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Month 5:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year 5935:122 AM
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 7 August 2011
The Heavenly Fireman
Differences Between Salvation and Works

      "'Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,' says Yahweh-Elohim. 'Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new lev (heart) and a new ruach (spirit). For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says Yahweh-Elohim. 'Therefore turn and live!'" (Ezek.18:30-32, NKJV).

    Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el - Sabbath Peace to all the house of Israel!

    Richard de Haan [1] tells the tragic story of a woman who was trapped on the top floor of a burning building. Flames and smoke blocked every way of escape. When firefighters arrived, one of the men scrambled up a ladder to the window where the woman was screaming for help, and with outstretched arms he offered to save her. But when she looked down and saw the great distance to the ground a below, she panicked and drew back into the room.

    The man attempting the rescue begged her to trust him for her safety, but his pleas were not heeded. In senseless fear she retreated beyond the fireman's reach. Finally, being forced to return to the ground, he said with tears in his eyes, 'I did everything I could to save her, but she wouldn't let me!'

    In our passage today Yahweh says:

      "I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies...Therefore turn and live!"

    We who live down here on earth face far worse a prospect than the woman in that burning apartment. As believers we know what awaits us on the other side and so do not fear death, but the unsaved have no such assurance. Moreover we can both relate to the words of the apostle Paul as well as have a reason to live when he said:

      "For to me, to live is Messiah, and to die is gain" (Phil.1:21, NKJV).

    We know that in one sense dying is better because of the eternal chayim (life) that we shall inherit on the other side of mortality, but since none of us can go to that heavenly place until we are called, being at shalom (peace) with death gives us an extra reason for living down here on earth. When Paul said these words, moreover, he wasn't looking for relief from his sufferings. Paul's hope was rooted in Messiah, who died on the cross for sinners, who rose from the grave on that Yom haBikkurim day, who was alive in heaven, and who would one day take Paul into His presence. Paul was not trying to escape his sufferings and difficulties when he said that to die was gain for him - he was merely expressing his lack of fear of death because he know what was waiting for him.

    So, then, how did the hope of seeing Yah'shua (Jesus) in heaven, either at death or when He returned, keep Paul going? It gave meaning to every moment. It gave him reason to live in behalf of His Deliverer (Saviour). It gave him the incentive to focus on others who needed his encouragement. Paul had come to know Yah'shua (Jesus) as his very chayim (life).

    The story of that woman in the burning apartment is an all too graphic picture of the unsaved who, for all the various reasons and excuses offered, refused to trust in Yah'shua (Jesus). She got vertigo and her fear of heights was greater than her fear of being burned to death. Likewise, we fear the leap of trust needed to die to self and receive eternal life more than we fear the burning of hell and eternal separation from Elohim (God). She chose to yield to the fear of vertigo and to perish in the flames. We can, too, understand the fireman's grief.

    Every single one of us has a life-calling, a mission or task that Yahweh wants us to perform. Whether we come to Him when we are young or at the end of our lives, we still have something He wants us to do. The woman who decided to die in the fire rather than overcome her fear of heights and trust the fireman is like so many people who have no emunah (faith) in salvation. They have no forward vision. They either see the flames of life's trials and tribulations or the huge risks they have to take in trusting Messiah, and prefer the pointless trial and tribulation that comes from not being delivered of sin instead. And as I said, they always have excuses for choosing the flames of pointless suffering. And then, because they lacked the emunah (faith) to trust, they blame Yahweh for not saving them from their misery.

    The point is He has provided a way for us out of our misery, and a purpose in life. If we don't trust the Heavenly Fireman and entrust our lives to His safe keeping in the midst of adversity, then we can't blame the Him for not coming for us. The emet (truth) is that He stands ready to rescue us all the time.

    I do not know what your calling is but what I do know is that your calling is tailor-made for you and that it is important. I know what mine is at this moment in time. You may be like that young cowboy who had no interest in Yahweh who traveled to San Francisco and began a life of revelry, spending the money he had earned while working on the range. One night he staggered drunk into his hôtel room and slept until late the next day. When he awoke, he saw a small book on a nightstand near his bed and picked it up. It was the Gospel of Mark. Disgusted, he threw it on the floor.

    That evening, the book had once again been laid beside the bed. When he saw it in the same place the third day, he decided to read it. He found the book so interesting he couldn't put it down. He later testified:

      "I learned that the Son of God (Elohim) said to a paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' and praised a poor widow for giving her last two coins. I was impressed when Jesus (Yah'shua) took little children in His arms and blessed them. And then, in spite of the unjust way He was treated. He went to the cross to save sinners. When I read why He died, I saw my own guilt and found peace in believing".

    From that day onwards, that cowboy became a different man and spent many years giving copies of the Gospel of Mark to others. That was his calling and I believe he did it well because for him it was that Bible book that brought him home to Yahweh.

    As that cowboy read the Gospel of Mark his eternal future hung in the balance. The story could have ended so differently. Unlike the woman in the burning apartment, the cowboy did trust in the Heavenly Fireman and did allow Him to take him to safety. It is well said that the gospel is sent to break hard levim (hearts) and to heal broken ones. The Word of Yahweh is a double-edged sword and hard though it might be to picture, with one side of that sword the hard lev (heart) is pierced to repentance and with the other it binds up the wound and heals - instantly. This is a double operation that both hurts and soothes. But the final result is not pain but shalom (peace).

