The Message Has Not Changed, Whatever the Method

(“Devotional” presented at the LCJE Int’l Conference in Jerusalem, August 2015)

Act 2:36-40  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. (37)  And hearing this, they were pierced in the heart, and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Men, brothers, what shall we do? (38)  Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39)  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. (40)  And with many other words he earnestly testified and exhorted, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation.

Every time I read these words in the Bible, they always sound as if they are as true today as they were almost 2000 years ago. The apostle to the Jews, Peter, is speaking to his own people about the truth of who the Messiah is, and our responsibility for His crucifixion, all in accord with the plan of God which He spoke through Moses and the Prophets.  Peter was clear, without fear of man but of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit confirmed the words he spoke by convicting the multitude of Jewish people there of their sin of unbelief and of rebellion against their own God, Yehovah, and HIS Messiah.  Those who received it were baptized, and also received the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised, and they knew that their sins had been forgiven.  Then they began to be discipled in the doctrines of the apostles whom Yeshua had chosen to teach those who would believe in Him.  Praise God!

When I first believed, I objectively knew that Jesus is the Messiah – that GOD is the Messiah! – and that He is the Savior and Lord, the Son of God, who died and rose again. And God gave me His Spirit and I knew. What I did not comprehend yet was that I was a sinner like sinners!  And, by the grace of God, I began to read the Bible as the Word of God.  I came to some verse – can’t remember which one – and it stopped me.  It was saying something about sin that I had not believed or accepted before.  So I said, “Okay, Lord, You are right.  Just show me why!”  And in His own marvelous way, He showed me not only that He is right, but that there is wisdom in His being right.  I still didn’t think that I was a sinner!  I believed in Jesus, and in the Bible, but I was still justifying myself in my own estimation, compared with sinners.  The next day, walking down the street with my wife, talking about these new developments in our lives, the Holy Spirit said, “Jesus died for you, and because of you and your sins, and has brought you home to your Father in Heaven!”   THAT broke me, and I began to weep right there on Randi’s shoulder.  Jesus became my Savior and my Lord!  What a difference!  The truth of external facts became internally real.  We were baptized at the end of that week, and came to Israel seven months later.

I call that powerful experience of personal conviction of sin and of being a sinner my Zechariah 12 experience, where we read of each and every family and person in Israel, those still alive, when they see Jesus whom they pierced, having their personal and national Day of Atonements, when their soul is afflicted for all their unfaithfulness and sin against the one they have cursed and hated, but who is the only one who has truly loved them and saves them. This will break their spirit, and will work in them a broken and contrite heart.  If we know God, then reconciliation will become a necessary outgrowth of our lives with other believers, especially among those with whom we know there have been problems between us before knowing God’s mercies towards us to save us. Whether it is between Jew and Gentile, or whites and blacks, or Jews and Arabs, or between certain streams within the Body of Messiah, it becomes a necessity for the sake of the gospel to come together in humility for the name of the Lord Jesus’ sake.

The Scriptures are written for us living at the end of the age. The generations have come and gone, but the Word of God is still living and active and true.  The Holy Spirit inspired the writers not only for what was relevant for those living at the time, but in a special way for us living at the time of the end, when Jewish people are back in this land, and the return of the Lord draws nigh.  In the fear of the LORD, we dare not add to or take away from what is written:  God’s Word will be fulfilled, but we would find ourselves working against Him.  We will be guilty of replacement theology, just as our fathers were:  replacing the Word of God with our tradition and doctrines of men, or by our politics or personal narratives.  We need to be awake and not let anyone deceive us, whether man or angels or demons.

The message of evangelism came to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles. God has not changed His powerful way to save the Jews, but left it unchanged for Gentiles!  His controversy is first with us His people, to whom He gave the covenants and the Law, and the service, etc.  This all started before the Gentiles became the majority in the Church, the Body of Christ.  Gentile Christians can examine and judge themselves as to how they, or their churches, have done in fulfilling their calling to provoke Israel to jealousy, and to show them mercy; but God is using all this to show His mercy to all who have been disobedient, to those who come to repentance and receive His forgiveness.  To the Jew first!

