Tuesday, November 24, 2020

HOLY LIKE THE MESSIAH JESUS

“It is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16, ESV). There are two elements of Jesus’ life that are meant to be part of our lives too. That is, we are to be holy and anointed. Some Christians might be intimidated when they hear this. “Sure, I live a moral life and I do my best to be godly; but holy? And anointed? How could that happen with all my failures?”

But there it is, straight from Peter’s pen. The only way this could happen is if Jesus gave us his own holiness and anointing, and that’s exactly what he did, through his perfect sin-offering sacrifice for us. The Messiah Jesus lived a spotless life on earth, and through his perfect life on earth, his payment for our sins is thorough and endless.

The Messiah’s work for us; his crucifixion, death, and resurrection; did more than cleanse us of sin. Through it, he also imparted to us his righteousness by his indwelling presence in us. Think about what an amazing thing this is: While all our sin is on him, all his righteousness is on us.

One of the faults that God cleanses us from is our deep belief that our behavior makes us righteous. We can never earn our way to a higher level of righteousness; we’re made righteous by him alone. That’s where our victory lies. As Paul testifies, “I can no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in the Messiah. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith and belief in the one whom He has sent”

Philippians 3:7-15: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for the Messiah. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of the Messiah Jesus my lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win the Messiah, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of the Messiah, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of the Messiah Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in the Messiah Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, have this mind:

You may feel holy only on days when you’re doing well, worshipful and conscious of God in every way. But don’t mistake that for a state of holiness. You can never be holier than Jesus’ blood makes you. So, by his power, we are his worthy witnesses not just in good times but in bad times as well.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, ESV).

The key to our belief is that he is at work already. Accept his holiness, no matter what you think of yourself, and receive his anointing to fulfill the works he has prepared for you. He’ll open every door and you’ll see him perform unexpected wonders!

Monday, November 23, 2020

HOW SHOULD WE LIVE FOR OUR GOD AND FATHER YEHOVAH?

The way to live for our God and Father Yehovah is to obey the words He gave to the lord Messiah Jesus to give to us! That is what we are to do, in order to live for Yehovah.

IF we believe in the one whom Yehovah sent, and repent, and are baptized [totally immersed] in the water; showing that we are dying to self and coming up out of the water, as new creations in the Messiah, filled with his spirit to enable us to walk in covenant obedience to the words His God and Father gave to him to give to us.

Now what words are the most important for us to do?

Well the simplicity of the Messiah Jesus is to obey his creed, as given in Mark 12:28-34. We are to love Yehovah Elohim - God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves; which we can only do as enabled by His indwelling Spirit.

Along with this we are to behave as those who have been grafted into the true Israel [Romans 11] and are to be witnesses - reflections as those who have been born in the image of Yehovah, both physically and spiritually, reflecting His nature. We can do this In the same way that the Messiah Jesus did as the outshining of the nature of His God and Father. We can do this as sons of God, who have been placed into the household of Yehovah.

This is how we live for our God and Father Yehovah, doing as the Messiah Jesus did, being witnesses about the coming kingdom of God; which will begin when Yehovah sends His son down to take his place on the throne of David at Zion. Then we who have been resurrected at his return will join with him as immortal sons and daughters; as co-rulers and co-inheritors with him, who is our elder brother, who showed us the way, the truth and the life and light of his God and Father that we should emulate to all the people we come in contact with!

IF we are filled with the indwelling power of Yehovah's Spirit and the Spirit of the Messiah Jesus we will reflect the glory of God and His uniquely begotten son Jesus by obeying the words and commands that Yehovah gave Jesus to give for us to do! That is how we live in covenant faithfulness to our God and Father Yehovah.

Friday, November 20, 2020

HAVING A FAITH THAT TESTIFIES

This message is for every Christian who is on the brink of exhaustion, overwhelmed by your present situation. You have been a faithful servant, feeding others, confident that God can do the impossible for His people. Yet you have lingering doubts about God’s willingness to intervene in your present struggle.

Think of those in the body of the Messiah [the called-out Assembly] whom you have given words of faith and hope, people facing seemingly hopeless situations. You’ve urged them, “Hang on! God is a miracle worker, and His promises are true. Don’t lose hope; He is going to answer your cry.”

Jesus made a statement to believers in every generation: “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matthew 15:32). Yehovah is telling us through His son who was the outshining of His glory: “I will do more for my people than heal them. I’m going to make sure they have enough bread to eat. I am concerned about everything concerning their lives.”

We all believe God can do amazing things for us. We believe in every miracle we have read in Scripture. Yet, that is not enough. God’s question to all his people right now is: “Do you believe I can work a powerfully in you and through you?” Not just one miracle, but a miracle for every crisis, every situation we face.

Our faith in troubled times obtains for us the testimony of “a good report.” “For by [their faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness, to become a testimony.”

Our ancestors in Yehovah had a settled, anchored faith. And their unwavering faith became a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness in the midst of troubled times.

As you rest in Yehovah through storms, holding your faith position, you are obtaining a “good report.” And you are serving as a beacon of hope to those around you. Those who watch your life; at home, at work, on your block; are learning that hope is available to them.

Our God and Father has supplied us with everything needed to sustain our faith, even as calamities increase. We have been given the witness of the His Spirit, that abides in us, and God’s fully revealed word in the Scriptures. These will sustain us, obtaining for us the testimony of a good report even as the world shakes. Hold fast! Live a life of victory, enabled by the indwelling power of the Spirit of Yehovah and His son in you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

WHAT IS SIN?

The biblical Greek word for sin is “harmartia” and means “missing the mark” Specifically it is missing the mark of our God-given human vocation to demonstrate God’s own image (Genesis 1:26) i.e. to reflect God’s personality and character – istics. Indeed, it is a missing the mark, of what we as humans were supposed to reflect.

Further Greek words related to sin are: “adakia” which means covenant unfaith-fulness, unrighteousness. “poneria” as evil of a vicious or degenerate kind; “parabasis” as trespass or transgression; and finally “anomia” as lawlessness.

The root of sin is idolatry, that is, the worship of what is not God so that the person becomes completely self-centered rather that God-centered. It concerns breaking faith with God and has the basic elements of: faithlessness, lack of trust, disobedience, pride, covetousness, rivalry, and discontent. Such sinfulness, unfaithfulness, evil transgression, and lawlessness leads to violence that starting with Cain murdering Abel; to the violence we see being enacted all over the world today!

The solution to all this sinful activity has been plainly set before us in the scriptures and it is very plain and simple. Repent, turn away from being self-centered and become God-centered. Believe in the one whom he has sent, Jesus the Messiah, who became a sin-offering sacrifice for all of humanity in order to bring all people to his God and Father Yehovah. He call on us to repent and be baptized [totally immersed] in water and in doing so die to self and rise up as a new creation in the lord Messiah Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit which enables one to live a life dedicated to keeping the creed of the Messiah: which is loving God with all our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves [Mark 12:28-34].

