Perfection: The Way Yahweh Sees It

IntroductionShabbat shalom chaverim! Owing to sickness, this short teaching replaces the message I had planned for the Mishpachah.

Be Perfect?How many of you are familiar with the passage, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”? None, I hope, because no such passage exists in the Bible, even in this KJV-sounding passage. Before you protest and claim that it is, in fact, Matthew 5:48, I have to almost agree with you. The problem is that there is a word missing from the passage I just shared with you, and that word makes all the difference to its meaning:

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”(Matt.5:48, KJV).

“Therefore…”That “therefore” means that this passage cannot be taken in isolation – it has a context and that context is what rides before it. And you know how much I stress the vital importance of the context of any extract of Scripture – “text without a context is a pretext”…for mischief.

The Context of Demanded PerfectionSo let us see the context that we may know what this perfection actually is that Yah’shua (Jesus) demands of us:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt.5:44-48, NIV).

Imperfection is the Failure to LoveImperfection, in Yahweh’s eyes, is always the failure to love, and not just those we like or love. This is a huge doctrine and it is found nowhere else in the Bible, so it is easy to miss. Yes, we have all heard the mitzvah (commandment) to “love []our enemies” but I dare say few of us equate that with perfection because we tend to either view this segment as two separate, unrelated passages or don’t even consider the second one.

Impossible to Be Perfect?I don’t know how many people have told me that it is impossible to be perfect. If that is true, then it is impossible to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) and despitefully use them. It means we cannot, then, “be sons and daughters of []our Father in heaven”. It means that we cannot possibly do what Yahweh does in distributing sunshine and rain on everyone, to the deserving and the undeserving. It means we are all doomed to be like the unscrupulous, exploitative tax collectors of Yah’shua’s (Jesus’) day. It means that we are admitting to be like pagans. And it means that those who are actually doing these things – loving their enemies and those who persecute them – must be faking it. So how about knuckling down and accepting that Yah’shua (Jesus) does actually call us to be perfect?

An Extraordinary AttitudeThere is a wider implication to this emet (truth) – a deeper implication which may alter our perspective on life and the way we view Elohim (God) – that its implication is that He showers grace on EVERYONE, from the most righteous to the most wicked. He gives every living soul undeserved loving kindness, unmerited favour. How do you feel about that? The carnal man is naturally appalled at the thought because to him this screams ‘injustice’…which is how most of the world views Elohim (God) anyway.

Elohim is Not UnjustReflect on this more. Yah’shua (Jesus) uses the illustration of sun and rain so as to leave us in absolutely no doubt that Yahweh showers this grace equally. If you are walking down a street in sunshine, does more sunlight fall on the righteous than the wicked? If there has been a spell of very dry weather and suddenly it begins to rain (to the relief of everyone), does it rain more on the farming land of the righteous than it does on the land of the wicked? No. The actual GIVING of sunshine and the actual GIVING of rain is provided without regard for the moral state of those who receive them. If I cover my field with a black sheet of plastic, so that the sunshine and rain that is made available to everyone equally by Yahweh cannot be received, thus preventing the crop from growing, is that the fault of the weather conditions? No. Neither is it the fault of Yahweh that the wicked refuse to receive grace. And when they refuse it, it is not because Yahweh is unjust, is it? It is because they have said, ‘No, thank you,’ or worse.

Wrong PerspectiveWhen we view justice incorrectly it is because we have a wrong perspective. We’re seeing things from the wrong angle, So when the distribution of blessings doesn’t seem right, we instead blame-shift, accusing Yahweh instead of owning up to our own responsibility to choose to receive that grace or not. If you are not the recipient of His grace, it isn’t because He has withheld it – “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” alike – it is because you have refused it. Yes, grace – undeserved loving kindness – is showered both on the saved and the unsaved. It is showered both on the Prodigal Son and the faithful but grumpy and resentful elder brother who thought an injustice was being done to him when his father decided to throw a party for his wicked (but now repentant) younger brother, something he had never been given. He just forgot that he already had everything and that this was a genuine cause for a major celebration!

Imitate His Dispensing of GraceSo, yes, Yah’shua (Jesus) absolutely does demand you be perfect, even as He is perfect. He expects you to imitate Him in the dispensing of grace – in showing unmerited favour – to both those who deserve love and those who not … and especially those you think deserve love and those you think do not. If you love different categories of people based on your personal judgment of them in terms of their worthiness or unworthiness, then you have entirely missed the point of the Besorah (Gospel) of Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) – you do not understand it at all.

Capriciousness Not AllowedYahweh is not a capricious Sovereign who arbitrarily sends down more grace on some and less on others, nor does He use the pretext that he does not owe it to any man! Neither, then, ought we to be capricious. Yahweh owes it to His own infinite goodness to give every creature good in all its fullness, irrespective of whether those creatures do the same to each other or to Him. He showers on each the fullness of His grace. The problem is that we consent to receive it to a greater or lesser extent. Thus in purely spiritual matters, Yahweh grants all desires and those who have less have asked for less.

Acquire the Divine PerspectiveThe Saviour has served us notice. From now on we are to have this perspective and this goal. “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation”(Luke 1:50, NIV), for example, is a correct but not a complete perspective. Place that citation from the Tanakh (Old Testament) (Ex.20:6; Ps.103:17) in the context of Matthew 5:44-48 and you will see that the latter brings the former to completion – it is a ‘filling up’ or ‘fulfilment’ of these particular kinds of Torah passages. It is the difference between the perfection of the New Covenant the the imperfection or incompleteness of the Old Covenant because sometimes harsh rules had to be “added because of transgressions, till the Seed (Messiah) should come” (Gal.3:19, NKJV). Now we see justice in terms of the fullness. We see the limitless grace being handed out by our Heavenly Father instead of seeing it in human terms. Now we must see our lack in terms of our refusal to receive what was always there, not in terms of Yahweh withholding because we were bad. Yes, we’re bad because we transgress, but our punishment is self-inflicted, even if Yahweh owns the judgment in name.

Human ProjectionYahweh’s love never dries up or turns into hate because of sin. That’s the finite human perspective – it only appears to be ‘hate’ because we are cut off from His grace, by our own choice to sin. So in our finite humanness, we view it as ‘hate’. Yes, Yahweh hates sin but He doesn’t hate His children. He takes no pleasure in punishment and “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” either (Ezek 33:11, NIV). We simply project our own prejudices and lack of love onto Him.

Conclusion“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk.6:36, RSV).

Then you’ll become perfect.

Acknowledgements

[1] Simone Weil, Gateway to God, ed. David Rapier with Malcolm Muggeridge & Vernon Sproxton (William Collins Sons & Co., England: 1974)

Copyright © 1987-2017 NCAY™ – All Rights Reserved

http://www.nccg.org/lev20171018.html

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The Spirit of Compulsion: Cleaning Up Dark Ancestral Spirits

IntroductionWelcome to this new series of sermons, articles and devotionals which I have called Ge’Chizzayon which means ‘Valley of Visions‘ as we in this ministry now shift our focus away from what we have doing the last decade and toward new spiritual terrain – the valley of visions. However, the valley itself is not the goal – it is but the means to the higher task, which is regaining access to the Yahweh’s Mount of Assembly

Things We Have No Choice InIn this life we are compelled by both people and circumstances to make choices we do not want to make – that is to say, we have no choice in the matter. We cannot choose where we are born, as children we cannot make up our own house rules at home, at work we must do things the way our boss wants them done even if we believe them to be fundamentally wrong, and we cannot to choose to live forever in a state of mortality. At my time of life I cannot choose to run a hundred yards in 10-11 seconds as once I could as a teen. We are all limited, more than we would perhaps care to admit. I can, of course, rebell but that can – and usually does – have negative consequences, as anyone who has tried not to pay Income Tax has discovered (to give a secular example).

ConscienceIn spite of our not having control over everything, and it not actually mattering too much to our well-being (like being upset with the cook for boiling instead of frying an egg), some choices are of the utmost importance. Yahweh has created rules in His Creation. The ethical and moral ones are built into our consciences – we enter this world having a basic knowledge of good and evil – and even though repeatedly ignoring the impulses to choose what is right and reject what is wrong deadens our conscience progressively over time, unless we have crossed that final line of rebellion (spoken of in Scripture as a “ripening in iniquity”), there is still the possibility of responding to conscience even if we have never come across the Bible or heard its message preached.

