Month 8:1, Rosh Chodesh, Year:Day 5936:207 AM|
ROSH CHODESH VIII (Shemini haChodesh)
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 15 October 2012
Rosh Chodesh VIII, 5936
You Will All Fall From Your Faith
"After singing the Passover Hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Yah'shua (Jesus) said, 'You will all fall from your emunah (faith); for it stands written: 'I will strike the shepherd down and the sheep will be scattered.' Nevertheless, after I am raised again I will go before you in Galilee.' Peter answered, 'Everyone else may fall away, but I will not'" (Mk.14:26-29a, NEB).
Chag Sameach Rosh Chodesh kol beit Yisra'el! A new month is upon us as we today look ahead at what is to come.
The Final Conflict
Today's passage, which may appear out of season, belongs to a chapter in the Gospel of Mark traditionally prefaced with the title, 'The Final Conflict', or words to that effect. It covers the betrayal of Yah'shua (Jesus) by Judas, His arrest, trial, and Peter's own betrayal when he denied ever knowing the Messiah. Though I did not quote the incident in today's passage, you will recall that a cock crowed three times as Yah'shua (Jesus) prophesied it would to remind Peter that he too would deny Him.
The Apparent Defeat
I have left that part of the story out today to lay emphasis on the fact that, as Yah'shua (Jesus) also prophesied, all the talmidim (disciples), including those closest to Him (the twelve apostles) would fall away, albeit it briefly. He knew they would do this because of His apparent defeat at the cross. He knew they would not understand the bigger picture, nor indeed have the courage to believe that the impossible would happen - before they saw the miracle of the resurrection with their own eyes. And in the case of one of the apostles whose emunah (faith) was weaker than the rest (Thomas), not before he had actually touched the prints of the nails and the spear-wound in the Master's body.
The Superman Myth
We may reasonably assume, since we are not of the stature of the original apostles, nor are we given the judgment of the twelve tribes as they shall be in the last day (Mt.19:28; Lk.22:30), that if they were able to fall away from emunah (faith) that at some time or another, we will do so too. I do not say that to you, however, to encourage you to anticipate such an event, for such would indeed be to tempt fate, but rather to remind us all that we all have the same human weaknesses and that all of us are assailed by the same basic basket of doubts. And whilst it is my job as a pastor to constantly encourage and build you up as best I can through the Davar (Word) and Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), it is also one of my responsibilities to dismantle any superman myths that occasionally wriggle their way into the messianic community's (church's) thinking. This is true both of those coming out of an evangelical Christian background who are often tempted to believe that they have a 'special immunity' from falling or losing their salvation having first been saved, as well as those from a messianic background who, like their predecessors, may think that they likewise have a special immunity or hedge of protection because they believe they are either literal descendants of Abraham or because they are 'sons of Torah'. Others like Mormons think they are immune because, as they suppose, they have the 'authentic priesthood' or like the Jehovah's Witnesses they are in 'Jehovah's true organisation', or like the Catholics that they are securely within the walls of the infallible apostolic church led by the infallible 'Vicar of Christ'. Whatever reasons we may invent to assure ourselves that we are in no danger of ever falling away - and there are surely more than I have mentioned here - they can make us vainly over-confident and lead us into perilous spiritual waters.
The Flesh Betrayer
We all doubt, we all fall, we all betray - our brethren and sisters in the Besorah (Gospel), our spouses, Yah'shua (Jesus) the Crucified, and our Heavenly Father Yahweh. Betrayal and apostasy reside within the fallen human nature called the 'flesh'. It is an alien nature inherited by virtue of the Fall from the rebel malak (angel) Satan whom we spoke much about yesterday. It's a pain in the backside, it's always there trying to tempt us, and it won't finally go away until we have layed down our mortal flesh. It is within, the eternal Fifth Column, whispering away in our ears trying to take us away from the Derech (Way) of Salvation. Knowing how to deal with it on a daily basis therefore becomes one of our top priorities.
The Remedy of Repentance and Forgiveness
Obviously, if we all doubt and fall, there must be a remedy for us to have any hope of getting up again and moving forward. That remedy is seeking and freely giving forgiveness on a fairly regular basis, underwriting it with the precious spilled blood of our Master which is the only means of cleansing the record and giving us that clean slate we need to actually move on. Pride prevents all of us. Some are blessed to freely forgive and seek forgiveness but may habitually return to the same sinning. Others are more hesitant to forgive and be forgiven but may be less liable to repeat the errors of the past. Either disposition is a source of trouble and neither brings the needed relief, for we are commanded throughout scripture to both readily and freely forgive and accept forgiveness but not to continually repeat the same errors. There is an undergirding understanding that a ceasing fron sin is expected. We all too often fail but so long as we are driven to resolve the matter, no matter how many failures at resolution there may be, we will conquer sin in the end in Yah'shua (Jesus). And as we discussed yesterday, it can only come by surrendering to Yah'shua (Jesus) and by submitting to one another in emet (truth) "in the fear of Elohim (God)" (Eph.5:21, NKJV).
