Monthly Archives: April 2015

Where is Your Heart?

where your heart is“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 7:21

In the first installment of this series on the “Sermon on the Mount”, I talked about righteousness being the main focus of Yeshua’s Kingdom message. I also showed how He focused on the heart as opposed to head aspects of righteousness. In this message I want to illustrate exactly what Yeshua means by keeping the Torah and walking in righteousness at the heart level.

In order to understand how Yeshua (and therefore Abba Father) wants us to walk in righteousness in Yehovah’s Kingdom of light, we first need to dig down to a deeper level of scripture study. On the surface of these passages, it appears that Yeshua is saying things like: don’t focus on accumulating wealth (Matt 6:24), don’t judge others (Matt 7:1), don’t worry about your life (Matt 6:25), don’t show off when you’re helping out the poor (Matt 6:1), and don’t be a hypocrite about your fasting and praying (Matt 6:5,16).

However, when we dig down to the heart level of Yeshua’s message, we can quickly see that He is really talking about building healthy relationships as we are following the Torah and walking in righteousness. Let me give you a couple of brief object lessons to illustrate what I mean. Imagine for a moment that you are a member of a large congregation, and that every week when you go to worship services, you spend a few minutes before and after service saying hello and shaking hands with people that you either don’t know, or you know only as once-a-week acquaintances. You might even ask these people how they are doing or whether everyone is healthy in their family, but are you just going through the motions or sincerely reaching out to these people?

In the same way, let’s say you work with “Meals on Wheels” and take meals to home-bound people every day, but you never speak to them or show that you care about them in any way (other than just doing your job to help the poor because you know you’re supposed to). Do you think those people are going to think of you in a kind and caring way? Or will they just see that you are doing this out of obligation and you don’t really care about them personally? What is your heart motive in this scenario – are you doing this to feel good or look good, or do you truly look for ways to bring Yeshua’s love to them?

The key point Yeshua was addressing in His message is that you can be the most righteous person on earth from a human perspective (as many of the Pharisees were), doing good works every moment of the day. However, since Yehovah looks on the heart, from His perspective you could be like a whitewashed tomb (Matt 23:27), appearing to be good and righteous on the outside, but inside you are nothing but filthy rags (Isa 64:6). In this case, Yeshua could rightly say to you: ‘…I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt 7:23).

YHVH requires that we “…do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). He certainly wants us to follow His instructions in the Torah, but He judges us by our heart attitudes and motives more than by our actions. We would do well to examine ourselves from His perspective, following His word in our hearts and not just our heads.

Seek First the Kingdom of God [Elohim]

But seek first the kingdom of God“And He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases…” Luke 6:17-18

What was happening in Yeshua’s ministry on earth when He spoke the messages in the “Sermon on the Mount”? What we know from Scripture is that the Pharisees were angry with Yeshua because His teachings did not follow theirs and because He was drawing large crowds wherever He went. So what was He teaching that was so radical, and that went against the Pharisees’ teachings? Yeshua was teaching about the Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven) and how they could not only be a part of the Kingdom on earth, but that the Kingdom was now within them!

Yeshua spoke about righteousness as the main theme of the Kingdom in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. Also in Matthew 5:6,10 and 13:43, Yeshua says that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  The Pharisees spoke about righteousness, but their form of righteousness was from following the Law (Torah) according to their interpretation of the Law, which included all of their man-made laws. Yeshua wanted to clearly distinguish between the righteousness that God expected in His gracious Kingdom and the righteousness of the Pharisees’ legalistic (man-made) kingdom.

Yeshua followed the Torah instructions in every way, and told us that He still wanted us to follow them. In Matthew 5:18 Yeshua states that not one jot or tittle will pass away from the Torah until heaven and earth pass away.  Yeshua had a very different interpretation of how an obedient follower was to keep the Torah.  For instance, the oral law of Moses said that a man could divorce his wife by simply giving her a certificate of divorce (see Matt 5:31).  However, Yeshua said that “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matt 5:32). Obviously Yeshua did not follow the oral law or any of the codes of law that were added to the Torah by the Pharisees (since He already said above that nothing in the Torah would or could be changed).

The Pharisees believed in keeping the Law with their heads but not their hearts.  Yeshua said in Matthew 12:34 that the Jewish leaders were speaking and doing good, but at the same time thinking evil in their hearts.  Yeshua, on the other hand, was teaching Abba Father’s interpretation of the Torah: that His children are to keep His Torah in their hearts and not just in their minds.  Here are a few examples of heart obedience that Yeshua gives in Matthew and Luke:

  • Matthew 5:21-26: murder begins in the heart
  • Matthew 5:27-31: adultery begins with lust which comes out of the heart
  • Luke 6:36: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (speaking of loving our enemies)

Yeshua’s underlying guidance on how to live our lives is the same as the Father’s – follow Torah with our minds and our hearts. Our gracious God has not only given us instructions for living life to the fullest, but He forgives us when we slip up. He wants us to have a genuine relationship with Him and with each other.  A true relationship involves the heart as well as the mind.

