Judaism finds life and Christianity loses it

 (See follow-on post Chabad and Abraham: humanism in Judaism).

In his Judaism for Everyone: Renewing Your Life Through the Vibrant Lessons of the Jewish Faith (2009, p. 47), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach quotes Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances:

“Judaism allows man to find God where man finds himself, whereas Christianity allows man to find God where man loses himself. (Original italics).”

So, in Judaism, when man finds himself, he finds God, whereas in Christianity, when man loses himself, he finds God.

Although Judaism (the Oral Torah), on the one hand, may very well teach that when man finds himself, he will find God, the Jewish Bible (the written Torah), on the other hand, says nothing on that score. Jesus in the New Testament, in contrast to both the Written and Oral Torah, is very clear that ‘he who found his life shall lose it, and he who lost his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). This verse means, of course, that he whose main focus is on preserving and enjoying this temporal life, will lose eternal life.

And that’s the truth of it. So, if the choice is Judaism or Christianity, for a Jew there should be no contest; if he wants eternal life – with God, that is.

I’d like to end on that note, but it would not be proper. There’s another very important truth; it is this:

Man, to gain eternal life, is unable in his radically corrupt natural state to desire to lose his earthly life, to desire to exchange his ashes for God’s beauty. The reason is that he is dead to the things of God. Shattering?

You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ

The song “Draw me close to you” makes congregations warble and swoon. It moves for two reasons: first, it gets to the emotions, and second, it moves away – very far away from the Gospel, indeed, in the opposite direction to the Gospel (Good News). One of the lines says, “I’ll lay it all down again to hear You say that I’m Your friend.” Lay what down, I ask? What did you lay down the first time? The only thing you can ever lay down – if you are a true believer – is your sinful nature. And you didn’t even lay that down. Christ took your sinful nature on him and exchanged it for His righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). (See “Draw me close to you. But what’s with ‘I’ll lay it all down again?'”

Another song ( with great music and voice, sung by Kathryn Scott) is “At the foot of the cross.” Here is the first verse:

At the foot of the cross

Where grace and suffering meet

You have shown me Your love

Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart

And You’ve won my heart

The first four lines are a magnificent summary of the Gospel. But then the next line goes and spoils it all. What does it mean for Jesus to win my heart other than that the end result is that I give my heart to Jesus, that – in the context of the preceding lines – he has earned my love through suffering the judgment that I deserved. Absolutely right, Jesus did suffer the judgment I deserved by (to return to the previous song) laying it – his life – down for me. But, as in the previous song, I didn’t, I was totally unable, to give my heart to Jesus, for how can a dead (in sin) heart even emit the tiniest flutter. It is at this point in the song that the profound truth of the propitiary (no, not merely expiatory) sacrifice descends into the murky waters of Arminianism. Yes, of course, I accepted Jesus – and willingly, but only after he made me free (alive) to do so (Ephesians 2:1-10). And those he makes free are free indeed. “Indeed” means nothing less that certain eternal life.

The first chorus line, which immediately follows the double trouble “You’ve won my heart” reinforces the idea that Jesus earns/deserves my heart.

Chorus

Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty,

And wear forgiveness like a crown,

Coming to kiss the feet of mercy,

I lay every burden down,

At the foot of the cross.

Can I “now” trade my sins for His righteousness (beauty)? Do I have the permission or the power to make this transaction? God forbid. Faith is a gift from God. In other words faith is free (gratis, grace). We’re not talking here about a transaction between two (equal) parties – I give Jesus (a teeny) something (say a wink of acceptance), and Jesus gives me (a gigantic) something (salvation). In reality, I had nothing to give, and everything to take; and even the taking required the divine quickening of my dead arm to enable me to reach out to receive the gift. How you come to faith determines everything else about your Christian life, including the songs you sing. Keep ’em peeled.