Being Light in The Coming Darkness – 16 Jan 2016

(An introduction to a study of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, with the focus on believers being overcomers and light in the darkening world)

What is important to the Lord Jesus Christ regarding our spiritual condition as His disciples? He has given us the Law of Messiah in His sermon on the mount (Mt 5 – 7); He has given us to understand what the Kingdom of God is like in this world (Mt 13); He has told us what to expect as the time of His coming nears (Mt 24 – 25); He has given the Holy Spirit to teach us through the Apostles’ writings in the New Testament how we are to live as believers in the truth of the gospel of the grace of God. (Jn 17:20)

What is important to Jesus in order for us to be confident of our hope in His salvation for us?: The seven letters to the churches in Asia give us His counsel to equip us and to help us judge ourselves and respond appropriately according to what He praises and approves of, and of what He disapproves and gives correction.  He gave the apostle John to hear and to see and to write these letters, and the whole book of Revelation, about 60 years after the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father.  They are written for all believers as to one new man – where it does not matter if we are Jewish, Gentile, male, female, Turkish, or Ethiopian.  It is written to the churches – where it matters not if one is Orthodox or Roman Catholic, if Protestant, Evangelical, Baptist, or Pentecostal.  The encouragements, chastisements, warnings, promises are to all in the Body of Messiah: let him/her who has an ear to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches. There is a call to listen: Even within the church there are different types of soil, of hearts, with respect to how we hear the Word of God and its interpretation.

He tells us not to be afraid. Our Lord and Savior wants each of us to be overcomers, to be victors, to be light in this world in the spiritual battles of life against the darkness of this age – victors over the devil, over this world, over our own selves. (Eph 6:12; 1Jn 2:15-16)  He wants us to be wise virgins, who are prepared and glad when He comes. (Mt 25:1-13)  We overcome by our faith in Jesus, who has won the victory for us on the cross, where He died and shed His blood to atone for our sins!  The Holy Spirit gives us the power by the grace and the love of God to endure to the end in the faith!

All of these seven churches – these lampstands shining for the glory of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — were located in the region of today’s Turkey on the Asian side. That light now is very dim, but not completely quenched. (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20)  Turkey is now an Islamic country – spiritually very dark — and for 400 years ruled over Palestine/Israel.  These churches were local city-wide congregations, and are also representative of the church-at-large, giving  relevancy to these letters throughout the last 2000 years, and they also bring us right through the last 7 years of this age — Daniel’s 70th week (Dan 9:24-27) — leading up to the Lord’s return.  All Scripture is written for us living at the end of the age; these letters are also prophetic in that they take us to the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His saints ruling with Him in His kingdom over Israel and the nations. (1Cor 10:11; Rev 2:25-28)

The Book of Revelation is unique in that it is the only one in the Bible which offers a blessing to those who read and hear and keep that which is written therein. (1:3)  It is a book which Yeshua Himself gave to be written, rather than inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1:1)  It also ends with a curse for anyone who would add to or take away from what is written in it. (22:18-19)   If we believe what the Bible says about the beginning of all things in Genesis, we will be more inclined to believe what God says about the end.

The book is the revelation of Jesus Christ: He is now in Heaven hidden from the world, but the plan of God is to send Him back at the appointed time, and every eye will see Him, including His people Israel. (Rev 1:7; Jn 16:10; Zec 12:10-11)  The book opens with this hope of the return of the Everlasting God to take up His throne on the Earth.  He is not only the Head of the Church, but He is ruler over the kings of the Earth. (1:4, 12-20) He has died and risen, and lives forevermore! There was no one before Him; there will be no one after Him:  He is the first and the last.

Jesus is the uncreated Light, who shines like the sun when He is seen in glory, as on the Mount of Tranfiguration, or when appearing to Saul on his way to Damascus. (Gen 1:3-5; Mt 17:2; Acts 22:6-11)  Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it/Him. (Jn 1:5)

Jesus is the Light of the world, and has called both Israel and believers in Him to be the light in the world, that others would see and know who the true God and Savior is. (Is 43:10-12; Mt 5:14-16) Both Israel and Christians have fallen short (Rom 5:21-26), but Jesus is here presented as the faithful and true witness: He is the true Israel and Man of God, the Prophet who perfectly speaks and bears true witness to YHVH God.  The ninth commandment is “Do not bear false witness”, and this we have all been guilty of too often.  Yet Jesus’ witness is true, both of the Father and of Himself. (Jn 8:12-20) He is the Light of the world, and those who follow Him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.  In Christ, we are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of night or of darkness.  So let us not sleep as others, but watch and be sober. (1Thes 5:5-6)

This is what we want for ourselves, and this is the instruction we want to receive from this study of the Lord’s letters to the churches.  Yeshua is seen by the apostle John as being in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, with seven stars in His right hand.  John, the apostle that knew that Jesus loved him, fell down as dead when he saw the Lord in the light of His glory.  And the Savior told him not be afraid:  our Judge is also our Savior and Bridegroom.  We should honor Him with holy fear, as true witnesses of who He is.

The Menorah was the light within the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and the Temple, both in the desert and also in Jerusalem. Only priests had access to it, and were to keep it lit at all times.  Jesus says that the seven golden menorahs are the seven churches, and the stars (heavenly lights) that He holds in His right hand are the angels/messengers – whether divine or human (Mal 2:7) – of the seven churches. The letters are addressed to the churches through their messengers.

2Pe 1:19-21 We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts, (20) knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. (21) For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit.

What Is The Purpose of The Law (Mt Sinai Torah)?

Gal 3:15-25   Brothers, I speak according to man, a covenant having been ratified, even among mankind, no one sets aside or adds to it. (16)  And to Abraham and to his Seed the promises were spoken. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, “And to your Seed,” which is Christ. (17)  And I say this, A covenant having been ratified by God in Christ, the Law (coming into being four hundred and thirty years after) does not annul the promise, so as to abolish it. (18)  For if the inheritance is of Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by way of promise. (19)  Why then the Law? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to those to whom it had been promised, being ordained through angels in the Mediator’s hand. (20)  But a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. (21) Is the Law then against the promises of God? Let it not be said! For if a law had been given which could have given life, indeed righteousness would have been by the Law. (22)  But the Scripture shut up all under sin, so that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (23)  But before faith came, we were kept under Law, having been shut up to the faith about to be revealed. (24)  So that the Law has become a tutor of us until Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25)  But faith coming, we are no longer under a tutor.

The gospel is not of man; it is from God alone. (Gal 1:11-12)  This means that the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek (Gentile) in its origin nor in its understanding.  The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel; and the Apostle writes in another letter that the cross is a cause of stumbling to the Jews, and is folly to the Greeks.  If the gospel were natural to humans, whether Jewish or Gentile, then resistance to it would not be so strong among the Jewish people, or among nominal Christians who fear God and do righteousness, and think that they are good enough to inherit eternal life.  Born-again believers need to renew their mind by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to know and to live by the will of God in light of the truth of the gospel.

