Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blind Spots in the Body

When Martin Luther emerged as a groundbreaking man of faith after nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the Church in 1517, he also believed that God would return salvation to the Jews. In 1514 Luther wrote:

"Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working — or rather playing — from without."

He had that partially right. We can't make anyone see if God has not given them eyes to see. God has to give the revelation to every man - Jew or Gentile - before they can see Jesus.

Luther was completely right that God would return salvation to the Jews. The last nine years of his life though, Luther had become a bitter Christian anti-Semite, penning his infamous treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies.

Apparently Luther came to resent the Jews for not appreciating his position advocating for them. I guess he expected the Jews to be more responsive to him because he was not antagonistic toward them for their rejection of Jesus.

He understood that salvation comes by a revelation of Yeshua that only God can give a person, but what Luther did not understand is that there is a plan of God in operation. In other words, a plan that has a specific time table.

The apostle Paul laid it out very clearly in Romans 9-11, but this plan is also a revelation that must be given by God. We cannot make anyone in the Church or elsewhere see what the plan of God is concerning the Jews, or the timing He has put on His plan which will ultimately see "all Israel" receive the revelation of their Messiah's identity.

What happened to Martin Luther is a little scary, isn't it?

He knew God was going to save the Jews, but allowed himself to become bitter over the Jews not doing so in his timing.

In his turning bitter toward the Jews in the last decade of his life, he really fulfilled the word of wisdom in Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."

How much of Christian history has been defiled by the bitterness that took root in Martin Luther against the Jews? He started out well, with an open heart but ended up bitter because his open heart did not unlock the closed hearts of the Jews. The time was not yet, but Luther did not have that revelation.

I wish I had a dollar for every time that after I shared my connection to praying with the Israeli Messianic Jews, and a Christian responded to me in alarm, "What about the Palestinians?" 'Yes, I know,' I explain. 'We pray for both the Jewish and the Arab believers in Israel.'

What I don't say is, 'Your exclusion of care and support for Israeli Jews is not my exclusion of care and support for the Palestinians believers. It isn't either/or, it is one new man in Messiah. Not that there isn't a lot of Palestinian-hatred expressed among Christian Israel supporters. That position is wicked too.

This is the fine line we walk as Christian supporters of Israel. Always a fine line because we are walking through one heck of spiritual minefield in every way. Israel is the center of the storm because the plan of God is being consummated here.

Some Christians don't believe God intends the salvation of Israel on a national scale. Other Israel-supporting Christians do not believe they have a part to play in the salvation of the Jews. The latter is a belief that Jewish salvation is something that God alone will accomplish - much like Martin Luther's quote in this opening - and that it will not occur until after all the Christians have been removed from the earth in the Rapture.

That is not what I believe because I see God is already pouring out the revelation of salvation by Yeshua to Jews. The salvation of the Jews has been occurring in an increasing manner that parallels the return of Jews to the Promised Land, the re-establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of the capital, Jerusalem. It continues to increase even in the present as those radical enemies of God's Israel in neighboring states are being loosed from the short leash of secular dictators.

The Ezekiel vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was the prophetic picture God gave for what He has been doing in the return from exile of the Jews, as well as the spiritual restoration of Israel. It is a progression that unfolds as it is prophetically commanded on earth. (Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven) When the Church sees that this is the will of God and begins to speak into it like Ezekiel did.

There is a timing of the salvation of Israel and we are moving swiftly now through the rapids in the stream of time toward it.

Despite all that, half of the Christian church does not even believe God even has a plan that includes Israel's salvation. They do not view current events as the fury of the demonic unleashed upon the center of God's will in this season.

How they miss that is a mystery but they cannot recognize it as it is clearly imparted in the Scripture, nor are they able to see it in its fulfillment in real time. It is a revelation that is given by God. Don't let that word revelation scare you. It just means that God shares a nugget of His wisdom, knowledge and understanding with us so we can begin to grasp His love, His Word or His plan.

If God does not give us understanding, then no amount of teaching, preaching or debate will awaken us to the truth of the matter. And it does not matter if Christians are activists working exclusively for the plight of the Palestinian people, or if they are just apathetic toward the Jews denying there is any special purpose that God still has for them - classic replacement theology - there is no way "to make them" see His continued purposes for Israel. Only God can give a heart to see.

Deuteronomy 29:4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

This was the state of the children of Israel in Moses time and throughout biblical history. God knew from the beginning that when the Messiah would walk among them, they would not be able to perceive Him BECAUSE God had foreordained it to be so. Romans 11:30-32:

For as you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Jesus also confirmed what Moses had declared of the children of Israel from the beginning:

Mat 13:15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Do you get that? Paul also said in Romans that "blindness in part has befallen Israel." Why? So through the Jews' unbelief, God could widen the net of His catch to salvation of all the nations. Yet, it is so clear that He intends to return with mercy to the Jewish people, "that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy."

