Monday, July 30, 2012

Dying of Yeshua

As I continue from last week’s letter, I want to reiterate the importance of knowing the judicial aspects of justification and redemption.  Satan’s utter defeat at the death of Yeshua and our identity with that death is the key to victory and to spiritual maturity. 

Paul, using himself as an example of the conflict which rages with Satan and the powers of darkness, writes:   “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.   Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (Romans 7:19-20 emphasis added).  How could the apostle state so categorically, that “it is no longer I”?  Was this some kind of an excuse, so as to avoid taking responsibility for dealing with his problems?  Certainly not! Paul believed beyond a shadow of doubt in what happened to his “old self” just as he taught in the following:  "I have been crucified with Messiah; it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20), and “For I/you died, and my/your life is hidden with Messiah in Elohim…” (Colossians 3:3).  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into His death? (Romans 6:2-3). “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yeshua our Lord (Romans 6:11).

Many believers find themselves in a quandary, or worse, about the “sin that dwells within.”  The key to understanding “sin” is hidden in the word “dwells.” Inanimate objects do not inhabit a room, a house, or for that matter a person. Thus sin must be a living entity. If that is the case, then we can only approach sin according to YHVH’s definition.  Paul’s revelation insight and approach to dealing with sin was based upon his understanding of the Torah of Moses. Although he had stated that we are no longer “under law” (ref. Galatians 5:18) he did not say that we were lawless either. In view of all the above quoted scriptures, one must read the following carefully:  “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of Elohim according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members [flesh], warring against the law [law of Elohim in my mind] of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members [flesh].  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank Elohim -- through Messiah Yeshua our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of Elohim, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25 emphases added).  This demonstrates the fact that in every believer at least two laws are at work:  The law of Elohim in the mind of the inner man, and the law of sin in the flesh.

Let us view the above scriptural references in a judicial light, as a permanent reality for all those who believe, that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all…  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 16), especially ourselves.  Only by the obedience of faith can we enter into such certainty of total victory.  But let’s see how this is accomplished on a day to day basis.  Paul declared: “I thank Elohim -- through Yeshua our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of Elohim…” (Romans 7:25).  What is this law of Elohim that works through Yeshua?

We hear it expressed that we are to “die daily,” but we are unable to accomplish that without an understanding of these judicial principles of redemption.  Paul coined that little phrase (“die daily”) which is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:31, but did not explain it fully until he wrote the second letter to the believers of Corinth.  He starts off by explaining to the redeemed that they have a “treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power is not from them” (2 Corinthians 4:7) (i.e. the message of the cross/dying of Yeshua…which is the power of Elohim; ref. last week’s letter).  The “dying of Yeshua” must be kept at the forefront of our faith, or the life of Yeshua will have no effect in our inner being and outward reality.  Paul further explains:  “…always carrying about in the body the dying of Yeshua, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Yeshua’s sake, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11 emphasis added).  

The above quote is a very radical statement. What the apostle is actually saying is that the dying of Yeshua is a present tense reality for the believer.  As we embrace this truth/law we are in essence “dying daily” to the flesh and at the same time rendering the power of Satan of no effect.  The demonic spirits know what the dying and death of the Messiah means judicially.  Remember, the principalities and powers represent the spirits of darkness and its nature.  However, when we believe and apply the truth of the gospel, the life and light of Yeshua will be made manifest in and through our “mortal bodies.”  So what happens to the darkness when the lights are turned on?  “For it is Elohim who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Elohim  in the face of Yeshua the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer (being the manifested nature of the Word), he is like a man observing his  face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:23-24 emphasis added).   Since we have died and are now looking into the mirror, who should we actually see?  We should be seeing a new creation being, a “son of Elohim” who looks just like his heavenly Father. We should be looking into the face of Yeshua, but the problem arises when we walk away from His image and do not remember what we look like.  Yeshua is our righteousness (the fruit of the Spirit), thus we too have the same image.   But in order to be the manifestation of Elohim’s righteousness in Yeshua, we have to adhere to and practice obedience to the law of Elohim called “the dying of Yeshua.”  Only in this way, that is - by recognizing and taking hold of this reality and living it out, will the life and nature of Messiah mature in us unto victory over the forces of darkness, the flesh and the “law of sin and death.”  “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12).  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

When we think of or consider any of the “powers” that are at work in nature, we find that each of them is harnessed and kept under control by laws.  If this is true in YHVH's creation, then it would also hold true regarding His "power” (“the power of Elohim”).  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of Elohim” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  What is the “message of the cross” and why is it defined as “the power of Elohim”?  In order to understand what took place two thousand years ago, when Yeshua was on the execution stake, we must have a judicial or legal perspective.  

As mentioned above, all power (including Elohim’s) is governed by laws, so as we examine the laws that are relevant to Yeshua’s death, we will begin to gain a clearer understanding of spiritual dynamics.  This will also enable us to comprehend what our Heavenly Father accomplished in and through His Son’s death and how it relates to us in our daily conflicts with another “power” -  “the power of Satan” (ref. Acts 26:18). It says about the latter that he is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).  Obviously we are in daily contact with the “air” and thus, even as believers, we are susceptible to the influence of this spiritual power of disobedience that can cause us to participate with the nature of darkness and its consequential laws of “sin and death.”  However, this need not be our constant inevitable reality, and experience. We can overcome and have victory, that is if we are aware of the laws that are governing our redemption and justification through the death of our Kinsman Redeemer, as in actuality YHVH “having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [Yeshua’s death](Colossians 2:15).  