The Root CommandmentI don’t want to talk about the minutae of Yahweh’s torot (laws) today but to focus on the root mitzvah (commandment), which is the right to free choice, and in particular, in respect to choosing to believe Elohim (God) or not. Satan’s root mitzvah(commandment) is, of course, the opposite. In his universe, were he ever to be sovereign, there would be no free choice at all. Everyone would be compelled in everything. His subjects would all become robotised human beings – automatons.

KismetAny doctrine or teaching which tells you that you have no free choice is to acknowledge that we live by what the Arabs call kismet or ‘fate’, and which has been more-or-less taken onboard Islam wholesale. In the moral and ethical sphere we dohave choice. An Iranian-Moslem student of mine in Oxford once parked his car illegally on a double-yellow ‘No Parking’ line. I pointed this out to him and said that he stood a good change of getting a parking ticket. He shrugged his shoulders, and replied quite matter-of-factly: ‘If I do, then it is Allah’s will’. In his mind, it would then become his unavoidable fate.

The Entity Called ‘Fate’ or ‘Destiny’Without going into the philosophical contradictions of such a notion, the insanity of this position is obvious. He did not consider himself responsible for his choice but blamed something called ‘Fate’. Without perhaps realising it, he was acknowledging the existence of a dark spiritual power that was controlling his mind, heart and actions. This spiritual entity actually has a name – in our English Bibles we translate it as “Destiny” and though many translations try to make this out to be a mere abstraction, it does actually refer to a pagan ‘god’ that goes by the name of Meni or Menitum which some believe might also be the better-known IshtarAserath or ‘Easter‘.

Fate and DestinyYahweh says:

“But you who forsake Yahweh,
who forget my qadosh (holy, set-apart) mountain,
who set a table for Fortune (Gad)
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny (Mene)
, I will destine you for the sword,
and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter,
because, when I called, you did not answer;
when I spoke, you did not listen,
but you did what was evil in My eyes
and chose what I did not delight in” 
(Is.55:11-12, ESV).

Demonic DuosYou’ll notive that ‘Destiny’ has a companion, ‘Fortune’, which translates the pagan deity called ‘Gad’ that is, regrettably, related to our English word ‘God’, also (almost as bad, the name of one of the tribes of Israel – Gen.30:9-11). They’re together because, as is typical in demonic arrangements, demons often work together in ‘good cop/bad cop’ pairs in order to deflect attention, create artificial tensions and so cause maximum confusion. In the past I have illustrated this in depth with the demons Hecate and Lilith.

Good Luck and God Bless?The reason that nearly all modern translations capitalise ‘Destiny’ and ‘Fortune’ (ESV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NLT, etc.) is because the translators recognise that these are persons – supernatural beings, gods or demons. Whenever we say ‘Good Luck’ (from the Latin lucis, meaning ‘light’ – a name of Lucifer) we are invoking the demon ‘Gad’ who was worshipped extensively by the ancient Amorites, Canaanites and Phoenicians. Believers do not wish ‘good luck’ but pray ‘Yahweh bless’ or equivalent…ironic, really, when they say ‘God bless’ because it’s almost the same pagan invocation. But, unfortunatately, our language is steeped in paganism, as the word ‘unfortunately’ reminds us.

Unknowingly Invoking DemonsNaturally, in times of ignorance, Yahweh does not hold us to account. When we know the emet (truth), however, then we are held to account. We are held to a higher standard than ignorant believers and ignorant unbelievers. That is why I don’t go judging anyone who does not know the Divine Names or who accidentally invoke demons. My goodness, when I was growing up, I used all kinds of language whose meaning I had no idea about which I supposed was entirely innocent because ‘decent’ people I knew used it all the time. ‘By Jove (Jupiter)’, ‘Gad’ or ‘Gadzooks’, ‘Gosh’ and other words all invoked demons without my knowing it. Because I never used the ‘F’ and other obscene words, even as an unbeliever (because I thought them indecent), I assumed I was being moral.

Opening DoorsNow I am not here telling you these things because I want to be picky or because I have suddenly become a legalist. I know how Yahweh views my heart and how He has done so in times past in the days of my greater ignorance. But the Enemy is not so kind. Once you start invoking demons, even ignorantly, you are opening doors to influence and deception even if only subliminally. We have altogether far too many voices within whispering deceptive and sometimes threatening lies to us which I personally would rather do without. We are told that we are going to be judged by every word we say! So we need to clean out our speech, repent of past usages, close any doors (just to be on the safe side) and leave Yah’shua (Jesus) to take care of the rest. It’s worth it.

Improving Speech ConductThis is not a popular subject – it irritates a lot of people and even provokes some to anger. Ask yourself, why? “The simple believes every word” (Prov.14:15, NKJV). Are we supposed to believe every word we hear? Obviously not. What is our speech conduct supposed to be like then, and why?

“Every word of Elohim (God) is flawless;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him”
 (Prov.30:5, NIV).

Words and LifeWhy is that important?

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Elohim (God)” (Matt.4:4, NKJV).

If these words are chayim or life to us, then they must be important! Well, you know they are. You know full well what Scripture says about speech conduct, something mdoern believers are very lax in in some quarters. Speech impacts our spirits (and the spirits of others) for good or evil. Words matter, not because of their sound vibration, but because of what they mean.

Speech and IntentWhen Satantists, occultists, Wiccans and others summonse demonic spirits, they use words. Words are powerful. Now obviously the way a spoken word connects to our heart will define its substance and strength. There are many people who use the ‘F’ word without so much a second thought, giving it little life, whereas others will use it with passion because they are cursing one another, and infuse much dark energy into it. Obviously the latter is the greater evil. Nevertheless, no believer should need to cuss at all, should he? If we’re not supposed to take the Name of Yahweh in vain, then it follows we should be treating His images – humans – with the same kind of respect, however undeserving we may think them to be because of their bad choices and concomittant bad behaviour.

God of ForcesWhy am I saying all of this? Because what I am trying to sensitise you to today is the thought that you may have been cursing yourself (and others), causing you (and them) difficulties, without your realising it. Yahweh demands purity because He is pure. True, we cannot generate it out of our flesh but only through having Messiah INus through emunah (faith). While some branches of occultism pursue ‘purity’, it is flesh-generated and isn’t Yahweh’s purity…remotely, because it seeks as its source of empowerment the “god of forces” (Dan.11:38), not the Creator-Elohim (God) of Israel.

Forced ConversionBut I digress. I say all of this to make you aware that there is a ‘spirit’ which denies free-choice in religion that runs counter to the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which absolutely upholds free-choice. When, for example, someone is converted to Elohim (God) or to Messiah (Christ) against his will, as has happened historically (when pagan Russia was offered Orthodox Christianity or the sword, Moslem-fashion, for example), aside from not being truly converted in their hearts (and still therefore, spiritually-speaking, unbelievers, even though they are nominal, ritual or symbolic believers) – by accepting such forced Jihad-like conversion, they are admitting a dark spirit of coercision into their souls which is then passed down from generation to generation until it is broken by renunciation in prayer. And that is why so-called ‘Christian’ believers can sometimes turn nasty.

Inheriting and Renouncing Compulsory ReligionNow consider this dimension. Let us say that you have been raised in a Christian home, one that has been Christian generation after generation since the time of forced conversion (as the Bosnian Serbs were to Islam under the Ottoman-Turkish terror, or the Idumean pagans to Judaism under the hasmoneans). Let us say I am born into such a home and adopt the faith of my parents and ancestors. Let us say (as indeed happened to me when I left the Anglican Church, the religion of which was imposed on a lusty England by King Henry VIII), I come to Messiah all on my own (as indeed happened to me in 1977), does this mean I have inherited generationally this ‘spirit of compulsion’? Yes! And it must be renounced. You can’t be ‘born’ into emunah(faith), you have to be reborn of the Ruach (Spirit)! You have to be born again.

The Imposition of TrinitarianismLet me give you another example, the doctrine of the Trinity. In orthodox Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox), to reject the Trinity (even though it is an extra-Biblical credal statement written by Catholics at the behest of a sun-worshipping, nominally ‘Christian’ Roman Emperor), is to be labelled a heretic and excluded. It doesn’t even obey (for Protestants) the Sola Scriptura or ‘Scripture Alone’ dogma, for to be a Protestant you must accept the Trinitarian Creeds!

