The Personal Testimony of Aaron Budjen
My Pursuit of Self Effort
In 1989 I had reached a significant low point in my life experience. I took some time for personal reflection and realized that I was a very unpleasant person. I had no real friends and my family wanted very little to do with me. While I was considering how I related to people around me, my set of values and my character, I would not have wanted to have anything to do with myself either. It was an important moment in my life when I realized that I was not a good person. My condition was due to many choices I had made in my life. I lived for my own self interest doing what was right and not doing what was wrong in my own eyes. I had lived as if I was my own God without any regard for anyone else around me. In realizing that my situation appeared to be due to my own choices and decisions, I made the simple decision that I would change. I chose to abandon my old way of life and pursue a new way of life. I determined in my heart that I would learn to be a better person.
In my personal enthusiasm I decided to begin by returning to the Synagogue. I am a Jew and was raised as a Jew. I returned to that which I was most familiar with, hoping to learn how to be a better person. I figured that I would make peace with God first. To me it seemed so much easier than trying to make peace with those I hurt in the past. I assumed that when making peace with God I wouldn’t get any immediate feedback and could ease into the new way of life that I was building for myself. It didn’t take very long before I realized that my attendance and participation in the traditions and rituals was not going to be enough. They were important to me given that I felt I was becoming a better person, but there still seemed to be something missing.
After some time as a participant in the synagogue I determined in my heart that I would need to become a Rabbi. I did not sense a tremendous change in the core of my being and thought that I needed to become a Rabbi if I was truly to become a good and respectable person. It seemed to make sense to me at that time as a means of compensation to perhaps offset all of the bad things I had done in the past. I identified three Rabbis that I would learn from and study with. At the end of a period of time I would have obtained their endorsement and could make myself available to synagogues having a need for a Rabbi.
My first year of study was filled with enthusiasm and passion. I truly believed I had found my calling in life and was finally being the person God wanted me to be. I devoted my entire life to being obedient to all 613 commandments. I studied all of the traditions and writings of the Rabbis before me. I studied the Hebrew language and became an expert in the grammar of the language. I had friends who were a part of my life and I sincerely felt that I was becoming a better person.
Who is the Messiah?
One day the subject of the Messiah came up. I did not understand who the Messiah would be or what he would really do. The impression I was getting was that he would be a man who would conquer the enemies of Israel and rule as king over our people and the rest of the world. He would be just and righteous and there would forever be peace in the land of Israel for all of us again. I had not thought about the future beyond that. I did not consider that life does tend to change and a man can die leaving a kingdom to destroy itself. The notion of world peace and a peaceful home for my people was enough at the time. However, when studying the Scriptures and reading many prophecies about who the Messiah would be and how we would know him, it was clear to me that only one person ever fulfilled what was apparently impossible to fulfill, that was Jesus of Nazareth. I knew nothing about what he taught or what he intended to do when he was here. I could only see that given the numerous prophecies that address the coming of the Messiah, he had fulfilled them all and I expected that the setting up of a Messianic Kingdom for eternal world peace would take place when he returns from Heaven. Given his physical resurrection from death it was easy for me to understand how he would then be able to provide us with an eternal kingdom as our eternal king.
The realization that Jesus was likely the Messiah did not change anything about what I was doing or how I was going to live my life. I remember reading through the New Testament and seeing that Jesus taught us to live our life under the law. I was already pursuing this and saw no reason to change my direction. He appeared to get a little exaggerated at times however. For example, in Matthew 5:29,30 he said that you are to pluck your eye out and cut your hand off if they cause you to sin. I began to appreciate what his disciples said towards the end of his ministry when they asked him, “who then can be saved?” Later I came to understand that He taught the Old Covenant because that was the covenant in effect until after He died. Recognizing Jesus as the Messiah was an intellectual acknowledgement based on involved study and comparison. I had no concept of the implications of this fact and had no idea how this would eventually relate to my life here, today and now.
