Step out of your day-to-day life for a moment. Unless you look beyond it, you will never understand its significance. There is more to life than the rat race, isn’t there? Things have not always been as we see them today, nor will they always be. Don’t let what really endures be drowned out by the noise of what demands our attention but will not make it into tomorrow’s historybooks. Your nation, your culture will not last forever. What will?
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Did you ever stop to think WHY you try to keep up your image, WHY you work yourself to the bone and go into debt, only to start the process over in another generation? Are you making a difference, or just perpetuating the way things have always been?
Don’t conserve until you have become radical—gotten to the root of things. If we try to address contemporary issues directly, our words will soon be obsolete, because they could only be in-flight corrections that would perish with use. Question every assumption. Once we learn WHY we should believe a certain thing, we may incidentally fit into traditional categories—but for an entirely different reason than to either please crowds or to deliberately rock the boat: simply because we have found them to be worthy of support.
One man actually tried it, and he had the resources to test every hypothesis to its limits. Yet he ended up with a pretty bleak outlook on life: "Increasing knowledge only increases sorrow...The same fate overtakes both the wise and the foolish…You can’t take it with you…So what’s the use? Everything is meaningless!” This was not your everyday skeptic talking; it came from Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived! If that is the conclusion he came to, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Of all the civilizations that have marched across the stage of this tired planet, one was different from the rest. In spite of many attempts to obliterate its ancient writings, they have been carefully preserved. They contain wisdom unlike any that ever spilled off the lips of self-proclaimed sages. They claim to have come from beyond men’s minds, from One whose name means “existence itself”—“the One who is”, before anything else, and after all else fades away. His chief spokesman claimed to be not just a wise man, but Wisdom itself; not merely one who points the way, but the Way itself, and he offered not merely the knowledge of what is right, but the power to do it.
At first this seems foreign to us, but it is a warm foreignness that strikes a familiar chord in us, though one that may have been long since used. Another whole dimension begins to open to our deepest senses. There is more out there! There is more to life than survival and the urgent, pressing matters of everyday life. The last of these extraterrestrial messages warns those who have let these things drown out the more permanent issues: “Wake up! Strengthen the things that remain but are about to die!”
What does remain? The things that have remained despite the ebb and flow of governments and zeitgeists are the same things that will remain after the plans and agendas of this generation have eroded into dust. That is what we must get to the bottom of. That is what we must build our lives around.
The Usual Attempts
No one has to teach a child to be selfish. The world is fragmented, shattered, off track. Why do we need locks on our doors? Because we can’t trust most people when the pressure is really on. Violence is on the increase. Racism is back after only 50 years. Every day our leaders let us down—even spiritual leaders, who either want to be in the limelight or claim our exclusive allegiance. That does nothing to unite the world. We talk of peace, but who is willing to be the first to risk letting our guard down?
We agree on what the problems are, but we cannot agree on the solutions. The world has double vision, but our attempts to correct the problems seem just as futile as those who have given up hope and just try to “grab all the gusto they can get” before their inevitable end. “If the light that is within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
There is always another seminar to attend, because that “better method” we know must be there always seems just out of reach. When we get an insight into one piece of the truth, we tend to act as if those who don’t share this one obsession—of which we ourselves were also ignorant only a short time ago—are hopelessly out of touch and far inferior to us. So quickly we forget where we came from, now that we are on the right side! We now condemn those who are where we were only a short time ago. We all denounce prejudice, but no one wants to admit that, when the real test comes, we all prove to have prejudices just the same: “You who judge are guilty of the same.” (Romans 2:1)
We write a check to feed the poor, but do we change our lifestyle so the disparity is actually reduced? Common sense tells us that if a need is being met, we should step down and move to one of the many places where we would not have to compete, because resources are still quite plentiful. We glimpse the freedom we could have if we actually got the excess off our hands and really enjoyed a few high-quality experiences to their fullest. But who actually follows through? We want to stay where the infrastructure makes it easy. So we enslave ourselves with our eyes wide open, becoming more and more dependent on things that are only as reliable as the power grid. In order to keep what we have, we threaten, intimidate, and smear others’ reputations instead of using what we have to improve others’ lives.
The added rules are themselves a form of rebellion. If YHWH, our Creator and lawgiver, did not see fit to give them to us, how can we expect them to work? They “indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23)
Rules may temporarily hold sin back, but then it only shows up more strongly in another area. We may succeed in reforming ourselves for a while, but one day we slip back into temptation, and in one stroke we have lost the plateau of growth that we worked so hard to attain. As long as we deal in fragments, just making an improvement here or there, or lending our own talents to YHWH, wanting Him to use us “as we are”, we are still eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and that is something YHWH will never support. HaSatan is the one, as always, who is most likely to encourage us along that path. Not everything he does is repulsive; he is proud of his one last domain; as long as YHWH does not get the credit, he doesn’t care if we do good or evil.
That’s because we are still skirting the issue; we are barking up the wrong tree. (Pun may be intended!) We’re not just off track; we’re in the wrong universe! It is the difference between a genuine new heaven and new earth and a mere El Dorado. Even if we found that elusive Fountain of Youth, it would not be the real Tree of Life.
Thankfully these ancient writings do give us a head start—clues, trail markers, and answers, if not to my questions, at least to those that really get us somewhere. They are usually somewhat cryptic so that hostile intruders cannot steal the Author’s pearls of wisdom, for the world is less a circus than a battlefield—the hunting-ground of phantoms whose only desire is to vent their wrath against the One who has justly exiled them from His presence.
But I believe those writings hold the key to everything—the secret we need to know to not only make sense of an increasingly-fraying world but also to become involved in the inner circle who know where it is going and who use that knowledge to benefit its inhabitants. This is the trail the philosophers were onto, then somehow lost. This is the end of the proverbial rainbow—and the rainbow too.
Skeptical? You should be; the harvesters of advantage pass by far too often, so we can’t afford to be naïve. Anyone could claim to speak for YHWH, so He validated what claimed to be from Him with signs. But we are still told to test everything to see if it is from Elohim or not, especially when we have to stake everything on it. (1 Yoch. 4:1) We may have to take a leap in the dark, but only after we have studied the place in the light with a fine-toothed comb. We’re only asked to trust Him on the basis of Who he has proven Himself to be.
When His foremost representative was on the scene, others who looked more powerful were on the thrones, and no one took much notice of him until he started overturning their assumptions, saying that “what is highly esteemed among men is detestable to Elohim.” (Luke 16:15)
He agreed with some things people said, but would not side with any of the established parties, because he had his own agenda. He affirmed what was of value in each, but all of them were off base somewhere. YHWH’s messenger is neither for us nor our enemies (Y’hoshua 5:13) until we are lined up with YHWH’s purpose. Instead, he recalled people to their original purpose, but because every one of them had gotten so far from the real norm, He seemed like an extremist to all of them. When he was scarcely born, a prophet said of him, “This child is appointed for the rise and fall of many…and for a sign to be opposed…to the end that thoughts from many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) But his name was “Yeshua”, which means “deliverance”, so we would do well to give a fair hearing to what he had to say.
What was most important to him? If we can get a handle on that, we will be able to concentrate on the kind of things that will outlast all issues, and recognize which demands on our time we can afford to ignore. We may seem impractical for a while, but we will get to the root of what really matters, and thus have a truly lasting, if not so obvious, influence.
Though YHWH has something bigger for us than mere fun or popularity, most of us don’t respond when we hear that He has a wonderful plan for our lives, because we have our own plans already and don’t want to admit He has any claim on us. He has to get us into a corner and make us realize how impoverished we are before He has anything good to say about us. None of us has any good ideas to offer Him. Appealing to people’s self-esteem before they recognize they are as corrupt as the next person is not doing them a favor.
Is there no hope, then? Is everyone wrong? Pretty much; He says, “no one does right, not even one!” (Psalm 14:3; 53:3) Shouldn’t those who try hardest be most respected by our Creator? We would think so, but when this world did get to see a perfect man—a startling (even if veiled) confrontation with reality--he had no patience for the self-righteous, while those who knew they did not meet the standard found his arms wide open. Why?
Because his kind of goodness was of a different quality. It didn’t have that mixture of good and evil in it. We might reluctantly lay down our lives for a cause for which we agree; he laid his down for people who still hated him. That is a different quality of love, not just a bigger quantity. Even our best traits are soiled with pride of accomplishment or one-upmanship. (Isaiah 64:6) So YHWH deliberately lets us fail (Romans 11:32; Galatians 3:22)—not because He delights in seeing us stumble, but because we need something totally different from self-improvement. When the real test comes, we will all prove to have ulterior motives, and He wants to push that to the surface so it can be exposed and dealt with. None of us has ever lived up to the light we have received, so comparative performance is a moot point. Even the most righteous will still prove inadequate.
While the outward obedience to the laws YHWH really did give us is reachable when we don’t add to it (Deut. 30:11ff), and keeps society functioning well enough on the surface, Yeshua went deeper, to the heart of the matter: we might not commit murder, but if we have malice, we are just as guilty; we might not commit adultery, but if we lust even only inwardly, we are not acceptable to YHWH either. (Matithyahu 5)
It sounds impossible, but that is just the point. YHWH wants His extremely high standard to be seen for what it is, because real goodness can’t be counterfeited; it has to come from Him. Only he—or someone endowed with His kind of empowering and not self-generated righteousness—can meet it. No one does right unless YHWH is the one initiating his action.
This is as different as a shadow from the thing that cast it. Once we see it, as in Plato’s allegory of the cave, we will no longer see much reason to participate in the ordinary disputes, and when we point out the real answers, we seem to be a bit bizarre if not insane—as Yeshua did. He goes far beyond our ideas, but our first reaction is to think he is a threat to our stability. And indeed he is. His “new” laws require much more than we could ever naturally accomplish
There is no shortcut. All that belongs to the flesh (everything that has been corrupted into mortality) must “die” before it can accomplish anything supernatural. This is the idiomatic way that the “cross” is used by Rav Sha’ul ("Paul"). Look past the awful things that were done under its banner to what Yeshua’s cross in particular (not just any) accomplished, and what it represents for each of us as the place our natural life hits a roadblock it can’t get around if we are to enter into not just a slightly-higher-quality life in this age, but eternal life which can be experienced to some degree in the meantime as well.
Even good things must go “through” the cross before they can be of any use to YHWH. They are merely natural, lacking His life; they are still OUR talents, plans, obedience, and rights. Everything was displaced when Adam sinned. His death not only passed to his descendants; the whole creation which he was supposed to oversee got completely out of kilter. (Romans 5) So we need to “come out of” it all—get our focus off every individual thing—before we can see objectively how it was intended to be used. As long as we look at the goodness as our own, as if it were our exclusive possession, we are looking at fragments: “we know in part”. This only causes pride, though it is unfounded; where could we have gotten this innate goodness? Where would anyone gain the ability to be better than others? We are all cut from the same stained cloth; a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. (Mat. 7:17) How can we consider ourselves in a higher category, as if we did not have the same potential to go wrong like everyone else? Even someone as holy as Rav Sha’ul said, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” (Romans 7:18) Just as the leper who is completely covered by his leprosy is declared clean, prisoners, who know how evil they can be, are often the readiest to accept the Glad News of deliverance, because “he who is forgiven much loves much.”
Here is a clue about how our humanity works:
“May the Elohim of peace set you apart entirely—may your SPIRIT and SOUL and BODY be preserved complete, without blame until Messiah’s arrival.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
The line between soul and spirit is not always easy to find; it is one of the noteworthy attributes of YHWH’s word that it can divide between the two. (Hebrews 4:12) But the same verse tells us that it makes us vulnerable because YHWH can see the thoughts and intents of our hearts. Why does He want us to submit to this ordeal? He is not being cruel. Like a parent who wants his child to take the medicine though he doesn’t want to, He wants us to be made whole. He wants us weatherproofed for the very real dangers He knows are out there. No cheap substitutes will hold up against the full force of reality. Our natural selves cannot survive that.
Since Adam fell from his former state, what is natural is sub-standard. Our spirit, which was meant to communicate with the spirit world, is, if not completely snuffed out, at least severely impaired. It more easily accesses fallen spirits as well as prevailing attitudes—“zeitgeists” (spirits of the age) more than the eternal Spirit of Elohim. The body is the part of us that interacts with the physical world—and is also seriously truncated from what it was supposed to be. The soul is the interface or interaction between the two: mind, will, emotions, personality. If both body and spirit are hampered, of course the soul will be confused. When someone responds to YHWH’s offer to reconnect to Him through Yeshua, the spirit is reignited, resuscitated through being united with both YHWH’s Spirit and somehow, the Messiah’s perfected human spirit is shared with us. (Romans 6:5)
‘By one offering he (Messiah) has forever perfected those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14) That sounds like a contradiction—you’ve been made perfect but are still in progress? This is because it is addressing both spirit (the part that has already been made whole) and the soul (the part that has to be educated about the new reality). The body, although enlivened in many ways by this same glad news (Romans 8:11), is not perfected until it is replaced after its natural potential is exhausted.
Most of the Bible is directed toward lining the soul up experientially with what has already been done for us in the spirit. We can be regenerated and reborn but still act like natural men outwardly. YHWH wants to speak to our hearts, but the soul takes much longer to make holy. It takes a lifetime to teach it new thought patterns, and thus our actions always tend to lag behind what we know. We are covered by Messiah’s kinsman-redemption in the meantime, but the goal is correspondence between all parts of our being. Until that occurs, the soul is the battlefield, and can become as messy as one. But hang in there; the fact that you are subjected to the process means YHWH is working in you. Don’t expect an easy time, but the end will not be disappointing if you persevere.
We all have questions about why He does things the way He does, but some questions are so far off the track of what He is doing that He may have no direct answer, so it is frustrating to keep seeking one. He wants to show us something far bigger than answers. Concentrate on what He does tell you; other answers may then come later, but by that time you may no longer be looking for them. Focus on knowing Him, and those that really matter will come to light at the time when they are really needed. The woman at the well (Yochanan 4) was stuck on “either-or” issues: How can you ask your enemy for water? Which is the right place for a temple? Others asked who was the best or whose sins was responsible for someone’s sickness. Yeshua did not seem concerned to answer such questions, but he brought out and answered the real questions.
YHWH’s standard for humanity was embodied in Yeshua. Everyone must be confronted by this "stone" which sets the pattern if they want to be part of the building, and no one can be the same after seeing this paragon of what humanity was meant to be. None of us measures up, and this revelation offends the pride of those who still think they are better than others, making them stumble over it, so most try to keep the truth covered up. But that rejected stone became the piece on which everything else He is building depends. (Psalm 118:22)
Following him complicates the lives of those who want to hang onto other interests, but surrender to his agenda, and life will be simple and joyful, even if painful and full of hardship. We prefer the path of least resistance, but YHWH’s word to His rebellious people was, “Go into exile, and there you will find healing!” (Jeremiah 27) Warn others when they are on the wrong track (Ezekiel 3:18; 33:6), but if they choose wrongly, don’t prevent them from falling. If they choose to learn the hard way, they cannot learn how damaging sin is unless they experience its effects.
Paradox can translate head-knowledge into heart-knowledge. “This thing is from Me” or “it was from YHWH” are phrases that only show up when the exact opposite seems true. (e.g., 1 Kings 12:15, 24; Judges 14:4) YHWH was the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. (Ex. 10:27) We cannot put such concepts into neat categories.
Sometimes we go through an experience that shakes the foundations of all we thought we believed. We don’t know any more what is real and what isn’t. The book of Havaqquq gives us a good example of learning to trust Him even when we cannot fathom what is going on or why. But such “dark nights of the soul” are a normal part of YHWH’s dealings with us if we want to know Him intimately. And collaborate with Him in His purposes. Even Yeshua’s brothers were disillusioned with him; what did he have to show for all of his work? And the priests, who should have known best assessed the source of his power to be demonic! But visible success is only incidental, and not guaranteed, because Isaiah (8:13-17) says YHWH Himself will be a stumblingblock and hide His face for a time, so it is no surprise that His messenger was also called scandalous. (Mat. 21:42-44)
There were only two options when encountering it: be broken in pieces or crushed into dust. Doesn’t seem much of a choice, does it? Part of the Glad News attracts us, but part of it repels our natural minds. But every false assumption must be exposed, for he came to give no comfort to those who rely on things that cannot remain. Some assumptions may turn out to be true, but until proven, they are still only prejudices. We have to set aside every personal preference until we find out where it fits in YHWH’s plan. He may later use our natural talents, but only after they are no longer our purpose. If we jump into a work before His time, it will not have the maturity it needs to bear good fruit (Lev. 19:23ff); we can work only from the flesh, and though we may do many things, they will really accomplish nothing. But many hidden seeds can sprout while we are out of the limelight and don’t appear to be getting much done.