Unpleasant Experiences With TrinitariansI have, over the years, had some very unpleasant experiences with Christian Trinitarians because I refuse to accept the Catholic creeds as scripture – which is what they ammount to – creeds which are a heavy mixture of Scripture and neoplatonic (pagan Greek) philosophy. I have no problem people arriving at an honest conclusion for themselves individually concerning the Trinity doctrine and even though I don’t agree with its every formulation, I don’t mind holding fellowship with orthodox Trinitarian Christians provided my non-acceptance is not used to judge me as a ‘heretic‘ or an unbeliever. Since the Catholic Creeds are exra-Scriptural, then like any doctrine that is based on a human extrapolation of the Scriptures, it should be treated with tolerance and charity. Interestingly, I know few orthodox Christians who know what is actually in the Trinitarian Creeds, let alone who are able to scripturally justify them sentence by sentence. Whereas they are prepared to justify otherdoctrines out of the Scriptures of which there are multiple interpretations by different groups, the Catholic Creeds are a ‘no-go’ area – one must accept them, for the most part, in blind faith. This is the same spirit of coercision or which I have spoken.

Messianic Evangelical PrototrinitarianismOver the years Messianic Evangelicals have developped a minimalist Elohimhead (Godhead) doctrine – the one actually subscribed to by the first believers – which was the acceptance that Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was Elohim (God) – period. They did not have an elabourate Trinitarian-type theology of the Elohimhead (Godhead). This we call Prototrinitarianism. For Messianic Evangelicals, if you have been born-again and accept that Yah’shua (Jesus) is Divine, like the Father, we consider you to be a fellow-believer. Indeed, we do accept one of the ‘orthodox’ creeds – the Apostles Creed, in common with Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox, because this is absolutely and totally scriptural.

The Nicaean, Chalcedonian and Athanasian CreedsI have encountered Evangelicals who were otherwise charitable, kind and benevolent people shift into a dark barely-controlled rage when you mention that you don’t, for example, accept the the Trinitarian Creeds: the Nicaean, Chalcedonian or Athanasian (Quicumque vult). All ahavah (love) flees from them and they treat you as the devil-incarnate (even though you’re not denying the Divinity of Christ). This is a sign of a Compulsive, Coercive Spirit and it’s demonic. It is an ancestral spirit that goes all the way back to 325 AD (and maybe earlier) when the Nicaean Creed was imposed on believers as a condition of fellowship. Those who rejected it were excommunicated and usually persecuted.

The AriansThe irony is that its main opposer was Arianism (named after its founder, Arius), itself having a false Elohimhead (Godhead) belief, for they denied the Deity of Messiah as modern-day Arians (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Messianics) continue to do so (the JWs call Him a ‘god’ with a small ‘g’). So this clash was, frankly, a choice between Good-Cop and Bad-Cop, a double-bind, for there was (and still is) good and bad in both orthodox and Arian Christianity. (Trinitarian Christianity has been responsible for a tremendous amount of bloodshed because of the spirit of compulsion in it, unlike that or Arianism, which was historically pacifist). The devil had his foot in both doors. Of course, the Trinitarians largely persecuted the Arians to death, the latter only really having a re-emergence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Again, I repeat, NCAY is not Arian).

Not About TheologyThis essay isn’t really even about theology. My concern is with the demonic Spirit of Compulsion in matters of emunah (faith) and how to deal with it. Even if your theology were 100 per cent correct, and you tried to impose it on others, you would be no less guilty than any other Christian or Messianic group with wrong theology for doing the same. That’s one thing. The other, is that the Remnant has to break loose of the spirits behind all false systems from the past, especially that which has been imposed generationally. It can never be purified, free and happy otherwise.

State ReligionYou see this dark geberational legacy sometimes in the state’s attitude toward fellowships like ourselves. In Switzerland, for example, there are only two state-sanctioned religions – Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism. Everything else is classified as a ‘sect’. The same is true in neighbouring Austria where the Baptists couldn’t (the last I heard) register. In Russia it is similar, only with the Russian Orthodox Church having the hegemony. This tends to happen whenever a state identifies with a branch of Christianity, though good can come of this too, as I discuss in other essays.

What to DoIf your congregation, church or group comes out of a tradition involving compulsory religion, you need to renounce it, expelling the spirits of compulsion in Yah’shua’s (Jesus’) Name. If you believe in its teachings, then you can re-embrace it of your own free will. Above all, get out that dark, intolerant and (sometimes) murderous spirit, for it will otherwise defile you and spoil your relationship with Yahweh. I have seen it stirred up in so many otherwise rational, loving born-again believers when some pet doctrine (like Trinitarianism), imposed with the threat of violence or excommunication by some external human authority, is challenged. We don’t need to angrily or threateningly defend the emet (truth).

ConclusionEmet (truth) is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself. Once you’re convinced of it, embrace it like a lover and never let go.

Copyright © 1987-2017 NCAY™ – All Rights Reserved

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Sukkot 2017 VII: The Pursuit of Happiness

Continued from Part 6IntroductionChag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the seventh and final day of the Feast of Tabernacles! There will, of course, be a sabbath assembly and sermon tomorrow morning at Shemini Atseret – the Last Great Day – but today officially ends Sukkot.

Happiness and the US ConstitutionWe have talked a lot about simcha (joy) these past six days and I would like to round all of that off by looking at the same idea only using a more familiar word: happiness. Those of you who are Americans or know anything about the United States Declaration of Independent will be aware that the edited Jefferson draft includes the following and by now famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

What is Jeffersonian Happiness?Considerable debate has arisen as to what Jefferson had in mind by his use of the word “happiness”. Today the word is usually understood to mean ‘pleasant, positive emotions and having needs satisfied’ whereas back in 1776, when Jefferson penned the statement, it undoubtedly meant ‘prosperity, thriving, and wellbeing’. If there is one thing that all human beings, and not just Americans, seem to be agreed on, it is that happiness is the most desirable thing there is. The pursuit of personal happiness is therefore what drives most people.

Individual and Collective HappinessThe problem with the modern approach is the pursuit of personal happiness without due consideration for the happiness of others does not actually lead to personal happiness. Thus it was that the 17th-century cleric and philosopher Richard Cumberland wrote that promoting the well-being of our fellow humans is essential to the ‘pursuit of our own happines’, which is closer to the emet (truth) taught in the Bible. For there cannot really be a fullness of individual happiness unless those in our immediate surroundings are happy too. One man’s unhappiness can spoil another’s happiness depending on how selfish or selfless he is.

Temporary and Permanent Versions of HappinessWhat is happiness? Is it a passing emotion or a permanent state of being? The Bible teaches it can be both. There is happiness that reacts to happenings (which is temporary and volatile) and there is happiness that overrules happenings (which is strong and lasting). Happiness based on happenings is a part of life, but if that is all we can count on we have to keep feeding ourselves with events to keep up upbeat. I liken that to collecting multi-coloured feathers (happenings) in the hope that one day we will get enough to be able to construct a multi-coloured chicken that can make self-generated multi-coloured eggs for ever and ever, a bird of personal paradise that will give us every desire we could ever want.

Between Happenings and ElohimSo this, really, is the point I have been tryng to make this last week. Those who know the simcha or joy that comes from Elohim (God) don’t need happenings to keep them happy. They learn how to develop inner simcha (joy) because they know that no matter what happens, Elohim (God) offers tiqveh (hope) and promise. Therefore the wise pursue Elohim (God) and the unwise only happenings…and every shade inbetween these two poles. We mature as we move in the direction of dependence on ‘Elohim-simcha‘ (God-joy) and progressively away from dependence on ‘happenings-happiness’.

An Chocolate Moose IllustrationI am sure you don’t need an illustration to make the point but I will give one anyway just to be sure I am understood. My daughter enjoys making me chocolate moose because she knows I enjoy it. But I enjoy far more the ahavah(love) that is behind her desire to please me, and that brings me the greatest simcha (joy) because that ia the source of true simcha (joy). Of course I love the moose too! Yahweh likewise wishes to please us with pleasant ‘event-happenings’ but more important than is He wants us to know His heart and delight in the simcha (joy) He gets when we receive directly from Him. Bathing in the simcha(joy) is the main thing, and that we experience as we become ecahd with Him. It becomes our reality as we enter into spiritual union with Him.

Always Be Full of SimchaYesterday we looked at some of the sayings of Paul and Peter and may I remind you of what Paul said to the Philippians?

“Always be full of simcha (joy) in the Master. I say it again – rejoice! …I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Phil.4:4,12, NLT).

And then he utters that famous, oft quoted statement:

“For I can do everything with the help of Messiah who gives me the strength I need” (v.13, NLT).