I certainly did not talk about my findings in the synagogue. To most Jews, being Jewish means that you are not a Christian and certainly don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah. For me to suggest such a thing was to risk being effectively cast out of the synagogue and culture that I had become dependant on for my new way of life. They may have not told me to leave and never come back, but I would have quickly become the embarrassment of the community and socially isolated in many ways as if I had become unclean. I would have lost my acceptance in the community and been perceived as a type of traitor to my people, my history and my community. Eventually I did say something and that is exactly how I have been treated ever since.
For the longest time I kept my discovery locked away in a secret place in my heart. Still, the word of God is like a seed that will grow when it has been planted, and it began to grow within me. I remember encountering a book on archaeology and discovered that all of the places, peoples and events that were described in the Bible were real. Evidence exists for the entire history described in the Bible. I never considered before the legitimacy of the Scriptures. It had no importance to me. I was only interested in learning to become a better person so that I could be accepted by others and have a sense of meaning and purpose to my life. I didn’t care about the legitimacy of the Scriptures, but the reality of it was beginning to take root in my life.
Is There A God?
The question of the existence of God then surfaced within me. You don’t have to believe in God to be a good Jew. Being Jewish has become a devotion to traditions, culture and community. It is acceptable to believe the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism and even the New Age, but it you are a Jew and think Jesus is God manifested in the flesh you are considered to be one of the worst people on earth. I could not escape however the continual expression, “and God said …” The implications of this was huge in measure. I began to consider the possibility that there was truly a God and that He spoke in times past. I had grown accustomed to the perpetual debates of what the Rabbis taught and believed, but I never considered what God had to say and what He believed. The reality set in that if there truly was a God, then given any particular subject, He would only have one opinion on it. It was at this important juncture that I began studying the Scriptures to discover what God had already said to humanity.
Many times during the following few years, I would struggle with the question of the existence of God. I remember often sitting quietly and looking around at the world I was in. I saw the plants, the trees, the animals and realized that there was so much complexity and evidence of design, there had to be a designer. In time, I found enough evidence to convince me that there truly was a God. I believe that everyone should take time out of their life to pursue the answer to this question. I also believe that every person who sincerely seeks this evidence will find an abundance of it, and I sincerely hope that you will respond to the evidence that has already been provided in the world He has created. The truth of this is beyond comparison, and yet it is a journey that everyone must take individually. My testimony can encourage you to pursue a relationship with your God. You cannot depend on someone else’s testimony or faith, you must truly discover the evidence for yourself and have your own testimony of the truth.
What is the New Covenant?
One day I stumbled across the following prophecy given by Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 31 " Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
I found a copy of the New Testament in the library while looking for something that would describe what this New Covenant might be about. I remember one day shortly after this that I began reading through the New Testament and the letters that Paul had written. I had no idea what he was talking about and it didn’t take very long before I sat it back down on the table and thought that I may never read it again. Why would I if I don’t understand a word of it. I began to wonder, if this was the description of the New Covenant that Jeremiah had mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Suddenly, I felt alone again. My pursuits of becoming a good person began to seem unimportant. I began to feel that I was living a secret life with beliefs that no one else shared. I remember looking at my fellow Jews while we were all praying together one Sabbath and realizing that they would probably not even begin to understand what I was going through. To them it was a thing to do so they could also be better people. I was beginning to forget about myself and only wanted to know one thing, who is my God.
What is the Gospel?
It had been about two years since I returned to the synagogue and I was making tremendous progress towards becoming a Rabbi. I was sitting at my desk looking at the New Testament closed and unread. I prayed to God for the first time from the depths of my heart. I said to my God, “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what the Gospel is. Would you show me?” Three weeks later I was listening to the radio and a man by the name of Bob George came on with a talk show format for an hour. He began to speak with people calling in to his program and I did not understand one word he was telling them. Somehow I felt that I should try and discover what he was telling people. I wrote him a letter and asked for a book he had written, “Classic Christianity” and he sent it to me free of charge. In that book he presented a question I had never thought of before. Mankind was spiritually dead. How would he ever receive life? It was a simple question and it was wrapped around his personal testimony of what God had revealed to him. I did not understand most of what he wrote at that time because it was written for a very different audience, but this challenged me.
