Evangelism vs. Discipleship

             For the most part over the last two thousand years the church has done a fairly decent job of evangelism.  Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that on this topic the church has had a unified message, Jesus died for our sins, was buried and three days later rose again.  This message has been communicated fairly well. 

However, that cannot be said of discipleship in the church for the last two thousand years.  Discipleship seems to be the church’s area of weakness.  We have all been in an interview where the perspective employer asks us to state our strength and weakness.  Well for the church its strength is evangelism and its weakness is discipleship.  In this area the church cannot find its unified message and when part of the church seems to find a message it cannot seem to stay on message for very long.  Why is this?

How many times has someone received Christ and went to their pastor and asked the question, “OK, now what?  Now that I am saved how do I live this life?” and the pastor literally stumbles over what to say.  That same pastor spoke with great conviction and assurance when it came to the salvation message, but now seems to not know exactly what to say when it comes to instructing one who has believed on how to live out this life. 

The most common answers from the church are to read your Bible, pray and maybe join a Bible study group.  With all respect to pastors, that answer just doesn’t cut it.  It doesn’t tell someone who truly wants to know, how to live out their Christian faith on a day to day basis.  Does God tell us how to do this or did He leave us hanging to figure it out ourselves as we flounder through this thing called life? 

To be completely honest if we only rely on the New Testament to help us figure this out, we will be left with a lot more questions than answers.  Especially, if we have to wade through the theological hoops our pastors send us through.  What do I mean by that?  Simple, John in 1 John 2:3-6 tells us to live or walk as Jesus walked, but our pastors tell us that Jesus only lived that way because it was cultural to His time and place and we don’t really have to live like He did and by all means don’t go back and read the Old Testament and start asking the question, “Does this still apply to me today?”

Please understand I am not trying to be harsh or critical toward pastors, I am married to one.  What I do want us to understand is that we in the church have put theological blinders on ourselves and allowed the enemy to convince us of certain things concerning Scripture and the nature of the Christian life.  Yes, we as Christians have to be willing to take an honest look at our historical and current understanding of how we are to follow our Messiah.  We can no longer just put our hands over our eyes and hears and refuse to see and hear the truth, we are running out of time and we all know it.

So again, why is the area of discipleship such a problem?  First there is the Biblical reason.  God did leave us with instructions on how to live life as His child and we have refused to see it as such.  The short answer is that the Torah/Law of God is His instruction manual to this life as His child.  The longer answer is that the word “torah” itself means instruction and that its root word is actually an archery term meaning “to hit the mark”.  That becomes even more interesting when one realizes that the word for sin is also an archery term that means “to miss the mark”. 

Let that sink in, ‘sin’ is to miss the mark and the root word of torah is to hit the mark, while the word ‘torah’ itself means instruction.  Instruction for what?  Torah is our God given instruction manual on how to hit the mark of righteousness and live a holy or set apart life before God.  It really is that simple.  The Torah is God’s discipleship program.

So, the reason why Discipleship in the church is such a weakness is that it has refused to recognize God’s Discipleship program and has constantly tried to come up with its own, with a manmade system of discipleship.  God has never allowed those things to work and never will, especially in a lasting sense.

The historical reason for our discipleship problem is much more complicated and even evil.  The church rather early on started purposely pulling away from anything that looked Jewish.  These were decisions made by gentiles and based on antisemitism. 

The church councils, for example, told the people it was illegal to Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but instead must work on that day.  The exact opposite of the Father’s instructions for His people.  They wanted a clear break and difference between them and the Jews.  This difference came from their own imaginations and not from Scripture. 

Sadly, we have been living with those decisions for nearly two thousand years and have been convinced that they are somehow Biblical when that is not the case at all.  Even the Roman Catholic church admits that they changed the day of worship from Saturday (the seventh day) to Sunday (the first day) on their own authority and not that of Scripture. 

I want to go back to Scripture and see just what did the New Testament writers say.  Let’s go back to John in 1 John 3:4 where he states that sin is the breaking of the Law (God’s Law/Torah).  John also states in 1 John 1:9, that if we sin, we can confess our sin and that God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin. 

Yet we are told that the Law of God/Torah is not for us or that it has been superseded.  Do you see the problem?  If the Law/Torah no longer applies then we do not sin and therefore we have no need of confession.  Yet John also says that if we say we have no sin than we make God out to be a liar 1 John 1:10).  He also goes on to say that if we are born of God then we will not live in a lifestyle of sin (1 John 3:6-9).  In other words, we will want to live righteously before God and get rid of all sin in our lives through confession and turning away from sin. 

So how does that Bible define righteousness and truth?  We can find both of these and much more in Psalm 119.  This is not only the longest chapter in the Bible, but it is also a loving description of the Torah/Law/Commands of God/The Word of God.  His Torah is truth, it is the way, the life (according to Deuteronomy 30), the restorer of our life, righteous(ness), freedom, eternal and so much more. 

