Month 9:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:251 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 14 December 2016
Futile Religion XI
Leaving the Self-Life Behind
Continued from Part 10
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with us as we deal with the critically important matter of how to be done with the self-life and walk in the Messiah-life.
Matching Theology With Reality
There are essentially two things I'd like to try and do today and the next one or two assemblies. First, I want you to see how the Scriptures explain how we are to make the transfer from the old life to the new; and second, I want to relate this to the experiences of the saved - those who are walking in this new salvation-life. Our job will be to match theology with reality because what we don't want is a theory that we can't connect to what's actually happening (or not happening) to us. To do this successfully we will need to remember what we learned previously about the two trees (Part 2), which we briefly recapped last sabbath, because outwardly the good works of the flesh look identical to the works of the Ruach (Spirit):
Complexity of the Dark Side
Fortunately the inner life of the Ruach (Spirit) is not nearly as complicated as the inner life of the flesh. We have spent many weeks already dissecting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or the Tree of Death, or Tree of Self, and we have come nowhere near unmasking the breadth and depth of its complexity. The reason it is complex is solely because it is interlaced with so many lies, and it is hard work unveiling eyes that have allowed themselves to be programmed to see through highly distorting carnal lenses. Our sight has been subverted to serve the interests of the Dark Side - the flesh. We all know how difficult it is to 'explain' what is happening in Satan's domain which is why we have to expend much effort in exposing it sufficiently to persuade honest seekers after emet (truth) to dare to come to Messiah.
The Flesh Loathes the Commandments
Identifying the 'Dark Side', if I may call it that since the term is understood better by today's modern culture thanks to the Star Wars movies than the idea of the 'flesh', is very simple. The Dark Side, quite simply, loathes the mitzvot (commandments). All of them. (By the way, those who think the commandments or Torah have been nailed to the cross, rather than the penalty of Torah-violation, place themselves in a dilemma here, since if the Law really has been disposed of, the flesh now has a free hand!) Now, in the case of the most basic, fundamental mitzvot (commandments), like love Yahweh with all your being, love your neighbour, don't commit adultery, don't steal, and so on, these are things that believers readily give mental assent to. We believe them because we believe they are good. We believe them because we know that it is not nice to be on the receiving end of someone who is violating them at our expense.
Tree of Knowledge Religion
If you go and talk with an alcoholic or a drug addict, he will in most cases heartily agree with you that drinking alcohol and taking drugs is destroying his body and his well-being, the happiness of his family, and ruining his emotional life. His problem, for the most part, is not in the area of understanding with his brain. His problem is in the area of power. Knowledge, or a lack thereof, is never the problem, for it were, we could go and get knowledge and save ourselves. All religion other than the true Besorah (Gospel) is knowledge-based in some way. All false religion is based on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which it mistakes for the Tree of Life. Strip away the outer façe of rites and practices, and you will find that all other religions apart from Biblical Christianity (Messianism) are essentially the same. Occultists are quite right when they say there is a unifying set of principles that unite them all. And it's because the Besorah (Gospel) is the odd-man-out that it is villified so much.
The Problem of Implementation
Knowledge, as we saw last week, is not the problem. There is a power within that is linked to identity which is far greater than knowledge, events and willpower. The problem is the Adamic nature which we inherit from our forefathers. The popularity of conferences and seminars that explain the steps to be followed to have a good marriage and family life are testimony of this quest for knowledge-based solutions to our problems and issues. We can listen to preacher after preacher on YouTube, or read sermon after sermon online, and heartily agree but get nowhere. The problem is consistently in IMPLEMENTATION - in putting into action what we have learned.
How many of you have ever got involved in a 'program' for self-change, to start off well but in the end give up? I tried it once as a young man and failed abysmally. I never tried that method again. I started enthusiastically but realised I did not have the power within me to accomplish the character change I sought. By the time you have finished you've probably forgotten all the principles you learned at the beginning anyway. I have known many Messianics who have sought to change themselves through commandment-keeping as though it were the main thing because it's emphasised so much by their denominations.