I returned to the Scriptures and studied the account in Genesis that spoke of the spiritual death of humanity. I had never considered it before or the implications of it. I began with the description of the creation of humanity.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
We had been created uniquely from the animals. The breath of life that had been breathed into us was unique from the life breathed into them. The Hebrew revealed that it was the very Spirit of God that was breathed into us. The God of the Universe indwelt His creation. The implications of this truth were tremendous. If a real God was indwelling a person, there would be a real personal relationship between the two that could never be experienced in any other way. We would have been consistently influenced by His very character as His existence and activity in our being would have certainly influenced us. I was able to see that the perfect character of God was personally received and experienced by the person He indwelt. The person He indwelt would be the recipient of the perfect love and acceptance of a true God that was with him, and this relationship would most certainly present the person with a sense of meaning and purpose to his life that could only be revealed individually by his Creator and God. Breathing in the breath of life, man would then be very much alive. He would be alive to his God. It was revealed to me that we must have been created for this very purpose, to be the object of His love and acceptance and to have our meaning and purpose in life defined through our relationship with our God. If God truly knew what He was doing, His presence within us must have been an indispensable part of our true humanity.
A few versus following there was the description of the condition by which we would or would not remain in this perfect relationship with our God.
Genesis 2:15-17 15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
When God said that in the very day they ate of the tree they would die, the declaration was tWm)T' tAmď (Hebrew transliteration, “mote ta-mute”), which meant that in the very day at that very moment they would definitely without exception, die. Death by definition is the absence of life. Therefore, the death that we should have anticipated would have been the absence of the life of God that had been breathed into humanity. As I continued to read I found evidence of this. Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree and Adam continued to live until he was 930 years old. He did some farming and he had children. He apparently was a very active guy for a dead man. The death was most certainly a spiritual death, and the physical death was apparently a secondary result of the spiritual death that had occurred. The entire world had changed as a result of the rejection of humanity. Adam and Eve chose to live in accordance with the knowledge of good and evil instead of with a dependent personal relationship with their God. God responded to their rejection of Him by withdrawing His Spirit and leaving them dead to Him. Everyone born subsequently from that moment on was born in the image of Adam. We became a reflection of what it is like not to have God.
This was a completely new concept to me. I assumed that if I could just live in accordance with what was right and wrong I would be a good person and have meaning and purpose in this world. People would love and accept me because they would be obligated to. I would be such a good person that if they didn’t, it would be them who were in the wrong. This was the very lie that Adam and Eve believed and resulted in the spiritual death of humanity. I was not created to live in accordance with the knowledge of good and evil. I was created to live in a dependent love relationship with a living God.
Searching in the world for what it could never give
The description of the fall of humanity had enormous implications that I had never considered and were now being revealed. With the absence of the life of God within us we would then be condemned to devote our lives searching for that which we had lost, perfect love, acceptance, meaning and purpose in our life. That is exactly where I had always been. My entire life could easily be defined as my personal pursuit of love, acceptance, meaning and purpose. Everything I did, and everything that I was devoted to was the pursuit of fulfillment that would satisfy the deep longings of my heart. I was created to have this fulfillment through my personal relationship with my God, but I was pursuing it through my personal relationships with other people and through my devotion to traditions, community and culture.
For the first time in my life I understood the very root of sin. It was the expression of unbelief in the living God. Adam and Eve sinned by not believing God and their actions were the effect of that unbelief. My sin had been an expression of not believing God and thinking that I could find fulfillment in my heart outside of a dependant relationship with Him. I may not have fully understood the depths of this truth, but the result was still the same. There was sin and in accordance with the law God had given through Moses, there was the necessity for forgiveness of this sin if the relationship with me and my God was ever to be restored. But that was only half of the problem at hand. The more important problem was that I was still spiritually dead. Somehow the life of God would have to be restored to me so that I could live as God had originally intended.