The gospel of Jesus Christ gives salvation to those who believe: it is the gift of God by grace to those who repent and believe the gospel for salvation from sin and its consequences.  No person can earn salvation by good works, or by being a good person, but must be born-again by the Holy Spirit through faith in God’s way of salvation for both Jews and non-Jews.  By such living faith, a person is justified by God and no longer under the condemnation of His Law (Torah).  All have sinned, and need a Savior, and His name is Yeshua/Jesus. There will be no other Savior! (Acts 4:12)

The Law Unable To Annul The Promise v. 15-18

Belief in the gospel changes a person’s life and his world-view, and brings a unity among all who believe, from whatever people or tribe or tongue. The New Covenant brings significant changes from the Law of Moses, and therefore it requires Jewish people first to believe what the God of Israel spoke concerning these things, and also the Gentiles, for whom all of this was new, not having the covenants which God cut with the Jewish people and Israel.  The gospel is God’s way of redeeming back to Himself those from all nations which He scattered after the sin of the Tower of Babel.  This gospel He spoke already to Abraham – the father by supernatural intervention of the Jewish people in the flesh, and of “many nations” through the faith of Abraham –when YHVH said that through Abraham’s seed, all the families of the Earth (all the nations) would be blessed. (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8)  This seed is not only the Jewish people, but more specifically the Messiah, the Lord Yeshua, who became a man as an Israeli Jew. (Mic 5:2; Mt 2:1-6, 19-21)

What is the promise?  The promise to those who believe as Abraham did – that YHVH God could, and would, raise the dead in order to fulfill His promise – is to be justified to inherit the world with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and to rule with Him over Israel and the nations and God’s creation in the world to come (the Millennial Kingdom), when the knowledge of the glory of YHVH fills the whole Earth . (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 8; Is 11 – 12; Rev 3:21-22; Rev 20:4-6)  For this, we need to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in order to be suited to rule in a godly manner.

The Governmental Objective of the Law  [given to Israel at Mt Sinai]  v. 19-22

“So what purpose did/does the Law serve?” This is Paul’s question in v. 19 to lead into his answer as why the Law had a purpose even though it could not make anyone righteous, nor nullify the promise.  He answers it:  “The Law was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”  (Dt 33:1-4 esp the Sept; the visible YHVH; M. Heiser, The Unseen Realm, p. 166-169) We have already seen that individual humanity had greatly sinned before the flood (Gen 6:5-8); that the nations had sinned in Babylon with the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9); and the Children of Jacob/Israel were living like the Egyptians before they receive the Law at Mt. Sinai. YHVH God gave His holy, righteous, and good Law with its commandments to teach His people to live in a way which distinguished them from all other nations and people. (Dt 4:5-10)  His people are to be holy, for He is holy, righteous, and good. (Rom 7:12) He is not like the other gods whom the Gentiles serve and worship.

It was added.—It was not a part of the original scheme, but came in as a sort of marginal addition. It was, as it were, a parenthesis in the design of Providence. The direct line of God’s dealings with man ran through the promise and its fulfilment. The Law came in by the way.

Because of transgressions.—It has been usual to give to this one of two opposite interpretations, to make it mean (1) to check or put down transgressions; (2) to multiply and increase transgressions, as in Romans 5:20. The expression seems wide enough to cover both ideas. The Law was given “because of transgressions:” i.e., it had its object in transgressions. Its original purpose was to make them known, and by imposing a penalty to check them; its real effect was to provoke and enhance them. The expression “because of transgressions” leaves it ambiguous which of these points is meant, or rather, it includes them all.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary)

God wants us to know the sinfulness of sin in our very nature that is opposed to His perfectly holy and pure nature. All persons are found to be sinners:  without Law, with Law, even with the Holy Spirit.  We all, without exception, need God to save us from our sins, which He knew before He created the world. (Rev 13:8; Eph 1:4)

YHVH had chosen Israel as His first-born son as the means to draw all nations back to Him. Israel is intended to be a kingdom of priests, and a light to the nations.  All nations are to be blessed through Abraham’s children in covenant with YHVH. Salvation is from the Jews, Jesus tells us. (Jn 4:22)  But this salvation is not by obeying commandments and laws.  Salvation – in both an Old Testament sense, and in the New – comes with loving the one true God and being loyal to Him. (Jer 7:22-23; Lk 10:25-28)  The one true God is revealed to be YHVH God — the Father, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  The Father and the Spirit are invisible; Jesus came as the visible God.

Faith Having Come Fulfills the Purpose of The Law v. 23-25

One can keep laws and customs, while at the same time having a divided loyalty of heart to the one God. God demands whole-hearted faith and loyalty.  This is demonstrated by loving Him above all, and giving thanks for who He is, and for what He has done for us.  Jesus has fought the battle for us against sin – which the Law only brought out the more! – and YHVH alone has died for us and risen from the dead to defeat the enemy, and to deliver us from the penalty of eternal separation from God.  We are all – those who believe in Him – His children, whether we are Jewish or are not.

People often say that King David sinned much more than King Saul, and don’t understand why God took His Spirit from Saul and cast him away, but not only promised David so much, but also is keeping His covenanted promises to him. The reason is what we have just said:  Saul was not faithful to the Lord, and sought help from other sources, and persecuted the one whom God had chosen, the one whose heart was for the Lord.  David, although he committed adultery and murder, never wavered in his heart commitment to YHVH his God, and he was miserable in his soul until he confessed his sins, and accepted the evil consequences of his sins for the rest of his life, even though God forgave him and reconfirmed His covenant with him.

When we ask why Saul was condemned and David was forgiven, we betray our own misunderstanding of the ways of God, who searches the thoughts and intentions of our hears. We judge [usually] by what a man does; God judges the heart, and for a repentant sinner, He has paid the price required due to our guilt.

So, now for us: we do fail in keeping the commandments of Jesus, but this does not separate us from Him.  Apostasy and idolatry are still the two sins of a divided heart which would prove our disloyalty and unfaithfulness; in other words, our lack of love for Him as the only God and Savior, and for disobedience to His commandments to us who belong to Him.  These two sins of the heart weaken the fear of the LORD in us, which is a key to living for the glory of God alone.

A major factor in why a believer would seek to keep laws and customs of what religion or culture he/she had before would be to find acceptance by those of our family, friends, society who do not want to believe in the one true God and in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to avoid the “offense of the cross”, which separates light from darkness, and sin from righteousness, in order to still be accepted as “okay” to the world.  But, beloved brothers and sisters, we are called outside the camp to bear the reproach of Christ with Him, even as we are in the world as His servants and ambassadors to preach the gospel that others may also be saved from their sins and eternal separation from God, who gave His Son a sacrifice that we might be His, to His everlasting glory and joy. (Is 53:10)

The Law is given as a tutor is to children, guarding them for their adulthood. God’s Law through angels to Moses for Israel was given to protect the chosen people from foreign gods, and to learn the holiness and righteousness of YHVH, God of Israel.  Once faith in Messiah has come, we are no longer children under a tutor, but are being ‘graduated’ to adulthood and to sonship, with its privileges and freedoms. Yet this freedom carries with it greater responsibility and accountability than is the case for children, or for slaves.  We grow unto full maturity; we do not return to childish immaturity.  We focus on things of eternal value, not on those things which are already passing away.  With faith in the promised Seed – Yeshua – the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer, and enables us to fulfill the righteousness of the Law. (Rom 8:3-4) We may feel, or know that we are inadequate, or that we did not excel at studies, but by faith in the grace of God we move on into the professional world.

