Sunday, July 01, 2007

Examining the Testimony of Julius Ciss, Part 1

Julius' testimony is interesting in that he became a Messianic Jew before becoming an Orthodox Jew. I don't in any way want to say that his testimony is not genuine. Sometimes people understand everything just fine, but their heart is not full of faith. Too many people of all stripes say "if that person truly understood X they wouldn't have abandoned it." That's not always the case. That said, let's start looking at Julius Ciss' testimony.
It was at a Messianic "Rosh Hashana" service in the fall of 1976 that I formally committed myself to Christianity. At this service, the "Messianic rabbi" (as their pastors often call themselves) had preached a message of atonement, stressing the need for us to be forgiven for our sins through the blood of Jesus. I was overwhelmed by a sense that everything he preached was true. I was overcome by guilt for my sins. The opportunity to be forgiven these "sins" and to secure myself a place in heaven was irresistible. The pastor announced that refusing to atone carried with it as a consequence an eternity of burning in hell. I couldn't afford the risk of not "atoning". I decided to come forward and make my statement of faith: that I believed Jesus was the Messiah, and that he died as an eternal sacrifice for my sins.

It may become clearer as we look at more of his testimony, but I'm not sure how deep Mr. Ciss's understanding of his sin was. This may become clearer when we look at more of his testimony.

Notice how he uses "scare quotes" around the word "sins". What sins were Ciss convinced of but now he is not? Lying? Idolatry? Adultery?

I think Ciss may have been reacting to the need to believe in Jesus. The message very often gets formulated like this: don't believe in Jesus and you will go to hell; believe in Jesus and you will be saved and to heaven. The sin becomes merely not believing in Jesus. And while it is true that if you don't believe in Jesus you will go to hell, that sounds horribly arbitrary to people. It sounds like God is looking for a particular ticket.

What needs to give it proper context? The law of God. We sin in numerous ways beyond our faith or lack thereof. And I don't mean to minimize the importance of faith.

We need to be broken by the law of God.

Imagine you are on a ship. "Get on the lifeboat or you will be destroyed." If people think the ship is fine, they won't pay you any attention. If you convince them that the ship is sinking, your message will resonate with more people.

The gospel of John makes it clear that people who don't believe in Jesus are condemned already.

Our message makes more sense when we use the law of God. So I would have much rather have heard Julius Ciss said "I was convinced I was a liar, idolator, blasphemer, adulterer-at-heart, thief."

Now, if you do this, I don't think you guarantee any results. We are still dependent on the Holy Spirit to produce real results. But we will reduce the amount of false converts like Julius Ciss. And by "false", I mean faith which isn't produced by the Holy Spirit. Julius Ciss had genuine faith, but it wasn't Holy Spirit-produced faith.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Peter Davidson said...

This is a very nice blog! Have you had a chance to look through the many testimonies of our Savior at wetestifyofchrist.blogspot.com? You certainly may enjoy this too. God bless!

7/02/2007 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julius was never saved and never truly believed in Yeshua/Jesus. He knows this. When it becomes convenient for him to believe, then he will. Until then ...



Luke 9:59-62
59And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

61And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

62And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

11/23/2008 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Tyrone said...

For the Jews for Jesus groups... could a normal Christian join in with you, how are normal Christians different from you? And could I, being a Levite, start my own group called Levites for Jesus?

7/24/2009 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an Ex-messianic myself. In his testomony it is clear that Ciss did infact believe. A lack of understanding of our faith is what makes us an easy target for christians who used the tactics of fear.

6/26/2012 10:15:00 AM  

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