. She says further:
"If you can focus on the fact that [Yahweh] is not giving you a test to see whether or not you are spiritual enough to hear His voice, then you can begin to rest in Him and let Him fine tune your inner 'receptors.' Don't be like the car owner who is so defensive about being accused of not taking good care of his car that he won't let the mechanic look under the hood. Keep binding your mind, will, and emotions to [Yahweh]'s will, the mind of [Messiah], and the healing balance of the [Ruach haQodesh]. Keep feeding your soul with the Word of [Elohim]. That's right, I said keep feeding your SOUL the Word of [Elohim]. It is the part of you that needs the Word. If you are born again, your [ruach] is in direct communion with [Yahweh] and all that His Word and will entails. It is your unsurrendered soul that has a choke hold on 'itself' to keep that communion of [Yahweh] from permeating its entire being. Keep commanding your soul to 'Bless [Yahweh], O my soul, with all that is within you' as David did. ... Your soul will begin to lose its ability to confuse you, which is a huge factor in its ability to continue controlling you. When that happens, you will pray with more understanding about closing the doors that have allowed Satan to get involved, as well" (Ibid.)
Savard says that our life has been foreordained by Yahweh and is like a book. The book of our life is divided into chapters and each chapter has a heading. Coming to a new chapter can be quite daunting. It may involve a complete change in circumstances. Maybe a new job, moving house, a new church or assembly, new people in our lives, a sudden death, a tragedy - you name it, it could be anything. Yahweh wrote both these chapter headings, and the details within them, even before you were born. Some chapters may be longer than others because their planned outcome has been delayed by wrong choices and 'insertions' (which He foreknew and wrote down too) had to be made. We may even skip chapters or find ourselves in the wrong book. Yahweh waits to get us back into the book - the book of our life which He has written beforehand and wants to guide us into.
At each new chapter heading we face choices. Does this mean that Yahweh gives us multiple ways we can choose to live out each chapter? That is not the witness of Scripture. The Word says that each footstep is mapped out for us (Lk.1:79) if we will first follow the directions of Torah and the leading of the Ruach (Ps.119:105). Yes, that means that when we are fully walking in the Ruach, each minute, hour and day is divinely scheduled for us. That's how much He cares for us. Liberty Savard writes:
"I believe [Yahweh] has a plan and a purpose for every detail of our lives. Just because we 'have a choice' doesn't mean we make the right choice in our own finite thinking. Finite thinking is the limited, human ability to understand and initiate an appropriate action. Infinite or divinely-inspired thinking means no limit or end to understanding and knowing how to initiate an appropriate action when our souls are completely unclogged (choke-hold broken!) to receive [Yahweh]'s input through our born-again spirits. We do need to know how to operate appropriately in finite thinking (i.e. putting gas into our car does not require fasting and prayer to hear the voice of [Elohim]). We also need to know how to receive infinite or divine inspiration in our thinking (i.e. hearing the voice of [Yahweh] QUICKLY when we become aware that using that gas is about to cause us to drive straight into a massive pileup of cars and trucks on the freeway just ahead of us!). We do not need a divine visitation to peel potatoes and fry ... chops at dinner time. We may need divine inspiration, however, to know that the children next door have no food to eat, and [Yahweh] wants us to take the cooked potatoes and ... chops to them. We are designed to operate in both realms of thinking, but we often get clogged up in the finite realm. Binding and loosing prayers unclog and break the choke-hold of our unsurrendered souls, bringing them to surrender, so they willingly receive from and co-operate with our born again spirits as [Yahweh] designed them to so operate" (Ibid.)
We do not need to go into the complex psycho-maze of the inner soul to get on the right track. If we do need to home in on some critical items (like wrong choices), the Ruach will take us past all the junk and directly to core. We may need revelation to get over certain inner obstacles but for the most part what is needed is straightforward consecration to the book and chapter. As we do this, so we will be shown the verses to follow on a daily basis. We start where we are, where He has placed us, and take it from there. So long as we are listening to the Ruach and acting out on this direction, no day is ever wasted - it is all spiritually consecrated. Savard continues:
"When we humble ourselves, pray, seek, and turn from our own soulish reactions, attitudes, desires, and motives (wicked ways, 2 Chronicles 7:14), then we can more clearly understand how to choose His planned purposes for our healing and restoration. The 'catch' here is that we must be sure to act upon His plan and follow it through to His desired purposes. [Yahweh] never gives divine inspiration and supernatural intervention to pluck us out of hard situations just so we can turn and go right back down our road of self-willed wrong choices. He has little patience for that!" (Ibid.).
