JESUS CHRIST IS COME

(Our celebratory service this Shabbat was interrupted by a mob of unruly ultra-orthodox religious Jewish people.)

There was much messianic expectation around the time of Yeshua’s birth (Dan 9:24-26).  Hanukka itself is a holiday commemorating a messianic hope which gives Israel and the Jewish people freedom from their enemies in order to worship YHVH God in an acceptable way in our own land.  Simeon and Anna were waiting in hope for the Redeemer and Savior of the children of Israel and of Jerusalem, the City of the Great King.  False Messiahs also arose about that time (Acts 5:35-39); today also there is Messianic expectation – Moshiach Now! – amongst many Jews and also Muslims and other religious and spiritist groups.  

By the Word of God given to us in the Bible, and by the witness of the Holy Spirit given to us who believe what God says, we know that the only true Messiah is the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born to the virgin Mary about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, not so very far from us here in Beer Sheva.  What a great thing for the Almighty God to demonstrate His humble nature by taking on the form of a man, and then humbling Himself by being a servant to men, and dying on the cross, bearing our sins so that we could receive the grace of life!  

We do not believe in mythology or fables, but we have the testimony of real people in history who saw, who heard, who touched, who wrote; and more, we have the testimony of God Himself, who cannot lie, giving His record of His Son, Yeshua; and to seal this truth in those who do believe, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us so that we can know who and what and why we believe.  

Let’s look at some of the reasons given as to why Jesus came in the flesh (1Jn 5:6; 4:2; Acts 1:11):   

Hag 2:18-23; 1Cor 3:11; 2Tim 2:18-19   to lay the foundation of the Temple of YHVH, and to overthrow the kingdoms of this world

Mt 9:12-13; Acts 7:34   not to the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance and to deliver His people from bondage to sin

Lk 4:32-36; 1Jn 3:8   to destroy demonic power and the works of the devil, who is a deceiver, a liar, a murderer, a thief, a destroyer, and full of pride, which is the root of all evil

Jn 4:25; 15:15   to tell us all things which the Father has given Him to reveal for now

Jn 10:10   that His sheep may have life, and life more abundantly

Jn 15:22; 1:1-9   to expose sin; the Light has come into the darkness

1 Tim 1:15; Mt 1:21   to save sinners; His name is Yeshua, the Savior

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

Jn 14:28   coming again to take us to Himself

Rev 22:12   coming quickly to judge every man according his works

FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS AND THE GOSPEL

(C&MA Great Commission Fund tour from Feb 27 – Mar 10, 2004, in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Richmond, Virginia)

Mk 10:28-31 (Mt 19:29; Lk 18:29-30)  Then Peter began to say to [Jesus], ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’  So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and  mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ 

Peter here is responding in amazement to what the Lord Jesus had just spoken before as to how difficult it is for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God.  Because rather than giving up all for the reality of God and His Kingdom, they are trusting in themselves and in their own wealth or wisdom or power.  Jesus answers that anyone – not only the apostles, but anyone – who forsakes those things most valued in their lives or in the estimation of the world for His sake and the gospel’s will be rewarded both now and forever, with persecution between now and then along the way! 

A missionary is a “sent out person”.  Therefore, it is a calling; it is obedience to the Lord’s call upon your life to go wherever He chooses to send you.  All believers are called to be witnesses of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but not all are sent out with the specific purpose of taking the gospel to people outside of our own lands and culture, and to establish in the faith those who obey the gospel.  The answer of Jesus to His disciples gives equal status to anyone who forsakes home, family, or lands for the Kingdom of God’s sake.  Leaving all does not necessarily imply rejection or condemnation by either side.  Persecution, which all believers who live godly in Christ Jesus will experience, does mean being rejected, even hated and despised, because of believing in and belonging to Jesus the Messiah.

Still the challenge to take the gospel to all peoples remains:  For whosoever shall call upon the name of [the Lord Jesus Christ] shall be saved.  How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach except they be sent?  (Rom 10:13-15a) 

Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the penultimate “sent out one”:  sent by God the Father (Is 48:16; Jn 17:23) to gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and whosoever else will repent and believe the good news.  The first missionaries were Israelis and Jews – the apostles of the Lord Jesus sent out by Him.  We could go even further back and say that Jonah the prophet was the first missionary, being sent by YHVH to Nineveh to call them to repentance from evil towards the true God, in order that they be blessed and not destroyed.

