Month 13:08, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:362 AM|
2Exodus 2/40, 4th Sh'mittah - Year 49/50
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 16 March 2016
Gospel Without Plus
The Stripping Away of Self
Shabbat shalom mishpachah! I pray that what I have to share with you today will be edifying.
Of Ark-Builders and Preachers
Sitting on an Ark for as long as Noah did must have felt frustrating and debilitaing. Certainly, he and his sons and their wives had plenty to do in tending a boat-load of animals and the work was both necessary and important. However, it wasn't Noah's only calling, and both before and during the construction of this mightly vessel, he was a preacher. We, too, are Ark-builders, though of a different sort, and we too are witnesses and preachers. And I think many of us want to get into the missionary field again as soon as possible once the Messianic Evangelical Besorah (Gospel) cargo has been unloaded safe and sound. We're still feverishly working on that, so that you are aware.
One Last Ark to be Built
After us, in the last generation, will come another ark-building community but this time of a different kind - the end-time cities of refuge preparatory to the Final Gathering. They will inherit a new earth to which we shall return and join them after our time is over. What a blessed hope!
The Deceptive Lull in the Middle East
On board his work of love, Noah had a small and captive audience and it required the raising of a new generation after the ark had landed and disgorged its contents before there were suffient souls to make the preacher's cup full to overflowing, remembering that Noah had an over abundance of people to preach to before the flood. The problem was they didn't listen, they mocked and all went to their watery graves. The equivalent of that watery grave has yet to fully open its gaping mouth to receive the rebellious and wicked of our generation. So don't be deceived by the scaling down of operations in Syria following Russia's recent announcement that it is going to withdraw most of its forces. This is but a lull.
The New Mission is Bearing Down on Us
Such an unnatural scenario, with a very great change in circumstances, has been our lot too. At times it feels like preaching to our own navels. There aren't many out there who want to listen. People stuck in their ways don't want to be discomforted and our seemingly thankless job is to tell them what they don't want to be hear. They have all become very liberal, even the 'conservatives', protest though they will. We have been aboard the Ark now for what has seemed a very long time indeed. A week ago 'dry land' started appearing. There's a way to go before we can disembark but we are already sensing the change in mission is bearing fast down on us. So we are getting ready. Meanwhile the old world is teetering in its death throws as liberalism comes to full maturity and its evil fruits lie rotting in its own secular market place.
The Fruits of 'Liberal Conservativism'
Christian Liberalism began in the late 19th century by downplaying theology and shifting the emphasis to moralism and inner experience. The result was losing the Messiah by degrees and killing the Messianic Community (Church) softly but surely. That is the state of the West today. Elohim (God) was not denied but trivialised and used to serve human programs rather than received, worshipped and enjoyed in the safe haven of Torah-obedience. Yah'shua (Jesus) has been dressed up as a Corporate CEO, a cultural warrior, a political revolutionary, a philosopher, a co-pilot, a co-sufferer, a moral example and a partner in fulfilling our personal and social dreams. And in so doing, the central Character in the drama of Redemption has been reduced to a prop for our own personal self-absorption and narcissistic plays. The result has been a sentimental detatchment to someone who is more like an invisible friend than the dead, raised, ascended and reigning Saviour of the ungodly and lost. Western Christianity has exchanged messiahs by degrees.
The New Messiah of Gospel Plus Believing in Yourself
Telling yourself things is not emet (truth) because it's not Elohim's (God's) emet (truth). It's not the Besorah (Gospel) and ultimately it's not going to help you. The Besorah (Gospel) is not about believing in yourself. The Besorah (Gospel) is not about believing in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and yourself. No! The Besorah (Gospel) is believing in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) alone! And that belief - that emunah (faith) - and it is that solo believing is what is supposed to galvanise you into action - into acting, into exerting yourself, into getting energised into becoming a positive influence through that acting and exertion. From beginning to end the Besorah (Gospel) - the Good News that saves us and energises is - is all about what Messiah has done. If we try to insert anything else into that action, even if it includes what Messiah has done for us, then we are living a false Besorah (Gospel), a counterfeit, because Elohim (God) will not share the glory with man in his conceit. I repeat, the Besorah (Gospel) is not about believing in Yah'shua (Jesus) and about whether I'm good enough, whether I'm smart enough, or whether people love me or not. If you believe that, you have been deceived and are walking to the drumbeat of atheism.
