Month 6:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:162 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50 - Teshuvah 15/39
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 15 September 2016
Futile Religion IX
Radical Truth About the Self
Continued from Part 8
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and mishpachah - "grace and shalom (peace) be multiplied to you in the knowledge of Elohim (God) and of Yah'shua (Jesus) our Master (Lord)" (2 Peter 1:2, NKJV).
The Three Threads
Today I am torn between sharing and elaborating upon three separate but overlapping spiritual threads that require urgent attention that quite honestly I am finding hard to choose between them, because the burden of the Ruach (Spirit) lies heavily upon all three. The first concerns a rather important one for all believers - the source or origin of the Self Life; the second concerns the radical teaching of the Beattitudes which probably don't mean what the Church has traditionally insisted they mean; and the third, concerns our very real failure both historically and in the present to actually hear the Voice of Elohim (God) in such a way that there is real communion. If I had three mouths and three sets of hands I would speak on all three simultaneously as in my spirit I cannot possibly rank them in terms of which is the greater priority. So I am going to plunge in where I last encountered Yahweh and trust him to enfold what He wants me to share with you all.
Two evenings ago I was on the way down to another bout of agony with my blessed stomach, an occurrence so frequent now that I can predict with with almost 100 per cent accuracy how it is going to go, when it is going to end and what I have to do. I have learned to listen carefully to my body, at least far better than I used to, and to realise that in its responses to various stimuli that there is an intelligence at work that is not mine. Pain is not an easy language to understand, at least not in the details, but a language it most certainly is. (I am so glad my alimentary canal is not charismatic or I'd never be able to interpret it).
Waiting for a Miracle
As I braced for the pain to reach its crescendo and there remain for several hours before subsiding, like most of us I went into a particular prayer mode which can perhaps best be described as a combination of self-pity, resignation and the hope that this time round I might get a major 'Helping Hand' from above...and the bigger the better. By that I mean, of course, a healing miracle. I have had lots of 'little' miracles but I am still waiting - hoping - for a a First League one.
Healing Like Revival
Sometimes I think we approach healing in much the same way as many Christians approach revival: "Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Ps.85:6, NIV), pled King David. How many prayers for revival are actually answered? (I speak of genuine revivals, not all the counterfeit charismatic ones we hear of). Indeed, why are so few prayers for revival answered? The answer, alas, is that when we pray for revival, what we're most often doing is asking Yahweh to force rebellious souls to repent instead of allowing them to continue to have the freedom of choice. Anything that is based on force will not lead to high quality results - that addage that 'a man forced against his will, remains unconvinced still', is still true. Alas, I think we approach healing in the same way, sometimes deliberately ignoring the Scriptures which say that healing and repentance are supposed go hand-in-hand. The story of the healing of the paralytic man in Capernaum springs to mind (Mk.2:1-12). Healing that is accompanied by no repentance can only ever be cheap healing, devoid of any spiritual substance. Yahweh wants the whole soul healed, not just the biological bits.
So there I was, two nights ago, going through my 'pain routine' and asking Yahweh to have mercy and finding that I wasn't really talking to Him at all but simply going through a well-tried routine. I couldn't open the Scriptures because I felt no desire to - at that moment in time I didn't believe they would do any good. How many times had I gone through this routine without results? My emunah (faith) was frankly non-existant at that point. 'Why do something that doesn't work anyway?' was my attitude. I'll just ride this through whilst all the time repeating, mantra-like, the pitiful 'Lord have mercy!' line.