Satan was determined to tempt Yeshua, and tried to do so in many ways, but was defeated each and every time.  Threatened by Yeshua’s righteousness, he thought that the next best thing would be to come up with a plan, which would result in the death of the Son of Elohim.  However, this was like the proverbial carrot that the Father placed in front of Satan and all the wicked principalities, in order to round up and herd them into the great spiritual courtroom over Jerusalem.  What took place in that unseen court of law at Pesach two thousand years ago is extremely important for us to apprehend.  When we become aware of these “laws”, it enables us to gain freedom from the “sin that dwells in me” (ref. Romans 7:20), and also from the external sources, which originate with the “prince of the power of the air” and infiltrate our thought life. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah” (2nd  Corinthians 10:4-5).  

As mentioned above, these spiritual powers were disarmed and defeated when Yeshua died.  Satan walked out of that court room empty handed.  Judicially he had no more rights over Man.  In what way did the Father, through Yeshua’s death, separate Man from the dominion of “darkness”?   This is how Paul explains it:  “For the love of Messiah compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” (2nd Corinthians 5:14-16 emphases added).   The Apostle uses here a judicial term (“judge”) in order to define a “spiritual law” that became operative when Yeshua died.  Yeshua’s death stripped Satan of his power and made of non effect the laws of “sin and death” over humanity.  Mankind was now rendered dead, and thus useless in perpetuating the kingdom of darkness.

All too often we think in religious terms of “doctrines,” but fail to view certain parts of Scripture as being judicial and statutory realities. Satan, and the principalities under his dominion, would not have crucified the Lord of glory had they known the wisdom of Elohim (ref. 1st Cor. 2: 7-8). But now they do know and understand those laws of YHVH and the “message of the cross.”  

Thus, if we are to have daily victories and live as over-comers, we too must know what Satan knows about the “power of Elohim.”  The question is how do we put into practice this knowledge that is now available to us, in order to mature into the full stature of the “Son of Elohim” (ref. Ephesians 4:13)?   

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of Elohim abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14).   To be continued.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Near and Far

Shalom Fellow Israelite,

Recently we have been reading the book of Esther, where toward the end, when the story comes to its satisfactory conclusion, it says:  "And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus,  to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor" (Esther 9:20-22 emphasis added).

Aside from the physical-geographical connotation, the terms "near" and "far" have, of course, spiritual, generational, and genetic implications. In Scripture there are significant inclusions of the ones who are far off with those who are near.  When Moses sums up the historic landmarks of the wilderness journey, he says the following regarding the covenant that YHVH made with His people:  "Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.  All of you stand today before YHVH your Elohim: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel,  your little ones and your wives…that you may enter into covenant with YHVH your Elohim, and into His oath, which YHVH your Elohim makes with you today,  that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be Elohim to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before YHVH our Elohim, as well as with him who is not here with us today" (Deuteronomy 29:9-15 emphasis added).  
When Daniel "understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of YHVH  through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.  Then [he] set [his] face toward YHVH Elohim to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes," and repented for his people saying, among other things: "O YHVH, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day -- to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You"  (Daniel 9:2-3, 7 emphasis added).

"Far" or "far off" in the above contexts seem to denote those who are not necessarily cut off, or have been removed. Rather, although further away in space, time, or ideology, they are still links of the one chain. However, receiving and accepting these ones who have been far off, is at times contrary to natural human inclinations. And so we hear what the inhabitants of Jerusalem had to say to the rest of their estranged countrymen: "Get far away from YHVH; this land has been given to us as a possession" (Ezekiel 11:16 emphasis added)This attitude is echoed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, whose elder brother refuses to accept the one who has for a long time been far off.

YHVH, knowing and recognizing our weaknesses has made an all- encompassing provision to bring about a radical change. Hence it is written:  "And you He made alive, who were dead [that is, we who were as far as far can be] in trespasses and sins...  But Elohim, 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" (Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-6).

And so, addressing the ones who have been brought "near," so much so that one couldn't get any nearer or closer, he goes on to say: "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands --  that at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without Elohim in the world.  But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation" (2:11-14 emphases added).

Only by virtue of being brought near, by the blood of Yeshua, to the Elohim of our forefathers have we now been received back to the "commonwealth of Israel," spiritually and physically!

This week we read in Parashat Sh'mini (Leviticus 9-11) about the tragic and baffling episode of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, who perished right inside the tabernacle: "…fire went out from YHVH and devoured them, and they died before YHVH," because "each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane [or better "strange"] fire before YHVH" (Leviticus 10:1-2).  The verse that precedes this description gives an altogether different description: "And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of YHVH appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before YHVH and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces" (Leviticus 9:23-24). It would appear that Nadab and Abihu witnessed YHVH's fire and His glory and the impression that this made on the people, and thought it expedient to take advantage of the moment and continue the momentum. However, going back to Ephesians 2, where we noted that by grace we have been saved, we also read: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which Elohim prepared  beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10 emphasis added).   

Nadab and Abihu dared exercise their own works, not those prepared and ordered by YHVH, works "which He had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1), and the consequences were very grave, with the only explanation given for their calamity being: "By those who are near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified" (Leviticus 10:3 emphasis added). The responsibility of those who are near YHVH is to "sanctify" (literal translation) Him, so that "all the people," including those who are far away, may glorify Him.  "Hear, you who are afar off, what I have done; And you who are near, acknowledge My might" (Isaiah 33:13). It seems that this verse should be read in a different order: "You who are near, acknowledge My might," so that those "who are afar off" will be able to hear "what I have done."  It may not surprise you that the word for sacrifice – "korban" – shares its root with "karov" – "near."  The sacrifice has been offered so that now we may "come near" and receive our inheritance. By "regarding YHVH as holy" and "acknowledging His might," we are participating in the process of bringing in the ones who are far off, so that they too may draw near to YHVH that He may be glorified. In Zechariah, shortly after declaring: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of YHVH  (Zechariah 6:12), a clear promise is made: “Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of YHVH(Zechariah 6:15 emphasis added).