It has been an encouragement to me to see that Silviu from Romania—and more recently from Los Angeles—has come much closer to embracing Yeshua as Messiah. Ironically spiritual progress can come at a point when we are humanly ready to give up. It makes me appreciate all the more those who are praying for our Jews for Jesus ministry. Several of our staff had planted and watered in Silviu’s spiritual field” for more than a year without much discernible progress, and we were almost ready to give up on him as being insincere about his interest in the gospel.
Indeed, Silviu had witnessed more than ample incidences of God’s supernatural call in his life. He had experienced several small miracles, and we thought there must be something wrong with this guy that allowed him to ignore and hold out against the truth of the Messiah.
But then one day Silviu called, and I saw some genuine progress. He had no trouble believing in the mechanics of salvation, including the thought that God’s Holy Spirit will indwell the human heart when invited to do so. Much of my time with Silviu was spent discussing the issue of yielding one’s free will to the Potter, and letting God be God. Silviu realized that he would never have all of his intellectual queries satisfied, and that he would not be able to see past a certain point until he brought his heart before his Maker. He knew that remaining academically aloof would only hamper his spiritual insight and cause deafness and hardening. I think that the progress I saw was more than wishful thinking on my part because, in Silviu’s own words, he had crossed the line from a state of inquiry to a receptive and yielded resolve to let God have his way.
Two months earlier, another staff worker and I had warned Silviu against the knowledge and signs he had been “collecting” without lifting a finger in response. Silviu took that admonition seriously, and he prayed with me that the Lord would forgive his distant attitude and insulation. We read through portions of Romans 10 and 11, and even prayed a modified sinner’s prayer that found Silviu leaving one very big bridge “unburned” behind him. That bridge was the big “if” in his prayer: “If you died for my sins and rose again.…” However, the story is not over.
I decided to throw tact out of the window and reminded Silviu very pointedly that he was still nursing doubts and reservations that nullified his prayer of commitment. I said that he had hurdled half of the obstacles that stood in the way of his personal salvation. I reminded him of the passage we had studied together: “…if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). I suggested that he believed in his heart, but would not confess with his mouth, and that it was time for him to read the New Testament for himself and stop settling for second best (the word of believers in place of the Word of God).
I feel that Silviu is slowly and surely entering a conflict that is resolvable only in Yeshua. The more he dabbles intellectually and academically with the claims of Jesus and the theology of the various camps of religious division, the more bridges he burns behind him and the fewer pathways lie ahead. Slowly but surely, there remains for him no possible retreat or looking back with any kind of intellectual integrity.
A year ago, retreat was an option for Silviu, but not now. Then why won’t he place his trust in Jesus as the Messiah? I asked him that. We were able to identify the problem together in his beautifully candid and transparent admission that he is afraid. He knows all too well what the sociological implications would be were he to give in to the truth he senses. His family would disown him.
He has even done a little “safe” academic exploration of the subject with friends. Almost immediately the friends’ biggest concern is, “You haven’t come to believe in Jesus, have you?” The tension subsides as Silviu says no, he has not, and then they can both admit that there is not much positive substance to replace the Jesus theology that they have just swept under the rug or thrown out the window.
You see, when a person like Silviu draws his or her identity exclusively from what he or she denies, abstains from or disassociates from, it doesn’t take much to rock their little boat. Biblical Judaism used to be a bold and positive affirmation of a relationship with the Living God. Now the boat is drifting dangerously in the name of freedom. There is a kind of freedom that is nautically unsafe.
I think that Silviu is realizing something else that is healthy. Like a distance runner who knows all too well the pain that is imminent in the race, Silviu sees that conflict over this matter is inevitable and unavoidable. The thought itself is exhausting. Sometimes the struggle with cowardice over entering a battle is more draining than the battle itself.
If I were to ask prayer for Silviu, it would be for broken walls of resistance. He doesn’t need any more evidence. It is now a matter of yielding his heart to God.
In a bizarre way I am encouraged by the weight of Silviu’s yoke. If I know him, this brilliant “misfit” will not allow a more comfortable rationalization to remove the conflict he is facing. He cannot go backwards in time to that simpler, “safer” haven of ignorance he once had. Now he is trying to arrest his forward motion in the water, but I am praying that it will be only a matter of time.
As I think about Silviu’s situation, I find instruction for my own life as well. I see that we as Christians need to base our identities on a relationship with the Living God, too. Our identities cannot come from what we deny or circumvent, or how well insulated we are from the corruption we see around us. What good is it to be in a safe shell if it is empty inside?
Most of us are not so ignorantly blissful that we are oblivious to the rejection of friends and strangers we encounter in our witnessing for Christ. But if we protect ourselves from that discomfort, we sentence ourselves to a prison that arrests our progress and growth. Do pray for Silviu, and for us that we may be willing to grow, in spite of the often painful price.
Alan Bond is a senior missionary at the San Francisco branch of Jews for Jesus. Alan has a master's degree in Missiology with an emphasis in Jewish Studies from Fuller School of World Mission. He led the Chicago branch work for many years before his move in 2014 to the San Francisco Bay Area. Alan and his wife, Lyn have two children: Asher and Bethany.