As the World Collapses
As the economy and law-and-order progressively collapse during the current crisis, we are going to need a lot of grace to forgive those who betray us. In every one of us there is a Judas resident in the carnal nature willing to betray others, self, and Elohim (God). And as Yah'shua (Jesus) reminded us, our worst enemies can often turn out to live in our own homes: our own bosom companions, our own children and parents. Flesh-and-bones are no guarantor of safety, alas, especially when families are divided in spiritual belief.
Force vs. Attraction
We see this principle at work in countries too where our own governments are turning against the people who elected it to protect them. That's a pretty big betrayal and a recipe for civil unrest and civil war, both of which are simmering in North America and Europe right now as political leaders pursue political dreams at the expense of the welfare of the ordinary man and woman in the street. And like many religious people too, they can pursue impossible Utopian ideals, presuming to build their secular or religious paradise at the expense of both peoples' physical and spiritual well-being. The Kingdom of Elohim (God) can never be imposed from above by men - it has to grow from within each saved individual and then attract other individuals in a spontaneous act of natural fellowship. Plants grow from the roots up, not from the leaves down, and Yahweh's Kingdom or Reign in the levim (hearts) of men is no different. Anything that is imposed from above by force is unnatural and eventually collapses, and not without much suffering.
External Rules as Temporary Frames for Spiritual Growth
Every one of us has to learn that lesson, without exception. We rationalise imposed rule more often than not because we have ceased to naturally attract ourselves and are repelling. True, a certain amount of rule does have to be imposed, but only ever as a temporary expediency. As parents we impose rules on our children but sometimes forget that it is only temporary and that they must spread their own wings and establish their own families too at some point. Like a wooden frame holding wet cement in place, its function ends when the cement hardens. Likewise, once self-discipline has been learned, imposed discipline is no longer required. We must not try to make into permanent structures those things which are only short-term props otherwise we train people to walk around on crutches. Yahweh's intent is always that externally-imposed Torah be a schoolmaster until it is written on the lev (heart) by the pen of the Ruach (Spirit) (Jer.31:33).
Kingdom Within First
Yah'shua (Jesus) leaving those first talmidim (disciples) in the flesh, and in such an abrupt and violent manner, must have indeed be traumatic, more so as they were expecting the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel then instead of at the end of the age. Their false expectations had caused them to miss the essential emet (truth) that no Kingdom of Righteousness can be built in the outer sphere until it is first built within. Two thousand years of twisting, turning, false teaching, apostacy, heresy, violence and murder have revealed just how tenuous that Kingdom is within the human soul that is not fully surrendered and whose fleshy nature is not crucified. Yah'shua (Jesus) could not possibly have set up the Kingdom of Israel at His first advent because people were by no means ready for it. And the emet (truth) is also that when He returns the second time, still only a remnant will be the incarnation of that Kingdom - not only will the vast bulk of humankind reject it but so also will the vast bulk of professing believers too! More than anything else this should be testimony to us that the most important aspect of the Besorah (Gospel) is surrender and crucifixion, the very things the churches and assemblies do their very best to avoid speaking about so as not to upset and drive away the people they rely on to finance their fancy buildings and pay for their ministers' exorbitant lifestyles.
We are such a troublesome species, fickle and unreliable. That comes 'naturally', through the satanic Adamic nature. Overcoming it requires nothing less than total yielding to Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). Those believers who do not will find the mushrooming global crisis as hard to survive as unbelievers, not that I should have to offer you a reason to do what is right, it's just that I know we tend not to respond the way we ought to - spontanously and without a goad in our back - until a crisis comes. Not that there aren't plenty of trials and tribulations even without the current crisis, for they are always there - rather, life is about to become even more challenging than before. We are entering a dark era where the only light that anyone in the dark will be attracted to aymore will be that which comes from within the genuine witnesses of the crucified inner man in Messiah. It will be through such people that the greatest witness of the Besorah (Gospel) will undoubtedly come in the years ahead.
This is the essence of my Rosh Chodesh message today. We are called to great things which come about only by doing that which is both simple and excruciatingly hard. That is why many are called and so few chosen because they don't want the struggle.
I wonder what we shall have to report back next Rosh Chodesh. The next one and the one after it will witness huge changes. May Yahweh bless you all this coming month, to find Him and yield fully to Him so that He can carry you over the giant waves bearing down on us. And if you are assailed with doubts and fall, be sure to get right up again! Amen.
Continued in Part 2