What We are Looking For Deep DownWhen you have ahavah (love), when you have shalom (peace), when you have simcha (joy), all of which come from being in union with Messiah through emunah(faith, trusting) and obedience, then it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, or whether good ‘happenings’ are taking place or not because what we are really looking for – deep down – is the simcha (joy) that comes from Elohim (God), and not the things of this world, whether physical or human.

Trouble Brings OpportunityIndeed, James the apostle says, in confirmation of what Paul testifies:

“Dear brothers and sisters, whatever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for simcha (joy)” (Jas.1:2, NLT).

How is trouble an opportunity for simcha (joy)?

“For when your emunah (faith) is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developped, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (vv.3-4, NLT).

A Source of Character Development and StrengthHow does that relate with, or connect to, simcha (joy)? Well, as you react to trouble in the right way so your character develops – and as your character develops, so you come progressively to resemble Messiah more and more. As you do that, so His simcha (joy) will flow into you! So you see, trial and tribulation, when responded to in the Messiah-like way, cause simcha (joy) to grow and grow in you! And as we saw yesterday, that will make you stronger and more resilient, and better able to help and bless others, which will cause your simcha (joy) to bubble up even more! You can’t lose if you understanf the emet (truth).

No Promise of Temporary HappinessHere is the thing that you need to learn from all of this – and it’s very important because believers and unbelievers alike typically struggle over this wondering why Yahweh does not always grant them what they want or what they think they need to be happy: Yahweh does not promise temporary happiness. I repeat, Yahweh does not promise temporary happiness! In fact, the Bible assures us that problems will come our way. I bet you didn’t want to hear that but it’s true.

Heaven Primarily Deals With Eternal ThingsHowever, Yahweh does promise us lasting simcha (joy), that supernatual happiness which doesn’t ebb and flow like the tide, or wax and wane like the moon, or go up and down like our moods. He promises us the permanent kind of happiness that is constant for all those who believe in Him and love Him. This kind of happiness is called simcha (joy) and it stays with us despite our problems.

Zephaniah’s PromiseThe one who believe and accepts this emet (truth) can then claim the promise made by Yahweh through Zephaniah:

“Yahweh your Elohim (God) is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his ahavah (love),
He will rejoice over you with singing”
 (Zeph.3:17, NIV).

The Wrong LensThe lens we use to read Scripture makes a huge difference. The one looking through a carnal, sensual, Adamic, fleshy or psychic lens will not get the promises he so much desires because the things he asks for are merely to “consume … upon [his] lusts”(Jas.4:3, KJV), that is to say, to “spend [them] on [his] pleasures” (ASV). That is to say – to make the point abundantly clear – carnal believers ask for things which they believe will give them happiness, but which do not, because they only want “what will give [them] pleasure” (NLT). Please is not simcha (joy). Pleasure is here one minute and gone the nextSimcha (joy) lasts forever. Again, there is nothing wrong with pleasure, if it is kosher or pure, but that is not what Yahweh is in the business of going out of His way to provide for us, which is why the ‘health and wealth’ or ‘prosperity gospel’ is of no interest to Him and why He is not in it.

The Source of SimchaNow that we know the kind of happiness that Yahweh wants to give us and what He is not particularly concerned about, we need to ask ourselves the question – where do we get this happiness?

“Let us fix our eyes on Yah’shua (Jesus), the author and perfecter of our emunah (faith), who for the simcha (joy) set before him endured the [agony of the] cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of Elohim (God). Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb.12:2-3, NIV).

The Formula for Enduing HappinessIf you are looking for the formula for enduring happiness, this is it. What does it means to “fix our eyes on Yah’shua (Jesus)”? Well, what does Paul day? “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men…” It means think about what Yah’shua (Jesus) went through for us, meditate on it. One of my favourite devotional books of one who does this is Thomas von Kempen’s [1], Of the Imitation of Christ. I think it is one of the most profound meditations on Messiah and what He did for us and gets you focussed on what matters. So keep your eyes in Yah’shua (Jesus) at all times – make Him the focus of your thoughts and feelings.

Fear Yahweh, Obey TorahNext, fear Yahweh [2] and trust in Him by delighting in guarding and living out His mitzvot (commandments):

“Happy are those who fear Yahweh. Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what He commands” (Ps.112:1, NLT).

Happiness if Yahweh’s PresenceHappiness is based on Yahweh’s presence within us which is what brings true contentment, the presence of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which produced pure simcha (joy):

“I know Yahweh is always with me … No wonder my heart is filled with simcha(joy) …” (Ps.16:8-9, NLT).

“But when the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) controls our life, She will produce this kind of of fruit in us: ahavah (love), simcha (joy) …” (Gal.5:22).

All Out of FaithAll of this flows out of emunah – faith, trusting. Emunah (faith) in Yahweh produced everlasting happiness, for Yahweh has promised that when we truly seek Him, we will surely find Him:

“Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts” (Ps.119:2, NLT).

“…so I will continue with you so that you will grow and experience the simcha(joy) of your emunah (faith)” (Phil.1:25, NLT)

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says Yahweh. ‘They are plans for good and not for for disaster, to give you a future and a tiqveh (hope). In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me in earnest, you will find Me when you seek Me. I will be found by you,’ says Yahweh” (Jer.29:11-14a, NLT).

Service and SatisfactionAs you serve Him, and serve Him well, you will discover that a job well done brings a deep sense of satisfaction which itself causes simcha (joy) to arise as you sense Yahweh’s pleasure in you. As Yah’shua (Jesus) said:

“You have been faithful in handling this small amount … Let’s celebrate together!” (Mt.25:21, NLT).

Just as Sukkot is a celebration, so if everything that you do right, and everything you to to further Yahweh’s Kingdom on earth.

Suffering and Partnership with MessiahAs we have seen, difficult circumstances, though no fun in the short term, do not prevent us from being happy. Not only do they help us better understand what Messiah went through for us, as well as His servants of the past who may have served us directly or indirectly, but difficult circumstances actually make us partnerswith Him. Hear what Paul and Pester testify about this:

“… Since I know it is all for Messiah’s good, I am quite content with my weakness and with insults, hardship, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor.12:8-10, NLT).

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be glad – because … you will have the wonderful simcha (joy) of sharing in His glory…” (1 Pet.4:12-13, NLT; cp. Rom.5:2).

Present Difficulties Will EndYou see, happiness is not just in present realities that yield pleasure to us in the moment but in the certain knowledge of the promises of the future. Yahweh’s promises of eternal chayim (life) can make us happy because we know that what we are presently going through will one day end:

“When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with simcha (joy). You knew that you had better things waiting for you in eternity” (Heb.10:34, NLT).

“The apostles left the high council rejoicing that their Elohim (God) had couted them worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name of Yah’shua (Jesus)” (Ac.5:41, NLT).

Fruits of Sharing the Good NewsLike I said, the flesh militates against accepting such things. So how can we know the spiritual reality sufficiently to have the same kind of experience as the apostles? I suggest that this is probably the most important way of knowing and experiencing the spiritual reality: by sharing the wonderful news about Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) by which we come to taste more and more of His simcha (joy) and so gain more and more assurance of the better things to come because nothing gives Elohim (God) quite as much simcha (joy) as souls being snatched out of the jaws of hell and brought into the amazing Kingdom that Messiah has prepared for them:

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of shalom (peace) and salvation, the news that the Elohim (God) of Israel reigns!”(Is.52:7, NLT).

The Joy of Seeing Others SavedIt is worth repeating, because it’s so important, that the Good News of Yah’shua (Jesus), and the wonderful relationship we can have with Yahweh through Him, is news of greatest happiness and simcha (joy) for us. When we receive this news as our own, we are supremely happy, but when we share it with others, the happiness is multiplied even more. But then you know the expression, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Ac.20:35, NIV). I would like to suggest, though, that whilst it is exhillarating to be saved, it is even more satisfying to see others receive the same gift of eternal life, and to play some part in making that happen.

Shine Like the StarsGodliness is like sunshine, radiating the warmth and light from Yahweh Himself. Witnessing is like starlight, reflecting the Son to others, as Daniel so poetically puts it:

“Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever” (Dan.12:3, NLT).

Light of the GodlyLikewise:

“The life of the godly is full of light and simcha (joy), but the sinner’s light is snuffed out” (Prov.13:9, NLT).

Mapls Along the WarAll goodness comes from Elohim (God), and Elohim (God) is light. When we live godly lives, we are lamps along the derech (way), but when we live ungodly lives, the lamps go out. Only the light of godliness brings true happiness.

