CLOGGED WELLS: UNPAID TITHES AND OFFERINGS

Last week I spoke about digging up our stopped-up wells so that the spiritual life in Messiah can flow through us more freely.  We spoke of some of the “stones, dirt, and garbage” which can clog up our wells.  It had been my intention to speak today on another subject related to God’s purposes for us here in Beer Sheva, but during the week the Holy Spirit convicted me of another stone in both my life and in the congregation’s, which is limiting God in blessing us here as He would want.  It is a subject which is seen from the first pages of history down to these last days, as written for our instruction in the Bible.  

The Lord does not change:  He wants His people to give from their incomes and increases in order for Him to bless us.  From Cain and Abel (Gen 4:4) to Abraham and Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) to Jacob (Gen 28:20-22) to the people of Israel under the whole Tenach (the O.T.:  Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-24; Dt 12:17-19; 14:22,28-29; 24:19-22; Pr 3:9; Mal 3:8), the believers who feared YHVH understood that all that they had belonged to God, and that they “owed” Him at least 10% (a tithe).  

Under the Law the LORD told Israel through Moses that 10% belonged to YHVH, and was holy to Him.  He instructed the children of Israel to give this 10% for Him to the Levites, who served Him as priests in the Tabernacle/Temple. (Num 18:23-24)  This corresponds to deacons and elders within local Messianic/Christian congregations.  The Levites were to give from this tithe their own tithe as an offering to YHVH, who was their inheritance, rather than a land possession with the other children of Israel.  

The tithes and offerings are God’s “taxes” upon the citizens of His Kingdom to help service the general welfare which His government provided (similar to Mt 22:15-22; Rom 13:1-7):  firstly, to pay the priests their “salaries”, who as a tribe worked every day of the year, while the rest of the tribes only worked 80% of the year, not having to work on Sabbaths and holidays. (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21; 1Tim 5:17-18)  This corresponds to elders who teach, and to other servants who serve regularly and faithfully the local churches on Sabbaths and Sundays.; secondly, to pay for the upkeep of the Tabernacle/Temple, and for feast days (Dt 12:17-19); thirdly, to care for the poor and the stranger, the widows and fatherless. (Dt 14:28-29)  The first amounted to the “whole tithe”, or 10%; the second and the third raised the total offering to 16%-17%.  The blessing which YHVH promised was based upon these extra donations, which were voluntary.  The tithe was obligatory, a necessary duty upon all.  

Mal 3:7-12   We rob God!  Instead of stealing from Him by not paying our tithes, He wants to give us at least 80%-90% of what is already His.  YHVH is saying to give Him even the minimum of 10%, and He will give us more than enough.  This is grace; He is asking from us the minimum under the Law, and He will bless us, although the Law does not require Him to!  

Give to the Lord, and He will bless in such a way that unbelievers will notice.
Give to God what is rightfully His, and He will increase our income to enable us to bless and help others, to His glory.

Tithing also provides a defense against greed and stinginess.  

So much for the O.T., but what about the New Testament?  Aren’t we under grace now and not the Law?
Mt 23:23-24   justice, mercy, and faith + tithing
Lk 11:42   justice and the love of God + tithing  

So speaks our Lord Jesus.  

If you read 2Cor 8 – 9, Paul instructs Christians regarding giving.  His teaching is based upon the words of the Lord Yeshua, who upholding the principles and commandments of the Word of God as written in the O.T. in this matter, just as He is concerning the promises made to the Fathers connected with the people and the land of Israel.  The apostle in particular praises those who gave more than his own expectation, despite their poverty and affliction, and says that they gave firstly unto the Lord and then to them by the will of God. (2Cor 8:1-5)

Many of us are having financial troubles.  Could it be that we are robbing God?  Many of us have not had a ‘new song’ in a long time.  Could it be that we are robbing God and rejecting His interests in the congregation?   

Mal 3:13-18   God makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve Him and those who do not; the Book of Remembrance is for those who fear YHVH and think of Him.  

2Cor 9:6-15   God will bless the whole-hearted giver, and many will give thanks to God.

May the Lord increase our faith to give more than mere duty – but at least our duty! – and unclog our wells.  Spring up, O well! (Num 21:17) 

HIDING PRIDE FROM MAN: MANY FIRST SHALL BE LAST – 16 May 1998

Ezek. 11: 14-16  –  pride of circumstances
Zech.  12: 7 – pride of election
Rom. 11: 25-32  – pride of man

God works in mysterious ways, but always with wisdom and perfect understanding in all things.  He has a plan which He conceived before time began, and He will fully display its perfection when time is no more.  Meanwhile, a major objective of all His activities is to resist the pride which is in man and in nations, and to bring forth in His children the choice fruit of the Holy Spirit:  a holy man and people, who have learned from the Messiah Jesus to be meek and lowly in heart.  To whom much is given much is required.  To whom has more been given than to Israel and to the Church?

With this in mind, I want to share about a subject that many of us pray about, even worry over.  Over the years, many people have complained to the congregational leadership and even blamed us regarding this matter.  As one who also is deeply interested in the same, I have sought the LORD about it, and not too long ago I believe that He has given me His answer.  The subject is:  Why aren’t more Israelis repenting and believing in Yeshua, and why doesn’t our kehila do something to make the services more Jewish or Israeli in order to be more effective in this regard?

In the beginning the first believers were Jews and the church had a heavily Jewish flavor.  Because the nation of  Israel did not accept or receive her long-promised Redeemer-King, then afterwards, in fulfillment of the Word of the Lord, God took away the privileges belonging to Israel as first-born among the nations unto God, and He gave them to the Gentiles in order to obtain His fruit (Mt. 21:40-46).  (This follows a consistent Biblical pattern of the first-born losing the presumed birthright and blessing, even if only for a time.)  From then until now the Body of Messiah has been heavily un-Jewish in outward personality and style.  The relatively few Jews who have been born- again have had effectually little impact.  Even in Israel today it is no easy matter to define or determine Jewishness or Israeliness.

The answer to the subject lies in the necessity of God to cause His people to humble themselves—each one and all together—in order to know the glory of God in His wisdom to build up (edify) the weak and despised, even His Church.  Many who are first shall be last.

Let us look together at three passages from the O.T. and N.T., from which I believe the Holy Spirit opened my understanding to see their relevance to our own day and time:

  1. Ezek. 11:14-17 (Deut. 8:10-18) – Those living in Jerusalem, the beloved city of the Great King, believed that they were special because they lived in Jerusalem and in the Land of Israel.  They disdained in their hearts those Jews who were living in the dispersion, saying, “Get you far from YHVH;  this land is given to us as a possession!”  But God comforted those in captivity outside the land and said that he would be for them a little sanctuary.  The Good Shepherd cares for those who are dismissed in the eyes of the so-called privileged, and He brings us home according to His promise!