Law brings us to know our need for a Savior, so that we can fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law – and of the Law of Christ. Faith does not mean that we no longer have to obey the Lord, or that we do not have a cultural way of life, but it does mean that we are to believe and to live in accord with the New Covenant which the truth of the gospel has revealed.  There are some significant changes, as Jesus our peace has broken down the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, as well as the standard of perfection which kept all of us from personal relationship and fellowship with God! (Acts 15:10)  God is now bringing into His family born-again believers from out of every nation – fulfilling the promise of God to Abraham — dwelling by His Spirit within each of us, so that we equally call Him Father:  Christ in us, the hope of glory!

Racism Is Sinful, and Is Not New – 9 May 2015

Act 17:24-27   The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands,  (25)  nor is served with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life and breath and all things to all.  (26)  And He has made all nations of men of one blood to dwell on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling,  (27)  to seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and find Him, though indeed He is not far from each one of us.

This past week in Israel we have witnessed large and very angry, emotional demonstrations – even riots – by the Israeli Ethiopian community.  These were triggered by a senseless attack by a policeman and volunteer upon an Ethiopian Jewish soldier in uniform.  Years of pent-up frustration were vented by the demonstrators, calling upon the government and the people to stop the discrimination and racism against the large community of Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia.

Racism is a sin, is not new, and the Jewish people during the last 2000 years have suffered from it under the term anti-Semitism.  People are people, and the Jewish people are not different in that respect:  we can also be racists in our attitude and acts towards other people groups.  Even within ethnic groups, there is discrimination and racism:  among Jews, it can show up, like now, against Jewish Ethiopians; it can be by Ashkenazi Jews towards Sephardic Jews.  Once, an Ethiopian brother in Messiah told me that even among the Ethiopian people – who are all ‘black’ – there are those who are considered the “whites”, and those who are the “blacks”; and the ‘whites’ discriminate against the ‘blacks’, treating them with less value and dignity.

Sinfulness does not recognize boundaries, and the hearts of all people are wicked and deceitful, as YHVH spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, and as Yeshua also taught.  We need a new heart and a new spirit, both given by YHVH God when someone is born-again by the Holy Spirit from Above, becoming a new creation.  But then we find that the flesh and Spirit war one against the other, and we may still struggle with sin in us, even though God considers us righteous by our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord!  Not all believers are free from the sin of racism in our daily lives, or in our reactions when we hear that a Jew, or an African, or an Arab did some terrible thing.

What does the Bible have to teach us about God’s view of humanity, especially to us who have been saved by grace through placing our faith in the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man?

First of all, what is not racism?  Do you remember the story of the Gibeonites in the book of Joshua? (Josh 9:1-27)  The Children of Israel were conquering the Land of Canaan.   YHVH God had strongly spoken to the Israelis that they were to make no covenant with those who dwelt in the land, because it would weaken their faithfulness and loyalty to Him alone as their God. (Ex 23:32-33; Dt 7:2)  While all the other people groups within Canaan prepared to fight the Israelis, the Gibeonites realized that they could not defeat the chosen people of God.  So what did they do?  They deceived Joshua and the other leaders into thinking that they had come from a far land, and they wanted to make a covenant of peace with Israel.  Joshua and the other leaders agreed, and only afterwards did they realize that the Gibeonites were actually from within the land.  But since the covenant had been made with YHVH as a witness, Joshua had to let the agreement stand, but, the Gibeonites had to agree that they would always be woodcutters and water carriers for the Israelis and for the needs of the sacrifices on the altar to God.  The Gibeonites were glad to live!  They would praise and thank the God of Israel for both mercy and justice!

As an ethnic group, there was no hope or expectation that Gibeonites could ever advance in the society.  There would not be social equality.  There may have been individuals, who by the favor of God, “broke the mold”; but as a group, their price for being allowed to live at all, and live in what had been their own country, but was now to become the Land of Israel, was to be menial laborers for the Israelis and for the service of YHVH.  This is not racism, nor unfair social justice.  However, if either side forgot, or does not know the history regarding the how and why of the relations between the two groups, the enemy of our souls can exploit the situation to turn it into a racist issue.

To say the Jews love money is not necessarily racist or anti-Semitic:  most people love money and what “being rich” means in this world.  The love of money is a sin.  To accuse the Jewish people specifically for their love of money can be understood as racist or anti-Semitic. To be born with “black” skin is not a sin, nor a mark of inferiority.  To think of “black people” as a lower level of being human is racist and sinful.

What is racism?   As we read in the verses from Acts, God has made every nation of men from one blood:  human beings are equal before God in dignity and value, having all been created in His image.  Therefore, racism is prejudice, discrimination, or hostility towards people from another race because of pride in your own race or nation as being superior to theirs. Pride and fear are roots of racism.  Not loving your neighbor as yourself is its fruit.

Since the time of the Tower of Babel and the days of Peleg, God separated the nations in judgment, and brought division, even by establishing boundaries.  Again, as we read in Acts, this is so that people would seek the Lord, in the hope that they might find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.  Different people groups do have a destiny:  God has given purpose in life to all.  No one can change God’s Word which He promised to His people Israel.  No one can change God’s Word that He spoke to Babylon.  No one can change God’s Word that He spoke to Ishmael.  Yet, from among each of these people, God is calling out a people for Himself by saving them out from their own “people and their fathers’ houses”, bringing them into His House, and becoming their Father in Christ.

As believers in Jesus, we are to know no man according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

(2Co 5:14-21)
“For the love of Christ constrains us, judging this, that if one died for all, then all died;  (15)  and [Jesus] died for all, that those who live may live no more to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.  (16)  So we now know no one according to the flesh; even if we have known Christ according to flesh, yet now we no longer know Him so.  (17)  Therefore, if any one is in Christ, that one is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  (18)  And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19)  whereas God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and putting the word of reconciliation in us.  (20)  Then we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as God exhorting through us, we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (21)  For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

What does all this say to us in this matter of racism?  The Word of God examines the thoughts and intents of the heart.  We may keep our opinion to ourselves, knowing that it may not be appropriate, or even acceptable, to express them on some issues.  Yet Jesus and the Holy Spirit know us from within and from without.  Racism is a sin against God who has made all human beings in His image; and His judgments as to how He has determined the multitude of ethnic groups and nations are past finding out.