I went to my Rabbis with these questions. I asked about sin and spiritual death. They told me that sin was no problem at all. The law gave us a clear description of how we are to deal with sin. There was sacrifice, restitution or death depending on the specific sin committed. Either way, there was a way to deal with sin. I could understand that even though I was not anxious to have any of those applied to my life personally. I then asked about the spiritual death of humanity. They explained to me that when I was born Jewish I was born alive. It was believed that every Jew was born with the life of God within them because we were the chosen people of God. It was also sincerely believed that through studying His Scriptures we would have His words within us and that was another means by which we could have His life within us. I did not think that was a reasonably adequate solution either given that it appeared we had a global problem. Where would that leave everyone else? I would think that if there was a global problem with the entirety of humanity that He would have provided more of a global solution for the entirety of humanity.
Having no where else to turn I returned again to the Scriptures. I figured that if God had presented the problem there, He would have also revealed the solution somewhere there in the Scriptures. I read and read. I studied intently looking to see the solution to the spiritual death of humanity and found nothing. Since then of course I have found many passages that reveal this solution, but I saw nothing then. I was reminded again of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant and realized that it was going to be instituted because He would remember our sins no more. I remember thinking how helpful this would be and it would certainly be a solution to the sin problem. If I was to honestly experience the penalty of the law I should have been killed, and that wouldn’t help me deal with the issue such that I could continually live out the remainder of my life here on earth. I hoped that perhaps that might be the means by which I could be forgiven for my sin and be able to receive the Spirit of life that I was created for. Even more important, if He would remember my sins no more, there would be no sin that would cause that life to ever leave again. Other than this passage I found nothing then that would answer my question.
I picked up my New Testament again and started looking through it. I read about the life of Jesus in the Gospels and read again the Acts of the Apostles to see the development of the early church. I started to go through the letter Paul wrote to the Romans and understood little of what he was saying until I finally came to chapter 5.
Romans 5:8-10 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
It was here that I came to realize how my sins were already forgiven and how my God would remember them no more. He already came down personally and lived among us as a man, known as Jesus. He lived the perfect life and demonstrated that He was in fact God manifested in the flesh and gave His life in exchange for mine. He gave His life which was everything, for my life which was most certainly nothing. He justified me and reconciled me to Himself no longer counting my sins against me. He died for my sins for another purpose however, and that purpose was the answer to the question I was truly searching to have answered. He reconciled me to Himself so that He could restore to me the Spirit of Life that had been lost in Adam and I could be saved from my condition. I was not saved by the death of Christ. The death of Christ was what made salvation possible. I was saved by the life of Christ, the restoration of the life lost in Adam, the restoration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life that I needed to resurrect me from among the dead. The Spirit of God was now being offered as a free gift that would now remain within me eternally because there was no longer any sin that could cause it to leave from within me. He died for my sins once and for all, so that He could offer me His life that I could experience now and today, and will carry me on into eternity even after I physically die.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
John 3:16-17 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
I thanked Him for dying for all of my sins and asked Him to give me the free gift He was offering. I received His Spirit within me by faith and trusted that it was truly being offered. I became alive to my God. I was saved from my condition of spiritual death through the giving of His life that will remain eternally. The life I now have is by definition an eternal life, an everlasting life.
Something Was Missing
I had always felt that there was something missing. The reason why I felt that way was because there was something missing. I thought I was missing good relationships with other people. I thought I was missing the perfect job. I thought I was missing a proper understanding of right and wrong. I thought I was missing an understanding of how I was supposed to live my life. In reality, I was missing my God. I was empty and dead and this was not what God had in mind when He created me. I was created by my God such that His presence within me was indispensable to my true humanity. It was at this point in my life that I was complete and received everything I could possibly need to live life as God intended. This was the beginning of a profound adventure that I have enjoyed for many years since, and look forward to many years beyond.
