Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 9, 2022
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Do You Follow Yeshua? How Do You Know? Part 1
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: People who follow Yeshua’s teachings and examples may call themselves by a variety of names (Believers, Followers, Christians, etc.). The name itself is really not that important. William Shakespeare penned this truth in Juliet’s soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose || By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Salvation is not found within a group name or merely being a member of a group or denomination. Many think they have a relationship with Yeshua, but will be rebuffed by Him (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!’”

Scriptures explain salvation (being rescued– that is, being bought back [redeemed] – from eternal death to eternal life). Part of that salvation involves the acceptance of Yeshua as personal Lord and Savior. At Shomair Yisrael, the redeemed of the Lord are usually called “Believers.” In no way do I desire to diminish the importance of belief. However, even Satan and his demons are “Believers” because they believe in God in Three Persons, as Jacob (James) pointed out (Jacob [James] 2:19): You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe– and shudder!

Could there be more to our faith than belief, though? As Jacob (James) taught, Satan and his demons believe in God, but we do not expect them to be walking the streets of gold in Heaven.

“Followers” might be a better designation. Yeshua’s formula for redemption involved this command (Matthew 16:24): Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Other Scriptures with Yeshua’s command, “Follow Me,” include 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.

“Christian,” a more common name for a Believer, is ultimately of Greek origin, meaning “follower of the Christ [the Messiah].” “Christian” originated from the Greek Christianos, from Christos (ho Christos = “the Christ” = “The Anointed One” = equivalent to the Hebrew HaMashiach [the Messiah]). Our English “Christian” is derived from the medieval Latin Christianus (translated, “Christian”). During the Middle Ages, “Christian” was mostly a proper name for females and did not gain popularity until the 17th century.

Following Yeshua involves more than merely walking behind Him (walking in His footsteps; that is, following Him). In this RR, I briefly discuss some– not all– things you might ask to question whether you follow Yeshua. Remember, Yeshua also said a Follower must deny self and be willing to die for Him. How many Followers truly deny self? How many Followers would die for 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.”

SIDELIGHT: Ponder this teaching: “The gate to Heaven is narrow, the road is difficult, and few will make it to Heaven.” This teaching is in marked contrast to what many Believers hold. I believe the Pre-tribulation Rapture Theory comports best with the schedule of events recorded in The Revelation, when compared with other theories. The number of days of the Tribulation are meticulously explained. There seems to be a logistical problem, though. If hundreds of millions of Believers disappear in “the twinkling of an eye,” how could the Antichrist explain this event and calm the obvious panic that would ensue? One possible, frightening answer may be that not many Believers will be found worthy to be raptured, when Yeshua returns. In several statements, Yeshua was recorded as being pessimistic about the number of true Believers He will find at the time of His return. Maybe not that many Believers will be raptured. Scriptures are not as clear-cut on this issue as we might like. END sidelight.

Yeshua warned His followers will be surrounded by dangerous, evil people (Luke 10:3): [Yeshua said] “Go forth! Look, I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.” A fair question would be: If you have never been  confronted by non-Believers who hate you, are you doing Yeshua’s will?

Following Yeshua may be difficult and dangerous. 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, and they will be subject to persecution and even martyrdom. Tens of millions of people have been martyred (murdered) for only one reason– they believed in and followed Yeshua. Rewards for following Yeshua will not come until the Believer faces the Bema Judgment in Paradise (Revelation 2:10c, The Crown of Life for Believer Martyrs): [Yeshua said] “… Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

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

● Yeshua taught that a person cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24): [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….” In the remaining (unquoted) part of this verse, Yeshua used the example of trying to serve two masters– God and wealth (“Mammon”), but wealth can be anything that replaces or competes with God in a person’s life. Such replacements, which may serve as idols, may include excessive devotion to work, sports, social media, hobbies, 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.” I started to discuss “Mammon” as a competing god today, but this RR is too long. I will discuss worship of idols, even “laudable idols,” in next Sunday’s RR.

● Yeshua taught that God must be worshiped with a person’s entire being (Matthew 22:37-38): And [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/ Believer in the Messiah, can easily become distracted by earthly activities. Have you invited idols (“Mammon”) into your life? Have any of these idols overtaken your life?

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 (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.”

