Month 1:17, Week 3:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5936:017 AM|
Chag haMatzah (Firstfruits): Annual Moed #2, Day #3
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 7 April 2012
Chag haMatzah 2012 III
First Principles of Spiritual Detoxification
Continued from Part 3
Chag sameach haMatzah kol beit Yisra'el and welcome to the third day of Chag haMatzah festival of spiritual detoxification which I spoke of two days ago. I want to take this theme further today by looking more closely at the mechanism of this detoxifixcation process.
As most of you know, I am an educator by profession. I began my career starting my own tutorial college in Oxford and continued as a teacher in many disciplines. It's been my privilege to have taught Information Technology & Communications, Mathematics, Biology, Geography, History, Classics, English, Chemistry, and Physics.
One thing you soon discover as a teacher in the traditional school system is that student retention is poor. Five or more years after graduating from school I can guarantee they will have forgotten at least 95% of what they were forced to learn by a system which is, frankly, inefficient because it is boring, it is compulsory, and it just doesn't work...unless you happen to be the academic type, which the majority of pupils are not. This is one reason I am a strong advocate of homeschooling, unschooling and vocational training. Even in the Messianic Community, whether it be the Messianic Jewish Yeshiva (which literally means 'sitting' in Hebrew) or Christian Sunday School, the methodology is pretty much the same as in regular school - it's usually formal and militarised.
The Festival of Unleavened Bread is given to us to help us realise:
Yahweh's method of instruction is multiplex and His tools are:
- 1. That we have to continually overcome sin; and
- 2. How to continually overcome sin.
School, which uses a prison method of forced learning, pretty much completely eliminates the third method, and secular school - not to mention the vast majority of Yeshiva's and Sunday Schools, pretty much exclude the second. And Scripture (which is not taught in secular schools) is taught in a sterile, rote sort of way.
- 1. The Scriptures (our Torah Text Book);
- 2. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit); and
- 3. The circumstances and experiences of life itself
Scripture study, if it is to work, has to be done because we really want to do it; education by the Ruach (Spirit) is only possible if you've been born again and are walking in the Emet (Truth)...and that's only possible if you want to be born again and if you want to walk in Emet (Truth); and the circumstances and experiences of life...well, they are pretty much forced on us one way or another, with the choices we make - for good or evil - playing a major rôle.
Even a preacher like myself is pretty useless unless you want to hear me. If you don't then I am pretty much wasting my time and yours. I teach my family every Sabbath and during the festivals (we keep the meetings to no more than an hour as a rule) and give very short lessons most evenings, usually about 15-20 minutes long. Those who want to study my devotionals can if they want to.
I firmly believe that self-directed learning is the most efficient because you remember the most, whether that concerns secular or spiritual eduaction. And as far as the latter is concerned, if it isn't Ruach (Spirit)-driven it's pretty much a waste of time. I teach my children that they're going to have to find out for themselves whether what I am saying is true or not and not to take my word for anything.
I have served briefly in the military which was the inspiration of classical state schooling and learned how the regimented life stiffles creativity. I have always hated school precisely because it is regimented. I went to university because I wanted to and studied Biochemistry in my spare time because I wanted to too. I studied Organic Chemistry books in my spare time because I loved doing it, not because I was compelled to.
Likewise, I never went to any theological seminary or allowed myself to be indoctrinated from any pulpit, even though I have listened to all kinds of people and still do, and have learned from everyone. I know what I know and teach what I teach because I am thirsty for anything that will help me and others draw closer to Messiah. And that would never have happened if I had not been born again on 31 March 1977. I do what I do because the Ruach (Spirit) drives me, and I love it. I study religion, history, psychology and science because I love doing these things, and for no other primary reason, even though on a secondary level I know these things are beneficial.
To undergo spiritual detoxification you must want and love the emet (truth) above all else, which means loving the Incarnation of Emet (Truth), Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). I count as by best friends those who are driven in the same way, no matter where they are in their spiritual journey, no matter whether we agree about everything or not. If you want to be spiritually detoxified you need to want these things and be patient with others doing the same.