Mercy. That's what Martin Luther ran out of and it defiled generations of Christians toward the Jews.

We have to be careful that we don't run out of mercy too because in America, Jews often vote for Liberal humanistic values and that doesn't set well with many a Christian-Zionist. I see it expressed in political blogs that I frequent and it really irritates even the most conservative of Republican Jews to see a 'more Zionist than thou' attitude from Christian Israel-supporters.

We also have to be careful that we don't run out of mercy in the face of persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Israel. Not that we have un-sanctified mercy toward their persecutors, excusing or ignoring the aggressions as if they didn't exist. (Or toward the Islamist terrorists for that matter! Terrorists are terrorists.)

Rather, we must stand up and condemn persecution - even when it comes via religious Jewish zealots. We must keep the understanding before us that the apostle who wrote the lion's share of the New Covenant was a persecutor of the Jewish believers just like the anti-missionaries are today.

Spiritually, we have to join in with the Israeli Jewish believers in appealing to Heaven for God to send their persecutors a light from heaven - the same as He sent understanding to the apostle Paul so long ago. The anti-missionaries of modern Israel are EXACTLY like the anti-missionary of the Book of Acts. We are living in the days of Acts chapter 29.

Likewise, we cannot make Christians see who do not have a heart to perceive what God is doing among the Jews in our time - restoring Jewish spiritual eyes to see Yeshua and to hear the good news of His salvation. Blindness in part has befallen them. God is not a respecter of persons. Blindness in part befell Israel and now blindness in part has befallen the Church. In the end though will emerge one new man from the two in Messiah.

This is a great mystery of God to me. On one hand many of those Christians who deny the return of God's purposes to Israel in these last days, are among those portions of the Church that have had so many other truths restored - like the truth that God is still healing and delivering people today and the other miraculous gifts we see the first century believers walked in.

It is a mystery to me that many of the most ardent Christian Israel-supporters do not much believe in the spiritual gifts of the Bible still operating in our day, but they do get the revelation of the salvation of Israel. The only way I can understand this mystery is that God is going to humble both segments of Christians with the understanding at some point that neither of them has it all, and they both need each other for a more complete expression of who He is.

As the apostle Paul broke out in praise after explaining the mystery of God's blinding the Jews to Messiah in Romans 11:33: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

On a personal note, a couple of years ago I set out to try to discover how to address the spiritually cutting edge Church that did not understand that God is currently pouring out upon the Jews a heart to perceive Yeshua/Jesus is Messiah. I had been immersed in Messianic Judaism for two decades and felt like I needed a refresher course on how the Church generally regarded the Jews and Israel.

I'll be honest, I've had to struggle with anger and disillusionment at what I've heard. Even though I know only God can open the eyes of their hearts, it has been very hard for me to hear the statements and bear with the attitudes. It so permeates some sectors of the church and they do not even know how offensive some of the expressions are.

On the other hand, I have grown really impatient with much in the Messianic movement, like what I consider too much emphasis on the traditions that are more rabbinic than scriptural. Or, how Christians who join with the Messianic movement not being encouraged to celebrate their own identity in Yeshua rather than adopting a "Jewish lifestyle". That is not how Yeshua makes one new man in Messiah. We can learn to appreciate our Jewish roots without starting to dress like the Frum in Mea Shearim.

I think these things which are not scripturally balanced make for the pitfall of so many in Messianic Judaism falling from faith because they prefer to return to Judaism. We have to be vigilant against providing conditions that make it easy to lose our way.

Not that I am perfect, not by a long shot, but I am longing for the manifestation of the authentic one new man in Messiah. Less than that has become increasingly unsatisfying to me. So I have been living one foot in the Messianic movement and one foot in the Church that doesn't perceive that salvation of the Jews is happening right now - and it is a bona fide prophetic fulfillment of the scriptural plan of God.

What would one new man in Messiah look like?

To me it would look like Jews and Gentiles who are as different in expression as a man and a woman, a husband and wife. Not competing with each other, but complimenting each other in the life the walk together. One, but different; mutually respectful. Equal before God, but serving separate callings before Him, too. The freedom of a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. A Messianic Jew to be a Messianic Jew and a Christian to be a Christian.

The reason I began to write this note was to encourage us, you and me, not to become bitter over those who are still blind to God's purposes in Yeshua/Jesus. We all have blind spots and mercy is clearly the antidote God intends us to use to help others overcome their blind spots.