For 8 years I led a Bible study for inmates at “the Walls”, the castle-like maximum security prison in the middle of Waupun. During this time, one of the most interesting characters I met was neither a guard nor an inmate but another prison “minister” like me, an orthodox Rabbi not surprisingly named Moshe (Moses). Moshe was a delightful and somewhat quirky (who knows what he would say about me?) man, and the two of us developed a blessed, if not friendship, then “acquaintance-ship”. Through the years when we passed through the metal detector and were given a “ride” (the Walls’ term for being escorted in or out of the facility), I would occasionally pump him for information about his faith, and he was a fascinating tutor.
Now, along the way in life I have known or heard of people who once considered themselves Christians but who followed Moshe and many others in converting to Judaism. When I hear of such a conversion, I often want to ask the person kindly, “Have you thoughtfully considered what you’re doing?” I don’t know if they have, but it seems to me that these folks imagine that everything must be honky-dory, even with Jesus Himself; because, after all, the Jews are “God’s chosen people” and to follow Judaism is simply to get back to the foundations of the “Christian” faith, right?
Sorry…I don’t think so, at least not according to the teaching of the New Testament.
Here’s the problem: to adhere to the tenets of Judaism, you must deny that Jesus is the Messiah. Jewish people, after all, are still looking for the One who is to come. However you shake it, in their eyes, Jesus wasn’t “it”. So, unless you are a “Messianic Jew” (code for Christians with Jewish ancestry who often observe Jewish festivals and such), you reject Jesus. John makes it clear why this is a problem…
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 (ESV)
Do you see the problem? Deny that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and you show that you do not know the Father. Deny that Jesus is the Christ and you lose any hope of God’s provision for propitiation (1 John 2:2). The Jews are “God’s chosen people,” but Paul makes it clear that being a real Jew is a matter of sharing the faith of Abraham, who “believed God, and it was counted to Him as righteousness” (Romans 4:22; Genesis 15:6).
All this is why Paul was so heartbroken over the state of his ancestral people. Speaking of his Jewish brothers, he said…
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Romans 10:1-3 (ESV)
Moshe was a great guy, and definitely sincere, but notice that it’s not about that – some people raise sincerity to an all-important level, and in fact, Paul says that many Jews have a sincere “zeal for God.” But take note…you can be sincerely wrong.
Paul describes the heart of the Jewish problem in Romans 10:3 (above), and in so doing he describes not only Jews but also followers of all other religions, and even many who today would consider themselves Christians – Paul says they are “trying to establish their own righteousness”. But the Old Testament prophet Isaiah made it clear that any righteousness we can offer is only “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Jesus Himself says that not all who call themselves His followers will be with Him in eternity; for on Judgment Day, He warns that He will reject the many who come pleading their case with what they have “done” in His name (Matthew 7:22, 23).
So, if your current plan as you approach That Day is to point to what you’ve accomplished for God, hurry and throw the plan out the window. For the teaching of the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) is clear: the only hope of the Jews and everyone else for salvation is…the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah who has already come…2,000 years ago.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (ESV)