The Perfect Temptation
Why is it so hard to overcome? It is hard to overcome because our problem isn't only the flesh, that inherited Adamic nature which demands constant feeding. Our struggle is compounded by Satan himself, who seeks our ruination and destruction. Our problem is also sin and the whole world system enticing us into the Dark Side. Between them they concoct the 'perfect temptation', tailor-made to our greatest personal weakness, and then they throw it out in front of us and dare us to go for it.
From Temptation to Guilt
Now the inner life, which hates Yahweh's Torah (Law) - His mitzvot (commandments) - cooperates fully in complying with the various aspects of the temptation, thus making us a slave in the hopeless state of being powerless to say 'no'. This manifests the state or condition of the Dark Side - the flesh - in us. Level 2 of this operation moves into the realm of guilt where the real damage is done. Guilt tells us that this behaviour is who you really are - that it's your true identity - and everything you feared was true about your condition is proven by your sinful actions, and especially untrue things that may have been said by others about yourself in the past.
Defining the Flesh Nature
This guilt-reinforcement just accelerates the inner life's descent into darkness and despair, making susceptibility to temptation easier and easier until the soul is a veritable slave. The Bible calls this cycle and condition the "flesh" and the best way of defining would be "the condition a man is controlled by, something other than Yahweh, in the world without tiqveh (hope), close to being destroyed, and enslaved by chains that no man can break" .
Types of Slavery
The slavery can be almost anything. It may be obvious like drugs or pornography. It might be seemingly innocuous like TV, eating or exercising. Or it might be less obvious like slander, gossip, bitterness or contention. It really doesn't matter. All of us are born with the Adamic nature and all of us are, in our unsaved states, enslaved to something.
Everyone Recognises Their True Identity At Least Once
A day comes at some point in everyone's life where this condition is recognised, no matter what form it has taken. No soul is left unconfronted by Yahweh, no matter who they are, where they may be, what culture they live in or what their individual circumstances are. Every adult, at least once in their lives, comes to realise that their identity is not what they would like it to be. And one word consumes them - the need to CHANGE. Politicians like to bandy the word around, don't they? Why? Because society as a whole, let alone each individual, knows that something is not right - it isn't as it ought to be. If this were not so, the book stores would not be packed with books on the subject of change. The methodology offered can be anything from crystals, chants and meditation to exercise and astrological horoscopes.
Growth of the Flesh-Life
Sin, Satan and the world work through this Adam-life. Again, the problem is not sin, Satan or the world - the problem is the Adam-life itself. The flesh, unfortunately, is not static. If fed, it grows, like a cancer. And the more it is fed, the more it grows and becomes more pervasive. If Adam-life is the problem, then the inner life is what has to be treated. Certainly, a temporary solution is to withdraw yourself from the source of sin's temptation, and that is better than yeilding to sin and causing the Dark Side to grow stronger through mitzvot (commandment)-breaking. Yes, it is a good thing to starve the Adam-life as a short-term solution but all the methods believers employ to keep it in check - counselling, reading the Bible, covenanting never to commit a particular sin again, attending seminars that give you lists of things to do, and things like that do not fundamentally deal with the problem. So long as the Adam-life is there, all attempts at subduing it by various activities will fail to remove it.
The Futility of Changing the Flesh With the Flesh
Amazingly, our attempts at rectification may just feed the temptation and make things worse! Why? Because man cannot change the manifestation of the flesh by working harder in the power of the flesh. You don't fight cancer with cancer! Flesh will simply not improve the flesh! I learned that much when I was amongst the Buddhists as a student. None of their incessant chanting, which was supposed to improve their karma, changed their lives one bit. The more they chanted, the the less they seemed to get anyware. It was one of the reasons Buddhism didn't impress me.
When Believers and Unbelievers are Alike
Since flesh is the condition of being controlled by something other than Elohim (God), a believer who is drawing upon his own resources and walking in unbelief and self-centredness will often manifest the same characteristics that an unbeliever does. Both are walking in the flesh. Here, then, is an important reality check, since the inner life does not match the profession of emunah (faith). The flesh will not improve whilst at the same time actually strengthening itself. The Bible is most clear about that point:
"...the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63, NIV).