Brothers and sisters, most Jews who are saved today live in the diaspora and not in  Israel.  In Israel the Jewish leaders presume to themselves the determination of who/what is a Jew while remaining indifferent or hostile to the claims of Jesus.  But the LORD has been faithful to many Jewish people not living in Israel today.  There is no place for pride before God!  It doesn’t “cut it” with Him.

2.   Zech. 12:7 (Dt 17:20) –  In  order to subdue pride in the chosen  House of David to whom belonged the  ruling authority, YHVH would save others from the House of Judah first.  Today, most of the Israeli Jews who do believe in Yeshua are immigrants like most of us here.  Very few are native-born (“sabras”).  Think what it is like when local people or an influential family controls a situation.  It becomes very difficult for an outsider or a newcomer to fit in.  The locals have the language, the culture, the contacts, the power.  They think, “This is how it’s done here, and we know how to do it!”

God in His sovereign grace and wisdom is giving those with less status and natural privileges an opportunity to grow and develop confidence.  He wants all His people to be kings and priests.  Likewise is our Father in Heaven subduing the pride of the Israeli by showing His love for us all who live here in the Land of the Covenant.  He has something for all His family members.  The personal relationship of each of us with Father is of great importance and value.

3.    Rom. 11:25-32 (Deut. 32:21) – God is still saving Gentiles and is using them to provoke Israel to jealousy, and even to anger.  Look at how many foreign workers are being brought into the Kingdom of God right under our Jewish noses right here in Israel and Beer Sheva!  Still the Jewish people are partially blinded and will be until the fullness of the Gentiles is completed.  Meanwhile God is requiring Israeli believers here to accept their Gentile brethren fully and equally, just as we have wanted them to accept us fully and equally in Messiah.  It is in mercy that any of us are saved by God.

The prayers of the Lord Yeshua and of all the saints throughout the generations have been accumulating until today for the Kingdom of God the Father to come and for Israel to be restored and saved.  We are entering into the labors of others also working by the Spirit of Messiah, and the time is near when God is going to answer all these prayers.  We can be thankful for all of the Jewish people being saved today.  Much opposition to the truth of God still reflects the great pride in man.  We want to see more “real” Israelis repent and believe the truth of Messiah in Jesus.

Peter, the apostle to the Jews, was a typical Israeli.  The lesson he had to learn is one we must all learn:  to accept God’s way of doing things.  The Holy Spirit will glorify the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and not ourselves or our culture.

Let us remain obedient with faith in what we have been given to do and God will take care of the consequences.  Praise the LORD!  Amen.

Rom. 11:33-36

UNITY — WE AND OUR FATHERS – 18 Apr 1998

Mt 1:1-16; Lk 3:23-38  Genealogy of Yeshua
Ezek 16:3; Dt 26:5  My father was an Aramean (Syrian)

YHVH promised Abraham, our father in the faith, that his children (his descendants) would go down to a land not theirs, and there become slaves.  At Passover we remember that God kept His promise to deliver our fathers, the children of Israel, from Egypt, and to bring us out that we would worship YHVH in the land of promise – the Land of Canaan, now the Land of Israel.  When we read in Genesis and in Deuteronomy where Jacob/Israel described his sons, and Moses described the tribes of the sons of Israel, we notice how different each was while yet of one large and extended family.  They were also joined together by the covenant which God cut with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, by the redemption from out of Egypt, and by the Law of the covenant which YHVH gave them all together.

All of us have ancestors.  We all have a past – both personal and as a family, a tribe, or as a people.  We see from the Bible that God knows us and He calls us by name.  (Those who are born-again by the Holy Spirit know this experientially.)  Many people today are interested in finding their roots, tracing their family lineages back as far as they can in the hope of gaining a stronger sense of their identity, of who they are.  (The apostle Paul advises us not to waste too much time or effort in this because it is not profitable. Tit 3:9)  It is more relevant to know who are our near and distant relatives in the Spirit – in the faith – than merely of which family in the flesh.  For this reason the New Testament gives only the genealogy of Jesus, showing Him to be the promised Seed of the woman, and of Abraham and David, as well as God’s Son.  After Him, one is either born-again into the redeemed family of God in Christ, or else remains dead in His trespasses and sins as an unsaved son of Adam.

Obviously though, since Messiah there have been many more names up till today with whom we are connected, both naturally and spiritually.  If we look at Jesus’ human ancestors, we finde names that may cause both pride and shame.  There is royalty here, but also names who seem far from honor.  Yet the Holy Spirit has recorded for all to know both the good, the bad, and the ugly, even when showing Jesus was born a Jew, through whom God has brought salvation.  And YHVH, who sees and knows the heart, reminds us that we have no basis for pride of flesh or race, for our ancestors are just like heathen Canaanites and Egyptians.

In the prophet Ezekiel’s day the people complained of suffering and of hardship due to the sins of their fathers.  It is true, according to the Law of God, that those who hated YHVH would bring His displeasure onto the 3rd and 4th generations afterwards. (Ezek 18; Ex 20:5)  So those “children” complained that all of their problems and lack of success were the fault of those who had lived and sinned before them.  Therefore the Lord said to them that He would judge them by their own doings, and they would know that their own sinfulness was the reason for their present distress.

Were not the fathers once the children of their fathers?  Do not the children grow up to become the fathers to future generations?  As a Jewish believer in Jesus as both Messiah and Lord, I cannot divorce myself from either my humanity in Adam; from my Jewish ancestry all the way back to those who killed the Messiah, and back to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham; or from my spiritual heritage with believers throughout the history of the Church, and back until Abel.  Today, in the spirit of Elijah, God is returning the hearts of the children upon the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers upon the children.

Apart from the sinless Son of God, all of us must confess that we and our fathers have sinned. (Lev 26:39-40; Ps 106:6)  So says the Torah; so prays Daniel and Nehemiah; so teaches the Lord Jesus and His Apostles.  If we presume ourselves as more holy or righteous in our own generation than our fathers and mothers were in theirs, then the Lord says plainly that we are still in our sins and will be more guilty than them. (Mt 23:29-36; Jn 9:40-41)

In spirit and in character, we all have sinful origins – even pagan, those without the true knowledge and worship of the one true living God.  We are neither to justify nor to condemn, but rather to confess our common wickedness together in the sight of God.  In the light of that humbling self-examination and self-judgment, we can pray and intercede to our God who is full or mercies and forgiveness, and we can thank Him for His everlasting lovingkindness (grace).

Brothers and sisters, our history up to this day is full of sins and errors – both of the heart and of discerning God’s will rightly – but God has worked all these things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  We must forgive those whom we think or believe have sinned to the detriment of those living today, and take heed to our own selves lest, thinking we stand, we fall.  We tend to remember King Solomon with praises, despite what the Spirit of God records regarding his later years.  Let us not condemn a Martin Luther, whom I am certain will be among those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  There is no need to justify all the divisions in Christianity in order not to condemn all those found in each camp.  Rather, the call of God to all is to separate from that which is unholy and unclean, and to draw near to Him through the despised Nazarene whom this world dishonors.  To all who heed the call, God promises to be their God and Father, and we shall be His children.  With true unity of the Spirit, the one and only God will dwell in our midst, and manifest His love for us.  To God be the glory, and to the Lamb upon the throne.  Amen.

