A Civilised Burial
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 8 May 2004
The Christian life is full of surprises. Life can be proceeding 'normally', as we understand that word, when Yahweh can intervene in our situation and suddenly change it around. It happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. He was on an errand of destruction and Yahweh turned it around into an errand of peace and salvation. King Herod was, we suppose, giving an audience to some of his subjects who, in order to curry favour, began flattering him, saying, "These are the bat-kol (heavenly words) of a god, and are not of the sons of men" (Ac.12:21-23, HRV). The next thing he knew was that he was struck by an angel of Yahweh, worms started coming out of his body, and he died. We just none of us know what Yahweh is going to do next, save it be revealed in advance by the mouth of His prophets.
A former Mormon and now a New Ager, and critic of Christianity, once told me that he had observed that believers almost never get what they pray for and that things turn out very different to what they imagined. And he was right. We tend to pray for a whole list of things and Yahweh then apparently totally ignores what we say and gives us a totally different set of other things. That this typically happens is not because there is no God but because as people we tend to pray in the flesh and not in a state of yieldedness to the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
My message to you today is an exercise in following the Ruach (Spirit). I woke up on the morning of 8 March 2004 ready for my daily marching orders from heaven and was shown in vision the title of what I was to write: "A Civilised Burial". I imagine you are as baffled by it as I was when I first started. As is my custom, once I have been given a theme, I sit and write and let Yahweh do the unfolding. Sometimes I will get pictures in my head as I did just a few seconds after I began this, of the tomb of Yah'shua (Jesus). At other times the words will just flow without visual aids. In both cases, however, His Word is revealed to me by my asking spontaneous questions. What, for instance, is a "civilised burial"? And, "why should such a title have any spiritual import?" Or, "what soul-transforming message could possibly be contained in such an odd title?" The spirit of man then roams, searching, waiting for further clues.
The moment I sat down to write, a picture and a saying of Yah'shua (Jesus) immediately sprung to mind. I saw, first, His burial place. Though executed like the worst of criminals on a cross, He was buried in a rich man's tomb. What does this mean? If the Son of Man was born in a humble stable, or at least in the part of a simple dwelling where the animals are brought in at night, and if He lived the simple life of a carpenter, and then as a preacher with no place to lay His head - to then be given's a criminal's execution, why did Yahweh not arrange for Him to likewise be buried in a commoner's grave? Why a fancy tomb? These were the questions that popped up in my head when I saw the vision.
The second clue is in His saying, "let the (spiritually) dead bury their own (physically) dead" (Mt.8:22, NKJV), which tells us to get our priorities right. A disciple of Yah'shua (Jesus) asked leave to go and bury his dead father, and was told there were more important things to do, as Yah'shua (Jesus) would not be around forever. But I wonder if anyone noticed - and you would need to know your scriptures well to do so - that just before this disciple asked Yah'shua (Jesus) if he could go an intern the dead body of his late father, Yah'shua (Jesus) had replied to the question of a scribe who had indicated that he was willing to follow Him. Yah'shua's (Jesus') answer is, at first glance, puzzling, for He says: "Foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Mt.8:19-29, NKJV). You see, to follow Yah'shua (Jesus) means doing unconventional things - it, at times - and especially at critical moments - means leaving behind creature comforts and living the life of a Bedouin. Weren't, after all, the patriarchs Bedouin shepherds? Yah'shua (Jesus) moved from place to place. And if we look carefully at the two passages in Matthew that I have cited here, we will see another context, for it is written: "And when Yah'shua (Jesus) saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side (of the lake)" (Mt.8:18, NKJV). Then the scribe and the man with a dead father posed two questions to him, and though we are not told their responses, my instinct tells me that they did not like what they heard. Somehow I doubt the scribe or the man with a dead father followed Him. Why? Because next we read that He got into a boat, and thereafter followed the incident of the tempest on the Sea of Galilee. It says the disciples got in the boat with Him, leaving all the crowd, with the scribe and the bereaving son, behind. The spiritually dead did not follow, nor the Torah-teacher (scribe) who presumably had no intention of following the Master all over the countryside as a Bedouin.
Do you see what I am saying to you? Do you see the pattern which is emerging? The next thing we know, Yah'shua (Jesus) is asleep in the boat! This story, involving real live characters two thousand years ago, is also us today! Once we have been willing to leave everything of our old life behind and follow Him, life suddenly gets a lot more cramped. Instead of the comfort of terra firma (solid ground) under our feet and land on every side, suddenly we are in a vulnerable little boat at the mercy of the elements. And a small boat at sea is hardly a safe place to be. Yet we have the assurance that the Master is present not only as the crisis looms, but in the midst of the crisis too.
