Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 8, 2023
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Salvation– Childlike Faith or Something More Involved? Part 2 of 4
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: Through a series of questions, I suggest some (of many) topics every person should consider for the most important goal of living eternally in Heaven. A Believer should ask at least three questions:

● How do I achieve eternal life in Heaven?

● Have I complied with the requirements for eternal life, as told to me in Holy Scriptures, or do I need to re-order my life?

● Am I sharing these requirements– the Gospel – with my family and others?

In continuing questions about salvation, I include the following:

WHAT TWO GATES/ PATHS LEAD TO DIFFERENT DESTINATIONS? I repeat this previously discussed teaching. Yeshua portrayed every person as traveling on a path during life. Life paths fork (choice of conflicting options), with many twists and obstacles (often placed by Satan). Yeshua cautioned us to choose carefully which of the many available path options we take. << See 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.” >>

To enter any path, a person must pass through a gate. Some gates are broad and inviting, but lead to a path of destruction. Other gates may be unappealing and are difficult to enter, but they lead to a path of salvation. The path to eternal reward (Heaven) is so difficult that few people will choose it, whereas most people will choose the easy path that leads to eternal punishment (Hell).

Following, I quote a source that states there are 2.6-billion Believers/ Christians alive today. Are this many persons truly following and serving Yeshua? Have they all entered the narrow gate and walk on the difficult path? I give a personal example:

In the 1960s, when universal draft was required of all able-bodied males, Uncle Sam invited me to give two years to the nation. (When my draft was imminent, I volunteered.) I was stationed at the Public Health Hospital in Memphis as a general medical officer (actually, a great tour of duty). My best friend, there, was a pharmacist from Boston (South Boston, he always reminded me). He and I were eating lunch one day, when the subject of religion came up. He said he was a Catholic. Knowing little about Catholicism and being curious, I asked him a few questions to learn more:

Q (me). How often do you go to confession?
A (him). I’ve never been.

Q (me). How often do you attend Mass?
A (him). Never.

I said, “If you never practice Catholicism, why do you call yourself a Catholic?” He answered, “Oh, I was baptized as an infant by a priest, and my parents told me, ‘You are a Catholic.’” He is “Catholic” because of human traditions, but I wonder if he is a “wise virgin” or a “foolish virgin?” How many more are like him, supposing they are saved but knowing nothing about salvation or Yeshua? Will Yeshua tell him in the future, ”I never knew you?”

In its annual report, “Status of Global Christianity 2023,” the Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary estimates there are 2.6-billion Christians/ Believers alive in the world today. This number is composed of people who claim to be followers of the Messiah. Have all of these people fulfilled the necessary requirements of following Yeshua; will they walk the streets of New Jerusalem some day? Or, are many of these people deluding themselves? Have religionists made it too simple for persons to claim to be Believers, while they are sadly deluded and still lost? Is it more difficult for a person to join the local Kiwanis club than it is to enter Heaven? The Kiwanis Club has admission standards and requirements to become a member and to be called a “Kiwanian.” Many people, thinking Yeshua has no standards or requirements, call themselves “Believers/ Christians.”

□ Application: American Believers/ Christians are spoiled and soft. Suppose a local synagogue/ church decides to spend nearly all tithes and offerings to reach a lost world through greater mission efforts. To curtail local expenses and leave more for missions, the synagogue/ church leadership cuts off the heat and air conditioning; sells the sound system; sells the padded chairs, replacing them with roughly constructed wood plank benches; and so forth. How many congregants would rejoice that the money that had been spent on their comfort can now be used to reach more souls for the Kingdom of God? Or, how many would complain bitterly about the primitive conditions and refuse to come back?

Suppose the Messiah’s assembly described in the preceding paragraph is Shomair Yisrael Synagogue, what would be the reaction? While we worship in comfort, many of our brothers and sisters in foreign lands face extreme persecution and martyrdom. Many of our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Messiah have entered the narrow gate and are traveling the difficult road that leads to Heaven. Would you, as a Shomair worshiper, be willing to face extreme hardships (even cutting off the heating and air conditioning) for our faith? Have we entered the broad gate or the narrow gate? Are we walking the broad, easy path or the narrow, difficult path?