There is a fourth element to learning and spiritual instruction which I am now going to add to the list of that included Scripture, the Ruach (Spirit) and life, and that is:
I'll be blunt. If you're not willing to suffer, you won't learn and you won't spiritually detoxify. Oh yes, suffering will come all on its own in life circumstances and experiences - no one escapes it; you don't need to seek it, it will find you - but you can either flee from it and learn nothing or you can embrace it and grow in wisdom.
- 4. A willingness to suffer.
I have done both, and I am still doing both. This is perhaps the hardest choice of all. It is plainly the Way of the Messiah, for as Paul reminds us, speaking of Yah'shua (Jesus):
Obedience is the most important part of learning and of detoxification - you have to follow the régime. It doesn't come naturally either - it's a free choice. We can either obey or rebel, for or against, the Scriptures, the Ruach (Spirit), life's circumstances and suffering. We can, moreover, obey joyfully or grudgingly, in which case the fruits of obedience will be somewhat different. Yahweh will never force us. It's our choice - utterly. Obeying is better than not obeying but obeying willingly rather than with resentment is better still.
"He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb.5:8, NKJV).
As a teacher I am aware that there are many different teaching methods but the most lasting education is always by experience, especially if it's painful. The more emunah (faith) you have, the less painful the method, but even if you have great emunah (faith), there is still going to be suffering. You see, there are two kinds of suffering - the usless kind and the productive kind. And if you are obedient and trusting, you can avoid the former altogether.
Yah'shua's (Jesus') talmidim (disciples) were trained by the Master, not at a Yeshiva, a Theological Seminary, or a Sunday School class, but by walking with Him for three years. Their's was a giant field trip that lasted three years. They observed Him in action - His life. There were no internet devotionals and sermons like these, no zeroxed notes, no cassettes and DVDs, no YouTube videos or downloadable audio files. He used normal events, circumstances and difficulties - involving face-to-face interaction with people - to teach His talmidim (disciples) spiritual emet (truth) by experience, which resulted in completely changed levim (hearts). Did the talmidim (disciples) have a 5% retention rate? Far from it! Look at the incredible writings of the apostles Peter and John, an uneducated and unsophisticated fisherman! Look how their lives were changed by this teaching method! Look at the detail they managed to recall decades later when they wrote their gospels and epistles! For had Yah'shua made this promise to those who walked with Him:
No need for recording devices here. The Ruach (Spirit) gives perfect memory recall when it is needed! The apostle John also reminds us:
"These things I have spoken to you while being [physically] present with you. But the Helper (Comforter), the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:25-26, NKJV).
Like the pupil in the classroom, we have the same tendency to forgetfulness in the spiritual domain too. Left to our own devices without the constant prompting of the Ruach (Spirit), we would quite naturally fall into spiritual slumber. Life's sometimes not-so-pleasant circumstances, permitted and sent by Yahweh through other people, are designed to both awaken our spirits as well as to keep them awakened. Once awakened, we are invited by the Most High to live and be alive in the Ruach (Spirit) and not in our own psyche or flesh-nature, which is the drive of those in the world.
"Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us -- eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:24-27, NKJV).
Yahweh knows you and I intimately. He knows that like cats and dogs we have a tendency to drift off into sleep when not on the move. And whilst sleep was designed for its own purpose - to allow the body to relax and rejuvenate - it was not desisgned to be a place of refuge from life itself. One of the three definitions of purpose that Yah'shua (Jesus) gives us, is to be, and to remain, alive:
To spiritually detoxify, we have to get off the way of the world and onto His Path, we have to hanker for emet (truth) - not just theologically but in terms of very principles of existence - and we have got to desire to be awake and alive. It is very much an existential walk (though not existentialism alone). Obviously to know what it is to be awake and alive, we need to know what actual life is, and not the counterfeit kind masquerading as the real thing. And to do that, we need both the points of reference that the Scriptures give that enable us to measure where we are as well as the concrete saving events of the Cross on which all of these things hang.