Experiencing LossDon’t make the mistake of believing that you cannot be happy if you have nothing materially or if you have not been successful in the world. Now I am not going to preach too much on this as I cannot claim to have suffered in the same way as many of the people we know who have lost everything. I think all of us know and understand loss in some form or another. We as a family here in sub-Arctic Sweden know what it is like not to be able to afford fuel with which to keep warm when it is -20°C outside! Some of you may remember those terrible winters ten or more years ago when we had to go around indoors in thick winter coats and winter boots, with blankets on our shoulders and were still cold! They were tough times for us, especially when some were ill. But we survived, the ministry thrived, and we were not crushed. After all, we are still here! So, yes, it is possible to be happy and have nothing materially, even if it is tough!

Bombed OutI am currently in the middle of reading a book by a White Russian immigré called The Berlin Diaries: 1940-45 which I know I have spoken to some of you about in which she describes the utter horror of being bombed out and having no shelter. Her home was pulverised like so many other hundreds of thousands of German civilians during the last world war. In every war in every land throughout history ordinary people have known what it is like to be totally stripped of material possessions. Then there are those who are persecuted by evil government who rob them of their belongings. Believers have experienced this over two millennia thousands of times.

Habakkuk on Being Stripped of ProsperityIn the third chapter of his book, Habakkuk describes what it is like to be utterly stripped of material prosperity. Yet he does not conclude with words of woe, misery and self pity, but proclaims jubilantly:

“Yet I will rejoice in Yahweh! I will be joyful in the Elohim (God) of my salvation” (Hab.3:18, NLT).

Again, this is not to deny the the very real suffering caused by losing everything but it is to remind us that the deepest and most satisfying type of happiness – simcha(joy) – does not depend on material possessions.

The Pretense of Wealth and PovertyNow if it is true that material poverty can bring spiritual riches, then it is also true – and many will testify who have seen the emet (truth) – that material riches can often bring spiritual poverty. There are many rich people who are most miserable. It is certainly possible to have both sorts of riches, but do watch out should you become materially ‘blessed’, because so few know how to handle wealth wisely – their material blessing so often becomes a spiritual curse. I guess that is what the writer of Proverbs might have had in mind when he said:

“Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor” (Prov.13:7, NLT).

Store Up Treasure AboveLet’s let Yah’shua (Jesus) sum the matter up for us, for He knew – and knows – what brings real happiness and what doesn’t:

“Don’t store up treasure here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Mt.6:19-21, NLT).

A Week of DeliberationBrethren and sisters, we have spent a whole week this Sukkot (Tabernacles) considering what true joy and happiness consists of and this I have done because of what is about to happen globally. Some of you have had a small foretaste of this in numerous hurricanes, floodings, dispossessions, homelessness and other difficulties. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that you need to know where Yahweh wants you to be, and to be prepared to hold out there for probably at least a year with all the provisions that that entails – food, water, medicines and so on. We have been given extra months of grace as I am sure the prayers of the qodeshim (saints) have prevailed in the Throne Room of our Elohim (God) to give people more time. But I fear much more time cannot surely be left.

ConclusionTomorrow is Shemini Atseret and we shall be meeting tomorrow morning for a sabbath service. Yahweh has still not given me the message but I have seen one or two interesting and, I think, important things that I definitely want to share with you. I pray this has been a blessed Sukkot, at least in the spiritual sense, and that you have found simcha (joy) in Messiah for the first time or have been able to renew it, and have a renewed sense of tiqveh (hope). May you have a blessed evening and night is my prayer in Yah’shua’s (Jesusä) Name. Amen.

Continued in Part 8Endnotes

[1] Better known to English readers as Thomas à Kempis, the French version of this German divine’s name
[2] As opposed to slavish fear

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Sukkot 2017 VI: The Joy of Yahweh is Your Strength

Continued from Part 5“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the cohen(priest) and Torah-teacher (scribe), and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day [of Sukkot] is qadosh (holy, set-apart) to Yahweh your Elohim (God); do not mourn nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Torah (Law). Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is qadosh (holy, set-apart) to our Elohim (God). Do not sorrow, for the simcha(joy) of Yahweh is your strength.’ So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is qadosh (holy, set-apart); do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them”(Neh.8:9-12, NKJV).

IntroductionChag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the sixth day of the Feast of Tabernacles!

Hungry for the TruthToday’s passage take us back nearly 2,500 years to 445 BC. The walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt, and a week after their completion Sukkot (Tabernacles) begins. The people have been in exile for 70 years in Babylon and are back home again and they have forgotten the Scriptures. Nehemiah reads the whole Torah out to them, explaining the meaning as he goes along, and the people are conviced of sin in their hearts. This was at the people’s own request so they were hungry for emet (truth), something Ezra had desired for a long time (Ezra 7:10)!

Where Baptists Get Some of Their Traditions FromIt is from this systematic study of the Torah that Baptists acquired their tradition of preachers systematically working they way through Scripture. The people in Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s day did not suffer from Attention Deficiency Disorder as Westerners do today for they studied solidly for 6 hours at a time! (Neh.8:3) 14 readers rotated so each read and explained for about ½ hour (Neh.8:4). The Baptist tradition of standing up whenever Scripture is read aloud also comes from here because the people stood for the entire 6 hour session out of reverence for the Davar(Word). I think in the West our backsides are tougher than our feet for in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, services are conducted standing up! I was in one such service in L’viv, Ukraine, many years ago and was amazed. Our own spoiled people would have been grumbling after 20 minutes. We have become lazy and over-indulgent.

Repentance vs. Joy at SukkotTeshuvah (repentance) is, of course, vital to the spiritual life in order to get right with Yahweh and with one another. But not at Sukkot! At this time of year we are commanded to rejoice! Repentance, especially when it is accompanied by fasting, weakens the body, but simcha strengthens it:

The simcha of Yahweh is your strength!” (Neh.8:10, NKJV)

The Heavenly FortifierOne of the reasons possessing this divine simcha or joy is so important is because it is the heavenly strengthening agent. It is the fibre and fortifier of the soul. That is why people who have no joy in their metaphoprical ‘joy bucket’ are weak and feeble. I speak as a star exhibit. Tragedy, persecution and failing health have, I have to admit, taken a lot out of me.

Music as an UplifterLast night was no exception. I was in physical agony for about three hours and had to get up. Finally I went back to bed and got a little sleep. When I came downstairs I found one of my favourite melodies, which I have been wanting to write a worship song to for a long time, and played it. I felt the inrushing of simcha (joy) and had I had the energy I think I would have danced too! It gave me a huge lift, showing what power music has, as I know many of you will testify.

Why Judah Needed Strengthening at SukkotNow there was actually an historical reason why the returned exiles needed a large dollop of strengthening through simcha (joy) because they needed preparing for hard days ahead. And so we read:

“Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for Elohim (God) had made them rejoice with great simcha (joy); the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the simcha (joy) of Jerusalem was heard afar off” (Neh.12:43, NKJV).

Facing Hard Days AheadBrethren and sisters, there is a reason we need simcha (joy) this year because we are about to face hard days ahead. Without being fortified, Yahweh’s people are going to buckle under the extreme stress. So dip into that ‘joy bucket’ and make sure you refill it, and not just at Sukkot /Tabernacles) when we are commanded to. Keep refilling it in worship and praise.

What the Returning Exiles LearnedConsider those Judahite returnees from Babylonian exile. They heard the Torah read out to them and they learned that Yahweh punishes sin, but also that He blesses obedience and that was reason to celebrate. The reason they had not been utterly destroyed as a nation at the time Judah fell to the Babylonians, in spite of their sins, was because Yahweh – by shere grace (undeserved loving kindness) alone – had reserved them to bring forth the Messiah. They were on the brink of a new beginning and that absolutely called for celebration. But first must come a confession for national sins.

Confessing National SinsWhatever nation you come from, you need to start representationally confessing the sins of your country before Yahweh and asking your people for grace. And if you have not been doing that, I would encourage you to start after Sukkot or resume if you have already started doing that. If you have followed my sermons in recent years, I have been doing a lot of that for my own country of Great Britain – for our wars in South Africa, for our murderous terror bombing of German civilians in Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin and Königsberg, our betrayal of Czechoslovakia, for our abandonment of Elohim (God) in the 1960’s, for our vile pedophile leaders and corrupt institutions such as Social Services and education, to name but a few of thousands of sins. We have the responsibility to do that.

