Monday, October 29, 2012

righteousness through faith

Is our faith being stolen or redirected today by the schemes of the devil?  The “faith movement” puts forth a ‘faith’ that is supposed to produce power, prestige, and prosperity etc. On the other side of the coin, within Messianic circles, one is often led to dependence on so much head knowledge and a reliance on performance, that the ‘simple faith’ seems no longer necessary.   

Hence, what or who are we to have faith in, and why?
In Philippians 3:9 Paul makes the following observation “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which is from Elohim by faith”… (emphasis added), and then again in Romans 3:21-22: “But now the righteousness of Elohim apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of Elohim, through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, to all and in all who believe” (emphasis added). Many will argue that faith has many applications, but let us start with this one ‘ingredient’ - “YHVH’s righteousness.”

As far as I understand, one of the purposes of “faith in Messiah Yeshua” is to bring us to, and transform us into the righteousness of Elohim.  As mentioned in previous letters, righteousness is made visible as the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  This is the new nature that we received when we were immersed into Yeshua’s death, and raised with Him to newness of life.  This spiritual reality is ours in the inner man, but now we must present the components of our soul, especially our mind, as instruments/tools/agents or even, literally, weapons of this righteousness. The knowledge of the fact that we have died and now have a new type of existence can only come by faith in the Son of Elohim, Who died for us and rose again on our behalf. Additionally, Yeshua’s death abolished sin once and for all, being the ultimate sacrifice and atonement.  This fact enables us to consider ourselves also dead to sin but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yeshua, although we can only do so by and through faith (ref. Roman 6:8-11).

In the Torah and the Prophets YHVH demonstrated His righteousness and showed His faithfulness by fulfilling the requirements of the laws that govern redemption, thus proving that He is just and the justifier of everyone who has faith in Yeshua (ref. Rom. 3:26).  Justification does not mean much if we do not understand that it stems from the Father’s righteousness and ends, or culminates, with that same righteousness in us through the indwelling presence of His Son.  If we do not appropriate “righteousness” by faith in what He accomplished by Yeshua’s death, we are neither justified nor sanctified.  This is why we must be watchful, making sure that we are living in a “faith” that not only believes, but that also knows that “Yeshua the Messiah is in us” (ref 2 Cor. 13:5), and that He is the righteousness of Elohim.  Having received Messiah Yeshua is not sufficient; He must also be revealed in our relationships with one another.

Peter delivers a dire warning to those who have come into this righteousness through faith, but have been led astray by the lust of the flesh, that is, by the cares and riches of this world, or by religious philosophies that teach righteousness through self effort:   “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Master and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, they are again entangled in them [the lusts]  and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).  “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,  and have tasted the good word of Elohim and the powers of the age to come,  if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of Elohim, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).  Anything that is not of faith is “sin,” thus we must come to “rest” in Elohim’s righteousness.  The stories of our Hebrew ancestors are used as an example of failing to enter the “rest” because of unbelief, which is tantamount to disobedience (ref. Hebrews 4:11-12).

However, I do not want to end this letter with a ‘harsh’ exhortation, but with hope in a Father “who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Messiah” (Ephesians 2:4-7). At the same time we cannot neglect to “fight the good fight of faith, [and] lay hold on eternal life, to which we/you were also called” (1 Timothy 6:12); “for we/you are all sons of Elohim through faith in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 3:26).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

vote or no vote

I want to thank all of you who responded to the previous letter.  It really showed me how many are longing to hear some “good news,” even though what I am about to write this week does not fall under the same category, as it is just some information, so that we are not unaware of present situation here in the Middle East.  Last year when some were predicting war by the end of the year, I wrote apropos that notion, and reasoned why it was not yet in the interest of the surrounding nations to go to war against Israel.  Well, here goes again – another idea, another possibility, this time for the UN vote in September about a Palestinian homeland. Once again, simple logic tells us as to why there will be no such vote in the UN in September 2011.  I could be wrong, but after reading this past weekend what Fatah’s Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian “president,” said, as well as hearing other sources, I became very doubtful about the likelihood of this vote.

First of all, Abbas said that he would rather negotiate a peace treaty with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, than go for a UN vote. Why the sudden change of mind?   It turns out that some of the Latin American countries, several of which agreed sometime ago vehemently for the expedient creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, realized that should there be a vote under the present situation, with no agreed borders, it would create a precedent that would backfire on their own border disputes with their neighbors, and thus they too would be subject to a possible unilateral UN vote regarding their respective situations.  

It does not take too much analysis to explain why the PA wants to negotiate a settlement with Israel, rather than depend on a UN vote.  They just might not have enough votes to determine country boundaries, and that would mean that their present status in the UN could be jeopardized.  In case some of you don’t know about their unique status/membership within the United Nations, here is some information from the “Jewish Virtual Library”: 
  On July 7, 1998, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians, giving them a unique status as a non-voting member of the 185 member Assembly. The Arab states originally submitted a resolution to upgrade the Palestinians' status in December, but it did not come to a vote for more than six months. The vote in favor was overwhelming, 124 in favor and 4 against with 10 abstentions. The countries opposing the resolution were Israel, the United States, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
This is the latest step in the Palestinians' advancement at the U.N. In 1974, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was granted observer status, enabling it to maintain an office in New York but without all of the privileges that come with being a member. In 1988, the PLO's status was upgraded when the General Assembly designated the PLO as “Palestine.”
With the new designation, Palestinian representatives can raise the issue of the peace process in the General Assembly, cosponsor draft resolutions on Middle East peace and have the right of reply. They still will not have voting power or be allowed to put forward candidates for U.N. committees such as the Security Council.
Hence the Palestinians are in essence recognized as a state, albeit without defined borders. So will there be a vote or not in September, especially as the Americans and now also some of the European states are against such a move? Alternately, will Israel continue along the path of its generosity in face of the “plight” of the Palestinians and their “right to self determination”?  If the answer is “yes,” how can a true blooded Islamic nationalist who hates the very thought of there even being an Israel, accept gratuity from the hand of the enemy, especially after the latter’s leader has just declared to the world that the said land is the ancient homeland (of the ‘enemy’) which, in the words of this leader (Netanyahu), “we would be willing to give up, as painful as it may be, in order for it to become part of a Palestinian state”?
Many ask if war is unavoidable in our region. I tend to agree, but at the same time I suggest that it will not break out until the rest of the dictators in the surrounding nations are removed, and Turkey regains its control over its former empire (the Ottoman Empire), which was an Islamic Caliphate before the western nations divided it up after World War I.  Just as an imminent example, even as I am writing this, the Turks are poised to invade a section of Syria in order to secure a buffer zone for the Syrian nationals who are fleeing the brutal massacres by their own army in response to their protest against Bashar Assad’s regime.