You and I may have to make the decision some day whether to walk the broad, straight, level path (to destruction) or walk the narrow, steep, rocky path (to salvation). There is alive even now an evil servant of Satan (the Anti-Messiah, the Antichrist) who wishes to put obstacles in our path. He will offer comfort for  those who accept the Mark of the Beast and extreme persecution for those who refuse the Mark (see Revelation, chapter 13). Of this coming evil, you have been forewarned in the Scriptures. Prepare accordingly.

W HAT ABOUT BEING ASHAMED OF YESHUA? Yeshua issued a warning about speaking for (“acknowledging”) or denying Him. << See Matthew 10:32-33: [Yeshua said] “Therefore whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” >> When you appear before Adonai’s throne, you do not want the One who sits on Adonai’s right (Yeshua) to look at you and ask, “Who are you?”

□ Application: If someone you care about and love deeply rebuffs every kindness or expression of love from you, what would be your feeling about him/ her? Yeshua has feelings for us that can be destroyed by our indifference toward Him. Yeshua sits at the right hand of God, serving as our High Priest and Intercessor. Yeshua will be our Advocate (will “acknowledge” us) before Father God, if we are not ashamed of Him before our neighbors and willingly speak about (“acknowledge”) Him. If we are ashamed of Him before our neighbors and if we refuse to speak about (“deny”) Him on Earth, He will be silent about us in Heaven at our most important time of all eternity. Be as willing to speak about (“acknowledge”) Yeshua, as you would speak of (“acknowledge”) any other person or thing of importance in your life.

The day is coming in which you or I may be put to the test to determine whether you or I will confess Yeshua as Lord and Savior. In the Middle East, there is sporadically Christian/ Believer genocide. [Genocide = “murder of a group of people because of nationality, belief, or race.”] The only question asked by these barbaric animals is, “Are you a Believer/ Christian?” To admit being a Believer/ Christian (“to confess Yeshua before men”) is a death warrant. If masked, automatic rifle-toting terrorists compel you kneel before them and ask about Yeshua, will you confess Him (sealing your death warrant) or deny Him (permitting earthly life to continue)? << See Matthew 16:24-26: Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must… take up his cross,…. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” >>

Extreme persecution and martyrdom existed in the first two centuries of our faith. Believers (Yeshua-followers) were rounded up for horrific deaths at the hands of the Roman Empire’s soldiers. The soldiers marveled at ”crazy”  Believers. Knowing they were facing an unthinkably horrible death, the  Believers laughed, sang hymns, and forgave their executioners. The soldiers could not understand the Believers’ joy at facing certain death. We know why they were joyous, though. They believed they were only minutes away from meeting their blessed Savior. They “confessed” Yeshua by their actions.

These men and women were martyrs. A definition of “martyr” is “one who bears testimony to faith, especially one who willingly suffers death rather than surrender his or her religious faith.” “Martyr” comes from the Greek martys, which translates to “witness.” We believe these martyred Believers are now in Paradise with Yeshua and will be awarded the Crown of Life for Martyrs at the Bema Judgment (see Revelation 2:10). To an extreme degree, they confessed Yeshua before men. Their deaths witnessed their faith. Their deaths witnessed their greater love– love for Yeshua more than love for their own lives. << See John 15:13: [Yeshua said] “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” >>

A pertinent quote has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181/2 – 1226), but some contest whether the quote should be attributed to him. The quote is: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” Martyr or not, your life speaks whether you are a true follower of Yeshua. A modernized version of Francis’ teaching is: “Actions speak louder than words.” What can speak more loudly about devotion to Yeshua than giving up life for Him? Since most of us will never face being murdered for our faith, a less extreme question might be: What can speak more loudly about devotion to Yeshua than trying to imitate His life through daily words and deeds? Example: If I work in an office with many employees, can I tell smutty jokes, curse with, and flirt with “Sue,” but testify of my love for Yeshua and how He has changed my life with “Bill?” Nonbelievers will not be impressed with my hypocrisy– my double standards.

