June 2011 Yavoh

Spiritual Forensics

Not everyone who says to Me, “‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” MAT 7:21-23

Personally, those are some of the most chilling words that Yeshua ever spoke. He is declaring that some “believers” among us are not really believers at all. They have deceived themselves into being believers by replicating certain actions to appear as believers.

I once knew a Jew who attended our former Messianic congregation who began visiting a local Jewish synagogue. In about six months word came to me that he now doubted the messiahship of Yeshua and had begun to teach an anti-missionary class at that synagogue. He was somewhat of a celebrity in the Jewish community (one of their own had returned to the flock) and escaped the clutches of the deceptive Messianic Jews.

In a last chance effort to speak with him, I was able to get a short sit-down with him. Since we had not spoken since he left, I asked for one last opportunity to understand why he had so quickly left the faith of Yeshua.

He argued that Yeshua couldn’t be the Messiah. Rather than play to his misinformation, I asked about his past when he had begun to believe in Yeshua. He questioned me in return, “You mean, when I became a Christian?” I replied with a “Yes.”

He then proceeded to tell me that five years previously he admitted that he hated Christians in general and that one night he prayed to God to help him not hate. According to him, he awoke the next morning and didn’t feel the hatred anymore. “That’s when I became a Christian.”

I once met a “Christian” young lady who explained that she always was a believer. She had two Christian parents who had both gone to Bible College and she was born into their home; therefore, she believed she was Christian from the very beginning.
I knew a Head Deacon of one the largest Baptist churches in my city who, upon hearing a new evangelist preach one night, came forward to “get saved.” Although being a Christian leader for many years, he confessed that he didn’t know or understand what any of it had meant.

I could go on with more testimonials, but I think you know what I am referring to. There are “brethren” in our midst—nice people, sometimes even leaders—who simply do not “believe” in Yeshua as the Messiah, Son of God, and who do not have the gift of eternal life. They have passed themselves off as believers to the point where everyone around them and they themselves think they are believers.

The very idea that there could be fellow brethren in and associated with this ministry who do not know the Lord is stunning to me; however, I have come to understand that there are such people and it causes me to wonder when I do not see them faithful and steadfast in their walk of faith.

I call this subject Spiritual Forensics.

Forensics is the science of investigation, where evidence is gathered to draw a reasonable conclusion and judgment. It is most commonly used in our legal system to determine guilt or innocence using scientific data. In our application, spiritual forensics investigates to see if there is enough evidence to determine if the person is a true believer. Don’t misunderstand me; God is the ultimate judge and He can see the heart. We can only examine the outer things to see if the person is really being true to themselves (and God). When we see paradoxes and evidence of saying one thing but doing another, that is evidence contrary to true faith. When we hear the rationale for their faith and see open disconnects to God and the truth, those too are evidence contrary to the faith.

In the course of my ministry I have often asked audiences if they believe that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God. Since I speak to mostly “Christian” audiences, their response is almost unanimously “Yes.” I then ask why they believe that and ask for supporting evidence to back up their belief. This is where the sheep begin to scatter. Most believers I have met must think long and hard to form even a modest attempt to answer.

I have cataloged some of their answers. They tend to follow these lines of thinking.

1. “Yeshua did a lot of miracles and fulfilled a lot of prophesies.”

It is true that Yeshua accomplished many miracles recorded in the Bible, but I also have known doctors who have done “miracles” of healing and actual “faith healers” credited with miracles. However, they are not the Messiah and Yeshua is not the Messiah because of the miracles.

There are many prophecies in the Bible. I know Jews who admit that Yeshua did some Messianic things but they don’t believe He fulfilled all of the prophecies that the Messiah was supposed to. For example, they are looking for the Messiah to “bring back the scattered exiles to the Promised Land from all the nations.” In Yeshua's day, there were many from the House of Israel (northern kingdom) who did not come back to the land.

Most Christians know some of the prophecies about Yeshua’s birth (Bethlehem) and his death by crucifixion, but they cannot correlate nor speak to the expectation from a Hebrew perspective. Their evidence is scant at best and highly biased by Church teachings. Their proof evaporates when they cannot explain the host of other prophecies given in the Bible.

If your answer is not greater than this simple explanation, there is not enough evidence to convince anyone that you are a true believer.

2. “Others have studied this subject and I agree with their conclusion.”

You are right. Many generations of Christians have studied the subject of Jesus the Christ for a long time. However, those who have studied are not in complete agreement with one another. In fact, some say Yeshua is deity (God) and others say He is not. Some say that the Biblical record (the Bible) is trustworthy and others say that it is a flawed set of manuscripts copied multiple times by biased individuals to make a codex in support of their particular beliefs.

Every man has his opinion, and expressing one’s opinion that Yeshua is the Messiah does not make Him the Messiah any more than saying that I believe in flying saucers and that settles the question of whether aliens exist. Let’s step it up a level. If we collect a number of people sharing the same opinion it does not establish the truth over a single opinion. The opinion is now being expressed by a mob. The democratic process and the opinion of the majority of the citizens of the world do not establish truth or that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah.