Saul failed to appreciate that, unfortunately. Yahweh sent David into Saul's situation to point out the error of his way. He understood, repented for a while, and then returned right back to what he had been doing before. After several repeats of this, Yahweh brought the last chapter, and the whole book, of his life to an ignominious end on the battlefield, just as He did with Judas Iscariot and Nabal. But the time-frame is fixed. We may be given three chapters to work in, two chapters, one chapter, or only one page! We just don't know how long our probation is and we would be foolish to gamble with time we may not actually have. He gives us as many chances as we need until we make the final choice for either heaven or hell. And only Yahweh knows when we have made that choice. Savard writes:
"[Yahweh] delivers us from our follies and mistakes to set us on track with His will for future decisions. When we make choices in alignment with His will, He accepts all of the responsibility of the consequences and the outcome of those divinely-inspired decisions. When we make self-willed choices, we become responsible for the consequences that will play out -- regardless of how bad they are! When you are in that 'whale's belly', all you can do is cry out in repentance and beg for His grace and mercy. Just know this: [Yahweh] will receive our repentance and forgive us and give us another chance over and over. That's the good news! The bad news it that it appears to be scriptural (according to the stories in my Bible!) that the consequences of wilfully repeated wrong choices become tougher and tougher, harder and harder, and deeper and deeper. This is the natural outcome of [Yahweh's]'s divine plans to get our attention that, HELLO!!, there is a cycle in our lives that needs to be broken! Through both the hard consequences of our self-willed choices and the good consequences of our divinely-inspired choices, [Yahweh] keeps trying to teach us that His-inspired choices are best. Here is some more good news: we really do not have to live out hard consequences of other peoples' choices that appear to keep impacting our lives. The bad news is that so many of us don't understand this, and we keep blaming the people of our past for our consequence-filled lives today. The reality is that we are where we are today because of our choices to continue to blame and hold unforgiveness and resent and hate. If [Yahweh] cannot get you to co-operate with breaking that cycle through prayer, the Word, or the fellowship of other Christians, then He has no choice but to let you keep making wrong choices until the weight of the consequences drive you to seeking the truth from Him" (Ibid.).
We see this truth in the histories of Israel and Judah. We see this truth in the 2,000 yearlong history of the Church. We see it in the lives of every believer around us. I have watched people die and be taken out of the book of life. A young mother with cancer who would not set her husband free to carry out Yahweh's calling to him, three drug addicts we ministered to in Oslo who would not change, an evangelist who was a good friend who knew the truth but would not embrace it, and many others. I have watched loved ones make similar choices though they are still alive. And now I am myself struggling through choices of my own. Nobody escapes. Nobody who professes His Name gets to hide from the will of Yahweh. Even now I see with the prophetic eye ministers heading down a road to oblivion because of fateful doctrinal choices they have made and pride rushing to their heads as they believe themselves to be saviours of the Body. I have watched ministers and ministries collapse because those concerned would not fully surrender their souls.
This is no laughing matter. It is not some airy theory either. It happens, it has happened, and it is happening all the time. No one escapes it. So can we miss the good things that Yahweh wants to give us? Absolutely! Are we driven by irresistible fate as Calvinists and Muslims tell us? Absolutely not. We may wish that we were, so that we could absolve ourselves of the responsibility of choice, but that does not alter reality. If we are in the quagmire, we can get out - not in our own strength, but by finally surrendering to the will of Yahweh. It may take time, but done it can be. And the most important lesson we can learn from all of this, I have discovered and am even now still discovering, is that there is absolutely no benefit at all in making choices out of self-will, however 'good' such choices may make you temporarily feel, because those positive feelings quickly flip over into negative ones. Savard comments:
"... [when you act out of self-will] you are sort of running like a hamster on an exercise wheel here with your soul having something to stress itself out with, thereby giving the impression that it is 'on the job'. But its activity isn't getting you anywhere good ... You need to tell your soul to slow down. There is a place of resting in [Yahweh], but the unsurrendered soul has a very difficult time of going there. And, it WILL NEVER GET THERE as long as it is constantly revving its engines up to try to figure out everything from its 'finite' point of view. That is one of the main goals of these kinds of prayers, that you will disable your soul's hamster exercise wheel and finally be able to rest in His will and in your faith in Him. Remember that the original Greek and Hebrew languages repeatedly go back to this same general definition of faith: Trust and confidence in the goodness, power, and wisdom of [Yahweh] directed towards you. You can rest in Him without fear when you have surrendered your will and your way to Him, because you no longer have to figure out any of the above questions. Instead, you can trust Him to guide you through each question according to His already established will in heaven regarding every one of them" (Ibid.)
