VISION OF THE GLORY: THE PRESENCE AND KINGDOM OF GOD

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Hebrews 9:27-28

Radicalism is sustained by a utopian spirit which believes and works toward the vision of a future qualitatively different than the present.  It will often look to the past for its inspiration, for example naive notions of the Garden of Eden or of a former “golden age”.  Or as in the case of the “utopia” of computerized virtual reality, radicals are escaping from reality to an unreality of their own making.  As the faith and hope fail and the vision is lost, a significant number of the people will cast off restraint and self-control (Prov. 29:18) and resort to unjust behavior and lawlessness–displaying unwarranted fear, hatred, and envy towards those not “with” them or “of” them in spirit.  In the history of this world, there have been many efforts–some quiet and others filled with blood–to “make a better world” in the image of someone’s imagination.  Most religions have described for its believers and followers a future state, which to them is described as being better than the present life.  But where is the King of Glory?!

The prophets of the LORD to Israel had a vision of the glory, of a world where the LORD would be King.  And Yeshua came proclaiming the Kingdom in Himself, and said that unless one is born again by the Spirit from above, you can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God.

Those of us here who have been blessed with a revelation from God the Father that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Mt. 16:16-17), have also been given to see by the Word and Spirit of God that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come again, subduing evil and bringing in everlasting righteousness and peace.  The Apostle Peter carries us even beyond this when he says that we look for a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13-14), where we live in eternity with God in the fullness of His glory.  God will be all in all (1Cor. 15:28)!

Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples and spiritual family to pray all speak of the future glory of God when the Lord Jesus returns to establish throughout His creation the Kingdom of God which shall not pass away.  All the redeemed who suffer for His sake now will also be glorified and reign with Him.  Perseverance in the faith, in hope, and in love till the end make the vision of the Kingdom of God sure to the believer.  Christ in us…the hope of glory!  Perhaps now we see like the blind man first saw when Yeshua began to give him sight. . .trees walking.  If we can admit this to the Lord, then He will give us clearer and fuller sight.

Our Lord admonishes us to always watch and pray so that we will not be deceived nor fall to temptation (Mt. 24:4; 26:41).  He wants us to be ready when the time of His return comes (Mt. 24:42), and He does not want us to grow weary and lose heart (Lk. 18:1-8; Heb. 12:1-13).  The Holy Spirit works within us that we will be found worthy to stand before the Son of Man at His coming (Lk. 21:36).

In Israel there is a danger of being too Israel-minded at the expense of losing sight and heart for the soon coming of the Lord Yeshua.  Yet we are to look for and love His appearing (2Tim 4:8).  There is a set time that nothing can change, and God knows how to see to it that the great commission is fulfilled beforehand (Mt. 24:14,36)!  Jesus wants to return.  He told the Jews who would not receive Him who came in the Name of His Father that they would receive another who comes in his own name  (John 5:43), who will be the anti-christ.  Yet God is working out His plan of redemption and salvation in such a way as to bring the Jewish people to cry out from the depths of their beings–out of a deep sense of need and desperation–Blessed is He who comes in the Name of YEHOVAH!  For Christians who know who it is that will answer such a heart cry, the last prayer of the Bible is, Even so, come Lord Jesus!   Is that your groan of the Holy Spirit in you, that the Bridegroom should come for His Bride who has made herself ready?

Our Father in Heaven is seeking those who worship Him in Spirit and truth.  God is love and His Kingdom is ruled by love.  Our Father loves everyone and has no delight that even the wicked should have to die and spend eternity existing in hell, the place where God is not there (Ezek. 18:23; Mt. 25:41).  When we see Him as He is, we are changed into His likeness (2Cor. 3:18).  Stephen saw the Lord Yeshua in His exaltation and so was able to ask forgiveness for those who hated Messiah in him and stoned him to death.

The Church in Israel–and throughout the world–needs a Holy Spirit revival:  a revival which brings God’s people back to the doctrines of the apostles; a revival which reveals to us the Lord Jesus in His glory; a revival which unites the whole and true Body of Messiah as the people of God; a revival in which the joy of the LORD is our strength, even to confess and repent of sin; a revival in which our hearts are circumcised and our souls afflicted for our sins and transgressions and iniquities as saved and justified believers; a revival whereby we bless and thank God for His goodness despite our sense of unworthiness to be called His children; a revival in which we know the value of the blood of the Son of God shed for us and whereby our boast is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; a revival which brings forth much good fruit to the glory and praise of the Holy Name of our great God and Savior.      