THE CROSS

Mt 5:4/Lk 6:21   “Blessed are they who mourn/weep now, for they shall be comforted/laugh.”

Within the past month, members of this congregation have experienced mourning and weeping.  With the death of two family members, loved ones and friends had a personal and family experience of weeping and mourning.  And now this week, we have joined with the nation that weeps for her children, the 73 young men – soldiers – who died without warning or expectation; not at the hand of their enemies, but in a collision of two helicopters of our own.

Who among us did not cry before the Lord when we heard the news?  Who did not feel the pain of the families and close friends?  Who among the children of God the Father in Heaven does not pray from his heart, “Until when LORD?!; Thy Kingdom come!; Blessed is He who comes in the name of YHVH!; Come, Lord Jesus!”?

I heard that among some groups of the religious, there was rejoicing!  These are those who do not even recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel because their Messiah has not yet come.  YHVH’s Anointed One, Yeshua/Jesus, whom we know has come, and will come again, used the example of national tragedies to bring the people to repentance.  He proclaimed that those killed were not worse sinners than others, and that unless they repented, they, too, would likewise perish. (Lk 13:1-5)

Those who were rejoicing in their heart – whether they be Israelis or enemies of Israel – will not know the comfort which the Lord Jesus promises to those who mourn.  Let us look together at another passage from the prophet Ezekiel, and consider the mourning of which Messiah speaks:  Ezek 9:1-11 (esp. v. 4,9)  The city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel (Judah) are filled with blood, violence, iniquity because the people have no personal relationship with, nor faith in YHVH.  There is no genuine fear of God.  Instead, they say that the LORD has forsaken the land, and that He does not see.  Yet there were those within the city who sigh and groan over all the abominations done in Jerusalem, and by the religious priests in the sanctuary of YHVH.  Upon these mourners the Lord ordered His servants to write a  mark on their foreheads.

It is interesting that in ancient Hebrew the letter ת (tav) was written like a ‘t’.  The ‘mark‘ here in v. 4 is called a tav
(תו).  Brothers and Sisters, the mark of God, which He places on those whom He delivers and passes over from His wrath, is the cross!  It is at the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua that self is slain, and God alone is good and worthy.

The message of the cross is proof that the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek/Gentile:  The Jews do not accept it, and the Gentiles do not respect it. (1Cor 1:18-23)  Jewish people avoid any use of a cross design or symbol (even in arithmetic and at a cross-road intersection!), and Gentiles who know little or nothing of the true meaning of the cross have used it to terrorize Jews and others, and to blaspheme God and Christ.

The truth is that the cross, and its message of Messiah crucified, is, like the gospel, from God.  It is the New Covenant in Jesus which brings it to light.  Besides the ‘mark’ in Ezekiel, the cross appears in other significant places in Israel’s history by God’s plan and wisdom:
–the sprinkled blood on the door posts at the Passover in Egypt
–the formation of the tribes of Israel as they camped and moved on in the desert, with the Tabernacle in their midst at the center
–in the arrangement of the holy furnishings and vessels of the Tabernacle and the Temple, showing the way into God’s presence and glory

The cross is God’s mark upon His people, which represents the spiritual condition of the inner man.  To the carnal and unbelieving it is a mark of shame and dishonor; to the spiritual person in Christ, it is the mark of God’s glory in the person and character and atoning death of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, and of God’s redeemed people, whose glory is our Head, even Christ Jesus Himself.  The cross is God’s mark to separate the world from His people, and His people from the world. (Gal 6:14), and it is by the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross, which we, as it were, sprinkle (1Pt 1:2) on our hearts and minds, that God will save us from the day of His judgment, which begins – today as in Ezekiel’s day – in the household of God. (1Pt 4:17)

The other night at the Bible study from the epistle to the Galatians, we discussed the matter of circumcision, which was and still is an issue in some groups, as a sign of keeping God’s covenant with Israel and with belonging to His people – even for Gentiles.  Foods also have an importance in similar arguments.  During the same time as our study, but without our knowledge, the helicopter collision occurred in which the 73 persons with names were killed without warning and, as far as we know, without Christ.  The nation mourns; we share in that grief.  God’s kingdom is not about circumcision and food (Heb 13:9), but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Peace is the fruit of righteousness, and especially that righteousness which comes from God.  Joy in the Kingdom of God is a holy joy, not a devilish delight in other people’s calamities or sin, but rather a joy in truth and righteousness and judgment (justice) and goodness.  Despite their significance, our righteousness before God does not depend upon such matters of circumcision and food, or even head coverings, and the Lord does not want contention (discord) and divisions over them, which can only quench and grieve the Holy Spirit.

A true Jew and a true Christian seeks God’s approval.  God approves of us when we believe in and obey His Son, our Lord Jesus.  Jesus acknowledges us as belonging to Him when we do the will of His Father in Heaven.  God is working both within Israel and within the Church to cleanse and to purify His people.  To be a disciple, Jesus says that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Him.  Both baptism in water and the cross speak the same message:  death to the self-life; alive unto God in the Spirit through faith. 

This way which we travel, and which Israel is being required by her God and Savior to travel, is long and hard and narrow.  It is a well-traveled road, and many more will yet know suffering on it.  Yeshua/Jesus, the King whom Jewish people say they do not want to rule over them, but whom YHVH God intends that they will have, has walked this same way – the way of the cross.  He exposed Himself to the condemnation of man, and became a curse for us under God’s own Law, in order that we could receive God’s approval.  If we follow Jesus and His lead on this path, we will arrive safely home – our conscience cleansed, and with love out of a purified heart perfected.  Despite the sentence of death in ourselves, we go on in victory in Christ because God has forgiven us of our sin and our sins.  Praise the LORD!  Yeshua is no longer on the cross!

The Lord is calling us to intercede in mercy  — as His priests — for the Jewish and Arab peoples to repent and to believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is near.  Until they do, there will continue to be much sorrow and mourning.  Until we let God’s spiritual mark distinguish us, then we, too, stand in danger of suffering from God’s righteous judgments upon the world. (1Cor 11:31-32)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”  God intends to answer the prayer which the Lord has taught us to pray and which the Holy Spirit quickens as the birth pains increase.

Let’s be encouraged together, as we conclude from the truth of God’s prophetic word:  Rev 21:1-7; 22:1-9

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.

