I know, I know! I’m stating the obvious! Or perhaps that’s a revelation to you! Well, whatever your response to that statement, know that my views about that statement have changed dramatically in my life. At one point it was completely irrelevant. Today, that statement plays a major role in who I am as human being. Let me explain.
Growing up in a Reform Jewish household in St. Pete, FL, I attended a synagogue, and at age 13 went through Bar-Mitzvah. If you’re wondering, Bar Mitzvah means ‘son of the commandment’ and is a ceremonial rite of passage when a Jewish boy becomes a man. Though we were culturally and socially very connected to the Jewish community, we were not a particularly religious household, as Reform Judaism is a liberal expression of Judaism.
One thing my religious experience instilled in me was a belief in God. I always believed in God as far back as I can remember and also believed in some sense that HE knew me and that I was special in His eyes.
Looking back, one thing that was strikingly silent in my religious upbringing was any mention of the name of Jesus. Though the Jewish community may be have many expressions and differing opinions, there is one thing agreed upon by the unbelieving religious establishment that is taught uniformly – Jesus is not for us - us being the Jewish community.
In high school and college I sought happiness and fulfillment through achievement in sports and in the classroom and in the party scene, but nothing satisfied. In short, I had become a person walking in quiet desperation, empty and alone.
But along the way during my college years’ people began sharing Jesus with me. I didn’t want to listen to them. When invited, I wouldn’t go to church, attend a bible study or go to a Christian concert. I didn’t want to hear about ‘their’ Jesus. My basic sentiment was in so many words was, “Leave me alone!” However, people kept coming.
In time I began to listen to the testimony of Christians in my life and my emptiness moved me to begin searching for truth. In 1986, though I didn’t embrace my Judaism or Christianity, I began examining different philosophies and religions for answers to life’s biggest questions.
Finally, in September 1987, after being challenged by a Christian to ask the God of Israel if Jesus is the Messiah, I cried out to God as I knew Him to show me the truth about Jesus. He did, and in December 1987 I trusted in Jesus! I believed for the first time that He died for my sins and rose again from the dead so that I could be forgiven. Knowing Messiah was and is the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life, but it’s not been easy being a Jew for Jesus.
I was a ‘closet’ Christian for 18 months, for it took that long for me to ‘come out.’ You see, I was the first believer in my family and it took me that long to share my new found faith with them. No, they didn’t understand. And yes, I’m not welcome in the unbelieving Jewish community today. But I follow the truth regardless of the consequences.
Something profound occurred in my life as a new Christian. I made a discovery that was quite astonishing to me at the time. As I began studying the New Testament, I learned about the Jewishness of Jesus. He celebrated all the Feasts of Israel. I also learned all the writers of the New Testament were Jewish with the possible exception of Luke. And Luke was a doctor, so who knows! I thought to myself, “Christianity is Jewish!”
As I grew as a Christian, my desire to share this good news with my Jewish people also grew. I wanted them to know that yes, it is Jewish to believe in Jesus, for He is the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. In fact, I got so excited about that reality that in 2003 God brought me to serve as a missionary to my Jewish people in New York City for 6+ years.
In one sense the gospels are simply a Jewish debate among Jewish people about the true identity of a Jewish man, Jesus. And the story takes place in Israel. What could be more Jewish than that? You get the point.
Jesus said about Himself in Matthew 5:17, “I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill.” What does that mean? Well, for one thing, Jesus is the fulfillment of everything the Old Testament said about the coming Messiah. There are many other connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I invite you to come along on a journey of discovering the connections between biblical Judaism and Christianity during our Jewish Roots of Christianity Seminar March 1 and 2.
We’ll examine the origins of the gospel in the Old Testament, see how the Feasts of Israel point to the redemptive work of Jesus, take a look at Messianic Prophecy and more.
To get more information or to sign up to attend the free seminar, come to our lobby display on Sunday morning or go online at gfcnow.com/lifelonglearning.
Posted on Wed, February 20, 2013
by Larry Stamm filed under