If all those who come to him will do this, then at the end of this age they will enter into a co-ruling and co-inheriting relationship with the Messiah and will receive with him, all that he will receive, when he comes to take his place on the throne of David and rule for 1,000 years establishing a Theocratic government to rule over the nations.

We can join him in this beautiful endeavor if we will follow the guidelines plainly give to us in the scriptures, realizing that we are helpless human beings that can only do so as we are enabled by the indwelling power of God’s spirit, and the spirit of His son Jesus in us. All of mankind has a choice to choose life in the Messiah Jesus or reject his testimony and choose death and in the end to be destroyed in the lake of fire at the White Throne Judgment at the end of the 1,000 year rule of the Messiah. CHOOSE LIFE!   

DOES YOUR LIFE SHOW FAITH IN THE MESSIAH?

The writer of Hebrews says to his readers, “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12).

These are strong, bold words. Who exactly is the writer addressing here? In short, who is he rebuking? The book of Hebrews shows us he is speaking for the most part to Jewish Believers who had attended synagogue every Sabbath and heard the entire O.T. scriptures explained to them every year. They were well-schooled in scriptural truth. In other words, those reading this letter had sat under powerful preaching by many ribbi's.

Consider all that these believers had been taught; not only by the Rabbi's, but by the apostles, and the leading elders in their assemblies:

  • They knew about Jesus’ high priesthood and his intercession for them at God’s throne.
  • They knew of Jesus invitation to come boldly before the throne to find mercy and grace in their time of need.
  • They had been taught that a supernatural rest was available to them.
  • They knew the lord Jesus was touched with the feelings of their infirmities.
  • They knew the Messiah had been tempted in all points as they were, yet he remained without sin.
  • They had been exhorted, “Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (3:6).
  • They had received clear warning of how unbelief grieves God's Spirit: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (3:12).
All this is found in the first four chapters of Hebrews and now, in chapter 5, the writer addresses those gathered: “After all this sound teaching, you are still dull of hearing and need someone to teach you.”

Does this apply to you? Think of all that has been learned by this present generation of Christians. How many sermons have we heard that challenge us to trust Yehovah in all things? How many times have we heard God’s incredible promises preached? And yet, how often are we quickly deflated when a trial comes?

Beloved brothers and sisters, what is your life saying to those around you? How does your book of life read? Are you a witness in hard times, ministering to others by your example? It is impossible to keep faith without boldly going to the throne of God in prayer for all you need. I urge you to go to Yehovah daily for all the mercy you need. He is calling you forth as one of his witnesses - teachers!

Written by David Wilkerson and edited by Bruce Lyon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

GOD'S PRESENCE DELIVERS US FROM ALL THAT TROUBLES US!

 “Yehovah said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here’” (Exodus 33:14-15).

Moses knew it was Yehovah’s presence among them that set them apart from all other nations. The same is true of Yehovah’s people today. The only thing that sets us apart from non-believers is Yehovah’s indwelling presence, He is “with us,” leading us, guiding us, working His will in and through us. His presence drives out fear and confusion. Indeed, His indwelling presence helps us to develop the perfect love that "casts out fear" (1 John 4:18)

Moses’ attitude was essentially: “We operate on one principle alone. The only way for us to be guided and survive in these times is to have Yehovah's presence with us. When his presence is in our midst no one can destroy us. But without His indwelling presence we are helpless, reduced to nothing. Let all the nations of the world trust in their mighty armies, and skilled soldiers. We will trust in the presence of Yehovah.”

Consider King Asa, the man who led Yehovah's people to a miraculous victory over Ethiopia’s million-man army. He testified it was Yehovah’s presence that had scattered the enemy: “Asa cried out to Yehovah, and said, ‘Yehovah, it is nothing for you to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us … for we rest on you, and in your name - Yehovah we go against this multitude … So Yehovah struck the Ethiopians before Asa” (2 Chronicles 14:11-12).

As Asa led his triumphant army back to Jerusalem, the prophet Azariah met him at the city gate with this message: “and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: Yehovah is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you abandon Him, He will abandon you. For many days Israel was without the true God -Yehovah and without a teaching priest and without the Law. But in their distress they turned to Yehovah Elohim - God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him.” (2 Chronicles 15:2-4). Yehovah reminded Asa in no uncertain terms: “Asa, it was my presence that got you this victory and don’t you ever forget it.”

I cannot imagine how unbelievers can know any peace whatsoever in these perilous times without the presence and assurance of Yehovah and His uniquely begotten son Jesus - Yehoshua. Fear and anguish now hang over humankind like a black cloud. Thank Yehovah for the nearness and closeness of Himself and His son Jesus - Yehoshua in this awful hour. They both rejoices over you and will walk with you through everything.

John 14:23: Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

GOD'S LOVE NEVER WAVERS

“Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked … my heart is severely pained within me … fearfulness and trembling have come upon me … So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest’” (Psalm 55:3-6).

 David speaks here of a satanic attack so severe that it that drained his strength and patience and caused him to want to run. He moaned, “There is pain in my soul, a pressure that never lets up. It’s a battle that never ends and it terrifies me. Yehovah, don’t hide from me anymore, Please, listen to my complaint and make a way of escape for me.”

What was the cause of David’s awful battle? It was a voice: “Because of the voice of the enemy” (Psalm 55:3). In Hebrew, the meaning here is “the voice of a man.” It was Satan speaking through his demonic influenced human oppressors.

What did David do about this? He cried out to Yehovah for help, asking Him to silence the enemy’s accusations: “Destroy, O Yehovah, and divide their tongues” (55:9). “All day they twist my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil … They hide … they lie in wait for my life” (Psalm 56:5-6).

David’s testimony makes it clear for all of us: we are involved in spiritual warfare. We are facing evil powers in a fight for our faith against Satan, the father of lies. And the only way we can do battle is to cry out to Yehovah for help.

Like other holy servants of God, David came through his battle and was used mightily as never before. Beloved, the same joy awaits us just beyond our eclipse of faith. Yet it is when we are at our lowest; at the deepest point of our unbelief; that Yehovah is doing His deepest work in us, preparing us to bring glory to His holy name, Yehovah.

Have you been sifted recently, your faith seeming to fail in a dark hour? I urge you to do three things:

(1) Rest in Yehovah’s love for you.

(2) Know that no matter how deep your unbelieving thoughts, Yehovah sees what you are going through and His love for you never wavers.

(3) And do as David did and cry to Yehovah night and day: “Yehovah God of my salvation, in the morning my prayer comes to you. Incline your ear to my cry.”

Written by David Wilkerson and edited by Bruce Lyon

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

THE TRUE FACTS REGARDING ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

 

Historian Will Durant gave this analysis in his work ‘The Story of Civilization’. 

Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretism result… 

Orthodox Christianity is the last great creation of the ancient pagan world” (1944, vol.3, Caesar and Christ, p.595).