Our unity together in Christ is not only a testimony of who Jesus is–that He was indeed sent by God His Father–but also that God loves us even as He loved Jesus!  Remember that Jewish people do not think that God sent or loved Jesus. . .for after all, He was crucified (Is. 53:4; Mt. 27:35-49).  Yet this Holy Spirit  unity and love for one another by the members of God’s household is the crowning proof of the truth that  Jesus is our Lord, and not someone else (Ps. 133; John 13:34-35; 17:20-26; Eph. 4:21).  We are to fear God and to love Jesus more than we fear rejection by our own kinsmen in the flesh.  In this unity with Christ and the Father is the manifest presence of God reigning in the hearts of His redeemed people and adopted children.  The LORD is there!  This is eternal life. . .to know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

Jude 24-25    Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His Glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever!  Amen.  

SUFFERING OUTSIDE THE CAMP

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Mark 8:34-38; Hebrews 11:24-26; 13:13-14

In Israel the Supreme Court has determined that Jews who believe in Jesus/Yeshua as Lord and Savior are not entitled to immigrate to the State of Israel under the Law of Return.  Our faith in Jesus places us outside the Jewish camp of this world.

In Israel, what are we going to do as rulers and principalities in the nation-state of Israel increasingly persecute believers in Yeshua and those who would protect our well-being (Mt. 25:31-40)?  What are we believers going to do as the world–including perhaps Germany–increasingly comes against the purposes of God regarding Jerusalem and the regathering of His people back to the Land of Promise (Is. 62:6-7; Ezek. 36:19-29)?. . . We are to do good to all persons, but especially to those in the household of faith, that is, those outside the camps of this present world.

Jewish believers are caught in a dilemma:  The LORD Himself has separated Israel from the rest of the nations (Num. 23:9), and within the people of God, the LORD has further separated unto Himself a priesthood of those who whole-heartedly are to serve Him and represent the whole of the people (Num. 1:49; 3:12).  Unrepentant and unbelieving Israel has cast Yeshua outside the vineyard (Mt. 21:38-39), so it ought not amaze us when classical Judaism does not embrace Jewish believers in Jesus (Mt. 10:24-25).  Many churches, too, have put Jesus outside the sanctuary of worship and life, and He stands knocking on the door to be let in by whoever hears what the Spirit is saying (Rev. 3:14-22).

Fears and ignorance amongst the Jewish people have bred many superstitions.  The LORD says to Israel (and to Christians) through the prophet Isaiah,  Your iniquities have caused a separation between you and Me (Is. 59:2).  Evidence of sin is seen in broken personal relationships and fellowship (communion).  Our God grieves that false prophets cause His people to forget His Name because of the baalim (Ps. 44:20-21; Jer. 23:26-27).  Jewish people do not pronounce YHWH, but instead speak generally of God, Lord, Messiah.  The orthodox will even just say “HaShem”– The Name– or distort the Hebrew and refer to “Elokim”, all supposedly to avoid taking the name YEHOVAH in vain (Ex. 20:7), but really proof of having no personal knowledge or relationship with Him (Hos. 2:16-17). Isn’t  it an insult to someone when you keep calling him by any name other than what he prefers to be called?   The God of  Israel  has become as the Unknown God of the Athenians (Acts 17:23).

Do not many Christians do the same?  We can be more concerned with offending the sensitivities of those who do not believe with us that there is only one true Messiah, who is the very Son of God, than we are with offending the Lord Jesus Himself!  Perhaps we feel embarrassed or ashamed that we or our ancestors have not lived and spoken in a manner worthy of His Holy Name.  But we give credibility to the names of all the false gods and antichrists as we ourselves forsake the full and authoritative Word of God for all kinds of traditions and philosophies of men and of demons.  Perhaps we are uncertain that it is Jesus alone who is Lord and Christ!  We display a lack of fear of God and risk denying Him who has bought us with the price of His own blood.  Too many believers who love Israel and the Jewish people distinguish between the Jew Yeshua and the Greek Jesus, between the Jewish Messiah and the gentile Christ.  All of this indicates that the glory is departed, is not amongst us, is gone into exile (1Sam. 4:21), for God’s dwelling place is in the midst of His unified people.  The question is not, Whose side is the Lord on?, but, Whose camp are we in? (Josh. 5:13-15).  To side with YEHOVAH  is to place loyalty to Him over the partisan interests of our own camps.