OUR BROTHER YESHUA

John 17:17-26  sanctify by truth; the Father’s love for us is as His love for Jesus
Heb. 2:10-12  Jesus (Yeshua) not ashamed to call us His brethren

God loves us!  Our Father in Heaven loves us, and He loves us as much as He loves His only-begotten Son Yeshua!  It’s understandable that we should know and believe that God the Father loves Yeshua the Son, because Yeshua always did what pleased His Father; He always –even from His youth– did what was good and right in His Father’s eyes.  He always lived and walked by faith according to the Spirit of Holiness.  He always trusted and obeyed His Father, and he honored His earthly mother and father.

It is more difficult for us to grasp the love of the truth that God our Father really loves us.  Our experiences, our feelings, our enemies (devil, world, self, iniquity) all conspire to tell us that God does not –even cannot– love someone like me or you or us or them.  And certainly if He does, it isn’t like His love for someone else:  I’m not worthy, or that person has advantages that make him or her easier to love; or, I’m not pretty or handsome –so many things which make us feel less love.  Of course, there are always those who think that they deserve all the love they have, and it’s not their concern if another feels a love deficit.

But what do we read here?:  the truth is that not only does God the Father and the Son love us, but also that the Father loves us as much as He loves Yeshua!  And Yeshua is glad about that!  He is not jealous or resentful that God should love us as much as Him.  In fact, He wants us to know this and to let this truth sanctify us and to cause us to love one another –especially those of the household of faith in Christ– in the same way.  Jesus gave His life for us who have become His brothers and sisters.

How can we accomplish this?  It can only be if we (I) are secure in the knowledge that God does love us (me).  Yeshua knew the Father loved Him because He believed with all His heart in Him:  He trusted Him; He honored Him; He loved Him.  If we are living our lives before God in sincerity and truth, the Holy Spirit witnesses to our own spirit that we are children of God and so are loved by Him, and we also grow in humility and grace to not only love God’s other children –our brethren– but to rejoice and to encourage each other in our Father’s mutual love for each and all of us.

There is no reason for jealousy or for competition.  Rather, we are to be as little children in our attitude –not considering who is greater or who is more loved.  

Consider the examples of Abraham towardsIshmael and Isaac
                                         The LORD towards Jacob and Esau
                                         Jacob towards Joseph and his brothers
                                         Yeshua towards John and the other apostles (different personalities and occupations)
                                         Parable of prodigal son

In all of these cases, the fathers loved their children, but had a special love for one over another –or so it seems.  It was when the others became jealous or hateful that problems in the family erupted.  So even God the Father in Heaven loves all people, whom He has created in His own image and likeness, and for whom Yeshua came and died.  Yet He has a special love (preference) for Jesus above all.  Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit tells us through God’s own Word that we, who love Jesus and accept His exaltation above all others, are loved –we know— by His Father and our Father in Heaven just as much as Yeshua is –and, again, Yeshua is happy for us and for Himself.  This pleases the Father very much:  to see His family at peace and joyful, at rest in His righteousness and in His everlasting love for us all.  If we love God, we will do what our Brother and Lord Jesus commands us, for this is what the Father wants from us.

Take the opportunity to strengthen another brother or sister in both your love and the Father’s love for him or her.  If there is any jealousy or resentment or competition regarding Father’s love, then confess this sin to Him and repent of it, knowing that He forgives you for Messiah’s sake.  The truth will both sanctify and free you and others.

God loves us as much as He loves Jesus.  He can not love us any more than that, but we can always show Him that we want to love Him and our brethren more. 

YESHUA THE ANOINTED PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING – July 1996

Dt 17:8 – 18:22   the role of priests, kings, an prophets in Israel

Prophet
Sam 16:23   anointed that he would be the oracle of God to the people; anointed for ministry to all peoples; evangelistic, calling for repentance from sin and turning to YHVH God; spoke God’s word, God’s truth, attesting to YHVH being the living God and being holy, by the Holy Spirit

Priest
Lev 8:12   anointed that he would be holy unto YHVH; anointed for ministry to God’s people; evangelistic, ministering to and in God’s love; representatives of His grace (lovingkindness) through righteousness by means of the substitutionary sacrifices, and intercession in the name of YHVH; earnest

King
1Sam 16:13   anointed that the Spirit of YHVH might rest on him in power; anointed for ministry over God’s people to other peoples; evangelistic, being himself subject to the law of the nation; his authority for rule is the righteousness of God

Ex 19:6   Israel was called into being and chosen to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to YHVH.  In other words, all Israel is to earnestly desire God’s presence His service, ministering His love and grace and mercy to one another, and on behalf of others, for the Lord’s sake.  The Levites were separated out from the rest of Israel, yet were representatives of all Israel before God.

Yeshua/Jesus, being a Jew, was (is) entitled to inherit the throne, the kingship, being a descendant of David’s royal line; yet Jesus also shows us His priestly heart and character by offering Himself a sacrifice as Israel’s representative to God, in order to satisfy (be a propitiation) God’s righteousness regarding the sins of the people.

Rev 1:6; 5:10; 1Pt 2:9   Christians (Jews and Gentiles) as the people of God – the Church, the Body of Messiah – become in Christ Jesus what Jesus has accomplished for God the Father for us.

The full anointing of God is in (on) Jesus.  The dove, as picturing the Holy Spirit, rested on Yeshua; Yeshua was conceived by the Holy Spirit and already filled, witnessing to His deity as the Son of God, and in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwells. (Col 2:9-10)  As Son over His own house (Heb 3:1,6), He represents all things to God for man, and to man for God (the Father and His family).  We are complete in Him in His anointing, and so partake of the measure He distributes to each believer as He wills, and corporately, as His body, filling up the full measure of Christ!

1.  Prophet:  Elijah and Elisha 
      A.  Yeshua 
      —Dt 18:15; 34:9-12; Acts 3:19-26  a prophet like Moses, from their midst, from their brethren, speaking the Word of YHVH; signs and wonders; face to face with God 
        —Jn 1:21,25  John the Baptiser was asked if he were the Prophet 
        —Jn 4:19,25-29  the Samaritans acknowledged Jesus as a prophet, the Messiah and Savior of the world       
           —Jn 7:40  many in Israel considered Yeshua to be, perhaps, the Prophet 
      —Is 61:1-3; Mt 11:4-6  character and ministry of the Messiah-Prophet 
      —Amos 3:7-8  YHVH does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets; YHVH has spoken!  Who can not but prophesy?! 
        —Jn 7:46  No man ever spoke as this Man speaks! 
        —Jn 8:25-29; Dt 18:18  Jesus spoke only that which His Father gave Him to speak 
        —Heb 1:1-2; Jn 1:1  God had spoken in diverse ways through the prophets, but now by the Son (the Prophet):  the Word of God made flesh