Many Christians rightfully respect those who have taught them before. I am grateful for those who have taught me the faith in the past, but despite my respect and good opinion of them, they do not determine who the Messiah is.

When we base our faith on what others have said, it is faith based on hearsay. Hearsay is not considered to be valid evidence for anything. Even unbelievers know that hearsay cannot be used to prove anything. In fact, hearsay tends to be the evidence used by a mob and the Bible commands us not to join a mob in any decision. The Bible teaches that there must be the evidence of two or three to establish a truth. There must be confirmation. Specifically, the Bible teaches that a single witness is insufficient to determine the truth.

If your Messianic leader, pastor, or Sunday school teacher believes that Yeshua is the Messiah, then it is simply their opinion being expressed. It is insufficient to establish the truth, and relying on their opinion is insufficient for your faith to be true faith.

3. “I just believe that Yeshua is the Messiah.”

While I applaud your conviction and passion for wanting to believe, the Bible emphatically says that faith is not the expression of your might or will. Despite your best effort, your strong will does not determine that Yeshua is the Messiah or that you believe in Him. I have seen a lot of footfall fans cheer for their team, put their money where their mouth is by betting on them, and pray earnestly for the victory, only to watch defeat. None of their will determined the outcome of the game. Likewise, a devout Christian exercising his will toward God does not make Yeshua the Messiah.

Actually, the Bible refers to this kind of faith as presumption. It is not faith at all. Presumption is the playground of false teachers and false prophets. When you presume things to be true and act on that presumption, more times than not you discover that you presumed incorrectly. The consequences of these judgments can be severe.

I am concerned about many of my own brethren across the spectrum of the Messianic Movement and whether they really trust the Lord. I have watched their lives and many times their faith simply does not work for them at all. When life’s bumps and grinds occur they don’t seem to have anything in the tank, so to speak, to help them. I watch them call on others for help instead of asking the Lord first.

Let us be straight about this. We know from the Biblical record that God has done great things in the past for His people. We know that God said that He will one day bring about reconciliation to this world – justice will be done; however, what do we believe when we need God’s help today? Most of the brethren I have met have a blank stare when their day of trouble happens. They don’t believe that God will do anything for them in that day.

What good is your faith if God is not going to hear you and act on your behalf in the day of your trouble? Why do we do these religious things and speak of a future with God if He is not involved with our daily lives?

In John’s Gospel, the apostle frequently addresses the conversations and issues where believers or people who you would think are believers are confronted with the person of Yeshua. In many of these exchanges, Yeshua walks away explaining why they are not and never were believers. Even the disciples themselves went through some personal examples of expressing belief and then being proved that they didn’t.

Some of these examples stand out profoundly for us. Take the example of Mary and Martha. Along with their brother Lazarus, these two sisters were close friends of Yeshua. Yeshua stayed with them in Bethany whenever He visited Jerusalem. When Lazarus died, the two sisters did not believe that Yeshua the Messiah could do anything for them. They believed that if Yeshua had been there before Lazarus had died He could have healed their brother. They believed that one day Yeshua would raise their brother to live in the kingdom, but they did not believe He could do anything for them that day despite Yeshua speaking of being able to help them in that day. Even the disciples were not sure what Yeshua could do. They had nothing to encourage the two sisters.

When Lazarus came forth by Yeshua’s command, Yeshua clearly stated that He was not trying prove that the Father heard Him. Instead, He wanted us to believe that the Father had sent Yeshua, and thus He was the Messiah.

Lazarus did come forth and everyone present to the miracle started believing. Even the professional mourners from Jerusalem believed and shared with everyone what had happened.

I know that a couple of millennia have passed but why don’t we believe?

Peter is another example. He was not only Yeshua’s friend, he spoke out boldly in favor of Yeshua. Do you remember how he boldly proclaimed that he would not leave Yeshua? The day he declared his faithfulness was Passover. Yeshua explained to him that he would specifically deny Him three times before he would hear a cock crow twice. He also said that Satan had demanded permission to sift him like wheat.

Just as Yeshua had said, Peter denied association with Him. How then are we to answer the question? Did Peter truly believe in Yeshua, or was he fooling himself and covering over his own unbelief with brave statements? It appears that was the case.

Later, after Yeshua’s resurrection, Yeshua had breakfast with Peter and the disciples on the banks of the Galilee. Yeshua asked Peter then if he loved Him. Three times Yeshua asked him the same question. He was really asking Peter after his denial if he believed in Him. Peter’s final answer was simply, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You.”

It appears from this event that Peter learned something very important about belief in Yeshua. It is not based on his will or a strong expression of his will. Peter learned that Yeshua’s provocative questioning was to get him to examine his heart and acknowledge himself. He realized he would need Yeshua’s help to be the disciple he knew Yeshua wanted him to be.