Unless the grain dies, it remains alone. (Yochanan 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:36ff) It is just a fragment. At best it can feed us once, but what about next year’s crop? What we spare will rot; uncrucified things remain earthly and will not outlast us. The pattern is throughout all Scripture: when YHWH gave someone a vision of what He wanted done, He seems to always put it on hold. He allows factors that make it look impossible to fulfill, so it is obvious that only He could have brought it about. Sarah was infertile all of her child-bearing years, yet there was a promise, and nothing was impossible for YHWH. That promised son had to be turned over to YHWH in a way that only YHWH could restore. Yosef’s dreams were from YHWH, but he had to be brought to the humblest position before he was ready to rise to power, so he would give credit where it was due. He experienced the bad conditions the people he would rule were in, so he would not mistreat them when he was given free rein. Before he could deliver Israel, Moshe had to throw down his rod, but when he gave up all control, He saw what YHWH could do.
Those who do submit will, like Yaaqov, be forever-after changed. We will not be self-confident, but we will be full of boldness yet also full of empathy for others who struggle and are ridiculed for their weakness. How? “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit”. (Z’kharyah 1-4) “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…” (Qoheleth/Eccles. 9:11) But no vision that is truly from YHWH goes unfulfilled.
“Don’t touch me before I have ascended to my Father” for His direction. My heart holds you close, but I have nothing yet to say to you. If I look at you, you will see my eyes only. I must withdraw for a time or I will be caught looking at you—and everything else—from a merely human standpoint. Only when my eyes meet His can they reflect light to you. Then, should our eyes meet, may they be smiling, but undistracting, so that you may also focus on the Great Solitary Light.
The Narrow Gate
Only what we submit to YHWH’s pattern of “death and resurrection” will really be ours for eternity. The gate is only wide enough for one person at a time. In ancient times, YHWH told Israel we could not just bring our offerings to YHWH anywhere we chose, but in one central location. (Lev. 17:4-5; Deut. 12:11) This was a picture of the small gate and narrow road that lead to life but which few find. (Mat. 7:14) It is just barely possible to fit without any of our baggage.
YHWH will not make an exception for you, but don’t take it personally; He is impartial, but “gives the Spirit without measure” when we do things His way. But if He turns you, don’t run ahead and keep going in that direction; He might have just taken you on a detour to avoid an obstacle and meant for you to turn again at the next corner. If He gives you extra privileges, be thankful, but don’t get used to them, or you will hurt more when the Sculptor begins scraping away the extra clay He had piled on to correct a flaw.
“Thus says the High and Exalted One, who inhabits eternity: ‘I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.’” (Isa. 57:15) Another paradox: He only lifts us high if we first humble ourselves. (James/Yaaqov 4:10; 1 Kefa/Peter 5:6) Why? Because only in humility can we see things as they really are. Pride, like the leaven we remove for Passover, basically means being inflated, blown out of proportion, trying to look like more than we really are. Humility is simply a realistic appraisal of the situation. But it means admitting that we can do nothing for YHWH. Thinking we have anything in ourselves robs Him of His glory.
“Who made you different? What do you have that you did not receive? So…why do you boast as if you had not?” (1 Cor. 4:7) If we persist like that, we will be publicly humbled when we are proven to be unable to deliver what we boasted of.
Let everything be “crucified”. YHWH’s mercy is available, but on His terms. YHWH even put Avraham to sleep when cutting the covenant with him, so he could not add anything to it! (Gen. 15) Avraham tried many times to fulfill the promises y his own wisdom, thinking he could give YHWH a hand, but that way he created wild men who remain terrorists to this day. YHWH would not accept this as a substitute for the better plans He had.
After the spies had discouraged the people from going to take the Promised Land, and YHWH had announced their penalty, some tried to change their minds and go win the battles themselves. But they were too late. We can no longer choose once we are sentenced to the alternative; that is walking by sight, not by faith. We cannot meet spiritual foes with fleshly weapons. With the open door there are many adversaries. (1 Cor. 16:9) The narrow was is not easy, but if it were, no one would need supernatural strength to do the works of YHWH, which no man can effectively imitate?
The words “cross” and “crucial” come from the same root. It is indeed the “crux” of the human condition. No one can lay any other foundation. (1 Cor. 3:11ff) There are more positive things about our relationship with YHWH, but this is the prerequisite. He will not force it on us. Being born again is as necessary as crossing the Reed Sea; there was a threat behind us driving us forward. There was really nothing left in Egypt to go back to either. But entering into His rest (Hebrews 3:12-4:10) is like crossing the Yarden (Jordan) later. It is a choice; no one is chasing us in. It is quite possible—indeed, common—to receive deliverance through Yeshua but go no further, dying while still in the wilderness.
I think you want better; you want to become a spiritual giant! We see all that needs to be done “for the Kingdom”, and we struggle to do it. We see our own failures, and we strain to do better. Like King Sha’ul, and like Sarah, we think we have waited long enough, and try to do it our way. Or He asks us to give something up, but unlike Avraham, we hang onto our “security blankets” rather than throwing the rod down. He won’t force us; “He gave them their desire, but sent leanness to their souls.” (Psalm 106:15) It is possible to be saved by the skin of our teeth, barely escaping through the flames that burn up everything we built with our own materials when His test comes. (1 Cor. 3) This is the age of grace, but it is sad that so few want fullness of life. Yeshua went so far as to tell us the price was high and we should count the cost; it seemed he was shooting himself in the foot by doing so, for a lot do choose to turn back at that point, but he will not manipulate us. But though He asks the impossible, those who enter the narrow door of surrender do find rest for our souls. “His commandments are not burdensome…for whoever is born of Elohim overcomes the world.” (1 Yochanan 5:3-4)
The Unifying Factor
Yah’s way to growth is to cease from our labors and trust what He has accomplished for us: “In the same way you received Messiah…continue to walk in him.” (Col. 2:6) Victory is accomplished in the same way our initial deliverance was. “If you began in the Spirit, are you to finish the job through the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3) No, let the seed that He planted in you grow.
But He says, “Be still and know that I am Elohim.” Yeshua says, “Remain connected to me, and you will bear fruit.” He is called not just our savior, but our life. That is the key. Let the life-giving sap from his perfect connection to YHWH flow into you as well, and the power will be there to do what you could not do before.
Why is everyone afraid to stop and rest? It is like the Sabbath. By studying what occurred with it, we can see what kind of false connotations can grow up around the more complete rest it pictures. YHWH made the Sabbath for man—a wonderful respite from responsibility so we could relax and enjoy His world without feeling guilty and a shield from our men’s insatiable appetites to make money at the cost of their employees’ health. But we let it change from a wonderful tool to a harsh taskmaster. People kept widening the parameters of what was considered work to the point that Yeshua could not even bring healing on that day without being called a sinner. One of the last arguments in the court where he was sentenced was, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die!” How’s that for he poetic outcome of the flesh? Man’s interpretation of YHWH’s law ends up condemning the one who most perfectly fleshes out that law!
On the picture level, THINGS are set apart as holy. But that is only until we learn that it is really US whom He wants to set apart. The partial things fall away at that point, but some are afraid we will take our liberty too far, and get into all kinds of sins if we really cease from our labors and trust YHWH with everything. But that is the litmus test of what we really believe about His power. He offers something better: writing His laws on our hearts. Whatever we touch can become holy (Zkh. 14:20, 21) because we who use the things are holy.
Those who fear grace are ignoring one big factor: “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” “Certainly not! How can we who have died to sin keep living in it?” (Rom. 6) Those who let their death with Messiah have its proper effect with also realize the power of their resurrection with him. Such actions will become repulsive to us because of who we now are. We don’t want to do them, because that is not who we are anymore.
We died—in a way more real than we can imagine. While we were “in Adam”, sin had legal claim on us, for we inherited Adam’s tainted nature. We were there, latent, in Adam when he sinned. So what he internalized passed down to us. YHWH could ignore the just requirement for consequences, but He could circumvent it. He overruled it by starting a new human race—new spirits that were in Messiah when he perfectly obeyed YHWH, so he is called a “second Adam”. And since he paid the penalty for the sins of the old race, no one needs to experience the curses of the Torah anymore. They remain there like the law of gravity (if you step off a ledge, you will fall), but there is another law that is true also—the law of aerodynamics, which can supersede gravity and allow us to fly. But we must choose to participate in that law, or it will never benefit us, and we will remain subject to the other law.
We still have the ability and tendency to sin, in our flesh, and the eye of the flesh looks only at what is likely to occur if we let go and give YHWH all of our burdens. It’s like the man who insists on carrying his suitcase when seated on a horse-drawn carriage so that the horse does not need to bear the added burden! If you have a pressing deadline and He calls you aside to meet with Him—maybe it’s the Sabbath—will you trust Him to accomplish as much in a short time as well as if you spent the whole day continuing to work? One insight from Him can accomplish as much as all of your trial-and-error deliberating.
If we see the rapids coming and get out of YHWH’s mainstream and find a convenient path along the river to portage by, will we notice if the path turns away from the river and get back into the river? Or will we stay on the path and reason that wherever we end up will be just as good as where the river would have taken us? That’s like saying that since there is no more Temple, we no longer need blood to atone for our sins(though YHWH said we do), but that deeds of kindness will accomplish the same purpose! Why not, instead, make us of the blood that He has made available to us?
If we are to be righteous, it will be YHWH’s doing. We don’t have to figure it out; we just have to cooperate with what He is already doing. “The blessing of YHWH makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Prov. 10:22) If we remain in Messiah, we will accomplish all that YHWH intends, without all the nervous worry about whether we might have gotten one detail wrong. He wants us to have peace and poise, not restless confusion. If we try to hold onto every blessing He once gave us through compromise, we will end up obsessed with fear of losing them. We have a right only to what He gives us. He might give us a particular privilege only once in our lives. If so, we only needed it once. Don’t hang onto it any longer, or it will become a curse. Laying down our rights means we will not expect privileges (Luke 17:10), but then every privilege that does come our way will be an undeserved surprise. So His disciplines really allow us to enjoy life better than selfishness does.
Affording the best things is just a matter of how many harmless but unimportant things you are willing to forego. “Why do you spend your money for what is not bread?” (Isaiah 55:2) The alternative isn’t costly, but it is junk food that won’t do you any good in the long run. The cross is hard to swallow, but nothing else is real food. Only what YHWH Himself is doing is really worthwhile. Seemingly great feats may ultimately prove insignificant, and “small” things may actually change the course of history. A few experience that we absorb so well that we need not repeat them will be more satisfying than hundreds of things people say we “must not miss”. Real quality of life comes only from being what YHWH wants us to be. If we accumulate more responsibilities, we will only be frustrated when YHWH interrupts them with His real priorities which have not changed.
All other successes are merely by-products of concentration on His will. You never find joy by seeking joy in and of itself. It does not exist on that level. Anyone can write poetry except the one who tries to be a poet. Everyone else finds music in the mundane and knows people inside out—for every person is a poem. Poetry comes as a side effect of observation, but want-to-be poets are too busy learning how to write poetry to notice people. We can experience joy only when we lay it aside and forget it, but when we have obeyed YHWH, we will find that the joy has also become ours.
“It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh accomplishes nothing.” (Yochanan 6:63) Those who avoid the cross will be “always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7) They cannot have the whole picture. Those who “hew out for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water” will soon find life to be one big heap of trivia, each piece isolated. “Thinking themselves wise, they proved to be fools”—actually further from the truth.
Yeshua often said, “I will not judge you.” Rather, he would call other witnesses to the court: their own true words that they did not live up to, the other things on which they set their hopes, as well as those who did the same things Yeshua did, but whom they did not accuse in the same way they did him. Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) said the same: “Have you not done this to yourself?...Your own wickedness will correct you…” (2:17ff) “This is YOUR evil. How bitter! How it has touched your heart!” (4:18) Judgment found a point of contact in them because they had nothing in themselves by which to resist it, just like a disease. Everything that is ruined has to be destroyed or re-made. But if the clay resists being re-formed while it is soft, nothing can be done for it after it hardens. If we are not glad that justice exists, we do not realize how repulsive sin is.
Fear of wrath is built into sin (Heb. 2:15); you can call it YHWH’s wrath if you like, because He decided what this universe would be like, and He may occasionally speed up the process to make the world safer for others, but usually all He has to do is withdraw His influence. No one has to be punished; He looks for any excuse to show mercy: if there is only one righteous person, He can pardon us all, and there has been one righteous person and he served our sentence. But no option other than condemnation is left to those who reject his offer, because those who do not receive the fuller reality can only experience half of the truth. Outside this one “ark of safety”, there is no other safe place. (Rev. 20:11; 2 Kefa 3:10)
All who have not reconnected to YHWH through Yeshua are “by nature children of wrath”. (Ephesians 2:3) If we do not stay connected with Him, our experience cannot help but be different. (Yochanan 15) Not that He is out to get us, but when anything is expose to the full force of His reality, it cannot survive. (Ex. 33:20)
Only what is spiritual will remain; flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom. So don’t try to produce the fruit of the Spirit on your own; only YHWH can do that. There simply is no love or peace or goodness that is not His work. Nothing that lacks His own nature can survive the fire; the reason He warns us is that He loves us. He wants no one to be judged, and He has done all that He could justly do to prevent it, but He is a consuming fire (Yeshayahu 6:13; Heb. 12:25, 29) and everything mortal is vulnerable if not housed in something fireproof. Messiah has already gone through death, so death can no longer harm him or anything that is in him. Don’t be so foolish as to refuse this way of escape!
One reason He wants us to act differently now is that we are no longer vessels of wrath; sin is no longer who we are, so we should not do it. If we keep living the same way we used to, the outcome for us will be no better even though we have the power to overcome it.
All of our works will be tested by fire. But how do we know what will survive the test? Fire cannot burn in the same place twice. What we allow to be put through the fire now will already be purified on the day of judgment: “If we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” (1 Cor. 11:32)
The flame that is in Yeshua’s eyes (Rev. 1:14) is the same fire that will judge our works then. There will be no new revelation then IF we allow him to put us through the painful scrutiny now. His light will show us what impurities are there, if we let it, so there need not be any surprises then.
It’s not the actions themselves that are tested; some people who did the exact same things on the surface will be praised, while others will burn up. It is the building materials that matter—wood, hay, stubble, or gold, silver, and precious stones—what makes up His Temple. Have we actually done His works, or only what we thought might be His works? YHWH never tests our ability; He knows that is inadequate. He only shows us what we need by exposing our lack. Did we properly use all that He provided? He gave us a wedding garment, but if we don’t put it on, we won’t be admitted to the banquet. (Mat. 22:11-12)
Our Only Right; Our Only Duty
If you have come through the narrow gate, giving up all fleshly goals, what are we left with? Eastern religions try to achieve a lack of desire, but what point is there in using all one’s energy to become nothing, if that “perfect” state has no meaning? Striving itself would be futile. One who is empty has nothing to share. True, WE have nothing in ourselves, but still we need to give to others.
All things in themselves are vanity—chasing after wind—but the fact that we need to build our lives around something is what led us to focus on the fragments to begin with. When they did not slake our insecurities, we jumped to another fragment. YHWH saved us time and told us they are all bankrupt. But that does not mean that nothing matters! What we really want is not to be emptied—though being emptied of the bad things is a prerequisite. We want to be FILLED. We don’t want to lose a thin shirt because it isn’t warm enough; we want an adequate coat. We may have to remove the shirt to change to a warmer one, but we don’t go naked just because the shirt isn’t enough! (2 Cor. 5:2-4) YHWH will take away the ornaments of the proud (Isa. 3:16, 18), for they must be humbled, but Isaiah doesn’t leave it at that: “In that Day the Branch of YHWH will be beautiful and weighty…and he who is left in Tzion and remains in Yerushalayim will be called holy (unique, set apart).” (4:2, 3) In that Day there will be YHWH alone, and His Name the only one.” (Zekh. 14:9)
YHWH is the “All in all”. He says all things are pure and can have meaning, but only in Himself. Doesn't that satisfy our purpose much better than being annihilated? We have to die, but our death gets us somewhere. None of the particular, fragmentary things can give us a full representation of YHWH; that’s why it is evil to pattern idols after created things. It is wrong to be followers only of Paul or Apollos or Kefa (1 Cor. 1:11ff), but this does not mean we can do without any of them. We need all of the truth to be whole people. They are each parts of His nature embodied in internally consistent, though finite, personalities.
To remain outside of anything that could possibly be overstated or misused would leave us very little to work with. All “isms” are idols because they proclaim to be the whole truth when they are only a part. But they are still parts of truth! Philosophers do not have whole answers, but we must not dismiss the real longings behind what they say, or they will only despair. We know what they are really seeking, so springboard from their valid insights into fuller reality. The greatest genuine critic of all else will be the most passionate lover of reality when he finds it. Even arguments that set out to prove YHWH false turn out to demonstrate that He is true; no, more than that—He is Truth. He fulfills our deepest wishes, because He put them there in the first place. So fill their glimpses with meaning. Trace them to where they got off track, and from there lead them back to Yeshua, the one who manifested YHWH visibly.