We often hear this expression used in evangelism: “Jesus is standing at the door and knocking; invite Jesus into your heart.”  I believe this is a misuse of Scripture.  First of all, when Jesus is saying that He is standing at the door and knocking to come in, He is talking to a church!:  to people who say that they are believers, even though they have put out the Lord from their gatherings, and don’t even realize it.  Secondly, Jesus will not come into an old heart.  The New Covenant promise is that God creates in us a new heart, and gives us a new Spirit.  He will live within that new heart.  This message is to the Jew first.  It is our own Scripture that tells us the necessity of being a new creation!  When has this changed?  By what authority has this been done?

The gospel cuts through every culture, and as the apostle Paul wrote, “I am crucified to the world; and the world is crucified to me!” Yeshua came into a Jewish culture as a Jew in the flesh, and a perfect Jew in the inner man.  We threw Him out of the vineyard, and He is outside every camp!  If the gospel were Jewish, then many more Jews would have accepted it then, and now.  The gospel and the cross cut to the thoughts and intentions of the heart of every man – of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.  To whom much is given more is required.  Israel is held to a higher standard, because God has given us a higher standard than of the rest of the nations.  We want to be like the Gentiles because it is easier to live according to our lusts and not to be called to holiness.  Christians are held to an even higher standard, because the Holy Spirit is given to all who truly repent and believe the good news of God. Before I believed, the gospel seemed like bad news, especially for me as a Jew!  You must be born-again to see and to enter the Kingdom of God!

The challenges of taking the message of the saving power of God to the Jewish people face the same arguments and opposition as they did when the Messianic movement began to develop in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The return of the Jewish people back to this very land of promise is today facing the same arguments and opposition as they did when it began, whether from Muslims, from Christians, or from the Jewish people.  There is nothing new under the sun, and if not for Yehovah God and His plan of redemption, all is vanity, and vanity of vanities.

The mission for the salvation of the Jewish people, and of their return to this land, has always been connected with the return of the Lord. The Holy God of Israel will take away ungodliness from Jacob in order to save all Israel.  If His return is not in our sights, it is like having a text without a context as we try to interpret and understand the Scriptures and current events today.  God is moving on in the 21st Cent., just as He has been doing for the last 60 centuries.  Let us be found faithful to persevere, to keep His word, and to not deny His name, as we continue to press onward in the power and love of God dwelling within us.

YEHOVAH, The Triune God and Father

Gen 1:1-2  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   And the earth was without form and empty. And darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.

Gen 2:4  These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created in the day that Yehovah God made the earth and the heavens.

Dt 6:4-5  Hear, O, Israel. Yehovah our God,  Yehovah is one. (5)  And you shall love Yehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Ex 4:22  And you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says Yehovah: Israel is My son, My first-born.

Isa 48:16  Come near to Me, hear this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning. From its being, I was there; and now the Lord Yehovah, and His Spirit, has sent Me.

Mat 12:31-32  Therefore I say to you, All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. (32)  And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come.

Mat 28:19  Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Jn 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Rev 19:13  And He had been clothed in a garment dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

Jn 14:6-11  Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me. (7)  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. And from now on you know Him and have seen Him. (8)  Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. (9)  Jesus said to him, Have I been with you such a long time and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. And how do you say, Show us the Father? (10)  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works. (11)  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works themselves.

Jn 17:3-6  And this is life eternal, that they might know You, [Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (4)  I have glorified You upon the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (5)  And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (6)  I have revealed Your name to the men whom You gave to Me out of the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Eph 2:14-18  For He is our peace, He making us both one, and He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us, (15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, making peace between them; (16) and so that He might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity in Himself. (17) And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to those who were near. (18) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Col 1:15-18  He is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation. (16)  For all things were created in Him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created through Him and for Him. (17)  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. (18)  And He is the Head of the body, the church, who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead, that He may be pre-eminent in all things.

1Th 5:23  And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blamelessly at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Php 2:8-11  And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9)  Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, (10)  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth; (11)  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.

Heb 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

 

Belief in some Deity, or God, or gods, is found in every culture of people everywhere. (Today, largely through unfounded belief in evolution, there is a falling away from even this elementary belief.)  Which, or What that God (or those gods) is/are has been the primary reason for missionary efforts to take the truth of the one true God to those worshipping idols or, superstitiously, the ‘unknown God’.   YHVH God called Israel His witnesses to the Gentiles that they should know HIM, and come under His rule and authority.  Yehovah declares that He is the God over all – Heaven and Earth, the seas and all that is in them, the hills and the valleys, the seasons, all created things – living and dead (inanimate).  He is the God of gods, Lord of lords, King of kings!