In Israeli society, the word notzri (Heb.) or Christian is a negative term, much like Jew has been amongst Christians historically.  It is a name which is blasphemed amongst men, but a sweet smelling savor to God (1Pet. 4:14; James 2:7).  The word notzri or Christian simply means belonging to and a follower of Christ (Messiah), who is Jesus (Yeshua), the “netzer” or branch from out of the roots of Jesse (Is. 11:1).  Therefore, the term is messianic as a reference, amongst other things, to the Son of David.  While both Jews and Christians have made the name of God a reproach (Ezek. 36:19-20), yet Jesus identifies with both when He bore the verdict against Him on the cross, Yeshua haNotzri, Melech haYehudim (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews)(John 19:19).  So we must humbly sanctify and honor His name upon us, and not be ashamed to be called Christian because of what has been done sinfully in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Similarly, for many centuries Jewish people wanted to conceal their identities because of shame or fears of rejection and hatred).  In Israel we are called to honor the name of YEHOVAH God and of the Lord Jesus Christ–in whatever language.

The New Testament calls each believer to examine and judge him/herself (1Cor. 11:28-32) and to be accountable for my own  sins and the sins of my fathers (Acts 7:50-53), as well as to our sins as a people and the sins of the fathers of our nations and cultures against the Creator and Redeemer God (Lev. 26:39-45).  The Bible is clear that there is personal and collective accountability for our histories and a need to repent of sins.  This is true for me as a human being in Adam, for me as a Jew in whose rulers and fathers we are guilty as a nation for the crucifixion of the Son of God, for you as Germans with respect to the Holocaust.  We all have received forgiveness through our confession of sin and faith in the blood of Jesus who bore all our guilt and shame and curses in His body on the tree.  God delivers us from the death sin works in us into the freedom to serve Him with a clean conscience in the joy of being accepted by Him in Jesus!

Today as we look back at and judge the bleak record of church history–often overlooking the many blessings by God’s own faithfulness to keep the covenants–we need to take heed, lest thinking we stand, we fall (Rom. 11:21; 1Cor. 10:12).  Jewish believers especially ought to be the last to condemn and the first to forgive and to show mercy and comfort to our Christian brothers and sisters, for we rejected and killed Jesus before there even was a gentile church history; not to mention that over this history Jesus was Lord and within the Body of Christ the Holy Spirit exalted Him.  Our sin will be the greater because we say that we see (John 9:40-41).  This too puts us outside the camp as we forgive those who have sinned against our people because of our Father forgiving me for my sin against Him and His Son.  When Jewish and Arab, or even Jewish and German believers can testify of the reconciliation we have through our common faith in Christ as our Savior and Lord, this will be a witness that peace agreements from within this world are unsatisfactory and unsatisfying, that we must find our peace in the righteousness of God.  His terms of peace are signed with the blood of His cross.

To be outside the camp is to suffer misunderstanding and rejection with Jesus and with all others who are outside with Him, willing to be scapegoats who also make intercession for those still inside.  Only as we grow in appreciation for the enormity of our own sinfulness which God in His love and righteousness forgave, and let our love for Jesus increase, can we guard against a hardening of our own hearts towards those who refuse the message of reconciliation.  It is outside the camp where we meet with God and worship Him in Spirit and truth (Ex. 33:7).  Pharoah wanted Moses to compromise and set his conditions for the Israelis to worship their God.  Flee from idolatry, my brothers and sisters.  God is a Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, looking to the New Jerusalem above, outside the camps of this world.