Promises of the 'Conservative' Wolves
The wolves in the 'conservative' messianic assemblies (churches) that devour sheep do not howl and do not bear their teeth. They come in sheep's clothing smiling, reciting Scripture, full of understanding and promising something more than Yah'shua (Jesus). Did Yah'shua (Jesus) unconditionally promise you health and wealth if you would believe in Him? Did He promise you access to the Throne Room if you would only speak in tongues? Did He promise you happiness if you would believe in Him? Did He promise you amazing power if you would accept the 'anointing from this preacher or that ministry? Did He promise you a trouble-free life? Did He promise you self-realisation, self-fulfilment and self-worth? Does He do that? Most of our promises are for the next life, not this one, and we will make this life considerably less of a burden for ourselves if we will remember that.
Cashing-In Blessings Ahead of Time
You all know the Parable of the Prodigal Son and I am sure you have heard it explained well by other preachers. But had you ever considered that another dimension of this story is the warning not to go trying to cash-in the promises made to you by Yahweh for the next life in this one? Health, wealth, happiness, and all that we have ever desired in righteousness will be paid out to us in full when we receive the complete resurrection life upon Yah'shua's (Jesus') return, not before. But if you go trying to cash all your resurrection blessings now you will end up like the charismatics and not only consume your gifts upon your lusts, but get false gifts too, leaving you only with hog swill to feast on. Does the charismatic diet excite you? Is that what you want? Do you want a bulging bank account, gold dust appearing on your skin and jewels falling out of the sky? Such things are guaranteed to corrupt the spirit of finite, mortal man still beset by a punishing sin-nature. We just don't know how to handle such things, so Satan more than happily sends them ahead of Yahweh and in a way calculated to destroy you.
The blessings of the final resurrection are for later, not for today
Ruined by Oppulence
Adam and Eve had all of the things that any human couple could ever have wanted and yet they succumbed to temptation. Eve thought she needed more. Satan's offer of godhood was just too good to be true and she took the bait. Expensive houses, fancy cars, large swimming pools, executive jets, sensual women (or men) just aren't offered by Yahweh to us, and when the wisest mortal in history got them, he was destroyed by them. Solomon was ruined by oppulence. When Yahweh calls men to generate wealth it isn't for themselves but for the furtherance of the work of the Kingdom. But greedy, carnal and unspiritual ministers don't get that. And, moreover, they don't want to get it, especially if they have come from a background of poverty. The temptation to jump from dirt to gold is just too much for them. They are weak and manifestly unqualified to lead, because leadership implies sacrifice. Like the prodigal son, they want their rewards now and they get them, sort of.
Pastor Charisma's happiest dream
Forget the Plus
You see, the resurrection rewards are infinitely greater than any mortal rewards that you could ever dream of. Part of our emunah (faith) is resisting the temptation to receive credit and instead labouring in poverty, if necessary, in winning souls and discipling them. That is our reward here because such is always attended by a liberal outpouring of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). That's what we're here for, and not discipling them to become like the prodigal. We're not called to spiritually breed more carnal, lusty and greedy men and women, but that's what the Besorah (Gospel) Plus does - plus happiness, plus prosperity, plus perfect health, plus anything. Forget the 'plus' and try a little sacrificing first, and then go on to sacrificing your whole life in service. Your reward will be infinitely greater than anything 'Pastor Charisma' could ever dream of.
The Credit We are to Seek After
This life is too short to get eternity in advance on credit. That's in any case impossible. We are to seek a different kind of 'credit':
Repentance Translates Faith into Practice
"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his emunah (faith), he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of Elohim (God), but was strengthened in his emunah (faith) and gave glory to Elohim (God), being fully persuaded that Elohim (God) had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.' The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom Elohim (God) will credit righteousness - for us who believe in Him who raised Yah'shua (Jesus) our Master from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom.4:18-25, NIV).