Being called by God – and that is really the essence of the matter – to go to other lands and peoples with HIS message of salvation is not a call to lukewarmness.  The Christian life is grounded upon absolutes, upon truth.  Who is Jesus Christ?  We must know Him for who He is to bear God’s good news and to withstand the attacks of the enemy against the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent.  It is a continual dying to self that we may live unto God –even more, that God would manifest His life in and through us.  Is this not the exhortation to offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God?  To be God’s person to go for Him to tell the people about His Son is a call to persevering faith.  Therefore it must be obedience mixed with faith in GOD’s Word to you, or else the missionary will not endure the hardship associated with such a high calling away from his or her “safe” environment.  Our Father in Heaven knows us, and will not give us more than we can bear, but He will mature us and perfect us through giving us more than what we thought we could do!

I want to use my wife and myself as examples to hopefully help some of you to understand what I’ve been saying here:  As an unbelieving Jew, I went to Israel twice, but did not want to live there.  I did not consider the State of Israel my home, despite its importance to me as a Jew.  My first time I went as a tourist, and I liked the land and the history very much, but not the people!  But these were my people anyway!   The second time was in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, and I worked as a volunteer on a kibbutz.  This time I lived and worked with Israelis.  I began to understand why they were like they were, but I still could not condone what I considered a harsh approach to life.  I was still very much an American in my upbringing!

When I was saved seven years later and became a believer in Jesus as Lord and Christ, God changed my heart and spirit.  He TOLD me to go to Israel, and it immediately became home (on Earth).  I could not wait to get there despite my previous misgivings.  Everything had changed because of God and Jesus coming into my life and speaking His Word by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, I (we) are not living in Israel simply because I am Jewish, but rather as one sent by God back to the land — which He promised to give to the fathers and to their descendants — with the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Randi, my wife, is not Jewish; had never been to Israel or studied the Hebrew language.  She grew up in a church which relegates Israel to past history and Jewish people to Christ killers without hope of redemption, at least not as Jews.  Yet when she recognized that what happened to me was truly of God, she obeyed by faith the will of God to not only commit herself to me as her husband, but to live in Israel.  God also gave her to know that His purposes for me included her!  She will be rewarded more than me, for she has given up for Christ’s sake more than me.  At least I had a natural kinship with Israel and her people; whereas for her, it was completely foreign and strange.

Through obeying God, both Randi and I have been strengthened and encouraged by the Lord against the pulls of the natural bonds of family back here in the U.S. to tempt us to mind the things of man rather than of God.  And Jesus has proven His word true for us:  Randi’s oldest brother, a radiologist, disapproves of our living in Israel, where only the “bad Jews” live, and to demonstrate his disapproval, he once told her that he will not offer any financial assistance, as that would imply consenting to our decision.  So God gave to Randi (and me) another brother, also a Dr. David, a radiologist – a Jewish believer from N.C., who built a house in Beer Sheva because, he told us after we first spoke with him, God told him to.  We are living in it now for the past seven years at a very brotherly rate!  Randi’s father has expressed his own dislike and disapproval of our life of faith, by taking the ultimate step just last month of disowning and disinheriting his only daughter because we allowed our oldest daughter to enter the Israeli army as a civic obligation.  God, praise His Name, is our Father, and He does not forsake His children!

Giving up “all” for Jesus to be a missionary in a foreign land and culture, with foreign, strange, sometimes unfriendly and hostile people, in conflict zones, with antichristian religions and laws (e.g., against evangelism) is not an excuse for immoral living, as if the “going out” is sacrifice enough and outweighs every sin and shortcoming.  Your going is supposedly an act of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore only doing one’s duty – not even something for which He has to thank you.  Our lives as Christians, and so as witnesses of the Holy and Righteous Creator and Redeemer, is to grow and mature in that calling and setting God places us.  We are not to carry His name in vain, but to reflect His beauty of holiness in our lifestyle and in attitudes and motives of our hearts.

Not all are called to be sent out, but all believers can be partners in the great commission, perhaps through prayer, free-will giving above and beyond tithing, “adopting” a family serving abroad, volunteering to spend time abroad to help a busy family with housework or child-care, etc. etc.  Remember that King David established the custom in God’s army after the battle at Ziklag (1Sam 30:21-25):  that all who participated in the time of the battle shared in the spoils of victory – combat soldiers, supply personnel, kitchen help.  We, too, are in the Lord’s battle against Satan and evil.  The victory is already won on the cross:  Jesus is the Victor, and is willing to share all that is His with us who are joined with Him!

Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase and brings in the harvest by his holy angels.  Pioneers labor and break new ground; others follow and enter into their labors; fullness is at a predetermined end, praise God!  We are all one in Messiah Jesus, and the honor is His to receive.  We can receive nothing except that it is given us from Heaven.  Let us never forget and always remember that it is Jesus who is the Savior of all persons, especially of those who believe.  Not only are we called to labor for His sake and the gospel’s until He comes, but also we will not accomplish the incredible command to take the gospel to all nations within the prescibed time.  That does not phase God!  He will even send out angels to proclaim the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the Earth before the hour of judgment is come, so that as many as will will repent and believe unto salvation (Rev 14:6-7).