While YHVH God calls for people to love each other, and to treat the stranger with respect, the devil makes our differences as people a basis for sowing division and fear and hatred, even among believers.

Yeshua has said that we will always have the poor with us, and sin will, sadly, also always be with us in this life.  Our congregation here is a little picture of the Kingdom of God, made up of persons from different tribes, tongues, people, and nations – each redeemed to God by the blood of Jesus. The gospel message which we carry gives people true hope for having their ‘heads lifted’ from suffering humiliation and shame and sinful attitudes, or from having been a racist who caused such anguish of soul in others.  The gospel is the same message of salvation for all persons from whatever race of men, because Jesus died for all.  He forgives and heals – giving peace in place of fear and shame and arrogance.  In Christ, we not only know God the Father and the Son because the Holy Spirit lives within us, but God knows us, and fully accepts us, whatever others may think of ‘my people’, or whatever ‘my people’ think of Jesus.  We overcome the world by faith in the Lord, and can relate to all others with humility and love for Yeshua’s sake.  As His disciples, it is sin to humiliate any group or person because we think ourselves superior to them.

We need to each examine and judge our own hearts as to our attitude toward the ‘other’ or the ‘lesser’.  We are ambassadors for Christ to help each other be reconciled to God on this issue of racism, and on any other issue which the Scriptures speak about from the Lord’s perspective.  When we love one another and have respect for people from all races and nations, the truth of Jesus/Yeshua being Messiah will be seen.

Discipleship Includes Submitting to Government – 14 Mar 2015

We again have elections in Israel next week to choose who will be the next PM and lead the country.  As most of us know, politics in Israel are very complicated, and the world we live in here demands a heavy emphasis on defense and security needs, even as there is also the necessity of providing for the welfare of all her citizens and residents with equity.  Israel has yet to find that right balance, but by the grace of the God of Israel, the country has a quality of life that is exceptional for most segments of society.

Being believers in the God of hope, who fills us with hope and peace through our faith in Messiah Yeshua, we are called to become His disciples in all things.  Yeshua is Head over all things to the Church (the Body of Christ).  One of those “things” is submission to the governing authorities.

In every country there are governmental systems, and wherever we live, or even tour, we come under the laws and customs of that country.  Sometimes they may be similar to; other times very different – positively or negatively.  As believers who have received the grace of God, we are called to be a cause for good wherever we are as disciples of the Lord who acknowledges all those in power.

Rom 13:1-14  Let every soul be subject to the higher authorities. For there is no authority but of God; the authorities that exist are ordained by God.  (2)  So that the one resisting the authority resists the ordinance of God; and the ones who resist will receive judgment to themselves.

(3)  For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. And do you desire to be not afraid of the authority? Do the good, and you shall have praise from it.  (4)  For it is a servant of God to you for good. For if you practice evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is a servant of God, a revenger for wrath on him who does evil.

(5)  Therefore you must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.  (6)  For because of this you also pay taxes. For they are God’s servants, always giving attention to this very thing.  (7)  Therefore give to all their dues; to the one due tax, the tax; tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.

(8)  Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the Law.  (9)  For: “Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not lust;” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (10)  Love works no ill to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.

(11)  This also, knowing the time, that it is already time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.  (12)  The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  (13)  Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in carousings and drinking; not in co-habitation and lustful acts; not in strife and envy.  (14)  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not take thought beforehand for the lusts of the flesh.

We serve another King – Jesus – whose kingdom if not of this world.  The apostle Paul’s admonition to us to submit to the governing authorities even brings in the expectation of the Lord’s return as the hope set before us for God’s kingdom of righteousness to be established.  Remember, when Paul wrote this epistle, the believers in Rome were living under the  rule of Caesar then, and they came under severe persecution for their faith in Jesus as Lord.

Today we live at a time that is increasingly witnessing persecution of both Jews and Christians (both are witnesses of the one true God), yet as disciples of Messiah, we are called to respect those in authority, to keep the laws, to pay our taxes – all because we serve the Sovereign God over all these kings of the Earth.

Paul writes here that if we do good, we do not need to fear the authorities, who are responsible for punishing law-breakers.  This, too, is their God-given duty.

Jesus and the apostle Peter warned us, though, of the real possibility of suffering wrongfully at the hands of our masters and governments, even though we do good. (Mt 5:10-12; 1Pt 2:18-25)  If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, or for the name of Jesus and the gospel, then we are to rejoice, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example. He did not return evil for evil, but desired their repentance and salvation.

We are challenged throughout our lives as believers to apply God’s commandments in every aspect of life.  We are not called to overthrow governments, but to obey the Lord, trusting Him, resting in His sovereign wisdom and grace.  We are called to love one another, fulfilling God’s Law.  We are not allowed to live in a manner that would contradict the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life, but to govern ourselves to live acceptably to God as disciples of our Savior.

God is working to save people, and all things good and evil serve towards this objective before the Lord Yeshua executes His righteous judgments on those who refuse God’s way back to Him, and to submit to Him with thanksgiving.  Our prayer is for the name of God our Father to be sanctified, and for His Kingdom to come at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s close by reciting the prayer which our Lord has taught His disciples.

(Mt 6:9-13)

Our Father, who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  (10)  Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  (11)  Give us this day our daily bread;  (12)  and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.  For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.

Who I Am In Messiah – 14 Jan 2015

Who are you?  Has anyone ever asked you that question?  Were they genuinely interested in knowing who you are, or were they challenging you?  Did you know how to answer the question?  Let’s look at a scene in the Bible, and how this question and answer can help us know who we are, our identity:

Jn 8:12-30 (23-25)   And [Yeshua] said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I Am He, you will die in your sins.”  Then they said to Him, “Who are You!?”  And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.”

Yeshua was being challenged and threatened by the religious leaders in His day, trying to find a way to justify not accepting Him as Messiah.  It is interesting for us, who do know that Jesus IS the Messiah, how His answer to them as to who He is takes them back, I believe, not only to when He began His public ministry, but to “the beginning”, reminding them (and us) of Gen 1:1 (and of Jn 1:1; 1Jn 1:1).  We know that Yeshua is YEHOVAH in the flesh-and-blood body, and He has been speaking to His people “from the beginning”.  He had been speaking to them, and doing His marvelous works, testifying that He is YEHOVAH, the promised Messiah, the Son of God.  YEHOVAH was visiting His people, bringing salvation.  Yeshua is the Light of life.

To know who I am in Messiah/Christ – to know my identity as a person and a believer in Yeshua/Jesus – I need to know who Yeshua really is, since my identity is connected with Him and His name.  YHVH God has revealed Himself to us in personal ways by telling us His names.

