The Miracle of Yahweh's Forgiveness
Part 1: Separating Good from Evil
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 15 January 2005
One of the nice things about a new translation of the Bible is that it forces you to think about the meanings behind words. I realise, of course, that sometimes new translations can cause a great amount of confusion especially when the translator injects his own interpretation into the text, and that is something we must be carefully aware of. I remember how annoyed I was when I first started reading one Messianic version because it changed nearly all the words that we take for granted in our religious vocabulary - 'sovereign' instead of 'king', 'set-apart' instead of holy, 'esteem' instead of 'glory', and so on. I was annoyed because all that was familiar to me in scriptural texts was gone. But it made me do some serious thinking and at length I came to appreciate the new version as it breathed freshness into a language which had become somewhat fossilised. The meaning of the text was the same as the old versions only it had become somewhat dulled because of constant usage.
I want today to address an 'old' topic but see it, I hope, through new lenses. I have chosen this subject not just because it is interesting but because it is, for everyone of us, a matter of spiritual life and death. An understanding and application of this principle will determine whether we remain spiritually dead and deluded or whether we come to life and see truth as it really is.
The world is walking around in a massive delusion, as the most recent revelation received earlier this month reminds us of (PWNC 050104). People, as always, fail to understand the purpose of difficulties in their lives, always jumping to the wrong conclusions, always assuming that Yahweh has somehow 'got it wrong' and invariably accusing Him of being uncaring or just plain malicious. People are "saying and doing what they know not, because they have sinned against Yahweh-Elohim" (v.10). Examine the lives of everyone you know carefully and you will find, without exception, that they have - or have had - troubles, and that these troubles are always redemptive ultimately. We fail to appreciate this because we lack the long-term perspective. And we lack the long-term perspective because we are blinded to present realities.
I wonder if you have ever seen films of whales when they get stranded on beaches. We humans can see that they are headed for disaster and concerned groups are often to be found in the shallow waters trying to get the whales back out to sea again. And yet some invisible force seems to be driving them onto the beaches and to certain death through dehydration. The whales are absolutely convinced that what they are doing is correct and have no clue that their false bearing is signing their death warrant. But they persist nonetheless, driven by a guidance mechanism - a biological radar - that has gone wrong. Something jams that mechanism and creates within the whales a deadly delusion.
We too have a spiritual radar, an extraordinarily sensitive mechanism that allows us to steer a safe course through life. But our internal radar gets jammed by hostile forces the moment we tune into an enemy's signals. One of my children's favourite stories is the Belgian cartoon series by Hergé called Tintin written in the 1950s about a trip to the moon by rocket. An experimental rocket is launched into space but the controlling radio signal is jammed by a hostile power which attempts to take the rocket over. The enemy succeeds only because their jamming radio transmitter is more powerful than that of the heroes and in the end Tintin is forced to blow the space craft up to prevent it falling into enemy hands. When we start listening to the sayings of the enemy, and do so willingly, it weakens the signal of the Ruach (Spirit) and, over time, allows the enemy to subvert us. But why should the signal of the Ruach (Spirit) get weaker? Shouldn't that signal warn us of imminent danger? Well, it does. The problem is, we have allowed our radar system to pick up enemy transmissions without doing anything about them so that our spiritual system becomes accustomed to them. And as every propagandist knows, the more you repeat something, however false, the greater chance you have of getting the receiver to believe it. It's how all totalitarian systems manage to retain control over so many people. That's the stuff of politics.
In the revelation mentioned, Yahweh says that "nought but repentance, even a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which leadeth unto obedience to My Son Yah'shua (Jesus) and to My Torah (Law/commandments) will save them, for I, Yahweh, come not unto those whose hearts are darkened" (v.11).
This is really common sense if you think about it. What is meant by a "broken heart and a contrite spirit"? Our heart, the Bible informs us, is the source of all our wicked impulses, because it is by nature defiled. It has genetically inherited the fallen, carnal Adamic nature. And yet we cannot do without the heart. A person who turns his heart off becomes heartless. A person who lives in his brain alone becomes cold and feelingless. We need healthy emotions and feelings for the abundant life.
Perhaps this model will help. Imagine you are a geologist and are looking for an ore with mercury in it. As you all know, mercury is a liquid metal but it exists in nature combined with sulphur as a solid ore of beautiful red crystals called cinnabar. The mercury has to be separated from the sulphur through a violent process and only then can it be useful.