THREAT TO THE STATUS QUO: RADICAL NEW COVENANT CULTURE-CRUCIFIXION

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

Galatians 6:14-16; 1Corinthians 9:19-23

As light is different from darkness, so is the Kingdom of God different from this present world order.  The present world order is opposed to and separated from God’s Kingdom.  It does not recognize the Lordship of His Son Yeshua the Messiah.  The people of this world are separated from God because of sin, though they may not realize it.  Yet they are proud to be independent of God.  Separation from God and opposition to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the status quo on the earth today.

But through Yeshua, God has been calling everyone to come out from the world into the Kingdom of Light.
“…the world  has been crucified to me and  I to the world.”  Has the world been crucified to you?  Have you been crucified to the world? 

The world is made up of many different cultures.  It’s not a natural thing to think of ourselves being crucified to our culture.  We tend to think of culture in terms of something we have a natural affinity for.   The cultures of the world, wherever we are, form the present world order or the status quo.   Paul is explaining that he has experienced a culture-crucifixion. This is something that is a threat to the status quo.  We have another King, the risen Lord Jesus! God wants to free us from the status quo, from the kingdom of darkness.  He wants to free us… 

from the culture of  Sodom which symbolizes immorality,
from the culture of Egypt which symbolizes bondage,
from the culture of  Babylon which symbolizes vain glory.

God Himself is a threat to the status quo.  When the Lord frees us to serve and worship Him, to be holy unto Him, He brings us out from the culture of this world.  And so it is that living for Him and letting Him live in us threatens the status quo.  God threatens the status quo of being separated from Him and opposed to Him when He offers an atonement for sin once and for all, removing our guilt against Him and His wrath towards us.

Whatever culture or society we are part of, the message of the New Testament is that we must come out from our status quo.   Accepting the gospel, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, is a life-changing and radical action that will separate you from the cultural norm.

One thing the gospel does is show us our origins or our natural culture from a new perspective.  Being drawn out of our culture is a process.  As revelation increases we see the truth of what Paul says.

Crucifixion is the key to being called out.   When we accept Yeshua, it is Messiah crucified that changes our lives.  Our old lives are crucified with Him.  Our old culture is crucified to ourselves and we ‘reckon it as dead’.

Here are some things that we are being called out from, each call threatening the status quo of this present world order and even threatening our own selves:
a)    All believers are called out from the idolatry of  heathenism and paganism,  and instead called to  serve the living God in all holiness and purity (Acts 15: 19-20, 28-29; 1 Thes. 1:9);

b)    We are all called out from seeking man’s approval through the keeping of customs (Mk. 7:9); instead we are called to seek God’s approval through faith and a personal relationship with Him (John 5:37-47; Rom. 2:29);

c)    We are called out of inequality to equality:  In the Messiah  gentiles are not above or below Jews;  in the Messiah men are not above or below women;  in Messiah the poor are with the  rich before God:  we are called  to be one body and co-heirs.  For this amazing truth of the gospel, the Chosen People sought to kill Paul (Acts 22:22; 1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 6:8);

d)    We are called out of  using wealth as a proof of approval from God (Mt. 19:23-26); it is the formation of God’s character in us which blesses us (Mt. 5:1; Lk. 6:20; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:10-14);

e)    We are called out of letting food be a cultural and social barrier.  Under Yeshua, all foods are acceptable by prayer and thanksgiving and  the Word of God (Mk. 7:13-23; 1Tim. 4:3-5);

f)     We are called out from hating our enemies.  We are called to bless our enemies and to do good towards them; we are called to pray for them and to forgive them (Mt.5:44; 6:12; Rom. 12:20);

g)    We are called out of the old priesthood and Law into a  new priesthood and change of  lifestyle based on the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31-32; Rom. 3:20-22; Philp. 3:8-9; Heb. 7:11-12);

h)    We are called to understand that the 7th day Sabbath is prophetically fulfilled in the life and death of Messiah, and the first day of the [new] week looks on to the “new creation”  (Gen.1:31; 1Cor. 13:10; 2Pet. 3:13).

The apostle Paul, through his faith in Yeshua , is a  prime example of one being called out . He was called out in priestly separation.  He was called to depart from iniquity and to live by the faith of the Son of God.  In these two aspects Paul was outside the mainstream of his culture and society as he strove to know Yeshua the Messiah and have part in the [first] resurrection (Philp. 3:2-11).