The Accuser at Work
Yahweh was going to have none of that, though, and it wasn't long before I started hearing the accusing voice of the Enemy. It was bad, I can tell you, and voice upon accusatory voice just piled ontop of one another, trying to guilt me. (It is not for nothing he is called the 'Accuser' or haSatan). And when you are in a lot of pain it is very easy to be guilted. Some of the accusations were true but most were lies, and it was the truthful ones that stuck in my gut. I had no shalom (peace) at all. So I changed the tune of my prayers, stopped the self-pitying, and simply acknowledged the sins that the devil was accurately accusing me of and expressed a willingness to Yahweh to do whatever would be needed to get them resolved. This was down-to-earth, heart-to-heart talking with Yahweh - no smooth talk, no oratory, just letting it all out whilst being careful to strip away excuses, self-justification, self-pity and all the other disgusting ways of the flesh. I felt shalom (peace) return and sensed actual communion.
Psalm 32 Speaks
When I finally opened my Bible after that, it sprang to life. He told me to read Psalm 32:
Promises to Those Who Trust in Yahweh
"Happy is the man whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put away! Happy is the man when Yahweh lays no guilt to his account, and in his spirit there is no deceit" (Ps.32:1-2, NEB).
Now the Scripture was alive, now it was speaking to me in real time because there was a spiritual bridge between me and Him. Only He could have known what was in Psalm 32 for as many of you know, I remember Scriptures conceptually but I can never locate them. And this particular Bible version is not one I know well anyway, having been raised on the KJV. But look, there was more:
Repentance and Healing
"While I refused to speak, my body wasted away with moaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me, the sap in me dried up as in summer drought. Then I declared my sin, I did not conceal my guilt. I said, 'With sorrow I will confess my disobedience to Yahweh's; then Thou didst remit the penalty of my sin. So every faithful heart shall pray to Thee in the hour of anxiety, when great floods threaten. Thou art a refuge for me from distress so that it cannot touch me; Thou dost guard me and enfold me in salvation beyond the reach of all harm. I will teach you, and guide you in the way you should go. I will keep you under my eye. Do not believe like [stubborn] horse or mule, unreasoning creatures, whose course must be checked with bit and bridle. Many are the torments of the ungodly; but unfailing ahavah (love) enfolds him who trusts in Yahweh. Rejoice in Yahweh and be glad, you righteous men, and sing aloud, all men of upright heart" (Ps.32:3-11, NEB).
Something different happened this time round. I realise in practice - in the spirit - that repentance was a key to physical healing. This was not a realisation of theology or of intellect but of the inner man. A process was in action. And to prove it, Yahweh did something He had not done before in one of these gastric sessions - he cut the usual recovery time in half. I was in pain, he told me to eat - the opposite of what I would normally do - and boom, in seconds, the pain was gone. Amazing! Because when my stomach is going through this misery I can't normally eat for a good 12 hours.
Prayer as an Attitude of Being
I understood something in my innermost man on this occasion that I had not realised before, namely, that the words of my praying were irrelevent and played no part in Yahweh's response. I realised that what I had done was to simply submit - not in a formal, declarative way, saying, 'I submit!' because that isn't submission but merely a declaration of intent (which we may, or may not, actually follow through with). You see, real submission is an attitude of being, not an external work. Prayer is the non-verbal communication between our spirits and Elohim (God) and is supposed to be a means through which we practice submission to, and communion with, Elohim (God). Ruach/Spirit-led prayer leads to the cultivation of spiritual attitudes which please Yahweh, such a reverence, submission, dependency and trust. Flesh-led prayer results in bossing Yahweh about and refusing to acknowledge His sovereignty over all things. Fleshy prayer is us making demands, whether angrily or pitifully, it makes no difference, because both are of ego - self - and self is dead. Spiritual prayer is simply acceptance of the divine will whatever it may be.