The cross 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 (Matthew 10:22 and 24:9; Mark 13:13; and Luke 21:17). One condition of following Yeshua was “take up your cross” (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and other verses). Willfully following Someone to a horrible death is not a very attractive recruitment tactic.

We have sadly witnessed the slaughter of Believers throughout the world by Islamic fundamentalists. There is no assurance that you will be safe, if you follow Yeshua. Even in America, Believers are occasionally slaughtered as they peacefully worship in churches and synagogues.

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 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. An example of this assurance is the promise made by Yeshua to the malefactor crucified beside Him (Luke 23:42-43): And [the dying criminal] said, “Yeshua, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

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 directions at a service station, etc.). You require information to know whether you are driving on the right road to reach your destination. In your walk with the Messiah, you need to know whether you are following Him properly. 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 likely said many, many things that were not written down (John 21:24-25). One thing that was not written is probably a question (following), but Yeshua’s answer is recorded. As the number of Yeshua’s disciples grew, a question likely was asked: “Lord, how can we know Your followers?” (That is, “How can we distinguish a friend from an enemy?”) Yeshua  answered that one test should be applied (Matthew 7:20): [Yeshua said] “So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.” Your “fruit” is the works of your life. A true follower produces good fruit (good works), but a false follower produces no or bad fruit (no or bad works).

● Following love-based commandments: The Bible contains commandments. The Jewish elite of Yeshua’s day spent much of their time debating how best to follow the 613 commandments and rituals of Judaism. 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 sent a lawyer to trick Him (Matthew 22:35-40): And testing [Yeshua], one of them, a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?” And [Yeshua] 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.” [Note: Yeshua took the first commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second commandment from Leviticus 19:18.]

I was once involved in a Jail Ministry. We went into the Blount County Jail to conduct worship services for inmates. This was one of the most meaningful events in my life. For one Sunday evening service, I planned to use this exchange between Yeshua and the lawyer as the basis for my message. As I prepared, I tried to think of a sin– any transgression against God or mankind– which would not be covered by this teaching of Yeshua. Yeshua was exactly correct. These two commandments condense the entire Bible into a few words (“The entire Torah and the Prophets”). If you, a Believer, keep these two commandments: (1) love God with your entire being; and (2) love your neighbors (others), as you love yourself, I cannot think of any sin that would fall outside of these commandments. If you follow these two commandments, you are worthy to be called a Follower of the Messiah.

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.” I once heard a thought-provoking sermon, entitled: “If You Are Arrested for Being A Christian, Will There Be Enough Evidence to Convict You?”

One of Yeshua’s last prayers on Earth is recorded in John, chapter 17. Read this beautiful prayer in its entirety, but note especially three verses (John 17:11, 21, 23): [Yeshua prayed] “I am no longer in the world; but they [His followers] 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 those who believe in Me] 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 that they may be one just as We are one] – 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.”

A Believer in Yeshua will seek to be one with Him, God the Father, and other Believers. This unity in faith is one of the messages of Holy Communion. When you eat the bread (Yeshua’s body) and drink the fruit of the vine (Yeshua’s blood) with your brothers and sisters in a community of the “called out ones” (Greek ἐκκλησία, English ekklēsia), your common faith is centered on Yeshua’s sacrifice for the sins of you and all who join you at the Lord’s table. This common faith is the essence of a community of “called out ones” – a church/ synagogue (Hebrews 10:24-25): And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds. And do not neglect our own meetings, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another– and all the more so as you see the Day approaching.

● Being worthy to be admitted to Heaven: If you seek to follow Yeshua during your brief life on on Earth, you will want to follow Him to His final destination– eternal life in New Jerusalem (Heaven). You cannot be admitted to Heaven unless you first receive the Messiah (the Lamb) as your Savior and have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (see 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 John, and commanded him to write it in The Revelation. No impure person can stand in the presence of Holy God in Heaven. Yeshua said only “overcomers” (presumably, persons who overcome sin) can be admitted to God’s eternal Holy City (New Jerusalem). Read Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26; 3:5, 3:12, 3:21; and 21:7.