Of course, we must not confuse resting in Yahweh's will with plain indifference and disconnectedness. We can pretend there's no problem and think that that's 'resting' in Him. When we rest in Yahweh, solutions to problems arrive, directions are given, the way is lit up, and positive movement leading to positive results becomes possible. When we are just waiting doing nothing, even if we're on that hamster's treadmill furiously at work in our flesh, nothing happens spiritually. Life is not suppose to grind to a standstill when we are resting in His will. Life must continue. Yahweh does not put us in hibernation or suspended animation and then thaw us out later with a ready made solution requiring absolutely no effort on our part. There are plenty of things to be doing, always, which are the verses of each chapter of your life right now. Savard concludes:
"This way of praying your commitment to surrendering your will to His will is your choosing to agree on earth with what He already has established it in heaven. Remember what [Yah'shua] prayed in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Right agreement, between you on earth and [Elohim] in heaven, brings about a manifestation of His heavenly will being done in the natural realm of life here on earth. Does this give you a glimpse of the importance of you knowing how to pray right prayers on earth, prayers of right agreement with His will in heaven? The possibilities are awesome!" (Ibid.)
Needless to say surrendering is not passive because there will be massive resistance from the enemy (see Sermons Series #76-79: Resisting the Devil). Binding your will to Yahweh's through sincere and honest prayer will provoke a backlash from demons as well as demonised people. Binding the will is not enough - we must also loose ourselves from demonic lies in the soul, ungodly soul-ties to others that keep us prisoners, and hand these over to Yahweh too. Satan will use every dirty trick he knows to keep you bound so that Yahweh's will cannot be fulfilled in your life. Things from the depths of the soul, long buried, may surface to scare and torment. They too have to be loosed from the soul as they come up and the binding of our will to the Father's must be affirmed again and again.
But obviously that cannot be accomplished unless we are willing to let go of the things that prevent us from fulfilling His will. This may not be so easy especially if you are not desperate enough and have not understood the futility of holding on to these things. The enemy will make you feel these are necessary for safety and comfort but he will not show you that they exist solely to drag you down into hell. Yes, a literal hell, a hell you may on occasion touch in unguarded moments that fills you will unholy terror. You do not want to go there! It may not be eternal as so many teach, but it will be long enough to make it seem like eternity if you are ever unfortunate to find yourself there.
So how do we know we are walking in Yahweh's will or not? The revelation for this knowledge can be specific or general. The specific will relate to your particular situation but the general is universal for everyone as well as being the 'hardest'. What is the general? It is the evidence that we are loving as Yah'shua loves, which can only come by the empowerment of the Ruach haQodesh ... which can only some as a result of surrendering the soul. Liberty Savard has her own version of 1 Corinthians 13 which I think is quite helpful. She lists 20 love-fruits that come when Yahweh's will is being done in the soul:
- Love endures ill will without anger or resentfulness.
- Love believes in the potential of another person, rather than resenting current conduct.
- Love is patient, willing to wait for life change in others.
- Love is courteous, kind, and ready to show favour.
- Love acts upon, even searches for, opportunities to do good.
- Love is never envious of others' skills, honours received, or possessions.
- Love is never displeased when good things come to others.
- Love never treats others with disgust, contempt, or shaming.
- Love esteems others, assigning them value.
- Love is never stubborn, cross, or contradictory.
- Love never does anything out of order, out of place, or at the wrong time.
- Love acts with respect, kindness, good will, and courtesy towards all.
- Love never keeps scorecards on the sins of others.
