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Jul 21 2012

Jewish atheist to Christian believer, a testimony to Jesus Christ

At my current age, I’ve lived about half my life as a Jewish atheist and half as a Christian believer.  This post is a testimony to the power and love of Jesus Christ.

I was born in Argentina, and my family moved to the United States when I was seven years old.  It was quite a culture shock in 1963.  Even in California, very few people spoke Spanish back then.  When we spoke Spanish in public, people would look at us like we were from another planet.  All the sports and games were different and I didn’t know how to play any of them.  I adapted to the changes, but things weren’t always easy.

 

My mom and dad are quite elderly now, both retired physicians.  They had good values by the world’s standards  and I looked up to them and admired them.

My dad is an atheist to this day. When I was little, he would take me for walks in the evening after dinner. He would teach me what he believed and answer my endless questions.

One of the things he taught me was that God does not exist and that people of faith are foolish. I believed everything he taught me because I admired him and I wanted to be just like him.

There was something about his teaching on God, however, that did not line up with my experience. When I would go out at night by myself and look up at the sky and stars, I could not reconcile what he taught me with what I was seeing.  I sensed in my heart that there just had to be more to this whole thing than what my father believed.  I longed to know more.

I had one sibling, my sister Ruth, who was 15 months older than I.  She died from cancer when she was 33.  I believe that’s when I started searching for God.  Actually, it was more like looking for God, because I was very angry and I needed to know why, if God even existed, He would allow my sister to die.  My sister was one of the kindest and gentlest people I’ve ever known.

I recall trying to find comfort in a book titled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.

The premise of the book was:

1. God is all-powerful and causes [controls] everything that happens.
2. God is just and fair, giving everyone what they deserve.
3. Job is a good person.
4. Job did not get what he deserved.
5. Therefore, either God is not all-powerful or else He is not all-just (or both).

Well, after I finished reading the book, I was worse off than before I started. The premise of the book ruled out the possibility that God has a master plan, and without a plan, my sister’s death was just another meaningless random incident.

If that was the case, I was not sure I was interested in continuing to live in a world ruled by a god who cares about us but could not help us even if he wanted to because he’s not all-powerful, or by a capricious and unjust god who randomly tortures his creatures.

Even though I did not believe in God at the time, I believed that if God did exist, He had to be all-powerful and have some kind of plan and purpose.  By definition, God is all-powerful.  I continued my search for  understanding of why bad things happen to good people, and specifically, why He would allow my sister to die.

I was a very angry atheist for many years. I’d laugh at people who had faith and do my best to tear down and destroy what they believed.

One year after our son was born, my wife and I decided to move from the big city we were living in to a smaller town. I went on several job interviews and landed a job in a town just a couple of hundred miles away from where we lived.

Not long after starting my new job, I noticed that there was something different about one of my co-workers.She had this peace that didn’t seem affected very much by her circumstances.  Her peace was not affected by problems that would have affected me a lot.  I was very curious and I asked her what she believed.

She told me that she believed in Jesus Christ, and that her peace came from Him.  My heart sank when I heard that, because coming from a Jewish family, this posed a big problem for me.

Her peace, however, was real and undeniable, and I had struggled and suffered for a long time.  I was full of questions about Jesus.

After a couple of weeks of answering my questions, my friend suggested that I read the Bible for myself and find my own answers.  I was not at all happy with that suggestion because I thought we were doing just fine with our lunch-hour question and answer sessions.

In response to her suggestion, I told her that I had already read the Bible from cover-to-cover (which was a lie) and that it had not done much for me.

She just smiled at that and said, “okay”.

I really wanted what she had though, so I got a Bible and began reading the book of Matthew.  The few times that I had actually opened a Bible before this, I had approached it with a critical and hostile heart, but this time I began reading with my heart open to the possibility that I was reading God’s very Word.

When I got to the Sermon on the Mount, it seemed as if God was speaking directly to me through the words on the page. He revealed Himself to me.  I couldn’t wait to tell my friend what had happened!

When I told her, she handed me a little Bible tract  and suggested that I read it when I got home.

I went home after work, and that evening I read the little tract she gave me titled “The Four Spiritual Laws”.

  • The first of the Four Spiritual Laws is:

1. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

God’s Love

John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s Plan

John 10:10 — The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

  • The second of the Four Spiritual Laws is:

2. “Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.”

Man Is Sinful

Romans 3:23 — “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Man Is Separated

Rom 6:23 — “For the wages of sin is death”

  • The third of the Four Spiritual Laws is:

3. “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin.”

Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God.

He Died in Our Place

Romans 5:8 — “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

He Rose From the Dead

1Corinthians 15:3-6 — For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

He Is the Only Way to God

John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • The Fourth of the Four Spiritual Laws is:

4. “We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God’s wonderful plan for our lives.”