Yet through the gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to be all things to all people for the sake of their salvation (Prov.11:30; 1Cor.9:19-23).  Paul embodies the truth that through the seed of Abraham (specifically the Messiah) all the families of the earth would be blessed.  Paul, and his life of being called for the gospel’s sake, fulfills the word that Israel would be a light to the nations (the gentiles).  In breaking with the cultural norms of his society, Paul, the Jew and Israeli,  in the Way  of Yeshua, became a blessing to the nations, as was prophesied of Israel.

Today in Israel, the two main spiritual faiths of Judaism and Islam dominate the religious climate of the land and its people. Judaism rejects and denies the truth that the Messiah is in fact Yeshua; Islam denies that God is a Father, and therefore also that Yeshua is the Son of God (1John 2:22).  This rejection of Yeshua is a unifying element amongst the Jews and the Muslims.  You can understand how the Church, with its sure claim that God is Father and Yeshua is His Son, threatens the status quo throughout Israel and the Middle East.

Judaism, being the religion of the Jewish people, is law-based and culture-oriented.  It has varieties of laws, rituals, and ceremonies defined and determined as acceptable  (“kosher”) to the “traditions of the elders” (whether Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Ethiopian, etc.).  Much of Christianity is “Jewish” in a similar manner.  In Judaism adultery and divorce are being tolerated as a cultural norm.  Even agnostic and atheistic Jews will consider Judaism “theirs” as a way of validating their Jewishness and of belonging to the Jewish people, their customs and heritage.    What is true of Judaism is typical of every other religion and ethnic culture in that, in each one, things that have been taboo according to their law become–over time– tolerated and eventually legitimate.

Consequently, we all must look to what extent cultural norms become our norms as believers — in our personal lives and in the life of the Church.   Once norms of our society are tolerated in the Church the authority of the Word of God is undermined.  Obvious cultural norms that seek to enter the Church such as adultery, divorce, homosexuality will rob the Word of God of its full force and authority.  We will have no plumbline.   When this happens we will be robbing ourselves of life, by refusing to crucify our culture to the cross of our Lord, and ourselves to the present world order by the same cross.

With Judaism and Islam both vigorously claiming that Yeshua is not Lord, (and there are many who are called Christian who have turned away from the faith and deny the Lord who bought them), there is a clash of kingdoms.    The Christian assertion of Yeshua being the Messiah and of God being the Father is at the very foundation of  the Christian faith. Upon this rock Yeshua builds His church.  And so we see that believers and the testimony of Yeshua are a real threat to the status quo in Israel.  And the threat increases as the believers put off the old man and put on the new man in Messiah Yeshua.

We might ask what else is so threatening to the present world order?
What is so threatening about the culture of God’s kingdom?  It all has to do with the cross, doesn’t it?
We are a threat …
· when we die to ourselves, when we serve to please God rather than men;
· when we are not intimidated by our enemies;
· when we subdue pride and let God be honored;
· when we can accept the “shame” of believing in Yeshua;
· when we can be open with one another, confess sins to each other, pray for each other in brotherly love for Jesus’ sake.….

All this is a threat to the orientation of the present world order, because the crucified life is at the center of these actions.  The meek will inherit the earth.  It is the aim, naturally, of Jewish (and any other) radicalism to protect itself against these threats.

What are some of the attempts towards this end?  Here are a few that I see we are facing:
1)   Authorities will try to forbid the teaching or evangelizing in Yeshua’s name.
2)   There will be false accusations and incitement to violence against believers.
3)   Believers will be betrayed and suffer at the hands of family members.
4)   There will be intense effort to undermine faith through attacking the validity of the whole Bible and of the N.T. interpretation of the O.T.
5)   There will be general personal harassment, like standing at the entrance to meetings, personal threats, disturbing mail, phone tapping–all in an attempt to make us fearful in living out our faith.

This harassment and persecution may start through lawful means, but will degenerate to unrighteous means to justify the goal–of maintaining the status quo.  The cultures we are in want to keep their norms intact.  It can even sound good and righteous such as “guarding the sanctity of life, keeping the Shabbat, maintaining a prohibition against idolatry and blasphemy, preserving ethnic purity”, but can accelerate even to the point of killing in the belief that God will justify it.

