Soul of the Israelite Ruler
The Three Crucifixions
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 23 August 2003
"I will sing about your loving-kindness and your justice, Yahweh. I will sing your praises! I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need your help, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should. Help me to refuse the low and vulgar things; help me to abhor all crooked deals of every kind, to have no part in them. I will reject all selfishness and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate anyone who secretly slanders his neighbours; I will not permit conceit and pride. I will make the godly of the land my heroes, and invite them to my home. Only those who are truly good shall be my servants. But I will not allow those who deceive and lie to stay in my house. My daily task will be to ferret out criminals and free the city of Yahweh from their grip" (Psalm 101, Living Bible).
Whenever one thinks of a particular nationality one tends to think of certain character traits. The British are renowned for their fairness, the Germans for their efficiency, the Italians for their passion. Each nation may be said to have its own spirit or characteristic. But what, you may ask, is an Israelite? What is it that characterises a man of God? As you read through the pages of Scripture you are at once aware that there are character traits that seem to unite all the rulers of the Kingdom of Yahweh, from Abraham to the apostle John. There is something about a man of God that distinguishes him from all other men, whether he is the King of a nation like David, or the Pastor of a congregation of New Covenant Israel.
In the past Christians - and to some extent Jews also - have been very keen to identify the location in the nations of the so-called 'ten lost tribes of Israel', and much speculation has resulted, most of its useless. The Jews in particular have been keen to make a distinction between 'Jew' and 'Gentile' and to look upon the one as the 'elect' and the 'apple of God's eye', and the other as somehow lesser. But as Rabbi Abraham Heschel has rightly observed, we are all of us united in being accountable to Yahweh. We are the objects of His concern and precious in His eyes. Our concepts of what troubles us may be different but the anxiety we feel is very similar. In time of need we have the same feelings of shame, of sorrow, of sighing, and the same necessity to obey and to do what we must. Indeed the Most High promised through His prophet Joel that a time would come when He would "pour out [His] Ruach (Spirit) upon all flesh" (Joel 3:1). Today all nations and all peoples are the object of His special love and concern.
We are led to understand from the apostle Paul that though the Gospel is for all nations, and the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile has been removed, that this does not mean that Israel has ceased to exist as either an entity or a spiritual way of being (Rom.11). At the time of Christ some drastic tree surgery too place. The natural Israelite branches who rejected the Messiah were cut off, and the unnatural Gentile branches who accepted Him were grafted on. For two thousand years this tree surgery has been happening. Natural as well as unnatural branches - Israelites as well as non-Israelites have been added. And as the sap of the vine tree, which is the Lord Yah'shua (Jesus) begins to flow in them, an extraordinary change begins to take place.
When a person is born again in Christ, a transformation of character begins. Sometimes is can be very dramatic indeed. I've often read or heard of stories of drunkards who have been born again and experienced an instantaneous change of character. Both the speed and extent of change can be astonishing as Yahweh begins to supernaturally work on a soul. But that is not the end of the spiritual journey - it is only the beginning. The process that leads a soul to become a true 'Israelite' is never instantaneous, even if you can trace your roots genetically back to Abraham. It is a very dangerous and foolish assumption for anyone to make. In fact, I think it is true to say, that when we come to the foot of the cross as either natural Israelite or Gentile, we are both of us only just beginning. Even were I able to trace Israelite blood in my ancestry it would not mean that I had an automatic right to some special place in the Kingdom. It would mean only that I had a sacred calling and responsibility to prepare myself, through a gruelling process of self-sacrifice, to become its servant.
Those who belong to Christ are Israel, whether they are naturally or unnaturally Israel. When Jew and Gentile come to the cross, they come as equals. Thereafter a major stripping takes place - a fiery ordeal - which will transform both into new men. And when the process is at an end, they will be unrecognisable when compared to the men who first came to the cross. They will have been made into true Israelites, possessing the Heart of Israel and the national characteristics of that divine nation. And those who are burned completely of the dross of their old lives will become its leaders.