I am writing this at the junction of my life as I face a major crisis. I have no more income to feed and shelter my family. Should I panic? Should I scurry around in the expectation that by being frantic Yahweh will be more inclined to hear me than if I sit quietly, listening, responding to His still small voice? The disciples panicked in their boat, and cried, "Master, save us! We are perishing!" (Mt.8:22, NKJV). To which Paul, I am sure, would have replied:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor.4:16-18, NKJV).
We have to be brought to a point where we no longer panic when the going gets rough but learn to trust in the sleeping Messiah within. That fact that Yah'shua (Jesus) is not apparently responsive to our prayers, and the fact that we are met with silence, is not because He does not care, or does not want to give us vital information to prevent us from perishing, or that He is not there, but because He has the matter under control, and so His active presence is not required. We are supposed to just remain still and trust. Is He in any less control when He is asleep as when He is awake? If the disciples had not wakened Him, do you think He would have let that little boat and all its travelers, perish under the billowing waves?
When the little band reached the other side of the lake, and after the Master has stilled the storm, an incident took place which gives us a clue as to the general direction of the ministry that is given to a believer when he has rejected the illusory security of the world, and has had his faith tested, when all around him death seems to threaten to engulf him. Read the incident carefully with this prophetic hindsight that I am giving you. For the next phase of ministry is casting out demons. Remember?
Two demoniacs came to Yah'shua (Jesus). They were so fierce - so possessed by Satan - that no man could pass them. Does it ever seem to you that Satan is standing in the way and you can make no progress in your life? Are you afflicted by powers you seem to have no control over, which are progressively eroding your life energy away, and with it, your hope of better things? Perhaps Satan is making you iller, poorer, and generally unable to serve Yahweh in the way you would like. If so, then this phase represents the time to conquer these obstacles. But to do this, expect a plunge in your popularity among men, for getting involved in deliverance ministry sets the Kingdom of Satan up against you in no mean way. And as sort of a footnote, to remind you that obedience in even the 'little' commandments is required, Yah'shua' (Jesus) throws out the demons from these two men and puts them in a herd of pigs, resulting in the death of the whole herd which plunged, like lemmings, into the sea.
Are you perhaps cultivating things in your life that you shouldn't be? If you're honest, you know that pork is forbidden to those who claim faith in Yahweh. It is written so plainly and so often in the Bible that only someone who is being willfully blind can not see it (e.g. Isa.66:17). You may be living Yahweh's health code but are generating an income, as these pig herders were, in a profession that is causing people to break the commandments, like running a bar, for instance. Yes, if you get to this stage in your discipleship, you're going to start opposing people in real and, at times, painful ways.
When this incident was over, they crossed back and the healing ministry resumed, and we read of the healing of the paralytic. It was at this time Yah'shua (Jesus) was accused of being blasphemous because He coupled the forgiveness of sins to healing (Mt.9:1ff).
Just a few words on this topic if I may: if healing takes place without forgiveness, then it is not true divine healing. It is counterfeit. Satanists can heal but it is never accompanied by forgiveness, and no wonder, because the power they use to heal with is stolen psychic energy from their abused and murdered victims, mediated by demons. There are counterfeit Christians who heal also using other forms of energy but it is not accompanied by forgiveness, because it is not of the true Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). For a healing ministry to be valid, it must be coupled first and foremost to the salvation of the soul. We are not in the business of healing to make a show and get the applause of the world. When we are called to heal, it is to forgive sin too. And that can only ever be if the heart of the person who is afflicted is right before Yahweh. That is the only kind of healing we are to be involved with. Thus if a devil-worshipper comes for healing but will not renounce the devil, he will not obtain divine healing.
I have, today, raised issues which are currently dear to our hearts. We are heavily involved in deliverance ministry, and have been now for the last two years, and have finally come up against a case which has meant Satan standing in our way. You will recall that after the incident of the swine herd that the local inhabitants begged Yah'shua (Jesus) to leave their region. Don't forget that. This is a sign - one of many signs - of what will happen when judgment is brought to the heathen, for these were Greeks.
The three words that Yahweh gave to me on 8 March have led to all that I have been telling you today. But what is the connection between these things and "A Civilised Burial"? I would like to suggest to you that our lives as believers are a bit like the life of Christ in reverse. Now what do I mean by that?