“In him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) Symbolism and reality converge in him. All the spokes of a wheel touch each other at the center, though they are separate everywhere else. We can’t relate to anyone on every level; we feel an affinity, but may not be able to communicate it. If we expect to have all of our needs met by one particular person, we are moving along one of the spokes, but only one; as we move away from the center, we get farther from everyone else, and again become fragmented. But we can meet everyone’s heart in Messiah. Know each person through him, and you will have kinship with the best part of each person, and that is enough! “He himself is our peace, who has broken down the division” between us on many levels. (Ephesians 2:14)
Scripture promises many physical blessings to those who are faithful to YHWH. Yet many who know Him deeply become martyrs at an early age, let alone losing all of their possessions, because of the condition this present world is in. Yet they receive the more permanent blessings. Neither is less real, but one is far deeper. One points us to the other. As the Samaritans told the woman who had met Yeshua at a well, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, because we have heard him ourselves…!” (Yochanan 4:42)
YHWH can use anything to bring people back to the center. There are other “spokes” of the wheel besides just the Bible and word-of-mouth witness. The natural creation leads many to recognize that there must be a Creator. It was the stars that led the “wise men” to Yeshua. YHWH had said all of them were designed to be signs (Gen. 1:14). The Zodiac was originally a message about what the Messiah would be like (Gen. 15:5). Let’s stop attributing to haSatan what he can only distort; what can he create? His only raw material is reality and truth, and he twists it, blows some aspects out of proportion, use it out of context—but “the earth and all its fullness belong to YHWH!” (Psalm 24:1) Our job is to bring all these things back to their proper use, to put all things under the feet of Mankind (Psalm 8:6), and all the more since we now have a genuine specimen of the original humanity back again (Messiah). That is their only appropriate context. Thin ice? Yes; a battle is never safe, but it is the only solid route to reclaiming our whole inheritance.
A Transplanted History
There is a true place for everything. “Nothing in itself is unclean” (Rom. 14:14); it is when it is dead or spoiled that it becomes so. “To the pure all things are pure.” )Titus 1:15) So while we cannot assume that anything is being used appropriately, neither can we say that it will be bad every time it appears. We have to stick close to YHWH’s heart to tell. Everything must be mediated through Him. After we come close to Him, He may give us supernatural visions like occultists experience, because He no longer fears that we will abuse them. Legalism is no longer needed, because who that knows YHWH can ever stand to go back under the terror of evil spirits? For them, it is a matter of life and death; for us, just another tool.
All of Babylon’s splendors, luxuries, and glitter will disappear, never to be heard from again (Isaiah 48; Jeremiah 50-51; Rev. 18) Yet soon after this we hear that all the kings of the earth will bring their gklories into the new Jerusalem. (Rev. 21:24) How can this be? Weren’t they destroyed? Yet these splendors look the same! Everything that was taken away was only a shadow. The substance always belonged to YHWH, pure and clean, undefiled. The shadows could not be salvaged; they belonged to earth. But they spoke of a greater reality full of awesome wonder—of the same nature, but anchored in YHWH, elevated to their true level. Nothing good was lost. So in one sense, all things remain—but only in one context.
All things were placed back under Mankind’s feet when Yeshua conquered every temptation and even death, preserving the substance from being lost forever as the shadows had been. Already we have been “seated, in Messiah, in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 2:6) We have (already) "come to the city of the Living Elohim…to the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22-24) Our true position as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Kefa/Peter 1:4) is ours only by humble acknowledgement. (Romans 6) True prayer is seeing the finished reality and then living according to that revelation—“walking in the spirit, not in the flesh”—when all around us seems to be falling apart.
The key is that we are “in Messiah”. “We are complete in him.” (Colossians 2:10) All that is required at any given moment is that we “present our bodies” as available channels as available channels for the Messiah to live out his life through us. True spirituality is not trying to be perfect, but allowing him to express his already-existing perfection in us. Only as we remain connected to him can we do anything truly spiritual. (Yochanan 1:16; 14:12; chapter 15) Life gets simpler, not more sophisticated, as we learn the deeper truths, because all the pictures that lead us to YHWH converge as we get nearer to the Center.
“Present your bodies… Do not be conformed to this world , but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:1-2) We “become” what we already are—that is, holy and acceptable to YHWH—by recognizing the truth that He has revealed. Not being conformed to this world (or age) may not always mean looking ostentatiously different from others, but our values and our focus will be radically different—that is, different at the root: having our minds molded to what YHWH has told us is more true.
“Put off the old man, which is becoming more and more corrupt in accord with its deceitful desires; be renewed in the attitude of your mind, and put on the new man, which is created in agreement with Elohim in the righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The old self cannot be improved; it is getting worse even now. It is poisoned and rotting away more and more each day. Just lay it aside. Ignore its demands. Do not try to reform it, but set your mind on the truth; that is the real battle. Guide your actions by recognition of who you really are now. We have everything as part of our inheritance in Messiah, but we have to exercise our rights—that is, put them into practice.
“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) “Since you have been resurrected [to a new life] with Messiah, set your mind on the things above, where Messiah is…Whenever Messiah, who is our life, is manifested, you will also be manifested with him I your glorified [form].” (Colossians 3:1, 3)
We are united with whatever he does. But we need to re-program our minds to think that way. Remember the tale of Rip van Winkel? When he fell asleep, King George still ruled over America; when he awoke, he was in the same place, but a new nation! Another George had arisen and given him new freedoms, but he had to be educated; he thought the king still had claims on him, though in fact he was free. We have to “LET Messiah’s word have ample living space” in us and “ALLOW Messiah’s shalom to arbitrate” in our hearts. (3:15, 167) We have to appropriate all of his characteristics which are already there in us now, or haSatan will make us think that he is still in control. And he will seem to be right, because we can always drop back into the old patterns.
So you’re guilty? Admit it, but don’t stay there. Don’t let a mistake that took one minute keep you wallowing in the mud for years. YHWH can’t simply forgive; justice is required. But the sentence HAS been served. So He can forget that there was ever a charge against us. (Rom. 8:33-34) He has burned the mortgage, buried the record that there was ever a debt to be paid, so don’t dig it back up! Don’t retain what YHWH has annihilated.
He counts us righteous on the basis of Yeshua’s sharing his excess merit, so YHWH is no longer keeping count of the very real wrongs that we still do. But on a far more fundamental level, He has done much more. He has given us a new spirit that, in union with Messiah from before the foundation of the world, was always exactly what Messiah, the head of our restored human race, is. YHWH not only sees us “as if” we had never sinned, but as always having been righteous, because the new, true self He has given us, has indeed never sinned:
“If I do the very things I do not wish to do, I agree with the law, acknowledging that it is good…I am no longer the one doing it, but the sin [nature from Adam] that [still] dwells in me.” (Romans 7:16-20) “Those who are [acting] in the flesh cannot please Elohim, but [the real] you is NOT in the flesh, but in the spirit, if Messiah’s spirit is present in you.” (Rom. 8:8-9)
These are not excuses to shirk responsibility; they are deeper truths that allow us to live above haSatan’s accusations. True, in our flesh dwells nothing good, but what does it matter now? That is not our heart’s true choice. The only thing our flesh can do is sin, so don’t live there; YHWH won’t convert it until we pass through the transformation of death. He took us out of it and put us into Messiah. So just lay it aside (Heb. 12:1) and keep walking. Our hearts don’t have room for the burden of guilt or the fear that we may let Him down someday, while trying at the same time to concentrate on obeying Him now. So He quelled the question permanently: we do have a perfect offering for sin, so we should no longer have a consciousness of sins (Heb. 10:1-2), because YHWH no longer remembers them. (Isaiah 43:25; 54:4; Jeremiah 31:34) “Where there is forgiveness…there no longer remains an offering for sin.” (Heb. 10:18)
What? Is Messiah’s offering no longer valid? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Oncethe debt is paid, our old self is so thoroughly done away with that YHWH no longer even holds us responsible for Yeshua’s death; our new spirit has always been righteous. His seed within us cannot sin, because it is born of Elohim. (1 Yochanan 3:6-9) “So draw near…in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” (Heb. 10:22) Don’t keep vacillating: “He loves me, He loves me not…” He has chosen us to be His own; can’t we just accept that as the truth and leave it at that? Our only identity now is in Messiah “As he is, so are we—in this world!” (not just the next--1 Yochanan 4:17) “Messiah will appear a gain without reference to sin, for those who eagerly wait for him.” (Hebrews 9:28) “Search will be made for your sins and none will be found.” (Jer. 50:20) A clear conscience means not even knowing our own sin; it has been taken out of the way, so we can put all of our energies into the real work.
We are no longer obligated to obey our “flesh”, because as far as it is concerned, we who are “in Messiah” have died. We actually became new people; we have the same body and personality, but we do not have the same spirit. The motivator has changed, and all relationships have been altered. YHWH says we are all that Yeshua is; it is as if he is our new, true self. HaSatan has no claim on us, except what we allow him; don’t let his envoys convince you that you still owe him “taxes”. We actually have authority over him! But the inhabitants of the “land” need to be informed. Of course they rebel at first, but when all parts of us know who their new rightful owner is, who will object to serving such a wonderful Master?
Consolidate Your Debts
“Sin will not have dominion over you, since you are no longer in subjection to a law, but to YHWH's empowering favor. So should we sin…? Of course not! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as servants, you become slaves to the one you obey—whether to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:14-16)
We cannot live unto ourselves. We do not originate our actions. We are channels either of YHWH or of Adam’s fallenness. YHWH has transferred us from the old economy into His new one, through the death of Adam’s race when Yeshua took that sinfulness on himself. Sin was our master—a brutal tyrant—but it no longer has a claim on us, since in Yeshua we died to it. “The sons [of the king] are free.” (Mat. 17:26)
“The law is good if one uses it properly…A law is not laid down for a just man, but for lawless and rebellious men.” (1 Tim. 1:8-9)
The Torah shows us what is profitable and what will keep us from being unfruitful in YHWH’s service or useless in this world (2 Kefa/Peter 1:5-8). It is “law” in the same sense as natural laws—showing us the only way in which things can work. YHWH saved us much trial and error by telling us how to make relationships with our neighbors outlast the inevitable conflicts that this fallen world brings about. After all, He created our psychological makeup and knows how things work. He is not trying to keep us from having fun; He just knows what consequences will result if we step outside certain parameters, and wanted to assure us of a better quality of life. As astronauts in zero gravity have found, we cannot operate without some fixed points of reference.
But the laws, as with all other things, are not to be the focus in themselves. If they were, there would be an area of our lives outside of the immediate relationship with YHWH through Messiah. Something would be between us and Him. But YHWH took the curses, which prevented fellowship with Him because of our sin (Yeshayahu/Isa. 59:2), out of the way (Colossians 2:14) so we can have confidence before Him all the time, not just when we have obeyed perfectly. “Sin is not taken into account where there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13) If the Torah is written on our hearts (Yirmeyahu 31:33), internalized, the written law outside ourselves has done its work, and we have a more direct source: His Spirit—which is the same as the spirit behind the letter, so they are not in conflict—can guide us directly about the specific details, which will vary from person to person.
It’s a matter of trying to fulfill it independently or in complete tandem with Him. It is like trying to make a fan work without electricity. It takes an awful lot of pushing and won’t do much cooling, but connect it to the right source, and there is no difficulty at all. A branch separated from the trunk cannot bear fruit because the sap that gives it life is no longer running through it. (Yochanan 15) But when it is, it is as natural as anything to be fruitful. Yeshua has the sap because he is planted in the “soil” of YHWH; apart from him, we are not, but he has given us a way to be reconnected.
Prayer is not trying to persuade YHWH of something, but finding out what He already wants and welcoming that to the earth (as it is in Heaven). Hizqiyahu caught a glimpse of this when he wanted some newly-repentant people who had not fulfilled every ritual of purification in time, and he asked YHWH to pardon them because they were preparing their hearts to seek YHWH, even if they were not fulfilling every one of the rules. (2 Chronicles 30:18-19) This was an exception, but it showed where YHWH’s heart was. It had already been loosed in heaven, but a man had to let it loose on earth. (Mat. 16:19)
If men’s laws forbid us from doing what YHWH commands, we have a higher law. We do not come on our own authority, but the owner of every land has sent us, and this is a more objective, permanent standard. (Yochanan 7:18; 8:14-17)
So consolidate your debts. Our egos feast on appearing constantly busy, but the real lasting work is often done where no one sees. When through prayer we tune in to YHWH’s purpose (even Yeshua had to recalibrate after being jarred around by the crowds’ demands), all other “indispensables” become irrelevant. YHWH is ultimately the only one we need to satisfy. We need bow to no other pressure. Why create unnecessary stress? “It is useless for you to rise up early [and] retire late to painfully work for your food, because He gives to His beloved even in their sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)
Martha was so obsessed with getting a meal ready for her teacher that she told him off for distracting her sister from helping her toward what she thought she needed to do. He gently chided her, reminding her that only one thing was really necessary. (Luke 10:42) That is the thing that remains, which cannot be shaken. What was it? Simply “ministering to YHWH”, giving Him the time and attention He deserves. He “inhabits the praises of His people”. (Psalm 22:3) Only there can we truly meet Him. Stop DOING, and just sit at His feet and let Him open His mind to us. Then we will be in tune with all the backstage workings of the entire universe. Here we find the values that transcend time. When we are doing His business, we sometimes find that we do not even need to stop and eat. (Yoch. 4:34)
You need not follow trends, because what YHWH puts on your own heart will be a unique expression of Himself. He is on the cutting edge, whatever others may predict. Remain connected to Him, and you will meet real needs; we are not in competition with His other servants. Nor does life have to be so complicated. But Messiah is called our life, and so is Torah, for he is Torah fleshed out. Stay in him and you will not miss anything. The world can fight its wars over fame, fortune, or romance; but we know the One around whom it all revolves, and He is not hiding the secrets of a joy-filled, meaningful life from anyone who cares to ask Him.
“The blessing of YHWH [is what] enriches, and He adds no hardship with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) So why get into the rat race? He will not let us be injured for no reason. He even makes “the fury of human beings to bring Him praise, and the rest of [their] wrath He will hold back.” (Psalm 76:10) Here is the peace others spend millions trying to find, making fools of themselves in the process. Is there not more to being human? Our only debt is to love the people YHWH gives us to deal with today. All we need to do at any given moment is to be an open channel for whatever YHWH wants to do through us. More complex vows, unless offered as expressions of our love for Him, will not make us more holy. Prove yourself trustworthy and you will not need to swear to tell the truth. If He tells you to inconvenience someone, don’t apologize; it will not harm them, and they may need to be brought down a notch from their arrogance. Just do as He says. Trying to please everyone will always make life full of contradictions; the only one we have to please is YHWH; in the process you will please all the people who really matter as a side effect, but never make it the focus.
“The arm of flesh will fail you”, but once you know what YHWH wants done, you can go boldly with His support. Hold all other plans loosely; it is not the end of the world if they change. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment, because everything else will disappoint you. Yeshua’s yoke is easy and his burden is light.” (Mat. 11:30) The essence of our relationship with YHWH is not what He can get out of us; He loves us. If we think of obedience as a duty, we will not feel like doing it, because our heart is not in it. But let our new nature see a need, and it thrives on responding. When we operate in Messiah’s adequacy, we will find in ourselves a hunger to serve and we won’t want to stop, because it is feeding who we really are now.
YHWH is the sum of all virtues. He does not give us a little bit of peace and a cup-full of joy now and a little more later. He gives us Himself. We do not need to maintain and replenish many qualities simultaneously; we always have Him and He is in all of them. All of His nature is in His children, and we can draw whatever we need from Him at any time, by faith. When someone has a need, all we have to say is, “Abba, You are love; please express Yourself through me now.” Isn’t that simple? All YHWH gives us is the Messiah, but in him is everything we need.
If we try to fulfill every last ritual every day, we are in bondage to religion. YHWH calls us to freedom. Listen to His specific leading, and you will never be bored by spiritual work or insensitive to true needs. Sometimes we have to set aside even our spiritual habits when He wants to do something special. He even told Shmu’el and Yirmeyahu to STOP praying for certain people. If they thought only in black and white, they would have felt that they were sinning, because at another time Shmu’el said, “YHWH forbid that I sin against you by ceasing to pray for you.” (1 Shmu’el 12:23) He might have thought it was the devil tempting him to stop when it was actually YHWH.
