Every year I relive a cycle that began on April 1, 1971. As a result of that, I have some of the most wonderful memories. I went to the mailbox and to my surprise I received some papers from Uncle Sam, stating that I needed to report April 2 for my active duty in the Army Reserves. Of course I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but it wasn’t. The next day, I was headed for Fort Knox Kentucky. My active duty would end July 31, 1971.
Two of my best friends (one Jewish and one Gentile) and I had already agreed that when I got out of the army on July 31, we would move to Columbia Missouri, to attend a university. That very same summer while I was in the Army, my two best friends went to California and while they were there, they met some people who were followers of the Messiah Jesus. After several weeks of constant conversation about the Messianic claims of Jesus, they too became followers of Him. They returned from California and I got out of my active duty. All three of us arrived in Columbia and moved into our apartment.
In no time flat I was made aware of their “new” belief. They hounded me day in and day out. Even though I was not very religious in my Reform Judaism, I was greatly offended by some of the things they were saying. They told me that my way of believing in God was wrong and that I needed to approach God the way He instructed us to. I thought that as long as I was sincere and that I believed in God, that was all that was needed. They told me that my good deeds or mitzvahs would not get me to heaven. I thought that if the good things I did outweighed the bad things I did, I would get in. They told me not to reject the only way that sins could be forgiven. I had never really taken sin seriously. Knowing that I was guilty of many of them, I was totally unaware of the severe consequences of sin. They told me that if I did not receive Jesus as my Messiah and Savior, I would end up in the flames of Hell. This really burned me up. If God was a God of love, how could I end up in Hell? My friends truly cared for me, but they were telling me things that were contrary to what I had come to believe about God without real knowledge They were telling me and showing me things straight out of the Bible. That’s not where I developed my beliefs about God and life. My beliefs simply came from what I thought was true.
As the weeks rolled on, I began to notice some distinct changes in my friends’ behavior. This really got my attention. When I asked, they were quick to tell me that the changes were the direct result of their faith in Jesus the Messiah. That made such an impact on me that I began to read the Bible for myself. I wanted to see what was in there. As I read, I was really shocked. I began reading in Matthew, which is the gospel account that was written especially to the Jewish people. When reading about a person I had heard of and of whom I had developed a mental picture, I realized that I had been wrong! The Jesus I was reading about wasn’t anything like the Jesus my Judaism had taught as I was growing up.
Over the months, as I continued to read the Bible, I began to see myself being drawn to what I was reading. At that time I developed an intense fear of what would happen if I believed all of this. What would my family say? What would my Jewish friends say? On December 1, 1971, I found out. In the privacy of my bedroom, I became a follower of Jesus as my Messiah. It’s true, there were times of tremendous misunderstanding by my family and friends concerning what I had done. It was difficult to experience rejection by others because of my belief in Jesus as Messiah, however, that rejection can’t compare to the hope, to the peace, and to the multitude of blessings that I continually receive from God.
One thing in particular has happened since I became a Believer in Jesus as Messiah: my appreciation of my heritage has become very precious to me. If all you know about God and life is what you assume, begin reading the Bible. I challenge you to read the gospel of Matthew on your own.