This was not just a matter of my pursuit of a relationship with my God. It truly was my responding to His desire to have a relationship with me. He had already done everything there was to be done for me to be saved and come alive to Him. He was only waiting for me to come to the end of myself so I could recognize and receive what He was offering to me. I had devoted my life to reaching up to Him, only to find that He had always been reaching down to me. He is the Creator of this Universe and He gets to decide how we are going to experience a relationship with Him. There are not many ways or paths to God. There is a Living God who has already defined the only path to Him. He is not a philosophical idea, but a real person with only one opinion on the subject.
My First Public Confession
For many months I kept my discovery quiet in my heart. I did not understand the true implications of what I was beginning to believe. I did not know where this would lead me. Several months later it was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was a special day for all of us when we would gather together at the synagogue, pray and fast for the entire day. It was a community event when all of the Jews would collectively confess their sins and ask God to forgive them. Being part of the synagogue I had a portion of the Scriptures assigned to me that I would read before the synagogue. Several people participated in the readings and it was when my time came that I could not contain myself any longer.
I was reading from the scrolls and I felt like a total hypocrite before the congregation. I knew deep in my heart that my sins had already been forgiven, and I was now leading these people into thinking that our rituals and traditions were going to provide them with forgiveness. In the middle of the readings I just stopped and looked out to the people. I asked them the simple question, “Who do we really think we’re fooling? Today is a day that we are required to sacrifice a goat for the atonement of our sins. The law is very clear that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin.”
Leviticus 17:11 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.'
I continued to ask the congregation, “Do we really believe that our apology will somehow compensate for what our God requires? Oh God I’m sorry, and somehow that is going to cover it? As far as I am concerned, I think Jesus is the Messiah!”
You haven’t heard so many, “Oh Yevey’s” in your life, translated as, “Oh my God!” I didn’t continue any more readings for the day, and this was the beginning of my people trying to save me from my perceived insanity. For about a year we debated and discussed the issue, but I could not turn back from what had been revealed to me. After about a year, the day came that I had to leave the synagogue. I was recognized as an excellent student of Hebrew and a very capable teacher, but they could not have a Rabbi who was a, “Jew for Jesus.”
The time had then arrived when I was to leave the synagogue and begin to walk in the new relationship I had with my God. While reflecting back to these times many years ago I remember the struggles I had. It took time to understand the difference between law and grace and the implications of the New Covenant on my life. My relationship with God was more of a discovery as He personally related to me. Looking back at the decisions I made I am most certainly thankful that my Lord revealed enough truth to me that I could begin this amazing journey. I pray that you also may come to know Him and the depth of His love for you.
I have written this testimony so that you may also come to know the God who has revealed Himself to me. The bad news was that through sin death entered the world and you are spiritually dead to God. The good news is that God has forgiven all sin so that He could offer you His life as a free gift. The Gospel is about sin and death, forgiveness and the restoration of life. If you have not understood the Gospel to this extent I would invite you right now to pray this prayer, and through the promise God has made, He will resurrect you from among the dead at this very moment.
Lord God, I need you. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for the forgiveness of my sins. I thank you for offering me your life, and I now accept your Spirit within me to raise me from the dead right now. Through your Holy Spirit within me, teach me about your love and grace, and about the new life that you have given to me. Begin the work of making me into the person that you want me to be.
If you have prayed this prayer, in accordance with the truth of what God has already done and already declared, you have been saved. You have now begun an exciting journey of discovering the depths of His love for you, and of the transformation of who you are through the renewing of your mind as He reveals His truth to you. Please let me know that you have been saved, or if this explanation has further clarified your understanding of the salvation you have already entered into. You can reach me through the contact link on this page. I would very much like to let you know of other materials and information that I have to encourage you in your journey and growth in your relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.