GOD WILL GET IT DONE!  EVERY KNEE WILL BOW AND TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF THE FATHER!

EZEKIEL: A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT TO KNOW YHVH

(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe:  “The Redemption of Israel According to Ezekiel and Paul”, Jan 8-11, 2004)

Ezek 20:41-44   I [YHVH] will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the gentiles.  Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I bring you into the Land of Israel, into the country which I raised my right hand in an oath to give to your fathers.  And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils which you have committed.  Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O House of Israel, says the Lord GOD.

Twice in these four verses, we read and heard by the Spirit of God that the Word of YHVH says, ‘You shall know that I am YHVH’.  This expression occurs 61 times through 24 chapters, half of the book of Ezekiel! 

Ex 3:14-15  And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’.  And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.  Moreover God said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, YHVH God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.    Ex 6:3-4  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name YHVH I was not known to them.  I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.    Ex 34:6-7,14  And YHVH passed before him and proclaimed, YHVH, YHVH God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the childrens’ children to the third and fourth generations, for you shall worship no other god, for YHVH, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous GodRev 4:8  Holy, Holy, Holy, YHVH God of Hosts, who was, is, and coming.

YHVH is the one true God. He is the Living One.   From the Old and the New Testament scriptures, it is evident to those who are born again from above that the one true God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is also evident by revelation from the Father that Jesus Christ is LORD: He is YHVH.  Jesus is the Savior God of Israel, just as He is for you and for me.  We come to God our Father only through Jesus His Son, and this only by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us personally.  This is the redemption which God is going to accomplish for His inheritance, Israel, His priestly nation.

It is by God’s mercy, and not due to Israel’s initiative to repent and return back to Him.  God’s sovereign love will bring Israel back to Him, even as He has now been bringing Jewish people back to the land for over 120 years, in accord with His promises, despite Israel’s continuing unbelief and lack of repentance.  Thank God for the love of the Father! 

Ezekiel is God’s servant to bring forcefully Israel’s sin, and God’s necessary judgments, to the people.  The sin and uncleanness of Israel will be fully exposed in order for complete cleansing and healing.  Each person has to bear his own responsibility (Ezek 18).  This prepares the way for the glad tidings of restoration and forgiveness, and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of God to Israel.  (Remember the disciples’ question to Jesus?)  The gospel, too, must include the experience of the truth of judgment and repentance in order to receive the grace of forgiveness and restoration.  YHVH is God and does not change; it is we who must change, and be changed.  Both Ezekiel and Paul, with the other prophets, make it clear that only a remnant of the people will be saved.  Even should Noah, Daniel, and Job all pray and intercede, they could not change God’s righteous judgments against the nation (14:12-23).  God’s judgments cause suffering for both the wicked and the righteous:  for the wicked it is only judgment; for the righteous it is a refining fire (ch.21).

For this, God must give Israel—as to each of us—a new heart and a new spirit.  We need to be made new in order to see how unrighteous and unclean we have been in the sight of the Holy One of Israel.  To have everlasting possession of God’s blessings and promises we must first be restored to Him personally.  It is in the light of His glory that we see ourselves, and so can receive more fully the abundant grace and mercy of His forgiveness for ourselves and for our sins.  The New Covenant promise to the House of Israel of a new heart and a new spirit—God’s Spirit—is to enable us to keep His commandments:  LOVE of YHVH God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength; to love others as we love ourselves; to love fellow redeemed brothers and sisters as Jesus has loved each of us.  Love is keeping the commandments of God in Christ.  Israel and the redeemed of the nations will all know the LORD, from the least to the greatest.  The Creator who has not been recognized or accepted will be known by all through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God.

God has His appointed King—a Priest-King whom He has chosen and anointed to receive the Throne in Israel. (Ezek 21:25-27; Gen 49:10; Zech 6:12-13; Ps 2; Mt 23:37-39)  Until that day, God will overthrow every false ruler (Jn 10:7-16) until He comes whose right it is, and the Father will give it to His Son Jesus, the Son of David.