Are we hearing this? The flesh is worthless, counts for nothing, has no value at all. It cannot aid or help you, and especially when it is supposedly employed for spiritual ends!
Fitting Torah in the Equation
"And so it must be that, by the deeds (works) of the Torah (Law), no flesh is justified before Him; for, by Torah (Law), sin is known (revealed, exposed)" (Rom.3:20, AENT).
This passage isn't, of course, saying that we are not supposed to obey the Torah (Law), which is the divinely-ordained lifestyle of the redeemed of Messianic Israel. Rather, it is saying that if you try to get right with Yahweh by observing it, all that will happen is that it will expose what your sins are, which was one of its functions anyway. Any act purporting to be spiritual which is done viâ the flesh is actually displeasing to our Heavenly Father because its foundation is self-reliance:
Observing Torah in the Flesh
"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Ruach (Spirit) is chayim (life) and shalom (peace); the sinful mind is hostile to Elohim (God). It does not submit to Elohim's (God's) Torah (Law), nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please Elohim (God)" (Rom.8:6-8, NIV).
Those who try to please Yahweh by observing the Torah (Law) in their own power will not only fail but are sinning and operating in death and yet submission to Yahweh's Torah (Law) is required nonetheless! The more one works to be transformed by observing the mitzvot (commandments), the worse things get. For example, a man drinking alcohol because he is in control of his own life (living independently of Yahweh, whether a believer or an unbeliever), is still an unbeliever. If this man takes charge and stops drinking, he is still in the flesh. That is why alcoholism is progressive for the man who lives in the flesh, even while he is sober.
The Adamic Nature is More Than a Human Being
I know it is hard for many people to grasp this but we cannot improve our condition in the power of the flesh. We cannot do that because we cannot transform our inner life in our own strength because it will always overpower us in the end. How is that possible? How come we cannot control and overpower ourselves so that we are not constantly at war? And the reason is this: the inner Adamic nature is more than 'Adam' - it is the orginal human nature after satanic corruption. There is a supernatural power in it, the power of the fallen malak (angel) and we are never going to overpower that in our own strength. It's impossible - as impossible as an army with swords and arrows trying to overcome a modern 21st century army with nuclear weapons.
Shutting Down and Rage are Not the Answer
If we cannot change our inner life - and we can't...not without killing something precious off (like the heart) and creating another kind of slavery - what can we do? You can turn your heart off in many ways to 'get control' of yourself, as you suppose, but all that will result is the satanic Adamic nature will manifest in another, cold, ruthless and even more frightening way. Satan gets even more control when you shut down. The alternative is rage...and then Satan has definitely got you. So what is the solution?
An Exchange Must Be Made
The Bible describes the solution - the only solution - which is extremely simple but also very hard because it appears so DRASTIC. We have to exchange one kind of life for another because the two cannot cohabit. When one is present, the other is absent, and vice versa. Examining the theology of this exchange isn't always easy because it's hard for some to understand. The absolute nature of the one or the other is deliberately underlined by the most radical language possible, language that parallels the language used by Yah'shua (Jesus) when He comes to describe the kind of discipleship that is required.
All or Nothing
For Yah'shua (Jesus) it is an all-or-nothing relationship, there is no room for half-heartedness or insincerity, no question of loose or fluid commitment. It's absolute. That is why He challenged His followers with this startling language, language which served to drive the majority away from Him - those who were not prepared to give their all:
"Yah'shua (Jesus) said to them, 'I tell you the emet (truth), unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no chayim (life) in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal chayim (life), and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:53-54, NIV).
Everybody knows He was not inviting them to cannibalise Him. The language chosen was designed to shock and leave no doubts in the minds of those who said they wanted to be His talmidim (disciples) as to what the cost was, which included being looked upon - and down on - by those for whom such commitment was outrageous and even dangerous. And certainly it was dangerous, for the fleshy life, because it challenged its very foundations. 'There just ain't room in this town for the both of us' and it was shown-down time between the flesh and the Ruach (Spirit).