He first reveals Himself by name to Moses, when He tells him that He is “I Am Who I Am”, and that He is the God of our fathers:  YEHOVAH, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob. (Ex 3:14-15; Mt 22:32)  Being that God Is Who He Is, He has revealed Himself to be, among other things:

El Shaddai – God Almighty (Gen 17:1)
Ehiyeh – I Am (Ex 3:14; Jn 8:24)
YHVH (YEHOVAH) — Eternal, Self-existing One (Ex 6:2-4)
YHVH Jireh – YHVH Will See [and Provide] (Gen 22:14)
YHVH Rophe – YHVH [our] Healer (Ex 15:26)
YHVH Nissi – YHVH my Banner (Ex 17:15)
YHVH M’Kadeshchem – YHVH your Sanctifier (Lev 20:8; 11:44-45; 1Cor 1:2)
YHVH Shalom – YHVH [our] Peace (Jud 6:24; Eph 2:14)
YHVH Tzidkeinu – YHVH our Righteousness (Jer 23:6; 2Cor 5:21)
YHVH Ro’i – YHVH my Shepherd (Ps 23:1)
YHVH Shammah – YHVH is There (Ezek 48:35)
YHVH Tsva’ot – YHVH of Hosts (Is 6:3-5; Jn 12:37-41)
El Elyon – God Most High (Gen 18:19)
El Ro’eh – God who Sees (Gen 16:13)
El Olam – Everlasting God (Gen 21:33)
El Gibor, Pele Yoetz, Sar Shalom, Aviad – Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace,
Everlasting Father (Is 9:6)
Tzemach – Plant (‘Branch’) (Is 42; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8)
Father – (Ex 4:22; Is 9:6; Mt 6:9)
Netzer – Root branch (Is 11:1; Mt 2:23)
Yeshua – Savior (Mt 1:21)
Immanuel – God with us (Mt 1:23; Is 7:14; Lev 26:12; 2Cor 6:16)
Messiah – Anointed One (Dan 9:25; Mt 1:16; 27:22)
The Son of Man (Dan 7:13-14; Jn 3:13-15; Mt 26:63-64)
The Son of God (Pr 30:4; Mt 16:16)
The Word of God – (Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13)

Some of these names we use for our God in general, but some of them apply also to Messiah Himself, for Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus is YHVH! (Phlp 2:11; Is 6:3-5; Jer 23:6)  In His conception, life, works, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus fulfills the essence of these names which describe Who He Is.  Just as YHVH placed His name upon the Children of Israel through the priestly blessing (Num 6:24-26), so, too, is the name of Christ upon those who belong to Him in New Covenant relationship. (Acts 11:26; 1Pt 4:12-16; Is 65:15)  We are children of God if we are in Christ/Messiah: God has become my Father; we have become His children! (1Jn 3:1-3)  We, in Christ, are sons and daughters of the Creator and King of the universe!   In Messiah, we are heirs with Him of all things! (Mk 12:7; Lk 12:32; Heb 1:2; 12:28)  We all may know believers who have an identity crisis, either for not accepting who they are in the flesh (our natural origin), or else for not identifying themselves in Christ with Him.

I remember growing up as a Jewish boy in a gentile Christian society.  In synagogue we learned that we Jews believed in the one true living God.  We read in the Bible (only the O.T. for us!) that God spoke to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, etc.  God not only spoke the worlds into existence, but He also spoke with people!  When God speaks to someone, His life is forever affected!  When God speaks to someone, He is revealing something about Himself, and the one spoken to knows that there are implications from hearing God’s voice.

I heard God’s voice just as I got saved through believing that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord.  This became part of my testimony to my Jewish family:  we had learned that Adonai our God was living, and that He spoke to people that we read about in the Tanach.  So, He also spoke to me; and He said, “Go to Israel.”  As I just said, there are implications when God speaks to you.  Jesus made Israel home for me, and for Randi – and now for our children and grandchildren.

After a couple of days from hearing this, God spoke to me again.  The Holy Spirit said, “Jesus died for you, and because of you and your sins, and has brought you home to your Father in Heaven.”  These two occasions forever changed the whole course of my and my family’s life, and has affected my knowledge of who God is, and who I am – all because I have repented and believed the gospel.  God is the Messiah! Jesus is the Messiah; He is the Lord; Jesus is God manifested in the flesh!

Believing the good news, and hearing God’s voice – both audibly and also through reading the Scriptures and hearing others speak or preach –  ­­have helped me to know who I am in Christ.  When the religious leaders went to John the Baptizer to find out who he was, he answered that he was “a voice of one crying in the desert [to make straight the way of YHVH”. (Jn 1:23; Is 40:3)   When I am asked by people in the context of religious identity (which is what Yeshua and John were being asked), I say, “I am a believer in Yeshua/Jesus“.

And among other things:
–I am a male person, a son of Adam.
–I am an Israeli Jew, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.
–I am a Christian, since Yeshua is the Messiah/Christ, the netzer root and offspring of David; and I am in Him, belong to Him, and follow Him.
–I am a child/son of God.
–God is my Father.
–I am your brother.
–Jesus is not only the Lord and the Savior, but my Savior and my Lord.
–I am a new creation.
–I am a saint.
–I am a servant of Yeshua, who died for me and gave me hope and a future; He has given me purpose and significance and an everlasting destiny with Him.
–I am a stranger and pilgrim on the Earth (a Hebrew!).
–I am an exhorter, to strengthen and encourage especially other believers to stand in the faith, and to know that the God of Israel is the living God, that Jesus is the truth, and the Word of God is true.

My experience of receiving the Holy Spirit, of God telling me to go to Israel, of my being a sinner who personally needs a Savior – these are all found in the Bible as true from God. (Joel 2:28-29; Ezek 36:22-29; Zech 12:10; Acts 3:17-26)  I can verify these experiences as being from the one true God because they are in accordance with His written Word.

To know who we are in Messiah, what do we need to do?  What Abraham our father in the faith did; what Saul, who is better known as Paul the apostle, did:  they each believed the word which the living God spoke to them, and they obeyed with faith the revelation and vision which they received. (Acts 26:19; Heb 11:8-19)  Do not shrink back, and our God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – will confirm and strengthen the call, the election for salvation, and our identity in Messiah, for we are hid with Him in God. (Heb 10:39; Col 3:3)

Let’s close with the Holy Spirit-inspired words to us through the apostle John, our brother in Messiah (1Jn 3:1-3):

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God:  therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not.

Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be:  but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is.

And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

Religious War?

The recent terrorist attack in a synagogue in West Jerusalem by Arab Muslims from East Jerusalem, in which rifles, knives, and meat cleavers were among the weapons used against Jewish men praying their morning prayers, has brought closer to home the reality that we are entering a religious war, and not only a nationalistic, political war here in Israel.   Among the dead and wounded Jews, a Druze policeman was also mortally wounded and killed as he responded to the terror within the Har Nof neighborhood synagogue.