- Love never seeks self-gratification at the expense of others.
- Love believes [Yahweh]'s power to be working on others' worst behaviours.
- Love never takes pleasure in mischief or hurt done to anyone.
- Love initiates [Yahweh]'s workings in others through right prayers for them.
- Love bears, endures, and covers over all things, unwilling to expose others' faults except in the most extreme situations.
- Love is long-suffering even when provoked.
- Love always looks for and believes in the best of others.
In the flesh it is impossible to do this. If we are not doing it, it means that we are still in the flesh, or being soulish, and are not as loving as we think. I do not think any of us can lift our heads in confidence and say we are fulfilling them, nor should we claim to be. We can silently recognise what is deficient and work on surrendering more to Yahweh. If everyone were to do this, think what would result!
I am glad that Yahweh does not expect us to score and publish the results of this 20 point survey in love. We would all hang our heads in shame. That is why I think the psychoanalytical approach can be harmful because it focuses on exposing what is wrong in others instead of building them up:
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom.14:19, NIV).
The Torah condemns us enough for our sins as it is. What we need to do is simply encourage each other to keep surrendering for real. And if that surrendering is real, there will be results. Always. If Yahweh needs to turn the heat up on us, he'll do it. It may be that we are instruments of that heat for someone but we'd better we sure that's His calling and it's not the devil just trying to stir the pot and sow discord, for obvious reasons (Rom.14:3). In that regard Paul says:
"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of Elohim we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Ruach haQodesh and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of Elohim; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Cor.6:3-10, NIV).
Most people would prefer that this 'job description' of the Christian disciple didn't exist. Quite honestly I wish it didn't too, but -- and this is the choice - do we want to walk in Yahweh's will and receive the blessings nor not? If we do, the job-description follows. We do not necessarily have a book like Paul's but we have a book full of challenges enough. Following Yahweh in everything - surrendering our soul-will to His will - does not mean a trouble-free life. It simply means a productive and fulfilling one, with an over abundance of life, that no one in their right mind would want to turn down having tasted it. The thing is, believing before you've tasted! Do we believe the promises? I ask myself that question as much as I ask it of all of you.
Sometimes Yahweh asks us to do radical things - things that push our panic buttons and make us stop short. There are no scriptures covering these situations except in a very general sense. A week ago He told me to do something radical but it was so radical I concluded that it couldn't have been Him. I still don't know what would have happened if I had done it. I was in a desperate situation and needed a desperate solution. Though my soul was in turmoil, my passive waiting was not only not achieving anything but making things worse. When He told me to do it, I felt all fired up and ready to 'launch' but doubt crept in making me wonder if it was 'soulish' after all. Was I being spiritually filled or just psyched up in my soul? I was afraid that carrying out the instruction, if it was not from Him, would just worsen the situation I was dealing with. So I hesitated and no action followed. I still don't know what would have happened - it might have made a bad situation even worse. Certainly no good came of the inaction. But perhaps it would have been better to have risked than not to have risked at all. David said to his son Solomon:
"May Yahweh give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the Torah of Yahweh your Elohim" (1 Chron.22:12, NIV).
We can apply this to ourselves when we are put in command over important choices we have to make. We need the discretion and wisdom not to make an attack on Kadesh-barnea but also the courage and resolve to act when we know what Yahweh's will is. Most people stumble because they aren't sure of His will because of the competing voices within.
Who, in any case, wants to take the risk of being hurt by others? Of being misunderstood by them? Do we want to understand them? Can we understand them? Who wants to be misunderstood, let alone go through persecution, and especially at the hands of loved ones? Liberty Savard writes:
"Do you really know the real source of another person's words and behaviours just by becoming a Christian? Not necessarily. Understanding the difference between souls and spirits cannot be learned from a daily Bible devotional reading or from a textbook in a Bible college. Nor does this understanding come from just praying. Carnal Christians pray, New Agers pray, Satanists pray, Muslims pray, witches pray. There is nothing holy in the act of prayer in itself. [Yahweh] only involves Himself in right prayers prayed by His people ... Spiritual understanding of another person's behaviours or words comes by consistently practising and acting upon what you have read in the Bible, together with obedience to the [Ruach haQodesh]'s responses to your prayers. This understanding belongs to those ' . . . whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law' (Hebrews 5:14, Amplified).