Violent, Drawn-Out Execution
So when we read the language employed by Paul in explaining exactly what this flesh-for-Ruach transaction consists of, we should not be surprised to find not only challenging but even outrageous language, to show just how radical a demand is being made, and how radical a piece of surgery was, and is, actually required to have this eternal chayim (life) to replace the old satanic Adamic life. The language used is of violent, drawn-out, tortuous execution:
Endurance and Shame
"Those who belong to Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal.5:24, NIV).
"I have been crucified with Messiah and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by emunah (faith) in the Son of Elohim (God), who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal.2:20, NIV).
Crucifixion was one of the most horrible modes of punishment of the ancient world. It vwas practiced by many nations, not just Rome. I will spare you the gory details as I am sure you already know them. The point is, death was not instantaneous but drawn out and regarded by many, like Cicero, as a "most cruel and disgusting penalty" . According to the writer of Hebrews it required that hard-earned quality called "endur[ance]" not only because of the agonising pain it called but because it was regarded as "shame[ful]" (Heb.12:2). In other words, what we are being told by means of the metaphor 'to be crucified' is that this journey, this transaction, this exchange of the Adamic-life for eternal chayim (life) absolutely requires that the talmid (disciple) learn endurance and be prepared, simultaneously, to be put to shame - to have no reputation left to speak of.
Participating in His Death
It is very important that we understand from the outset why this metaphor of 'crucifixion' was chosen by the apostle Paul. It was no accident. Not only must this carnal nature be "crucified" but it must be crucified "with Messiah". In other words, it is an act of participation with our Saviour in His death - not the same death, and certainly not as divine beings, but in similitude (or in a similar way), and as mortal human beings, remembering that His human nature has gone through it before us.
I would like to suggest to you that there are a trillion different ways a talmid (disciple) can crucify the fleshy nature so that it will make way for the heavenly one in Messiah. The suffering is no different, nor is the shame, but both will be tailor-made by Yahweh for the life of each authentic talmid (disciple) so that no two believer's experience will be exactly alike. Why must each person's 'crucifixion' be different? Because we each hold onto the flesh in different ways according to our personalities and choices. Therefore no two can ever be entirely alike. I think this is no better illustrated than in the different ways the heroes of the Tanakh (Old Testament) were martyred, and many of the New Covenand talmidim (disciples) went the same way:
Terrible Things Believers Go Through
"[They] were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection . Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Heb.11:35-38, NKJV).
Now I am not saying that all of these martyrdoms were necessarily designed by Yahweh for the 'crucifixion-of-the-flesh' process though they must have undoubtedly contributed to it. Some believers go through terrible illness, some through destitution, poverty, abuse - and not necessarily just physical, but mental and emotional too. Only Elohim (God) can understand these things and why who must go through what. And again, not all of these tribulations may be related to flesh-crucifixion. Some may simply be permitted to give Yahweh glory so that, unpremeditatively, the believer may also obtain a "better resurrection." It would, in any case, be futile to analyse the subject matter any further.
The Exchange Process in Action
I simply wanted you to be aware of the nature of the exchange process and what it sometimes requires, no doubt because some cling more stubbornly onto the flesh than others and must have it prized out of their hands with great force. Know also that Yahweh does nothing without our permission and we can say 'no' at any time. We see that Yah'shua (Jesus) had this option in Gethsemane - He could have walked away from crucifixion and atonement had He so chosen, but He did not. This was no doubt a part of His being "in anguish" (Luke 22:44, NIV).
A Long Crucifixion
Therefore the death of the Adam-nature may take a considerably long period of time. It is, I venture to suggest, rarely instantaneous. Perhaps there are some very qadosh (holy, set-apart) people who are able to surrender so completely without resistance, but I believe most of us must be prepared for the long-haul. That is why, I would also like to suggest, we are required to go through the annual festivals as an exercise in bringing this surrender - this crucufixion - to final realisation. And perhaps that is why, in part, some are called to lay down their lives. In any event, if you are struggling with these things, do not lose heart because you have not 'died' to yourself as quickly as you might like, or that it must be done in stages. At the same time, I would not want you to believe that you can become complacent, for none of us knows when we might be called home, so you do not have an indefinite amount of time to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12, NIV). You may not be given a normal lifespan for none knows the number of his days.