BY THE GRACE OF YEHOVAH WE BECOME OVERCOMERS

What is it about faith that keeps demanding of us greater testings? Why do our afflictions grow more intense, more severe, the closer we get to the Messiah? Just when we come through one trial that proves us faithful, here comes another test, increased in its intensity. Many godly saints ask, “Yehovah, what is this awful trial about? You know my heart and you and I both know that I will trust you no matter what.”

Think about it: the very day you committed your life to trust God, no matter the cost, He knew your present trial would come. He knew then; and you know now; that you would love him through everything that comes at you. By grace, you are determined to be an overcomer.

The reason for such continual testings is well known to most Christians. That is, the life of faith continually demonstrates humankind’s need for Yehovah in all things. We never reach a point of not needing God. As Jesus tells us, our purpose is not to seek having our needs met, but to feed on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).

An additional reason behind our ever-increasing afflictions; our trials that demand ever greater faith go far beyond anything having to do with this world. God’s elect are being prepared to be immortal co-rulers in the soon coming Kingdom of God when the lord Messiah takes his place on the throne of David at Zion.

Ever increasing afflictions, demanding ever more steadfast faith, become a stumbling block to many believers. Paul was accused by fellow Christians of being chastened by God. They said his sufferings were the result of lack of faith, or because of some secret sin he was hiding. And humanly speaking we find it hard to comprehend why he had to endure some of the hardships he went through. And by Paul’s own testimony, we know that none of these things moved him; and his life proved it.

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God; the Kingdom of God” (Acts 20:24, 25).

Beloved, you are being weaned from everything that is of this world. God is present with you to take you through to what will be yours as an immortal man/woman in the coming Kingdom and in the New Age that will come after the White Throne Judgement!

Monday, November 9, 2020

WHEN IS THE RAPTURE GOING TO OCCUR IN RELATION TO THE TRIBULATION?

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory is a teaching that perverts the plain language of the text of the New Testament.

It is a fact that many preachers today look on the doctrine as the heart and core of present Christian expectations in regard to prophetic truth for the near future! Many believe this false teaching is the principle hope of the body of the Messiah - the called-out Assembly, for their redemption and safety during the Great Tribulation.

First, understand that the word “Rapture” is not found in the King James translation. There is also no single word used by biblical authors to describe the prophetic factors that comprise the doctrine. Its formulation came about by means of inductive reasoning. Certain biblical passages concerning the Second Coming, and the role Christians will play in that event, were blended together inductively to establish the Pre-Trib Rapture teaching.

It may come as a surprise but the doctrine of the Pre-Trib Rapture is not mentioned in any Christian writings, of which we have knowledge, until after the year 1830 C.E. Whether the early writers were Greek or Latin, Armenian or Coptic, Syrian or Ethiopian, English or German, orthodox or heretic, no one mentioned it before 1830 (though a sentence in Pseudo-Dionysius in about 500 C.E. could be so interpreted).

Those who feel the origin of the teaching is in the Bible might say that it ceased being taught for some unknown reason at the close of the apostolic age only to reappear in 1830. But if the doctrine were so clearly stated in Scripture, it seems incredible that no one should have referred to it before the 19th century.

Let's look at the origin of this teaching. Look at what happened in the year 1830; two years before Irving’s dismissal from the Presbyterian Church. In that year a revival of the so-called "gifts” began to be manifested among some people living in the lowlands of Scotland. They experienced what they called the outpouring of the Spirit [We are to test and try the spirits]. It was accompanied with speaking in “tongues” and other charismatic phenomena. Irving preached that these things must occur and now they were.

On one particular evening, the power of the Holy Spirit was said to have rested on a Miss Margaret Macdonald while she was ill at home. She was dangerously sick and thought she was dying. In spite of this (or perhaps because she is supposed to have come under the “power” of the spirit) for several successive hours she experienced manifestations of “mingled prophecy and vision.” She found her mind in an altered state and began to experience considerable visionary activity.

The message she received during this prophetic vision convinced her that the Messiah Jesus was going to appear in two stages at his Second Advent, and not a single occasion as most all people formerly believed. The spirit emanation revealed that the Messiah would first come in glory to those who look for him and again later in a final stage when every eye would see him. This visionary experience of Miss Macdonald represented the prime source of the modern Rapture doctrine as the historical evidence compiled by Mr. MacPherson reveals.

The studies of Mr. MacPherson show that her sickness during which she received her visions and revelations occurred sometime between February 1 and April 14, 1830. By late spring and early summer of 1830, her belief in the two phases of the Messiah’s coming was mentioned in praise and prayer meetings in several towns of western Scotland. In these meetings some people were speaking in “tongues” and other charismatic occurrences were in evidence. Modern “Pentecostalism” had its birth.

These extraordinary and strange events so attracted John Darby that he made a trip to the area to witness what was going on. Though he did not approve of the ecstatic episodes that he witnessed, it is nonetheless significant that Darby, after returning from Scotland, began to teach that the Messiah’s Advent would occur in two phases.

Unfortunately this Pre-Trib teaching will cause many to lose hope, fail and and bring about a great falling away, when they are not "raptured" when the Great Tribulation begins during the last 3 1/2 years of the Covenant of death [Isaiah 28:15, 18] signed by Israel and the head of the Beast Power.

We have been warned to beware of false teachers in the end time!

2 Peter 2:1: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the lord who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

The teaching of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is a lie brought about by the instruments of the Adversary Satan who disguise themselves as representing the Messiah to deceive the elect.

Corinthians 11:13-15: For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of the Messiah. And no wonder, for the Adversary disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

TO EAT A MEAL WITH JESUS IS AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE

Paul says: “All who are led by God’s Spirit - Breath are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear; on the contrary, you received the Spirit, that makes us sons and by whose power we cry out, “Abba!” (that is, “Dear Father!”). God's Spirit - Breath bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God; and if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Messiah; provided we are suffering with him in order also to be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17).

God by His Spirit - Breath assures us that He is our loving Father and that He feels no anger toward us though we have sinned and failed him so many times. Our well-deserved punishment has been completely borne by Jesus on the cross, where by his shed blood he became a sin-offering sacrifice. 

Therefore, there is no longer any condemnation awaiting those who are in union with the Messiah Jesus. (Romans 8:1) As a loving Father, Yehovah will discipline His children, but not in a judicial way. His chastening is done in love for our good that we may become like the Messiah in every area of our lives.

During quiet times of fellowship, the enabling power of God's Spirit -Breath makes His love real, not just in our heads, but also in our hearts. When God’s Spirit - Breath is flowing through us, we have rest and peace. We know that if we are totally committed to loving Yehovah with all our hearts, we will always have acceptance before Him in the Messiah Jesus. We are secure in what Jesus the Messiah did for us on the cross, and we can approach God with boldness - confidence.

There are times, though, when we get out of sync with God; when we don’t have the kind of fellowship that he longs for and we ourselves need. During those moments, I am reminded of the church in Laodicea. Jesus told them: “Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:20-21).

When Jesus requested to share a meal with them, he was speaking of his desire for fellowship with those in the Laodicean church, who would repent of their lukewarm attitude toward him, and zealously obey his words. 