We Are Saved Through Grace and Faith

John 1:12 — “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

Acts 16:31 — And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”

Ephesians 2:8-9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

At the very end of the tract, there was a short prayer :

  • “God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

My friend  had advised me to not trust in my feelings or emotions after reading the tract, but rather to rely and trust in God’s promise of salvation through accepting Jesus’ death as payment for my sin.  After saying the prayer, however, I did feel God’s forgiveness.  It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted from me.

I still had the problem of telling my Jewish family that I was a Christian, but as I continued to read through the book of Matthew, I came across the following verses:

Matthew 10:34-39 — “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

There it was right there and I knew I had to make a choice. I decided to follow Jesus and let the cards fall where they may. My family was not happy. They did not disown me, but our relationship changed and things between us have never been the same.

The co-worker who had introduced me to Jesus had also invited my wife and I to attend her church. We had attended a few services, and we were there one Sunday morning when the senior pastor was away and there was a substitute preacher.

I was not very happy about that because I had gotten to like our regular pastor, but I listened as our substitute preacher began teaching about the events on the day Jesus was crucified.

He went into great clinical detail about the nature of crucifixion and what Jesus suffered that day. As I listened, I began to get very uncomfortable.  I work in healthcare, so blood and gore does not bother me much at all, and I could not understand why I was squirming so much.  I looked around to see if others were uncomfortable, but everyone else seemed to be doing okay.

As I continued to listen, my eyes began to fill with tears as I began to realize that it was *my* sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, and that it was for *my* sin that Jesus gave His life. Prior to this, the phrase “Jesus died to pay for man’s sin” was just a phrase, but at that moment, His sacrifice on the cross became personal.  At that moment, my heart turned towards Him and I became His.

After Jesus saved me, I rejoiced over God’s grace and mercy and I was on fire for Him, but I was still troubled by my sister’s death.  To the best of my knowledge, she had never professed saving faith in Jesus before she died. The question of where she was spending her eternity continued to trouble me for many years and resulted in self-destructive behavior. I guess I believed that  I had a right to know the answer.

Over the years of being a Christian, however, something amazing happened.  I have come to be at peace with the question that haunted and troubled me, but not because God revealed the answer. I have come to be at peace with it because, over time, God has revealed Himself to be completely trustworthy and infinitely good and just.

I heard someone say once that life is like a Persian rug. The top side of the rug has a beautifully woven pattern, but the bottom side just looks like a bunch of ugly threads running in seemingly random directions.

God weaves the beautiful pattern on top, which is His plan, but as long as we are living in this fallen world, we only see the bottom, where things often look random and ugly.

Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Isaiah 55:8-9 — For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

What first attracted me to Christianity was the peace I noticed in my co-worker, and through God’s grace, I am also able to rest in Him today and be at peace.

Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

As I continue to read the Bible, pray, fellowship with other believers, and walk with God, my desires become less self-centered and more God-centered.

Psalm 37:4 — Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

It is a blessing and privilege to share my testimony about my Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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9 comments

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  1. Alan Robertson

    Despite the wisdom of your Dad he does not seem to have taught you that the truth lies out there not within. You can never find the truth by sitting in a room and deciding how you would like things to be or selecting your favourite book. The truth is not about personal comfort. You need to observe what is really out there and accept also that there are things you don’t know yet. Abitrary random things can happen. If you want a master plan for your life its quite simple. Get a job, get a house, find a spouse, have kids, bring them up and later die. That is what most people want and like the birds and the bees you don’t really need to think about it. For most people this sense of purpose is built in. Religion is an optional extra.
    Your experience is typical. At first you believe what your parents tell you. Its only later you decide for yourself. In your case you have chosen religion and sometimes it works the other way around. I applaud the thinking for yourself bit anyhow. Probably the majority never escape their parents beliefs.

    1. Ed

      Thank you for your comments Alan, and it’s nice to meet you.

      As far as truth goes, I think Truth found me more than I found Truth. I chose a pic of a starry sky for my testimony because in retrospect, I can see how God revealed Himself to me even as a small child.

      I do want a master plan, but I don’t want *my* master plan. I lived for many years according to my master plan, and things didn’t work out very well according to Ed’s plan :)

      God has blessed me by allowing me to live on both sides of several fences, for better or for worse, although also in retrospect, it’s definitely been for better. I’ve lived about half my life as an atheist and half my life as a Christian. I consider that a blessing, because it allows me to contrast one versus the other.

      When I was an atheist, anything having to do with God was complete foolishness to me.

      1Cor 1:25 — For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      Christianity is not a religion in the sense the word “religion” is commonly used. By definition, a religion involves man reaching out to God, whereas in Christianity, it is God who has reached out to man by providing us a way to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ dying as payment for our sin.