This takes me back to the patriarchs - Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses - and leads me to ask some pertinent questions. How come these men who had no Bible - no written Scriptures that we know of - had a far closer connection or communion with Yahweh, who spoke to them directly, compared to us who have 1,000+ pages of Scriptures, hundreds of commentaries and tens of thousands of the sermons of preachers over the ages. What is the difference? Why are we seemingly more cut off than they? Is our sinning so much worse? Or are we missing something? I come back to those four elements which I think are severely diminished in 21st century believers - reverence, submission, dependency and trust. Where have these gone? To what have they been transferred? As I looked at my own spiritual life, I realised first with surprise, and then some alarm, that I had put more trust in the written Davar (Word) - the Scriptures - than in Him. The Bible had, to an extent far greater than I had imagined, become my idol. I was as guilty as many messianics in elevating Torah as though it were some independent, living being, an easier substitute than directly communing with Yahweh Himself. I had simply done what those first Israelites had done in choosing Moses as an intermediary, only this was a variation on the same theme, with Scripture replacing Moses.
The Living Word
The thing with Scripture-study is that it is far more a function of the head than of the heart. Yes, creating the right mental grooves for our thinking which then stimulate the heart into action is good and necessary but so often this process can short-circuit and never actually reach the heart as it becomes its own object. The Scriptures are pointers to the Living Davar (Word), to Yahweh Himself, not in the pneumatised charismatic (psychic) sense which is yet another substitute. I had got so fed up with the aridness of the written Davar (Word), immersed as I am in it for hours every day, that all I cared for was communion and nothing but communion.
Thoughts and Feelings of the Heart
We have got to watch out for substitutes whilst at the same time not going to opposite extremes (from stuffy intellectual to wild emotional/charismatic). The emotional and the mental have more in common than you might suppose, and as you know, in Hebrew, no distinction is made between them - they are together called lev or 'heart' which has not only feelings but thoughts too:
Amongst the Baptists
"Then Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen.6:5, NKJV).
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts..." (Matt.15:19, NIV).
"For the Davar Elohim (Word of God) is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb.4:12, NKJV).
Returning, as I recently have, from a fundamentalist Baptist environment in the American Bible Belt, I can well imagine the consternation my brethren there might feel hearing me say speak of 'Scripture Idolatry'. This is one of the great dangers of the doctrine of Cessationism. Yet I do not for one minute knock studying the Davar (Word) - far from it! But sometimes I think it can be an 'easy' escape from the effort required of genuine communion with the Creator because surrendering the feelings of the heart is not nearly as as easy as surrendering the mind, and such is an absolute prerequestite to communion.
Repentance and Increased Sensitivity
Something else happened as a result of this experience. I found my emotional sensitivity quickening. I was watching a video yesterday about a plane crash in which all the passengers and crew on board died back in the early 1960's and this intense grief arose in me whereas before I would have watched the documentary dispassionately if sympathetically. Repentance brings a quickening of the heart life and increased sensitivity to the Ruach (Spirit).
Self-Life and Reason
Do not think I am suddenly deprecating thinking or reason. Quite the contrary. For one thing I have discovered about the self-life, about which I shall speak more of another time, is that it is a force much more powerful than reason in consequence of which reason is overpowered making enslavement of the soul all the easier. The closing down of reason is simply closing down the other side of the heart, for you will remember that thoughts proceed out of the heart. The Enemy takes no greater delight than in causing division within the soul, pitting the mind against the heart, or the heart against the mind, as though they were mortal enemies coming from two different sources when they are not, and come from the singular spiritual 'organ' called the lev or 'heart'. The brain is not the origin or our thoughts but simply a processing station. Our reason is most important. Indeed, an irrational person is more likely to be steered by ungovernable emotions which will lead him into foolish actions. We must start viewing thoughts and feelings as proceeding from the same source, and understanding that where one is deficient, so also is the other. The two grow and mature in tandem when the soul - our essential being - is operating in harmony.
Self as Imaginary Construct
This being so we are led to understand that stupidity is, in fact, born out of the self-centered life. Our lev or heart, wherein is found both thoughts and feelings, was not designed for totally independent action. Without the proper control centre, which is the Ruach (Spirit), the lev (heart) is capable only of confusion and the misdirection of life. We have a spirit that must be activated by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in order for the heart to function properly. 'Self' is the imaginary construct of man in place of Elohim (God). With this key we can make ready sense of the apparenly meaningless and contradictory mitzvah (commandment) given by Yah'shua (Jesus) to His talmidim (disciples):
Three Dark Trees in One
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24, NKJV).
