Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Little Joel Rosenberg to Start the Day

Joel is one of many stories like these that I have come across--some of the biggest power players in Christianity are not Gentiles, but Jews. Ray Comfort, perhaps the biggest influence on open-air evangelism in the whole world, is an ethnic Jew; as is Jonathan Sarfati, a prodigy by any human measure, who churns out an amazing variety, amount and quality of work for CMI in that ministry's young-earth creation apologetics capacity.

That's the field of preaching and the field of teaching, to name two spiritual gifts the New Testament mentions as being areas wherein Christians work for the Lord (the point is not to label; there's overlap of gifts and it's indicated that not all possible gifts are listed). The point of the gifts mentioned by Paul and Peter seem primarily to me to be in context of talking about the "Body of Christ." Christians as part of the invisible Church all have a role to play, and the purpose of mentioning gifting is, I think, to enlighten us that there are diversities of ways to serve the Lord. Ray Comfort could not do Jonathan Sarfati's job, and I doubt there's anyone quite like Ray Comfort in his singleminded zeal for evangelizing the lost. Their natural talents and inclinations are divinely given to equip them for the purpose God intended them to fulfill.

Then there's the gift of prophecy, which brings me to another Jewish Christian. No one is quite so heavily involved in current events and politics as he, while still not failing to keep himself and his ministry centered on the Gospel. It's incredibly easy to fall into a trap where Christianity is subsumed into your political activism, and well-intended people and organizations abound where this can be seen. But in every place that I've read Joel's words or heard him speak, he has not lost sight of his ultimate goal--which is not awareness of a political issue, or some larger agenda to influence mid-east relations (though that's in view, but not the endgame)--he knows that his aim is to spread the Gospel first, and that his position of influence in political spheres is an aid to that, not the other way around.

Joel Rosenberg recently addressed criticism of the new Left Behind movie. Mark, he didn't defend the movie--what happened is that it brought out a lot of professing christians who denounced it because allegedly the Rapture is an "unbiblical" doctrine. Here's his article:

Watch the clear-eyed focus:
  • First, he concentrates the issue. The movie isn't the point, the rapture is. So let's talk about it.
  • Then, he raises a few questions to be answered. This is useful to defuse suspicions of blind belief.
  • Then, he gives a summary abstract, so that anyone too lazy or offended to read the whole article will still get the message. This is something I recently realized is crucially important.
  • Then, he addresses the name, and whether it's "found in the Bible."
  • Having done that, he then commences with the bulk of the article, providing textual support and making the case clear from Scripture, what the rapture is and why it is.
  • And the keystone: when finished, he doesn't stop there but brings it home. He brings the case to the unbeliever. And explains the Gospel to them, tying it into the message (as it can be tied into any sound message taken from the Bible), to explain that those who repent and believe will be raptured, and escape God's wrath.
He doesn't fall for rabbit trails, he doesn't speak out of ignorance, or from his own opinion, or from some other human's authority. What does he do? He hammers at the only thing that matters: what does the Bible say? And what will you do with the message of the Gospel?

He's not Ray Comfort, but Joel, like Jonathan also, models Christian obedience to the rest of us by always being keen to bring his message back to the Gospel. They may be specialized in their fields, one in science and one in politics, but both of them take to heart that the Bible does not distinguish between evangelists and non-evangelists. It is every Christian's God-given responsibility to "preach the Gospel" in whatever capacity they find themselves in.

And for a final example of how Joel effectively uses his platform as a Jew living in Jerusalem, with a heart for the Jews, here is his latest article on Yom Kippur:

The core of Jewish religion was sacrifices at the Temple. Without it, functionally speaking, there is no covering for sins for any Jew from 70 AD to today. Jewish scholars would probably argue that because the temple doesn't exist, there's an exemption (I haven't studied their views to know), but that's beside the point. There's no Biblical indication that sacrifices were ever to stop, (whether it's in the Talmud or Mishna, extrabiblical rabbinic teachings) apart from the Messiah's arrival.
"Consider that seriously. Daniel told us something extraordinary — that a coming Messiah would bring atonement for our sins before the Temple would be destroyed. In retrospect, that makes perfect sense: Why would the Lord take away the Temple before providing a new way for atonement?"

He takes a relevant Jewish institution and brings up a theological question. Now he's poised to answer:
"When I was younger, and as I processed these [[Isaiah 53]] and other Hebrew prophecies of the Messiah — that He would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, that He would live and minister in the Galilee, that He would do miracles and teach in parables, that He would be the Savior not only for the Jews but be a “light to the nations” — and as I realized that the Messiah had to come before the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 A.D., I came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. His death and resurrection proved that He is the “Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him,” as He said in John 14:6. Jesus’ shed blood provides the only atonement for sins for Jews and Gentiles today."

He connects his field of knowledge (Jewish/Israeli politics and religion) with a relevant current event that will be on people's minds (Yom Kippur, a Biblically-introduced observation) and ties it in to prophecies about the Messiah (Isaiah 53, a part of the Bible that the Jews recognize as authoritative for them), to make a logical appeal based on history (the destruction of the Temple at 70 AD means the Messiah must've come before), to finally.....
"I received Jesus the Messiah as my Savior and Lord when I was young. By the amazing grace of the God of Israel, He helped me humble myself, confess my sins to my Abba Father, believe in my heart that Jesus died and rose again, and confess with my mouth that Jesus is the Lord. Then, at that moment — just as He promised in the Scriptures — Jesus atoned for my sins, and gave me eternal life. My name was written in the Book of Life forever and ever. Not because I deserved it. Not because I earned it. Not because I could buy it. Rather, the Lord God gave me this atonement and eternal [life] for free, because I received the Messiah by faith."

...preach the Gospel in his capacity as a man among Jews, illuminating the Scriptural truths in a way that they are best able to understand. And his presentation is solid: Repentance of sin, denial of self, salvation by grace and not of works, and as a final brilliant artistic touch, connecting the whole point of Yom Kippur--from the Bible's inception thereof to the present day--to the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, who provided the perfect sacrifice for sin, so that the blood of bulls and goats would no longer be mistakenly thought sufficient to take it away, so that God would get all the glory.

Jesus to the Christians means that every Yom Kippur, "Day of Atonement," we have an opportunity to be thankful to Him for atoning for our sins.

I'm praising Mr. Rosenberg because of my joy in his modeling obedience, to the glory of God.

Christian, are you preaching the Gospel wherever you are, whatever your spiritual gift? I've shown you three men, and although one is a full-time evangelist, the other two are no less active in propounding on the salvation message where God has placed them. Let that be true for every one of us as well.

~ Rak Chazak

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