FYI-I wrote this in the Spring of 2001, a month or two after I was saved:
I grew up in a conservative Jewish home, the son of a West Point graduate and a mom who escaped Nazi Germany (as a baby with my grandparents). My parents kept a kosher kitchen. As a Jewish child I attended Sunday School every Sunday beginning at age 4. We learned Hebrew and we learned about the Jewish culture. I went to Hebrew School twice a week after school from 4:00-6:00. I also attended Sabbath services on most Friday nights & Saturday mornings.
My parents instilled, in my brother, sister and I, a strong set of morals and a profound sense of ethical dos and don'ts. I now realize that these values must’ve been driven by Old Testament scripture. I was a member of the Jewish Youth group, went to Jewish summer camp and was in a Jewish fraternity at the University of Georgia. I grew up “real” Jewish.
As a Jew, the New Testament and Jesus, in particular, were not an issue. We were taught that at some point in time there would be a 'Messianic Era' of peace on Earth. I grew up believing that if heaven
existed, and I acted right, I would end up there. My viewpoint on Christianity was that Christians could live their lives however they saw fit so long as they accepted Jesus as the Christ. To my way of thinking this could not possibly be right because, in this world, you get what you deserve, right?
I met Susan when I was a junior in high school and she was a freshman. We dated for six or seven years and when I was a senior in college I asked her to be my wife, with one stipulation: she needed to convert to Judaism, so that our future children could grow up in a Jewish home. She agreed, went through a year-long conversion, that was an academic thing, and we were married in 1988. For the first few years of our marriage, we attended Jewish services occasionally and on all the holidays.
During this time Judaism began to wane as an important component of our life together. I didn't really know why, but it just kind of fell to the side. As time passed there was something about Judaism that didn't feel quite right. I simply felt that something was missing.
In January of 2000, I decided that I needed to figure out what I believed. I wanted the truth. I wanted to prove to myself that Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah. I decided that the best place to start was the Bible. I spent nine or ten months reading a Jewish Bible (Old Testament only). I thought I needed a factual basis for belief. . . just give me the facts!
When I finished the Old Testament, it seemed like it couldn’t end there. As a Jew who believed that the Bible only included the books in the Old Testament, I couldn’t possibly read the New Testament. But I felt overwhelmingly compelled to read it. The Holy Spirit was doing His thing. The struggle of whether or not to read the New Testament lasted about a week, and it was a genuine struggle. Finally, I decided to buy a New Testament and read it, but I read it filtered through the lens of the Old Testament (I didn’t even realize I was doing this). The truth is, I was looking for contradictions between the Old and New.
I could go on and on about the Old Testament passages that flooded my mind as I read the New Testament. Passages about the nature of man (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Ps 51:1-5), about faith (Gen 15:6), about a coming Messiah (Isa 53), and there were many others. One passage was sticking in my mind (Jer 31:31-34). God was in the heart-changing business. Then I read the genealogy in Matthew 1 and immediately thought this is the “guy” the entirety of the Old Testament was pointing to. Wow!!
During this 13 month investigation, I developed feelings I never thought I could have. There was a gradual build up of belief in my head that culminated in a passionate conviction in my heart. I began to understand that I was looking at this whole Christian thing wrong. It may just be about getting exactly what you don’t deserve. This Jesus may be for real.
I believe that knowing the truth involves more than just knowing a set of facts. You can’t be coerced into believing. The truth can only be known by those who want to know it, by those who love it because it is the truth, not because it is what they hoped or expected it would be.
On a dark rainy morning in the middle of January 2001, I was driving to work thinking about my faith, my parents, my wife and my kids and just started to cry because I realized that I had accepted the fact that Jesus died on the cross a few thousand years ago to atone for my sins. Everything culminated in a monumental change of heart that rainy morning. All of a sudden, I saw the world in a whole new light.
I understood, on a very elementary level, that this is a Jesus thing. He is truth. He is grace. He is life. He is for real. He is a game changer. You just can’t gaze into the very face of God and come out unaffected. Truth is reality. Jesus Christ is either who He says He is or He isn’t. He either died on that cross and was resurrected three days later or He didn’t. It either happened or it didn’t. It took me nearly 40 years to realize that every word in the Bible is true, that those events really happened, and that He loved me enough to die for me and save me.