Imagine sitting down for a meal with our Messiah. What an intimate and glorious time that would be! However, we don’t have to imagine what that meal might be like. That kind of fellowship is available to us at any moment, at any time, through the Spirit, when we eat the words his God and Father gave to him to give to us. We only need to knock and he will open the door to us, enabling us to fellowship with him!

Friday, November 6, 2020

A HEART OPEN TO GOD'S DISCIPLINE

Most people find it hard to accept that a loving God allows human suffering, but King David said his afflictions came from God’s hand: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word … It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:67, 71).

In so many words, David says, “I now know Yehovah allowed my pain in order to heal me of all the dross in me. If he had not put His fear in my heart, I wouldn’t be here today. God knew what was in my heart, and He knew exactly how to get my attention.” What David says here is life-giving truth. He’s telling us, in essence: “If we don’t see Yehovah working in our circumstances; if we don’t believe the steps of the righteous are ordered by His hand, including our dire situations; our faith will end up crashing, and we’ll be shipwrecked.”

Picture a surgeon and his medical team as they prepare to operate on a patient with cancer. The surgeon knows that if the tumor is not removed, the patient will die. For that reason, he will use every measure to get the cancer out of the patient’s body, no matter the pain it causes. He knows his surgical work will bring deep hurt but it is necessary to preserve life.

The right response for God’s people to their many afflictions is to have an inquiring heart. This is the heart that will ask: “Father, are you saying something to me in this? Have I been blinded to your voice?”

Yehovah never fails to answer us. He may say: “This is a snare of Satan. Beware!” Or, without condemnation, he will reveal an area of compromise we are making and say: “Obey all the words I gave to my son Jesus to give to you, and all will become clear.” When Yehovah shows us what is in our hearts; the impatience, the besetting sin, the “small” but deadening compromises; these things become grievous to us in our time of affliction. This is why David prayed: “Let, I pray, your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to your word to your servant. Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for your law - instruction is my delight” (Psalm 119:76-77).

No matter what you’re going through, God’s mercy is there for you. He isn’t out to condemn or punish you, but will correct you like any devoted father, He tells His children, “Let me help you through this in order for you to experience the depths of my love.”

Written by David Wilkerson and edited by Bruce Lyon

Thursday, November 5, 2020

THE BATTLES WE WAGE

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity of obedience to the words of the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Right now, Satan’s powers of darkness throughout the world are rejoicing. These demonic forces have infiltrated high places of human power: the nations, media, political offices, high courts. It’s happening almost  all religious organizations.

All these demonic principalities have an agenda. They work to erode moral values and pull down the saving power of the gospel. It seems every institution, every agency is now infiltrated and dominated by these ungodly spiritual powers. Yet, we know how this war ends: at the return of the lord Messiah Jesus. When he cried out "It is finished" he became a sin-offering sacrifice for humanity allowing all humanity to be reconciled to his God and Father Yehovah; IF those who are called will accept Jesus as the one whom He sent and believe and obey him.

There definitely will be times of war; wars that will not involve the called-out Assembly of God worldwide, but will be private; battles and struggles known only to you. These are wars of the flesh and they bring a burden you can share with the lord Jesus. They are not lonely wars, if you share them with the lord Jesus and seek his help.

Too often you convince yourself to just grit your teeth, and try to overcome your battles against the flesh. But God doesn’t want you to to rely on your own strength, which will lead to failure. He knows what you’re going through and will enable you to overcome and conquer by His indwelling spirit. Yehovah God is as close to those who are His, as their breath. 

When King David committed adultery and then fell into a private war of condemnation and regret, he didn’t try to fix things on his own. So what did he do? First, he cried out to the Lord: “Oh, Lord, help me quickly! I’m about to fall, so hurry and deliver me. Your Word promises that you’ll deliver me, so do it now” (see Psalm 70).

Next, David made a decision: “Live or die, I will magnify Yehovah in this battle.” “Let God be magnified” (Psalm 70:4). And he threw himself fully on the mercy of Yehovah say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Yehovah, will hold me up … Your comforts delight my soul” (Psalm 94:18-19). Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions (Psalm 51:1)

Beloved, you can make this your testimony. Look at all your distresses, adversities, anxieties and temptations, and say in faith, “By God’s grace I will not go down.” And Yehovah will say to you, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  

Monday, November 2, 2020

Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?

Notice:
A. Hagar 
 B. Mt. Sinai 
  C. slavery 
   D. the present city of Jerusalem 
   D. the Jerusalem that is above 
  C. freedom 
 B. (Mt. Zion) 
A. our mother.
Notice what Paul says in Galatians:
Galatians 1:6-7: I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of the Messiah unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of the Messiah.
How did they pervert the good news message of Jesus? These Judaizers wanted to bring Gentile believers under the law of Moses and thus bring them under the curse of the law - for if you don't keep all of it perfectly you are under a curse.
Paul now says something radically in opposition to nail the Judaizers when he says:
Galatians 1:8: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Paul went up to Jerusalem by revelation to confront those who wanted to insist on Gentile believers being circumcised and be brought under the old covenant, and he says he went up because - 
Genesis 1:4... because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in the Messiah Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Notice he says that there were those who wanted to bring the Gentile believers into bondage - bondage to the law of Moses and take them out of the liberty that they had in the lord Messiah Jesus.
Notice his important words in the following verse:
Galatians 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus the Messiah, even we have believed in Jesus the Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of the Messiah, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Notice what Paul says here:
Galatians 1:19-21 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with the Messiah - the anointed one: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but the Messiah lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then the Messiah is dead in vain.
Do we not realize that when we were bapised we show that we died with Jesus and when we came up out out the water we were introduced to newness of life - resurrection life - the life of the coming new age! If I am crucified with the anointed one - the Messiah, the law can have no power over me, therefore I am dead to the law.
Notice what Paul says here:
Galatians 3:11-14: But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith - the one who is righteous by faith shall live. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them [and if he does not he is under a curse]. The Messiah has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus the Messiah; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
I have tears in my eyes as I write read these verses about the anointed one Jesus becoming a curse for my sins in order that I might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Amazing Grace.
Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus the Messiah might be given to them that believe.
Galatians 3:29 And if you be the Messiah’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise [the promise to inherit the world, to co-inherit and co-rule the world with Jesus the Messiah]. This is our awesome future, it is our present hope.
What an awesome future we have in Jesus our lord and savior. May we live out our lives reflecting him.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

BORDERS OF PREJUDICE

Yehovah is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. Yehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8-9).

If asked if you are a merciful person, you would probably answer, “I think I am merciful. To the best of my ability, I sympathize with those who suffer. I try to help others and when people hurt me, I forgive them and don’t hold a grudge.”

All true Christians have a good measure of mercy for the lost and hurting, certainly, and that’s something to be thankful for. But the sad truth is, there are biases in our hearts running like deep rivers, and over the years they have carved out borders of prejudice.