"How important is it to know where peoples' actions and behaviours originate? Watchman Nee says that 'the greatest advantage in knowing the difference between spirit and soul is in perceiving the latent power of the soul and in understanding its falsification of the power of the [Ruach haQodesh].' That sounds pretty important" 2
Having made rash decisions in my life more than once, I have learned the habit of hesitating to make sure. Not all situations give us that luxury, however, much as we would like them to. Sometimes leaders have to make snap decisions under adverse conditions. They have to risk. And 'unfortunately' for those of us who were born men, we have no choice: with the gender comes responsibilities which we can't wriggle out of by pretending we're not that gender. We must first of all come into agreement with Yahweh's will that we were born male or female for a wise purpose and that trying to be something we were not made to be is not healthy or wise.
We must also remember that people are not ultimately our enemies but Satan even if he uses people to cause us harm and we respond harshly to the people. Matthew Henry reminds us that "the conquering and dispossessing of Satan is the healing of souls" and not the conquering of people themselves. People make their choices and we can't do much beyond try to reason with them and try to persuade them to choose - or re-choose - right. We have only ourselves to conquer and that can only happen by surrendering to Yahweh.
Things go wrong in our lives because we make the wrong choices. We make the wrong choices because our discernment is poor; and our discernment is poor when we fail to connect to our vulnerabilities or see the vulnerabilities in others. People are like emotional minefields ready to be set off by a wrong footstep. How, then, can we possibly live together? Possibly the choice that so many make to live alone is the result of this problem. If this is so, then we need to zoom in on it and floodlight it. And if the soul balks, and our emotions are stirred up, then there are good grounds to go ahead.
The philosopher Ayn Rand said that "emotions...were like red lanterns along the dark unknown of another's personality, marking vulnerable points". They are, I believe, the key to understanding the soul and its difficulties. But when those vulnerabilities fail to be healed, and people get hurt again and again by them, they tend to believe the lie that they cannot be helped and so they internalise and bury the lie deep down. Instead of dealing with the lie they instead try to control the circumstances around them to prevent those vulnerable points getting touched and triggered. The more they try to control the circumstances around themselves to ensure this does not happen, the more energy must be expended around others until they just break down and withdraw in despair. It is like the ceiling collapsing on top of you or the sky falling on your head. The soul can do a complete personality flip to the dismay of loved ones and just become a shadow of its former self, leading loved ones to believe that this 'new personality' is the 'real you' after all.
I stated at the beginning that I am sceptical of too much psychoanalysis because I do not believe that intellectually and processing reactivities to emotional and mental wounds is always necessarily the solution. Most of our deficiencies, I have learned, are the result of the absence of the long and consistent godly nurturing that only family and the fellowship of godly believers can provide, which means that their restoration and healing needs a reconnection to the absence of the very things which distorted their perceptions of Yahweh and of people. These are, moreover, not things that can be learned by mere Bible study, though saturation with the Word is vital. We learn by imitating those around us over a period of time. If Yah'shua, the perfect Son of Elohim, was restricted to a three year window for ministry that did not begin until He was 30 years old, then it is a safe bet that we who are very imperfect and of sinful disposition need a great deal of time to be prepared for responsible ministry, especially in our day and age where most people just aren't emotionally grown-up at all. If Paul would warn Timothy 2,000 years ago not to hastily ordain mew converts then we, today, in our dysfunctional society, should be even more cautious. I can't help but wonder if all the charismatic and other aberrations that have flooded Christianity are not actually the fruits of spiritually immature people who have not received the full counsel of Yahweh nor grown up in a family and ecclesiastical atmosphere where such were known and practised. We reproduce what we are in each subsequent generation. That being so, we maybe need to stop ourselves and take some 'time off' to grow up before launching ministries purporting to be spiritually of Yahweh.