The only credit we are entitled to, through emunah (faith) in the Son, is righteousness, since it's not something we can earn, is it? That righteousness comes when we are forgiven of those sins which we have committed, felt godly sorrow over, asked for forgiveness for and covenanted not to make habitual by breaking the bad patterns of sinful living. The emunah (faith) we are called to exercise is not, of course, passive. The demons, we know, already believe, but they do not translate that belief into practice, were they now able to.
Serve With All Your Strength
So what action are we called to? Aside from living out the Torah-lifestyle, we are called to do some specific things and to do them mightily:
Stand Firm and Take Action
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Eccl.9:10, RSV).
Pour your energy into your task and keep it in focus until you have accomplished it.
The Curse of Inertia
"The people who know their Elohim (God) shall stand firm and take action" (Dan.11:32, RSV).
Half-heartedness and inertia are not pleasing to Yahweh:
The 'Actionless' Gospel is False
"Emunah (faith) by itself, if it has no works, is not [trur] emunah (faith)" (Jas.2:17, RSV).
So if you say you have emunah (faith) in Messiah but do nothing, or only do it half-heartedly, then you have deceived yourself because it wasn't true emunah (faith) in the first place. The chances are that what you believed in was a 'Besorah (Gospel) Plus' - the Besorah (Gospel) plus something else, like happiness, wealth, health or the like, or indeed any kind of self-entitlement. And it's a mistake we easily make. It's how liberalism was born and it is how liberalism has completely swamped even those churches and messianic assemblies calling themselves 'conservative'.
A Different Gospel
Now I realise that we don't always feel like doing anything in the pursuit of the Besorah (Gospel). Excuses are legion, the most common being that we are unable, ungifted, or whatever. That is nonsense. The fact that we do not is because we do not exerise emunah (faith), and we do not exercise emunah (faith) because we believe in "another (different) Besorah (Gospel)" (2 Cor.11:4; Gal.1:6, KJV). And remember, "another" or a "different Besorah (Gospel)" doesn't have to be something like Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, New Age Christianity or one of the obvious heresies, it can simply be the true Besorah (Gospel) to which we have added SELF. That's the most common "different Besorah (Gospel)" but few will admit it. And the reason why they won't admit it is because 'self' is of pride, and pride is the spirit of murder, and the father of murder is the Enemy (whose servants we don't want to admit we sometimes are) of whom it is written:
Self-Glorification and Self-Pity are Fruits from the Same Tree
"He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the emet (truth), for there is no emet (truth) in him" (John 8:44, NIV).
Yes, emet (truth) progressively slips way from those who know the authentic Besorah (Gospel) as soon as they start 'plussing' in self projects in any form from self-glorification to self-pity. In Messiah, self is dead. Doctrinal correctness isn't the only important thing even though its the antedote to liberalism and a different kind of falling away. More important is that we are presenting and promoting the death and resurrection of Yah'shua (Jesus) first and last, the Alef and Taw, the Alpha and Omega. He can't be added to. His work cannot be added to. He is the Plus and cannot be plussed.
The Three Elements of the Gospel of Salvation
We have been commanded to witness of and preach about the good news of "the Besorah (Gospel) of Elohim's (God's) grace" (Ac.20:24, NIV) "to every creature (person)" (Mk.16:15, KJV), the Besorah (Gospel) which Yahweh offers as our only salvation, that Besorah (Gospel) which consists of three key elements:
The Bad News of Salvation by Self-Effort
- 1. Who Messiah is - fully Elohim (God) and perfect, sinless man in one Person;
- 2. Who we are - hopeless sinners already condemned to eternal death (else we wouldn't need to be saved); and
- 3. What Messiah's death accomplished - the payment in full of the penalty for our sins (and any attempt by us to pay in any way rejects the Cross).
