(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany: “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)
Galatians 6:14-16; 1Corinthians 9:19-23
As light is different from darkness, so is the Kingdom of God different from this present world order. The present world order is opposed to and separated from God’s Kingdom. It does not recognize the Lordship of His Son Yeshua the Messiah. The people of this world are separated from God because of sin, though they may not realize it. Yet they are proud to be independent of God. Separation from God and opposition to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the status quo on the earth today.
But through Yeshua, God has been calling everyone to come out from the world into the Kingdom of Light.
“…the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Has the world been crucified to you? Have you been crucified to the world?
The world is made up of many different cultures. It’s not a natural thing to think of ourselves being crucified to our culture. We tend to think of culture in terms of something we have a natural affinity for. The cultures of the world, wherever we are, form the present world order or the status quo. Paul is explaining that he has experienced a culture-crucifixion. This is something that is a threat to the status quo. We have another King, the risen Lord Jesus! God wants to free us from the status quo, from the kingdom of darkness. He wants to free us…
from the culture of Sodom which symbolizes immorality,
from the culture of Egypt which symbolizes bondage,
from the culture of Babylon which symbolizes vain glory.
God Himself is a threat to the status quo. When the Lord frees us to serve and worship Him, to be holy unto Him, He brings us out from the culture of this world. And so it is that living for Him and letting Him live in us threatens the status quo. God threatens the status quo of being separated from Him and opposed to Him when He offers an atonement for sin once and for all, removing our guilt against Him and His wrath towards us.
Whatever culture or society we are part of, the message of the New Testament is that we must come out from our status quo. Accepting the gospel, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light, is a life-changing and radical action that will separate you from the cultural norm.
One thing the gospel does is show us our origins or our natural culture from a new perspective. Being drawn out of our culture is a process. As revelation increases we see the truth of what Paul says.
Crucifixion is the key to being called out. When we accept Yeshua, it is Messiah crucified that changes our lives. Our old lives are crucified with Him. Our old culture is crucified to ourselves and we ‘reckon it as dead’.
Here are some things that we are being called out from, each call threatening the status quo of this present world order and even threatening our own selves:
a) All believers are called out from the idolatry of heathenism and paganism, and instead called to serve the living God in all holiness and purity (Acts 15: 19-20, 28-29; 1 Thes. 1:9);
b) We are all called out from seeking man’s approval through the keeping of customs (Mk. 7:9); instead we are called to seek God’s approval through faith and a personal relationship with Him (John 5:37-47; Rom. 2:29);
c) We are called out of inequality to equality: In the Messiah gentiles are not above or below Jews; in the Messiah men are not above or below women; in Messiah the poor are with the rich before God: we are called to be one body and co-heirs. For this amazing truth of the gospel, the Chosen People sought to kill Paul (Acts 22:22; 1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 6:8);
d) We are called out of using wealth as a proof of approval from God (Mt. 19:23-26); it is the formation of God’s character in us which blesses us (Mt. 5:1; Lk. 6:20; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:10-14);
e) We are called out of letting food be a cultural and social barrier. Under Yeshua, all foods are acceptable by prayer and thanksgiving and the Word of God (Mk. 7:13-23; 1Tim. 4:3-5);
f) We are called out from hating our enemies. We are called to bless our enemies and to do good towards them; we are called to pray for them and to forgive them (Mt.5:44; 6:12; Rom. 12:20);
g) We are called out of the old priesthood and Law into a new priesthood and change of lifestyle based on the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31-32; Rom. 3:20-22; Philp. 3:8-9; Heb. 7:11-12);
h) We are called to understand that the 7th day Sabbath is prophetically fulfilled in the life and death of Messiah, and the first day of the [new] week looks on to the “new creation” (Gen.1:31; 1Cor. 13:10; 2Pet. 3:13).
The apostle Paul, through his faith in Yeshua , is a prime example of one being called out . He was called out in priestly separation. He was called to depart from iniquity and to live by the faith of the Son of God. In these two aspects Paul was outside the mainstream of his culture and society as he strove to know Yeshua the Messiah and have part in the [first] resurrection (Philp. 3:2-11).
Yet through the gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to be all things to all people for the sake of their salvation (Prov.11:30; 1Cor.9:19-23). Paul embodies the truth that through the seed of Abraham (specifically the Messiah) all the families of the earth would be blessed. Paul, and his life of being called for the gospel’s sake, fulfills the word that Israel would be a light to the nations (the gentiles). In breaking with the cultural norms of his society, Paul, the Jew and Israeli, in the Way of Yeshua, became a blessing to the nations, as was prophesied of Israel.
Today in Israel, the two main spiritual faiths of Judaism and Islam dominate the religious climate of the land and its people. Judaism rejects and denies the truth that the Messiah is in fact Yeshua; Islam denies that God is a Father, and therefore also that Yeshua is the Son of God (1John 2:22). This rejection of Yeshua is a unifying element amongst the Jews and the Muslims. You can understand how the Church, with its sure claim that God is Father and Yeshua is His Son, threatens the status quo throughout Israel and the Middle East.