Don’t try to figure out ethics in a vacuum. Is it right to go to war? To hate certain people? To buy or engage in recreation on the Sabbath? There are not clear, one-size-fits-all answers in Scripture. There are different levels on which He wants us to look at certain questions, and two people who love YHWH equally well may fall out on both sides of an issues. We are citizens of Heaven, but we also live on earth. He gives some no qualms about certain things so that some of His overall purposes may be carried out, but someone also has to remind us that there are higher standards. “There is a time for everything” (Qoheleth/Eccles. 3:1), and one day the same person may fall out on a different side of the issue than he did yesterday.
“Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls, and stand he will, because YHWH is able to make him stand. One man regards one day above another, while another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day does so for YHWH, and he who eats does so for YHWH, for he gives thanks to Elohim; he who does not eat, for YHWH he does not…For not one of us lives to ourselves…If we live, we live for YHWH…” (Romans 14:4-8)
He has designated some days as holy appointments, but in another sense we want to raise every day to a certain level of holiness. If someone finds a particular practice helpful in his walk, don’t quench his zeal. You may do it differently, but support him in trying to come to convictions, and bring correction if necessary. But make sure your conviction is based on solid Scripture, the actual Hebrew words and not just translations, and especially not just human traditions or assumptions. Nothing is generally allowable all the time. The same thing can be sin for one and not for another. ANY act is a sin if YHWH hasn’t told you to do it this way this time. That requires some close listening, and is not for the lazy!
“Whatever is not from faith is sin. “ (Rom. 14:23) If you cannot put Elohim and this thing together in your mind, then do not do it. As you mature, as with any parent’s restrictions, you may find that He lifts some of them and what was wrong for you yesterday may be not only allowable but necessary today. As you learn where certain things are appropriate and where they are not, you may find He gives you more freedom to choose. Your conscience may not be the best measure of truth, but if you go against what you do know, you will dull your spiritual senses. But is it fear or a genuine concern to do what YHWH wants that holds you back? “I’d be a hypocrite to do what I really don’t want to!” Oh? You might find that doing it anyway increases your felt desire once you know He wants you to.
The question is not whether a particular thing is good or bad, but what YHWH wants you to do right now. Don’t assume that if He gave you direction one day, you can obey it whenever you like. “All things are lawful” and nothing is evil in itself, but that does not means we can just do anything we want any time we want. Obeying general principles can get us in trouble if He has put a hesitancy in your spirit. We don’t need to wonder what YHWH would think of this; we can ASK Him! YHWH’s original plan was not that Adam and Chawwah (Eve) know anything as good or evil, but that they would bring every question directly to Him. You need His go-ahead every time, not just once for all. The relationships has to be ongoing, still current each day. Even the sacred writings are directed to conditions in this temporary world, though they point with utter trustworthiness to the only eternal “I Am”. Only He is living, unchanging Truth. He is the only One who is self-existent. Anything that is not Him will one day cease to exist.
Sometimes He puts us in situations where we can’t find a clear answer, so that we will wait on Him. Remember what occurred when Y’hoshua made a decision based on other people’s pleading, without bringing the question to YHWH. Even Yeshua, who had the most open channel to YHWH than any of us do yet, said, “I can’t do anything [lasting, that is] on my own initiative—only what I see the Father doing.” (Yochanan 5:19, 30) What if there is no time to await a response? At such time, trust His statement that “Messiah is our wisdom” and act on what you do know. Even if we make a mistake, He can work it out for the best when other factors are brought into play. (Rom. 8:28)
The New Creation with a Single Eye
“If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light.” (Mat. 6:22b) A single eye is one with no double vision. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways”, because we can’t act with confidence or be sure of anything. (Yaaqov/James 1:8) “Elohim is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 Yochanan 1:5) He is the only self-existent One; one day all that is not in Him will be done away with, so ultimately there is nothing but Him and those who are attached to Him. And in Him there is no sin. That means that in one sense, sin does not even exist. Sin is not an entity in itself, but the missing of the target. It is a negative idea—something that occurs only when we start seeing double, ceasing to fix our eyes on Him.
So if you become guilty, don’t stay there. YHWH cannot just forgive, for justice must be done, but it has been done; the sentence has been served, so now we are told that sin is actually done away with. And we are told that in Messiah, we died—so those very real wrongs we did can actually disappear from YHWH’s memory—as if we not only never did wrong, but always did right. The difference is subtle but important. We are given Messiah’s history, which includes the righteousness he earned when he chose to end his innocence not through erring like Adam did, but by facing the same choice and making the right decision instead.
Now what YHWH counts as our true self is the new heart and new spirit He promised to put in those who participate in the renewed covenant. (Y’hezq’El/Ezek. 11:19; 36:26) We have to make it our own. (Y’hezq’El 18:31) That covenant was accomplished by Messiah’s untainted blood, so another way this is described is “putting on Messiah, and making no provision for the flesh”. (Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14) Our physical bodies are still tainted with sin, but they are no longer counted as the true self. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please Elohim, but YOU are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if Messiah’s spirit inhabits you.” (Romans 7:16-20; 8:8-9) “Knowing nothing except Messiah “ (1 Corinthians 2:2; Heb. 12:2) keeps our focus right and everything in the proper perspective.
These are not excuses to ignore our responsibility; they are deeper truths that allow us to disregard haSatan’s accusations. True, in our flesh dwells nothing good, but what does it matter now? That is not our heart’s true choice. The only thing our flesh on its own can do is sin. So don’t even concentrate on it; leave it by the side of the road and keep moving forward. Since the penalty has been paid in full He can forget that there ever was a charge against us; He has burned the mortgage. He has destroyed the record that there was ever even a debt to be paid. So do not dig it back up. Don’t retain what He has annihilated.
YHWH will not convert our flesh in this life; He took US—our true self—out of it and put us into Messiah.If we confess our guilt, it is gone. Our only identity now is the Messiah’s: “As he is, so are we also—[even] in this age!” (1 Yochanan 4:17) And when Messiah returns, it will be “without reference to sin for those who eagerly await him”. (Heb. 9:28) But even before the sin in us dies with our flesh, we can be freed from its power, and actually live rightly nevertheless. That flesh can become the servant of the righteous spirit which gradually overtakes the soul as well. YHWH wants us to live freely and simply, unencumbered by guilt.
Hebrews 10 says that if animal offerings had been able to completely do away with our guilt, we would no longer have had consciousness of sins. But since we do now have a perfect offering for sin, we should forget our sins as YHWH Himself does. Where there is forgiveness, there no longer remains an offering. (10:17-18) That doesn’t mean Messiah’s offering is no longer valid; it means, instead, that once the debt is paid, our old self is so thoroughly done away with that YHWH no longer even holds us responsible for Messiah’s death. Our new spirit has always been righteous: “His seed remains in us, and cannot sin, because it is born of Elohim.” (1 Yochanan 3:9) “Everyone who remains in Him is not sinning.” (3:6) Sin does not exist in YHWH’s new economy, which will one day be a fact on earth “as it is in heaven”. But even now, our personal history has been changed. So we can “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” (Heb. 10:22)
That “evil conscience” is double-mindedness, the vacillating between “He loves me, He loves me not; He is angry with me, He is pleased with me.” Remembering the old things that have passed away only puts a damper on the relationship, for He has forgiven them; remember them only enough to remain humble, for on one level, only Messiah’s death got us to where we are. But we no longer need to let that guilt touch us. No matter how much we once hurt YHWH, He has chosen us to be His own. Can’t we just accept that and leave it at that?
In the new kingdom, “Search will be made for your sins, and none will be found” (Yirmeyahu 50:20), so thoroughly has He dealt with them. A clear conscience means we no longer even know our own sin. We see only Messiah. The sin is taken out of the way, so we can concentrate on the real work.
We are often commanded to pray—even “without ceasing”. How would we get anything else done that way? The answer is that there is another perspective. Once prayer becomes second nature to us, our souls can be where our spirits are—constantly in fellowship with YHWH, like magnets drawn toward their beloved Source. Prayer is a conscious participation in that attraction to the throne, which we have to force ourselves to do at first, because it does not come naturally, but once we pull out all the blocks to that relationship, every moment will be spent breathing our native air, seeing the outline of the heavenly landscape in the midst of the earthly mayhem. But we will not think of it as prayer anymore; we are only conscious of things when they appear to be different from the norm. When every thought is an interaction with Him, we will not need to be urged to pray; when we hear of a need, we will immediately refer it to the Provider. We won’t likely pause to bow our heads; distinguish between cultural religious traditions and a true heart-love of YHWH.
We need imposed disciplines initially to prime the pump, until they are habits. “We have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a light in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Kefa/Peter 1:19) But once we know the joy of Whom we are meeting, can we measure prayer? It flows out of us because of who we now are. The motivator is within us now, so the training wheels are no longer needed. The goal is to hide His word in our hearts so we will not sin. (Psalm 119:11) We might not have the external book to refer to in every situation, especially when we must act quickly. So store it where we will always have it with us. He gave us His Spirit to guide us specifically where he Torah gives general principles.
We have already entered eternity; we think about our spiritual state only when we have re-entered the double eye. Thinking in terms of good and bad was a transitional stage to get us out of the worldly way of looking at things, engrained in us by that fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. But when we are given a new nature, sin is just getting outside of our connection with Messiah. It is getting off the track of reality. It does not change the reality. (Romans 3:3) What is evil? Isn’t it often just the way things appear to us? YHWH says He creates everything (Yeshayahu /Isa.31:2; 45:7; Amos 3:6)—and sometimes it looks nice to us, sometimes it does not. But it all turns out to be good for those who are aligned with His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
Does this give us a clue as to the nature of sin? When YHWH had to oppose some people, He told them, “You are trusting deceptive words to no avail.” (Yirmeyahu/Jer. 7:8) They are on the trail of a non-existent goal. “There will be no future for the evil man.” (Prov. 24:20) Outside of YHWH, nothing is permanent. They cannot get beyond a certain point; it become s dead end. That is why Yeshua is able to say to some, “I never knew you.” In one sense, he knows all things, now that he has been raised to the highest place beneath YHWH Himself. But some people were never “on his wavelength”. There is nothing to defend them when all is brought to light: “We gave birth, as it were, only to wind.” (Yeshayahu 26:18) “YHWH has rejected those in whom you trust…for they are not YHWH’s.” (5:10) They are foreign to reality; they have no real power, for they have no connection to YHWH.
On the other hand, “If YHWH is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for the truth?” (1 Kefa 3:13) There is no one else. If you really want a double eye, “bad company will corrupt good morals”, but if you remain connected to Messiah, “nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)
Those who hate knowledge will look for YHWH, but be unable to find Him. (Prov. 1:28-29) They are parasites, borrowing from a once-righteous heritage; their own seeming goodness is only an imitation of reality. The earth itself cannot support such people forever. “If I regard crookedness in my heart, YHWH will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) He will gladly leave the whole universe behind to welcome someone who repents, but He will not lift a finger to advance the cause of a saint bent on going his own way, for YHWH can aid no cause but His own. Anyone who tries to live in any other vein “should not expect to receive anything from YHWH, being double-minded, unstable in all his ways.” (Yaaqov 1:7,8) Redeemed or not, “those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of Elohim” in practical experience. (Galatians 5:21)
So much depends o how you look at it. Like Iyov (Job), we can say that our worst fears are realized, if we choose to give credence to the negative side of reality. But if we had not once thought of Elohim as far off, how could we appreciate it when He is near? Without occasional confusion, how could we appreciate a mind at rest? We made a lot of mistakes out of foolish religious zeal, but they were attempts. YHWH knew where our hearts were, and He was pleased. But He patiently led us to better perspectives.
So on one hand, nothing is as it should be, because this world is out of synch, but for those wit the single eye, all is well. YHWH is a threat only to those who try to circumvent Him—just like the police. “The execution of justice is a joy for the righteous, but terror to the workers of iniquity.” (Prov. 21:15) “He who has a crooked mind finds no good.” (Prov. 17:20) To him the glass is always half-empty. No one can help him until he changes his outlook. He has chosen to live in that vein, and “he who sows iniquity will reap vanity (nothingness, non-existence).” (Prov. 22:8) “He who digs a pit [for others] will fall into it himself.” (Prov. 26:27; cf. Yeshayahu 24:18) “It will be measured to you according to the measure you use on others.” (Luke 6:38) “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” (Mat. 26:52)
Someone off the only track will have no effectiveness, no matter how good his environment or what human steps are taken to try to change him. (Luke 16:31; Prov. 27:22) No matter how much he is pressed, he can produce no good. (Yirm. 6:29) Even when he speaks civilly, he has a plot up his sleeve. (Prov. 26:24-25) He has no point of contact for good: “Your ‘shalom’ will rest on a man of peace; if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:6) But Yeshua said of himself, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me.” (Yochanan 14:30) HaSatan had no handle on Messiah, no place to hang his accusations—and we are in Messiah, so the same is now true of us. "A curse without a cause will find no place to land." (Prov. 26:2)
So how do we “fight” sin? Do we react to it? Or do we live deliberately, with purpose, so that it has no point of contact in us? Just stand firm. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you become like him.” (Prov. 26:4) The minute we start reacting, we are operating by its rules, and are thus on the same ground haSatan is, no matter how noble our arguments may be. We lose our stability and peace. We do not have to compromise who we are to win the battle. By giving stereotypes credence, we only perpetuate them. The bars we put up to keep the criminals out may end up locking us in when we need to get out. What is built in fear of what may never even materialize will come back to bite us. But “when a man’s ways please YHWH, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov. 16:7)
So begin to live deliberately—the way someone who had never even heard of sin would see things. Why start with the twisted way of looking at it? You only recognize counterfeits by knowing the reality intimately. Why be afraid of using things the right way just because the have been abused? If we have to overstate to prove our points, we start out on the defensive, and the enemy has an advantage from the start. Truth will prove itself in the end; countering violence with violence only keeps the vicious cycle going. Just state the facts! Be watchful and alert, but why go on a witch-hunt? Stay in YHWH’s mainstream, and if you get out of it, get right back in, as if you had never left, for indeed, though your soul of body stepped out, your spirit has always been in the same place—right next to His heart. When the Head is in the Father’s presence, we, his body, are always welcome. He never sinned, and we are in him, so remain in him!
If we look at ourselves, sure, we have sinned. Yeshua would not let Kefa think his great confession of truth came from something permanently within himself. The next moment he was speaking for haSatan! The switch does not take long. But we do not need to operate as individuals, apart from him. That was Adam and Chawwah’s great mistake. YHWH says we were in Messiah long before our bodies ever took their first breath and started to see double. So use your full right! This is not presumption; it is a higher form of faith—and that is simple obedience. When you know your parameters, take advantage of every bit of ground within them. If you say you are less, you dishonor the One who says you are more than that. Do you see things more clearly than He does? Our goal is to be conformed to Messiah; why can’t we believe YHWH when He says He has already accomplished this for us, and we only need to walk in it? “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16) That is the law of how things work. That is reality.
Messiah “will see the [results of the] anguish of his soul and be satisfied.” (Yeshayahu 53:11) If we look at externals, we cannot imagine him being satisfied, but he sees the end of the story. He has not failed, so rejoice with him! “With one offering he has forever perfected those who are being set apart.” (Heb. 10:14) Those are the two viewpoints—the present, ongoing process and the finished product, and the latter is the way YHWH looks at it. So we should do the same, and it will give us power to push through the other.
When one of the congregations Paul started was tolerating in a very grave sin, he took some harsh measures to restore the offender, but he told them the real reason he wrote this to the rest of them was that through their obedience to a difficult order, “your earnestness might be known to you…In everything you have demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter…Do you not recognize [the truth] about yourselves, that Yeshua the Messiah is in you?” (2 Cor. 7:11, 12; 13:5) He used the occasion to stir up the real response of their hearts and expose to them who they really were, and what they were truly capable of. The sin was serious, but this was even more crucial. The crisis revealed where their hearts really were.
When YHWH is emphasizing one thing in my life and another in yours, we may look less spiritual to each other, but we stand or fall before the one Judge. He knows what He is doing in each of us. “Do not go on passing judgment [on one another] before the time, but wait until the Master comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts. Then each man will receive praise from Elohim.” (1 Cor. 4:1-5)
“We do not wrestle with flesh and blood”—even our own—“but with the rulers…and powers of darkness.” (Ephesians 6:12) And do not attack them directly, but through prayer ask YHWH to confront them. (Jude/Yehudah 9, 10) Vague feelings of condemnation, anxiety as to whether our motives are correct are not from Elohim. He will convict us specifically, I the spirit of “you are created for and able to do better”. He is the searcher of hearts. We may feel one thing, but will we express the shallow desires to do wrong, or our heart’s true wish?
