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Taken by surprise

December 2013 | by Ben Midgley

Ben Midgley explains how he became and now serves God as a Christian, having been brought up a Jew

There was no room for the good news about Jesus in the home I was raised in, the schools I went to or the university I attended. I treated those who tried to reach out to me with contempt, despising their so-called religion.

I saw the world as a corrupt place. Whoever Jesus might have been, his name had been sullied by 2000 years of Christianity. The only Christians I had any regard for were those who had died for their faith in the Roman arenas, or the African slaves who had overcome oppression, much of it from the church itself.

I felt that these groups echoed the spirit of my Jewish ancestors in Egypt, whose liberation we meditated on during Passover. From a young age the message of Passover made a profound impression on me; we Jews were to be the champions of the oppressed, and one day our Champion would come and deliver us from our own oppression.

Challenged

Every year, though we opened the door for Elijah to come and announce the arrival of our redeemer, he did not come. Every year we would say to each other, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, with less and less conviction as the years passed.

However, I became aware that I was just as much a part of the problem as the solution. To look at the Ten Commandments was to look in a mirror and not like what I saw there; no amount of grooming could hide my sin or the sin of the whole world.

There was no temple to go to where I could offer a ram for my sins, and no amount of prayers or good deeds could wipe away the stains that sin had left behind.

I tried to satisfy myself with life’s pleasures, but nothing could shift the sense that I needed to make my peace with God. This conviction resulted from an extraordinary experience I had a few months after coming into contact with some Christians, while I was studying for my degree.

They offended me by saying they were worshippers of my God and chastised me for not following my own Saviour.

I had previously believed in God. I looked up at the stars in wonder, knowing that there was more to the universe than science on its own could explain. All of a sudden I knew there was a God. People had been praying for me and God answered those prayers.

I suddenly had an unquenchable desire to know God, to read the Bible and to find out who Jesus really was.

Converted

I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know what was going on inside me. I was becoming what I had previously despised and I knew that many people would come to despise me for it, but I couldn’t shift the conviction that Jesus was the Christ.

This lasted about two years until I was brought to the point of conversion. I was 21 when my baptism was conducted. The backlash from my family was intense, partly through my own doing as I was very zealous, and partly because trusting Jesus was taboo to many of the people I knew.

Ultimately, I had to leave home and experienced some hard times, but I always had opportunities to testify about my Saviour. As I grew in faith, the desire to preach was always there.

Sometimes, when people found out I grew up in a Jewish home, they asked me to share my testimony. This made me feel I was being treated like something from the zoo, but it was an opportunity to share the good news.

In 2003, I was working on a business project. More responsibility fell to me, until I was promoted to managing director. This felt good, but I began losing sight of God’s call on my life to preach.

One night I prayed and talked with my wife about the way I felt and, the next day on my way to work, I sat down next to a man who turned out to be the professor of Hebrew at the London Theological Seminary (LTS).

Serving

We started talking and, by the time we arrived at our destination, I knew I should apply to study at LTS. I left my job to set off in this new direction, which also meant preaching on a regular basis.

Following completion of my studies, the church I now serve invited me to be their pastor, which I have been for six years.

The church has good elders, deacons and a supportive membership. This means that I am able to serve beyond our church and can be involved in the missionary society Christian Witness to Israel, which is very dear to my heart.

There are few Jewish people in my area, but, through my family and CWI, I have an open door to being part of Christ’s mission to the Jewish people.

As Chairman of CWI, I hope I will be able to serve those who, as members of its council, give so much of their time and talents to the society, and be helped by God to bring those gifts to bear on the task in hand.

That task is to direct the family of CWI’s mission workers, fund-raisers and Bible teachers, who work so hard to make sure that this heaven-born concern for the Jewish people is never forgotten and always encouraged.

I myself am a debtor to those brave Christians who approached me and prayed for me. Without them I would not have come to know him, whom to know means eternal life.

This article is edited from CWI’s Herald (March 2013), with kind permission