Although 2,000 years ago, Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God looks for His lost sheep of Israel and brings them home.
Rebecca was a Jew and often read the Old Testament but she felt her faith was lacking something when she entered college. Through her spiritual seeking, God was able to change her life by guiding her to an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter on her campus. First, she met and made friends with the Christian students, whom she found to be “loving, passionate, and strong”, in the fellowship but as she spent more time reading the Bible and praying, she became friends with the Messiah, Jesus.
Rebecca wrote the following testimony of her faith:
When I arrived at Lawrence University in the fall of 2003, I believed in God the Father (God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). I also lived my Jewish faith. But I didn’t know about Jesus. Growing up, I loved to read Bible stories from the Old Testament and celebrate biblical feasts known as Jewish holidays (like Passover and Channukah) with my family. I also looked forward to Synagogue and Hebrew School. Since my Bat Mitzvah (Jewish coming of age ceremony) at age thirteen, I had taught Hebrew School, which I loved because it gave me opportunities to share my faith and heritage with others.
I thought I fully understood my beliefs and they were all I needed, though I didn’t really know what the New Testament said, or who Jesus was or what He did. But after starting college, I began to feel that my faith was maybe not as complete as I thought. During my first year at Lawrence University, I began attending the InterVarsity meetings for reasons I couldn’t explain even to myself. I’d made friends with Christian students and found them to be loving, passionate, and strong. I admired them and wanted to understand their faith, but I still intended to keep it separate from myself, observing without changing my own faith.
But the first time I attended a small group prayer meeting, I felt an amazing spiritual connection, like I was closer to God than I’d ever been before, and I began to experience a genuine desire to know God better.
After I talked to some Christian about sexual immorality, I really began to question some of my past behaviors. I wondered if what I had done was a sin; so I talked to my small group Bible study leader. As we looked through the Bible together, I figured out that I had committed a sin. I had a change of heart and changed my ways, but I still felt guilty about having done wrong things. And even though I prayed to God for forgiveness, I couldn’t get any satisfactory reassurances from Him. I felt like I was a bad person and that God might never forgive me. I went to my small group leader for more advice and he reassured me that I wasn’t a bad person; the fact that I’d read the Bible and had a change of heart were signs of my being a good person. He also explained that according to the New Testament, Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so God forgives the sins; of all who believe in Him.
I was fascinated by this idea and was willing to accept the reassurance that my sins were forgiven, but still I couldn’t bring myself to accept Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God. I grew up assuming He was for Gentiles, not Jews. I felt that I would be betraying my family, my synagogue, and my fellow Jews if I believed in Him. Then I saw the Jesus film and was struck by the similarities between my Jewish beliefs and Jesus’ teachings, and by the faith Jesus and His disciples had in God and how they observed Jewish holidays like the Seder. I saw that Jesus was not a Gentile but Jewish and that He claimed to be the Jewish Messiah. I knew in my heart that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, but I still wasn’t ready to admit it aloud because I was afraid people would try to make me choose between observing Jewish customs and holidays, and believing in Jesus.
I read the Bible more, and with some guidance from my small group leaders, found prophecies about the Messiah from the Old Testament – which all Jews believe in – that seemed to point directly to Jesus. I knew then that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel.
The next day I went to an InterVarsity lunch discussion and there, for the first time, professed my faith in Jesus. I explained that I believed in Jesus, but still felt Jewish and still wanted to attend synagogue and observe the Jewish holidays and rituals, expecting people to find this absurd and unacceptable. Instead, Andy, a college grad with experience sharing Jesus with Jewish people, commended me, explaining that my situation is actually not at all uncommon. He knows many Jews who believe in Jesus. He pointed out that Jesus said, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or Prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to complete.” (Matt 5:17) Jesus himself celebrated the Jewish holidays and obeyed the Jewish laws. Andy also explained that the New Testament explicitly states Jesus is the Messiah for both Gentiles and Jews. Gentiles need not convert to Judaism in order to accept Jesus, and likewise, Jews need not give up their Jewish heritage in order to accept Jesus. In the Messiah, there is no separation between Jews and Gentiles.
I have no doubt that God planned for Andy to be at Lawrence just at the time I was coming to faith in Jesus, in order to reassure me that my beliefs were valid so that I would not doubt or worry. I also know that God planned for my small group leaders and all of my friends from InterVarsity to serve as sources of inspiration and guidance in this difficult but rewarding journey.
When I came to college, I didn’t set out to find Jesus, but as I set out to find the Truth, Jesus came into my life. Matt 7:7-8 sums this up nicely. “Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking and you will find it; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps asking receives; he who keeps seeking finds; and to him who keeps knocking, the door will be opened.”