“Whatever is true…honorable…right…pure…lovely…of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Yes, we are in a battle, but we will not always be; we keep coming back to these things, for they are the reality. We do not exist to oppose anything, but to strengthen the things that remain. And evil will not remain. Correcting errors or malfunctions is not the essence of who we are. Don’t build your reputation on what you are against, or you will have to manufacture “straw men”—artificial problems to solve. Acclimate yourself to the good kingdom that is coming, for that is the norm we aim for; the rest is just the “Emorites” that are blocking us from getting there. They are just a footnote.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Does it sound too good to be true? We are used to being disappointed, but that only means we will appreciate Messiah more when he doesn’t. If YHWH Himself is both goodness and truth, do we not expect the ultimate truth to be good? Should we not rather say the extraordinary things He tells us are too good NOT to be true?
So don’t give in to pessimism. It is based on only part of the truth. If you are not by still waters, are you sure it was He who led you there? What does not strengthen you in the end is not truth.
“After I have uprooted them…I will bring them back, each to his own inheritance.” (Jeremiah 12:15) Though all individual things have to be demythologized, proven to have no value in themselves, some things do remain which give value to all the others. A piece of candy may not be the healthiest thing, but if a child offers it to you out of the love of her heart, is it not better to take it and let YHWH take care of the effects? Faith, hope, and love make room for emotion, and make all things appropriate in their time. (Eccles./Qoh. 3;11) It is still—or again—good to take off your hat or shoes out of respect for our hosts, even if the act in itself accomplishes nothing. It represents something very worthwhile, which cannot be expressed apart from a concrete act, but must be expressed somehow. Any act can be made holy by its motive.
Anything that remains after exposure to the light is the image of Elohim: strengthen it! That is your true self. Others might use the same things for the wrong reasons, but we know that they are now I the right place, so we can use them freely. THEN human reason is a beautiful thing, for it is back in balance. Faith without works is dead because it is ALONE. (Yaaqov/James 2:17) After we step outside the box and get the big picture, we can come back to the particulars and be loyal and passionate for them. We can appreciate those who see things differently than we do, because there are many angles from which to view the “elephant”, and we are all blind to some extent, but the glimpse we do get shows us that they were all right in a way, and all wrong in a way. They are all supposed to fit together. Only when we say ours is the only way to look at it will we really be wrong, but my way may be the way that makes the difference for what needs to be accomplished today, while yours may need to be emphasized tomorrow.
Otherwise we will be satisfied by no one, “like children sitting in the marketplace…who say, ‘We piped to you but you did not dance; we sang a dirge for you, but you did not mourn.’… Wisdom is proven right by ALL of her children.” (Luke 7:32-35) One who had some valid knowledge about Elohim before his confrontation with the need to be “reborn” can again use those valid insights rightly once he sees where they fit in, to “bring out of his storehouse treasures old and new”. (Mat. 13:52)
“All things belong to you, whether [this teacher or that], or the world [itself] or life or death or thing present or things to come; all things are yours, and you belong to Messiah, and Messiah belongs to Elohim.” (1 Corinthians 8:2,3) So don’t pit one against the other. If we say that only one part of Messiah’s Body is valid, we cut ourselves off from many people and ideas that we will eventually need in order to become fully grown in some way that we are not paying attention to right now. Every joint is needed for the whole body to become mature. (Ephesians 4:13-16) Every part is good; it only goes awry if it loses its connection to the Head and tries to be independent. Factions originate in the flesh. (Yaaqov 4:1) Paul and Kefa never intended to be cast as in opposition to one another, and they certainly never tried to start a religion that was in opposition to the Torah! It was unlearned, unstable men who created such a tragic division, which now needs to be healed.
No one person’s doctrinal system is enough to make us all we need to be. “I planted, [another] watered, but it was YHWH who caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) We are not even responsible to make ourselves grow, much less others; only YHWH can do that. If a congregational leader needs to manipulate his flock into staying there, he is not worthy of their patronage. YHWH is doing great works in both of His flocks, and they are meant to be brought back together into one. (Yochanan 10:16, based on Y’hezq’El/Ezek. 34:23; 37:24) It is refreshing to see how many ways His truth can be expressed and lived out. There is security in seeing that YHWH is bigger than our minds and our limited understandings. Don’t teach methods; liturgical prayers, even “the Lord’s Prayer”, are not formulas or magical spells; they are calls to intimacy. Teach people to know their Elohim, and He will fill in the rest of what they need to believe. We will find much more joy if we search for the good in what another says than if we are always out to shoot it down.
The extent to which haSatan takes his counterfeits only shows that there is tremendous value to the real thing. “Nothing is unclean in itself.” (Romans 14:14) It all depends on the motive. If we allow each thing in the right measure, we will be satisfied by the balance. What if petroleum had been written off as useless because we could not drink it? It is precisely the difficulty of finding the right balance that makes a thing excellent when it is done properly. But still we do not say cooking is bad because it is not always done in the most perfect way. Everything YHWH created is useful, even our “bad” traits like stubbornness; He chose a stiff-necked people because there was a real enemy to oppose. A knife can be used for great harm, but also for great benefit. If we “bring every thought captive to Messiah” (2 Cor. 10:4), YHWH will bring out each tool at the time it is really needed.
He has given us “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places through Messiah” (Eph. 1:3), “all things necessary for life and devoted living through the knowledge of him who has called us to magnificence and excellence” (2 Kefa 1:3)—his own excellence. (Yochanan 17:22) There are rivers of living water flowing to us and through us and from us; we do not need to dry up in difficult times. Yeshua promises “rest for our souls” if we just come to learn from him (Mat. 11:28-29), and he will put us on the right path to that rest. (Jeremiah 6:16)
“In every respect you have been enriched with full power of expression and full knowledge…so that you are lacking in no spiritual gift…He will establish you to the finish.” (1 Cor. 1:5-8) That was written to people who were about as far from the experience of that truth as they could get, but they had the resources already. We do not have to beat ourselves to attain it; just like being justified, true spirituality is a gift. “Everything that Elohim does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it.” (Eccles./Qoh. 3:14) YHWH’s will—ultimately the only righteousness there is--is to put our confidence in His son. (Yochanan 6:29) Failure to do that, in whatever form it may take, is the only thing that will condemn anyone eternally or in practical experience. That sin includes all others. We either have all or nothing.
So our idealism can be very realistic! We can be a part of every waterfall’s dazzling drops, of each butterfly’s wings, of each mockingbird’s outburst, if we are united to the One who made them all. There is a reality stronger than our past experience. Things do not have to turn out as they always have before. If we make the right choices, we can be on a faster track to wisdom than many who are far older than we. (Psalm 119:99) In YHWH’s mainstream the usual norms can be circumvented. He changes people’s behavior by changing their nature, not vice versa. Don’t perpetuate legalisms that will never make any real difference spiritually.
We fight too many losing battles because we are supporting causes, attitudes, and factions that will permanently be shaken. We are trying to do what cannot be done, or what has already been accomplished, which only YHWH can do. Or we are opposing the wrong enemy—the people haSatan holds captive rather than haSatan himself. Don’t destroy those you are meant to rescue by making them the enemy. Integrate all your energies into the real battle—pray for them!
“I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have learned the secret of being filled or going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Messiah, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13) No matter whether we can have influence in this world, or whether or not we have the quality of life that the world holds up as its norm, we always have Messiah, and will not come up short when it really counts. Are you working from the basis of his inexhaustible supply which he derives directly from the Father, in which he is rooted and from which we receive as branches? (Yochanan 15) There need not be any strain on you, only the ever-present tension of having needs that only remind us that His supply is waiting whenever we may ask for it. “Man shall not [even] live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from YHWH’s mouth.“ (Deut. 8:3) Yeshua is that word fleshed out. (Yochanan 1:14) He creates the need only because He wants us to take advantage of His supply.
Man is a unique bridge between the animal and spirit worlds, fitting both but wholly relegated to neither. This gives eternal nobility to dust without lowering the holiness of the spirit. Those who live for mere pleasure degrade men to mere beasts, while stoics who deny earthly ties are reductionists who essentially accuse YHWH of making a mistake in creating the physical world. The two extremes are equally devastating.
Rugged individualism is a counterfeit of “if anyone will not work he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10) which leads to the totally unbiblical notion that “God helps those who help themselves”. While we should not presume on miracles if we have squandered YHWH’s provisions, do remember His mercy to Shimshon (Samson), who was rarely an exemplary steward. YHWH does not want to HELP us; if I ask you for help with something, who is doing most of the work? As if I just need a little push over the top. And whose work is it? This task is too immense to imagine we could ever do it ourselves; YHWH can do little for those who will not admit their total helplessness. He is doing a work in the earth; we will succeed if we join in with it and let Him do His work through us. If we are not doing His work, how can we imagine we will get anywhere?
The limitations He gives us are meant to remind us that we are not independent, for one part of the body should not grow strong while the rest stagnates. Sometimes we have to be non-conformists who risk everything to promote what we know will help in the long run, but this is a case of prioritizing, not indifference to the masses. We have to study if we are to help anyone, but should we become experts while others lack basic needs? We often learn more through real-life experiences than by theoretical study of problems. But partisanship can come from the same wicked source as individualism. How can anyone think his ancestry is better than others? No one chose what family he would be born into—as if he had superior taste! Nationalistic pride is a ridiculous extension of this. One economic system says money is more important than individuals; its “enemy” says any are expendable for the sake of the whole. How like haSatan to pit those of common origin against each other! He makes women think they can be independent of men, and men think they can be more fulfilled if they subjugate women.
But in Messiah all of these dichotomies are resolved: subordination is voluntary, and individuals are given personal care even when they cannot contribute to productivity (though they may contribute more than we realize in not-so-obvious ways, not the least of which is prayer). When we die to self, selfhood is not annihilated, but enhanced. When we help others, our own environment and potential are improved as well. “In Messiah there is no male or female.” (Galatians 3:28) Not that they don’t exist, and each have differing gifts and callings (for there are many Scriptures that also indicate what they are and to what extent), but neither has less value and therefore all must be seen as integral to the success of any. We should not covet another’s position, because YHWH did not prepare us for a job He gave to someone else for reasons that He knows. He gave us the Torah as a shortcut to having to spend lifetimes testing all the options by trial and error. We often need differences so that we will continue to respect each other as having something we don’t have, if nothing else motivates us to treat one another with dignity.
Even Yeshua, the perfect specimen of humanity, had no unusual attractiveness outwardly. (Isaiah 53:2) He could therefore demonstrate a love that would not threaten even the weakest who hungered for righteousness. And thus he attracted them anyway. True beauty cannot be hidden when one knows his calling. “Praise is appropriate for the upright.” (Psalm 33;1) He cannot evade it for long, but he never seeks it either, so he will not grumble. Who can offend someone who expects no rights except to carry out the calling he has been given? No one who seeks popularity will find it in the end, for it is only a by-product of loving people. But whoever is known as a servant will soon have a path beaten to his door. One who is kind will be very much in demand—though maybe for menial work rather than what men glorify. The wisest teacher ever washed fishermen’s feet.
Of course, the Just one will never let His beloved go without due honor, but only after they have stopped seeking it. What we need will always be available, so do not seek anything extra before its time. “Let another praise you and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2) Don’t insult another’s judgment by saying it isn’t true; that is not humility, but only another form of pride, saying that you know better than they. But who lives in you? Can you be abhorrent if He is perfect? Nothing that is related to Him is superfluous. A work of art need not deny it is beautiful, but it could never claim to be self-made.
Racism is an attempt to be recognized as superior without having to do anything to distinguish oneself. And no one is entitled to special privileges just because one was once abused. To discriminate against the oppressor because of his skin color is no solution to the problem, and it only makes him defensive and therefore more likely to lash out. We also cannot solve problems by patronizing the needy, though if we have a better grip on solid ground, we can help others out of a pit. But politics alone won’t accomplish this either.
What is the solution, then? The same answer we give for all other evils. No one is different at the heart until YHWH gives us a new heart which appreciates everyone He has made. We all must admit that we participate in the human race’s dilemma. For the oppressed to rise up in forceful revolution only defeats their purpose, because their ideological bondage would remain. Strike at the roots, not the symptoms, or they will only come back, even if in a different form. Seek to liberate the oppressors themselves, and the other problems will be solved too. The felt need for advantage is what leads to exploitation and coercion. Do away with that, and walls built on inaccurate ideas will fall.
HaSatan capitalizes on mankind’s need for dignity by offering counterfeits: in wanting a higher position, we make our own good place look inferior, when in fact it is only different. Those whom YHWH uses strategically are not innately better, just chosen for an unusual task, for which He also prepares them. But do not lower the standard to gain equality either; that only makes everyone mediocre. If we follow the Messiah we will be refined, but that does not mean standing morbidly by while the great dance of the universe invites our enthusiastic participation. Some are dancing in the true light, while millions more are dancing with partners they care nothing about. The “answer to all his dreams” has her own unfulfilled soul. But they know we must dance, or they will die altogether. Once they get a taste of something better than the drudgery, people try impostor after impostor until they find the real thing. Every earthly paradise has its tribal wars or colonizer’s scourge, but YHWH is there calling out for those in this world full of unfulfilled ideals to come and join the dance—so we, who are part of the forlorn race, but also partake of Heaven’s blood--must call out too:
“He whom the Son sets free is really free.” (Yochanan 8:36) And he can still be free even if he is in prison. Flowers that bloom in the ghetto are more appreciated, and even weeds are evidence of the triumph of life. Once we know how broad a freedom has been purchased for us and provided as a gift, who has to force us to enjoy it? Only those who are in bondage themselves want others to be enslaved. True dignity rarely requires more than a keen sense of what is fitting for the occasion; it does not depend on normalcy, but suitability.
Is it bad to love ourselves? How could we love our neighbors as ourselves if we did not? But there are even right and wrong ways to do that: “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him!” (Prov. 27:14) Pride is not the only form self-love can take; and forced self-abasement only degrades YHWH’s creation. If we must go through indignity, take it in stride; YHWH’s love for you will not change. But this will only be a subsidiary part of reaching a higher goal. When personal degradation would bring reproach to his message, Paul stood for his rights; his status gave him no more real dignity, but it was what men respected. At other times he submitted to great indignities, because only his own comfort was at stake. Yeshua thrashed out when YHWH’s name was dishonored, but when merely his own reputation was at stake, he spoke not a word to defend. The point is to know your calling and live it, no matter what others think. Anything else is incidental.
“Strengthen the Things that Remain…” There really are very few, after we weed out the time-wasters--but people are one of those “things”. To hate sin effectively, one must have an intense appreciation for life, because sin destroys all that life—especially human life--was meant to be.
We hear the excuse: “To err is human.” But is it? Sin nature has come to be called “human nature” because it is universal, but it is still not normal, as revealed by the appearance of a real human being who was again shaped from the original mold and did not sin. So sin is not an integral part of what it means to be human. In Messiah, true humanity is being restored, so to be resigned to doing no better in this life will hold back the true human, with whom we are now connected like branches to a vine, from being manifested through us. The image of YHWH can be restored in us even now to whatever degree He chooses, if we allow Him to, even before he appears and we will be like him. Having this hope is what leads us to purify ourselves so some of the same energy can flow through us even now. (1 Yochanan 3:2,3)
Philosophers reach for truth, and find bits and pieces of it, but once we meet the Truth in His fullness, we cannot embrace any philosophy as such to its full conclusion. It is only part of the truth and usually a reaction. We have been given what everyone else seeks. YHWH knew Israel would not be satisfied with a king, so He gave us Himself as King—the only really good one. But we wanted to be just like the other nations. Now that Messiah has completed Israel, we tried to make his Way into a religion just like all the rest, and the world puts us in that category, but life in Messiah is so different from a religion! Sure, it includes worship, as it includes every other valid part of life, but it is something absolutely unique. Trying to put the truth about all reality into one category like that is like trying to include the whole spectrum under one color. Why does eternal truth even need a title? Any we could give it would only be part of the whole. “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”—now, these are comprehensive descriptions because YHWH does not do half a job when He redeems.
Religions are superimposed on life—a turning aside from normal living, a restricting of something, an attempt to make oneself acceptable to YHWH by denying a part of one’s humanity. They are reductionistic. Muslims see men as unfallen--higher than they really are—yet only slaves to the deity—which is lower than we really are. There is no room for a relationship with Him. Humanists see physical life as higher than it really is—not admitting there is anything supernatural—yet say there is no real purpose to life. The systems are manufactured, so they need defending; they cannot stand on their own. But truth cannot be shaken, no matter how much people rail against it or persecute. We only have to make it available, and guard against it being abused.
Yeshua’s brother Yaaqov said “pure and undefiled religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (1:27) That doesn’t sound particularly liturgical; it’s just meeting needs, plain and simple! YHWH may ask us to do some strange things, but they will always be for helpful purposes. There was never meant to be a dichotomy between spiritual duties and everyday life. Some things are holy—set apart for a purpose—but our job is to bring goodness back into every part of life. Each thing becomes righteous when it is in its proper place in line with His priorities. Yeshua was scathing against religious traditions that keep one from fulfilling his weightier responsibilities, like using the nest egg for your elderly parents as a donation to the Temple. (Mark 7:11-13) YHWH is not interested, he says, in demanding “extra” things from man as a sign that they are members of His exclusive “club”. He is not capricious; He just wants to bring all relationships back to normal. Sometimes, since we had lost all spiritual sense, He has to emphasize spirituality for a while, but as a transition. Once we get the basics straight, we need to come back into balance.