The way to chayim (life) is through death. Death of what? An artificial construct which replaces Elohim (God) as the soul's centre and source of chayim (life). Why would we follow Messiah? Why would we be willing for this creature called 'self' to die? Because 'self' is not real life at all, it's a counterfeit spawned and promoted by the devil, an impulse inherited from the Fall when Satan persuaded Eve she could become her own independent goddess, no longer needing the Tree of Chayim (Life) because the Tree of the Knowledge (Gnosis) of Good and Evil would do much better to promote self-interest and independence. The latter tree is rightly, therefore, called the Tree of Death, because knowledge of itself is not chayim (life). And since the devil is a created being - a creature - he has no chayim (life) of his own. He depends, like every other creature - human and angelic - upon the chayim (life) that is supplied by Elohim (God) alone. It would therefore be appropriate not only to call the Tree of the Knowledge (Gnosis) of Good and Evil the Tree of Death but also the Tree of Self.
A Straight Choice
We have to choose between the Tree of Chayim (Life) and the Tree of Self. The Tree of Chayim (Life) has its roots in Elohim (God). The Tree of Self has its roots in Satan. So it is not difficult to understand why the two cannot co-exist and why man must choose one or the other. Since he is born with the self-disposition, inherited from our first parents who fell, it follows logically that for the Tree of Chayim (Life) to spring up in human life, the Tree of Self must die. Thus Yah'shua (Jesus) taught, quite accurately, and without contradiction or any mystery, that the way to chayim (life) is through death which comes of denying self-life (which is counterfeit life that perishes) and receiving Messiah-life, which is the real thing that is eternal.
Love Must have an Object
It is very simple, really. Elohim (God) is ahavah (love) (1 Jn.4:8,16). Since ahavah (love) must have an object, Yahweh created man to be this object. To ensure that Yahweh's inclination to love would be met, He put in man's spirit the need to be loved and accepted by Him. From the moment we are born, we are driven to find our Creator to meet this need within us.
The Fall and False Religion
So why is this so hard to realise? Thanks to Adam and Eve, we are born dead in our spirits, making it impossible to have the desire consummated in our 'natural' state. What did they do to bring this curse on all mankind? They broke the single mitzvah not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, Death and Self (Gen.2:17). Though they remained alive in their physical bodies and in their psyches (thinking, feeling and choosing), they were dead in their spirits. Like I said recently, they were a kind of 'living dead'. Until we are spiritually regenerated by Messiah, we too are 'living dead', possessing the attributes of physical and psychic life but lacking the spiritual. All false religion misidentifies the psychic as the spiritual and seeks remedial action there. But altering the psychic life has no impact on eternity. It does not - and cannot - impact the spiritual. Only Yahweh-Elohim can do that. And since our deepest needs can only be met on the spiritual, and since only Elohim (God) can operate on the spiritual, only Elohim (God) can give us spiritual life. And until he does that, there is a void - an emptiness - in our lives which neither physical nor psychic stimulation can fill. That is why false religion and psychology and physical stimulation cannot make a lasting impact on our beings. They fail to do what only Yahweh's Ruach (Spirit) can do.
Messiah's Philosophy of Life
Which brings me, finally, in this briefest of introductions to this enormous subject that is the purpose of life, to the Beatitudes, that priceless pearl that is Matthew chapters 5 to 7, Yah'shua's (Jesus') full-blown philosophy of life. I've asked you to look at it several times over the past few months with today in mind. This section from the Sermon on the Mount turns the Tree of Death, which is the Tree of Self, totally on its head, which is precisely why it both shocks and repells the carnal, self-reliant gnostic man.