To be born again is great and glorious. We all rejoice when a new baby comes into the world. I myself have taken special delight to watch and be with my own new son, and to remember the same special thrill I have had with each of my children. But babies grow up, character traits - good and bad - start showing, and we may well find ourselves both attracted and revolted by them. Like fields with both wheat and tares growing side by side, we soon discover that within each of us there is a spiritual and a carnal nature. And we find these two natures at war with each other, like Jacob and Esau, the one demanding to be king over the other. The carnal nature, like King Saul, may even think he is the legitimate ruler, and so a Saul-David struggle ensues. Remember, won't you, that David never kills Saul, even though he has numerous opportunities to do so. Saul is removed by Yahweh Himself, for blood is not to be on the hands of Yahweh's servants.
And yet, as we know, we cannot sit by idly either. If we do nothing about the dichotomy between flesh and spirit, our very souls will be divided. Life will become a torture instead of a joy. We will watch good men do evil deeds, and be surprised when evil men show traits of goodness. And we will be baffled. And we will be even more baffled when we see good and evil in those who call themselves Christians, and wonder how this can be possible.
To be born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to see the Kingdom of God (Jn.3:3) is not, however, the same as becoming it. Just because you have been born again to 'see' the truth does not mean that you have become it. A loaf of bread begins its life when yeast in placed in the soft dough, but that is not the final loaf of bread. You try and eat a lump of dough with yeast in it and tell me if it is delicious! Indeed, there are so many differences between a lump of dough with yeast in it and a loaf of bread that I continue to be amazed at how naïve so many Christians can be when they arrogantly and boastfully claim they are 'saved' and nothing else need be done. Let them spread butter and jam a lump of dough! For Yah'shua (Jesus) specifically taught that the Kingdom was like yeast placed in dough: we don't become the Kingdom until we are totally leavened and transformed by it (Mt.13:33).
"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal.5:24, KJV).
But perhaps I have misread the scripture? Perhaps it ought to say: "And they that are Christ's have lightly tapped the flesh and said, 'Oh you naughty boy! Don't do it again!'" and then gone off and done it again? No, that is not what the Scripture says. The word used is 'crucifixion'.
Another idea that people have is that this scripture should say: "And they that are Christ's have beheaded the flesh with its affections and lusts" or have "put it in chains and whipped it". But it doesn't say that either. You can't execute the flesh with a firing squad and you can't get rid of it by torturing and mutilating it. The only way you can subdue the flesh is by 'crucifixion', and a rather unique form of crucifixion at that.
It is universally agreed by experts that death by crucifixion was one of the cruellest and most painful forms of execution ever invented. I don't, however, intend to get morbid today. My purpose is not to describe a combined mode of torture and execution. What I do want you to realise, however, is that when Paul speaks of crucifixion he is speaking of three principal elements: (a) a process that is painful; (b) a process that takes a long time; and (c) a process which must be done by Christ and not by man. And perhaps I should add a fourth element, for without it we will view the cross in the worst instead of the best possible way, and that was the reason why Christ Himself endured the cross: Joy:
"Yah'shua (Jesus), the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb.12:2, NKJV).
You can't crucify the flesh in the manner prescribed by scripture unless you have laid before your spiritual eyes the reason why you should. You can't crucify the flesh in the manner prescribed in scripture unless you have the joy of that vision. And you cannot possess the joy of that vision until you have been born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven! In short, no man or woman can do this until that have truly been born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). For if you try without the Ruach (Spirit) you will only mutilate yourself. This piece of tree surgery - this heart-circumcision- has to be done by Yahweh Himself.
What was the source of this joy for Yah'shua (Jesus)?
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Ruach (Spirit)" (1 Peter 3:18, NKJV).
This sacrifice could never have been made by the Son of Man without the Ruach (Spirit). It would have been too terrible, there would have been no joy, because He would not have had the vision of what such suffering would accomplish. When we are born again we are given an ecstatic vision of what the Kingdom is Like. People assume wrongly that they own the Kingdom once they have seen it and then wonder why there are so many trials and tribulations later in life. They assume, quite wrongly - because they have been taught wrongly - that life will be a primrose path after their rebirth. The rebirth is an equipping to go further and complete the job. The resurrection power that is given as the Ruach (Spirit) dwells in us enables us to cooperate with Christ as He puts our flesh to death and glorifies our spirits.
Now don't get the idea that you can draw up a timetable for crucifixion of the flesh. This is not something we can plan, let alone will into action. For every individual the path is a little different. Only Christ can draw up the timetable, and only Christ can initiate and execute the plan. Our part is willing submission and that is far more difficult than you may perhaps imagine.
