Harry was 75 and in the hospital when I first met him. I was 26 and just beginning my new ministry in Chicago. As I told him about Jesus he said, “David, I’m 75 years old and that is just too old to change.” I pointed out that he was in excellent company since Abraham was 75 years old when he first began to follow God. I concluded with, “See, you are never too old to change.” Harry laughed and we began a relationship that lasted for years. After I moved to San Francisco to begin a different aspect of ministry, Harry finally prayed (with another Jews for Jesus missionary) to receive the Messiah. He became a new creation and since then has gone on to be with the Lord, with all the hope and wonder of a new body for all eternity.
As we enter 2008 let’s remember and reflect on this reality: God is in the business of bringing together the old and the new to establish His glory and reveal His holy purposes.
The New Year often brings a marvelous sense of hope and anticipation that can motivate and renew us to obey and to serve God. I am excited about what the Lord has in store for us. I hope you will be, too. For example, this year we will conduct the first of a series of Behold Your God witnessing campaigns in Israel. Our team has been planning and preparing and now we are just months away from the launch—and that truly is exciting for me and for our Jews for Jesus staff.
It is easy to be excited about new possibilities. The challenge is to remain passionate about our essential, long-standing commitments, even when they are no longer new. Remember, God brings together old and new for His glory. It is easy to disparage what is old as being out of date while being far less critical about what seems new and original. We often hear phrases such as “entrenched,” “passé” or “hidebound” contrasted with “fresh,” “innovative” and “cutting edge.” For some folks, this month’s rallying cry might be “out with the old, in with the new,” but I think that attitude is mistaken. Rather than either old or new, we need both old and new. That is certainly true for Jews for Jesus; we need old and new side by side to ensure a healthy future for the work of Jewish evangelism. A popular book about change entitled Good to Great encourages leaders to “preserve the core and stimulate change.” For Jews for Jesus, our mission statement remains: “We exist to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” Our statement of faith is the same as it always has been, quite conventional, nothing innovative, and solidly evangelical. Our core values are well established. We have them framed on the walls of our offices. I even carry them on a card in my wallet.*
No news has ever broken that is better than the old, old, story: the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God used an ancient plan to bring new life to those who trust Him. There can be no newness of life apart from that “old story.” It is through the old story that God imparts new mercies every morning.
While our story is old, we are committed to telling it in new, as well as time-honored, ways. Trying new things can be scary. When we step out past what is familiar we risk failure. We risk misunderstanding.
I know believers who, like Harry, have insisted, “We are too old to change. Besides, we like things the way they always have been.” Well, the Holy Spirit has never met a yielded heart that is too old to change, and some change is healthy and right. But then there are those who are so eager for what is new that they unwisely dispense with the tried and true. They blunder into areas of belief and practice that aren’t in fact new, just reckless and wrong-headed. We should be careful to avoid both extremes.
I hope you will pray for Jews for Jesus to remain faithful to the task God has given, even when the daily operations seem mundane and boring. But pray also that we not lose the courage to try new things. We need to be able to hold the old and the new in tension.
That isn’t always easy, but God seems to expect it. He challenged Israel to: “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you,” (Deuteronomy 32:7). But He also encourages His people to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1).
God promises His people astounding blessings that are anything but new: His tender mercies, His lovingkindness, the works of His hands, His throne, His judgments and His wonders. (Psalms 25:6; 77:11; 93:2; 119:52; 143:5). All of these are ancient, from everlasting.
At the same time, God promises: “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). God also promises us a new heart and a new spirit, to make those of us in Christ new creations and, ultimately, He promises to make all things new, including a new heaven and a new earth.
The Holy One holds the old and the new in perfect tension.We need to strive for balance between what is old and new as we live to serve Him.
There are many ways to celebrate the coming year. It may be helpful to pray that God will give us wisdom and grace to reaffirm our “nonnegotiables” and that He also will open our hearts to His leading to change or start something new. Why not meditate on these concepts, pray over them, and then make a list of “core commitments” as well as areas where change might be healthy? Keep that list in your Bible and let’s watch what the Lord will do! It may be a little scary, but what a blessing to look back next year and see His faithfulness. It is He who can keep us steadfast and faithful to that which should be unchanged. And it is He who can also surprise us, fulfilling His promises in new and unexpected ways for a bright and beautiful future.