J.B.Phillips, who made a very good paraphrase translation of the New Testament in 1960 , masterfully shows how explosive and threatening Yah'shua's (Jesus') teaching was by creating a Tree of Knowledge, Death or Self version - let's call it 'Satan's Version' or the 'Anti-Beatitudes'. Here it is:
Mankind Loves This Dark Tree
- Happy are the 'pushers': for they get on in the world.
- Happy are the hard-boiled: for they never let life hurt them.
- Happy are they who complain: for they get their own way in the end.
- Happy are the blasé: for they never worry over their sins.
- Happy are the slave-drivers: for they get results.
- Happy are the knowledgeable men of the world: for they know their way around.
- Happy are the trouble-makers: for they make people take notice of them. 
This Tree of Death or Self is not only very real - not only was it the Tree that stood in opposition to the Tree of Chayim (Life) in the Garden of Eden - but it bears a fruit that is eaten all too commonly by modern Christians and Messianics! You'd be shocked just how much of its fruit you partake of. In fact, you may be shocked by just how satanic you are in some areas of your life.
A Reverse Twist
What's even more interesting is we now know that the last beatitude of Yah'shua (Jesus) was, in actual fact, an adaptation by the Saviour of a proverb common in His day. The Pharisaic Wisdom Literature of the time had a proverb describing as blessed the man who has obedient children, a good wife, faithful friends, is successful, and so on. Yah'shua (Jesus) added a reverse twist to what His audience expected when He said:
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the nevi'im (prophets) who were before you" (Matt.5:11-12, NKJV).
How does modern society live? By what rules? By the rules of Darwinian survival of the fittest:
The American vs. Yah'shua's Dream
"The man with the most toys, wins."
Likewise the country with the best weapons and the most Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 'wins', the diametric opposite of the 'American Dream' which, according to Jerry Reinsdorf, is to reach the point in your life where you don't have to do anything you don't want to do and can do everything you do want to do. That may well be the American dream but it was definitely not Yah'shua's (Jesus') dream as revealed in the Beatitudes because Yahweh views this world through a completely different set of lenses, as should His people too. Indeed, He seems to prefer the poor and those who mourn to all the super-stars and models. The Sermon on the Mount, far from being about the 'survival of the fittest', is all about the "triumph of the victims" .
Those Who Impressed the Saviour
What things or people impress you? We know who impressed Yah'shua (Jesus) - the widow who places her last two mites in the offering box, a dishonest tax collector so riddled with anxiety that he climbed a tree to get a better view of Yah'shua (Jesus), a nameless non-descript child, a woman with a string of five unhappy marriages, a blind beggar, an adultress, a man with leprosy. Was He impressed by strength, good looks, connections, the competitive instinct that brings a person success in Western-type countries? Not a bit. Indeed, He viewed such things as a handicap, blocking the entrance gate to Heaven. You see, the gates to Yahweh's Kingdom are the very opposite to what the world values - dependence, sorrow, repentance and a longing to change - these are what draws Messiah to a soul! These are the gates that lead from the Tree of Knowledge, Self and Death to the Tree of Chayim (Life).
I don't know if there will be time to fully develop this topic in the couple of sabbaths remaining to us before Yom Teruah but I shall try because these are important parts of our spiritual prepping. Today I received the news of the passing of a dear brother which took me by complete surprise and has left me in a state of shock. I will be weriting an obituary about him tomorrow. You just never know when your time is up, a warning not to procrastinate repentance. Time is so very short, brethren and sisters, and there is none to waste. Until next time, may Yahweh guide and lead you into His spiritual presence, is my prayer in Yah'shua's name. Amen.
Continued in Part 10
 One of the three Bible translations I was exposed to growing up in addition to the King James Version (KJV) and New English Bible (NEB)
 J.B.Phillips, Good News (Geoffrey Bles, London: 1964), pp.33-34
 Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1995), p.114