      B.  The Believer (Christian) 
        —2Pt 1:19  We have the more sure word of prophecy, the prophetic Word (the Bible) 
        —1Cor 12:28; 13:9-10; 14:1; Eph 4:11  gift of prophecy and the appointment of prophets; this gift and office will pass away when that which is perfect comes (the New Heavens and New Earth; there is much already given prophecy yet to be fulfilled between now and the end of the Millennial Kingdom which any believer can speak, for the LORD has spoken)

      C.  Elijah/John the Baptiser 
         —Mal 4:4-6 (Eng); Mt 17:10-13; Rev 11:1-10  herald of 1st and 2nd comings of Messiah Yeshua; also the Church’s ministry to prepare and proclaim the way of YHVH; being reconciled at all social levels, and in relationship to God and man

2.  Priest/High Priest:  Aaron and Melchizedek
     A.  Yeshua and the Priesthood 
         —Heb 7 – 10; Gen 14:18-20; Ps 110:4; Zech 6:12-13; Heb 8:1  Melchizedek royal priesthood; superiority over Aaronic priesthood; everlasting priesthood sealed by an oath; the priest on the throne; King and Priest united in holy righteousness; righteousness and judgment (“the way of YHVH”); fulfilled when Jesus returns, yet even now He is High Priest in Heaven, seated at the right hand of Majesty 
            –Priestly Functions 
             —Dt 33:9-10 (ctr Ezek 22:26)  keeping God’s word and covenant; teaching judgments and law; offering incense (prayers) and intercessory sacrifices 
             —Heb 8:3  offer both gifts and sacrifices (blood sacrifices to promote humility and purity) 
               —Is 53  bore our sicknesses, griefs, transgressions,guilt 
               —Heb 9:28  Jesus offered Himself once for sins for all people 
             —Gen 14:-18-20; Num 6:22-27  to present Messiah (bread and wine) in His death and resurrection, and to bless both God’s servants and also YHVH God Himself 
             —Lev 16; Heb 10:19-22  Aaron’s High Priesthood allowed for entry into God’s presence (in the Holy of Holies), and other Levites were subject to his office and ministry: to serve (help) him and the divine service, and the people’s needs (SERVANT) 
             —Num 16:46-48; Heb 7:25; 8:9; 9:24; Jn 17; Ex 28:30; Dt 17:8  intercession:  merciful prayers to God to withhold judgment; judgment with heart ministry of God’s light and perfection; judgment of hard cases 
             —Lev 10:10; Mt 5 – 7  teaching YHVH God’s Law; Sermon on the Mount 
             —Lev 10:19; 16:6  sympathy with, and compassion for, the people, being himself a sinner 
               —Heb 4:14-16  Yeshua tempted as we are, but without sin, is our sympathetic High Priest 
             —Lev 16  to purify the people for God to dwell in the midst of them 
               —Heb 9:14; Rev 7:13-15; Eph 5:25-27  purifying the Bride in the blood of the Lamb; to be presented spotless 
             —Mal 2:7  covenant keepers; messengers of YHVH of Hosts 
           —Lev 13; Mk 2:10-14  healing, especially for leprosy; the priest was God’s vessel to pronounce the Lord’s mercy and honor in healing the diseased 
             —Lev 24:5-9   to prepare and to eat the shewbread

      B.  Believers and Priesthood 
        —1Pt 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10  a nation and kingdom of priests
        —1Pt 2:5  a spiritual house; a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ 
          —Ps 51:19 (Heb); Mt 11:29  broken and contrite heart and spirit 
          —1Tim 2:1-4  all manner of prayers to be offered on behalf of all persons 
          —1Cor 11:23-32; Gen 14:18-20  present Christ in His death and resurrection 
          —1Cor 5:12 – 6:5  judgments within the congregation 
            —Dt 17:8-13; 21:5  to minister (serve), to pronounce blessings, and to decide (judge) in matters of dispute 
            —1Cor 1:1-3  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
          —Rom 12:1  offer our bodies a living sacrifice 
          —Heb 13:15-16  sacrifices of praise, giving thanks in His name; doing good and sharing 
          —Col 3:17  Whatever we do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 
          —Jn 15:13  lay down our lives for our friends:  no greater love than this 
          —Dt 18:5-7; Ps 69:9; Jn 2:17  to stand and minister in the name of the Lord; earnestness is a character trait 
          –Follow Yeshua’s example to help others in their infirmities, and to intercede on their behalf for mercy with respect to sins.  Most gifts of the Holy Spirit equip us for priestly service in building up the House of God. 
          —Lev 24:5-9; Mt 12:4-5; 1Cor 10 – 11  priestly privilege and ‘duty’ to eat the shewbread

The priestly character and portion (YHVH Himself!) of the Israel of God and the Church of God will abide forever (kingdom of priests):  a theocracy with God as King as envisaged even under the Torah, and the people a nation of redeemed humanity loving God and one another, giving glory to God, praising and worshipping Him eternally! (cp Ezek 44:10-31)

3.  King:  David and Solomon 
     A.  Yeshua 
        —Gen 1:28  Adam and Eve together given rulership over God’s creation under God’s sovereignty 
        —Gen 17:15-16  YHVH promised that kings of peoples would come from the seed of Abraham and Sarah 
        —Gen 49:8-10  the sceptre to be with Judah’s descendants 
        —2Sam 7:12-16  everlasting throne promised to son of David (the Davidic Covenant) 
          —2Sam 5:1-5  David as King brings about unity of all Israel 
            —Ezek 37:21-22  one King over a united nation 
        —Dt 17:18-20  the king subject to the Law 
        —Ps 2; 24; 45  the King and Son of God; the King of Glory; the Messiah King and Bridegroom 
          —Num 24:17-19  the star out of Jacob shall have dominion 
          —Mt 2:2  Yeshua born to be King of the Jews 
          —Mt 27:11  Yeshua tried and accused as King of the Jews 
          —Mt 27:37  Yeshua crucified as King of the Jews 
          —Jn 1:49  Nathanel acknowledged that the King of Israel is to be the Son of God 
        —Is 11:1-5  character and qualities of the anointed King Messiah 
        —Is 41;2; Rev 1:5; 17:14,18; 19:16  Jesus is, and will return as, King of kings and Lord of lords 
        —Jer 23:5-6  rule in righteousness and justice; YHVH our Righteousness 
        —1Cor 15:24-28  Even Jesus, the Son of God, will yield up all rule to God the Father at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, when death, the last enemy, is destroyed

        B.  Born-Again Believers 
        —1Cor 4:8; Lk 22:29-30  not yet time for believers to rule 
          —Gal 5:23  self-control; we are to exercise self-rule/governance as evidence of Holy Spirit’s lordship in our lives 
            —Pr 16:32  Better is he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. 
        —1Tim3:1-7  ruling one’s own household a qualifier for ruling in God’s house 
        —Jn 17:9,20  intercessory prayer and spheres of influence 
        —Mk 16:17-18  disciples have authority in Jesus’ name over demons, poisons, sickness 
        —Rev 5:10; 20:4  We will rule with Messiah for 1000 years after His return in great power and glory. 
        —Lk 22:24-30  Priest (servant)/King nature and character:  not to exercise lordship over others; and he would be great, let him be as the younger/least; and he who leads, as one who serves and is servant of all.

