"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Holiness, Part 3
Carrying Your Cross
We have been looking at God's holiness in His people and in their place of worship. Yeshua's warning is one of judgment. This is a side of Yeshua that we do not always want to see or believe of Him. Yet we have to see that there is sin in our congregations. We have to also see that people are falling away from our congregations. We are not seeing an influx of new people coming to salvation, but what we are seeing is people going from church to church looking to be fed. All the gimmicks, all the drama, all the music is not what people need. What we need is truth; it is the truth that will set us free, it is truth that will make us strong, and it is truth that will allow us to be blessed. We are going to be looking at what is missing in the lives of Christians today.
When we accept Yeshua as Lord and Savior then we, by faith, enter into covenant with Him. By doing this, it means that we must keep all the requirements of that covenant. This knowledge of covenants is something that is not taught in the church. We do not understand how these ancient covenants worked. If we did, we would understand that the Torah is actually a covenant. Now, when we look at Yeshua we see that He lived out the Torah to the very stroke of the letter. It was because of this that He could be the spotless Lamb of God. Yeshua said that He was now going to renew the covenant; in other words, He was not doing away with the covenant but He was going to, let's say, "amend" it. He was now going to be the Mediator and His blood was going to be the blood that would be sprinkled on the altar and on the people. We see this in Exodus 24. He spoke this at the Passover Meal. A meal was also a big part of ratifying a covenant. We see this in Genesis 31:54. One day we will eat at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which will be the fulfillment of the New Covenant which is spoken of in Jeremiah 31.
Some believe that God is the God of the Jews and Yeshua is the God of the Gentiles, but this is completely false. Yeshua is God and He is the God of the Jews and He is the King of the Jews and He is the Savior of the Jews. God's revelation was ongoing from the time of Adam to John in Revelation. Throughout the years, God revealed more and more to His people. He began with a covenant with Adam (one man), and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (one family), Moses (a people), and Yeshua (all those who would believe). Paul tells us that we have been grafted into the covenants. He was speaking of the covenant of Adam, that a Savior would come; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was a promise of land and protection and financial blessing; and the covenant of Moses, which requires us to be obedient and to walk in holiness. Yeshua did not do away with any of this, but He did make the way for us to now be partakers by grafting us in if we would believe in Him and be obedient to His commands.
Imitators of Yeshua
In Hebraic thought, to be one's disciple was to imitate his teacher: his every word, mannerisms, and even thoughts. I guess we would say that the disciple would be a "clone" of that person. In a manner of speaking, this is what Yeshua was of the Father. Yeshua spoke only His Father's words and He did only what He saw His Father do. Yeshua was the exactness of His Father. He told Philip, "If you have seen Me than you have seen the Father," (John 14:9). We, too, must imitate Yeshua this same way, and so too His disciples learned from Him. When they asked Him how to pray, they, being Jews, knew how to pray, for prayer is the foundation of Judaism. But every rabbi taught his disciples their own forms of prayer; usually it was a shortened form of the Amidah (the eighteen benedictions) which was said only when they would be on the road traveling. The prayer he taught them is what we call today the Lord's Prayer.
So as followers of Yeshua, we too must do entirely what He did. We must not just pray any prayer, but the prayers He prayed; Mark 11:25 refers to the Amidah which is said standing in the morning and the evening. We too must call people to repentance (Matthew 4:17) and show mercy and compassion (Matthew 20:29-34). We too must heal the sick and cast out demons (Mark 16:17-18). We must keep God's Appointed Times, not man's; in other words, we must take on the yoke of the kingdom. Paul tells his readers to imitate him as he imitates Yeshua. This means that Paul kept Torah. He kept the seventh day Sabbath and all of God's Appointed Times, which we know from reading Scripture. He did everything Yeshua did. He did not change ONE thing! If he had, he could not have imitated Yeshua, nor could he have been Yeshua's disciple. Scripture tells us, "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments (speaking of Torah) and so teaches others shall be called least in the kingdom" (Matthew 5:19). So we must imitate Yeshua to the letter. When Yeshua tells His disciples to go out and make disciples, He was saying, "Go and teach people to imitate Me."