If we keep our relationship with YHWH on the level of prayer alone, we will do as many have done, compartmentalizing life so that, on the one hand, we love YHWH, yet continue to run our business or social life according to the world’s terms, never noticing the incongruency. YHWH says to speak of His commandments with our children both at home and wherever we go (Deut. 6:6-7), because they apply to every part of life.
The whole spectrum of life is being redeemed. All that we love, YHWH thought of first, and we see His character in all He made. His creation meets in us not chords that clash, but tunes that please. What greater thrill can a creature find than thinking thoughts spun in His mind? He hadn’t have to make functional things beautiful too, but He did it for our eyes’ sake. We were designed to have His ways fit our hearts! Anything He forbids turns out to be damaging to our humanity. His laws are very psychologically understanding and hold the right balance of justice and mercy. Only if we have an axe to grind or an obsession do we feel a need to add to Scripture or take away from it. (Deut. 4:2)
Truth is much better than fiction; man’s wildest imaginings can’t cover all,
For when one thing is bigger than life, all the rest gets distorted too small.
The movies show ominous fog sweeping through—flaming fog to devour and kill! But even volcanoes and stormclouds and flood are familiar things when they are still, For life if lived ‘mid predictable things, even though they hold mystical twists: The mountains we see every day, think we know, are enchanted by mere sun and mist! Amid radios blaring and traffic and clocks,
Your true tale seems so much like a myth or a dream,
But it satisfies justice, redemption—and mystery;
Perfect truth shows that things are much more than they seem.
Our focus is the restoration of mankind to normalcy. Before the Fall, there was no need for competitive advantage. Loving and serving would have gone on all along if there had been no Fall. So heralds of reality can live quietly instead of obnoxiously; YHWH only has people’s welfare in mind, so we don’t need to stick out, just act appropriately in each situation. Yet as those who have been transferred into the “re-booted” humanity, we cannot help but be different in a world that is still fallen. What is meant to distinguish us, however, is not so much deep ideas, unusual practices, or even miracles, but our love for one another. (Yochanan 13:55) Faith and hope are more of the things that remain, but love is greater (1 Cor. 13:13) because faith works through love. (Galatians 5:6) The Torah defines what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), and must be read in that light. All other commands are just clarifications of how to love. “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart…” (1 Tim. 1:5) “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Torah.” (Romans 13:10) So if we are trying to help someone, we need not fear accidentally committing some hidden sin in the process.
Love is the way YHWH is, so it is the way His people are too, and He told us how to live out the love He has poured into our hearts. He has given us the answers that He wants us to know. What He has stressed is love—so simple, if not always easy. Logic will not win spiritual battles; only love, which is bound by no pressure to win but only a drive to liberate others, will have the patience to guide someone through the labyrinth back to unembellished truth. Slowing down to help them may be more important than reaching our own full potential. He did not want a race of hermits; He made us to need each other.
“Love surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19) As counselor Bill Crabb put it, “People want a refuge more than they want answers.” Love is more widely needed, especially when the answers hurt. When it was becoming obvious that Miryam was going to be a mother, the world had only one cruel explanation. She didn’t need answers; she knew them already. What she needed was someone who would understand her pain, and she found that in Elisheva.
And the ways to love are limitless, from a mere smile to even just leaving someone alone! What better way to use up our lives than to help build up someone who will live forever? Though we are disillusioned by many activities which really prove to be “things that do not remain”, they can become worthwhile when done for others.
A Strange Unity
People in relationship—that is what Messiah’s “body” is about. An entity so large must have some organization, but bones are not obvious on the outside. The living, loving community is how it is fleshed out, and unity does not always take the form we would expect. If every one of us is needed, it makes no sense to side with some and exclude others. Cutting off an arm would cripple the whole.
When a physical body is injured, all of the body’s energy is instantly directed toward its healing. So why would we cut off the people who have become overcome by temptation? They need all the more help. Yes, we may have to quarantine (as with those put “outside the camp” in Torah), but this is still ultimately for the goal of rehabilitation. Disunity is really a sin against YHWH. Hating any of His new creations is an insult to Him. The Body must be perceived as a unit: if you are connected with the Messiah, you are connected to all who are in him. If you love the Father, you must love His offspring. (1 Yochanan 5:1) He has promised that the Messiah’s bride will prove spotless in the end.
Whole persons cannot neglect any aspect of truth, and the members who are most unlike us fascinate us most. YHWH can be glorified in so many different ways! And we need all the different perspectives to see all of reality. Hearing from others who see from a different angle can both crystallize our valid insights and root out our blind spots. They can check and balance our dogmatism. And if we both independently come to the same conclusion, it provides a second witness to confirm that something is probably from YHWH.
His Word is not always geared toward our rational, systematic minds. He revealed Himself through letters, poems, history—and seems to delight in making things as flexible as possible. There are very few absolutes, as firm as those few are. In most cases we need a way to reconcile controversies without either compromising or polarizing. Often the “narrow way” is a tightrope requiring a precarious balance: how can we make peace without sacrificing essentials? To avoid alienating our brothers may mean temporary noncommittal until we find a satisfactory solution. The obvious alternatives are not always good enough. We need an option favoring neither side that rises above and satisfies both through a bigger perspective. Sometimes our attitudes toward one another are more important than who is actually right.
We cannot throw away everything a particular person (or denomination) says just because they disagree with us on one issue! We need to glean all we can from each, but follow the Head (Messiah) no matter where a man-made group may want to take us. YHWH is the only one we must always agree with. Yeshua said that anyone who did not gather with him was actually scattering the flock (Luke 11:23), but he said that anyone who is not specifically against us is actually for us. (Luke 9:50) A body has several systems, like lymph and blood, which never touch each other, but work together toward the same purpose nonetheless. If it is only the symbols that clash, they are not worth breaking fellowship over. Yeshua “came eating and drinking”, while Yochanan did not. Does that mean one of them was wrong? No; one had a severe message, and had to be austere, while the other was bringing the joyful solution. Could one structure fit the job of both?
Our terminology may inadvertently touch some connotative nerves, but we must give one another the benefit of the doubt rather than having knee-jerk reactions and missing what they may actually be saying. Love believes the best about people whenever possible. (1 Cor. 13:7) If someone actually starts to change, isn’t that what we hoped for all along? Should we continue to oppose them based on the past? That begs the question of whether we just wanted to have someone to argue with, so that we could appear “more right” than they. If that is our attitude, we are in the wrong, no matter how right we are.
If I am truly concerned for someone’s welfare and dignity, I will not be so quick to look for their errors. Even if I do find some, they will be more willing to hear me out if I first prove to love and accept them. Is it really such an honor to be known for being able to perceive what is wrong, if you don’t have a solution? And if I listen to why they feel a need for their particular distinctive, I may find that I need to change my views, or may be able to help them find a better niche for that distinctive. There is greater joy in seeing opponents reconciled than in being proven right. Pray for those with whom you disagree rather than cutting them down.
As more knowledge comes to light as we realize that we are Israel after all, many of our categories will need to change. We will not be able to fit the old paradigms of what Messiah’s body is about. So some of the old arguments just have to fall by the wayside as no longer useful. That doesn’t mean they never were; earlier insistence on some point may have sealed our commitment to Messiah. He will show us the exceptions after we learn the rules. And never despise the nurture that anyone gave you along the way. Don’t insist on more than YHWH does. If He did not give a clear answer on the gray areas, I suspect He does not want us to write one rule for every season. Part of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’s appeal was to be able to know all the answers without having to come to Him for input. Where is the relationship then?
Nothing in itself is either sacred or secular, unless YHWH has designated it so. But don’t sear anyone’s conscience by telling him that a certain conviction he has is unnecessary, unless it is specifically forbidden. (Romans 14:3,4) It may be a special discipline YHWH wants him to have because he needs it. Maybe he just wants to have something to offer to YHWH. Don’t destroy this love by being too casual about your freedom. What is a privilege to one may mean nothing to another, so it is no big deal to give it up. Is that a sacrifice worthy of YHWH? (See 1 Chronicles 21:24) He requires different things from different personalities. It is possible to be personally uncompromising and still let others enjoy privileges you cannot. And even Nazirite vows are temporary in most cases. The restrictions we place on ourselves do not permanently define us; a man is much more than his job as a janitor. If YHWH gives back a privilege He once took away, He knows it will no longer harm you.
Moses said, “Do not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor diminish it in any way, so that you can keep the commandments of YHWH your Elohim…” (Deut. 4:2) The Renewed Covenant restates this: “Learn not to exceed what is written, so that none of you may be arrogant on behalf of one against another.” (1 Cor. 4:6) Any added rules are not YHWH’s laws (Mat. 15:9), so do not judge others by what for you may be a worthwhile “fence” to keep you one step further from temptation. Only He knows what each of us is ready for; what may be innocent for you may be too much for me. Once we have been trained to discern good from evil, we need not be as rigid except where YHWH insists on it. Where do we draw the line? We don’t permanently draw it anywhere except where He does, for on a storm-tossed ship, we have to lean in different directions at different times to keep the balance when the weight shifts.
I once could not see how women could say they loved YHWH and yet still wore cosmetics; to me it meant they were unsatisfied with the way He had made them and were slapping Him in the face by trying to improve on it. But then I read that He wanted to shower jewelry on His bride. (Ezekiel 16) Hmmm…There must be another side to this, then. I had only seen half of the story, and I was right as far as it went; our dignity does not depend on anything outward. But I had failed to see that people must express the creativity He has given them somehow—and at least that provides other people with jobs!
Allow people this perfect law of liberty. (Yaaqov/James 2:8-17) Be creative in thinking of what the highest motive an act that at first repulses you could have been, and believe that, unless proven otherwise. Age automatically lets us see recurring patterns; education and experience teach us many things that others could not be expected to know. That is no reason to despise them. Don’t prevent yourself from growing; that’s like refusing to eat for fear of overeating. But be patient with those who are still trying to find out where their limits are.
“Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15) Why create more potential for guilt by adding more rules? And if you are doing what YHWH says, don’t let others judge you either. (Colossians 2:16) The protection He gives to others covers us, too, when we need it.
Are you trusting your extra rules or the Holy Spirit to keep others’ actions in moderation? How can there be any victories if no one is allowed to go into the danger zone? Then the enemy wins by default. YHWH can keep us holy even in the most sinful surroundings; otherwise we could not put all things under Yeshua’s feet. Maybe it is YHWH who closes doors to traditional methods so we will have to live completely by faith; if He does not work, it will not get done!
No part of Messiah’s body should need an advantage over the rest; we all have the goal of presenting each part as mature or complete. Rejoice when someone else is successful; we are not in competition. If someone else is doing the job you wanted, be glad it is getting done. We only have time for such petty arguments if we don’t see the opposition that is directed toward us all from the outside. When facing real enemies, criticisms of our brothers fly away. YHWH will guard whatever position He has for you later, while you take care of today’s responsibilities. None of us can do the whole job by ourselves, and the deeper truth is that if your spirit agrees with what someone else says, it is your word too. Why waste time wishing you had gotten the credit for saying it? It was YHWH, who is in you too, who motivated what the other person said, so there is no place for envy.
It works the other way, too. We can’t say, “I would never do such a wicked thing as he did!” That is just an invitation for YHWH to put out His “foot” and trip you up so that you can see that yes, you would. “Pride goes before… a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) The Adamic nature flows through your veins too; you may just never have felt as strong a temptation in that direction yet. Can a ten-year-old boast because he has never felt the slightest bit of sexual lust? One sin is all it takes to prove what is within us. (Yaaqov/James 2:10) The murderer in your flesh might never have been revealed because you never had the opening or because deterrents were effective, but we must all admit that we have felt like doing something that was forbidden. Our security does not depend on being better than others or having people think we have never made a mistake. “Confess your sins to one another.” That puts us on the same level. If we walk in the light, others know that we, too, struggle, and they are then more likely to want to hear what answers we have found in the process.
"Through a Glass Darkly"
How do these glorious, liberating truths affect our mundane experience now--while we still have to pay the rent and face intolerant employers and come to grips with cancer?
"If there is knowledge, it will be done away with, for we know in part...but when the completion comes, the partial will be done away with...Now we see by way of a dim, mirrored reflection, as in a riddle, but then--face to face. I still know in part, but then I shall fully know, just as I am also fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:10-12)
Does YHWH only offer us tantalizing promises, but little experience of them? The conviction that there is nowhere else to go, but then His face withdrawn as well? Ideal standards, but the inevitable need to compromise? Visions but no way to fulfill them? Great insights, bu little occasion to share them because everyone is asking the wrong questions? Or am I the one asking the wrong questions? Does YHWH intend to give answers, or something better?
In a world of spiritual warfare, though we have the mind of Messiah, we will still sometimes be confused, having to walk by faith, not sight. But success is not defined by clarity or immense feats of faith. When the curtain is finally pulled back and we see the whole picture, our fragmented understandings will be rendered irrelevant and the seeming advantage some had will be shown to be an illusion. Knowledge means categorization and contrast, but when all is brought together into one ("we know in part"), comparative definition will no longer be needed. As the apostle said just after this, it is having loved one another which will make the real difference then.
"Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love." Strengthen the things that remain.
YHWH emphasizes different parts of His truth to each person as he needs to hear them. So we should not argue about our experience of Him; for each on it is different. If He is speaking to both of us, eventually we need to come to a point where we agree. Don't reduce truth to one side or the other, for though it never changes, the angle from which we see it does, and that will never be exactly the same, even for the same person at different stages in life, let alone for multitudes of people. Love goes into the grey areas. People will always make mistakes, but our security is not in a perfect record or a better understanding, but in the One who loves us and says He will never leave us. And we're meant to pass that love on to each other.
YHWH left some questions unanswered--or, should we say, indirectly answered? "It is the glory of Elohim to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out." (Proverbs 25:2) To be able to resolve every detail might also leave us no room to grow, and we all need new frontiers to explore to preserve our sense that there is still something larger than ourselves. And He left room for various levels of interpretation because some are more crucial in one situation while others fit a different need another day. Some appeal more to our minds, and some to our hearts. He does not intend to tell us some things ahead of time (Acts 1:7), and even Yeshua, with his perfect connection to YHWH, did not know when certain prophecies were to be fulfilled. (Mark 13:32) When added details are given, they are not just to satisfy our curiosity, but the context gives other reasons. (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:18) And as for having all the answers, Yeshua said that even if someone came back from the other side, those who were not already willing to believe would not be any more convinced. Sometimes winning arguments only alienates people, whereas loving them makes them more open to the truth. And once you have known YHWH by experience, trying to prove He exists seems as irrelevant as trying to prove you had a mother!
Those who compiled the records of YHWH's dealings with man left some apparent contradictions there, no because they could not recognize that they were there, but because that "glory of kings" is to search out the paradoxical solution, and one way of defining "paradox" is "two glories side by side". One example cited by Arthur Custance is a 114-year discrepancy between two genealogies. But that is the total number of years Israel had no judge and "every man did what was right in his own eyes". YHWH had no point of contact with His people then. So from one point of view, those years never took place at all. Another instance is the length of David's reign; one record has six months more than the other. David had sinned, and in one of the records YHWH "deleted" the very existence of that time, while the other was there to show us the objective "fact" that such a time had once existed. How does that relate to us? Very directly, for one side of "truth" says that we are very guilty of many wrongdoings, but YHWH has also said that if we join Yeshua's history, our own sordid past disappears and it is as if we had always been righteous! So when we see the real intent behind the "contradictions", all we can do is stand amazed and say, "Only YHWH could think of this!"
His message is not a philosophical treatise, but a record of His very personal dealings with human beings in concrete historical situations. The wisdom of Proverbs is not for gurus sitting atop remote mountain peaks, but for your lads in the streets with everyday difficulties. Spirituality and creativity, to mature, must be practiced I mundane situations, where we can prove “faithful in the smallest things”. (Luke 16:10)
Why don’t we hear Him speaking to us audibly very often? Think about it: If you have to shout at someone, doesn’t it usually mean he is not paying attention? YHWH lives inside us, filtering everything we hear through the mind of Messiah, if our ears are attuned. How much closer could He get? If He chooses not to use the tool you expected, don’t be disappointed; be glad He is there to do the job by whatever means. Then you can have the same result but in a better way.
The Copernican revolution upset many theologians: If the earth is not the center of the universe, what significance could mankind have? That is just the point: if we are not at the center, than YHWH has much more personal values than we had thought. His love in sacrificing so much to redeem us is all the more awesome. It means we are better off than Adam was even when he was innocent and still untested, because if we have been redeemed through the Messiah, though we are physically degenerating, we can no longer be condemned, even if we fail.