    I have to confess that I get angry with many messianics who would condemn such a man as a heathen because he did not know the correct names of Yahweh and Yah'shua, did not observe the kosher laws, the Sabbath, or the festivals because he in all likelihood did not know what these were and did not get the emet (truth) from the churches at the time. But his lev (heart) was right and Yahweh accepted him as he was on the basis of his emunah (faith) in Yah'shua (Jesus).

    I think many messianics believe that at the last day Yahweh decides what resurrection a man will inherit based on the kinds of things that men like that cowboy did during their lives, and if they were no observing Torah that they would either receive the second resurrection or be sent to hell. I have to say categorically that it doesn't work like that - not remotely. Yahweh judges us both on the basis of what we do and how we live on the basis of what we know and on what we would have done and how we would have lived had we been told the whole emet (truth), something that only He can know and judge. So that cowboy will receive his final reward based on these criteria and we cannot know what Yahweh's judgment is, nor should we even attempt to make our own judgment.

    Equally, we should not be so presumptuous, arrogant, conceited and ignorant as to judge someone who is Torah-observant as being worthy of the highest rewards when it may possibly be that his religion is dead legalism, a religion without a spiritual encounter with Yah'shua (Jesus), with personal unresolved sin and so devoid of authentic repentance. Therefore it is not for us to judge anyone but to simply bear witness of the emet (truth) and guide them into discipleship. Yes, we are to witness to modern 'cowboys' or the necessity of Torah-observance after salvation and to leave them to make their own choice - a bit like persuading the woman, had she agreed to be rescued, to thereafter live a good moral life. But we are first of all spiritual firemen, and then teachers of Yahweh's rules for correct living. Can you imagine the fireman going up that fire engine ladder and trying to teach the woman about moral living before rescuing her? And yet that is how many (messianics and christians) approach the Gospel - back-to-front, inside-out, upside-down.

    I cannot underline this strongly enough. There are some who are so concerned about Torah that they don't even bother about rescuing people because they view sin the same false way as Judaism does. This is the difference between Pesach (Passover) - deliverance through trusting in the blood of Messiah - and Shavu'ot (Pentecost) - the covenant to obey all the mitzvot (commandments). We must get these in the right order whilst at the same time not pruning out the commandments or simplifying the Gospel to suit our sinful desires.

    Finally, I want to share something amazing with you - unbelievable, in fact - and yet it's something a lot of people do, including some we know. I want you to imagine that you are that woman in the burning apartment. The fireman persuades you to trust him and you overcome your fear of heights through that trusting. He takes you down that ladder to safety on the ground. You might, as a result of your experience and in graditude for your rescue, even agree to live a good, moral life. But what would you think if that woman then suddenly got the idea into her head that she had made a terrible mistake, rushed back to the fire engine, and climbed back up that ladder into the burning apartment? What would you think of such a person? And do you believe that anyone would actually do this?

    Sadly, yes. That is exactly what many people do, and this is something Yahweh warned us about:

      "Now the just shall live by emunah (faith): but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb.10:38, KJV).

    If you were that fireman watching that woman going up that ladder again, would you have any pleasure in what she was doing? Would you approve in any way? You would be horrified and dismayed! And yet people get all sorts of crazy ideas who, having experienced salvation, suddenly get it into their heads that it wasn't real, and go back from whence they came.

    I have known and seen people do this very thing, even those well discipled in Torah, thus proving that it is not the Torah that saves but emunah (faith) in Messiah! That is the key thing. That is why emunah faith, trusting - is everything. That is why evangelicals correctly insist, as do we, that:

      "For by grace you have been saved through emunah faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Elohim (God), not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2:8-9, NKJV).

    That is why the Book of Mormon, which says, "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (LDS 2 Nephi 25:23) [2] is false, like all legalistic religion which claims that our good works are a part of the saving process, because what this corrupt teaching does is mix Pesach and Shavu'ot together when Yahweh specifically separated them (early spring and late summer) to teach us that salvation by trusting in Messiah comes first and obedience to the commandments after as its fruit. We are not saved because we are moral but become moral because we have been saved! Indeed, the Mormon teaching is like the fireman going up that ladder and telling the woman to trust him to save her provided she can first prove to him that she is morally perfect enough to merit being saved. And notice the Book of Mormon leaves emunah (faith) entirely out of this equation!

    Now I am not arguing here that works are unimportant or that at the end of the day they don't count in some way, because they absolutely do - we are rewarded for our good works (Mt.16:27; Lk.23:41; Rev.22:12). What I am saying is that the initial and most important facet of salvation - trusting in Messiah - is wholly independent of them. Rather, good works - obedience to the mitzvot (commandments) are a fruit of authentic salvation and must of necessity follow once we know what those mitzvot are. So you can argue that Torah-observance is a part of salvation in one way, but not in the way Mormons and other legalists claim.

    We must therefore endorse evangelicals who teach the simple message of salvation and messianics who teach those thus saved by emunah (faith) the importance of living the Torah lifestyle. Yahweh is working through both and yet both are defective in one thing or another. We are first of all spiritual firemen and secondly teachers of Yahweh's Torah-Derech (Way).

    Let us therefore be Yahweh's firemen first of all, then diligently teach the Torah to those who have been saved, and let Yahweh - not us - judge every man's lev (heart)! Amen.

    End Notes

    [1] Richard de Haan, They Wouldn't Let Me (Our daily Bread, RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI: March-May 2006, April 7)

    [2] Mormon President, Ezra Taft Benson, explains what the Book of Mormon means when it says "after all you can do" - it means "leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest", and so on (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.354), in other words, salvation depends on a life of complete moral integrity. The trouble is, we can never know how much we have to do to be saved, and we are left with no security whatsoever.

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    This page was created on 7 August 2011
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