Despite the seeming powerfulness of these measures, the challenge we have in Israel, for all the different congregations, is to keep our eyes on the Lord.  By His grace and the power of the blood we are to maintain our testimony in meekness despite the spirit of the age.

Closing:
So we see that there is an established world order wherever we go and that the kingdom of God with Yeshua as the Messiah is a living threat to this present darkness.

Once you trust Yeshua as God’s Anointed One though, you are being called out more and more from the world and the culture of the world, meaning even your own personal culture as we see with the apostle Paul. We are called as Paul to accept that the world has been crucified to us and we to the world.

We see that the Body of Messiah is challenged in resisting the cultural norms that are part of our surroundings.  It is necessary so that we will not be guilty of adding to or taking away from the plumbline of God.

In Israel we see the opposition to Yeshua coming from the two main religions, Judaism and Islam, with both opposing the truth of who Jesus really is.   Both of these religions are in a  ‘kingdom clash’ with the Sovereign LORD/YHVH.  As radicalism increases to protect itself against the perceived threat of the Lord Yeshua, real threats to our lives may come.

Finally, we know that as believers in Yeshua, we must persevere in an attitude of love, recognizing that God is longsuffering and good.  He is reaching out to the lost, desiring that as many as possible be saved before He must bring judgement.  So that should be our desire too.   By His grace and the blood of Jesus we are to maintain our testimony in a spirit of meekness despite the arrogant spirit of the age.  In this way we will overcome the world with Yeshua by our faith in Him.

GOD’S WILL: OUR CONFORMITY TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON (Rom 8:29)

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany:  “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)

God has a vision for usto change us and conform us to His Son’s image.  Now we know that Jesus was the express image of the invisible God, so God has in mind that we become like Himself.  This is wonderful, amazing, requiring the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to accomplish this.  We need to recognize that this is His purpose for us.

Why does He want us to become more like Him?  Because we are being prepared like a bride, the Bible says, to be finally joined with the Lord.  Our challenge is to realize what He is doing in us and  in our brothers and sisters in the body. Our challenge is to persevere in participation as He leads us and takes us through life’s experiences.   Are you taking up the challenge to let Him change you, develop you, mature you and form you to be more like Him, our Father?

It sounds nice, doesn’t it:  being changed to be more like Jesus?

But we are also in the process of being rejected by the world, and this is not so pleasing to the natural man.  The Bible says that the people of Israel rejected and hated the Holy One of Israel because He trusted in and delighted in the LORD God His Father.  In other words the people hated Him without  cause (Ps. 22:7-8; 69:4-21; Is. 50:5-9).  So in being conformed to His image we may discover that we are rejected and hated by others.

It is common knowledge that in Israel  Jesus is not honored, especially among the Jews.  Even His Hebrew name is corrupted to ‘Yeshu’ instead of the proper Yeshua.  ‘Yeshu’ is an acronym meaning “let his name and memory be blotted out.”
   This expression of being blotted out is, in fact, what the Lord said He would do to Amalek and what the Arab/Islamic nations say regarding what they want to do to Israel (Deut. 25:19; Ps. 83:4).

ASIDE:  I want to add right here that some of you may feel that the Jewish people have a good reason to reject and hate Jesus because of what was done in His name by the church and Christians– including here in Germany–over the centuries even down to our own day.  As a Jew myself, who has lived in the shadow of this perception,  I want to say to you that we Jews did not accept Yeshua even before there was such a thing as a gentile-dominated church or Christianity. 

Our first sin was our own rebellion against our God, which is recorded for the whole world to see in the Bible.  We were also insensitive to God’s love for gentiles, for whom we are to be a light.  It is not the gentiles’ fault that God the Father took the Kingdom away from Israel “for many days” and has given it to others during this time (Hos. 3:4-5; Mt. 21:41-45).

It is for me to forgive you, and I do.
It is not for me to accuse and blame you for my people’s hardness of heart to the gospel.

I think if we are all honest, we will acknowledge and confess that we have all made the Name of our God and Savior a reproach in the world, and have made it hard for people to want to believe in Him.