Yeshua's Call to Follow Him
Yeshua went through the countryside and called people to follow Him. But He took it a step further and said if you wish to follow Me, then you must deny yourself and pick up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). What did Yeshua mean by this? Many people think that Yeshua meant that if they have an illness then that is carrying their cross, or if they have a problem child that they have to deal with that they are carrying their cross. But is this what He meant? Well, let's take a closer look.
Yeshua continued by saying, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it... For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds." Paul tells us this: "Brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship," (Romans 12:1). So we see that carrying our cross has to do with laying down our lives for the Kingdom of God. So let's look at this.
The cross was an instrument of death. It was designed to maximize pain and suffering. It was also designed to bring shame, for the person was hung naked. Paul tells us that, "We should not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek... For the word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." So despite the shame, as disciples we must pick up our cross and crucify ourselves along with Yeshua. Does Yeshua mean literally crucify ourselves? Well, we know the answer to that is "no," but what He does mean is that we are to deny our flesh, our desires, our life by dying to ourselves. Paul writes, "But what ever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Messiah, and may be found in Him not having salvation by the keeping of the law, but that through faith in Messiah I may have salvation which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
What does it mean to know Him? Well, this word "know," yada in Hebrew, is the same word which is used when referring to the covenant. It's not just to have the knowledge of Him, but to personally experience Him. God revealed His Name to the Israelites and through His judgments on Egypt and their deliverance from slavery, they experienced that this Name was true. He then further revealed Himself by the giving of the Torah. John writes, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we know Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." This word, "know," is parallel to fearing Him (1 Kings 8:43), to serving Him (1 Chronicles 28:9), to trusting Him (Isaiah 43:10), and to walking in a straight path worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10).
So, we must have this intimate relationship with God. Paul was saying to know Him completely. So when we truly know Him we will also know His power. For the same Spirit which raised Yeshua from the grave lives in us when we truly know Him. Paul writes that "there are those who have a form of godliness but deny the power," (2 Timothy 3:5). Again, this takes walking in the covenant, for this is the only way we can know Him in truth. This power is walking in salvation, which includes having the authority over rulers and principalities and evil forces in the heavenly places, over every kind of sickness and disease. These are the signs that shall follow a believer (Mark 16:17-18). But because we do not always see these signs and wonders, we say that they do not exist. We cannot keep justifying our wrongs by denying truth.
When we know Him and walk in His power, we will have fellowship with Him. John writes, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin." The Book of 1 John is full of knowing God in that covenant relationship. To know God and to walk in His power, fellowship with Him will always bring about suffering. Yeshua told His disciples not to fear, for the world hated Him and it will hate them too. Yeshua, on the mount, tells His followers, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Peter writes, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Messiah, keep rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation. If you are reviled for the name of Messiah, you are blessed, because the Spirit of Glory and God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is the time for judgment to begin with the House of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved, what will become of the godless man and sinner? Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right."
But all too often we think that fellowshipping in Yeshua's sufferings are just when we tell someone about Him and they start to call us names or think us to be crazy, but to know Him and His power and to fellowship with Him means we have to take things one step further, and that is to be conformed to His death. Until we do this, we truly can not know Him the way we need to know Him, as to know His power and to fellowship with Him in truth. This is the point to which many Christians never reach.
I Too Must Die
For us to be conformed to Yeshua's death, then we must die also. Paul writes, "Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world, but to "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." John writes, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world; if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world."
To be a follower of Yeshua, we must put down the world and pick up the yoke of the kingdom. Peter writes, "Therefore, since Messiah has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries (Torahlessness). And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and malign you."
Yeshua tells His followers, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." In other words, if we do not imitate Yeshua by carrying our cross and crucifying our flesh, by denying this world's sinful lusts and pride, we cannot be one of His followers. We preach grace and faith, but not what it takes to know Him. We preach the love of God but not what He demands of us. We do not hear enough about sin and dying to self. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Yeshua have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."