For Israel, as for Christians, to receive what God has promised to give, the people must come to God on His terms by His way.  Only by seeing her true condition and calling upon the Name of YHVH (Ezek 36:37will Israel receive all that she truly seeks for—and far more than she can even think or imagine (v.11).  Israel wants peace and security, to live life without fear of enemies.  God alone can provide that , but it is grounded in worshiping Him in spirit and truth.  God brought Israel out of Egypt by Moses to serve Him and so be free.  The present immigration from all the nations in which we were scattered, as Ezekiel was given to prophesy, is a greater exodus than that from out of Egypt (Jer 23:7-8)God makes it very clear (v.22-23) that it is not for Israel’s sake that He does this, but for the sake of His holy name.  He sill sanctify His great name, which we have profaned.  And the nations, Israel, and God’s enemies will all know that He is YHVH God, the Holy One of Israel.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, the first thought is the sanctification of the Father’s name.  God Himself says that the sanctity of His great name is connected with Israel’s redemption and His dwelling place being established in her midst in the Land of Israel, as promised to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to their descendants.  For this to happen Israel must be cleansed from all her uncleanness and ungodliness.  God can not dwell in the midst of a sinful and rebellious nation.  To help serve this purpose, YHVH God will stir up Israel’s lovers—those nations with whom she has prostituted herself unfaithfully against her God and husband—that they will turn against her, leaving her rejected and desperate (ch. 23). 

According to Ezekiel, Jesus, Paul, there will be much tribulation for Israel in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  Wars will come, but the victory is the LORD’s!  The coming of the Kingdom of God always implies destruction—condemnation and death–to His and His people’s enemies, including the antichrist, who is probably identified here as Gog (Ezek 38-39).  We see this at Sodom and Gomorrah, yet God knew how to save righteous Lot.  We have the examples of Pharoah and Egypt, when the true living God defeated all their gods, but He delivered the households marked with the blood of the lamb.  We see the same thing even within Israel after the incident of the golden calf, but the tribe of Levi was rewarded.  Again, when the Israelis entered the promised land, Jericho and all that it contained was destroyed, except for Rahab and her family.  In the New Testament we have Ananias and Saphira being judged and killed on the spot for lying and deceit soon after the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers.  At the end of the age, when Jesus comes to establish the Kingdom, we see the separation of the goats from the sheep.  And we see when the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Anointed One, He destroys those who destroyed the Earth.

God’s purposes for Israel include reconciling Ephraim and Judah (37:16-22).  Israel will be Israel and Israeli, not “Jewish” as we now think of it, but the Israel of God whose culture is reflective of that unity of all the tribes in a restored relation of brotherly love honoring to God their Father and to the King of Israel, Yeshua, the Son of God.  Israel’s salvation and redemption allowing her to enter her inheritance and destiny as a priestly nation is ultimately dependent upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to save His people from Gog and the nations—Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya–joined together with him against Israel.  Jesus will then establish the Messianic Kingdom on Earth, with the full remnant of each of the tribes of Israel inheriting their allotment in the Land which God promised on oath to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob/Israel and their descendants.  All the other surviving nations will also inherit their lands whose boundaries have been set by YHVH God (Dt 32:8).  The name of the holy city Jerusalem will be from that day, YHVH Is There! (48:35)

Israel will no longer have malicious neighbors (28:24).  As both Mary and Simeon exclaimed and proclaimed surrounding the conception and birth of the Messiah Yeshua, God will scatter and put down the proud, and exalt the lowly; He will deliver Israel from the hand of our enemies that she will serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him forever. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Summary of Ezekiel:  Ch. 1-32: Judgment and Horror; Ch. 33-48: Hope and Restoration

Ch. 1-3     Ezekiel sees the glory of YHVH and receives his call to the children of Israel, a rebellious nation

Ch. 4-24  Judgment upon Israel precedes that of other nations (cp. 1Pet 4:17-18).  Israel made the first-born from among the nations by the sovereign will of God, and to whom much is given more is required.
            –YHVH is departed! (11:33)

Ch. 25-32  Judgment of nations in near proximity who oppose Israel and her God.  Vessels of dishonor, of wrath, reserved for God’s righteous judgment for refusing the light of His covenant relations with Israel (and with the Church, for there is only one Mediator and one Savior).

Ch. 33   The Watchman for the House of Israel to warn them from the LORD
             –Jerusalem has been taken (v. 21)

Ch. 34   The false shepherds versus the true Shepherd

Ch. 35    The judgment upon Mount Seir and Edom because of their everlasting hatred against Israel

Ch. 36   –The land claimed by YHVH and given back to Israel
               –A new heart and new spirit given with increase, fruitfulness, prosperity
            –Israel will loathe herself (as did Job and Isaiah) when she sees herself in the reality of YHVH’s goodness and  holiness

Ch. 37   New and resurrection life given to body and nation.  Ephraim and Judah restored:  one nation/one people/one  family

Ch. 38-39  Overthrow of last enemy, Gog (overthrow of antichrist – Dan 11:21;2Thes 2:8)
                   –YHVH is glorified, and His name is hallowed

Ch. 40-48  –God’s Kingdom restored forevermore in Israel and the world:  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as in Heaven
                —44:15-16 Israel’s establishment as a priestly kingdom:  blessed and sanctified; millennial Sabbath rest for  God’s creation
                –differences from Law of Moses, including “holidays”
                –YHVH is there! 

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 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.