Speaking of Deuteronomy 30 Moses also says in that chapter that God’s Torah is not too difficult for the people of God and strangely enough John reiterates this idea in 1 John 5:3.

So, what’s the deal?  Is the Torah done away with for the life of the believer or not?   I would definitely say, “No”! 

Notice I am speaking in terms of the life of one who is already a Believer in Yeshua/Jesus.  The Torah/Law of God was never a means to salvation, it was always the way in which His people who already believe live, love Him and each other. 

In this perspective the giving of the Torah/Law was an act of grace.  It is not Law vs. Grace.  The Law is part of the grace of God toward His people.  He did not leave us to figure this walk out on our own.  He was gracious to us and told us how to live through Moses and then showed us through His Son, Yeshua/Jesus and finally gives us the power to live it through His Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh. 

Jesus showed us how to live a perfect, holy, set apart life.  It was not a cultural life, it was a Biblical life, a life pleasing to His Father.  He loved His Father the way His Father asked to be loved.  He loved others the way His Father told Him to love them.  He was a perfectly obedient Son.  Why would we not want to follow Him in His example?  How can we follow Him if we insist on living and walking in a different way?

Is evangelism important?  Of course, it is!  We need to tell others about what God did for them through His Son.  The world needs to know that God loved them so much that He sent His Son.  Only through the blood of the Lamb Yeshua are we saved, but is that the be all end all of discipleship?  No, it is not!  The believer needs to know how to please the One in whom they believe.  We need to know what our obligations are toward our Father now that we are part of His family. 

That is what the Torah is, it is the rules of the family and one must be part of the family first for them to apply.  One does not become adopted into a family by obeying the rules of the family, but is adopted first and then taught the rules of the family so that the family can function as one unit.  Was that not the prayer of our Savior?  Doesn’t He want us to be one with each other and with Him and the Father? Yes, He does!  How can that happen if we are all going in different directions when it comes to discipleship?

Then there is the issue of the Great Commission where we are told by Yeshua in Matthew 28 to make disciples, not just converts.  How does He tell us to make disciples?  We are to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all things that He taught. 

What did He teach?  He taught the teachings of His Father, The Torah.  How many times in the Gospel of John does Jesus say that His words are not His own, but His Fathers?  Many. 

Moses even stated in Deuteronomy 18, when describing the prophet to come (ie. The Messiah), that he would have the words of God in his mouth and Moses was not talking about different words from what the Father had given him. 

So, does the Word of God change?  No, according to Scripture itself in Isaiah 40:8 the Word of God stands forever, as does 1 Peter 1:25.  It does not change, it stands!  Why would God change His word if it stands forever?  He would not!  He is unchanging and His Word stands forever!

           

Who We Are To Be Part 4

Today I want to look at some passages from Isaiah and to look at some of the things God says to His people in preparing them for the last days and the great harvest.

In Isaiah 51 He begins by telling His people to listen to Him and for those who seek Him and His righteousness to look from the rock from which they were cut namely Abraham and Sarah who obeyed Torah (Genesis 26:4-5). We are to listen and hear Him, we are to shema for His Law comes out from Him and is a light to the nations.

Now that we are listening He calls His people to Awake, Awake three time in chapters 51 and 52. Awake, Awake to clothe with strength and be awake as in days of old. Awake, Awake to why the God sends His wrath on His people and that He is the only One who can comfort and place His wrath on their tormentors. Awake, Awake to clothe with strength again and put on the garments of splendor as God raises you up, you who were redeemed. He gives the place of honor.

God/Elohim wants His people to be awake in these day and how many times have we heard comments about the body of Yeshua being asleep. He does not want us to be asleep, but awake. We will have to be awake if we are to truly seek Him and spread His message of peace, good tidings, and salvation.

So let us awaken and remember where we come from, remember our fathers and those who went before us. Remember what our Father has called us to, to Himself. He wants a people who can be His ambassadors and send forth the message of His Kingdom. However, that is a job for those who are awake, not for those who are asleep.

Awake, Awake people of God and see His righteousness, justice, and salvation go forth to the nations!  Awake, Awake to see revival among His people!

But what does true revival look like? If revival begins with the people of Elohim and the job of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of the Son (Romans 8:29), as well as, to help us obey the commands of God (Ezekiel 36:27) then what kind of life is He leading us, the redeemed, to live?

In 1 John 2:4-6 Scripture says, “Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not obey His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever obeys His word, in him truly the love of God is made perfect. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way that He/Yeshua walked.

So if we are to walk as Yeshua walked and the Spirit’s job is to transform us to be like Yeshua and the means by which He does that is to help us obey the commands of God, then the question still stands, what does that look like?