      Again Alan, thank you for your comments, but I do not deserve any applause for my conversion to Christianity. It was a struggle for me to believe differently than what I was taught in my childhood, but the credit for my becoming a Christian belongs completely to God.

      John 15:16 — You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

  2. doug franck

    Hello Ed-I can relate to your testimony. I am an ethnic Jew, raised in a secular Jewish family background. My father stressed being proud of our heritage but was little, if any, observant. My mother is Sicilian, born a Roman Catholic, but converted to Judaism so that she and my father could be married. Their marriage lasted 64 years. My father passed away at age 82, June 30, 2012. He always spoke of G-d but never related to Him. His attitude was that G-d lived in His place and that He was far too busy to be concerned with mankind. If a person was a good person, then they would go to Heaven. I questioned this from a very early age to the time when I was 25. That was the last time I questioned G-d about His existence. He made it abundantly clear to me that He was who He was and that Yeshua was who He was and is. I came to faith in 1975, father’s day June 12. I have never looked back but only forward. The plan, I find to be of great enjoyment. Not knowing His personal plan for my life aside from what He tells me in His word, gives me great anticipation for what is to come. Every day is an adventure waiting for His plan for my life to unfold and become reality. I couldn’t care less as to what’s going to happen tomorrow. Today is enough for me to take in and live. I enjoyed reading and experiencing your testimony. I hope that you will contribute to this blog in the future. Thank you so much.

    1. Ed

      Thank you for your encouraging comments doug, It’s a blessing to meet you brother.

      Thank you also for sharing some of your testimony. I don’t know why God never ceases to amaze me, but He never does. No matter how many times I hear how He works in people’s lives, it still floors me.

      I can relate to how you see life as a day-to-day adventure. Who said Christianity was boring? :)

      thanks again!

  3. Tishrei

    Thank you for sharing your testimony.

    Your analogy of a persian rug really was very illustrative. It is so very true. What we see in this fallen world is the bottom side of the “rug” and won’t really see the beauty of the “rug” until we are no longer in this fallen and sinful world. Also, while you heard a preacher talk about the clinical details of His crucifixion, I read a Christian doctor’s account of what happens to the human body in a crucifixion. It is unimaginable and to know that He willingly endured that so that I may have eternal life is beyond my comprehension. The torture is unimaginable yet He gave His life so that we may have life.

    When I was reading your account about when you would go out and look up at the sky and stars, Romans 1:20 came to mind. He made plain to you through His creation that He does exist.

    Again, thank you for sharing your testimony and I look forward to reading more posts from you.

    1. Ed

      You’re very welcome sister, thank you for giving me an opportunity to share it.

      The persian rug “word picture” really helped me to understand and accept that God continues to be sovereign over all things even if we can’t always understand why things happen the way they do.

      As regards your comment on Romans 1:20, every time I come across that verse it reminds me of when I was little and would go outside at night and look up at the sky. I find it hard to see how anyone could deny the existence of God when looking at His creation, but then again, that’s exactly what I did for many years.

      Thank you for your comments and encouragement!

    2. wdavison

      Tishrei –

      If you believe that everyone is under the eye of a GOD & CREATOR, foregiving us our ‘SINS’ etc., why oh why does HE – NATURE – produce individuals with so many ‘defects’. You reside in dreamland m’dear

      Theosophies? – Created by the score – Beliefs? – We doubtless need no more
      Suffice to say – “We’ll NEVER know – What REALLY makes the green grass grow!”

      Probing the ATOM or Heavenly SPACE – We do indeed come face to face
      With INFINITIES galore – & probably a great deal more!

      Fouling up our minds with a rag-bag of archaic religiose twaddle does absolutely NOTHING to enlighten our ignorance!

      All GODS are but invisible & silent entities, dreamt up & kept alive only by CHARLATANS who have long preyed on the naivety of the credulous!

      1. Ed

        Hello wdavison!

        I’m Ed, thank you for visiting and reading this testimony.

        Tishrei and I are co-bloggers on Fruit of the Word.

        As far as God and theology goes, it looks like we’re
        just going to have to disagree as far as what we believe.

        thanks again for your visit and comments,

        Ed

  4. wdavison

    Ed –

    Surely you can appreciate my puzzlement re any person’s BELIEF in something so intangible as GOD, your maker of Mankind & Everything.

    I’m sure you’ve got to grasp the fact that Nature is red in tooth & claw & is pitilessly indifferent re an individual’s status in life. in whatever form that life takes. It’s indisputable that the fittest must have the best chance of survival in its particular environment.

    Theology just HAS to be the Transcendental ramblings of the MIND, ignoring the pragmatic matters that face us daily. How anyone can really profess to believe in such utter crap & claim honesty of thought beats me solid. Total refusal to face the facts of survival except when eventually forced by illness or old-age. Denial of the Common Sense we all must & DO use to get by & just CANNOT ignore!

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