The New Year—it’s the season when people resolve to make long overdue changes in their lives. Many of us promise ourselves or a loved one to lose weight and get fit—to eat smart and exercise more. Others resolve to spend less time watching television and more time reading. Some will resolve to be more careful in how they spend or save money. Perhaps some even resolve to be kinder and more loving. Resolutions involve a commitment to positive change.
But sometimes the best resolution is a commitment not to change, but to be steadfast. God demonstrates such commitment in His Word. “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And so, the babe born in a manger in Bethlehem is the same One who sits on the throne, the same One who created the universe, the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world.
Situations and circumstances change, but God tells us in His holy Word that His commitment to be our Redeemer—to save us, to keep us—remains the same. Aren’t you glad that in this world of change, He has resolved to stay the same? As the executive director of Jews for Jesus, I have many opportunities—and sometimes, pressure—to change. I have studied and appreciate the value of change, but I need to make a different kind of New Year’s resolution—a resolution that involves a commitment not to change. I want to make the commitment to you that Jews for Jesus will remain the same in one very important way. We are going to continue being different.
From the very beginning, Moishe Rosen taught us to value the principle of “cognitive dissonance,” that is, the unexpected twist that causes people to do a “double take.” You see, people ignore what they think they already know or understand. If we don’t want people to ignore the gospel, we’ve got to present it in a way that causes people to think twice.
Jews for Jesus will remain the same through our commitment to be different. That’s a bit of cognitive dissonance right there! But I’m not just illustrating a point, I’m telling you my commitment to keep us creative, to keep us looking for new ways to connect people with the gospel. Maybe you saw some of the photographs in our newsletters this past year, as our teams handed out “Brews for Jesus” (iced coffee) and invited people to “post a prayer” on interactive boards we bring to streets and college campuses. One of our missionaries even dressed up in rain gear in the middle of a drought to reach out to college students (sadly no photos of that one!). Those who stopped got to engage in a conversation about Noah and the gospel implications of the ark.
If we don’t want people to ignore the gospel, we’ve got to present it in a way that causes people to think twice.
It requires a bit of courage to do what others might perceive as eccentric. When you rub against the status quo, sometimes you get burned by the friction. Merely identifying as Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) often causes friction. And the idea that Jewish people need Him to be saved? It’s bound to cause friction, just like it did 2000 years ago. We’ve got to be willing to take the heat ... not unlike the One we follow.
One pressure mounts as someone raises the fear of official or public disapproval. Such a person thinks that public censure is a “bad testimony.” But is it really? Would our conformity bring about the kind of testimony that wins people to Christ? Should we expect the world to approve of any effective gospel proclamation?
Another pressure comes from those who fear that any unconventional means of outreach could cause us to lose support—but who are our supporters, if not fellow nonconformists? If I am right about the kind of friend and ministry partner that I think you are, you appreciate the fact that we are doing the unconventional thing—because it helps us make the Messiahship of Jesus known. I believe you are much more concerned that we be biblically correct than politically correct.
We Jews for Jesus are never going to be “politically correct.” We don’t enjoy or seek out disapproval, but we accept that we’re not going to be loved very much in the United States or Great Britain or anywhere else in the world—except by those people who love Jesus a whole lot. After all, our message is just as radical and just as much a threat to the status quo as it was when Jesus walked this earth.
When you rub against the status quo, sometimes you get burned by the friction.
Nevertheless, we are not total nonconformists. No matter how unconventional our presence during the street witnessing aspect of our ministry, we are scrupulously conventional as far as our Jesus-centered, Bible-based beliefs are concerned. We conform to Scripture and submit to conventional forms of accountability in our associations with and commitments to the church.
We will never change our commitment to telling the truth: that people need to be rescued and that there is only one life preserver—the consequences of saying “no” to Him are more devastating than anyone could imagine. It’s not exactly a popular message, but it is one that people desperately need to hear. If anyone stands a chance of proclaiming an unpopular message, we do. However, we need divine unction, we need the Spirit of God to infuse our efforts with His power, to give us courage and sustain us. We need His help to withstand the “politically correct” mindset of the world.
Much has changed since I began leading this ministry nineteen years ago. It seems like yesterday that I was learning to lead my peers. Being the first successor to our founding executive director—who was somewhat of a father figure to many of us—certainly had its challenges. Now I am a grandfather, and the challenges are different. I have been pouring into our next generation, doing my best to help them master the balance of changing, yet remaining the same. Many of my colleagues have been investing in this as well.
What are your resolutions for 2016 as far as sharing the gospel is concerned? Will you resolve to help me in my resolution to remain the same by being different? Will you help us to be “out there” for Jesus? Will you pray for me to consistently be and do what is right to lead this ministry, and to help our younger generation to lead? May God grant us the courage of our commitments in the coming year. May we continue to stand boldly for Him whatever the cost. That is my prayer and my resolution for the New Year.
David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. Find out more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church.