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!
James says in 1:22-25, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and after he looks, goes away and forgets what he looks like. However, the one who looks intently into the perfect Law/Torah that brings freedom, and continues in it, not being a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he shall be blessed in what he does.”
We are not free from the Law/Torah, the instruction of God in how to hit the mark, we are free from sin, which is the breaking of the Law/Torah. Psalms 119:44-45 says, “That I may always keep Your Law/Torah, for ever and ever, and walk about in freedom. For I have sought Your precepts.”
Did you catch that both James and the writer of this Psalm are calling the Law/Torah freedom? Let us live in that freedom!
Most of us know Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourselves it is the gift of God/Elohim not of works so that no one can boast.” Then immediately following that is verse 10 that states, For we are God’s/Elohim’s handiwork/masterpiece created in Messiah Yeshua/Christ Jesus to do good works, which God/Elohim has prepared in advance for us to do.”
In these three verses we have the good news of both justification and sanctification. God/Elohim did not just save us by His grace through faith so that we could not boast that we did it ourselves, it was His gift to us. We did not earn it or deserve it. We did not deserve for the Son of God to die for us. We did not deserve Him taking the punishment for every single sin we have all committed, we did not deserve it in the least. Elohim’s mercy is greater than we can even imagine. He is the consuming fire and in His mercy chose to spare us.
This is our justification, our initial point of salvation. This is when God justifies us in His presence because of the work of Yeshua/Jesus. This is when He redeems us from a life of sin and death. However, is that all He has for us? Of course not!
If that was all He ever did for us it would have been sufficient/Dayenu. But He did not stop there. He tells us of the things He has prepared for us. He gives us the instructions on how to live this redeemed life in the power of His Spirit. He did not just leave us alone to figure it out by ourselves. He gave us His Holy Spirit/The Ruach HaKodesh to teach us how to follow Him. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says this, “I (YHWH) will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will take away your heart of stone and put in you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit/Ruach in you and move you/cause you/teach you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Therefore, part of the job of the Holy Spirit/The Ruach HaKodesh is to help us be obedient to His ways and His laws that He prepared in advance for us to do.
We are to do the good works of the Law so that we may walk in the blessings of obedience. Just like the children of Israel was redeemed out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb and then shown how they were to live, so we are redeemed by the blood of The Lamb and then shown how to live. Yet this way we are to live, the things we are to do and obey, were prepared in advance so that we might walk in them. The Spirit/Ruach teaches us how and it is our job to listen and obey, to shema to the Word of God who told us we are to observe all things that He has taught us.