A Kosher Heart
Recently, an exciting report from one of our missionaries, Mr. S. Francis Doss in Bombay, India, caught my attention. Mr. Doss spoke of an encounter with an honest-to-goodness “shochet” (a shochet is one who is trained for the purpose of slaughtering animals—thus beginning the koshering process). During conversation, they discussed the extreme importance placed upon the external ritual of koshering food In comparison to the internal koshering of the heart (kosher means that which is made pure, fit and clean – normally used in referring to the preparation of food). Mr. Doss asked the rabbi why Jews are not seemingly aware and concerned that God expects to find a kosher heart within His people.
The Necessity of Conversion
If we are to be honest with ourselves, we would readily acknowledge that we are sinners. I have yet to find an honest person who believes he has not sinned. We can easily look around our society and see the result of sin everywhere. In the same way, we can look at ourselves and say that we have sinned in our own lives. Furthermore, as we open the revealed Word of God (the Bible), God makes it very clear that there is not one person upon the face of the earth who is not a sinner. One does not have to be a scholar or a theologian to know that we fall short of God’s requirements.
The Bible points out that we sin when we do not do those things that God tells us we are to do, and we also sin when we do the things He tells us not to do. Both the Old and New Testaments are very vivid in their teaching in the area of sin. In passages such as: Eccl. 7:20; Ps. 14:1-3; Isa. 64:6; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9,10 and 23; and many other scriptural texts, we are told that none are righteous—no, not one—all have sinned against God. It is precisely for this reason that God demands we must be converted. Lest any misunderstand what is meant by conversion, the Greek as well as the Hebrew language translates the word as “turning from one thing to another.” The Scriptures make it clear that in the context where conversion is taught, God is saying that we must turn to Him from our present position. Conversion in no way is to be construed as meaning that a Jewish person who accepts Jesus Christ and becomes a Christian has become a Gentile and ceases to be a Jew, Likewise, when a Gentile (a non-Jew) accepts
Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour and becomes a Christian, he too does not cease from being a Gentile. Compare what God teaches on this subject in Acts 15:3, where Dr. Luke records the account of one of Paul’s missionary journeys, “And being brought in their way by the church, they passed through Phoenida and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.” Paul was not stating here that Gentiles have become Jews, but rather they have turned to the true, living God, from their life of paganism, by accepting Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
Conversion is not a new doctrine to the New Testament, for in the Old Testament God called upon Israel to be converted as well. King David (after getting his life straightened out with God} states in Psalm 51:13: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Likewise, the Jewish prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 6:10 speaks about the conversion of the Jewish people. David, as well as Isaiah, was not saying that Jews should become Gentiles, but rather, they were to turn back to the living God—away from their lives of sin. We would do well to remember passages such as Isaiah 53:6, where we are told, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way . . .” Since we are all sinners, and have all gone astray, we must all be converted (both Jew and Gentile).
Necessity of a Circumcised Heart
Before you label me as being a legalist and preaching heresy (another gospel), please understand that I am not talking about the physical, literal act of circumcision (an external sign of the Covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed—the cutting away of the foreskin of the male child, Gen 17:7 ff). God states that every person, both Jew and Gentile, must have circumcision performed to the heart. We have already seen that all human beings, both Jew and Gentile, are sinners. Indeed, all of us who come from Adam and Eve have inherited a sin nature. As we have stated above, we all have evil, sinful hearts, and therefore, it is natural for us to be disobedient to God…thus making a difficult problem—or perhaps I should say—an impossible problem to surmount. If indeed we have a heart that is by nature evil and sinful (and it is) how can we then be converted? How can we turn to God from our present position? Again, the only answer is found in the Bible. A change must take place within which will permit us to have a relationship and a fellowship with the true, living God. Isaiah has told us in chapter 59:2, that our sins have separated us from God. Indeed, God has hidden His face from us and will not hear us. The only possible solution to man’s dilemma is found as God Himself gives us a kosher heart. Looking in the New Testament, we find that the Apostle Paul teaches in three separate passages that the only way one can have a true relationship and fellowship with God is to undergo the internal operation of having one’s heart circumcised. As we examine these passages, we must understand that God is not talking about the heart that keeps us alive by pumping blood throughout our body—but rather, the center of our total being—all that we are: our emotions, our intellect and our will.