Judaism, being the religion of the Jewish people, is law-based and culture-oriented. It has varieties of laws, rituals, and ceremonies defined and determined as acceptable (“kosher”) to the “traditions of the elders” (whether Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Ethiopian, etc.). Much of Christianity is “Jewish” in a similar manner. In Judaism adultery and divorce are being tolerated as a cultural norm. Even agnostic and atheistic Jews will consider Judaism “theirs” as a way of validating their Jewishness and of belonging to the Jewish people, their customs and heritage. What is true of Judaism is typical of every other religion and ethnic culture in that, in each one, things that have been taboo according to their law become–over time– tolerated and eventually legitimate.
Consequently, we all must look to what extent cultural norms become our norms as believers — in our personal lives and in the life of the Church. Once norms of our society are tolerated in the Church the authority of the Word of God is undermined. Obvious cultural norms that seek to enter the Church such as adultery, divorce, homosexuality will rob the Word of God of its full force and authority. We will have no plumbline. When this happens we will be robbing ourselves of life, by refusing to crucify our culture to the cross of our Lord, and ourselves to the present world order by the same cross.
With Judaism and Islam both vigorously claiming that Yeshua is not Lord, (and there are many who are called Christian who have turned away from the faith and deny the Lord who bought them), there is a clash of kingdoms. The Christian assertion of Yeshua being the Messiah and of God being the Father is at the very foundation of the Christian faith. Upon this rock Yeshua builds His church. And so we see that believers and the testimony of Yeshua are a real threat to the status quo in Israel. And the threat increases as the believers put off the old man and put on the new man in Messiah Yeshua.
We might ask what else is so threatening to the present world order?
What is so threatening about the culture of God’s kingdom? It all has to do with the cross, doesn’t it?
We are a threat …
· when we die to ourselves, when we serve to please God rather than men;
· when we are not intimidated by our enemies;
· when we subdue pride and let God be honored;
· when we can accept the “shame” of believing in Yeshua;
· when we can be open with one another, confess sins to each other, pray for each other in brotherly love for Jesus’ sake.….
All this is a threat to the orientation of the present world order, because the crucified life is at the center of these actions. The meek will inherit the earth. It is the aim, naturally, of Jewish (and any other) radicalism to protect itself against these threats.
What are some of the attempts towards this end? Here are a few that I see we are facing:
1) Authorities will try to forbid the teaching or evangelizing in Yeshua’s name.
2) There will be false accusations and incitement to violence against believers.
3) Believers will be betrayed and suffer at the hands of family members.
4) There will be intense effort to undermine faith through attacking the validity of the whole Bible and of the N.T. interpretation of the O.T.
5) There will be general personal harassment, like standing at the entrance to meetings, personal threats, disturbing mail, phone tapping–all in an attempt to make us fearful in living out our faith.
This harassment and persecution may start through lawful means, but will degenerate to unrighteous means to justify the goal–of maintaining the status quo. The cultures we are in want to keep their norms intact. It can even sound good and righteous such as “guarding the sanctity of life, keeping the Shabbat, maintaining a prohibition against idolatry and blasphemy, preserving ethnic purity”, but can accelerate even to the point of killing in the belief that God will justify it.
Despite the seeming powerfulness of these measures, the challenge we have in Israel, for all the different congregations, is to keep our eyes on the Lord. By His grace and the power of the blood we are to maintain our testimony in meekness despite the spirit of the age.
So we see that there is an established world order wherever we go and that the kingdom of God with Yeshua as the Messiah is a living threat to this present darkness.
Once you trust Yeshua as God’s Anointed One though, you are being called out more and more from the world and the culture of the world, meaning even your own personal culture as we see with the apostle Paul. We are called as Paul to accept that the world has been crucified to us and we to the world.
We see that the Body of Messiah is challenged in resisting the cultural norms that are part of our surroundings. It is necessary so that we will not be guilty of adding to or taking away from the plumbline of God.
In Israel we see the opposition to Yeshua coming from the two main religions, Judaism and Islam, with both opposing the truth of who Jesus really is. Both of these religions are in a ‘kingdom clash’ with the Sovereign LORD/YHVH. As radicalism increases to protect itself against the perceived threat of the Lord Yeshua, real threats to our lives may come.
Finally, we know that as believers in Yeshua, we must persevere in an attitude of love, recognizing that God is longsuffering and good. He is reaching out to the lost, desiring that as many as possible be saved before He must bring judgement. So that should be our desire too. By His grace and the blood of Jesus we are to maintain our testimony in a spirit of meekness despite the arrogant spirit of the age. In this way we will overcome the world with Yeshua by our faith in Him.