As we prepare for the end of the ages and the coming of the Lord, the most important part of preparation is our own faith. Yeshua questioned all of His disciples before He left. Will the Son of Man find faith when He returns? Yeshua was questioning whether His followers would learn the lessons of believing that are expressed in the Gospel of John.

Don’t misunderstand me here. Physical preparation is good and wise, but it is not our salvation. That credit belongs to the Lord and to Him alone. You can have all the weapons and ammo you can carry; you can have tankers full of clean water and water purification equipment; you can have all the MREs (meals ready to eat) you can possibly store; but if you lose heart and cease to believe and have hope, you are a dead person. Your provisions will be meaningless.

On the other hand, if you believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the same God who led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt, and preserved them in the wilderness for forty years with water from a Rock and manna with the dew, then you will make it. You will survive and be delivered from whatever is happening in the world.

This is the deliverance described in the Bible for the tribulation saints – God saves His people.

But to believe in God and to endure the days ahead will require true faith and belief in the Messiah. Being half-hearted about your faith will harm you faster than any enemy of God can, for a simple reason: the enemy attacks from outside, but falling from the faith is an attack inside the camp. In fact, it is an attack in the very heart of the person and the damage done here is far more devastating.

Oh by the way, the Bible does predict that there will be a great falling away from the faith in the last days. Consider what the Apostle Paul had to say about this apostasy.

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the Great Tribulation] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,… 2TH 2:3 (emphasis mine)

Christian theologians have developed a consensus that those who fall away from the faith in fulfillment of this prophecy are not true believers. I agree with that consensus. The stress of those days will be greater than the faith of those who said they were believers but weren’t.

At the Feast of Unleavened Bread we were commanded to remove the leaven from our homes and lives. We know this to be a great spiritual lesson about cleaning out old and dead things (like sin) from our lives. Following that lesson, we have been counting the omer for seven complete weeks plus one day, totaling 50 days leading to Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) Pentecost. This year of 2012, Shavuot is on Sunday, June 12.

Shavuot is the day of proclamation. It is a day that commemorates God declaring the Ten Commandments and giving us the Torah. It is the day that God gave us the Holy Spirit as described in Acts 2 with the disciples proclaiming their faith in Yeshua. It is also a day for us to proclaim our faith in Yeshua and take a mikveh bath.

Each year at Shavuot I do not hesitate to proclaim my faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of God. I also take a mikveh bath. I want everyone to know and be a witness to my proclamation of faith. It is part of believing in the Father who sent Yeshua to us. It is important to me and to everyone around me that my testimony of belief be real and true. I expect God to deliver me in the day of my trouble, whenever that happens. I want other brethren to hear my testimony of faith directly; I don’t want them to assume anything about me.

I want the same from my brethren. I do not want to assume that they are believers only to watch them fall away because their faith failed a test. I want to see their faith and hear their proclamation. Yeshua wants the same thing from us. That is why we observe Shavuot each year. Let us make sure that our proclamation of faith is true.

It is essential to the strength of our faith that we know and understand why Yeshua is the Messiah. We need to see and examine the evidence that we base our judgment and faith on. We should be honest with ourselves and recognize that others have encouraged us to believe but that our faith is not based on them alone. We need to understand the nature of the miracles that Yeshua did – they were the works of God. We need to understand the prophecies that foretold of the Messiah and weigh Yeshua’s words and deeds with them.

I want to be prepared in my heart to give an answer to why I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. I want to explain how God promised through Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets how the Messiah was to come. I want to share how Yeshua did the exact signs of Moses. I want to show how Yeshua performed works of God that no man could do, such as giving sight to a man born blind, healing a man born lame, cleansing lepers from an incurable disease, and that He raised a man dead for four days from the grave and He Himself was raised from His own grave after three days and three nights. I also want to tell my own testimony of how I came to know God and do believe what He said.

But most of all, I want other brethren with me in the camp who can speak to the same facts and share their own testimony of God in their lives.

Yeshua told a parable about a Master who had a house with many servants. It goes that the Master went on a long journey and some of the servants forgot about the Master and proceeded to party and ignore the day when the Master would return. They were not faithful but instead did their own thing. Other servants, however, remained faithful and waited expectantly at the gate. According to Yeshua, the Master did eventually return and rewarded those servants who were waiting and who were faithful. The other servants were severely judged and removed from the house.

Yeshua wasn’t kidding. Our faith should be unfaltering. Our faith applies whether it is the Sabbath or any work day of the week. Our faith matters whether we are working, playing, or hanging out with friends. Believing requires a whole-hearted commitment. It is the difference between life and death.

Soon, the end of the age will be upon us. I am glad many of you are taking the subject seriously despite the rejection (even scoffing) and opposition of the world. I commend you that you are serious about preparation. But I encourage you to make sure that your spiritual preparation (spiritual forensics: who you are and Who do you believe in) takes precedence over everything else.