MUST THE FATHER’S WILL BE DONE? Yeshua issued a stern warning about Judgment Day. << See Matthew 7:21-23: [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” >> 

□ Application: Being a Believer/ Christian entails more than occasionally attending a house of worship to listen to a musical concert; hearing a sermon; doing good works; and, as Yeshua suggested, engaging in “church speak” (“Lord, Lord….”). A Believer must incorporate Father God into his/ her entire being. (Read the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:35-40.). He/ she must do the Father’s will by reading the Bible, praying for guidance, listening for the counsel of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, and serving/ loving others. Do you conscientiously, actively try to accomplish the Father’s will for your life? Do you live like Yeshua on Shabbat but live a different, secular life on the other six days of the week? After you die, you do not want to hear Yeshua say (Matthew 7:23), “I never knew you; depart from Me,….”

MUST THE MASTER’S KINGDOM BE TENDED, WHILE HE IS AWAY? Yeshua taught several parables with similar themes. I will not recount them all here, because of their similarities and likely familiarity with readers. These parables told of a master or king (Yeshua), who left his servants or subjects (Believers) behind, while he was away (Yeshua’s ascension to Heaven). While away, those left behind were given something of value (spiritual gifts) to work for the master or king. The master or king returned (Yeshua’s return), and demanded an accounting of what had been done by the servants or subjects (Judgments). Those who accomplished the most, were rewarded the most.

In His Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27), Yeshua taught that accountability may go beyond just meting out rewards. The lazy servant, who did not invest his mina (spiritual gifts) and earned nothing for the nobleman, was stripped of everything and, it is implied, was executed (had no eternal rewards, possible eternal death in Hell?). << See Luke 19:27: [Yeshua said] “’But those hostile to me, who didn’t want me to reign over them, bring them here and execute them before me.’” >>

□ Application: We have been armed to combat Satan. The Apostle Paul reviewed some of the armor and weapons given to Believers (see Ephesians 6:10-18). Believers have gifts of the Spirit of God (see 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13). Believers have the Holy Bible for instruction and illumination of our walk in life (multiple Bible verses). We have other gifts. We are even given strength to resist temptations. << See 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has taken hold of you except what is common to mankind. But God is faithful– He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. But with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so you will be able to endure it. >>

A comedian, the late Flip Wilson, had a well-known excuse to stray: “The devil made me do it.” Flip Wilson’s delivery was humorous, but his theology was wrong. Satan may tempt a person to sin, but the tempted person (not Satan) actually commits the sin. Even Yeshua was tempted by Satan (see Matthew 4:1-11). Yeshua rebuffed Satan’s temptations and did not sin, standing on Scriptures and the necessity to serve only Adonai.

Which Believer (servant) is more effective for the Kingdom of God? (1) A Believer who sits only in a house of worship, head bowed, wringing soft hands, and saying, “Oh, how I love Yeshua.” Or, (2) A Believer who busies him-/ her-self in the community, strongly proclaiming, “Yeshua is my Lord and Savior. Won’t you follow Him, too? Let me tell you about Him.”

According to Yeshua’s parables and other Scriptures, actions matter. If you love God, it is wise to tell people in the community about Yeshua, instead of only whispering to other members of your faith in safe houses of worship your love for Yeshua. Again, recall Francis of Assisi’s advice: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.”

CONCLUSION: I will continue this series next Sunday. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

<< Scriptures from the Tree of Life Version Bible. >>

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 8 Oct 2023 23rd of Tishrei 5784 Simchat Torah
De 33:1-34:12 Ge 1:1-2:3  Nu 29:35-40[30:1]    Jos 1   Ps 1  Mt 1    (Jas 1)