"I am the Derech (Way), the Emet (Truth), and the Chayim (Life)" (John 14:6, NKJV).
One of the curious things about life is that it is usually staring us right in the face while we remain blind to it because we have either forsaken or not yet discovered the emet (truth) about it. Solomon said:
It's a curious thing, but actually 'wrong' things are often 'right' things misused. Take food: it's good to eat, but excess is gluttony, a sin in Yahweh's eyes. Sex, in its right place in marriage, is Yahweh-given, beautiful and fun, but misused is a terrible sin, with adultery the second worst sin of all after murder. It's not so much what you do (though this is obviously important too) but why you do it that really counts in Yahweh's spiritual detoxification program. This is the basement of spiritual recovery, the foundation of getting back on the right track. You can have an impeccable theology yet be missing this basic emet (truth). Theology, unless it is alive in you as an emet (truth) principle as a changed life that is truly set-apart (holy), moral and growing character, is ultimately useless. Teachers of Yahweh's Davar (Word) must first and foremost be livers of the Davar (Word). We teach first by example and second by verbal instruction.
"[Yahweh] has made everything beautiful in its time" (Eccl.3:11, NKJV).
I have met many very knowledgeable people who don't understand the first principles of Chag haMatzah at all. They are spiritually dead. We all make this mistake, whether it's in the home or in the local messianic community (church). Solomon the Wise made it. People can only be led in two ways: by force (the preferred instrument of the state) or by trust. We can either live by rules (based on hope or fear) or by love (based on trusting the One who leads us). Emunah (trust, faith) and ahavah (love) are Yahweh's Derech (Way). And though many messianics would dearly like Yah'shua (Jesus) to have said, "I am the Torah, the Truth and the Life", Torah is not the primary aspect of Christian living. Emunah (Trust, Faith) and ahavah (love) are the Derech (Way) - the foundation - of spirituality and of genuine family life too. They are the wellspring of romance and of marriage. They are the wellspring for harmony in the local community, the city or the nation. When trust and love go, bribery and punishment are all that is left to keep things alive. And this, the rule of hope and fear, is the way of the world.
What's the Torah for, then? In the ethical sphere, it is to allow us to keep a check on ourselves to make sure we haven't been deceived - it's to make sure we haven't wandered off the track so that we can make life-adjustments and -corrections. And if we have wandered, it's to remind us to go to Yahweh and get right with Him as the Enabler and Empowerer of the correction process. A fruit of wandering off the track is selfishness of lev (heart). The person who has fallen into sin - whose spirit has begun to fill with toxins - has begun to live by threats and bargains instead of by trust and love. He acts and lives in order to collect bribes or avoid punishment. Before he chooses, he wants to know there is something in it for him. And only warning and threats stop him from messing up other's happiness.
The first principle of spiritual detoxification is understood by recognising that the world essentially only has two kinds of people, and the difference between these two is radical. They may do similar things outwardly, including obeying rules. They may agree on many things, even live in the same home, go to the same school or congregation, and do the same jobs, play the same games. But their foundations - their 'basements' - are different. One life is founded on Yahweh's Derech (Way) and the other is built on sand.
Let me give you a simple example. Take two children at home. One obeys his Dad because he trusts him. He has a faith in his father that works by ahavah (love). The other is self-centred. He wants all that he can get from his father, so he does what he has to do. He obeys only under force when he doesn't like it, because he doesn't really care about his Dad's happiness. So are the lives of the true believer and the false. Yahweh's true child has confidence in Yah'shua (Jesus) that leads him to wholly give himself to Yahweh's will. The phony, like the devil, has only a partial submission and a selfish lev (heart). He "believes and trembles" like the demons (Jas.2:19). He wants to be saved for his own safety, but he never gives in at heart to be led and ruled by Yah'shua (Jesus). This is the legalistic approach to religion and it is wholly unlike the Master. It is outward only: Torah-based but not trust- and love-based. It is artificial and plastic. And when Yahweh starts on us at Chag haMatzah, He starts on our levim (hearts), not with our faithfulness in observing sabbaths, new moons and festivals. These things are for Shavu'ot (Pentecost) - after we have started getting our levim (hearts) right.