We begin our lives by meeting the resurrected Christ. We meet Him today as the first disciples met Him at the end of His ministry, in the post-resurrection appearances. We exult at the beginning of our salvation as they did. However, as we all well know, this is not the end of the matter, even if the bulk of Christendom has taught you that it is. We must crucify the flesh, our carnal selves, and get a civilised burial, if we are to have a valid ministry empowered by the Ruach (Spirit) in the fullness that we all desire. But why a 'civilised' burial? I suppose this is the crux of what I have to say.
To begin with, we're not talking about physical death. We already know Yah'shua's (Jesus') attitude to funerals. The disciples very lovingly embalmed His dead body and wrapped it up in the finest linen but He, or an angel, threw it all off. They had obviously not learned the lesson of Lazarus whose expensive burial was before its time. Let's not go and entomb ourselves before our own time because of a lack of faith and obedience, otherwise the Master may be obliged to come and dig us up out of the ground .... unless, of course, we choose to remain there.
No, we are here talking about inward death - death to the carnal man, and Yah'shua (Jesus) knows how tough that is. He is inviting all of us to crucify the flesh, as Paul also invites us:
"But the fruit of the Ruach (Spirit) is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Ruach (Spirit), let us also walk in the Ruach (Spirit). Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal.5:22-26, NKJV).
A civilised burial. When we talk of civilising people we mean to bring them out of a state of savagery or barbarism and into a state of refinement, education and enlightenment. Most of us, when we think of burial, conjure up negative and frightened thoughts about death and the need to fight for life. What I believe Yahweh is telling us today is that we must look upon the death of self and the flesh in the totally opposite way, as an opportunity for spiritual refinement, education and enlightenment. Quite clearly, if scripture is to be believed, there will be no fullness of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in our lives, or ministries of genuine healing and complete and total deliverance, until we have obtained our civilised burial and placed all that does not lead to eternal life in the grave.
This is not an easy thing. Were it so, I doubt Yahweh would entice us with promises of better things on the other side of spiritual death, which is what we are really talking about. The invitation today, if it's a full life in Yah'shua (Jesus) that you really want, is to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. The invitation, by Christ, is to place ourselves in a position of total yieldedness to Him. This means not having a clue what is going to happen next and accepting it as both natural and safe. It means trusting Him with the outcome, whose shape and substance we cannot begin to imagine, by placing ourselves in a position of utter dependence on Him. It means ceasing to lean on the arm-of-flesh, and to let go of worldly solutions to life and living. I assure you, that once you are willing to do this, that He will readily oblige you and open the door to the new life which in the flesh you have closed against yourself. Indeed, before I was directed to write this, I saw a vision of a door swung widely open through which I passed into a new world, which I mention to you only now so that you may appreciate the connectiveness between all that Yahweh says and does.
The burial of the flesh is civilised to assure us of better things on the other side of this half-life, if it may even be called that, for a life in the flesh is not really a life at all. To live in the flesh is to live the day of your funeral, with all its finality, in the here and now, every day. To live in the flesh is to have only one goal - death. For the substance of the flesh is death. Which should give added meaning to these words of John who said:
"And this is the testimony: that Elohim (God) has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of Elohim (God) does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12, NKJV).
If you do not have this resurrection life - this post-flesh life, this post-burial life - then you do not, in truth, have the Son, no matter how much His Name may be upon your lips, or what labels you may wear like 'Christian' or 'believer'. To have eternal life - to have genuine life - means to stand on the other side of the day of our own funeral: for the one who has not been to his own funeral and been raised to the kind of spiritual life I have been speaking of today, with signs following, has never owned the Son! Think about that! And if you don't own the Son, then who do you own? Likely an image. Thus John could end his first epistle with the words, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21, NKJV), the false gods of our own imagining, including images of the Messiah (Christ) and of Yahweh that we have created in our own heads, which we worship - though in truth, we are worshipping only ourselves - which lead only to dead works.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Elohim (God) is eternal life in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) our Lord. " (Rom.6:23, NKJV).
When we have willingly gone to our own funerals and emerged as new creatures, we will then be able to declare with Isaiah: "Death has been swallowed up in victory!" (Is. 25:8; 1 Cor.15:54b). Then those who are estranged from each other will be reconciled, and a new day - a glorious day - will be upon us in which we may truthfully say, not as a longed for hope, but as a fact of reality, that Yah'shua (Jesus) is truly Lord and Master of our lives. Amen.
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Last updated on 4 May 2004
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