Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 17, 2021
Shavuah Tov,

Some Ways To Know If You Are Following Yeshua by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: We Shomair congregants may describe ourselves as “Believers” (persons who believe in Yeshua as Lord and Savior). Scriptures clearly teach that such belief is the substance of faith and is required for salvation. Today’s RR is not in any way intended to diminish the importance of belief (faith). Could there be more to being a saved person awaiting Heaven than belief, though? Satan believes in Yeshua, but we do not expect him to be walking the streets of gold in New Jerusalem. Belief alone may not be enough to open Heaven’s gates for us. This RR is intended to suggest that there is an important requirement in addition to belief, and that requirement is to be a follower of Yeshua.

SIDELIGHT: Some will immediately counter: “Oh, you’re talking about a works-based faith, and I’ll have no part of that.” James (Jacob) wrote his epistle beautifully, showing that both faith and works are necessary (James 2:18-20): But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe– and shudder! But do you want to know, you empty person, that faith without works is dead? END sidelight.

When Yeshua assembled a group of twelve disciples into whom He could pour His life for a few years before charging them with the task of transforming the world, He offered only a simple invitation: “Follow Me.” Read Yeshua’s invitation in Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 16:9, and 19:21;  Mark 1:17, 2:24, 8:34, and 10:21;  Luke 5:27, 9:59, and 18:22;  John 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 21:19, and 21:22.

Following Yeshua involves more than merely walking behind Him (walking in His footsteps). Although you undoubtedly can think of other topics, I briefly discuss in this RR a few features involved in following Yeshua:

YESHUA’S WALK CAN BE DIFFICULT: If you follow Yeshua, do not expect your walk to be easy (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Following Yeshua may be– and probably will be– difficult. It is far easier to walk with Satan and evil men and women than to walk with Yeshua. Yeshua promised that His followers will be hated for His name’s sake (read Matthew 10:22, 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; and John 15:18, 17:14). His followers will be subject to persecution and even martyrdom (read death of Stephen in Acts 7, Tribulation martyrdom, and so forth). Do not necessarily expect rewards in this life. Rewards for following Yeshua will not come until the follower enters Heaven (read Revelation 2:10, etc.).

DISTRACTIONS IN FOLLOWING YESHUA: If you are an automobile operator, you probably have experienced moments of distraction and had or nearly had a traffic accident. As you follow Yeshua, you may also become distracted. There are so many distractions in today’s modern society that all cannot be mentioned, but, consider three Scriptures:

● Yeshua taught that a person cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24a): [Yeshua said] “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick by one and look down on the other….” Yeshua in this verse was discussing the conflict in worshiping wealth (Mammon) as an idol, rather than God, but He could just as easily been discussing anything that replaces God in your life. Such replacements, which may serve as idols, can include excessive devotion to work at the expense of God and family, or sports, or social media, and so forth.

● God commanded that only He is to be worshiped (Exodus 20:3, one of the Ten Commandments): [God spoke] “You shall have no other gods before Me..”

● Yeshua taught that God must be worshiped with a person’s entire being (Matthew 22:37-38): [Yeshua said to the lawyer] … “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Other Scriptures could be included, but what do these verses teach? You, a follower of the Messiah, can easily become distracted by earthly activities. Have you invited idols (“Mammon”) into your life? Have these idols overtaken your life? Have these idols replaced God?

FOLLOWING YESHUA CAN BE DANGEROUS, EVEN DEADLY: To the man who inquired of Yeshua what he must do to inherit eternal life, Yeshua added a difficult requirement of following Him (Mark 10:21): Looking at him, Yeshua loved him and said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell as much as you have, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Yeshua also told anyone who followed Him to take up his/ her cross. The cross, of course, was the horrible instrument of torture and death that Yeshua would face, as He laid down His life for our sins.