Now I am not, of course, saying that you should drop observing sabbaths, new moons, festivals, a kosher diet - these things are commanded by Yahweh and are a given. They are plain and simply to understand and do (once you have figured out the correct calendar). Once you know what Yahweh wants, you should do it right away as a dutiful and obedient son or daughter.
Having a right heart-attitide is far more important than mechanical obedience based on self-protection from punishment or self-desire for rewards. Torah-observance will not get you into heaven but having a right lev (heart) - a regenerated lev (heart) whose fuel is emunah (trust, faith) in Yah'shua (Jesus) and ahavah (love) for Yahweh and your brethren - definitely will. It's the Derech (Way) part - the walking part of Emet (Truth) and Chayim (Life). It's the motion of living for Him - it's the Walk rather than the Talk. It's the action and not just the emotions and thoughts.
So this is where we must start at Chag haMatzah - we have to start by asking ourselves the question: how is my own lev (heart)? What is my 'basement' or 'foundation' like? Does Yah'shua (Jesus) really live in my innermost man or woman? Have I made that unreserved surrender - that emunah or trusting that leads to shalom (peace) of mind and simcha (joy ) of soul - that wholehearted giving of myself to Messiah? Until this is done, Torah-obedience is frankly pretty meaningless and merely a temproary bandaid solution to sinful behaviour. It's like plunging into college textbooks before you've even started at school. That's why in Yahweh's festivals, Pesach (getting your eyes on Yah'shua/Jesus, the Paschal Lamb) comes before Chag haMatzah (getting spiritual detoxification underway), why Yom haBikkuirm (committing yourself to full surrender to Yah'shua/Jesus represented by spiritual rebirth and baptism) comes in the early part of Chag haMatazah, and why these three come before Shavu'ot (covenanting to obey all the mitzvot or commandments of Torah).
||Getting your eyes on Yah'shua, the Paschal Lamb|
|Chag haMatzah (Unleavened Bread)
||Getting spiritual detoxification underway|
|Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits)
||Committing yourself to full surrender to Yah'shua represented by spiritual rebirth and baptism|
||Covenanting to obey all the Torah of Yahweh|
The spring festivals are the 'romance' part of the Besorah (Gospel) - getting to the heart of the spiritual life. They are not the nitty-gritty of the summer festival of Shavu'ot where adult responsibilities must come into play as at Bar Mitzvah and as marriage matures. Yet they are not an excuse to ignore the Torah (Law) or mitzvot (commandments) either, the emphasis on which comes at Shavu'ot (Pentecost), but they are a reminder that Shavu'ot without the spring festivals is dead, mere dry religion that is of no spiritual value whatsoever. True, a Torah-obedient person who is unregenerated is better than a lawless person who is unregenerated, but at this stage Torah and any emphasis on rule-keeping should be taking a very firm second position. And that is how it is always supposed to be, which is why the festivals are repeated annually. We need to remember this divine tavnith (pattern) always.
Yahweh knows our human frame, our forgetfulness, our tendency to be distant, our insensitivity toward spiritualthings, our darkened understanding and our inability to convert spiritual emet (truth) into practical, everyday life. We are so complicated that Yahweh has designed a tailor-made curriculum that is mediated by the Ruach (Spirit) for each of us individually once we have been born again and accepted Yah'shua (Jesus) as Master (Lord) and Deliverer (Saviour). When He put your textbook together, He considered your ability to learn, your life span, your weaknesses, your fears, your background, your upbringing, your culture, your former lifestyle and the plan Yahweh has for you as a believer. Everything has been taken into account. It is a perfect learning plan administered by a Perfect Teacher.
We shall continue more with this tomorrow!
Continued in Part 5