism. Professor Flew was an expert in the nature of science! In his little book written toward the end of his life, There is a God, he gives a brief and forceful account. This hardened atheist was convinced by the overwhelming evidence! Evolution without God cannot explain our existence on this earth. An appeal to blind, random natural processes over long periods of time is in effect, the remaining alternative for someone who has ruled out the other logical explanation. Dr. David Berlinski, philosopher-mathematician of Princeton University has convincingly demonstrated this truth. Dr. Michael Behe, biologist of Lehigh University, presents the persuasive evidence of microbiology. Dr. Richard Swinburne of Oxford University in England, in his books on the existence of God, also presents convincing evidence. There is a summary in my book The Biblical World View, An Apologetic.
2. Is Yeshua really the messiah who rose from the dead? The evidence for Yeshua as the resurrected Messiah is very strong. The Gospel accounts are the primary documents that testify to His life, death and resurrection. These documents are all contemporary first century accounts of Yeshua's life. The disciples who gave witness to His resurrection died as martyrs for this testimony. A recent presentation of this evidence is found in the writing of world-renowned scholar N. T. Wright. His amazing book is entitled Surprised by Hope. Wright was, until recently, Bishop of Durham and is now Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Andrews University in Scotland. His book is not only a good presentation of the evidence, but also a wonderful presentation of the biblical hope of our resurrection and everlasting life. The evidence is so strong that not many years ago an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, Dr. Pinchas Lapide, came to the conclusion that Yeshua really rose from the dead. This was presented in his book, The Resurrection, a Jewish Perspective.
3. Are we called and commanded as Yeshua's followers to build congregational communities in Yeshua? These communities are to build a loving fellowship with discipleship for all who are willing to follow Yeshua. They are to serve the world around them. Everyone is called to be part of such congregational communities, for we are commanded to not forsake congregational gathering in Yeshua (Hebrews 10:25). This commitment to congregation is to be the hub of the wheel of our lives from which flow our involvements in all other areas of life.
4. Are Messianic Jews called to identify and live as part of the Jewish people? This is foundational to the Messianic Jewish congregational movement based on New Covenant Scriptures. Romans 11:5 notes that Messianic Jews are the saved remnant of the Jewish people whose existence proves that the whole of the Jewish people are still made holy or sanctified. They are called the first fruits in Romans 11:16. This demonstrates that the rest of the dough (the Jewish people) is holy, set apart and elect (chosen). This role of saved remnant and first fruits only makes sense when Messianic Jews are part of their people, not abandoning the Jewish people and Jewish life in Yeshua. In addition, Romans 11:14 shows that the part of Israel that believes in Yeshua will continue to grow in numbers. All Israel being saved will lead to life from the dead (Romans 11:15). We are called to a special work of witness to the Jewish people that Yeshua is the Messiah and the way of life. We are called to the Christian world to show that the Gospel is from the Jewish people and that all must support Jewish survival. David J. Rudolph in his Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge explained that this was the intent of Paul in I Corinthians 7:17,18 when he stated that those who are circumcised are to continue in the meaning of that circumcision. The Jewish people are important in the plan of God. Our return to the Land shows that importance. Our celebrations show God's plan for the redemption of Israel and the nations.
5. Is life better in the kingdom? Almost 53 years ago, just at the edge of my teen years, I embraced Yeshua. I have watched the lives of those I grew up with and many more over those 53 years. Those who have lived fully for Yeshua have had a hope, a joy, a fulfillment, and a stability of love and family that is far superior to those who do not walk with Him. The comparison has to be with those who are fully dedicated, not those who are just attendees or lukewarm in their commitment. The committed live the best lives possible and that commitment affects everything, from their money to their marriages and families. This is my testimony as well.
My question to those of you who have left is this. Have you really sought Him? The Bible says that if we will seek Him we will find Him when we search for him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 23:13). This begins with prayer. Have you read any really serious high-level books that present the evidence for what we believe and why? Check out my book mentioned above, the other listed books, or Christian Overman's Assumptions. This is too important to deal with in a superficial manner. Don't let yourself be conditioned by the dominant culture into unbelief. My hope is that you find him. If you do, you will find that He has been seeking you. Your eternal destiny might be at stake. Yeshua said if anyone wills to do His will, He will know of the truth of His teaching (John 7:17). God will lead you if you are willing to commit yourself to do His will when He reveals Himself to you.
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