The Uncharted Frontier of Jewish Outreach

The Uncharted Frontier of Jewish Outreach


I’m J.K. McKee, editor of Messianic
Apologetics. If you are new to the channel, be sure to subscribe for future
teachings and updates. Are you aware that there is a significant aspect of
theology which directly affects Jewish outreach and evangelism, yet it is
scarcely even acknowledged by today’s Messianic movement? Each one of us has
people we know and care about, who are resistant to the message of salvation in
Yeshua the Messiah. Quite frequently, these are people we are related to–and
we diligently pray for the salvation of our close and extended families every
day. It can be quite distressing to entreat a loved one, or a close friend, to
pay heed to the good news–and then see them reject it. Our motive to testifying
to someone of the good news or gospel tends to be a straightforward one: “For
the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah
Yeshua our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NASU). Without receiving the forgiveness available in
the completed work of Yeshua at Golgotha, an eternity separate from one’s Creator
awaits (Revelation 22:15). The reasons why people reject the salvation of Yeshua
vary. Oftentimes, the main substance may be a human being’s inherent self defense
of his or her own ethics or morality. Many of the people
we love and care for our not evil. They are good upstanding citizens and
contributing members of society. They do good deeds. They are active in their
communities. They pay their bills. They do not cheat on their taxes. They do not
steal. They have never killed anyone. They are
patriotic Americans who support those in uniform. They are no different than any
other average person in doing what is right and honest. Of course, Proverbs
14:12 reminds us of how “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end
is the way of death” (NASU). Many people will defend how they live their lives, with
the belief that since their good deeds far outweigh their bad deeds, God will
have no choice but to let them into the Kingdom of Heaven. There are, of
course, some other, more poignant reasons, as to why people we know and care about
may reject the good news or gospel message. Many people in today’s world, as
ethical and upstanding as they may be, do not believe in God (cf. Psalm 14:1; 53:1).
Why make a commitment to a God that they do not believe exists? The atheist who
denies the very existence of a Supreme Being, yet considers himself or herself
to be moral, only believes that it is important that humanity does annihilate itself, and that it is survival of the species
which is important–not some eternal destiny involving an afterlife and/or
resurrection. Many of us can testify if people we not only know,
but are related to, who reject the message of Israel’s Messiah because they
reject God. And, it is a definite and obvious prerequisite that in order to
believe in Yeshua, you must first believe in God! Others we know actually do
believe in some kind of a Supreme Being. Some of them may actually profess some
acknowledgment of the importance of the teachings of Yeshua, at least as a good
teacher or ancient philosopher. Some of them may even read their Bibles as a
good way of reflecting on their upbringing as small children. But the
belief that they have to actually repent of their sins or misdeeds, and ask the
cleansing power of Yeshua’s work on the tree to spiritually regenerate them, is
far from their minds. Why is this the case? Because ultimately for them, the
Bible is just a collection of interesting stories and myths, not to be
taken too seriously. Since God is all love, and many, if not most people, are
naturally inclined to do good and abhor evil–whether one is Jewish, Christian,
Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever–most probably will make it into “the great
beyond.” It is affirmed that “all paths lead to God.”
As things stand today, about half of my extended family may be considered
liberal Protestant. Their church attendance is mainly for annual holidays
like Christmas and Easter or Mother’s Day. While they believe that the Bible
contains good principles, they are not too concerned with concepts such as sin,
the Ten Commandments, they certainly support gay
marriage, and they definitely believe that “all paths lead to God.” Most
especially concerning is that the Tanach or Old Testament is believed to contain
a great deal of creative fiction. A number of years ago, a particular
relative greatly hailed the 2001 book Reading the Bible Again for the First
Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally by Marcus J. Borg. The kinds of
arguments made in this book were favorable to spiritual applications of
the Scriptures’ message, but not to its historicity. And, most of the historicity
concerned the Genesis accounts, the record of the Exodus, and the rise of the
Kingdom of Israel. This relative was quite proud of telling the conservative
evangelicals in my family, “I do not believe in the rigidity of Adam and Eve!”
Most of the Bible was just myth and superstition of primitive peoples long
since gone. While exploring and defending the reliability of the Tanach was a
critical part of my own studies at Asbury Theological Seminary (2005-2009), this had
been relegated only as a curiosity for me following my family’s relocation to