In Israel believers can face radical opposition by ultra-orthodox religious or ultra-liberal, pluralistic democrats. Both sides have their own view of how to change the world.   Many believers around the world face radical opposition from groups who see Jesus as a threat to their own plans.  This type of opposition can result in some measure of personal, family, or community suffering and loss.  But while we experience these things, God ‘s desire is that these things would serve towards conforming us to His image.

Jesus, of course, is our primary example of one who learned obedience through the things which He suffered, according to Hebrews 5:8.   So likewise, the primary and essential way for us to learn obedience is apparently through suffering (1 John 4:17).  (Well, His thoughts are above ours!)

But whatever the source, suffering, from God’s point of view, should cause us to call upon Him;   then we too will learn to obey the voice of our great and good Shepherd (Ps. 95:7; John 10:1-17).  This obedience in faith to God causes us to be changed to being more like Him.  This is His will for us.

As we let the Lord change us through experiences of rejection or suffering that He may take us through, we are allowing Him to work towards goals and objectives that He has for us.  Here are some of the things I found– ways we can learn–as God conforms us to His image:  Radical opposition can be used by God to bring radical change in His children.

Here are some changes  that can take place under His grace:
We can learn to obey with faith and gladness and learn to become meek and lowly in heart, keeping pride covered (Mt. 11:38-30;  Job 33:17).

We can become trained to trust in the Lord, even when intimidated by others in front of authorities, and to turn the other cheek if struck (Mt. 10:17-20; 5:39).

We don’t have to revile back when we are reviled (spoken of hatefully) and instead, we can learn to bless or to keep silent Mt. 5:11-12; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1Pet. 2:23).

We can learn to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21);  and,

We can lean to love our enemies and forgive them, so that we can be forgiven (Mt. 5:44; 6:14-15).

Suffering can also cause us to see more sharply the need to intercede for our people and nation (Hab. 3:2; Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:60).   Suffering for the sake of Jesus is redemptive.

While God works in us to change us to the image of His Son, He will keep us being salt and light.

You know that in Israel, good works from the hands of believers can result in believers being accused of trying to change the religion of the Jew to that of a Christian.  Nevertheless, despite false accusations (Mt. 5:10), the believers must continue in good works to please our Father in Heaven (Mt. 5:16; Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:9).

Many blessings come as a result of obeying the Lord:  He blesses us when we fear Him more than our enemies (Mt. 10:28), and when we confess openly that Jesus is the Messiah, He is Lord (Mt. 10:32; Acts 2:36).

If we suffer for the Lord, we need to remember that it is for His sake.  It is not for our own glory.  Suffering for Him brings us to boast in the cross; it is the cross that unifies Christians.  In being conformed to His image we die and He lives in us.  This is seen on the cross, in baptism, in resurrection, all so that we can walk in newness of life.  Finally, we look forward to His return when God will be sanctified and glorified in His own people, and even in His enemies (Ezek.36:23; 38:16).

Jesus said that He knew the Father’s presence because He always did that which pleased Him (John 8:29).  We will be pleasing the Father if we are wanting to be like His beloved Son (John 5:22-25), and we too can know His presence.

What is the basis for this work of conformity?  Isn’t it love?  Just as God has poured out His love to us in giving us His only begotten Son, God desires us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So he has also commanded us to love each other (2John 5).

In loving each other we are being converted into the image of Jesus, who loved us with the love of the Father

This multi-faceted command to love may be the biggest challenge we face in obedience and letting God conform us to His image.  Praise the Lord once again that He is with us by the Holy Spirit to help and strengthen us, but we must set our minds and hearts on it.  Our Heavenly Father delights to pour out His love for each one of us.  Are we delighting to love those around us?

In closing:
· Radical opposition to us because of  our living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings to light some of those who need our intercessions and need to see the love of God;
· The discomfort and suffering that radical opposition brings can help us be compassionate towards others who have suffered;
· And finally, suffering rejection that opposition brings can work in us a greater obedience with active faith to the things of God, the Way of the cross, enabling Him to accomplish all His purposes.

As we set our minds and hearts to letting ourselves be conformed to the image of God when we receive  difficult and trying experiences in our lives, we can rejoice in seeing the truth and good way of the Lord.

(Rom. 8:28)     “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.”