Our senses are far too limited to let all of reality through, but most of us really want to know about the reality that is confronting us, even though it is invisible and hard to fully define. There has to be something that gives meaning to all the provable things, which are otherwise merely dry facts which don’t move the heart. True faith has to be able to really solve interpersonal problems, not just get our minds off them. If we separate the ideals from the “real” world, we end up having to deny the validity of one or the other, and thus relegate faith to an impractical realm.
No one will ever live up to our ideals. Even More’s “Utopia” could not get past the inevitability of hostile nations on its borders. Skeptics “resolve” the possibility of being proven wrong by simply suspending judgment, but that only removes the problem one step further, leaving it for someone else to solve. Yes, advertisements blow their claims far beyond the product’s capacity to deliver. But even children know we need heroes. We haven’t found the cure-all elixirs, but many choices do not have as terrible an effect as we had imagined.
We appreciate more what we cannot quite catch. To celebrate mystery, we must in a sense be insecure. But we are actually more secure knowing that YHWH is bigger than we could ever comprehend, since we know that goodness is ultimately in control. This does not minimize the real, deep sufferings to which none of us is immune, but it gives them meaning. Though we now know we are loved, we may actually feel pain more keenly once we are born of the Spirit, because we are more human than we ever were before. Real life is always a razor’s edge, where the dangers are overwhelming; the worst abuses are not poles apart from the best things; they are only one step away, for that is the only way we can inherit all things. There is more to life than the trial you are in; don’t let it sap your joy and vigor. If we know that all things work together for good to those aligned with His purposes, we can laugh our way through the trials while we are still in them, and not just after the threat is gone. Life is an adventure, and the worse things appear, the more interesting the end will prove.
So take risks, for this defeats cynicism. Be vulnerable, for we are part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Once we are transparent before YHWH, we have nothing left to defend. We no longer need to impress people. We can admit our faults; what we are will be evident enough to any who care enough to discern, and they will love us no matter what we do. So we are free to keep our door open—to be read, to be seen through. Some will rub it in, but once the light has exposed a fault, to cover it again will do no good. We all have the same struggles at root, and walking in the light means we can freely say so, and somehow in the process that ceases to threaten us.
The things that can be shaken will be shaken, and what does remain will be stronger than before. (Heb. 12:27) If we have a sound upper story but a faulty foundation, He will undergird what we had that was right while He removes and reconstructs what needs to be made perfect, because He will not settle for sweeping under the rug that which cannot withstand an earthquake, for He knows the earthquakes will come. To help others most effectively, we ourselves must be straightened out. So we must face our shortcomings in all their bitterness so we can be in touch with undiluted life and not be scorched. Yeshua refused a sedative and felt every pain, for the feast YHWH prepares for us is in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23)
“Take no thought for tomorrow” does not usually mean “do not plan”. He does provide for some apart from an earned income because He has called them to something no one would pay them to do, bit for most who already have families, “Don’t own anything so you won’t have anything to worry about” holds little comfort. More often the norm is “get involved in life, take a lot of risks, maintain stakes on many fronts, have plenty of reasons to worry, but still just rest in Me as your refuge in the midst of the storm.” Yeshua gives us a different kind of peace which keeps life fascinating too! (Yochanan 14:27)
We are designed to be needy; only when we deeply feel the thirst can we be refreshed. (Jeremiah 31:25) And could we ever see the need to share the Solution with others if we had not keenly felt our own lack? The goal is not to take us out of the trouble spots, but to “strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble…so that the limb that is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” (Heb. 12:12-13) Go to the one who has somethings against you (Mat. 18) and face the heat. He forewarned us: we will be battered and hated, but ultimately we will lose nothing, but gain much. (Luke 21:16-18) Our worst fears may come upon us, but only to burn away all the false securities and the things that hold us back. (Daniel 3:21-27)
We do “know in part”, but we only HAVE to know in part, and that in itself is an ideal! We can know all we NEED to know. Maybe the things that fill our thoughts today seem petty compared to the grandiose mysteries of the universe. But if we receive each good thing from our Creator’s hands, we can appreciate each as a pleasure He has chosen specifically for us. Maybe the form His blessings come in seem more like sorrows, but that is the battle He wants us to be fighting today. All our strengths are tainted by weakness, but when we look up and still Him pleased by our attempts, our doubts, though unsolved, are dissolved by His smile.
“Treasures of Darkness” (Isaiah 45:3)
But we who have been made complete still live in a fallen world. We are told to “not love the world”. Does that mean that if we love YHWH as He deserves, we will have no time left for our fellow man? If YHWH is all we need, are we lacking in faith if we ask human beings for help? Is that circumventing Him? Sometimes, maybe. But Yeshua said that helping the needy is being “rich toward YHWH”. (Luke 12:21; compare Isaiah 58:10) He wants to love others through us as well. He wants the natural and supernatural worlds intermingled. We are often His hands and feet. He whose presence is too terrifying to behold hides Himself in us.
So we have come full circle--back to everyday life, but one spiral higher. Many spiritual actions will look quite ordinary; the only difference is in the motivator and the higher-quality result. Just as once we learn to drive, we don’t think so much about it, but enjoy the scenery, once we have learned the ways of righteousness, we should focus on loving our fellow humans until YHWH redirects our attention to something special He wants us to do.
Those who are connected to Messiah are a new race, but indistinguishable from unredeemed humanity. We have come to know wholeness, but the world asks its questions one at a time. Yeshua did not try to teach the whole body of truth to each person he met, but pointed each one back to the Source so they could be made whole again. Specific needs are what set the stage for wisdom and truth to be made useful. Even the love songs on the radio show us that every encounter, no matter how short-lived, must be immortalized somehow, because the human heart knows there is significance and value in the smallest expression of whatever is left of the image of Elohim in each human being.
We are the world’s appreciators, since its citizens are complainers. We dignify the earth like salt on food, bringing out whatever is still good in it. We are royalty who are to inherit the earth, but it is not the season to live that way, for this is not our resting place. (Mikha 2:10) While the purging of the world is not yet complete (Luke 12:49), we should not seek any special privileges for ourselves. (Jeremiah 45:5-6) Why should we be envied for things that matter least? And something must be good and enjoyable to be sacrificed; donating what we will not miss is not really giving.
Of course, sacrifice, precautions, suspicion, and apologetics were never meant to be; having to use them is a temporary lifestyle until the world is reconciled to YHWH. But for now, it is the only way this can be accomplished; look at the extent to which the one who least deserved suffering carried it. Should the rest of us who are privileged to be part of the Solution be exempt from the measure YHWH deems best? But make your suffering is for this noble purpose rather than something you have brought on yourself. (1 Kefa 3:17) If the world scorns us, do we really deserve better? We have been redeemed, but the reminder of who we used to be keeps our view of ourselves sober and spares us the worry about our rights which would distract us from getting our current job done.
Ultimately, of course, there will be justice: “to the sinner [YHWH] has given the task of gathering and collecting so he can give it to the one who is good in Elohim’s sight.” (Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes 2:26) But how do we get there? The builders of Babel tried to make a name for themselves, while YHWH told Avram, “I will make your name great.” Which of them is held in high esteem today—those who demanded or the one who waited? YHWH will still make use of those who refuse to be sons; He puts the maintenance of the mundane in the hands of those with no spirituality, so those it is stored up for (Prov. 13:22; 28:8; Isaiah 49:21) can concentrate on what only they are qualified to do. The world will not always be in the hands of those who mismanage it; they are just keeping it from total chaos until we are ready to be its administrators. (Exodus 23:29-30)
As members of a new race, we are built for better things, but we are still interacting with an abnormal world, so we have to put up with much that is ultimately beneath our dignity. (Romans 15:1) There were many things Yeshua did not approve of that he used to teach about deeper truths; they were what was available. We have to face life as it is, for right now we will not encounter life as we know it should be. Since the body is living in a dying state now, it has to become fully dead before we can reach full normalcy. But Yeshua, who had the right to sidestep death, instead sanctified even that. The list of the “all things” that are “yours” (1 Cor. 3:21ff) includes death, because even it can be a tool; true martyrdom in the present age is indeed a seed of the better one.
Meanwhile, our anchor is secure, so we are the ones who have to brave the turbulent waves in order to rescue those who are at their mercy. “From the beginning it was not so”, but now it is, and to get back to the “not so”, we have to take a lot of less-than-ideal turns along the way. But light is only needed in dark places. Yes, luxury is built into YHWH’s calendar through feast days, but if we demand luxury all the time, it no longer meets its own definition: a thing we enjoy because of its rarity. Sleep is good, but when it is no longer needed, it becomes laziness, a form of gluttony. “Work while it is day.” We will have another occasion to enjoy life—when the “vanity of vanities” is past and life is really worth living anyway—so we can’t be entangled in luxuries that will only pass away along with this age. (2 Timothy 2:4) They may come and go as we need resources to accomplish our mission, but our balance and settledness is mostly inward now, for a revolution disrupts before it puts the better order in place.
But still, “do not learn the ways of the nations, for [they] are a delusion.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Daniel did not have to be trained in the world’s arts to prove ten times healthier and wiser than those who were; he simply had to know what YHWH had prescribed and eat that, even if it was not as exciting. But still he and his friends submitted to the education they were offered in their exile, and the heights to which it took him led their captors to treat his relatives tolerably well. But he had a far clearer perception into the real issues of his day which still have repercussions today.
He had familiarity with evil without having to experience it. “In regard to evil, be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Cor. 14:20) We can preserve the best of every age, and children need to be shielded from the worst realities to develop healthily at certain stages, but we are not meant to be innocent forever. Both Yeshua and Adam were innocent in a way none of us has ever known, but that was not enough. One can only be righteous if he faces the most difficult and genuinely-attractive temptations and still makes the right choice. Adam did not, so he went from innocent to wicked; the Messiah did, so he went from innocent to righteous. Only thus could he help other people face the same kinds of temptation, and to some extent, the same can be true for us who are imperfect.
Complete equilibrium and stability are impossible now, but real steps toward it are better than unused theories: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean.” (Prov. 14:4) “He who watches the clouds will never reap his harvest.” (Eccles. 11:4) A moving car is easier to turn than an idle one. We don’t receive power to meet abstract threats, only real ones. Does someone’s name keep coming to mind for no apparent reason? It is probably YHWH’s call to pray—and/or act—for him or her.
Evil is not an entity in itself; it is the absence of good. But it does daily affect people’s lives. Don’t be shocked that people are doing wrong; that is to be expected in this age. Confront it. YHWH wants to heal people through you, and though by yourself you may be no match for hideously-perverted people, if He is in you, you are far more powerful than even the demons that motivate them. So don’t be intimidated. They really have no advantage; YHWH can soften their hearts. Yes, be afraid to go where He has not led, but being a hermit would only be noble if there was nothing in the world that needed to be changed. Proper ambition reaches for every possible advantage that does not require stepping on other people. Why would He do anything special for those who don’t really want it? We shouldn’t feel guilty if YHWH gives us quality; using what He provides does not make us materialistic if we keep it in the right perspective. We want to do the best job we can, but being able to make a little go a long way also reveals the ingenuity He gives us and relieves the demand on the world’s resources.
Simple living is an inward disposition of contentment and readiness to sacrifice, but mostly it is just following YHWH’s step-by-step leading into one well-appreciated thing at a time. Many want to be sophisticated because they think it would be to their advantage. But a true cosmopolitan perspective is just the familiarity with many viewpoints that comes from being widely read or traveled, and the ability to bring into a conflict a perspective that those who focus only on the immediate issues have been unable to notice.
There are valid reasons to be at odds with some people, but “so far as the responsibility is yours, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to give it.” (Prov. 3:27) Those who have been allowed the most resources—whether material, intellectual, or even linguistic—have the burden of improving the lives of those who have not. Those most undeserving of love need it the most, and as YHWH’s new race, it is our nature to love—that is, to do what is truly best for everyone so that the effects of sin can be minimized in this age. Trusting someone with a privilege he does not deserve may push him to be more responsible.
What YHWH has done in us is the highest truth, but the jewels of unearthly knowledge with which we have been endowed all too often fall on deaf ears. They cannot understand, because we are now on a different wavelength. So we have to meet them on a lower level. People judge by outward appearance, so “take pains to do what is right not only in the eyes of YHWH, but in the eyes of men.” (2 Cor. 8:21) Someone serious about integrity will not go back on a promise, even though it hurts him. (Psalm 15:4) That is when we have to trust YHWH to come through for us, even though we can’t see a way out. And our obedience is what reassures our own hearts that we are redeemed. (1 Yochanan 2:28ff) But we have to be careful to express the nobility He has put within us through motives that people who don’t understand spiritual ways do respect.
But do not expect it to be welcomed. No one wants their bluff called by the obvious superiority of what is genuine. Conditioned to fear and be suspicious, the animals we were meant to safeguard are unable to respond when they see real love, and men treat genuine peacemakers no differently. We would think we could at least expect YHWH’s people to accept us as we are, but Paul’s example with Philemon showed that sometimes they too need an extreme example to get the point. (And Paul knew what it was like to be treated with suspicion because of his own past behavior.) If Philemon would not love his runaway slave who was now a brother, reborn and reformed, for his own sake, Paul would consolidate his debts with his own: “Whatever he owes you, charge it to me. If you want to treat him badly, treat me exactly the same way. Would you dare do that to your teacher?” By putting himself even lower than his disciple, he probably got what he was asking for. But it hits close to home for us all: If we will not love the other people Messiah died to redeem, then let the reproach fall on Yeshua; can we stand that?
Paul might have deserved the honor of not having to pay his own way, but he wanted to be able to—like Moshe and Shmu’el–look his critics in the eye and remind them that he had not taken a cent from them, because he did not want anyone thinking he was in this overwhelmingly-significant venture for the money.
In this day when the press is trying to dig up dirt even where it does not exist, we must not give anyone an excuse to be skeptical. Defending our own actions always looks a bit awkward, whether we are right or not. “Walk circumspectly”—that is, keep an eye out for danger sneaking in from any side. If we ruin our reputation by carelessness in little things, we will lose many occasions to be the good influence we should be. Faith indeed makes us righteous, but “a person is pronounced righteous by what he does” (Yaaqov 2:24). I.e., what we really believe is only proven by our actions.
But the shadows we see of our Home assure us that our longings for the Age to Come do have a genuine object. Knowing that the most ideal things now always have thorns keeps us pilgrims and strangers, but the taste baits us to keep moving toward that which will be Home in every sense of the word. The heavens that declare YHWH’s glory will themselves pass away, but every nerve in me bristles with agreement when He says, “You do not belong to this Age.” This is not the last chapter.
It’s not about us; we are taken care of. We are free and secure; we have a day coming to enjoy an incorruptible world. It’s about getting others there too. (1 Cor. 9:24, 27; 10:32-33) We’re elated about our reunion with our beloved Maker, but the honeymoon leads to reproduction—sharing in His eternal purpose of reconciling the world back to Himself.
Let the elite have their parties and cruises; the Titanic shows where that ends up. They think they have the power, but the really strategic choices are made by those who give themselves to meet real needs. If we keep the spotlight on one thing (or person) for too long, it becomes a larger-than-life “god”, and we see bad sides of it that were never meant to be noticed. That’s when it’s time to move on from that thing to what it was really pointing to when we saw it in the best light. Everything that was ever good continues on in the eternal realm, in our hearts—and those who step into Messiah’s flow can come to appreciate the things of majestic bygone days. But on the surface, imposing past victories, which meant more in a different context, on the present only makes them look stale or makes us look stagnant. His mercies are new every morning. We have to communicate His goodness with a new generation.
We’ve had our day; now we are more concerned that any advantage we have might put us in a better position to spread YHWH’s Kingdom. The flower must fade before the fruit is manifested. And if the most perfect seed still had to die to bear more fruit, how much more must death work in us for life to work in others?
And as we mature, we start to gain more joy from seeing others receive the joys we’ve already experienced. We don’t have to participate to be glad about it. Experience is not meant to make us look better than others, but to put us in a better position to help more people. Why not let someone who has been stepped on and deprived all his life receive the honors instead? He would appreciate it more. I could gain still more—but why? If our true position in the Messiah is not altered one finger-breadth by what kicks us around in this age, then we are the ones who should do the dirty work. Our well-preserved corpses will not get into the next life with us, so spend them to the last cent! The glory of mortal things is in their being fully used up. We have to die someday, so why only use up half of our potential by trying to preserve some part of ourselves? Besides, we have no competition; who is seeking the lowest positions? We are the mops that absorb the pain and suffering of the world, and cleaning up after those we have warned, without complaint, as a parent does with a child. The world can take care of retribution, but vengeance only results in a cycle of hatred that only self-sacrifice can cut. A martyr is always the winner, because he did not cave in to the pressure to conform. That is our wild card—our secret weapon: the self-control that enables us to bow out and no longer try to save our skins at all costs. If we don’t care what becomes of us (in this life), haSatan can do nothing to stop us.