An obvious fruit of such spiritual immaturity is what I call the 'Thieme Syndrome'. Those of you from Texas may have heard of the ministry of a Colonel R.B.Thieme, Jr. Who graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and pastors a church in Houston. Without going into a full doctrinal study of his teachings, I do want to point out that central to his teaching is the false doctrine that once we are Spirit-filled once we confess and are instantly sanctified and cannot sin any more, and therefore have no further need of the Cross. A great emphasis is laid on doctrine which, though commendable, it does not deal with the source of sin and the necessity of a supernatural solution to it at root. And again, whilst diligent teaching of correct doctrine is an essential part of the Gospel, it is not enough. For the Gospel to work, there must be proper balance. What do I mean by that? And what is the danger that we might fall into similar error? There are, I believe, five pitfalls that we must strenuously avoid:
1. We must not put so much emphasis on our freedom to choose and in so doing dilute, or even negate, Yahweh's desire to and power to lead. Indeed, when we boil everything down, the bottom line is Yahweh's sovereignty over our lives. Where free choice is important is making the initial - and continuing - choice to give all to Him and to surrender our own soul's independence;
2. We must not oversimplify our relationship with Yahweh by merely boiling things down to logical notions which are conveniently held within the limited box of our intellect because Yahweh is so much bigger than our puny intellects. To think clearly and logically is good and necessary but there will always be a point beyond which we cannot comprehend and must simply trust;
3. We must not elevate intellect over emotion and so lose sight that Yahweh communicates to the whole person. The artificial division of mind and heart did not exist in the Hebrew soul - both were collectively called lev or 'heart', as I have said. When Yahweh communicates to us it is through godly thoughts, godly feelings, godly passions, and godly directives to the will. The emotional intelligence of a soul is just as important as the rational intelligence of a soul with Yahweh sometimes asking us to do things that do not make sense to us either intellectually or emotionally - the Bible is full of such examples. It is not therefore untypical for those with emotional issues to emphasise doctrine and intellect. They may be mentally quite brilliant but emotionally infantile, arbitrarily dominating and generally behave in a very immature way. There are far to many ministers today who fit this category who are only capable of delivering a sterile, intellectual gospel because their hearts have not been set free;
4. We must never lose sight of Yahweh's love and proper loving relationships with all people by getting so fixated on doctrine, Torah and reason that we have no place for these things. That is probably why the Ruach inspired Paul to write the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians; and
5. We must never lose sight of the need to allow the Ruach haQodesh to cleanse the human heart through confession of sin in response to the Ruach's conviction. Neither must we negate our responsibility to confess wrongs to other people, seeking forgiveness, and making restitution as applicable to the circumstances.
A purely intellectual approach devoid of heart - or enough heart - eventually leads to Gnosticism and the pursuit of personal agendas. It is only through the death of self - being crucified with Yah'shua - that enables us to fully surrender to the Father's will so that He can use the life he has given us to advance His agenda, and therefore His ultimate glory.
None of this is, of course, to say that we should abandon the mind and start following the heart. I have always preached, and will continue to preach, that the heart must align itself to Torah. However, Torah without heart can only lead to spiritual death. And finally, 'any old heart' will not do. The unsurrendered heart is as deadly as the unsurrendered mind. False charismata are as dangerous as false teachings. In both, we are called to rise above fleshy limitations that can appear in ministries based on false ideas. Such will always lead to false fruit or no fruit at all. Yah'shua warns us of the dangers in his story of the fig tree:
"Early in the morning, as [Yah'shua] was on his way back to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then He said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered" (Matt.21:18-19, NIV).
This is one of those New Testament incidents that shocks a lot of us and reminds us of the 'God' of the Old Testament. It just doesn't seem to fit the 'meek and mild Jesus' stereotype of much of Protestant Christianity. Some have even accused Yah'shua of having a fit of 'supernatural bad temper' in this action. However, nothing Yah'shua does is ever purposeless and He certainly doesn't behave like the capricious gods of the pagan religions. So what did this sign mean? The disciples totally missed the spiritual meaning and were more concerned about how Yah'shua made the fig tree wither so Yah'shua made the incident into an object lesson on faith and prayer (vv.20-21) and said nothing more. So why did He do it?
The answer lies in the fact that the fig tree is supposed to have fruit at the same time it has leaves so that when you see leaves you should expect to be able to pluck some figs. Yah'shua went to the fig tree expecting to find figs and found none. The tree was merely offering the appearance of fruitfulness. It was saying: 'Come, eat!' when it had no food to offer. It was being deceptive and it was this deception that caused Yah'shua to react angrily. It was the same anger He directed against the hypocritical Pharisees who only had the appearance of righteousness who with their man-made Talmudic rules slapped on top of Torah only had the "appearance of wisdom" (Col.2:23). With the same idea in mind Yah'shua once said:
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (Matt.7:9-11, NIV).