There are those who remember what Dr. Baruch Goldstein did 20 years ago, when he entered a mosque in Hebron and massacred 29 Arab Muslim pray-ers during their morning prayers, and wounded many others.   As despicable as Goldstein’s act was, it is not comparable as a modus operandi to what took place in the synagogue:  apart from some fringe supporters, the government of Israel and the people as a whole repudiated such use of violence to achieve whatever the goal may be.  The then PM Yitchak Rabin said that he was ashamed to be a Jew.  Such an act taints all of us.  On the other hand, the Islamic terrorists are praised and celebrated, called martyrs, and others are encouraged to go out and wantonly murder Israeli Jews — and any others — in order to rid the land and the planet of particularly Jews and Christians — those who are the living witness of the one, true, living God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah.  This is done in the name of their God, who is not the same as YEHOVAH, God Most High.  The murderous attack by the Jewish terrorist and murderer, Jack Teitel, against Palestinian Arabs and against Jewish believers in Jesus was his act of war, thinking to do God’s will; yet he, too, was widely denounced for his thinking and for his actions.

While most wars seem to have be for economic and political reasons, there have been many religious wars in history; the Crusades come to mind fairly quickly.  The Islamic conquests after its beginnings in the 7th century were all religiously motivated.  There have been intra-faith wars between rival parties within religions; for example, the Jews led by the Maccabees against the Hellenizing Jews and Greeks; Sunni vs Shia Muslims; Catholic vs Protestant Christians.  Hindis have fought Buddhists.  When the Israelis first conquered the Land of Canaan in the 15th century BC, it is stated in what would be considered religious terms:  the iniquity/sin of the inhabitants of the land was full, and YHVH God was bringing His chosen people — the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob — back into the land from Egypt in order to possess it as an everlasting possession, with the stipulation that should they also act as the Canaanites did, then they, too, would be removed from the land as a punishment under the terms of the covenant between YHVH and the Children of Israel.  The return of the Jewish people back to Palestine (the Land of Israel) in the 20th century was both pragmatic,  political, and religious, and God in His sovereignty brought both His will and the will of man to coincide.   This return of the scattered Jews from out of nations all around the globe is itself a strategic act of war by the LORD of Hosts against those who seek to prevent Him from fulfilling His covenant promises and glorifying His name.  The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount — the place which God led King David to choose as the place for YHVH’s earthly Temple — and the Muslim efforts to eradicate the validity of Israeli and Jewish history there, is itself an affront and act of defiance to the historical record.

Yet, for the most part, most religions do not teach to engage in war in order to propagate their faith and culture.  Islam does, and there have been many who have written about that, using the Koran and Mohammed’s teachings as a proof.  The God of Israel also instructed His people to use force as needed, under His directions and guidelines, when taking possession, and then defending their natural and spiritual identity and heritage.  This use of force by Israel was not to extend beyond their borders.  Until today, this is generally the way Israel employs its military might and prowess.

The Word of God in the Bible tells us that war was declared already back in the Garden of Eden, when YHVH, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth — including the angels and human beings — let Satan (the devil; the fallen angel, Lucifer) know that his rebellion against God, and his active efforts to spread that rebellion among humanity, whom God created in His image and likeness, would not go unanswered.   The enmity between the seed of the serpent and between the Seed of the woman — this ‘state of war’ between the devil and Christ Jesus — has been the “mother of all wars” since, whether carried on in the heavenlies, or played out here on land, seas, and air.   “Just wars” are those which are perceived as being between good and evil.  While warfare is itself a result of sin and rebellion, it is nonetheless used by God to ultimately defeat all enemies of that which is godly and righteous and good, and to glorify His holy name in the process.  One of our problems is that we have not exercised our senses to discern both good and evil.

Those who believe in Yeshua as Lord and Messiah are also called to engage in what is called spiritual warfare:  this is the war against lies, against the works of the devil, against unrighteousness, against the truth of the true God and Savior.  We are called to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth to all nations and people groups, to deliver people from the lies and darkness of Satan and to bring them into the truth and light of Jesus Christ.  This is effected through preaching, not by carnal weapons or through lying, intimidation, or force of arms.  It is a war for the hearts and minds of men, women, and children — to know and believe the Word of the God who alone forgives sins, and who has power and authority to not only kill the body, but also to send both soul and body to hell.  In His love, and to win this war, God the Father sent Yeshua His only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life.

Jesus won the war on the cross, in His death, and subsequent burial and resurrection!  The sad news is that many people have not heard, or have not believed what they have heard concerning this good news.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit is still at work to bring the many who do repent and believe to saving faith.  The peace which Jesus gives is not the peace which the world gives.   The day is nearing when the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return from Heaven to put an end to all rebellion and unrighteousness, and to establish the true God’s kingdom over Israel, and over the entire Earth and universe!  He alone forgives sin.  “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

A SEASONAL WORD

In God’s prophetic and redemptive calendar given to Israel, the appointed times of the Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets, of the Day of Atonements, and of the Feast of Booths speak of the Ingathering of God’s people/harvest at the end of the age.  God knows His own, and those who call upon the name of the Lord will depart from iniquity.

One thing that God will not have in His people — whether Israel or the Church — is self-righteouness.  The cross slays all our own righteousness, and to be disciples of Jesus, we are to deny ourselves, pick up our own cross daily, and follow Him.  He is our righteousness.

One prayer that is sure to be answered by God is the one which His Son, the Lord Himself, prayed, which we read in John 17.  He prays for our love and unity within and among His own followers that is the same as the love and unity “within and among” the one, true, triune God.  The answer to His prayer will be supernatural, as none of us have any clue really to the utter reality of that sort of union and love.  Yet it is this Holy Spirit-produced life of Messiah formed in us that is at the heart of God’s dealings with us, constantly bringing us to recognize our dependence on Him, lest we exalt ourselves.  It will be this revelation of the sons of God — even if only momentarily this side of the resurrection — that will bear witness to the world that Yeshua was sent from the Father, and that the Father loves us as He loves Him.

It is to this that I want to give this word in this season.  The Lord Jesus told us that there would be wheat and tares until the end within God’s Kingdom at large, within Israel, within the Church.  He says in connection with this not to separate the two until the harvest, and then He would have angels do that work of separation — not us.  The apostle James warns us of being judges of the Law rather than doers of the Law. As in all things of God, the devil attacks Him and those things.  Our usual initial response to something of God is to question it or reject it, only afterwards to see and obey in accordance with God’s will, and even then not always discerning God’s purpose.  This should be proof enough for us to see that we are not “little Christs” or “little Gods”!

As the time of Yeshua’s crucifixion neared, despite having instructed His apostles (those closest to Him) of what was coming, they did not understand in their hearts or minds, and when the actual deed was accomplished they all thought their hope had been misplaced and was gone.  So, too, as the end of the age draws nearer, and the necessity of this spiritual unity and love to be manifested, the devil is attacking and doing his best to deceive the elect.  The result is not more unity and love being evident, but more judgmentalism and division in our own assessment of who is really a true believer and who not — before the time.  Some things are clear, and require righteous judgment within the household of God; other things require patience for the living Word of God to bring the hidden things to light.