Our unsaved heart is not at all unlike those beautiful though useless red crystals. We combine in our emotional system the 'good' mercury and the 'demonic' sulphur. The feelings look good too - those gorgeous red crystals - but they are contaminated by sin. We think we are being 'good' when in fact even what we suppose are 'good' thoughts are poisoned often by impure and deadly motives. The point is, the whole ungodly fleshy nature is intimately bound with the good and we have the impossible task of separating the two out under our own power. That is why Yahweh said through the prophet Isaiah that "we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags" (Isa.64:6, NKJV). And that, I think, is the part that unbelievers have problems accepting. They simply reject that the goodness of those who are unsaved is contaminated. However, until those red cinnabar crystals have been transformed and the pungent sulphur can be smelled and the beautiful pure silvery liquid mercury metal can be seen, no one will believe that the unrefined feelings of the heart are anything but basically 'good'. That is what the occultists and nearly every other religion teaches, namely, that man is basically 'good' by nature. Yahweh - who knows better than everyone - says the opposite: we are by nature evil which is why nothing less than a complete transformation is needed. The cinnabar of our heart must undergo a complete change - a change it cannot undergo by itself, but only under the power and intelligence of one greater than itself. And the instrument of change in the human heart, separating out the good from the evil, is no less than Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) Himself.
A broken heart is just that - a heart that has been broken, just as the mercury sulphide must be broken down into mercury and sulphur. A contrite heart is a remorseful heart - a heart filled with regret, a feeling that arises out of a sense of guilt and shame. And that can only come about when we are given a contrast with what we are and what we are supposed to be, and as a result the offence it causes Yahweh because we have insisted all along that we were right and He was wrong. We will insist that we are right, moreover, until we firstly decide to believe that what Yahweh says is true. If we do not, then we lack the ingredient to catalyse the change which we call personal revelation. Belief always precedes the miracle. Faith is that element of change that can never be dispensed with. Unless we first believe - take God at His word - we will never take the next step into revelation. Without faith it is impossible to please Yahweh (Heb.11:6) because without that faith he can never come to know the truth. Faith is the basis of all relationship. Faith is what saves or delivers us when we don't have all the data at hand. Faith saves us until such a time as we can separate out the mercury from the sulphur and see what mercury and sulphur really look like.
You see, there's a world of difference between mercury and cinnabar. Who would dream that locked away in a beautiful but useless red crystal called cinnabar, itself embedded in rock, was this liquid silvery metal called mercury. And yet when you combine mercury with sulphur, it is utterly transformed. Satan is expert at making beautiful, useless things. He loves to give his followers beautiful visionary experiences that take them away from true life and freedom. He seduces by the eye as he did in Eden when he persuaded Eve to eat a gorgeous looking fruit that contained the poison of death. That is ever Satan's way. A crystal of cinnabar may look splendid on a museum shelf but by itself it is utterly useless. That eye-titillating crystal which makes the light sparkle in so many wonderful ways is a deadly mixture of mercury and sulphur, just as the unsaved human heart is a deadly mixture of good and evil. But you won't know that's true until you have put the cinnabar through the laboratory process and can see the liquid mercury with your own eyes, and you won't see that end result until you have first trusted the chemist who can explain the process to you.
That is what we, as ministers, are entrusted to do also. We are the spiritual chemists who deal with the raw material of the human heart and tell the world: Look, the spiritual mineral that is your emotional life is deadly because it is a mixture of good and evil. One minute you may be doing good, speaking kind words to someone, and the next you may be spitting venom at someone. That is the evil heart, contaminated and impure. You can deceive yourselves into basically thinking you are 'good' but believe me you are capable of the vilest sin possible. Until the good is separated out from the evil by the miraculous power of Yah'shua (Jesus), you are forever condemned, because no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. You are living a delusion and heading like the proverbial lemming to the cliff of your own self-destruction.
The red cinnabar crystal is a beautiful delusion in spiritual terms. Even if you come to discover that you have an evil side of yourself, your best efforts will never be able to separate it out, let alone contain it indefinitely. The other day I was discussing with my mother someone she had known who had been a perfect gentleman all his life but in his old age a great and terrible transformation took place. In the end he had to be taken away and put into an institution because the life of his wife was being endangered by him. The world, of course, has so-called 'medical' explanations with which we can comfort ourselves and explain away things in ourselves we would rather not know about. It is easy to blame the randomness of human genes or degenerative processes over which we have no control, but that presupposes that we are nothing more than a conglomeration of chemicals. We can deny that the sulphur is present with the mercury in the cinnabar but that does not alter the reality that it is there.
The reality - and it is not difficult to prove it if you are honest enough - is that the unredeemed heart is desperately wicked. I knew a lady in Oslo who was sweetness personified when she was talking to people face-to-face but behind their backs she was a viper. Yahweh said through Jeremiah: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer.17:9, NKJV). Out of the heart comes all that we do and are - it is revealed in our thoughts, in our speech and in our deeds. Therefore Yahweh is most anxious that man be awakened. Jeremiah continues: "I, Yahweh, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer.17:10, NKJV).