On the Brink of a New BeginningDo you realise that we too are on the brink of a new beginning? We as individuals, as families, as a spiritual community of Messianic Evangelicals, as the Body of Messiah and as nations, have to assume responsibility for collective sin even if we personally played no part of that sinning. Yet our ancestors almost certainly have and we are connected to them. That is a form of intercession. If you ask Yahweh what He wants you to pray for, He will show you. I have very specific areas of my nation’s historical record that I have been led to pray for.

ConclusionBut now is a time to get strengthened in the simcha (joy) of Yahweh! Tomorrow is the last day, before the new beginnng of Shemini Atseret, so let’s not waste that time! Remember, the joy of Yahweh is your strength! Yahweh bless you through Yah’shua (Jesus)! Amen.

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Sukkot 2017 V: Salvational Joy in Acts & the Epistles

Continued from Part 4IntroductionChag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the fifth day Tabernacles! We continue with our theme which is on simcha or joy by looking at the remaining books of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament). We have seen how the Four Gospels speak of joyful proclamation of the Besorah (Gospel) and how this focuses on three main areas: the Birth of Messiah, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and the Resurrection.

Simcha in the Acts of the ApostlesThe Book of Acts is a history of the early Messianic Community (Church) and of evangelism in particular – it is a defence of the Good News, it serves as a guide to the pursuit of its mission and it shows the triumph of the Besorah (Gospel) in the face of bitter persecution. As you would expect, simcha (joy) marks the life of the first qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) but this persecution in no way quenches that simcha (joy) nor deters the early believers in their witness. None of this is possible without the gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) given to the early talmidim(disciples), even as it is written:

“And the talmidim (disciples) were filled with simcha (joy) and with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) (Acts 13:52, NIV).

Miracles, Gentiles Being Saved and Eating TogetherYou cannot be filled with one and not the other! Nor in New Testament times, it seems, could miracles not flow in the Name of Messiah if you had the Ruach (Spirit) and simcha (joy) (Ac.8:8). And, of course, back then the first Gentiles (non-Israelites) were coming to salvation in precisely the same way as the Torah-obedient Judahites (Ac.15:3). Finally, we are told by Luke:

“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46, NIV).

Simchah Whilst Sharing Good and BadYou see, this simcha (joy) was infectious and its fullest manifestation was experienced when they were sharing, as a messianic community, in proclamation, during persecution, and having meals together [1].

Paul and SimchaLet’s move on to the Pauline writings where we discover that Paul uses simcha (or its Greek equivalent chara) in three ways, and here it gets really interesting because Paul, in characteristic fashion, likes to plumb the depths as he does with the salvation theology revealed in the Gospels by Yah’shua (Jesus).

1. The Growth of Disciples – ‘Our Joy’Firstly, a major cause for simcha (joy) for Paul is witnessing the members of the Body of Messiah grow in emunah (faith), and quite naturally especially those whom he has personally led to salvation, and in the Greek translation he calls these talmidim(disciples) hé chara hémón, that is, “our joy”:

“For what is our tiqveh (hope), our simcha (joy), or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Master Yah’shua (Jesus) when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our kavod (glory) and simcha (joy) (1 Thess.2:19-20, NIV).

The Satisfaction of MinistersI can absolutely relate to this as a minister and can testify that some of my most precious simcha (joy) moments have come either when souls under my preaching get saved, souls under my teaching get understanding and souls under my intercession get delivered. And whilst the victories are all Messiah’s, the sense of having participated in His work, and seeing the simcha (joy) of those who get saved, come to understanding or get deliverance is very, very satisfying indeed. So I totally get it when Paul says:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Messiah, if any comfort from His ahavah (love), if any fellowship with the Ruach (Spirit), if any tenderness and compassion, then make my simcha (joy) complete (full) by being like-minded, having the same ahavah (love), being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil.2:1-2, NIV).

The Simcha of Corporate MinistryAnd since everyone is a witness, minister and teacher at some level at some time, allmay participate in this simcha (joy) because the work of the Kingdom is very much a team effort. I would not be able to do what I do without my family, those who support me in prayer and those who give me encouragement along the way. Though my name may appear on sermons and articles, though you may see me in the pulpit when I preach, there are many people behind the ministry. I am accutely aware of that. The Kingdom labour is never a one man show and if it ever becomes that, something is seriously wrong. Paul knew that which is why he craved the simcha(joy) that comes from echad (oneness) in corporate service. So thank you everyone who supports me and please express your gratitude to everyone else too because we are all one cooperatively functioning body. We come as many at the Sukkot Marriage Supper but but we also come as one. Never forget that. None of us is without the other.

The Paradox of Joy and SufferingSecondly – and this is a huge mystery for unbelievers and nominal believers alike (we talked briefly about it last night) – our simcha (joy) is sometimes paradoxically the outcome of suffering and even sorrow for Messiah’s sake since it is produced by the Saviour and not ourselves! Paul said:

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Messiah’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the Messianic Community (Church)” (Col.1:24, NIV).

Proxy Persecution for Yah’shuaYou see, Paul was experiencing the persecution that was intended for Messiah. In spite of His death on the Cross, Messiah’s enemies had not got their fill of inflicting injury on Him. So what did they do? They turned their hatred on those who preached His Besorah (Gospel) [2], so it was in that sense that Paul – and indeed all true witnesses of Messiah – filled up what was lacking in Messiah’s death. Why was Paul willing to suffer? “For the sake of His Body”, the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones), so as to build up the Messianic Community (Church). Godly sufffering produces much fine fruit.

Willing to Suffer & Martyr ComplexesThere is a huge difference between the kind of ‘happy-clappy’ gospel, where no one ever wants to get hurt, and the simcha Gospel that is willing to suffer. Those willing to suffer for Messiah get a special kind of simcha (joy) which those who are unwilling do notAll suffering for Yah’shua (Jesus) has benefit even if it is not the benefits we seek in being willing to suffer for Him but simply because of our great love for Him. At the same time we should not get a martyr-complex and go courting persecution or suffering in order, as we suppose, to acquire this simcha (joy). Indeed, this is the point: authentic simcha (joy) cannot be planned in advance! You can’t say. ‘OK, I’ll go and do this to get persecuted so I can get simcha (joy). It is something that comes unexpectedly because the self is not a part of the equation because the self of the sanctified is dead so that Messiah can live through them.

Willing to Suffer and DieWhat kind of Christians or Messianics ought we to be? What is our mind-set – our attitude – and our reality supposed to be like? You cannot plan the results of your Christian/Messianic life because you are not given that kind of foreknowledge. We go where we are sent, say what we are told to say, and do so willing, if necessary, to suffer and die for it, because our life is not our own if we have truly laid it down. Thus Paul would very soberly write these words to the Corinthians:

“… as servants of Elohim (God) we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and in sincere ahavah (love); in truthful speech and in the power of Elohim (God); with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 1sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor.6:4-10, NIV).

How a Minister Commends HimselfNo, such words are utterly meaningless to an unbeliever or to a false believer sold on the false ‘prosperity gospel’, for instance. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and when someone claims to be a minister, he “commends” himself in the sense that he is willing to suffer indignities and deprivations for his Saviour. He must, to be a minister, be willing to prove his his suitability through possessing the right character which is willing to show patient endurance. He must be faithful – not quit mid way just because the going gets tough or unpleasant (advice one could give, incidentally, to married people on the same grounds), even though his deprivations are many. One who is called to be a minister in the true Besorah (Gospel) must be willing to accept this. The ability to walk this way comes through the supernatural empowerment of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and he must live by absolute emet scriptural (truth) and deal with reality on the ground as it is. Such a man is promised a very special kind of simcha (joy).

The Extra Dimension: Joy in TriumphThere is also an extra dimension to this simcha (joy) which is not experienced down here on earth. Consider Peter’s testimony:

“… rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Messiah, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13, NIV).

Right now we live by emunah (faith) and the immediate simcha (joy) we feel in suffering for what we presume Yah’shua (Jesus) thinks of our endurance for Him but a day is coming when we will know His heart fully revealed and be overjoyed! The Aramaic here means “exult” or “jubilation” so it is the kind of simcha (joy) connected with success or triumph – like the feeling when a nation has won a war, coupled with it is a sense of release…or justification…of shalom (peace) too. So that is promised!

Losses of Material Things for MessiahThere are lots of scriptures I could cite so let me cite just one more:

“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Heb.10:34, NIV).

If you have been robbed or had the government seize your money through fines or property confiscation because of your witness, you will understand what it feels like.