The bad news is that those who do not believe are lost no matter what good works they do and the reasons for that are grounded in both Elohim's (God's) ahavah (love) and His justice. Yahweh's justice requires that the penalty be paid for sin and because sin is cosmic in its dimension, it must be paid by the Creator of the Cosmos Himself. In doing all that He could do, and which no other could do, for our salvation, Elohim (God) demonstrated His ahavah (love) for us, lowering Himself to become a mortal man through the virgin birth. So no one can complain against Elohim (God). Therefore He is the "just and the justifier of the one who has emunah (faith) in Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Rom.3:26, NKJV). We can only be saved if we accept that payment for our sin has been made on our behalf.
From Trusting to Action
"Thus, amazingly, man's rebellion against God (Elohim) is seen most clearly in his religions, all of which are but mirror images of Babel - ingenious and persistent attempts to 'climb up some other way' instead of entering through the door that God (Elohim) has provided in His Son" .
Every one of us must trust in the eternal Son of Elohim (God) and in the Cross but then we must find out what He is calling us individually to do. And when we know what that is, we must mobilise and do it energetically, performing it as though it were the very last thing we were ever to do. Everyone has the calling to witness so there is no mystery to be found out there. And the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is how you are empowered to do it by whatever means are at your disposal and according to the several giftings that Yahweh bestows upon the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones).
All are Called, All Have Giftings
Do you believe you have no calling? Or that you are ungifted? Those are lies, for everyone who believes in Yah'shua (Jesus) has one or more callings and giftings. He may not know what the gifting is initially but once he receives his call and sallies forth in emunah (faith), his gifting will become apparent by the by. And even if he cannot see it, those around him will. And whatever action we take, we alone must own it and take full responsibility for it. The results will come even if not necessarily in a manner we can forsee.
The Power of Good Takes Care of Itself
Further, we do not have to forsee every possibility. In thus recovering our inner emunah (faith) in Yahweh we must also recover our inner emunah (faith) in the good, and especially "in the power of the good to take care of itself and us as well" . We not therefore occupy ourselves with a quest for wealth, health and happiness beyond providing for the basic necessities of our families ... and only more if Yahweh has a purpose for any surplus for the work of the Kingdom.
Why Stand Around?
There remains, then, but one further question to ask, and I do so echoing William Blake:
As We Disembark
"Why stand we here trembling around
Calling on God (Elohim), and not ourselves, in whom God (Elohim) dwells
Stretching a hand to save the falling Man?" 
We started our journey in trusting (emunah/faith/believing) but we must end it in action. As we disembark from the Ark and from a long journey in a very short time, may we take to heart the sound counsel of Thomas Traherne:
"It is an indellible principle of Eternal truth, that practice and exercise is the Life of all. Should God (Elohim) give you worlds, and laws, and treasures, and wolds upon worlds, and Himself also in the Divinest manner, if you will be lazy and not meditate, you lose all. The soul is made for action, and cannot rest until it be employed. Idleness is its rust. Unless it will up and think and taste and see, all is in vain. Worlds of beauty and treasure and felicity may be round it, and itself desolate. If therefore you would be happy, your life must be as full of operation as God (Elohim) of treasure. Your operation shall be treasure to Him, as His operation is delightful to you" .
So where, my friend do you stand? What colours are nailed to the mast of your life? And with whom will you serve in shared vigour and passion for King and Kingdom? You don't have long to choose because circumstances will soon force an answer out of you. You will have to choose to be for or against for tribulation tolerates no fence-sitters. Make that your first action and multiply your action thereafter in constancy and loyalty to the sacred banner. Shalom in Messiah. Amen.
 David Hunt, The Non-Negotiable Gospel (The Berean Call, Bend, Oregon: 2012), p.17
 Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Burns and Oates: 1968), p.117
 William Blake, The Complete Writings of William Blake (ed. Geoffrey Keynes) (OUP: 1974), p.672
 Thomas Traherne, Centuries (The faith Press: 1969), p.217
 William Sykes, Visions of Faith: An Anthology of Reflections (The Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford: 1996)