YHWH has promised that He would always provide a way of escape when we are tested. (1 Cor. 10:13) But sometimes that way out is death (Rev. 12:11)—at least to our own reputations or apparent well-being. It takes no special talent to fight back; anyone can do that. We are the only ones able to initiate reconciliation, so we must take into ourselves the abuse and the consequences, as the Messiah did, showing that YHWH cared more for us than for appeasement. This way it can not only be covered but actually done away with forever. They may make us scapegoats, but we are in Messiah, whose blood has already dealt with the insult or irritation we experience, so he can absorb that, and thus the problem is annihilated; enemies are turned into friends, and therefore no longer exist as enemies. If we do not recant, oppressors themselves are caught off guard. The fuel is taken from their fury and they know that to go on abusing those who will not arm themselves against them is cowardly. We do not have to prove anything; we are not interested in winning (as they see the game), but in salvaging anyone who will stop their mad, headlong rush off the precipice that awaits any who keep going in that direction.
Outside the Camp
This world is so tangled up that it cannot be straightened out unless someone sacrifices. Yeshua did it for us, and the next step for us may be to join in the “fellowship of his sufferings”. Certainly YHWH cleans us up and makes us sane, but in order to follow Yeshua fully, we have to put even this on the altar. Like David’s drink from his favorite well, when those loyal to him had risked their lives to get it for him, he had to our it out as an offering to YHWH, because he knew it was their lifeblood. (2 Shmu’el 23:13) He didn’t have to. We too can avoid suffering and enjoy our rights, but when our comrades are out in the field, it doesn’t seem right. (2 Shmu’el 11;11)
We are entitled to certain privileges and blessings that come with connection to Yeshua, and we could take full advantage of them and live peaceful lives, but does it make us indifferent to the needs around us? Or does it mean stepping on others to guarantee that we will not be wronged? (2 Cor. 6:7-8) In choosing to be put on that crucifixion stake, he had given up the power to guarantee that anyone else would make the right choices; he had to trust YHWH. We can’t understand him fully until we enter into the unique pain that comes from presenting ourselves—along with all of the progress we have made—as “living sacrifices”, letting “death work in us” so that life may come to others. (Romans 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:12) Yeshua had to do many things that didn’t look quite right according to the contemporary definitions of righteousness, though they were not against what YHWH had commanded, and we too are offered occasions to go “outside the camp and bear his reproach. (Hebrews 13:11-13)
Do we want the lesser joy of laughter in this age, or the deeper kind that calls us to help the shepherd continue to seek for the lost sheep so they, too, can be brought into the same joy? Until they are, holy tears are more appropriate. It means getting dirty. Will we shield ourselves from it, or follow Messiah out from the respectable places to where YHWH’s lost sheep are?
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”, but Yeshua gave up a good name among men so we could be redeemed. He was willing to go so far as to become a curse—cursed by YHWH, not just men—to be made a sin offering for us. (2 Cor. 5:21; Galatians 3:13) “He was numbered with the transgressors” (Yeshayahu 53:12) so we could be reconciled to Elohim, even though he was the furthest anyone ever was from being a transgressor. He still touched lepers, which would make him ritually unclean for a time, and he did not recoil from this. Is it too much to ask that we, who are sinners anyway, lay aside whatever perfect records we think we have—good things but which will not make us truly any more spiritual--that set us above those to whom he wants us to reach out? If we only receive and have no outflow, we are like the Dead Sea in which good minerals have built up so thickly that nothing can live.
Everyone suffers sometime. You can suffer for your own sake alone, or you can participate in meaningful, fruitful suffering. The rich will eventually lose everything they have anyway, so why lay up treasures where “moth and rust” can destroy them? Why not give away whatever you can while it can still do some good in building the Kingdom that is unaffected by all of that?
But He appeals to our new nature, not to guilt. Who are we? We are givers by nature—not our own, but Messiah’s, which flows through us if we keep the channels open. If you force someone to do right, you take away their humanity. We then get the credit for their right choice, and they don’t. The cross is foolish enough to feed our enemies, giving them full strength to make the wrong choice. We would think we should at least disable them, so they will not cause more damage. But you don’t turn others into better people by deceitfully taking advantage of their weaknesses. Our job is to present the alternative outcomes clearly, mincing no words, but that is precisely where our responsibility ends.
Yeshua promised us victory—that we would overwhelmingly conquer (Romans 8:37), but it rarely looks that way. It’s certainly not how people would usually define dominance. But a meek person—one who is strong but allows himself to be tamed—has the real power: self-control. That potential is focused like a laser because he does not waste the energy on ambition or concern about others’ opinions regarding whether we are succeeding.
Real power does not need to make a show of itself. One who wants an honest, calm relationship with his wife will not court her through boastful attempts to impress. Peacemakers have learned contentment; why would they need to be in the spotlight? “I do not seek what is yours, but YOU,” Paul says. (2 Cor. 12:14) People are our treasure and prize. They will outlast this life and this “present evil age”. With that perspective, we can take a lot more abuse.
If someone in a position of proper authority is dripping with arrogance, do we cut him down to size? No, order and authority must still be respected. YHWH will take care of humbling him without making a mockery of his office. Let the weeds grow until the end, when all is mature enough to be harvested. The cement is not yet dry; the last page has not been seen. We don’t need to judge anyone yet; YHWH still “has time” to change people’s hearts. Everyone benefits when the channels of proper authority are clear, for His power can flow freely when all of His people are aligned with one another. So be in the forefront of the reconciliation of all things.
Mature reconcilers are so confident in YHWH’s ability to uphold us that we can stop focusing on personal growth and concentrate on spending ourselves, trusting Him to keep providing for us in the process. The cross shakes up even our right to look blameless, as when Avraham was asked to perform a human sacrifice when he was teaching other people not to do that. But it does not touch the essence of our being if we have been sealed for redemption by something even more unshakeable.
We are taken care of. So we can be the ones who take up the slack and using what cannot last forever anyway to ensure what will. (Strengthen the things that remain.)
Everything was remedied when Yeshua died and was resurrected. The seeds of restoration of all things were planted there. Everything else lost its authority, which means that eventually it will lose its power—if we operate on the basis of the reality that has been proclaimed, even though we don’t yet see it manifested yet. We are part of the manifestation.
With all these glimpses into the spirit world, how can we live conventional lives? And, “since everything is to be destroyed by fire”—has to be transformed into its permanent, incorruptible form—“what kind of people should we be?” (2 Kefa/Peter 3:11) We don’t mean to be different just for the sake of being different, but once you see that there is no shortcut past the cross, it’s pretty unrealistic to think we will live like “normal” people. The place in the universe designed just for you probably won’t fit any stereotyped job description.
Besides, do we really want to leave the world unchanged? But do we really imagine our little lives will make that much difference? Well, one sin disrupted the balance of the entire universe, but one small obedience can have just as far-reaching effects. Fruitfulness does not always require a great volume of activity—just a seed that falls into the ground and dies. Then it is multiplied exponentially—something all our efforts could never do. We may just have to drop a hint here or there, and when it hits the water of what YHWH has already been doing in someone’s life, it can explode into something big enough to feed the multitude. Your faithfulness may be all that is needed to push someone over the hump.
Why was a holy man like Daniel taken captive? For redemptive purposes. He wasn’t personally being punished, though he was part of a people that collectively owed YHWH a big debt. If he were to prophesy to the dislodged captives from a distance, his words would just not have the ring of truth that can only come from sharing in the suffering of others.
Consistency and commitment can be harmful if they lead us to reject changes YHWH wants to make now. But don’t just get on a bandwagon of change without testing it to see if it really does make anything better. Something done just for novelty will wear out more quickly than we can get used to it. In general, “the ancient paths” have a positive connotation; “Elohim seeks what has passed by.” (Qoheleth/Eccles. 3:15) He does not despise what is tried and true. Once we find out the original reasons for many traditions that seem dull, they can really come to life for us. That is the perspective we must somehow pass on to those around us.
YHWH has infinite resources, but they have to be called into being here—“on earth as it is in heaven”—to be able to feed the multitudes. Yet Yeshua tells US to give them something to eat. We are told his secret: he “looked up to heaven”. He viewed the realm where his Father was already working and saw the provision that was there, and called it into this realm. “Whatever you bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven.” (Mat. 18:18) Yeshua said he has given us the keys. In other words, if He has initiated it, we only need to open the doors.
YHWH has already crucified all sin, but if we don’t release His forgiveness, no one will be able to receive it. We have power to bless or curse—according to what we see the Father doing at that moment, as Yeshua did. (Yochanan 5:19, 30) If you don’t like what someone is doing, will you define him by his error and thus confirm him in his way, or release YHWH’s grace (which means both mercy and power to change) into his life? If you choose to curse, the whole world is robbed, because you shut off some of YHWH’s empowerment. There are times to do that, if it is what He wants. But we are priests, so act on it! We are His representatives; will you arrange your priorities to allow the Lamb who was slain to receive the full reward of his sufferings?
“The time has been shortened, so from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none…and those who buy, as though they did not possess, and those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it, for the form of this age is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:30-31)
So get to the most important things first; “remember now your Creator in the days when you are young.” (Qoh. 12:1) If there is time for anything else, that is just icing on the cake.
Yes, “the earth with all its fullness is YHWH’s.” (Ex. 9:29; Psalm 24:1) But it has been marred. It is wonderful to fit in with His creation wherever we can, but is He not worthy of a greater Kingdom? And there is something better; that is why the old can pass away. A new day is dawning before the old has completely faded out, and we are given the choice of living according to its rules before it fully arrives. Will you compromise to keep enjoying the prosperity that will pass away because you can see it and touch it? Or will you choose to bring in the new, suffering in its birth pangs while it is still not settled? In which will you invest?
Yeshua says that you will receive many times what you give up for his Kingdom’s sake. (Luke 18:29; Mark 10:30) You may lose the connection with one brother, but everyone you love and who loves him will become your brother—even in this life, he says, though not for your own smug enjoyment. Only when you call nothing your own—for that kind of divisiveness is “knowing in part”, and that way is passing with this age—can all things be yours. (1 Cor. 3:21) Obviously we need some clarity—this toothbrush is mine, not yours. But what eternal difference will it make if I never own a home, if I am always provided a place to live? If I never have a child of my own, there are plenty of people who need caring for. If your goal is to meet needs and not to possess, there will always be someone to love. Can anyone own a sunset? Yet it is as much mine as it is yours.
This way we can be fully involved in whatever He brings our way rather than wishing we were somewhere else. We can love anyone YHWH chooses to bring across our path rather than only those we think we would feel more comfortable with. Relax in letting the One who knows and loves you best be in control.
“Having been committed to his own who were in the world, Yeshua loved them to the fullest, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands.” (Yochanan 13:1-3) What if loving puts you in the line of fire, as it did him—whether the danger of contracting a disease or getting in the way of big businesses whom you threaten but which need to be confronted about their unjust ways? Will you hold back out of fear or go the distance to meet the need? Don’t worry that you will have nothing left for later; YHWH is able to always provide enough so you can keep giving. (2 Cor. 9:8) Your barrel will keep being replenished as you give out. If He only gives you tasks that seem small, they are not wasted if you do them well. If you are not faithful in the little things, the “big opening” will never come, so don’t wait for that hypothetical day to start giving, or you will only have something worn out to give then.
Optimism is based on “optimum”, not “maximum”. Sure, Yeshua could have accomplished more if he had lived longer, but he knew when his work was finished. Miryam the Magdalene’s ointment could have been sold and given to the poor, but she did something strategic one time. She and Yeshua both cared for the poor, or Judas’ insult would not have stung. But if love did not require deep sacrifice, what would be its value? If nothing broke our routine, nothing would be significant; if we had time to do everything, would wisdom be more valuable than gold? We must treasure something, and make choices accordingly. Does that mean none of our dreams will be fulfilled? Hardly, but many of them are only understood by YHWH, and can be shared only with Him—but since when is intimacy a waste?
YHWH “wasted” everything He had on the possibility that the Messiah would succeed; He “put all His eggs in one basket”. Only if that one arrow made it through the narrowest opening would any of creation be able to be redeemed. But He took that risk, so what risk are we not willing to take for Him?
You cannot remain here forever, so give yourself in whatever way you can! Throw your whole self into loving those He has put in your path today, because He regards them as your most important responsibility at this time. We don’t know what will prove most strategic; He does. So when He puts something on your heart, abandon all calculation and give—for in that, you will find your life fulfilled.
Expect personal treatment from YHWH. So we have taken the mystery out of thunder; we can explain it now! But does that mean He isn’t still saying something through its timing or its grandeur? Reason is a good servant, but a cruel master.
“The secret of YHWH is with them that revere Him.” (Psalm 25:14) His words are ambiguous until we forsake everything else for His “pearl of great price”; no one else has a right to know the depths of what it means.
If it seems you missed any opening to pray for someone in time for some major crisis they face, though you don’t yet know the outcome. Don’t despair. Pray for them anyway; in prayer we depart from the realm of time. YHWH can make your prayer “land” at any point in time and still do its work.
So if he tells you to work, do it in His power. If He tells you to sit still, “remain in Yeshua, and you will still be bearing fruit.” That is your part; you are still participating in His work, because apart from our union with him, we can accomplish nothing that can survive the fire. He does not need us for anything, but gives us the privilege of sharing in what He is doing.
Most of the time we look so weak; how can we say we are living supernaturally? According to Daniel and Yeshayahu, Messiah would look as if he had accomplished nothing; where is his Kingdom, after all? There is no objective proof that he will prevail. But though Yaaqov walked away from his encounter crippled, YHWH said he had won the battle, and he received a new name that fit that reality. And he has a new name for us if we will hold onto Him and overcome even if that means losing what had been our advantages before this.
Gid’on was afraid to do his work in broad daylight, but YHWH said, “Go in this, your strength!” If he had not been so cautious, he might never have been motivated to go hear the evidence that the enemy was even more afraid of him than he was of them. That confirmed in an inimitable way what YHWH wanted him to do.
“We fix our eyes not on what can be seen, but on what is unseen, because what is visible is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18) The most “solid” and permanent things are not physical, but spiritual. As a recorded song played over and over becomes lodged in your mind, you need the physical recording less and less in order to enjoy the song. Then if you lose the disk it was on, do you lose the message? No. So which is more real?
The immoral and bickering Corinthians were told they were “holy in Messiah…saints…not lacking in any spiritual gift…confirmed to the end as blameless.” So if your brother still appears hopeless, remember how YHWH sees him—according to the end of the story, not the beginning. Treat him according to that reality, and before long you will see him doing praiseworthy things. You strengthen him by your attitude. You can be a channel of YHWH’s miraculous mercy just by your mindset. So use your power!
We always hear, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” But my college professor Dr. Al McCallister pointed out the other side of the coin: it is even worth doing poorly if at least some progress is made. “A live dog is better than a dead lion.” (Qoheleth 9:4) So don’t wait for the lion to grow up before you start acting. It may seem half-baked, but YHWH can multiply the results. Do what He says, because it is His work, not yours, and what He does can never perish. He will not leave you stranded, for the One in ultimate control of the universe and its outcomes is GOOD! Frustrations then become fascinating adventures. We can learn from puzzling times without being afraid.
The more you grow, the more you will see your weakness, because you see more cobwebs when you have a brighter light. But that you have more light is a great cause for celebration. YHWH can deliver equally well through many or through few. (1 Shmu’el 14:6) So rest in what He has accomplished. “In quietness and confidence”—not mad rushing about—“will be your strength.” (Yeshayahu 30:15)
Some days you will feel nothing. Some days everything will seem to be collapsing. But more comes of it than seems to. If we could only see His overall plan, we would not weep so hard at the setbacks. All we need at any moment is whatever will allow us to obey at that stage. Each of us only has to show the world a particular part of His glory. If some are finished sooner, it is no great loss; there remains a resurrection. He makes rivers flow from the desert. Israel’s exiles are coming back, though everyone had forgotten where they were. (Yeshayahu 49) “All good things come to an end” only in this age. No promise of His—even that the martyrs will receive justice and vindication—will go unfulfilled.
Yes, we are weak, but He has given us the position that everyone on earth, consciously or not, strives for; our search has ended. We have found the One we were always searching for, and He loves us. So what is there to fear? Remain connected to Him, and you will know all you need to know. He can reconcile impossible quandaries. We feel the pressure of the impossibilities He requires, but we can rest, because we have the provision. He has already gotten the job done; we just have to walk out our part of it as He reveals each step.
Not what we do, as much as who we do it for, and why we do it, will remain. Relationships will outlast this age—especially the one that matters most. So take the longer view of what success is, and strengthen the things that remain.