3. A Dynamic SimchaThirdly, and finally, simcha (joy) a gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and is therefore something DYNAMICnot static – it is constantly ‘on the move’:

“But the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) is ahavah (love), simcha (joy), shalom(peace), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no torah (law). Those who belong to Messiah Yah’shua (Jesus) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Ruach (Spirit), let us keep in step with the Ruach (Spirit)” (Gal.5:22-25, NIV).

Coming from LoveMost importantly – and this I have already noted – simcha (joy) derives from ahavah(love) – both Yahweh’s ahavah (love) and ours – and that is why it is listed as being closely associated with the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) in the passage I just read out to you. But since it is a gift which may be interrupted by sin, every believer is called upon to share in the simcha (joy) of Messiah by a daily walk with Him and His salvation:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Elohim’s (God’s) will for you in Messiah Yah’shua (Jesus)” (1 Thess.5:16-18, NIV).

Rejoice in the Master!” (Phil.3:1, NIV)

And again, as if to make sure his point gets across:

Rejoice in the Master always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil.4:4, NIV).

The Goal of Your Faith Being RealisedThere is much meat here that is easy to overlook and forget. But the Davar (Word) is plain for all those who would take it seriously and claim to live by it:

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious simcha (joy), for you are receiving the goal of your emunah(faith), the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9, NIV).

ConclusionSo said the apostle Peter and I think that is a suitable place to end this evening. I pray that you will soberly consider these things and understand the true relationship between simcha (joy) and the Besorah (Gospel) life as a whole. It all boils down in the end to emunah (faith) and ahavah (love), doesn’t it, and whether we are willing to use them or not? That’s the real choice. But we must know what we are having faith in, and what we are loving, so that we do not invest our hopes and expectations in false, unscriptural things. I hope you will ponder these things and join me again tomorrow evening. Be blessed! Amen.

Continued in Part 6Endnotes

[1] Acts 2:46 is often interpreted by evangelicals to mean that they regularly ate the Master’s (Lord’s) Supper and that this was the context of their simcha (joy). However, this ordinance was principally a solemn occasion and whilst this is not to exclude the simcha (joy) of communion (by which the Master’s Supper is also known), the context of the passage is the sharing of ordinary meals:

“And every day they were steadfast in the temple with one soul. And at home they were breaking loaves of bread. And while they were receiving food, and rejoicing in the simplicity of their hearts, they were praising Elohim while finding favor before all the people…” (Ac.2:47-47a, AENT).

“They broke bread in their various houses, and ate their food with glad and sincere hearts, praising Elohim (God) and standing in favour with all people”(Ibid., KNT).

[2] John 15:18,24; 16:1-3

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Sukkot 2017 IV: Salvational Joy in the Four Gospels

Continued from Part 3IntroductionChag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the fourth day of celebration in this Feast of Tabernacles! Our theme this year is simcha or joy in spite of half of yesterday and half of day being spoiled by a ransomware attack which I freely confess did rob me of my simcha (joy) as I contemplated with horror the thought of either losing lots of ministry work (I managed to save it in the end) and of not being able to get out these Sukkot sermons to you during the season. I can tell you that my simcha (joy) did return after I managed to fix the issue! Thank you those of you who were praying for me or otherwise lending technical assistance.

Different Covenant ‘Joys’?We resume our Sukkot theme of simcha (joy) today by turning to testimony of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) and I want to begin by correcting a common misperception that the ‘spirit’, ‘joy’ and such important manifestations of relationship with Yahweh was somehow ‘inferior’ in Tanakh (Old Testament) times to Messianic Scripture (New Testament) times. The experience of simcha (joy) with Elohim (God) by the godly was essentially the same with one difference: the simcha (joy) of redemption in Messiah brought with it a sense of permanence because no further annual sacrifices were required to renew it. But let’s rummage a little through the Scriptures and see what we can find today.

The Joy of ProclamationAs you read the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) you are at once struct by the fact that simcha (joy) centres around the proclamation of the Besorah(Gospel), in all its varied forms, for Good News is Joyful News! I think it is a wonderfully eddifying thing to witness!

Different Spirits of Proclamation – the Jehovah’s WitnessesThe spirit in which you proclaim, preach, teach or witness says a lot as to whether you have received authentic salvation or not. Every time I have been to a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, for example, or spoken with some of their people when they drop by, I am always left with a sense of emptiness. Indeed their witness can sometimes be so suffocating that I just can’t wait to get away. Try as I may to worship amongst them, it just doesn’t work. There is no authentic simcha (joy) because there is no authentic Ruach (Spirit). Their ‘Good News’ is the Watchtower Bible & Tract Societyorganisation, publications, and so on, not that of the resurrection and of the filling of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). First, because they don’t believe in a physical resurrection, and second, because they don’t believe the ‘spirit’ has any discernable effect. Salvation by faith in an organisation cannot have an eternal component to it, so it must ebb and flow.

The Main Areas of Joyful ProclamationThere may be said to be three areas of joyful proclamation in which a strong element of simcha (joy) is involved:

  • 1. The Birth of Messiah;
  • 2. The Triumphal Entry; and
  • 3. The Resurrection

We’ll take a look at each of these in turn.

1. The Birth of MessiahThe very first appearance of simcha (joy) in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) concerns the Birth of Yah’shua (Jesus) (Lk.2:10) and though evangelicals have, as an outlet and expression of this simcha (joy) a pagan day (Christmas) on which to celebrate, they at least have a point of expression which I have noticed sorely lacking amongst messianics. And whilst it is true we are nowhere commanded to observe a moed (appointment) celebrating His Birth, to be able to express that simcha (joy) is, I think, important, since it was clearly expressed in Scripture and is something we need to be grateful for.

When Was He Born?Part of our problem is that messianics are not agreed when Yah’shua (Jesus) was actually born even if they are all agreed he was not born on the Catholic/Protestant 25 December or on the Eastern Orthodox 6 January. Most believe He was born either at Sukkot (i.e. now) or some time during the autumn (fall) festivals. Others like ourselves believe He was born at Pesah (Passover) or, as the famous Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn claims, on Aviv 1 or the biblcial New Year. Because of the difficulty of observing Yah’shua’s (Jesus) birth at the same time as Pesach (Passover), which was also the day He died (something we consider very significant), many Messianic Evangelicals privately commemorate His birth at Aviv 1, at the New Year, on a purely voluntary basis [1].

2. The Triumphal EntryThe second area of simcha (joy) in proclamation in the Synoptics was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, one of the few incidents that appears in all four Gospel accounts (Mt.21:1-17; Mk.11:1-11; Lk.19:29-40; Jn.12:12-19). Evangelicals celebrate this as ‘Palm Sunday’. What was the purpose of this ceremonial journey into the City on a donkey? It was to make public His claim to be their Messiah and King of Israel in fulfillment of Tanakh (Old Testament) prophecy, a visible display, if you will, and fulfilling that prophecy in Zecharaiah:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey”
 (Zech.9:9, NIV).

Two Prophecies Rolled into OneHe is coming as a conquering king. The people interpreted this to mean that he was coming, like a Zealot, to physically liberate them from Roman occupation and oppression. They failed to understand that in the first instance this was a proclamation of salvation. As this was the spring, it concerned only the fulfilment of the spring festivals but it was also pointing to which other set of festivals? Yes, the autumn (fall) festivals and the Day of Shouting (Yom Teruah) – “shout greatly” – and to Sukkot when He will return a second time and destroy all His enemies the way the Zealots wanted it except He won’t be coming for revolutionaries but for those who are saved. And to be saved, you must be humble, riding a donkey, not brandishing a sword in nationalistic fervour as the Maccabees or Hasmoneans once had done, inventing their own festival of Hanukkah by developping it out of SukkotHanukkahbelongs to the secular revolutionaries but Sukkot belongs to the saved. The one achieves the kingdom in blood, the other in emunah (faith), ahavah (love) leading to simcha (joy) and shalom (peace). So the Triumphal Entry is joyous on two counts because it represents:

  • 1. Salvation through Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ); and
  • 2. Deliverance from the evil of this world leading to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

3. The ResurrectionThe third proclamation of simcha (joy) concerns the resurrection:

“The malak (angel) said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Yah’shua (Jesus), who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His talmidim (disciples): ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.’

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with simcha(joy), and ran to tell His talmidim (disciples)” (Matt.28:5-8, NIV).