Here was the fig tree offering something it did not have with a fine display of leaves but no fruit. No doubt the fig tree represents the person who thinks they can be spiritual and productive in their own strength. They learn their Scriptures like the Pharisees did but won't let the Ruach change their hearts so that they can give the people real spiritual nourishment. There are lots of ministries out there with tons of teachings that look appetising and good but they are sterile, being devoid of the Ruach. Many Messianics wax eloquent on Torah but have no idea what it means to have Yah'shua living in their hearts and making them fruitful spiritually. They have a few things to learn from Evangelicals!
Yah'shua appeals to such people saying:
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" (Matt.7:11-12, NIV).
So why not ask Yahweh to give you a new heart in addition to your Torah-filled brain? Think what a potent combination that would make (ask Paul)! And He concludes:
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt.7:12, NIV).
If that is the purpose of Torah - to create a lifestyle where there is right-living and right-treatment of people, then let us use Torah for what Yahweh intended it! But before we can do that, we have to recognise something inside that our pride may balk at: "If you, then, though you are evil..." That's the word He uses - evil. Who was He talking to? The Pharisees? The Saducees? The Torah-teachers? No, the ordinary people, to you and me.
So the bottom line is this: though I give good things to my own children (because most parents love their children), that doesn't make me good because that is something built into us, just like it is in the animal world. Giving good gifts to our children doesn't make us right with Yahweh! He says we are what? Evil! That's why He also said that no one was good except Elohim (Lk.8:19). In our own strength we are not good. In the flesh we are evil. In our unsurrendered soul nature we are bad. That means that neither I, nor anyone else, can offer you anything good in my own psychic power or soul-nature. Nothing! I can give good gifts to my children but I am still rotten.
Now I am not saying this to impress you how pious I am because I'm not. I am saying this because I have discovered that I really have nothing to boast about at all. And indeed, all my theology and Torah knowledge is quite worthless without a spiritual regeneration. People have said lots of complimentary things to me about my writings but really, what are they? Where do they come from? Do you know? They could as easily come from a Ruach-filled soul as from one that is utterly depraved. I have read amazing discourses from ministers who were stone dead spiritually, who were abusive, controlling and wicked. I even know of one who recently murdered his wife. So when you go looking for the credentials of a minister, make sure you study not only his writings but also his heart.
Yah'shua's condemnation of the religious leaders of His day is equally applicable to all of us. We cannot escape the judgement just because we are separated from them by 2,000 years. There are "forms of godliness" which deny its power (2 Tim.3:5). There are highly respected Christian leaders out there who are closet devil-worshippers. There are unregenerate ministers who have not been born again, who have never seen the Kingdom of Elohim with their hearts, for whom religion is dead and legalistic.
But it is not those I am principally concerned about. I am more concerned today with those who may have drifted off to sleep, those whose hearts were stirred, awakened and on fire but who over time experienced the flame going out. How does this happen? How can the fire go out? I think there can be many reasons. Carelessness, indifference, traumatic experiences, or just plain wrong teachings which quench the Ruach. We are specifically warned:
"Do not quench the Ruach" (1 Thess.5:19, NKJV).
Is that possible? The Ephesians did. They were hard workers, perseverers, haters of wickedness, endurers of hardship, fighters against sexual immorality (Rev.2:1-3) - they sounded like pretty dynamic Christians. So what happened? Just one thing:
"You have forsaken your first love" (Rev.2:4, NIV).
This was the Apostle John's home congregation, the apostle who talked incessantly of love, remember? According to another tradition, this is where Yah'shua's mother spent her last days. And yet ... they forsook their first love??? How is that possible? And this is no small thing because Yah'shua sternly admonishes them:
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first" (Rev.2:5, NIV).
Who or what was their "first love"? Yah'shua! They were so busy fighting heresy, so busy enduring persecution, so busy attacking wickedness, exposing false apostles, working so hard building the Kingdom, that they somehow forgot the most important thing of all - their "first love" and stopped doing the things that they "did at first".