Letting Go

your right hand upholds me

As newborns, we automatically close our little fists around objects near to us. When someone holds us, we cling to their clothing or to an offered finger or sometimes to a strand of hair. It seems that most of my life I have been clinging to treasured objects, precious dreams, or beloved people. It is difficult and painful to let go. Sometimes it seems impossible, certainly unthinkable.

We were born for love and fellowship, yet we must learn to let go of loved ones. We were created for enjoyment and pleasure, yet often we must let go of that which delights us. Why this paradox? I’m not sure I have the answers, but I will share the thoughts I have gleaned from decades of clinging, then letting go.

The more we value someone or something, the greater the pain when we must let go. The pain lasts for a long time, sometimes for the rest of our lives. At times we cling to the pain as a way of trying to hang on to what we lost. In the end, it becomes necessary to let go of even the pain if we are to move forward.

Why does YHVH allow loss and pain? He is the source of love, beauty, fellowship, joy, shalom. Why does He allow so much suffering and anguish? Doesn’t He realize how horrible it is to let go, especially to let go of someone you love and cherish?

Yes, He does know. He relinquished His only begotten Son to a fallen, cruel world to share in our sorrows and sufferings. He then allowed this precious Son to take on all the sin and pain and suffering and endure excruciating pain and misery in order to save us from an eternity of wretchedness and hopelessness. For a time, He put us ahead of even His most beloved Son.

We are on this earth to learn to let go (Matt 6:19-21; Luke 9:62)). That doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to love others, to enjoy or to cherish hopes, dreams, even objects. It means that we must be willing to release each treasure when the time comes until there is only One Whom our fists and our hearts embrace. We must put Him first.

We are on this earth to cling to the Source of all that we love and value. When we let go and cling solely to Him, we learn a valuable truth. YHVH released Yeshua and watched Him endure untold suffering and death. However, that is not the end of the story. Yeshua has been reunited with YHVH forever and sits at His right hand. All that we have relinquished will one day be restored to us if we cling to YHVH and put Him first. In the end, we can have it all.

The Overlooked Sin

no one comes to the Father

The Jews had an opportunity to accept their Messiah or reject Him at His first coming. While many Jews accepted Yeshua as their kinsmen Redeemer and King, the majority did not. Over the centuries, many peoples have hated and persecuted the Jews, citing the rejection and crucifixion of Yeshua as “justification.” Many people smugly criticize the Jews and yet are guilty of the same sin.

The same challenge is presented to each of us. Do we accept Yeshua as our Redeemer and King? Have we asked for forgiveness of our sins and invited Yeshua to be King over us?

Jewish leaders resented Yeshua’s criticism of their man-made traditions and their hypocrisy. They wanted to do things their own way (Luke 6:1-12; Luke 7:29-30). They refused the help they so desperately needed.   Some people today say that belief in God is for weak people, not recognizing that they, too, are weak people who very much need a Savior. They believe that they are capable of running their own lives and sometimes the lives of others without Yeshua’s help.

Jewish people were looking for a leader who would save them from physical oppression (John 6:14-15). They didn’t realize that the spiritual oppression Yeshua overcame is far more serious and is also the root cause of the physical oppression. Many people today are focused solely on the physical realm, unaware or misunderstanding the spiritual realm. We can choose to renounce our subjection to Satan and embrace the salvation offered by Yeshua, but it is a choice that each of us must make in order to enter the Kingdom of YHVH.

Jewish people believed that being born Jewish was sufficient or that following the traditions and rituals established by men would secure them a place with YHVH.

Many people today believe that it is enough to be a “basically good person” or to belong to a particular denomination or congregation. Many people do not recognize their own sins, especially the most glaring one, the sin of rejecting Yeshua as their Redeemer (Luke 5:32).

Yeshua died a gruesome, violent death to pay the penalty for our sins and to ransom us from the grip of the evil one. Do we honestly believe that we can ignore Yeshua’s redemptive work and make our own way into the Kingdom of YHVH? If this were true, then Yeshua’s work would have been a waste of time and effort. Do you honestly assume that YHVH made the agonizing decision to send His precious Son to be slaughtered on our behalf, but is now willing to overlook our rejection of His beloved Son and His hard-earned gift of salvation?

Do not be deceived. No matter how “good” you are and no matter how exemplary your life has been, you have absolutely nothing to offer that can save you from eternal damnation. You are like a drowning person who has been thrown a precious Lifeline. However, it is necessary to seize and cling to this Lifeline in order to be acceptable to YHVH.