Yeshua promised that His followers would be hated, just as He was first hated. We have sadly witnessed the recent slaughter of Believers at the hands of Islamic extremists, and many millions more have been martyred since Stephen was martyred in the first century. The Revelation prophesies that great number of Believers will be martyred (killed because of their faith) during the Tribulation.

There is no assurance of your safety, if you follow Yeshua. Remain joyous, though. The fact that evil men would want to kill you, a Believer, is confirmation that you follow and serve the true God and the risen Savior. No matter what evil may befall you in the future, you have the Word of God that you will immediately see Yeshua face-to-face in Paradise and will be eternally rewarded.

WAYS TO KNOW YOU ARE FOLLOWING YESHUA: When you drive to a distant city, you may use navigational aids (road signs, map, GPS tracking device, asking for  directions at service stations, etc.). You require information to know whether you are driving on the right road to reach your destination. In your walk with HaMashiach, you need to know whether you are following Him in the right direction. The following passages may help you in your walk after Yeshua:

● Bearing good fruit: Yeshua ministered more than three years, and His disciples were always with Him. He surely said many things that were not written down (read John 21:24-25): This is the disciple [John] who is an eyewitness of these things and wrote these things. We know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Yeshua did. If all of them were to be written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself will have room for the books being written!

One thing that was not written is a question to which Yeshua’s answer was written. As the number of Yeshua’s disciples grew, a question might have been asked: “Lord, how can we know Your followers?” Yeshua answered, and His answer was recorded, that one test should be applied (Matthew 7:20): [Yeshua said] “So then, you will recognize them [My followers] by their fruit.”

A person’s “fruits” are the works of his/ her life. A true follower produces good fruits (good works), but a false follower produces bad or no fruits (bad or no works).

● Following love-based commandments: The Bible is filled with commandments. The Jewish elite of Yeshua’s day spent much of their time debating how best to follow the 613 commandments and rituals of the Jewish faith. For many, it was more important to follow ritual than to follow God.

As the Jews plotted to kill Yeshua, they needed evidence of His “blasphemy.” They sought to trick Him (Matthew 22:35-40): And testing [Yeshua], one of [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Yeshua quoted the first commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second commandment from Leviticus 19:18.]

When you follow these two commandments, you are worthy to be called a Christ-follower. Yeshua could not make it simpler for any follower of His to keep God’s commandments. Yeshua gave another way to know if we are His followers (John 13:34-35): [Yeshua said] “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

One of Yeshua’s last earthly prayers is recorded in John, chapter 17. Read this beautiful prayer in its entirety, but take note especially of these verses (John 17:11, 21, 23): [Yeshua prayed] “I am no longer in the world; but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are. |…| [I pray] that they all may be one. Just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, so also may they be one in Us, so the world may believe that You sent Me. |…| [I pray for My followers] I in them and You in Me– that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them as You loved Me.”

If you follow Yeshua, you will want to be one with Yeshua, God the Father, and other Mashiach followers. This oneness in faith is one of the primary messages of Holy Communion. When you eat the bread (symbolically, Yeshua’s body) and drink the fruit of the vine (symbolically, Yeshua’s blood), you join a community of Believers in a common faith, a faith centered upon Yeshua’s sacrifice for the sins of you and all who join you at the Lord’s table.

● Being worthy to be admitted to Heaven: If you seek to follow Yeshua, you will want to follow Him to His final destination– eternal life in Heaven (New Jerusalem). You cannot be admitted to Heaven unless you first receive Yeshua (the Lamb) as your Savior and have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (read Psalm 69:28; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:15, 22:19; and other passages).

Yeshua revealed another requirement to the Apostle John, and commanded him to write this requirement in the Book of Revelation. No impure person can stand in the presence of God in Heaven. Yeshua said only “overcomers” (presumably, persons who overcome sin) can be admitted to God’s eternal Holy City. Read Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26;  3:5, 3:12, 3:21;  21:7.