the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex in 2013, and our reintegration into the Messianic
Jewish movement. I never really thought that much about issues of Tanach
reliability, thinking that they would even come up unless I was asked to
discuss something off to the side with an individual or two here and there,
probably a young person coming back home from college whose trust in the Bible
got challenged. Little did I know that issues of Tanach
reliability, as much as they have impacted my liberal Protestant relatives
from truly receiving salvation, have impacted the families of many Messianic
Jewish Believers even more astoundingly. When people in today’s Messianic
community prepare to be involved with Jewish outreach and evangelism, they are
correctly trained in issues involving the Messiahship of Yeshua and on
combating Christian anti-Semitism. We are each prepared to go into the Scriptures
and point to Yeshua fulfilling various prophecies and expectations of Second
Temple Judaism. We are given a list of terms not to use, like Jesus or cross, and
instead be sure to use Yeshua or the execution-stake. However, how many of us–
in encountering very liberal and progressive Jewish people–almost never
get around to discussing Yeshua of Nazareth? We spend time developing
relationships with Jewish people and establishing trust, and then we are told
when one’s faith practice comes up, “I am glad your religion works for you.” How
many of us have to field questions about the existence of God and the reliability
of the Tanach Scriptures, for which we are not at all prepared?
Today’s Messianic movement has failed to recognize that the uncharted frontier of
Jewish evangelism is the defense of the Tanach Scriptures. To many Jewish people,
the Hebrew Scriptures simply contain interesting stories
composed by their unsophisticated ancestors, which have important lessons
to be sure, but are broadly fiction. Jewish people in the West, having escaped
the persecution and discrimination of Eastern Europe, can now in America be
whoever they want to be, believing whatever they want to believe,
integrating into society as much as they want, often becoming areligious and
their Judaism being a Jewish culture coupled with a dismissal of the Hebrew
Scriptures as a guiding code of instruction. If half of my family are
liberal Protestants, then how much higher is the percentage of today’s Messianic
Jewish Believers’ families as liberal Jews? If you are a Messianic Jewish
Believer, does eighty to ninety percent of your extended family treat the Tanach
Scriptures as largely fiction? For far too long,
when Messianic people encounter those who dismiss the Tanach Scriptures as
myth–whoever they may be–our common reaction is that we retreat into
fundamentalism, and just flat avoid dealing with it. We avoid having the
difficult questions internally among ourselves discussed, meaning that we are
not only not prepared for what we know our God-less society is going to hurl at
us when high school and college students among us ask questions from their
science classes, but what many of our non- believing Jewish friends and neighbors
might say. How many Jewish people we try to witness to of Yeshua, do not reject
Yeshua because of Christian anti-Semitism on
another continent from the Middle Ages– but because they either do not believe
in God, or they think that the Tanach Scriptures are fairy tales? What are some
of the issues that we as today’s Messianic people have made an effort to
avoid? Creation. The Flood. Babel. The Exodus. The Wilderness. The Conquest.
Ancient Near Eastern Law Codes. The Kingdom of Israel. Jonah.
Job. These are all important venues where we need to know how liberal theology has
treated these accounts as being ahistorical at best, and outright
fabrications at worst. (And to be fair, both liberal Jewish and Christian
scholars have made a negative contribution here.) Too many Messianic
people look at some of these issues as actually being salvation issues,
and refuse for there to be open discussion internally–severely hampering
our external outreach. With the 2020s soon upon us, this will no longer work!
Hiding from Tanach difficulties will not work for our outreach to the world, and
will certainly not work for our testimony to the Jewish community. We
need to recognize not only what is, and what is not, a salvation issue–but be
honest enough to recognize that there might be more diversity in our Messianic
faith community surrounding these issues today, then we are perhaps prepare to
publicly admit. I personally may be regarded as a small “c” conservative
Believer in the Holy Scripture, particularly the Tanach–but i am also
not afraid for there to be open discussions on how the universe and
human beings got here, and how God worked in ancient history through the people of
Israel. None of us should be afraid of these discussions, either. We need to
consciously keep in mind the classic credo of apologetics, “sanctify Messiah as
Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks
you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and
reverence” (1 Peter 3:15, NASU). If you all found this content enjoyable and useful,
please be sure to drop a thumb’s up for this video. As always, we thank you for
your continued support of our ministry efforts. God bless and shalom, and we’ll
see you again with our next update!

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