The New Testament promises the heart that will believe and obey, a wondrous transformation. By giving sovereignty of our lives to Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) He promises to release the good that is within and free it from the evil of the carnal nature. The power that achieves this - and it is the only power than can - is the resurrection life that Yah'shua (Jesus) released into the universe through giving up His own life. The life of the perfect God-Man who never sinned becomes available to us through faith and is retained by us through obedience empowered by that life. He said that in order to obtain this lifesaving power - which is greater than all the physical power in the universe which is impotent to deliver us, even in the most intelligent hands - is available if we will do two things:
1. Trust in Yah'shua (Jesus) and everything He has said even with our lives; and
2. To perform a specific work or deed.
Now I know that most evangelical Christians will throw up their hands in horror at the thought that we are saved by a work because they teach we cannot do a single thing to be saved. They are almost right but that one error that many hold to is nonetheless deadly to the eternal welfare of their souls. It is contained in the Lord's Prayer and must not be missed. Let us read it together and then you can tell me what that saving work we must do is:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." (Matt.6:9-13, NKJV).
Everybody knows this prayer, or ought to. It is the Prayer of all prayers, the attitude that all true believers should have. We started by pointing out from the revelation that Yahweh requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. This Yahweh said earlier through David:
"Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit" (Ps.34:18, NKJV).
Why is Yahweh near? Because He is anxious to separate out the mercury from the sulphur - the good from the evil. He alone is able to separate out the two so that we can choose the one or the other. But this cannot happen until we do one thing - not just once off, but as a continuous action throughout our lives. Who can tell me what that is? Yes, it is to forgive those who have wronged us. Yahweh has given us the power to forgive others in a specific context: we have the power, right here and now, to forgive the sins of others that are against us. We cannot forgive sin like the Catholic priests claim they do (but can't) but we can forgive any wrong done against us. If you do something wrong against me I have the power to forgive that sin because Yahweh has given that to me. And He has given me that power for a reason, for He says that if I do not, then He will not forgive my sins against Him! There is only one condition that my own sins are forgiven and that it is that I forgive all the sins of everyone done against me.
Now why would He do that? Why place that condition on us in the first place? Why not just forgive unilaterally? Why do you think? I am going to go into specific detail next week in what I consider will probably be one of the most important sermons I have ever given, because this knowledge is lifesaving. In the meantime I am going to share with you the Lord's Prayer from the Aramaic version of Luke which may surprise you, and delightfully so I hope. There are many ways it can be rendered. What is offered is my own version based on an original translation by Douglas-Klotz. It is not intended as a replacement of the standard biblical translation but as an additional illumination of it.
"O Father Yahweh of the Universe,
May the perfect Light and Holiness of Your Name be focused within us - make it useful:
Create your Kingdom of Echad now -
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all pure light, spiritual as well as physical.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of error binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let untrue and impure things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from You.
From You is born all sovereign will,
The power and the life to do so,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
Truly - power to these statements -
May they be the ground from which all my actions grow: Amen"
(Adapted and modified from N. Douglas-Klotz, Peshitta, in Prayers of the Cosmos, 1980, p.41).
If I may summarise, then, what is important to realise is that the heart is a compound of good and evil that must first be separated out if it is to be redeemed. Until that time we are walking as blind men and women. The only way that can happen is by calling, in faith, upon the resurrection power of Yah'shua (Jesus) which alone can effect the transformation. But it won't work until we first have broken hearts and contrite spirits - we can either cultivate that ourselves or allow events to do it for us, for Yahweh will, I guarantee help you with either, even if you might not want the latter. He cares and wishes to draw close to you. He want to liberate you from your darkness and the confusion of that inner heart compound. But there's a condition, and that condition is that you freely forgive all those who have ever wronged you, or who will ever wrong you in the future. You must harbour no bitterness against anyone, for to do so is to simply make your own spiritual condition worse and prevent Yahweh from delivering you. And it doesn't matter how evil people may have been against you. Yahweh will deal justly with those who do you wrong but in His own time and way - we are not capable of being fair because we always judge partially, without a full knowledge of things as they are. Therefore He says that vengeance and punishment is His. If we refuse to forgive in order to 'punish' those who wrong us, we in fact end up punishing ourselves - we cut ourselves off from the light of salvation. We ourselves have no divine power to do anything but to forgive those who wrong us. In every other respect we are helpless. Your forgiveness of others is the signal you send to Heaven that you have understood and accept the Atonement of Yah'shua (Jesus) on the Cross for you. That, and your faith in all that Yahweh and Yah'shua (Jesus) have ever said and promised, is your admission ticket to deliverance and salvation. Thereafter, once you have obtained it, your obedience to Torah will secure it against the temptations of the enemy to take that salvation away, and will enable you to grow deeper and deeper in Truth and Liberty.
So between now and next week, please examine your hearts carefully. If there is any bitterness, hate or unforgiveness against anyone, real or imagined, bring it to Yahweh in prayer and freely forgive. And then, if it is possible, personally forgive those whom you have thought evil of. Be rid of the burden and the demonic hold that unforgiveness imposes, and open the door to a full salvation of your soul. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
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