In Romans 2, starting at verse 17, we find the context referring to Jewish people (those who are born a natural Jew). In verses 28 and 29, Paul explains what it takes for this natural Jew to be a Jew as God intended him to be. He says that it is only as they undergo the operation of the circumcision of the heart—”He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Paul in this passage, as well as in Phil. 3:3, and Coi. 2:11, makes it very clear that circumcision of the heart is synonymous with new birth—regeneration—becoming a new creature. Much to our amazement though, this again is not just a New Testament doctrine, for we find that circumcision of the heart was taught to the Nation of Israel In the Old Testament. Let me remind you what our Lord said to NIcodemus (a Jewish Pharisee and teacher). In John 3, we find that this Jewish leader and teacher, apparently searching for the truth, came to Jesus by night. With His divine perception, the Lord minced no words with Nicodemus as He immediately told him what was necessary if one wished to enter the kingdom of God:”Verily, verily, I say unto Thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The surprising thing here is that our Lord seemed to be very critical of Nicodemus. After Nicodemus heard what was necessary to enter into the kingdom of God, he was baffled. He did not understand how a person could be born a second time. In verse 10, Jesus said something that carried a lot of punch with it: “Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things?” In essence, Jesus was stating that this teaching of new birth should not have been new at all to Nicodemus, since he was the teacher of all of Israel. We must remember here that Jesus had not yet been crucified and resurrected, and the teaching of new birth had not come into existence—nor had the New Testament Scriptures been revealed as yet. However, Jesus still expected this Jewish teacher to understand what he was talking about. The only possible explanation for this is—since Nicodemus was a Jewish teacher, he should have known the Scriptures that had already been revealed (the Old Testament) and in turn should have understood Jesus’ statement.
Today. we have an advantage, we can be a “Monday morning quarterback”—we have the completed revelation of God, both the Old and the New Testaments.
Augustine said, “The Old Testament is revealed in the New— and the New is concealed in the Old.”
In the light of the New Testament, we can now go back to the Old and see that which is concealed, particularly the teaching concerning a circumcised heart. In the Torah (the books of Moses) we find that God taught the necessity for a circumcised heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God through Moses told the Nation of Israel that they were to “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiffnecked.”’
In Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses again told the Nation of Israel that they must have a circumcised heart in order to live. The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, in chapter 4:4, exhorts the Israelites to circumcise their hearts. Here Jeremiah warns them that God’s fury will be poured out upon them because of their evil doings, unless they undergo this internal operation. In Ezekiel, chapters 11:19; 18:31; and 36:25-27, the Jewish prophet speaks of the necessity of a new heart. To many, what I am about to say may come as a complete surprise—or even a shock! The Nation of Israel in the Old Testament was not all saved. The Bible teaches that in any stage of history there would only be a remnant that would be saved. Jeremiah in chapter 9:26 tells us that the house of Israel is uncircumcised in the heart. As we read the account in 1 Kings 19:8-18, we find that Elijah believed he was the only one who had not bowed his knee to Baal. However, we find that God answered Elijah and told him that this was not true, because he had reserved seven thousand who had not bowed their knees to Baal—that is a very small percentage when compared to over two million Israeiites. There is no doubt that Jesus, in the Gospel of John, was implying that new birth should have been understood—and that it was necessary for the Jew as well as the Gentile if indeed they desired to enter the kingdom of God.
The New Covenant
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
“Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I WILL PUT MY LAW IN THEIR INWARD PARTS, AND WRITE IT IN THEIR HEARTS: . . .” Jeremiah 31:31-33
During the time of Jeremiah, God was telling the Nation of Israel that there would come a day that He would work in the hearts of His people. This would be accomplished through the New Covenant which He would make with Israel.
One may search diligently throughout the entire Old Testament, from Genesis through Malachi, and not find the fulfillment of this New Covenant. It is only as we read the progressive revelation of God in the New Testament that we see the fulfillment of the New Covenant.
The Jewish writer, Matthew, in the first book of the New Testament (writing to Jewish people) recorded for us the Lord’s last supper from which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Table.
In reading Matthew 26, we should note that in verses 27 and 28, Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them and said, “Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” It should also be noted that not only was Matthew writing this book to the Jewish people but also that the Lord Jesus, a Jew Himself, was eating the Passover supper with His Jewish disciples. There is no doubt that Jesus was referring to that covenant which Jeremiah wrote about in chapter 31 when he spoke about
The New Covenant being in His blood.
The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:11, that the internal circumcision is accomplished by the circumcision of Christ. When one puts his or her trust in Jesus as his personal Saviour, this internal operation—new birth—circumcision of the heart—is accomplished by the Spirit of God. In Titus 3:5, we are told, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us; by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Putting all of this together, God reveals that we must have a clean, pure, fit heart in order for us to have a relationship and fellowship with God. This kosher heart can only come about if we submit ourselves to the master surgeon Himself.
God explicitly states that there is nothing that we ourselves can do—it must be accomplished by Him. The only part that you or I play in our salvation is to accept the free gift that God has given us—eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8). DO YOU HAVE A KOSHER HEART?
Many of us are in contact with Jewish people, such as: friends, neighbors, relatives, employers, employees, doctors, and lawyers. Oftentimes, we have an opportunity to present the Gospel message to a Jewish person, but, we do not know how to get started, nor what to say. Perhaps you might consider asking your Jewish friends if they have a kosher heart. I believe you will find them to be very open and willing to listen.
Why not plan to share the Gospel of salvation, through Jesus the Messiah, with the lost sheep of the house of Israel TODAY.