For those who believe what Moses wrote, with help from the Holy Spirit, the knowledge of God was known from the beginning of human history, was brought into strong focus during and after the flood in Noah’s days to those who survived the judgment of the world at that time, and through the Jewish Israeli people, knowledge of the true God has been dispersed throughout the world until today. The creation itself bears witness to the truth of a Creator God – of a Father in Heaven – that is great, loving, caring, and protective of all that He has created and made, and who requires especially humans to willingly choose to acknowledge Him and rightly give Him praise and glory.

The idea of one God who is three could only be known by revelation from God Himself. The very first sentence in the Bible (in Hebrew it is especially clear) we have already a clue to something very unusual:  a plural God (Elohim) who singularly created (bara)!  We see the Jewish people, to whom He first revealed Himself through His covenant relationship with them, reject the belief of a ‘triune’ God who is one in order to “prove” by natural (with satanic help!) reasoning why Jesus cannot be truly God with us in the flesh – Immanuel.  In Islam, too, the other monotheistic world religion, the thought that God would ever humiliate Himself to become a mere Man or to need a son is blasphemy.  Praise God that as the Father He gives His inheritance to His first-born Son and the many brethren with Him!  Only true believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, hold to the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints.  It is the lying, antichrist spirit that rejects this supreme and profound truth, which YHVH God Himself has revealed about who He is:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Holy is His name!

I remember when I first got saved, I asked Dwight, who led me to the Lord: “If Jesus is God and the Son of God, where was the Father during those years while Jesus was here?”  Dwight answered simply by saying, “Someone had to take care of the universe.”

All relationships and communication begin in YHVH God, who speaks within/between/among Himself as a Father to a Son, and of the Holy Spirit equally active in God’s creation, in the resurrection of Yeshua, in the new birth of one who repents and believes the gospel. The one, true, living God sometimes refers to Himself in the singular, at other times in the plural, e.g., “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion. . . .”;  “ I am YHVH your God; you shall have no other gods before Me.”  All of human relationships in family and in society are founded in God Himself, who made us in His image and likeness.  He spoke to Adam as a father to a son to instruct him in boundaries of what is permitted and what is not.  He has given instructions on family, on government, on moral discipline, on judgment.  It all begins in and from Him.  YHVH is God to be feared and worshipped, King to be respected, Lord to be obeyed, Father to be honored and loved.

In YHVH is male and female, for He said, “So God created Man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God gave them dominion over the world He created; but He gave the man the rule over the woman, and over the household.  This is the picture of God as, first of all, the Source of all things, and with the male – the Father, the husband, the ‘man’ – having primary responsibility. For us who believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we understand things by first believing what He says of Himself, and of us, and of the world He created and made.

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to come to God as their Father, not as their Mother. Nor did He teach us to pray in a generic sense to “our God”, as if to include all the Trinity in that plural word, Elohim/Eloheinu.  As a son, Yeshua committed and subjected Himself to honor His Father in all things, which is the right attitude — humility — for all human beings, whether male or female, whom God created to enjoy Him and all that He has made.  It is the Father who is the provider and protector of the family, with the mother having her authority and freedom to act and to help by willingly agreeing and accepting the will of the Father and Husband (idealistically speaking).  When Jesus was told that His mother and brothers and sisters wanted to see Him, He answered that His mother and brothers and sisters were those who do His Father’s will.  The Holy Spirit lives in the born-again believer, and gives honor to the Father and the Son, not to Himself.  (Interestingly, in Hebrew the word for ‘spirit’ is feminine, but when referring directly to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, it is always in the masculine.)