A Drastic Choice
The identity exchange does, therefore, require the most drastic of choices that can never ever be take lightly, choices which some false creeds like Calvinism deny even exist. As you will see, this exchange has little or anything to do with any 'knowledge' save that which is important in having to actually go ahead with the transaction. Of course, every part of the Besorah (Gospel) plays its part, including Torah-obedience, if indeed your observance thereof is tied up with actual surrender and is not an attempt to win personal salvation laurels by self-effort. For this dying to self is the substance of what salvation is made of.
The TWO Transactions
It is easy to be misunderstood in these matters so let me say a little more and then I will wind up for this week so as not to draw this subject out too long. It must be emphatically pointed out that two transations are going on here in the 'flesh-for-Ruach' swop:
Salvation and Resurrection Type
- 1. A INSTANT LEGAL TRANSACTION, that is to say, when you agree to have this transaction enacted, by whatever means and however long it may take, by entering into a covenant with Yah'shua (Jesus) to be His faithful talmid (dsiciple) in eternity, with He becoming your Master (Lord) and Deliverer (Saviour). Then, as far as the Father is concerned, you are JURISDICTIONALLY or LEGALLY SAVED. Thus in freely giving yourself to the Messiah, a contract is instantly entered into, making you legally His, and when the Father looks at you, He sees the Son who overcame and was sinless. This is salvation by emunah (faith) alone, the only human 'work' involved; and
- 2. EXISTENTIAL PROCESS CHANGE, meaning, that although you legally belong to Yah'shua (Jesus) and He may make whatever demands of you that He wants, there is nevertheless a literal dying of self that must take place so that Messiah can fully live in you. "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by emunah (faith) alone" (James 2:24, NIV).
These two realities are not always grasped by Christians and Messianics most of whom regard the first of these two as the sole transaction. The first will, if you remain true to your covenant, and in spite of the struggles and disappointments, guarantee you a place in the Eternal Kingdom, so long as you keep repenting when you have fallen or yielded to the Adam-nature. The kind of resurrection you receive will be a function of your surrenderedness and the good deeds you do.
Overcoming and Promises
Now here's another problem - you can't feel the first transaction existentially because it is by emunah or faith alone. It's a decision and provided you hold to your end of the covenant, with all your ups and downs, you will be alright - you will be secure: "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matt 10:22, NIV; also 24:13; Mk.13:3). For those who overcome the Adam-nature and are no longer controlled by it because they have eternal chayim (life) in themselves, and do as Yah'shua (Jesus) commands them, there will be rulership in the world to come and important apostolic missions in this one:
When Feelings are No Barometer
"To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" (Rev 2:26, NIV).
The daily existential part of overcoming and dying to self is the most difficult and challenging aspect especially as our feelings, when they emerge from the fleshy nature, deceive us so well that we may even come to believe that we have broken the first legal transaction or covenant and are therefore no longer jurisdictionally or legally saved. This is something you have got to watch out for because you cannot feel it - you can only execrise the will-power to cling to it by emunah (faith), knowing that Yahweh is extremely long-suffering and patient with those who are honestly and genuinely trying to work the crucifixion process out (2 Pet.3:9). There will be times when we walk out from the eternal chayim (life) and we will know it because of the emptiness and lack of simcha (joy) that we feel. And sometimes those barren times can be long and discouraging. Then your steadfastness - that quality of endurance I spoke of as being an element of crucifixion - becomes all the more relevent and important for sometimes Yahweh withdraws simply to test us, so you don't always know what's going on. Again, that is where emunah (faith) is seen and recognised as the bottom line, the grounding principle, of salvation.
We'll take this important subject up again next week as there is much more to explore. May our Heavenly Father guide and go with you over the coming week and establish you and comfort you in your comings in and goings out and as you seek the overcoming of the self-life, is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, CO: 1991), pp.101-2
 Cicero, In Verrem 2.564, 66
 Demonstrating once more that there is more than one kind of resurrection
Continued in Part 12