1Tim 3:15b . . .so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Yesterday the national leadership conference met here, and the central topic was “Building an Israeli Jewish Messianic Assembly”. This subject has been discussed for over 20 years, and still eludes clear definition. Last week we taught on three things which should be present in any local congregation: truth, vision, relationships. Today I want to speak more regarding these essentials as they relate to our own congregation, Messianic Congregation – Beer Sheva. I speak to those of you who are new here, to those of you who may not know who or what we are as a congregation, to those who may be looking for the right church for you in this area, and of course to remind the rest of us of our calling as a local congregation.
It is difficult to find agreement amongst even Jews as to what is “Jewish”; inIsrael there is no consensus as to what is “Israeli”. We who are Israeli and Jewish combine all the cultures of man, having lived in most of them and bringing much from them back here to Israel. Our unity is not in our “tribal” distinctions, but in our relationship to the one true God who created and chose us for His eternal purposes.
As we read from Paul’s letter to Timothy, the assembly is God’s house, and it is the pillar and ground of the truth. A pillar is an integral and irremovable part of a building, and a building rests on a stable, unmovable foundation. As a local Messianic congregation – whether in Beer Sheva or inTokyo– we should contain and express the truth of the Living God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is the God of Israel, and the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Living God is the Maker of Heaven and Earth and all that is in them, and He has given us the Bible that we can become wise unto salvation. So here, in this congregation, we believe and teach from the Old and New Testaments as being the Word of God with relevance to our lives until and beyond when time is no more. As Paul wrote to Timothy, the Bible is written for us to know how to live worthy of our Father in Heaven while we are still in a world which opposes Him and His Son. Our aim in this faith community of believers is to teach truth so that we will be closer to God—that is, sanctified—and living in His light.
Our vision is joined to the truth expressed in Eph 2:14-18: we who are Jews and also gentiles are a new creation in Messiah Jesus, one new man, expressing the mystery and grace of God through the New Covenant. God loves us all, and the forgiveness of sins and baptism of the Holy Spirit are for all who believe that Jesus died and rose again for salvation to sinners. We say that we are a Messianic congregation. We do not say that we are a Messianic Jewish congregation. Not all of us are Jews, nor are all Israelis Jews, and God has a purpose with each of us for who we are naturally. The facts that we live in Beer Sheva, in Israel, in a majority Jewish society already impacts us in a central element of our gathering together here: we encourage the use of the Hebrew language. It is a unifying factor for most of us whom God has brought back to this land from different cultures and languages, and it joins us to the Israelis—mostly Jewish—who already live and govern here. In this way, too, we connect ourselves with the wider Body of Messiah in Israel, both in fellowship and in worship. The redemption which God is carrying out in these last days – and we are a part of that! – includes restoring His people to this land which he promised to give to the descendants of Jacob/Israel, restoring His people to a covenantal relationship with Himself through preaching the gospel and through righteous judgments, and through restoring the historic language of our people: Hebrew. Our congregation does not excel in “good” Hebrew, but we do what we can to promote it for a testimony to the truth of Jesus being native to the Israeli and Jewish people in this very country. We are not here to reproduce a congregation or denomination like something we may have been part of somewhere else, but rather, since Jesus is Head over the church in all things, we are all here by the will of God to let HIM make us into a community of truth, love, and righteousness which will honor the Holy One of Israel, even the Messiah Yeshua our Lord and Redeemer.
We observe the holidays—the set times which YHVH God gave to Israel. This is natural living here in Israel, but it also witnesses to their significance in God’s plan of redemption. We also observe those holidays which honor the truth that the Son of God was really born into this world, according to the Scriptures, and that He died and rose again. We obey the Lord by immersing believers and by taking the Lord’s Supper to remember His death until He comes again. These things are all part of the truth of what the church is to embody and shine to the glory of the Father and of Jesus.
As you look around here, we come from different streams of life, converging together in Jesus and His cross—His death for atonement of our sins—and by the working of the Holy Spirit in us we flow out streams of living water in newness of life into the Negev—the desert of Israel, which also speaks of dry and thirsty souls needing living water which comes only from God.
We look forward to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory. We want to be ready when He comes, whether we are dead or alive, and to have part in that blessed and holy first resurrection. Until then we want to grow in His likeness through faith and obedience to the will of God. Saying that, we believe in knowing and doing our Father’s will, and not in telling Him what to do! We do not focus on health, wealth, and material prosperity as goals for our lives or as signs of special favor with God. The Lord Himself tells us that we will suffer if we live for Him and His ways. We teach to trust God and His Word rather than to trust in yourself, even if in the Name of Jesus.
Our relationships, then, are an issue of great importance. We are to love one another as Jesus has loved each of us/you. We are to help each other mature in our knowledge of God and in our behavior and life-style. We are to obey God’s commandments to prove that we love each other, for His commandments promote true love. If we truly want Israelis to know who Yeshua is, then we will understand how important it is to love one another and other believers in Him. Evangelism is more effective when we express love and unity in our speech and actions.
We may call ourselves by different names: Messianic, Messianic Jews, Christian, believers, Pentecostals, Baptists, Orthodox. Others may call us by different names: Christians, pagan, gentiles. Whatever name, we want to know and for others to know that we believe in, belong to, and follow Jesus Christ the Lord! It is in His name alone that God gives salvation, and it is for Him that God has created and redeemed all things. This congregation owes Him her existence and hopes, and with His help, we intend to be overcomers by our faith in Him. It gives honor and glory and praise to God when we choose to follow Yeshua in a world that opposes Him and His kingdom.
I pray that you will commit yourselves with us in this congregation to build up His Kingdom in our hearts and lives.