"Human attainment v. divine accomplishment" is a phrase I heard this past weekend to describe the major paradigms of faith worldwide. Human attainment is a core value in Judaism, for example. Pharisaical law – layering around each of the 613 commandments in Torah – further complicated religious life for the Jewish people of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) day. Perhaps some following modern Orthodoxy feel similarly. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus offers, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." These words… resound in a world where every other religious teacher says, "Try harder, work harder, do more, and become better" (Platt 56). Jesus offers us a replacement for this "Harder Better Faster Stronger" Daft Punk gospel. The truth is our work can be over.
"Our greatest need is not to try harder. Our greatest need is a new heart" (Platt 57). This has become undeniably clear to me, especially as the depravity of the human heart is constantly spot lit. For example, over Thanksgiving I heard my friend’s father discussing the corporate greed of a car company recently found out for sending off their product to developing countries with fewer safety bells and whistles, yet identically marketed and sold. These stories, though popping up daily, still shock. But we cut corners on individual levels, too. Especially when no one is looking.
We don’t do what’s right when it’s up to us even from a young age. Good parenting means we need to train children to fight the natural tendency of putting self first. If you choose to accept it, God permanently covered our sin through the substitutionary sacrifice of His son for His people and every nation. Each of us could only dream of such a parent’s love. Or could we?
You may be familiar with certain songs sung around this year including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," with lyrics such as, "God and sinners reconciled" through "the newborn king," and "Now He lays His glory by/Born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth/Born to give them second birth."
While we were still struggling, God offered to replace our depravity with a heart after His (Ezekiel 36:26). God knew the cost beforehand. He knew it required humbling Himself, arriving as a susceptible newborn. Before even Eden, before people could fail Him, God planned for it. We are extended God’s sacrificial and unconditional love. Without it, we are sentenced to punishment and separation from Him forever. I hope this December you will consider letting God do the work for you and give you spiritual heart transplant.
Over a year ago one of our best missionaries passed away. He was the child of Holocaust survivors, and as a kid, remarked of a nativity scene on a church’s front lawn, "Daddy, what is our king doing on their lawn?" The connection is certainly there. If you find yourself asking questions like that this season, we would be happy to tell you more about why we, as Jewish people, have placed our hope in Jesus as our Messiah.
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