From what Scripture says, we know that our Savior would never turn down the desperate cry of a prostitute, a homosexual, a drug addict or an alcoholic who has hit rock bottom. The Messiah’s mercies are unlimited: there is no end to them. Therefore, as his called-out Assembly; The Messiah’s representative body on the earth; we cannot cut off anyone who cries out for mercy and deliverance.

All over the world, God’s people are experiencing suffering, afflictions and torture more than ever in their lifetime. And there is a divine, eternal purpose in the intensity of these spiritual and physical battles now being endured in the true body of the Messiah Jesus. Like his God and Father Yehovah he shows tender mercy towards all people.

Jesus never established vengeful, hate-filled armies; he used no carnal weapons. Instead, he pulled down strongholds by his mighty lovingkindness. Our lord has but one battle plan: tender, merciful love. Indeed, love drives all his works on earth. Jesus is the full expression of God’s love: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

The darker the days become, the more the world is going to need consolation, hope and love. People will need to see that others have been in the battle of their lives and were brought through. We need to be able to say, “I have proven the Messiah I serve to be merciful and kind. He has loved me through everything, and his love and mercy can be yours, as well.”

No matter how hopeless things seem, the lord Jesus has tender mercies for you, to bring you through.

Written by David Wilkerson and edited by Bruce Lyon  

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

YEHOVAH’S PROPOSAL TO ISRAEL

Exodus: 19:3-6: And Moses went up unto God, and Yehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; you have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and [how] I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant then:

You shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all People: for all the earth [is] Mine: And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

The word for “possession” is a very special Hebrew word, “segullah”. It refers to a king’s most highly prized and treasured possession. Israel was being offered the opportunity to be Yehovah’s crown jewel. The final clause calls attention to the fact that although every nation and people belongs to Yehovah, His intention was to set Israel aside as a special people, uniquely above any other. 

A holy nation of Priests 

Notice Exodus 19:6: … “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” which elaborates the specific nature of the proposal He was making to Israel. So we see that joined with Israel’s calling to be Yehovah’s treasured possession was to be a kingdom of priests. As priests they were to SERVE as Yehovah’s mediator’s, representatives, and ambassador’s to the rest of the world. The call was both corporate and individual.

The invitation to become a kingdom was to fulfill the promised made to Abraham and Judah. Yehovah had promised that His seed – Jesus would process the promised land. In order to possess the land he would have to rule over it. Thus, Abrahams “seed” (Jesus) would by necessity be a king. [Galatians 3:16: Now to Abraham and his “seed” were the promises made. He doesn’t say, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to your “seed”, which is the Messiah] All kings of course, need a kingdom. Further, Yehovah clearly promised Judah that a king would come from his line to rule over all of Israel [Genesis 49:8-10]. Thus, if Israel accepted Yehovah’s proposal given at Mount Sinai, Yehovah’s promised kingdom program would be initiated. Yehovah’s plan to fix everything, to restore the Garden of Eden, to heal the cosmos, was no longer a mere concept. At Sinai, Yehovah’s promise to undo the damage done in the Garden when Adam rebelled against Him, began to take form. 

YEHOVAH SO LOVED THE WORLD

THAT HE CHOSE ISRAEL 

Yehovah invited Israel to become a special kingdom, distinct from all the nations of the world. Does that mean that Gentiles are less valuable in the eyes of Yehovah that Israel? Absolutely not! As the apostle Peter says: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right” (Acts 34-35). The reason Yehovah chose Israel was to have them serve as “a kingdom of priests and be a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). A priest acts as a mediator between God and man. Israel was being called to function as a people uniquely devoted to Yehovah, who would introduce Him to nations of the world.

Note: They were not to be a people unto themselves, enjoying their special relationship to Yehovah and paying no attention to the nations of the world. Rather, they were to represent Yehovah to the nations of the world and attempt to bring them to Him.

This calling was a clear reiteration of what Yehovah stated previously to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation… and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” [Genesis 12:2-3]. Yehovah’s purpose from the very beginning was to bless, “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” [Revelation 5:9]. The reason Yehovah called Israel and made them a special nation is because He loves every nation!

Yehovah so loved the world that He chose Israel. They were called to SERVE as a priestly nation, as Yehovah’s special ambassador’s and representatives. When you read the New Testament you will notice that this call to be a “kingdom of priests,” is a phrase used by the apostle John to refer to all believers, both Jew and Gentile. In the book of Revelation, we are told that Jesus, “has made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.

Note: Peter 2:5: You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah.

Verse 9: … you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him – Yehovah, who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:

Yehovah first called Israel to be a unique people who would function in a priestly role for Him. Today, this calling remains for all who have been grafted into the true “Israel of God” [Romans 11:11-20; Galatians 6:15-16] If you are a disciple of Jesus the Messiah, then, like Israel, you have been called as Yehovah’s representative, His witness, and His ambassador’s of blessing to the world.

YOUR POSITION IN THE MESSIAH

In John 14, Jesus tells us it is time for us to know our heavenly position in him. He explained to the disciples, “Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in my Father; and you are in me, and I in you” (John 14:29-20). This verse is one of my favorites! We are now living in “that day” Jesus speaks of. In short, we are to understand our heavenly position in our Messiah.

Most of us do know our position in the Messiah; that we are seated with him in the heavenly places; but only metaphorically. We don’t know it in experience. What do I mean by this expression, “our position in our Messiah”?

Very simply: Position is “where one is placed, where one is.” Yehovah our God and Father has placed us where we are, which is in the Messiah. In turn, the Messiah is in and with the Father, seated at His right hand. Therefore, if we are in the Messiah, we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we are sitting in the presence of Yehovah, the Almighty God. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in the heavenly places in the Messiah Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

The moment you place your trust in Yehovah's anointed one, the Messiah, and follow up in obedience, and are baptised, and die to self, you’re taken into him by faith. You become a new creation in him, as a part of the New Humanity that he - Jesus is the beginning of, and the Federal head. Yehovah acknowledges you in His son, and as one of His sons seats you with His son in the heavenlies. This is not merely some theological point, but a factual position.

So now, as you surrender your will to Yehovah, you are able to claim all the spiritual blessings that come with the position He has placed you. Of course, being “in the Messiah” doesn’t mean you leave this earth. You can’t manufacture some emotion or feeling that takes you up into the heavenlies. No, heaven has come down to you, through the power of the Spirit of God. The Messiah the son, and Yehovah the Father come to indwell you and made their abode there: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

Note: Jesus says, if you love him you will keep his word and if you do that then his Father - Yehovah will love you, and both he and Yehovah will come to you, and indwell you through the spirit of Yehovah.

John 14:10-11: Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me...

John 3:33-34: The one who has received his - Jesus testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God sent continues to speak the words of God, for He continues to give to him the spirit without measure.

Leave your sins and worldly pursuits behind and “lay aside every fleshly weight that so easily besets you.” Go inside and take your position in the Messiah. Yehovah, our God and Father has called you to enter into the joy of your deliverance and acceptance. So, when you wake up tomorrow, shout, “Hallelujah - Praise Yehovah! for I’m accepted by Him and my heart abounds with thanksgiving and joy.”