The Time of the Lord Yeshua’s Second Coming

(Updated Aug 7, 2014)

Just as the birth, death, and resurrection of the promised and prophesied Messiah and Savior occurred at the appointed time and in the fullness of time, so, too, will be His return as Lord of every man. (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:9-10)

On the human side, we are plainly told by the Lord Jesus that we can not know precisely when the time will be. (Acts 1:7; Mt 24:36; Mk 13:32)

On God’s part, there is a time which He has set, and which no one or any thing can alter or prevent.  He is YHVH, the Lord God of history, and of its times and seasons. (Mk 13:32; Rev 9:15)  

At the same time, the Lord Himself does give us, as does the Holy Spirit through the apostles, signs of the end, or signs of the time which will prepare those who are His to be watching, working, praying:  birth pangs (labor pains) indicate nearness, and are more frequent and more intense and increasingly difficult to bear:  Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21; 1Thes 2; 1Thes 5:4-5  A growing expectation of Christ/Messiah to come will see the appearance of many false messiahs and prophets, just as at His first coming. (Mt 24:21-18)
That day should not overtake believers as a thief in the night, for we are sons of light and of the day.

The Lord Yeshua also used parables towards preparing us, and the Holy Spirit gives life to His words, especially in their season:  the fig tree blossoming (Mt 24:32; Mk 13:28; Lk 21:29)
He also states the necessary response of His people, which will correspond with His own sovereign grace which brings forth such a response:
–Israel:  Mt 23:39  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Yehovah!  Blessed is Jesus/Yeshua!
–Church:  Rev 22:20  Come, Lord Jesus!

His timing includes the salvation from among all peoples and nations:
Rom 11:25-26  all Israel to be saved when the fullness of Gentiles are brought in to the Messianic olive tree

The question is always asked, “Why isn’t there peace if the Messiah has already come?”  The Tenach (Old Testament) is clear that there would not be peace at/during this time:  Ps 2:2,9; 110:1; Dan 9:26   In the New Testament, Yeshua confirms the Word of God about this present lack of peace:  Mt 10:34

The prophet Daniel writes of 70 weeks (7’s) which YHVH has determined for Israel in order to bring to fulfillment His purposes, which are clearly stated. (9:24-27)  We have already considered in our previous study (http://streamsinthenegev.com/school-of-fish/eclectic-course-menu/time-of-messiah-yeshuas-first-coming/) 7 plus 62 of these “weeks” of years = 483 years, which brought us to Yeshua’s crucifixion (His “cutting off”) after the 62 weeks (not 69 uninterrupted weeks!).  When is the 70th week, and is this gap between the 69th week and the 70th biblically prophetic?  Think of examples of sports clocks, penalty box, work week:  real time vs playing or working time.  “Time-out” is the present situation for Israel.
Lev 23:9-24   The indeterminate specific starting date (not the day) between Passover/Unleavened Bread and the beginning for counting the sheaves; the prescribed days and weeks from First-Fruits (resurrection life/day after the Sabbath) up to Shavuot/Pentecost in the third month, and, consequently, the indeterminate yet seasonal length of time till the first day of the seventh month.  Provision also made for the poor and stranger to benefit from the harvest (i.e., spiritually poor Israelis and also Gentiles in the prophetic application).
Lk 21:24   Jerusalem to be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the time of Gentiles fulfilled
Eph 1:9-10   mystery of fullness of dispensation of times
Rom 2:4; 2Pt 3:9   goodness and long-suffering of God lead to repentance unto life; that is, the time is not ‘fixed’ from a merely human standpoint:  in setting the appointed time, God has built in an indeterminate flexibility, so that for us, the Lord’s return may seem either too soon, or else later than we want!

The 70th “week of Daniel” apparently begins with the confirming of a specific covenant by the antichrist with the nation of Israel.  During this week of 7 years – midway, 3 1/2 yrs, 1260 days, ‘time, times, and a half’ (Dan 9:27; 7:25; 12:1,7; Rev 12:6,14) – the covenant is broken by the antichrist, and the abomination which brings desolation takes place.
Dan 9:27, 11:31; 12:1,11-12   –70
th
week and the abomination in the middle of it; great tribulation
Mt 24:15-16,21-22,29-31   Jesus, the Son of Man, coming on clouds of Heaven with power and great glory; after great tribulation

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly!’  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.” (Rev 22:20-21

Time of Messiah Yeshua’s First Coming

(Updated Aug 7, 2014)

The New Testament writers understood the Scriptures through their faith in the glorified and exalted Yeshua – who died and rose again and ascended into Heaven to the right hand of the Father – by the Holy Spirit who was their – and is our – Teacher.

Our reliance is on the record of the Bible.  Other books and teachings are useful and helpful to the extent that they enlighten God’s Word to us and direct us to see for ourselves the sufficiency of the Biblical record.

It is vital to apprehend the truth that all of the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah converged upon and in the person of Yeshua of Nazareth at that time in human history when He came into the world, and during the course of His life, ministry, death and resurrection.  NO OTHER PERSON (OR ANY OTHER THING OR ENTITY) MEETS, NOR CAN MEET, ALL OF THE PROPHETIC QUALIFICATIONS PERTAINING TO THE MESSIAH, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD, THE KING OF ISRAEL AND OF THE JEWS!  YEHOVAH God is the Lord of history:  He determines and sets the appointed times and seasons for the carrying out of His sovereign will.

Gal 4:4   In the fullness of time God sent His Son.  (The precise dates of His birth, death, and coming again are not completely clear, partly because of calendar discrepancies.)
Lk 12:54-56   Jesus called the people hypocrites for their ability to discern the signs for the weather, but not the signs of the time.
Lk 19:44; Dan 9:24-27   Jesus wept over Jerusalem for its impending destruction because she did not know the time of her visitation.
Acts 2:36   The apostle Peter preached that the whole House of Israel should know that God has made Yeshua/Jesus, whom we crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

EXPECTANCY around the time of His birth
Mt 2:1-8  Wise men from the East; chief priests and scribes of the Jews; Herod the king:  all were aware that the Messiah was due

Lk 2:25   Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel through the birth of Yeshua and the salvation of the Lord.
Lk 2:36   Anna was looking, along with others, for the redemption in Jerusalem.
Acts 5:34-42   references to false messiahs/christs during that period
Lk 1 – 2   the angel Gabriel’s announcements to Elizabeth and Zechariah, to Mary and Joseph; and the angel of the Lord telling the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem
Lk 1:26 – 2:40 (Is 7:14; 9:6)   A young virgin did give birth – a sign to the House of David – and was spoken against (both Mary and Jesus), and was called by divine names.

