The truth is that they weren't really focused on increasing their numbers by inviting new people. You pretty much had to be born into it. Not only that, but when you were born into it, you were given a list of 613 things that you either had to do or couldn't do. Failure to comply meant you were unworthy to be accepted by God. While the list was nearly impossible you could redeem yourself if you followed the proper protocol for sacrifices of sin. Many had to travel long distances and it would have been difficult to take the item they were going to sacrifice since it involved animals. They were then forced to pay high prices to purchase an animal at the temple.
Have you ever stopped to think about that?
Back then the only way you could have eternal life was to get all 613 rules or mitzvots right. If you messed up your only option was to travel with your family to the temple in Jerusalem and sacrifice a very valuable animal. Oh yeah, don't forget that you had to be born into it. Actually, that isn't completely true. You can convert to Judaism but it is a long and tedious process. In fact most Rabbis are trained to ignore you and dissuade you. You will have to study the Torah diligently and you will be tested on your knowledge before acceptance. If you are a man you will have to be circumcised if you aren't already circumcised. Oh yeah, the Torah is in Hebrew so you have to learn a new language just to be able to study for your very difficult test.
It was nearly impossible to gain acceptance of God and have eternal life. At least that is what we thought. Then Jesus came along. You know what his requirements were to have eternal life? Follow Him. Yeah, that is pretty much it. Now certainly there is a substantial cost in following Jesus, our life. I suppose in some ways you might say that Jesus' way is even more impossible for us to accomplish on our own. That very point is at the center of everything. Our eternal life hangs on our ability to give complete control of our life to Jesus. Even that isn't something we can do on our own. The magical moment of salvation or eternal life lies not in a ritual or a process, but rather when we give Jesus permission to change us. That was the story of Jesus versus the story of the Jews.
On one hand you had a narrative that commanded great difficulties and sacrifices only to have a hope of being worthy of God, on the other hand you had a narrative that gave eternal life as a gift from God and the only requirement was giving Jesus control of your life and allowing Him to transform your heart so that you could live like Jesus lived. What a contrast in stories!
Let's fast forward to our churches today. What is our narrative? What do we say is required for eternal life? I have to be frank with you and say that many churches today look and sound like the Jews. The story they tell commands obedience to lots of rules and gives the appearance that they really don't want anyone unless they immediately begin to follow the rules. How does that story compare to Jesus' story? How does the story of your church compare?
As we continue to move forward in our study of FLESH, we must make sure that the story we tell is Jesus' story and not one we have made our own. The Gospel or Good News is that by following Jesus we will have eternal life. Following Jesus doesn't mean thanking Jesus for eternal life and doing your own thing. It means actively working towards living life like Jesus and giving the Holy Spirit permission in your life to help you make the changes necessary to do so. Our good news to others is that there is hope and it is found in Jesus who desires to make them worthy to live eternally with God, that our price is giving permission, whereas God provides the sacrifice.
What do you need to change in your story to make it match Jesus' story?