As Christians one of our first obligations is to present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service" (Rom.12:1, NKJV). This spiritual sacrifice is actually compared to crucifixion:
"Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that hence we should not serve sin" (Rom.6:6, KJV).
Crucifixion is not an instantaneous death, but a very slow and painful one. The death of a Christian believer does not take place in a flash or in a moment of special blessing but - like crucifixion - is painful and slow. It cannot be circumscribed. There is no way around it, and any theology that tells you there is a short-cut is a dangerous heresy. This crucifixion is basic in the truly effective Christian life. It is the mark of a true Israelite.
In the Book of Galatians we are told three times by the apostle Paul that the Christian Israelite should be following Christ in His crucifixion - in a crucifixion to self, to the flesh, and to the world. First, we are to be crucified to the love of self:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal.2:20, NKJV).
Secondly, we are to be crucified to the flesh, for "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal.5:24, KJV). And finally, we should be crucified to the lure of this world: "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal.6:14-15, NKJV).
This is an unpopular doctrine in the demonised 'prosperity' or 'health and wealth' movement because it is the mark of true Christianity. The false Christianity around us would take out the crucifixion process and tell us a big lie, namely, that the rebirth is all we need. Babies, however, are not adult human beings, and a baby that is bound to the cradle will perish as much as the baby who is feed milk indefinitely. The rebirth has been mistaken to be the mark of completion when it is, in fact, the catalyst for what really matters: the destruction of the man of sin.
It does not take any great stretch of the imagination to understand that if the man of sin is left unchecked and unremoved, that it will become a magnet for demons. That is why the charismatic movement, with its seductive promise of instant salvation and glory, has become "a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!" (Rev.18:2, NKJV). That is why Satanists are finding a haven in it, where they can remain undetected and even influence it to the point where it is Christian in word only, whilst in spirit being nothing more than a cauldron of devilry.
Christianity is not just a rebirth, but it is a process of cleansing that leads to a complete way of life that is utterly different from anything in the world. That is why we are commanded to crucify the world and its traditions in us too. It is characterised by a spiritual nature which leads believers to live a certain lifestyle. That lifestyle is marked not only by morality and ethics which spring naturally and joyfully from the redeemed soul, but by outer habits. Yahweh has ordained us to live by His calendar consisting of the weekly Sabbath and annual festivals which are to be our 'holidays'. Certain items of dress will also mark us out. We don't mark or pierce our skin. Men and women are to be clearly distinguished in the clothing. We are to wear our hair in a certain way, and so on. But these things - important though they are to our Israelite national life - mean nothing unless we are crucified with Christ. More important is the spiritual nature within, and that is why I began today's sermon by reading the 101st Psalm.
The Bible teaches us that the man who is crucified in Christ fully and become a true Israelite is to become a ruler. He is a 'priest' and a 'king'. That is not some divine right just because one is born again, however. Notice that those born again do not automatically become 'priests' for it is written:
"... you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Elohim (God) through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (1 Peter 2:4-6, NKJV).
We are "being built up" into that "spiritual house", that "holy priesthood" as we experience the three crucifixions to self, the flesh, and the world. It's a process. It isn't instantaneous. And it hurts.
Later on today I would like to ask you all to read Psalm 101 private to yourself and note your spiritual reactions. Do you identify with the spirit behind David's words? Do you thrill when you read them? Or are you uncomfortable? Maybe even irritated? As you read through Scripture, check your inner responses. It may well be that something inside has yet to die or be awakened.
A redeemed Israelite - or one who is being redeemed - is a lover of the Word - all of it. He identifies with it - all of it. His heart thrills when he reads the Psalms. But if the truth be known, the purveyors of the false Gospel hate parts of God's Word. They would rather chop most of it out because there is a "spirit" within it that jars with their own unredeemed spirit. And so they mentally cut out progressively larger and larger chunks of the Bible until, like one group I know which only ever uses the Book of Acts, they are left with a mutilated gospel which lends itself to easy perversion. So let us once more read the 101st Psalm and move with it in our hearts:
"I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O Yahweh, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life -- when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they shall not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No-one who practises deceit will dwell in my house; no-one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of Yahweh" (Ps.101, NIV).
This page was created on 22 August 2003
Last updated on 22 August 2003
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