Interestingly, New Jerusalem’s twelve gates are pearls (Revelation 21:21). To enter Heaven, you must pass through a gate of pearl. Consider how a pearl is made: An irritating foreign object enters an oyster’s shell, the oyster secretes a smooth, hard, pearly substance around the irritant, removing its influence from the oyster’s body 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 grace), you can remove sin from causing future 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 God’s forgiveness, and repent (seek never to commit that sin again). If you are like many of us, you may conveniently forget one step in forgiveness– forgiving those who have sinned against you (Matthew 6:14-15, verses immediately following the Lord’s Prayer): [Yeshua explained] “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

YOUR HEAVY LOAD: If you have ever hiked and carried a backpack, you know your load becomes heavier the longer 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.”

SIDELIGHT: In the hiking example given, you can hike farther and easier if someone carries your backpack for you. Yeshua offers to carry at least some of your burdens for you. If you share your burdens by placing them on Yeshua’s broad, strong shoulders, you can follow Him more easily. But, Yeshua is not a pack mule. Do we need to carry– and resolve– as much of our burdens as possible? I have heard people say, “Well, I’ll just give my problems over to the Lord.” This is very faith-based, but I wonder: Is part of a person’s life a period of testing? We know the Lord can resolve problems. Might the Lord be interested in knowing how you can resolve problems? Some problems are overwhelming, and you need help from family, neighbors, and the Lord. A Believer should use wisdom to avoid as many problems as possible, resolve other problems as they appear, and seek the Lord’s assistance with the rest. END sidelight.

HINDRANCE TO OTHER FOLLOWERS: As you follow Yeshua, many others may 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 someone knows. You may be a role model for a co-worker, neighbor, relative, or someone else. As the Messiah’s representative in your work, home, neighborhood, or school, you are being judged by persons who may wish to become a Believer like you. If you curse, cheat, steal, abuse alcohol or other drugs, practice marital infidelity, 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 the Messiah 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 to follow Yeshua. Small things may cause a person to stumble. If you are known as a Believer, be and act like a Believer! Make your walk as straight and strong as possible.

THE NEXT STEP AFTER BECOMING A BELIEVER: Yeshua called men and women to follow Him for a reason. He wanted them to be His disciples [disciple = “learner”]. After being disciples, they became apostles [apostle = “person sent out for a purpose”]. A lifelong disciple is not of much use to the Kingdom of God, but a lifelong apostle is vitally important. You may seek the services of, say, an attorney. A person who has been enrolled forty years in law school (a disciple of the law) is of no help to you, but a graduate of law school who has passed his/ her Bar and practices in the courts (an apostle of the law) may be of use. There is a time to be a disciple (a learner) and a time to be an apostle (a servant and teacher of 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 Believer (an apostle) who will share the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15). In this passage, Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:7), who wrote that beautiful are the feet of those who spread the Gospel. Yeshua  commanded us to go to the nations and spread the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).Your neighborhood, city, and county are part of “the nations.”

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY TODAY: A proverb attributed to Lao Tzu is: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If you are not following Yeshua now, would you start following Him without delay? Take small steps at first; increase to larger steps, as you and He become better acquainted with each other. Your journey with Yeshua will be remarkable beyond anything you can imagine, and it will yield eternal rewards. Picture your Bema Judgment, as you stand before your Divine Judge, Yeshua. After reviewing your life, you will want to see Yeshua smile and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

Consider a poem, “A Life Well Lived” (anonymous author):
A life well lived is a precious gift
Of hope and strength and grace,
From someone who has made our world
A brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments, sweet and sad
With smiles and sometimes tears,
With friendships formed and good times shared
And laughter through the years.
A life well lived is a legacy
Of joy and pride and pleasure,
A living, lasting memory
Our grateful hearts will treasure.

As you stand (bow?) at your Bema Judgment, hope that your Divine Judge finds that your life has been well lived. Service to God, family, and neighbors can make anyone’s life better lived. I conclude with two basic Scriptures related to the Bema Judgment:

● (Romans 14:10b-12): … For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says Adonai, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. The Greek text is not precisely translated in the Tree of Life Version as “judgment seat of God.” A more precise translation is “judgment seat of the Christ.” “Judgment seat” is the bema. When Paul wrote “it is written,” he referred to Isaiah 49:18, Isaiah 45:23, and Genesis 29:35.

● (2 Corinthians 5:10): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body– whether good or bad.

Today’s RR is too lengthy. I carved out part of today’s RR to be presented as next Sunday’s RR. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 09-Oct-2022 14th of Tishrei, 5783 Erev Sukkot
Ex 33:12-16 Zec 11 2 Ch 32 (Ac 25) Rev 19