EXPECTANCY during Yeshua’s ministry
Lk 3:15; Jn 1:19-27   The question arose as to whether John was the Messiah, and, if not, then why was he baptizing?
Jn 1:35-51   Andrew and Nathanel, when chosen by Jesus to be His disciples, recognized in Him the One of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote – the Son of God and King of Israel.
Jn 4:25   The Samaritan woman knew that Messiah should come.
Lk 7:19-22 (Is 35:5-6; 61:1)   John the Baptiser wanted to make sure if Yeshua really was the Messiah as he had been given to think, or was there someone else?  Jesus answered the inquiry by demonstrating the power of His anointing to do the signs and miracles and works of YHVH’s Anointed One.
Lk 22:67; Jn 10:22-24   The elders and the chief priests and the scribes asked Jesus to tell them if, in fact, He was the Messiah. 

EXPECTANCY surrounding His death
Lk 23:34-43   mocking, but also saving faith

PROPHESIED BY GOD to entire human race through both Jewish and Gentile voices, and also by angelic voices:  Moses, Balaam, Jacob (Israel), Daniel, magi
Gen 1:1-5; Jn 8:22   The Light of the world is Christ:  pre-existing, not created
Gen 1:14-18; Jn 9:45   The sun was made and appeared on the 4
th day of creation; Jesus the Son (Sun of Righteousness) came into the world in 4th
1000-year day.
Mt 2:1-11   The star of the child born to be King of the Jews was observed and recognized
Gen 49:8-12   the sceptre and law-giver with Judah until Shiloh comes
Num 24:15-19   Star out of Jacob; out of Jacob one shall have dominion
Dan 9:24-27   The  death of Messiah was to be before the destruction of the second Temple, which occurred in 70AD
–70 7’s:  days (Sabbaths); weeks (7 days each); years (Sabbatic and Jubilee)  [NoteGen 29:27-30 Jacob served Laban a “week” = 7 years]
–*7 + 62 weeks = 69 weeks = 483 years “counted” from the time of “the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until His being “cut off”/death

     *Different assumptions of chronology and dating cause discrepancies in determining the dates.  It is clear from Scripture that the first of the seven weeks began with the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia, followed by a break of about 13 years before the decree was re-affirmed by Darius, and building of the Temple re-started, and of the city. (see Is 44:28 and Hag 1; 2:18; Ezra 6:1-4; Neh 2:1-8)  With the break in the building project, the actual time from the initial decree by Cyrus would be closer to 500 years.

2Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 4:12; Hag 1:4   Cyrus gave the decree, which He claimed was from YHVH.  He proclaimed a Jubilee, and the end of the first of the 7 “weeks”/49 years marked the beginning of the next Jubilee.   

Is 44:28; 45:1-13   Prophecies about Cyrus, the LORD’s anointed, before he was born!  Cyrus would make the decree for the building of Jerusalem and for laying the foundation of the Temple, and proclaim liberty for the captivity of Israel.    

Ezra 6:1-14; Neh 2:1-8; Haggai   a halt in the work, but Cyrus’ decree was confirmed by Artaxerxes
–The first 7 sevens, or 49 years, coincides with Nehemiah’s work to restore Jerusalem and the Temple service.  There was a notable spiritual revival, which saw the cleansing of the Temple and the restoration of the Temple order and service. (Neh 7:1; 12:44; 13:9)  After a ‘time-out’ of about 13 years, the ‘clock’ begins again for 62 more weeks.  So the time of Yeshua’s final week and ‘cutting off’ (death) is after the 62 weeks, and not 69 uninterrupted weeks!

–7 x 7 = 49 years

    7 x 62 = 434 years (400 yrs before birth of Jesus + His death in His 34th year of human life)
7 x 69 = 483 years + ~13 years of interrupted building of the Temple

–The 70th “week of Daniel” is sometime after the death of Messiah, and also after the destruction of the second Temple and also of Jerusalem, and is ‘clocked’ from the confirming of a covenant by the antichrist with Israel back in the Land in the last days at the time of the end.

OUR GUILT OFFERING

Recently I was walking down the street and singing the chorus to the song, “Peace Like A River” – ‘it is well with my soul’ – and the Lord by His Spirit had me rejoicing in my spirit and giving thanks to God that it is true:  it is well with my soul!  And yet, I considered how annoyed and impatient I can be; how I am not considered by others for good works particularly; how I have to fight so many unclean thoughts.  So what is it then that I can be singing in truth that it is well with my soul?!  It is because Jesus is my guilt (trespass) offering, and I have peace and security in my relationship to God as my Father through Messiah.  And if I know that I have acceptance with my Creator and Redeemer, then I can also relate to my brothers and sisters in the Lord, as well as to people still of this world, on the basis of that reality.  When my heart condemns me – which it does at times for those very things mentioned above – God is greater than my heart.

The sin offering is primarily for what I am:  a sinner by nature, and the Lamb of God has come to take away the sin of the world.  The guilt offering is primarily for what I do:  I sin and trespass; and the Son of God’s name is Yeshua, who will save His people from their sins.

The Son of God has set us free:  free to acknowledge our sins and confess them to God, and at times to one another, because He forgives us – and we are to do likewise to others.  There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1,33)  We are free to love others, to do unto them what we would like them to do unto us, even if they do not demonstrate that they love us!  If I know in my own spirit that I desire to love God and to be faithful to the New Covenant in Jesus, then my conscience is clear before both God and man, even though Satan accuses me, my wife and friends misunderstand me, and I myself wonder at the grace of God to die for someone as useless as me! (1Jn 3:18-24) 

Is there guilt then in the believer’s life?  Of course! – whenever we sin knowingly, or whenever the Holy Spirit shows us or reminds us of something we had done unknowingly or unintentionally which was, in fact, a sin – either against our relationship with the Lord directly, or indirectly through another person.  If we do not address the matter and either ask forgiveness, or perhaps grant forgiveness to another, then we honestly do our part to accept our responsibility as those who would be in Christ and walking by the Spirit, and not in the flesh.

Last week Lisa was baptized, which is the answer of a good conscience towards God (1Pet 3:21), in that it testifies to the personal belief that Jesus Christ died, and rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven, where He is both Lord over all and makes intercession for us as our great High Priest.  When we truly believe this and walk in this truth, we know that God has justified us through faith and by His Spirit.  Guilt and the bondage to fear of judgment are removed, and instead love is perfected. (1Jn 4:17-19)

At the Lord’s Supper we are each to examine and to judge ourselves.  If our participation depended on satisfying the demands of someone else’s conscience, or of keeping the commandments of Jesus as if we ourselves were Jesus, then no one could eat God’s own covenant meal that He has Himself invited us to!  But when our communion is in the holy and righteous and blessed truth that Jesus is Himself my guilt offering – and when I maintain my relationship with God and my brethren on that basis – then I can rejoice in His joy over someone like me, or like you.  Did you know that bread in Hebrew (lechem) has to do with warfare – a conflict and battle for survival, for justification in the eyes of others, for victory over our enemies – real or imagined?  In Greek the word for bread (artos) contains the thought of expiation — to lift off and to remove.  Is not this the truth of the New Testament fulfilling the hope and promise and struggle of the Old Testament?  Jesus has come to give peace  to all who put their trust in Him as having been sent from God the Father.  He removes the heavy load of our guilt before God and before our fellow man.  The victory is His on the cross; it is ours as we, too, deny ourselves each day, take up our cross which He has given to each of us, and follow Him.  Allow Him to righteously take away your guilt, and believe God when He says He has!