Sunday, October 25, 2020

WHAT "FULFILL THE LAW" MEANT IN ITS JEWISH CONTEXT

What did Jesus mean when he said that he “came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it”? (Matthew 5:17)

The key is that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is a rabbinic idiom. It is found several other places in the New Testament and in Jewish sayings too. Hearing it in context will shed light on its true meaning.

To fulfil the Torah

The translation of “to fulfill” is lekayem in Hebrew (le-KAI-yem), which means to uphold or establish, as well as to fulfill, complete or accomplish. David Bivin has pointed out that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is often used as an idiom to mean to properly interpret the Torah so that people can obey it as God really intends.

The word “abolish” was likely either levatel, to nullify, or (la’akor), to uproot, which meant to undermine the Torah by misinterpreting it. For example, the law against adultery could be interpreted as only about cheating on one’s spouse, but not about pornography. When Jesus declared that lust also was a violation of the commandment, he was clarifying the true intent of that law, so in rabbinic parlance he was “fulfilling the Law.”

Fulfilling the Law as Obedience

The phrase “fulfill the Law” has another sense, which is to carry out a law – to actually do what it says. In Jewish sayings from near Jesus’ time, we see many examples of this second usage as well:

These two meanings of “fulfill” shed light on Jesus’ words on in Matthew 5:19:

…Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Here the two actions of “practicing” and “teaching others to do the same” are an exact parallel to the two idiomatic senses of “fulfill.” In contrast, the words “break” and “teach others to break” are the idiomatic senses of “abolish.”With this in mind, you can see that Matthew 5:19 parallels and expands on Jesus’ words about fulfilling and abolishing the Torah in Matthew 5:17.

By understanding this idiom we see that Jesus was emphatically stating that his intention was to explain God’s Word and live it out perfectly, not to undermine or destroy it.

Why was Jesus emphasizing this point? Most likely because the Jewish religious leaders had accused him of undermining the Torah in his preaching. Jesus was responding that he was not misinterpreting God’s law, but bringing it to its best understanding.

Furthermore, if any of his disciples twisted or misinterpreted its least command, they would be considered “least” in his kingdom. Jesus’s entire ministry as the Messiah was devoted to getting to the heart of God’s Torah through what he said and how he lived.

Notice that on at least one occasion, Jesus leveled this same charge against the Pharisees. He accused them of nullifying the law to honor one’s mother and father by saying that possessions declared corban (dedicated to God) could not be released to support one’s elderly parents (Mark 7:11–12).

Certainly Jesus fulfilled the law by obeying it perfectly. But as the Messiah, he also “fulfilled” it by clarifying its meaning and enlightening people about how God truly wanted them to live.

What Paul says about fulfilling the Law

In the past, the idea that “the Messiah brought the Law to an end by fulfilling it” has been the traditional rationale of why Christians are not obligated to keep the laws of the Old Testament.

We overlook the fact that in Acts 15, the early church declared that Gentiles were not obligated to convert to Judaism by being circumcised and taking on the covenant of Torah that was given to Israel.

Instead they were told that they must simply observe the three most basic laws against idolatry, sexual immorality and murder, the minimal observance required of Gentile God-fearers.1

According to Acts, the reason Christians have not been required to observe the Torah was not because it has ended, but because we are Gentiles (at least most of us).

Paul, of course, was zealous in saying that Gentiles were not required to observe the Torah when some insisted they become circumcised and take on other observances. He himself still observed the Torah, and proved it to James when asked to do so in Acts 21:24-26. Yet he still maintained that Gentiles were saved apart from observing it.

Paul supported this idea by pointing out that the Gentiles were being filled with the Holy Spirit when they first believed in the Messiah, not after they had become Torah observant (Galatians 3:2-5).

He also pointed out that Abraham did not observe the laws of the Torah that were given 400 years later, but was justified because of his faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)2 He concluded that all who believe are “sons of Abraham” even though this very term was usually reserved for circumcised Jews.

Paul’s use of “Fulfill the Law”

An important part of this discussion is that Christians widely misunderstand the word “Torah,” which we translate as “law.” We associate it with burdensome regulations and legal courts. In the Jewish mind, the main sense of “Torah” is teaching, guidance and instruction, rather than legal regulation. Notice; a torah of hesed, “a teaching of kindness” is on the tongue of the Proverbs 31, woman (Proverbs 31:26).Why would torah be translated as law? Because when God instructs his people how to live, he does it with great authority. His torah demands obedience, so the word takes on the sense of “law.” But in Jewish parlance, torah has a very positive sense, that our loving Creator would teach us how to live. It was a joy and privilege to teach others how to live life by God’s instructions. This was the goal of every rabbi, including the Messiah Jesus.

The question then becomes, if the Torah is God’s loving instructions for how to live, why would Gentiles be excluded from its wonderful truths?Surprisingly, in both Romans and Galatians, after Paul has spent a lot of time arguing against their need to observe the Torah, he actually answers this question by explaining how they can “fulfill the Law.” He says:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

If Paul is using first idiomatic sense of “fulfill the Torah”, he is saying that love is the supreme interpretation of the Torah; the ultimate summation of everything that God has taught in the Scriptures.

Paul was reiterating Jesus’ key teaching about loving God and neighbor that says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). The two laws about love are not just more important than the rest, they are actually the grand summation of it all.

About a century later, Rabbi Akiva put it this way: “Love your neighbor as yourself; this is the very essence (klal gadol) of the Torah.” Love is the overriding principle that shapes how all laws should be obeyed.

Love as fulfilling the Torah

Paul also seems to be using the second idiomatic sense of “fulfill the Torah” (as obedience; to say that loving your neighbor is actually the living out of the Torah. When we love our neighbor, it is as if we have done everything God has asked of us. A Jewish saying from around that time has a similar style:

If one is honest in his business dealings and people esteem him, it is accounted to him as though he had fulfilled the whole Torah.

The point of the saying above is that a person who is honest and praiseworthy in all his dealings with others has truly hit God’s goal for how he should live. He didn’t cancel the Law, he did it to the utmost!

Similarly, Paul is saying that when we love our neighbor, we have truly achieved the goal of all the commandments. So instead of saying that the Gentiles are without the law altogether, he says that they are doing everything it requires when they obey the “Law of the Messiah,” which is to love one another. (Mark 12:28-34)

For him, the command to love is the great equalizer between the Jew who observes the Torah, and Gentile who does not, but who both believe in the Messiah.

Paul says: “For in the Messiah Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

Is the Messiah the end of the Law?

Paul tells us in Romans 10:4 that the “telos” of the law is the Messiah, which has been translated “the Messiah is the end of the law”. Much debate has occurred over this line. However, few have noticed the surprising way that "telos" is used elsewhere in the New Testament.

Believe it or not, we find two other places where the verb form of "teleos" (to end, complete) is used together with "nomos"(law) in the sense of in the sense of keeping or fulfilling (obeying) it!

Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps (teleo) the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. (Romans 2:27)

If you really fulfill (teleo) the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (James 2:8)

Certainly in these two passages, the sense of teleo is not “terminate, bring to an end.”

Let’s also examine the other verb that is used in a similar context, pleroo (“to fulfill,” in the sense of filling up). This is what is used in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill (pleroo) them.”

Note how the verb pleroo is used in these other passages:

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling (pleroo) of the law. (Romans 13:10)

For the whole law is fulfilled (pleroo) in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Like teleo, the sense of pleroo here is that of upholding the Torah and living it out, rather than seeking its termination.

The Messiah is the Goal of the Torah

So, how should we read Romans 10:4? In light of the rest of Paul’s writing, I think it’s wise to take a two-handed approach. Scholars point out that while "telos" can mean “end,” it can also mean “goal” or “culmination.” They suggest that Paul’s wording in Romans 10:4 is deliberately vague, conveying two ideas at once. The Messiah  is both the goal and the end of the Law, they conclude. The Messiah is the climactic goal of the Torah, the living embodiment of the holiness and compassion toward which God was aiming. Jesus is the “word made flesh.” He is the only one who has ever perfectly lived out the Torah, thus becoming the only perfect man who has ever lived.

If the Torah is God’s teaching for how to live as his people, in what sense could it end? It doesn’t. But, as Christians, we believe that Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserve for our inability to keep God’s commands. As such, he brought the law to the end of its ability to separate us from God because of our sin. For that we rejoice!

Second, God’s policy for centuries had been to separate Israel from the influence of its pagan neighbors. He did this so that he could train his people properly, like a parent teaching a child (Galatians 3:24). In the Messiah, God gave a new command that went in the opposite direction. Instead of maintaining their distance, Jesus’ followers were to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

The instant Peter visited the first Gentile, the policy of separation collided with the new policy of outreach. According to Jewish law, Peter could not accept Cornelius’s hospitality because Gentiles were “unclean.” But God had given him a vision in which unclean animals were declared “clean.” (Acts 10:9-16)

With the guidance of the Spirit, the church ruled in Acts 15 that Gentile believers did not need to enter into the covenant that was given on Mount Sinai. The “dividing wall of hostility” that the Torah put up to keep the Gentiles away was brought to an end (Ephesians 2:14).

What about God’s Covenant with Israel?

The Torah also contains God’s covenant with Israel. Did Jesus bring this covenant to an end? Absolutely not, Paul exclaims! Just look at Romans 11:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! …As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:1, 28-29

Paul mourns deeply for his Jewish brothers who have been alienated from God’s promises, and he longs for them to believe in their Messiah. He pictures Israel, the family of Abraham, as an olive tree that Gentiles have been grafted into. Some of Israel’s branches have been cut off, but he’s is optimistic that they can be grafted back in again. In no way does Paul think of God’s covenant with Israel as nullified.

In Conclusion

As Gentiles, Christians are not obligated to keep the Mosaic covenant. It was given to Israel, not to the world. We are saved by faith in the Messiah because of his atoning death, not by keeping a covenant we were never given.

How then are we to live? Paul and the other New Testament writers spend most of their letters discussing this very subject. In Acts 15:21, the Jerusalem Council points out that that Gentile believers will hear Moses preached every weekend in the synagogue. Certainly they will learn how to live from hearing the Torah preached.

The Apostles knew that we can discover great wisdom within the Torah because Christ himself was the goal toward which it was aiming. This is our goal too; to be filled with the love and goodness of our lord and Messiah, Jesus.

~~~~~

Note: The three commandments against idolatry, sexual immorality and murder were considered the three most heinous sins, and also sins that Gentiles were particularly prone to commit. The requirements for Gentiles in Acts 15 are stated plainly.

A GOOD EY OR A BAD EYE? A CRITICAL IDIOM

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

Over the years, these mysterious words of Jesus have invited all kinds of speculation. But we can crack Jesus’ cryptic saying about the “eye” by hearing it within its Hebraic context, and grasping the figures of speech that Jesus was employing.

Jesus was most likely comparing the idea of having a “good eye” with having a “bad eye,” two idioms that have been a part of the Hebrew language from biblical times until today.

Having a “good eye” (ayin tovah) is to look out for the needs of others and be generous in giving to the poor. To have a “bad eye” (ayin ra’ah) is to be greedy and self-centered, blind to the needs of those around you.

You might be surprised at this, but these same idioms appear elsewhere in the Scriptures where they clearly refer to generosity or stinginess. (See Matthew 20:15; Proverbs 22:5, 28:22) The subject of money is also prominent in surrounding passages in this sermon.

Why Your “Eye” is Critical

Why is a person’s “eye” toward others so critical to Jesus? Because our relationship with money reveals our relationship with God. To have a “bad eye” is to cling to the little that you have, resenting those with more and refusing to help those with less.

Your attitude shows you think that God isn't generous, that He is either unwilling or unable to care for you. It also reveals how disconnected you are from the struggles of others. No wonder Jesus says that life becomes dark indeed when you’ve cut yourself off from both God and those around you.

On the other hand, if you’re radically convinced of God’s caring presence in your life, you’re also confident that God will provide for your needs, as you wal in faith obedience before Him. Not just materially, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

You may not be wealthy by the world’s standards, but you have a rock-solid understanding that what you have is enough, that ultimately your own situation will be secure. The fruit is a generous attitude, a “good eye” toward others. How can your life not brighten when you think this way?

Having a “good eye” or a “bad eye” also points toward a more fundamental issue; what is your primary motivation? Is your driving concern your own comfort in life, or do you look beyond yourself?

Ever more our Christian culture reinforces our self-centeredness, as books and sermons increasingly aim to appeal to our “felt needs.” After steady diet of self-therapy, however, we simply won’t tolerate a sermon that points out sin or pushes us to care about others. All we want to hear about is, “What’s in it for me?”

What the Torah Taught

Many of us are glad to skip past the Old Testament’s legal codes. Its laws about unclean foods and ritual impurity strike us as strange and distasteful. But these rules likely didn’t surprise the Israelites, because sacrifice and food laws were common among Israel’s neighbors.

What would have shocked Moses’ first listeners were God’s lengthy list of commands for caring for the vulnerable. Loans to the needy were to be without interest, and if they couldn’t be repaid in seven years, they were to be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-3).Slaves and even animals were released from labor for one day of the week, making their need for rest equal to their owner’s. If hard times forced a farmer to sell his land, it was to be returned in the year of Jubilee, which took place every fifty years (Leviticus 25:28).

In contrast, the gods of Israel’s neighbors were concerned only with sacrifices and ceremonies. They were not terribly moral, and often were fickle and cruel. The God of Israel was unique in tying worship of him with compassion for others. When his people began to believe that rituals were all he required, God sent prophets to remind them that justice to the poor was his greatest concern. This was the heart of Jesus’ teaching too!

Today, people wonder what difference it makes that Jesus was Jewish. What about his culture should affect us here and now? The rituals and food laws of Israel were quite similar to those of other nations. The distinctive feature of the Torah was its great concern for society’s vulnerable. When Jesus came along, he emphasized the very same thing!

The more we read Jesus’ words in their Hebraic setting, the more we discover that to follow Jesus as his first Jewish disciples did, we need to learn to have a very “good eye.”