Those who engage in self-righteous separation from the corporate whole place themselves in danger of sowing disunity rather than promoting the unity which is in Messiah/Christ.  And, of course, when we do such a ‘separation’, we always place ourselves ‘in’.  For those of us who support Israel in God’s purposes for the sake of His holy Name, we do not normally distinguish the true Israel from the false at this time; we simply refer to Israel, knowing that within this people and nation there are those who believe in Yeshua already; there are those who fear God and do righteousness, but do not yet know the Lord personally; and there are those who are simply uninterested in the covenantal relationship and destiny which YHVH God has established with and for them.  Not all Israel is Israel.

So, too, is it for that collective and corporate entity historically called the Church (in English):  we must not quibble over terminology, but simply acknowledge the same truth as it applies presently to Israel:  that there are true believers in Yeshua/Jesus; there are those who fear the Lord and do righteousness, but do not know Him personally/are not born-again; and there are those who have no interest in His covenantal ways in saving individuals and nations alike by His grace through repentance and faith in the gospel.  It is all based on HIS righteousness, not at all on any of ours, which are to Him, in any case, as filthy rags in comparison.

As this season of individual and national soul-searching and forgiveness for sins is again brought before God’s chosen people and nation, we pray for more to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  As the Holy Spirit is generating God’s move on a world-wide scale for more than a century already to bring the Bride of the Lamb to feel the need for the Lord’s personal return in great power and glory, when the Lord does break through to put all things in order, we may be surprised at the results.  Our hope and trust must be in the name of Jesus/Yeshua, and not on our own understanding, however much we may think we know.  It does not need to be said that we do not know anything as we ought to know, which helps keep pride covered and for us to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving glory to YHVH God.

Evidence of Holy Spirit Baptism

Last week I spoke about repentance which leads to conversion, to real change in our thinking and in our character.  And that this is not only for when we first became believers in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Some of us have had sudden and dramatic experiences and can give a definite testimony of being born-again, or of being filled with a life-changing revelation from the Word of God by the Spirit of God.  Others, especially those who have grown up in believing families and who have “always believed in God and Jesus” from a very early age, may not be able to pinpoint the day or situation where they knew something had ‘happened’ to them.  Yet without the Holy Spirit working in our life by the grace of God, we cannot do it or know it.  The good fruit of holiness and righteousness in our lives will prove our baptism in the Holy Spirit by the will of God.  So, how we can know if we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and born-again?

We believe that spiritual gifts do not guarantee spiritual maturity, or even salvation.  A tree or person is known by his fruit; ultimately the fruit of the Holy Spirit is what pleases our Father in Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I want to bring some Scriptures to help us know we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, that is, that we are saved – whether we speak with other tongues or not.  It is important that we know with humble confidence and thanksgiving, and should anyone have any doubt, let him/her ask the Father in Jesus’ name to give His Spirit. (2Cor 13:5; 2Pt 1:10; Lk 11:13)  John the Baptizer came to baptize in water, but he said that Yeshua comes to baptize in the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Jn 16:14-15   He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine and will announce it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine.  Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and will announce it to you.

Acts 1:8   But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you.  And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

1Jn 4:1-3   Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God:  every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come/is coming in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come/is coming in the flesh is not of God.  And this is the antichrist you heard is coming, and even now is already in the world.

1Cor 12:3   Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is a curse, and that no one can say that Jesus is LORD (YHVH), but by the Holy Spirit.

Phlp 2:9-11   Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD (YHVH), to the glory of God the Father.

1Jn 2:12   I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

Rom 8:14-17   For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.  And if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; so that if we suffer with Him, we may also be glorified together.

1Thes 4:3-8   For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;  that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,   not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;   that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.   For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.   Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

1Jn 4:10-13   In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation concerning our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.  No one has seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

1Jn 5:9-13   If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.  For this is the witness of God which He has testified about His Son.  He who believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself.  He who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he does not believe the record that God gave of His Son.  And this is the record, that God has given to us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have everlasting life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Rom 10:9-10   . . .if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Our positive response and attitude to these evidences will do much to strengthen the believer in his/her faith, and to rest in the knowledge of our Savior God. Why is this important? Because the righteous will live by [his] faith, and by faith. If we are not certain whether we are born-again – baptized in the Holy Spirit – we will live accordingly, whether with doubt, or with pride of not needing to be. But if we humbly but confidently know that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, then the righteous in Christ will live in the truth of the name of the Lord Jesus, and be faithful witnesses of God.

Clogged Wells: Religiosity vs Living Faith — 27 Apr 2013

We have spoken about clogged wells earlier, and about how not giving tithes and offerings can be a cause of stoppage of the living water in our life and in the congregation.  Giving from our money according to the appreciation of God’s grace and for His purposes is one defense against stinginess and greed. 

Today I want us to look at and consider together about another cause of clogged wells, and of what each of us can do to be both blessed and also a blessing to others.  This requires repentance, which brings life unto God, and also requires each of us to take heed as we seek the life that is Messiah in us to grow and enlarge.

The banner behind me is the one done for the “Spring up, O well!” conference last week.  It was done by Ladell Neitzel, who was also part of the conference.  She spoke about how difficult it was for her to make this banner, and she could not complete it with water springing up out of the well.  She felt from the Lord that perhaps we are not ready for it yet, for the well to be released.  On the one hand, I completely understood by the Spirit that we are preparing for and anticipating a significant revival within the congregation and whole Body of Messiah.  On the other hand, I felt ashamed at our own condition that the well is still clogged. 

Let’s read from the source:  Gen 26:12-33

–Isaac, the son of promise, became very rich and prosperous in the land of the Philistines. –The Philistines envied him, and sent him away; and they had stopped up all the wells, which Abraham’s servants had dug, with dirt and dust.

–Isaac left, and his servants dug again the wells from the days of his father and gave each one the same name which Abraham had given.

–Isaac’s servants dug in Gerar (probably near Nahal besor today), and found a well of living water.
–The shepherds of Gerar quarreled with the shepherds of Isaac, saying that the water was theirs!
–They had not dug there all the time they had been in that area, but ‘owned’ it after the hard  work of others.  This is similar to the Islamists who claim all the land of Israel, even though it has been the Jewish people who have worked hard to make the land cultivated and fruitful after so many centuries under Muslim control and disinterest.  Another recent example if Lebanon, which claims the natural gas off-shore of Israel’s northern coast after Israelis invested and located it for commercial use.  

–Isaac called the well Esek (Quarrel), and moved on, rather than fighting or insisting on his rights, in order to keep the peace as much as possible.  By faith, he knew that the whole land was his to inherit. 

–Isaac’s servants dug another well, and again there was a dispute.  He named this well Sitnah, which has the same root as satan (s-t-n).  Satanic disputes are rooted in envy, hatred without cause, false accusations, needless hostility

–Isaac moved on again, and his servants dug another well.  This time there was no dispute or quarrel.  God had given them room, and he called the well Rehovot (Wide spaces).
–YHVH enlarged their tent, and they could be fruitful.
–Isaac and his servants did not let quarrels with others, or lack of approval from others prevent them from continuing to seek what was good.  They had faith in the Living God even as others contended with them and sought to clog up their faith and frustrate them in their labors. 