Brethren and sisters, I stand before you today to plead guilty to this charge. Mea culpa. In His loving kindness, Yahweh has sent me a wake-up call. In my zeal as a teacher and minister, I forgot my first love, stopped winning souls, neglected my family, got wrapped up in my new-found discovery of Torah, and just got swamped by the kinds of things the Ephesians were doing. As you know Ephesus was one of the 'seven wodners of the world' and was the centre of Artemis worship. The believers had their work cut out for them there fighting occultism and wickedness. Most of you know what I have been involved in recently. And Ephesus, incidentally, was early Christianity's headquarters after Jerusalem. It's where the head apostle, John, lived. So you see, no one is immune. I solicit your prayers.
The good news is that the Ephesians did repent. We know they did from a patristic letter written by Ignatius of Antioch in the post-apostolic period in which he writes of the Ephesus congregation in glowing terms:
"...deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of Elohim the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory" (Letter to the Ephesians).
Satan can do his greatest damage to us without us knowing it by keeping us 'busy'. And it doesn't have to be with worldly things. There are plenty of things we can be doing in the ministry because there is never a shortage of things to do - ever. If we wanted to, we could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What is important is to prioretise. As one minister gently reminded me: 'First Yahweh, then your family, then your ministry'. That's taking quite a re-adjustment as it involves breaking a 30 year-old habit. I know I have barely begun. Moreover, there has been a need for me to change some personal goals within the ministry itself. To that end I am looking to the counsel of those like the late Dwight Moody whom Yahweh so obviously blessed and used two centuries ago. One biographer condensed the secret of his success into seven guiding life-principles:
1. Moody was a fully surrendered man, he held nothing back from Yahweh (...they loved not their lives unto the death. -- Revelation 12:11).
2. He was a man of much prayer (Pray without ceasing. -- 1 Thes. 5:17).
3. He was a deep and practical student of the Bible (Study to shew thyself approved unto Elohim... -- 2 Timothy 2:15).
4. He was a humble man (Be not wise in your own conceits... -- Romans 12:16).
5. He was not a lover of money (For the love of money is the root of all evil... -- 1 Timothy 6:10).
6. He had a consuming passion for the salvation of the lost (Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. -- Mark 16:15).
7. And he was anointed with Power from on High (... until ye be endued with power from on high. -- Luke 24:49).
The first principle is, of course, the essential one and the hardest one to live. To that end let us all pray this prayer:
"Dear Yahweh, I need you. I can't fix all that is broken in my life. I need your forgiveness, I need your help to get out of the pit that I am in. I ask you now to take control of my soul-life, to be my Rescuer, my Saviour, my Empowerer and my Master. Thank you that the yoke of sin is breakable in my life through faith in Your Son Yah'shua and can be maintained through willing obedience to the commandments on my part and continued surrendering. I will not allow fear to overcome me when I feel alone and vulnerable but will allow You to take me to the place where my soul's walls and defences are down, where I can move towards You. Touch every dark spot in my soul, every red lantern of emotional pain, with Your grace and mercy. Remind me not to flee from vulnerability because it is the door to Your grace no matter how strongly my soul may want to re-establish its protective barriers against You and loved ones. Increase my awareness of any unsurrendered part of the soul trying to get its expectations met, and help me to act immediately. Increase my awareness of old patterns of behaviour that I need to reject and loose, so that I will not turn back to them when I feel frightened or needy. Help me to know the truth that I do net need to feel any doubt or fear when You get close to the ugly things hidden in my soul. Help me to know that You already know what is in there, and that You are not ashamed to walk into them with me. I have lived with this shame long enough. Now I am here, please take me. I wish to surrender fully. In Yah'shua's Name, Amen." 3
Http://www.libertysavard.com/difficult_soul_control.html (Hebraic terms added in [square parentheses]).
Http://www.libertysavard.com/keys_difficult_bookspiritual.html (Hebraic terms added in [square parentheses]). The reader is urged to be very cautious of Watchman Nee's teachings which tend to be rather extremist. For a history and critique, see http://www.withchrist.org/MJS/neelee.htm
Adapted from Liberty Savard, Keys to Understanding Soul Ties, Soul Power & Soulish Prayers, pp.26-28)