~~~~~

Note: Having an ayin ra’ah, a “bad eye,” a self-centered attitude, should not be confused with “the evil eye” (ayin ha’rah)—a superstition that a person can cast a spell through an envious gaze.

WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATIN WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING


One of the most difficult lines in the New Testament is Paul’s command that we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). Did he really mean that we should constantly shudder in fear of God’s judgment?

I think Paul has a completely different idea in mind here. Let’s take a closer look.

First of all, “fear” in the Bible has a wider range of meaning than in English, often encompassing positive ideas like respect and awe. I’ve written about this before. In Hebrew, “Fear” can even describe how the emotion translates into action. “Fear” can mean refer to worship, or to obedience that comes from holding someone in great respect.*

Reverent Obedience?

Paul uses this exact same phrase, "phobos kai tromos" (fear and trembling) to mean “reverent obedience” elsewhere.

In 2 Corinthians 7:15 Paul describes how impressed Titus was when he visited the Corinthians:

“And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with phobos kai tromos - fear and trembling.”

In Ephesians 6:5 Paul says:

“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with "phobos kai tromos" - fear and trembling, in the sincerity of heart, as to Messiah.”

Theoretically you could read this passage as about being terrified, but that seems much less likely than it being about having great respect, which will lead to obedience.

Let’s look again at Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed; not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence; continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

The passage starts out by Paul praising the congregation for how obedient they were in his presence. Then, Paul exhorts the Philippians to do even more in his absence, because God is doing a “good work in you.” Reading "phobos kai tromos" as about reverent awe fits better here than as being terrified of judgment, which is not on Paul’s mind otherwise in this very positive context.

Of course, this is not to say that the New Testament doesn’t remind us to fear God’s judgment elsewhere. (Revelation 14:7, etc.) It’s just not likely Paul’s intent in Philippians 2:12.

Fear and Trembling

Still, you might ask why Paul uses the word “trembling.” Most likely this whole phrase, “fear and trembling” is a hendiadys, a type of idiom that especially common in Hebrew. Two words are linked by “and” in order to modify one of them, usually for intensification. We use them in English too. Here are a few examples:

I’m sick and tired of my job. (= very tired)
I’ll do it when I’m good and ready. (= very ready)
It’s nice and warm in your house. (= nicely warm)

Similarly, “fear and trembling” isn’t likely about being afraid and also shaking. It simply means to have “great fear,” which can be either positive (awe) or negative (fright, dread). Likely Paul is using it quite positively.

If you’re not convinced of how positive “fear and trembling” can be, look at how a similar phrase is used in Jeremiah 33:9.

Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it. (NIV)

The JPS Tanakh makes it even clearer, saying,

They will thrill and quiver because of all the good fortune and all the prosperity that I provide for her.

What a wonderful thought, to be quivering with spine-tingling awe at what God has done!

Note: The JPS (Jewish Publication Society) Tanakh seems to be far more aware of the subtleties of the Hebrew language than other translations, and doesn’t hesitate to express nuances of meaning in English.

Written by Lois Tverberg and edited by Bruce Lyon

WHY WAS THE RESURRECTION ON "THE THIRD DAY"?

Every year during Holy Week, Christians scratch their heads over questions about Jesus’ being raised “on the third day.” We look at our calendars and see that Sunday comes only two days after Friday.

A lot of folks have proposed schemes to make the timing make more sense. These create problems, however, with reading the gospel accounts and with what is known from Jewish practice of the Second Temple Period.

One neglected cultural detail suggests a simpler answer to this issue. Throughout the Bible, Jews counted time this way:

– Today

– Tomorrow

– Third day


What they call the “third day” we would call “the day after tomorrow.” It sounds surprising, but here are a couple examples:

When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. (Leviticus 19:5-6)

Yehovah said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

The idea is not to count 24-hour time spans but to name successive days, including the day of an announcement, which was understood as the “first day.” Seen in this light, if Jesus died and was buried on Friday, it would be completely logical that Sunday would be seen as the “third day.”

Of course this does not solve all issues between the Gospel accounts, which need to be addressed elsewhere. But it accords with what they report about his being laid in the tomb right before the Sabbath (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54) (1). It also affirms the tradition of observing “Good Friday” as the day of Jesus’ death, rather than “Good Thursday” or “Good Wednesday.”

Why was the “Third Day” so Significant?

Understanding how the Jews counted days helps solve one mystery for our logical, Greek-thinking brains. But another insight comes from looking at Jesus’ words about “the third day” more Hebraically. This is actually far more important.

In several places we hear Jesus talk about his death, but then how he’d be raised on “the third day.” He makes this prediction over and over. Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide thinks that he did so because of a prophetic promise that Hosea had made centuries earlier:

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)


Hosea had rebuked the people of Israel for their sins, and they knew they were suffering from God’s punishment. But then the prophet invited them to return to the Lord, issuing a gracious promise that God’s forgiveness would soon come. Today might be a terrible day of his anger, but tomorrow would be better, and in not too long, life would seemingly begin again. What wonderful assurance that even when God was angry, he desires to forgive.

When the rabbis looked back on the Scriptures in light of Hosea’s words, they noticed several places where the “third day” was when redemption came.

The rabbis were not being woodenly literalistic in counting up days. They were not developing codes and prediction schemes. They were saying that scripturally, God’s forgiveness and redemption comes on “the third day.”

Lapide writes that in Jewish thought,

“On the third day” has nothing to do with the date or the counting of time but contains for ears which are educated biblically a clear reference to God’s mercy and grace which is revealed after two days of affliction and death by way of redemption.(2)

It made perfect sense to Jesus’ first Jewish followers that Christ would be raised to life “on the third day.”

(1) There is a question about John 19:14, but the “Day of Preparation” was a standard reference to Friday in many first-century Jewish documents. Besides Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42 and Luke 23:54, you also find it in Josephus Ant. 16.6.2 §§163-64, Didache 8:1 and elsewhere. Personally I agree with the NIV that John 19:14 is likely a reference to the Friday of Passover week. Then all four gospels agree on the dating of Jesus’ death.

(2) Genesis Rabbah 56. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis, Fortress: 1982), 91-93. Regarding Jonah who was “three days and three nights” in the fish — in the rabbinic discussion about “on the third day he will raise us up,” (Hosea 6:2) the Scripture passages that it sees as connected include either “on the third day” or “after three days,” and they include Jonah, saying that God’s rescue came “on the third day of Jonah.” (The connection was based on including the words “three” and “days,” not that an exact quote was made.)

Written by Lois Tverberg and edited by Bruce Lyon