To most of the body of Christ/Messiah you might say that looks quite Jewish. Why? Because Yeshua was a Jew and when He returns He will be a Jew, in fact He is the King of the Jews, King of Israel! Therefore, He lived as a Jew and was obedient to the Law/Torah of God, His Father. So if we are to be like Him won’t our life look like His and won’t we do what He did? Yes!

It is interesting to note, that while to Gentile believers it may appear Jewish, to a Jew it may, at first, seem quite Gentile.  Just in accepting Yeshua/Jesus as their Savior to begin with could appear Gentile to their fellow Jews, not to mention leaving behind some or many of the Rabbinical teachings (the tradition of the elders/oral law). 

So let’s keep in mind the truth of this life is not to be more Jewish or to be more Gentile, depending on your perspective, but to be more Biblical.

As Paul said at the end of chapter 3 of Romans we do not annul the Law/Torah of God by grace, rather we uphold that same Law/Torah.  We obey the commands of Elohim/God.  We obey the Bible!

Therefore, true revival is one being redeemed by the Lamb and then living obedient to the Law/Torah of God (living as Jesus/Yeshua lived) by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8). It is about a transformed life!

The Testimony and the Law

In Isaiah right between chapter 7, which gives us the sign of Immanuel, and chapter 9, which tells us a child is born and a son is given, sits chapter 8.  I want to look at some things in this very interesting and prophetic chapter.  In verse 16 it states, “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.”(NIV)  This is a very compelling verse.  When I first saw this verse it was the word “disciple” that caught my attention.  I thought that was an odd word to use in the Old Testament so I looked it up and it appears that Isaiah and Jeremiah are the only two who use this word and Isaiah is the only one who uses it to refer to the disciples of God. I found this interesting because I think, like most of you probably, of a disciple as someone from the New Testament era.  I was not aware that it was also in the Old Testament.

If you notice Isaiah is being told to bind up something and seal up something.  He is to bind up the testimony and seal up the law.  This language reminds me a lot of when Gabriel tells Daniel to seal up the vision for the time of the end.  But he is being told to seal up the law.  We all know what that is.  It is the Books of Moses, the Torah.  But what of the testimony, what is that?

It reminded me of a verse in Revelation 12, verse 17:  “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”(NIV)  The commandments could very easily be another word for the law since Psalm 119 uses many different words to refer to the Law:  Law, Commandment, Precept, Ordinance, and even Word.  So we have the Law represented here, but is the testimony of Jesus the same testimony that Isaiah is referring to?  Let’s find out.

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:5 & 6.  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.”(NIV)  Paul here is referring to Jesus as the testimony.  But can we be sure it is the testimony that Isaiah is speaking of? 

Back in Isaiah 8 let’s go back a few verses and read what is above verse 16.  Let’s start in verse 13 and go through 15, “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.  And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.  Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”(NIV)  That sounds familiar!

Romans 9:31-33 says, “but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.””  Paul definitely believes the “stumbling stone” in Isaiah is referring to Jesus.

Peter also speaks of it.  In I Peter 2:4-9 he says, “as you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for.  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”(NIV)  Yes, even Peter sees Jesus as the stumbling stone.

These verse are definitely declaring Jesus to be the “testimony” that Isaiah was referring to. 

The verses in 1 Peter tie back to Isaiah 8 in another way as well.  Peter speaks of being brought to His wonderful light.  We are brought to the light of Him.  If we go back to Isaiah 8 verse 20 we read, “To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.”  That’s right the Law and the testimony of Jesus is what gives us light.  He is the Light!

Finally, In Revelation 22 we see Jesus-the testimony-declaring He is coming soon and in verse 14 it says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”(KJV) 

So we have seen how Jesus, YESHUA, is the testimony of God to man and that He is linked all through Scripture to the Law, TORAH.  He is the living word, the living Torah, the living Law.  We cannot separate Him and faith in Him from the Law anymore than we can separate His humanness from His deity.  They are forever linked and meant for His disciples

Not surprising since we see in Isaiah 2:2 & 3, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  Many peoples will come and say, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”(NIV)  That’s right, in His kingdom, Yeshua will sit on His throne in the House of God and teach the Torah.  How awesome is that!

Let us be ready!  Let us know His word and obey it!  In doing so we are declaring our love for Him.  Oh, what a love!  A love that seeks to obey every word that comes from the mouth of God.  It is never contrary to Grace to obey the One we claim to love.  Otherwise, it is words alone, it is faith alone, and as James (Jacob) the brother of our Lord said, “faith without works is dead.”  May it never be, may our obedience prove our faith day after day.

Yeshua-the testimony-and the Torah are forever linked.  Hallelujah!!

May we live each day for HIM!

Declaring His Praises,

Vicky