Interestingly, the twelve gates of Heaven are pearls (read Revelation 21:21). To enter Heaven, you must pass through a gate of pearl. Consider how a pearl is made on earth: An irritating foreign object enters an oyster’s shell. The oyster secretes a smooth, hard, pearly substance around the irritant, removing the irritating influence from the body of the oyster and protecting the oyster. Sin should be foreign to you, a child of God. By covering your sin with the blood of Yeshua (Yeshua’s sacrifice and God’s mercy and grace), you can remove sin from causing further problems in your life. When (not if) you sin, God will forgive you, if you feel sorrow that you have sinned, forgive others who have sinned against you, ask His forgiveness, and repent (seek never to commit that sin again).

YOUR HEAVY LOAD: If you have ever hiked and carried a backpack, you know your load seems heavier the farther you hike. At some point, you may feel you cannot carry the pack any longer. Life’s burdens may seem overwhelming, but the Yeshua you follow will help you carry your burdens (Matthew 11:28-30): [Yeshua said] “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In the hiking example given in the preceding paragraph, you can hike farther and easier if someone carries your backpack for you. Yeshua offers to help carry your “backpack” (burdens). If you share your burdens by placing them on Yeshua’s broad, strong shoulders, you can follow Him more easily.

HINDRANCE TO OTHER FOLLOWERS: As you follow Yeshua, many others will try to follow Him, too. Encourage– never discourage– them in their walk (Romans 14:13): Therefore let us not judge one another from now on, but rather decide this– not to put a stumbling block or a trap in the way of a brother.

In every word or deed, you represent the Messiah. You may be the only Believer/ Christian someone knows. You may be a role model for a co-worker, neighbor, relative, or someone else. As Yeshua’s representative in your neighborhood, work, home, or school, you are being judged by persons who may be curious about becoming a Mashiach-follower like you. If you curse, cheat, steal, abuse alcohol/ other drugs, or engage in other activities which dishonor the Messiah, you may become a “stumbling block” for a potential Believer. The person who watches you in your walk with HaMashach may stumble and fall to the wayside because of your sin. Because of your failure, he/ she may never have enough moral strength to rise up and start a journey of following the Messiah. Small things may cause a person to stumble. If you are thought to be a Believer, be a Believer! Make your walk as straight and strong as possible.

AFTER BECOMING A FOLLOWER, BECOME A MESSENGER WITH A PUPOSE: Yeshua called men and women to follow Him for a reason. He wanted them at first to be His disciples. [Disciple = from Greek μαθητὴς = English mathētēs = “learner” or “pupil.”] After being disciples, they became apostles. [Apostle = from Greek ἀπόστολος = English apostolos = “a messenger set forth with orders.”]

A lifelong disciple (a pupil) is not of much use to the Kingdom of God, but a lifelong apostle (a messenger sent into the world with a purpose) is vitally important. There is a time to be a disciple (to be a learner) and a time to be an apostle (to serve, spread the Gospel, and teach others). Although you should never stop trying to learn, share your knowledge with others as often as possible.

Part of your spreading the Gospel is to go to people as you walk after Yeshua. Your spiritual armor includes having your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 5:15). Paul told us that people cannot be saved without being sent a Mashiach-follower who will share the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15). In this passage, Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah, who said that beautiful are the feet of those who spread the Gospel (Isaiah 52:7). Yeshua commanded us to go into the nations and spread the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). Shomair congregants’ home counties are included among “the nations.”

AND MORE: You can add other ways we need to follow Yeshua. The ways to follow the Master are almost limitless.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY TODAY: A proverb attributed to Lao Tzu (ancient Chinese philosopher and poet) is: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Start following Yeshua today– with small steps at first, followed by larger steps as you and He become more acquainted with each other. Your journey with Yeshua will be remarkable beyond anything you can imagine, and it will yield eternal rewards–  rewards for you and persons whose lives you touch and transform. Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 17-Oct-2021 11th of Cheshvan, 5782
Ge 18:1-14 Jos 18 Ps 17 Mt 13:31–58 (1 Jn 3)