In Jesus we are NOT GUILTY, but FREE to live for Him!

Make Jesus your guilt offering (Is 53:10-12), and rejoice in the goodness of the LORD!  Amen.

REPENTANCE LEADS TO CONVERSION: LIFE-CHANGING/CHARACTER-CHANGING

(Eve of formal appointment as Elder)

Does anyone here tonight want to be changed from what you are and the way you now are – even as a believer – because of hearing the Word of God to you?

Is anyone here tonight a changed/different (hopefully better!) person since believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior than what you were before believing the gospel of God?

These two questions – with their positive answers – give a basis for continual hope and growth in the life of any person and Christian – old or young, male or female, wise or simple, Jew or Gentile, . . . .

Ps 19:8 (7 Eng)   The Law of YHVH is perfect, converting/returning/restoring the soul.
Acts 3:19   Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of 
refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
Rev 3:19-22   Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous, therefore, and repent!

God as Creator, Judge, Lawgiver, Savior:  It is the commandment of YHVH God throughout the whole of the Bible that all persons everywhere should repent (turn back) from evil and to do good, to repent and believe the good news of God that His Son Yeshua the Messiah is the Savior from sin and uncleanness and evil.  It is the promise of God that all who do so will be changed and walk in newness of life by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit.  In the goodness and longsuffering of God towards us, He brings us to act with our own will to return (turn back; repent) to Him (Hos 12:7 [6 Eng]; Mt 3:2-3), and in continuing to walk in His way, He works with us to sanctify us, changing us into the likeness of His Son, who is the exact image of the invisible God.

In other words, true repentance leads to genuine Godliness.  We are converted!  True repentance is directed unto God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)  It includes a sorrow and a regret over our own sin first, and, afterwards, over the sins of our family or of our people. (Gen 6:7; 2Cor 7:10)  The Holy Spirit will bring us to see that sin of whatsoever kind is first of all against God Himself (Ps 51:5 [4 Eng]), and that in His love for us He sent Yeshua to die on the cross for our atonement and reconciliation (1Jn 4:9-10)There is brokenness of heart and contrition of spirit; then we are comforted by the Spirit of God. (Zec 12:10)  As we continue in faith that, in Messiah, God completely forgives us and justifies us and accepts into fellowship with Himself, we are free to love Him and to obey Him – even to confess our sins – with all our heart and soul.  We will become different persons(1Sam 10:6)our attitudes towards life and people will change; our motives will switch from self-interest and –honor to God’s interests and honor.

If the heart and the will are sincere, then there will be fruits of repentance (Mt 3:8): –conviction of our own sinfulness, and hence humility before God and man –the fear of YHVH, recognizing that it is God who forgives and who has power and authority to both kill our bodies and to cast our souls into hell (Mt 10:28) –repentance from dead works, i.e., works apart from faith in, and fear of, God (Acts 26:30; Heb 6:1; 1Thes 1:9) –a heart, and passionate love, for Jesus, and for all who do the will of God His Father (SS 1:2-4; Mt 10:37-38; 12:50)

For us living in Israel among Jews and Moslems, it is a reproach to be considered as converting to another religion —  meaning to believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized in His Name.  They want us to feel guilty or ashamed for changing our faith and religion.  But, brothers and sisters, anyone who has previously not personally believed that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah/Christ and the Son of the Living God the Father has changed his faith and, necessarily, his religion, too – that is, his way and conduct of life now based upon his/her personal faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for our redemption and salvation!  We have turned back to the one true God in His way, and not to simply another faith or religion of this world.

It is also true that God loves us and accepts us as we are when we come to Him in faith, and trust in His mercy towards us; yet He continually calls us to repentance and to change our ways of thinking and doing, even when we think our intentions have been good. (Rev 2:3; Is 55:7-9; Mt 7:21)  Ought not each husband and wife, father and mother want to let God, by His word and Spirit, work with us through living faith to make us more like His own pattern to us in these tremendous positions of responsibility and privilege? (1Jn 3:2)  Ought not children want to know God the Father in such a way that they would want to truly and righteously honor their fathers and mothers, and all others in authority over them in the Lord?  Ought not every believer want to become worshippers of God in Spirit and truth, freed from all forms of idolatry and offenses?  Ought not our own congregation – which properly belongs to Yeshua – repent in all areas not in accord with the Spirit and the Word and the blood, that together we can indeed both give and leave a testimony of the Presence of God in our midst, and of much good fruit unto Him in His name?

Let’s consider briefly together several changes both required of us and also promised to us by the Lord, and which are impossible for man to do naturally or by his own efforts only, but which, in cooperation with God, are possible and worthy of our attention:
Jn 3:3  We all must be born again by the Holy Spirit form Heaven!

Mt 18:3-4; 11:25-30  We all must humble ourselves and become like a child  – “a lamb of the first year” —  
in order to hear and receive from God, and also to know Him.
Mt 5:3-12; Gal 5:22-23; Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18; 1Jn 3:2  the character and the fruit of God formed in us, and being expressed outwardly: 
from glory to glory Ezek 36:26  God gives us a new heart and a new Spirit.
Lev 16:16,30; Is 1:18; Ezek 36:25; Jn 3:11  God makes us clean from all our defilement from sin and sins, and baptizes us in holiness and purifying fire
.
2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Col 3:9-10  We become a new creation in Messiah, who makes all things new, and must put off the old man and put on the new man created in the image of God
.
Mt 7:17; 12:33  We must become a good tree which will produce good fruit
.
2Cor 11:2; Lev 21:13  We must become a chaste virgin
to marry our great High Priest and King of Glory.
Gal 2:20  Not I, but Christ lives in me
!
Mt 13:11-17; Ps 32:2-6a (Heb)  Jesus will heal
us – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.
–He forgives.
–He does not condemn.
–The love of God draws out our loving obedience and trust.

Let each of us individually, and all of us together, allow God to be glorified in Himself through us His people and children.  May the Holy Spirit help us to know that repentance is a good thing – not bitter for long – and that we would learn to rejoice in repentance, for it transforms us and sanctifies us, bringing us closer to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and to one another:  joy is fulfilled!  Amen.