From the moment that we are born-again, we receive the spirit of adoption, and so call God our Father, “Abba”. It is very interesting to me that many Israeli Jews, in times of stress, call out “Ima!”, Mother!  Yeshua told us that if we do not receive Him, we do not have the Father, either, and in this most fundamental relationship of God with His people, the sin of unbelief and subsequent disobedience to His Word has brought in this separation, which is only repaired and healed through knowing God the Father by knowing Yeshua/Jesus His Son, and ‘They’ give the Holy Spirit to live within the forgiven sinner!  By this, we know that we are children of God, and that we have become one spirit with Him. (1Cor 6:17)

There are many examples which God has given to show the possibility of “three being one”: as human beings, we are spirit, soul, and body, yet one person; Time is present, past, and future, all three ‘elements’ needed to be what we know as ‘time’; Water can be in the form of liquid, ice, or steam, yet they are each and all water, H2O.  The Holy of Holies, and the New Jerusalem, are perfect cubes, whose measurements of length, height, and width are equal.  These speak of where God dwells, in His Temple, in His House.  In the New Heavens and New Earth, God and His glory are said to be all and in all:  1x1x1=1.  There are many more examples which could be given, but these are enough to simply show that the idea of three being one is not strange to us, even if no example fully explains the mystery that is God.  We must believe what He has revealed about Himself; He can not be known by human wisdom or scientific research, yet He has placed it into us to seek for Him.

Why is it so important that we believe in the “Trinity”, and in God as Father?

First of all, it is because YHVH, the only true God worthy of the name, has described Himself in this way. God is spirit, and for us to worship the Father in spirit and truth, for us to approach Him without the idolatry of our own understanding as opposed to faith in His revelation, it is necessary that we learn what this great foundational truth of the mystery of God is. God is Light, whom no one can see; Jesus came in the form of man (even as a willing slave!) so that we could know God, know the Father. The Holy Spirit is given us that we can be true and faithful witnesses of the one true God and Savior, and to be conformed into His image and likeness, for the Spirit of God knows the things of God. (1Cor 10:10-12)

It is important so that we do not separate the God of the New Testament from the God of the Old Testament. All of the covenants given to Israel as a nation, or to individuals, such as Abraham, Aaron, and David, within the nation, are from the same God.  The New Covenant in Jesus Christ is first promised to Israel, and Jesus came in the flesh as the Son of YHVH God, the Creator and Redeemer of all.  Jesus is the Word of God, by Whom all things were created and for whom are all things. There is only one true God of the Bible – YEHOVAH, who was, and is, and is to come!

Relationally, as members of the Body of Messiah/Christ, we have a closer relationship with God than even Israel knows. All of the great prayers of the Tanach are addressed to the great God Yehovah, God of Israel, who keeps covenant.  In the New Testament, we see a change:  most of the prayers are addressed to the Father, in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, on behalf of both Jewish and Gentile believers. If I speak of my father, I may tell you his name; but when I speak to my father, I call him ‘Dad’ or ‘Father’.  So, too, now with God:  He is no longer just YHVH, who is ‘the Father’ in a general way (the father of all flesh and of all spirit), but He has become my Father in Heaven because of the fellowship I can have with Him, and with the Son, by the Spirit of God dwelling in me through a personal faith in who Jesus Christ is:  my Lord and my God who has redeemed me and saves me from my sins.  Jesus came to reveal God as our Father.  Glory to God, and to the Lamb upon the Throne!  In both Judaism and in Islam, neither one ‘has the Father’ because of rejecting the Father’s love and choice of Jesus and of Israel as His unique Son and nation.  (Think of the brothers of Joseph and their relationship to their father in connection with their attitude and intentions towards the beloved son.)   In a spiritual sense today, both Muslims and unsaved Jews are “fatherless”, the former deliberately, by harboring a spirit of rejection nurturing a bitter root and a murderous grudge; the latter unwittingly, due to envy and hatred without a cause.  Both conspire and mingle together against Yehovah and His Anointed One.

Knowing God for who He is helps us in our own interpersonal relationships: love is the key, whether as a husband or a father, a wife or mother, a child, a steward for God over what He has given us responsibility for in the world that He made.  He sends us out to bring others into His household and family!  God the Father is the perfect father, and we must know Him and His ways as an antidote to the imperfections of our earthly fathers!

Heb 12:1-11  Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2)  looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God. (3)  For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds. (4)  You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (5)  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons,

“My son, despise not the chastening of YHVH, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him; (6)  for whom YHVH loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” (7)  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father does not chasten? (8)  But if you are without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. (9)  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? (10)  For truly they chastened us for a few days according to their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. (11)  Now chastening for the present does not seem to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.

God is our Father, whom we know in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Yehovah is one, and His name one.