Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What does the Civil Rights, Women's Rights and Messianic Movement share in common?

What does the Civil Rights, Women's Rights and Messianic Movement share in common? More than you might think.

In each instance God was restoring eroded spiritual truths and in the process the vessels He used to do this were greatly opposed by the Church. The strongholds that held Christians captive from understanding God's will for equality of Blacks and Women, is the same type of stronghold that resists what God is doing in our day to restore salvation (Yeshua) to Israel.

In 1863 President Lincoln signed an executive order called the Emancipation Proclamation but it was not until the 1960's Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. that real normalcy began to break on the scene.

It was 1848 that the first women's rights convention was held in the United States, and even though women won the right to vote in 1920, it would also be the 1960's before real gender equality began to normalize in the United States.

In 1897, Theodor Herzl called the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, toward the goal of the reestablishment of a Jewish state of Israel. European Jews would still face an near genocide in the Holocaust of the 1940's but the state of Israel would be declared at the end of that war in 1948...with much warfare accompanying it. In 1967, during the American "Jesus Movement," the first leaders of what would become the Messianic Jewish movement were saved.

This morning I woke up thinking about how recognition of the Messianic Jewish portion of the Body of Christ must be a stronghold in those refuse, because for people of faith this should be a slam dunk - it is so obvious in Scripture.

I was reminded of how many Christians refused the concept of equality for Blacks or for Women, both should have been much easier for people of faith to lay hold of the justice of equality for both of these groups, but that was not the case. It makes me reconsider the root of Christian resistance against recognizing how God is doing a new thing in our day.

As obstinate as the South was to recognize their sin of making a race of people their slaves, is this any less obstinate of the refusal of such a great many across Christendom to recognize that God is doing a unique work among the Jewish people and the nation of Israel? Is the resistance to treating our Messianic Jewish brothers as equals in the Body any less than the obstinacy that denied women their place in the world?

In each of these major movements in history - which I have pondered many times over the last three decades - the Church was an integral part of the breakthrough and it was also a major log jam damming up the free flowing stream of God-given freedom.

In the first two movements, even though Christians held key roles at various times in pressing for equality, other ungodly forces were also pressing for equality.

In the abolition of slavery, Abraham Lincoln was forced to preside over the Civil War because the good Christians of the South could not discern from scriptures that God had created all men to bear His likeness. When God raised up Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a non-violent Civil Rights movement, ungodly forces raised up Malcolm X.

In the Women's Suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Staton represented the ungodly forces seeking equality for women, while Lucretia Mott - who along with Staton called for the first women's right conference in 1848 - was a Quaker preacher. A sermon delivered by Lucretia Mott in 1849, show us the hypocrisy she was confronting in the Church regarding both slavery and women's rights:

"It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ....Instead of engaging in the exercise of peace, justice, and mercy, how many of the professors are arrayed against him in opposition to those great principles even as were his opposers in his day. Instead of being the bold nonconformist (if I may so speak) that he was, they are adhering to old church usages, and worn-out forms and exhibiting little of a Christ like disposition and character. " *1

Today, I am convinced that the acceptance of God's active return to restore Israel to salvation and the Messianic Jewish movement He is using to facilitate that is no less a major crisis of Christian conscience that was the long and hard fight for racial and gender equality in America.

Anyone can justify anything by the scriptures. Those Christians who opposed ending slavery found a scriptural basis to oppose, but as we stand here today in the year 2011, I challenge you to find someone who chalks this up anything less than a deep deficiency in spiritual judgment.

The same goes for all those Christians who opposed allowing women to enjoy the fresh air of liberty and equality. Scriptures were found and pieced together to present plausible biblical reasons for denying women the right to vote, the right to a fair day's wages, the right to not be treated like livestock or property by their husbands.

What? Do you think good Christian men didn't treat their wives like this? Did good Christians not mistreat slaves, beat them, break up families like they were breaking up a litter of puppies? When we do not have a conscience toward God, when our hearts choose to believe in doctrines that deny the freedom and liberty of others - Blacks, Women, Messianic Jews - then our conscience becomes seared toward those groups.

I realize that some readers may be shocked and revolted that I am equating the battle for the soul of Christianity that has been waged in American history over Women's and Civil Rights to the opposition of the spiritual equality of Messianic Jews.

First the natural, then the spiritual. The opposition to recognizing the hand of God in the salvation of Israel in our day is more than a matter of doctrinal convictions. It is a stronghold upon much of Christianity, just as strong as that which gripped the hearts and minds of those who opposed integration and equal pay.

Understand this, opposition to what God is doing cannot be successfully resisted. Even as He began to set the nation right in racial and gender equality, the LORD Himself is at work in restoring the place of the "Hebrews" in their rightful and honorable place in the Body of Messiah.

Paul warned the Romans against arrogance against Israel: "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Paul warned, "But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root."

People quibble over who the root is, but the main thrust of that statement is the same thing that Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin about opposing Jesus: Watch out about opposing what God is doing.

If Paul wrote that "all Israel shall be saved. As it is written," then I would say that all the Christians who say Israel is no longer of any significance are standing on extremely dangerous ground....in exactly the arrogance Paul warned us not to fall into.

If you are experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit after reading these things regarding your own attitudes toward Israel or toward the Jewish Body of Messiah, please pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come boldly before Your Throne of grace by the blood of Jesus, not depending upon my own righteousness, but the righteous which is by faith in Your Son. Father, I do not want to be held captive by any stronghold that would blind me to what You are doing to return Israel to salvation through Your Son. I confess that I harbor a sense of superiority in my faith over the the faith of Messianic Jews. I confess that where I am not judgmental about the convictions of other Christian denominations, when it comes to Messianic Jews I have been obviously judgmental. I confess that I have rejected the validity of the convictions and faith of those Jewish believers, and also mocking of those who say God is moving to save Israel today. I do not want to be found working in opposition to Your purposes among the Jewish people or Israel, so I ask You, Father, to break any strongholds within my thought processes that put me on the wrong side of what You are doing. Reveal the roots of error and help me to eradicate every trace of religious pride that raises itself up against what You are doing to reveal the Messiah in and through Israel. Give me the grace to receive deliverance from this stronghold, and revelation to perceive Your heart in the matter. In the Name which every knee shall bow to as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Yeshua, Salvation, God with us.

1. This sermon was delivered at the Cherry Street Meeting in Philadelphia, September 30, 1849