On today’s broadcast I had Ken Overby. He is with Jewish Awareness Ministries. We are looking at how to defend our faith when we come up against those with different belief systems. He have looked at creationism and other things. Today we are going to look at Judaism.
These people believe the Bible, at least the Old Testament, yet their view is different from that of Christians. When we think about the Jews, we picture the Middle East and the nation of Israel. Not all Jews in the world today originate out of Israel. Some have been living in the United States for generations.
There are about 15 million Jews in the world. They are less than a half of one percent of the world’s population. It is amazing that such a small group of people can be on center stage in the world. It is because Israel, is the focus of God, and therefore, also the focus of Satan.
There are about 4.5 million Jews in the United States. Compare this to Israel’s 6 million. About 40% of all the Jews in the world live in the US. There are about 25 to 30 thousand in Charlotte, NC, where Ken’s ministry is centered.
Jewish Awareness Ministries is first of all a personal evangelism ministry. This happens primarily through nursing homes and door to door visitation. They also have a college ministry. There is a weekly college ministry with a literature table and a weekly Bible study. They also do a lot of training in Jewish evangelism all over the southeast. The ministry has about a dozen workers at this time.
We need to understand that when we share our faith with those of another religion, they will say things against ours. We have to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
We also need to remember that how we say things, and how we approach things, make a big difference in our success. If we go with the right spirit and the right attitude our success rate will be much greater.
It also helps if we don’t stand on land mines. It is good to avoid offending others in our approach. The truth is, the Gospel is offensive. When we present the Gospel we tell people they are sinners, that they are worthy of God’s judgment, and worthy of being sent to Hell. I think you can see how this can be offensive. We don’t have to be offensive in the manner we tell people the truth.
Cultural Things About Judaism
The basic seven feast of Israel listed in Leviticus 23 are important to them. Five of them are practiced regularly on a cultural basis. There are a few extra feasts that are not listed in Leviticus that are observed. Hanukkah is one of these. Jesus was at one of these, the feast of dedication, in Jerusalem. The word “dedication” is from the Hebrew word “hanakkah.” There is also the feast of Purim, the feast of Esther. There are really about seven feast they keep. This means there is a feast about every other month.
Most of us in America have heard the term “kosher.” In our ministry dealing with Muslims, we deal with “halal,” which is similar to kosher, except for some of the rituals. Kosher is a word that means clean or approved, It goes back to the biblical list of animals that are clean. In Peters vision of the sheet coming down from Heaven, he saw unclean animals, probably some of our favorites like pork and shrimp. The big kosher thing with Jews is not to mix milk and meat product in the same meal. For example, in all of Israel you cannot find a pepperoni pizza because it has meat and cheese on it. The rabbis run the marriage, birth, and kosher laws. They have McDonald’s, but there is no cheese on the burgers.
Not mixing milk and meat is based on one verse that says don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk. The rabbis have made volumes out of this one verse.
When we want to share our faith with a Jew, we don’t want to step on a land mine, we need to know where to start. We start with their misconception that the Messiah is not divine. They believe that Messiah is just a man whom God will bless and give Israel a victory militarily, and then prosperity will follow. The modern Jew has no concept of Messiah being God. They will say, “A man cannot be God.” The first thing we have to do is deal with the divinity of the Messiah. We must do this without the New Testament.
Before we can even get to this point, we must prepare the ground. We want the seed to fall upon good ground that will produce fruit. Preparing the ground takes time, sometimes years, but it is necessary if we expect to reap a harvest. This discourages most people because they want to give the Gospel with four points and move on. They want to pick the fruit the same day they plant the seed.
Just like we must remove the rocks and the weeds from a field, we must go through the process of removing the objections with their own Bible. We must show that Messiah is divine because of passages like Isaiah 9:6 where He is called the wonderful counselor, the mighty God. There are many Scripture passages that verify this. They just don’t know their Scriptures.
This last statement is shocking to Christians. The Jews wrote the Old Testament, meticulously worked to keep it pure, and gave their lives to defend it. We assume they are all experts in what it says. The average Christian who grew up in church, went through the Sunday School curricula, and is now an adult serving in his church, knows more about the Bible than the average rabbi.
I find the same thing true when dealing with Muslims. I would rather deal with what is called a radical Muslim because he knows his scriptures. The same is true with the orthodox Jews, which are only about 6% of the Jewish population. They will at least know the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. This gives a much better foundation to start with.
We have to be patient and take the time to cultivate the ground. The Bible says we should let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works. In Christianity we don’t like to talk about good works because some people interpret that as, that is how you get saved. They throw the baby out with the bath water. The reason we must do good works is so they can see them and glorify the Father.
The Jewish people refer to good works as mitzvahs. Mitzvahs is really the word for commandments, or obedience to the commandments. If you ask them how to get to Heaven, they say mitzvahs, or good works. If we tell them that it is not by good works, it is confusing for them because they live for mitzvahs.
We need to learn the Old Testament Scriptures that point them to Jesus. We need to do this subtly. We don’t come as someone who knows everything, we come as a student. We ask them what they do, for example, at Passover, at Hanukkah, etc. The point is, we need to get interested in them, and what they believe. They love telling you what they know about their own faith.
If we grew up in church, we already know about the Jewish Scriptures. What we need to do is ask them how their family does things. If someone’s family is orthodox, and they are not, we need to ask why this is so. Why are they not as strict as their forefathers in the practice of their religion?
As you learn what they believe, you learn where they are off base. You can point them to their scriptures, which they don’t even know. Many times they will say something like, Are you sure you’re not Jewish, you know more about it than me.
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