–They moved on up to Beer Sheva, and in the same night YHVH appeared to Isaac to assure him and to bless him.
–Isaac built an altar, called on the name of YHVH, pitched his tent, and his servants again dug a well.
–Avimelech, king of the Philistines, a friend, and Phicol, the military commander came to Isaac.
–Isaac asked them why they were coming to him now, since they had hated him and sent them away.
–Avimelech answered that they saw that YHVH was with Isaac and was blessing him despite all 
their evil thoughts,  attitudes, and efforts to quench his life and successes.
–They made a covenant of peace with Isaac, that he would not them any harm.  The Philistine spirit demands to receive grace and mercy – even from their ‘enemy’ — but is not able to give it.
–That same day Isaac hears from his servants that the well they had dug in Beer Sheva had water, and they called the name Shev’ah (Seven), and the city is called Beer Sheva until today.

What can we learn from this history for ourselves?  How can these things, written long ago for us living at the end of the age for our learning and admonition, be applied to us now who believe in Yeshua?

As I have said many times before:  God is God; Satan is Satan; people are people.  But we, in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ, can change and be continually transformed into the image of the Son of God.

The word philistine means invader.  The Philistines then and today (in spirit if not actually physically descended) always resist the ways and thoughts of God, and of those who live by faith in the Spirit of God.  They ‘invade’ the peaceable character of the ‘righteous’, discourage their prosperity, and strive with those who are free – even to putting dirt and dust in their flow of living water. 

These invaders are under the control of traditional human authority and of legalism in their lives ; that is, of human religiosity, not knowing the living Spirit in their own lives.  We can all be guilty of this in certain instances; therefore the admonition to take heed to ourselves, lest thinking we stand, we fall.

This show of righteousness speaks much of grace, but separates grace from the living faith.  It is a legalism that quenches the Spirit of God, despite all our talk about freedom in the Holy Spirit.

The contention over the wells is characteristic of our legalism and self-righteousness in our own eyes – like the Philistines:  they do not dig the wells, which were also beneficial for them, but either clog them with dirt, or else claim yours as theirs.

But for those, like Isaac, who avoid becoming entangled in unproductive strife, and who continue digging for the waters until they are found, God will cause even our enemies to want us to be their friends.  They will finally see and accept that YHVH God is with you – the man or woman of faith, hope, and love – like He was with Abraham and with Isaac.  Then, the well that you dig will be your own, not to be taken by another nor filled in with dirt.  Isaac offered Avimelech food and drink, displaying the peaceable intentions he had towards even those who mistreated him.  May God help us to love others as ourselves, and even as Yeshua has loved us.

Spring up, O well!  Let the waters flow!

Priests Are Burden-Carriers of God’s Glory: Merciful

As we begin a new year it is good to consider what we are looking forward to.  In Messiah all believers are priests, and we are called to carry God’s burden for His people and for His holy name’s sake.  These two elements are inseparable:  the glory of the holy name of YHVH is connected with the life and character of His people worked out in love for Him and for one another.

Ex 34:6-7  Moses asked God to show him His glory.  God answers by saying that He is “YHVH, YHVH God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger (long-suffering), and abounding in lovingkindness (grace) and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty. . . ”

The glory of God is seen in His mercy. . . . God did not show Moses then a dazzling light or perform some amazing miracle.  Rather, He described His Name, His attributes!  He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, full of good things, especially to those who love Him.  He will not acquit those who choose not to repent of their unbelief and rebellion against Him who is Good.  But when He does judge, it is only after many opportunities He has already given to any person or nation to fear and to honor Him, the Creator and Redeemer. 

Our salvation is dependent upon God’s mercy (Rom 11:30-32).  As much as we speak of being saved by grace through faith, it is nonetheless true that we are saved in mercy.  We do not deserve it.  Mercy is for now; we will not be in need of mercy in the New Heavens and New Earth.  There, grace/lovingkindness will abound for all eternity. 

We are God’s witnesses; we are Yeshua’s witnesses.  It is important that we can explain who He is to others in truth.  The Muslims call their God the Merciful One.  It is clear that the definition of mercy which they are using is not the same as that which describes our great God and Savior.  People often speak of love as most important in our relationships with each other and towards others.  That is true, but what definition of love is being understood and lived?  Love in the Bible is described like this:  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, sent from the Father to be the propitiation for our sins. (1Jn 3:16; 4:10-11)

What is mercy?    That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice demands. (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828)

Ex 28:9-12,15,21,29-30,36-38  The High Priest bore the names of their brothers and tribes on their shoulders and over their heart when wearing the holy breastplate (ephod). 

Lev 4:3; 16:6,11,15,16  Priests were to offer sacrifices first for themselves and their own sins; that is, they were to judge themselves first, and thank God for His righteous mercy, and paying the substitutionary price He required for their sin and sins.  Then, they were prepared to be merciful and encouraging to their brothers who were coming to them with their own need to offer to YHVH God the sacrifices for their sins in appreciation of His mercy and grace towards them.  Priests under the Law of Moses were to intercede with mercy by the Spirit of God for their brethren.

Mt 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercyThe merciful will be supplied with more mercy to continue to be merciful! 

God will judge even believers if we do not have compassion and show mercy to those who need it from us.  (It may not be a salvation issue, but it will surely negatively affect our relationship with the Lord, with others, and will reflect very poorly the name of the Lord which we carry upon us in our lives.) (Mt 6:14-15; Ja 2:13

Mt 18:32b-34  “‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?!’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”

Lk 18:9-14  Some of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  The truth is usually otherwise.  And when we do think we are of a higher spiritual ‘level’ than others, we will surely show no mercy towards them, but will simply dismiss them as ‘not as spiritual’ or ‘not as devoted to God or religion or good works’ as we are.  But the eyes of our all-knowing God sees and judges according to a different law:  the one who justifies himself is guilty; he who admits he is a sinner is justified.

Lk 10:25-37  While the respected lawyer sought to minimize his sphere of influence and responsiblity towards his fellowman, the disrespected Samaritan proved to be the ‘good neighbor’ to the one who needed help and care:  he showed mercy on him.

Lk 23:27-47 (Is 52:13 – 53:12)  The glory of God is fully seen in the suffering and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly He displayed what can only be described as that by which YHVH describes what He is like:  merciful, gracious, slow to anger (long-suffering), and abounding in lovingkindness (grace) and truth, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but by no means clearing the guilty.  The words of warning He spoke to the women lamenting what was being done to Him; His kind words to one of  the criminals being crucified with Him; His gracious words to His disciple and to His mother; His asking the Father to forgive those who did not know what they were doing in crucifying the Lord of Glory.

This year, let us give a priority to the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of the Son of God in this quality of His compassion and mercy.  As we learn to appreciate how much it is that we have been forgiven by God, and what price, we will be enabled to love God and others more.

2Cor 1:3-5  “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Messiah abound in us, so our consolations also abound through Messiah.”