A Very Good Reason for SimchaFear mingled with simcha (joy) – fear because this was awesome, so great, making them feel so small before the power of the Creator of the Universe – yet joyful because He who was dead was alive! Our proclamation of the resurrection of Yah’shua (Jesus) is joyful because it means death has been conquered and there is tiqveh (hope) even in mortality and physical death – there is the tiqveh (hope) of something better, a life more glorious than anything this life can offer us. If that is not an occasion for simcha (joy), in a world filled with so much death, destruction, misery and hopelessness, then I don’t know what is. That is a message of Sukkot – what was proclaimed in the spring festivals becomes a fact in the autumna (fall) ones, culminating in Sukkot. And that is a reason we are celebrating.

John’s WitnessAnd finally we come to John’s Gospel where a new element is added – a fundamental emet (truth) that underlies the testimony of the Synoptists: it is Yah’shua (Jesus) Himself who communicates this simcha (joy):

“I have told you this so that My simcha (joy) may be in you and that your simcha (joy) may be complete (John 15:11, NIV).

Not a Transient JoyThis is not a joy than comes from something good happening (like my managing to remove the ransomware from my computer earlier today) but a simcha (joy) that comes from communion with the Saviour – knowing Him through regularly immersing yourself in the Davar (Word), in prayer and in service for His Kingdom. Dare to ask Him for that, and see what He promises:

“Until now you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, and your simcha (joy) will be complete (John 16:24, NIV).

Times and SeasonsThere are also times and seasons to be considered:

“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your simcha (joy)” (John 16:22, NIV).

A Permanent Kind of JoyNotice this is a simcha (joy) that does not come and go like the tide. The ‘joy’ I felt at removing that computer virus dissipated some hours ago, within minutes in fact, but the simcha (joy) that comes from being IN Messiah cannot be removed even if you find yourself in hellish circumstances. It’s always there because so long as you have your eyes on Him it cannot be snatched away, even if you are grieving because of the loss of a loved one or because of some other tragedy or traumatic event. This may not make much sense to the unsaved, because there is no comparible experience outside of salvation, but it is real enough. It is why martyrs like Jan Hus could sing joyfully to Yahweh whilst being burned at the stake by the murderous Catholic Church in Bohemia.

ConclusionSo in conclusion, brethren and sisters, this deep simcha (joy) of which all four Gospels speaks becomes the result of deep fellowship between the Messianic Community (Church) and Yah’shua (Jesus) Himself. It is both personal andcorporate, like I mentioned the other day. And like all relationships, it has to be cultivated – it requires time and effort. May you so cultivate this, and know heavenly simcha (joy) even more this Sukkot, is my prayer in Yah’shua’s (Jesus’) Name. Amen.

Tomorrow we shall look at the rest of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament)…

Endnotes

[1] See also see our position on Birthday Celebration

Continued in Part 5 

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Sukkot 2017 III: Salvational Joy in the Tanakh

Continued from Part 2IntroductionChag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the third day of celebration in this Feast of Tabernacles! Our theme this year is simcha or joy and we are going to pick up from where we left off yesterday. As ever we must be careful to define terms and be sure we understand the receptor language of our Scriptures.

The Meaning of Hebrew ‘Simcha‘ vs. English ‘Joy’If you look up the word ‘joy’ in an English dictionary you will be told that it is a deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment often expressed in an outward show of pleasure or delight. It is usually understood in very personal terms. Simcha (joy), while similar, is a rather special Hebrew word inasmuch as it is intimately tied to the total national and religious life of Israel as a nationSimcha was never understood to be only a personal experience nor was it usually something very quiet. It is pretty hard to be filled with joy and be silent! So we should not at all be surprised to discover that simcha was usually expressed by our ancestors in terms of noisy, tumultuous excitement at the festivals, sacrifices and coronations (Dt.12:6ff.; 1 Sam.18:6; 1 Ki.1:39ff.). The ancient Israelites were not introverts!

Psalm 126Spontaneous simcha (joy) is a prevailing feature of the Psalms, as we all know through our frequent use of that book. There it is both a mark of corporate worship (centred largely on the Temple – Ps.42:4; 81:1) and of personal adoration (Ps.16:8ff.; 43:4). The Psalm that I think best gets across this image is the 126th. Let’s look at the first half:

“When Yahweh brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of simcha (joy).
Then it was said among the nations, ‘Yahweh has done great things for them.’ Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are filled with simcha (joy)”
(Ps.126:1-3, NIV)

Deliverance and JoyDeliverance – whether physical, spiritual or both – is one of the most common sources of simcha (Joy) and as we see in these first three verses, one of the purposes Yahweh delivers us and causes this simcha (joy) to arise in us is so that we can be a witnessto those nations who do not know us. As we all remember, Yah’shua (Jesus) said that:

“By this all men will know that you are my talmidim (disciples), if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

Signs of Ahavah-LoveBut as I pointed out yesterday, a whole cluster of characteristics are manifested in the saved, including “laughter”“songs of joy”, even being “filled with joy”. This happy laughter, this overflowing simcha (joy) is a sign of true ahavah– or agapé-love. If these elements are missing, the ‘love’ may not be authentic.

The PromisesAs I mentioned on the first day of Sukkot, Yahweh knows our trials and troubles, and there are so many of us who have these currently even during this ‘Season of Our Joy’. The Exiles did not have a good time of it in Babylon but those who hold on to the emunah (faith) and do not reject Elohim (God) are promised this by Yahweh through the Psalmist in the last half of the psalm:

“Restore our fortunes, O Yahweh,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of simcha (joy).

He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of simcha (joy),
carrying sheaves with him
 (Ps.126:4-6, NIV)

The Fruitfulness of True Repentance Leading to True JoyIf your tear-shedding – if your weeping – is done in true contrition, then the Ruach (Spirit) promises, as Yahweh promised through the Psalmist to those original Exiles, that through their patience and long-suffering, though they “sow in tears” they will“reap with songs of simcha (joy)”! But notice that the weeping is of a particular kind – don’t miss this, please, for the one who weeps in the Ruach (Spirit) rather than in his fallen flesh carrying seed to sow will be found carrying sheaves with himafterwards. In other words, genuine sorrow leading to teshuvah or repentance is FRUITFUL, and the evidence of that fruitfulness will be genuine “songs of simcha(joy)” and all the works associated with the saved.

Unfruitful WeepingWhat, then, is the unfruitful kind of weeping? Unfruitful weeping is that in which the soul is consumed with self-pity, resentment and bitterness for suffering and loss. Such ‘sorrow’ is not unto repentance because it bears no positive seeds to sow. One of the hardest and yet most important lessons we must learn in this life is, I suggest, understanding the difference between these two and choosing the fruitful way. I would also like to suggest that by far the most important ministry we can give is in guiding people coming to understand these two ways and in making a choice which is salvational.

Isaiah and Salvational SimchaI’d like to finish this short address by taking a look at the navi (prophet) Isaiah’s understanding of simcha (joy) as a sign of the fullness of salvation which he insists is not to be understood in merely ritual terms. Anyone can put an emotion-charged show on by getting themselves psychically worked up, tears and all. The subject matter is again Yahweh’s people experiencing affliction:

“Shout for simcha (joy), O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For Yahweh comforts His people
and will have compassion on His afflicted ones”
 (Isa.49:13, NIV).

The Sukkot Marriage MotifHe then goes on to say:

“I delight greatly in Yahweh;
my soul rejoices in my Elohim (God).
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation (deliverance)
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a cohen (priest),
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so Yahweh-Elohim will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations”
 (Isa.61:10-11, NIV).

A Broken and Contrite HeartDo you see the Sukkot (Tabernacles) wedding imagery again, the same allegory used in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) which we’ll talk more of tomorrow. Again, the salvation or deliverance here can be of any kind – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – indeed, the whole spectrum of what makes up a man or woman. Whatever the legitimate need, Yahweh will meet it provided we approach Him with genuine humility and not immature, complaining, self-entitled, self-pitying brattishness. To remind you again, these are what Yahweh seeks:

“The sacrifices of Elohim (God) are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise”
 (Ps.51:17, NIV).

The Prideful HeartAn indignant, angry, self-entitled heart is not a broken heart, it is a prideful heart:

“Yahweh will destroy the house of the proud” (Prov.15:25, NKJV).

Being Imaged ArightSimcha (joy) does not come to the “house of the proud” but only to the house of the humble. Indeed, the proud cannot be the Bride at all – it is utterly impossible – for the Bridegroom cannot be echad (one) with self-entitlement or pride. It is not in His nature, it is not His image, and we are called to be His image. One who is saved is imaged as He is.

ConclusionMay your day be full of simcha (joy) in Yah’shua (Jesus)!

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