I was invited to a Christian event by a friend. I thought to myself, “sure, I would like to attend this event. I’ll get to know more people, connect hearts and ultimately get closer to God.” That’s supposed to be the goal, right?
As I looked at the stage, I saw all the shiny lights, many musicians and dancers with their flashy outfits, adoration, decorations… so much excitement and emotions in the air!
It almost looked like a Hollywood musical, with all the special effects, the praise and worship team setting the stage! We all had our eyes, minds, hearts and emotions fixed on the presentation that was happening. Hundreds of people singing chanting, speaking in tongues, jumping up and down, gazing at the stage as the musicians played and shouting, “Praise God!”
As the last song ended, the band leader shouted, “Glory to God! Praise his name!”
“Amen!” the crowd responded enthusiastically.
“We are selling our CD’s & T-shirts to support and promote our music ministry! You may purchase them as you exit. Donations are accepted. Take a little of the Lord you experienced here home with you. Share this with your family, friends and that special loved one who you desire to know the Lord! Play our CD and meditate. Remember to read the scriptures. Call upon the Lord, and He will draw near to you. Experience your personal relationship with God!”
This was the first time I noticed how believers were promoting themselves like a celebrity or a movie star. They were performing and when the show was over they would shake your hand and sign autographs.
I wondered, ‘Is this how I can get to know Him better? Would being by myself in my room, playing the CD I had purchased over and over again, strengthen my faith? Would it help me get to know the One who created me?
I did this for several years as did many others who had their “God Alone” relationships. We all did. We had one thing in common: we all went home ALONE! Alone to our empty lives void of purpose, not knowing what God’s will was for our lives.
One night in my desperation, I fell on my face asking the God of heaven to help me get to know Him. The next afternoon on my way to work I saw a big detour sign. There was a Billy Graham event at the Montreal forum on St. Catherine’s Street. I noticed a big bus and men with beards and short ponytails and women with long dresses handing out papers.
My bus turned and I got off and went straight to work to clock in. My boss and I had a love/hate relationship; he was an atheist, I was a believer. We would often challenge each other on topics about God and such matters.
When he saw me he sat me down at my desk & handed me a paper he received from some bearded man outside the Billy Graham event.
I looked at the cover of Billy Graham smiling as he kneeled on his own star on Hollywood Boulevard. “This is just not right,” I said out loud.
My boss (laughing) said, “What do you think of your God now? Give this paper a read and let’s talk about it.”
I really wanted to read this paper, but an alarm went off upstairs. I checked it out and came back. My paper was gone! The cleaning lady had thrown it out. At clock-out time my replacement came in and I caught my bus home.
The Hope of Life
Shortly thereafter, I ended up moving east to Nova Scotia. It was there, at the Halifax Historic Center, that I came across people playing folk music and dancing. There were men with beards and short ponytails, and women with long dresses. “This looks familiar,” I thought.
One of them asked me heartfelt questions. “Do you know your created purpose? Do you know God’s will for you? Do you know we were never created to be alone? Do you know we were created to have relationships and relate to others in a real family environment? Do you know there is a life of love and unity that expresses God’s love and true character on the earth? The gospel calls all believers to live such a life!”
“You see,” one of them explained, “isolation, disunity, lack of community and the absence of fellowship is not God’s will for us. In the same way that it was not good for Adam to be alone, it is not good for anyone to be alone. We were created to be bound together by love. The answer to peace is not isolation – but honest and true, restored relationships with each other and our Creator.”
“God desires a relationship with us,” he went on. “He sent his son to redeem us from all selfishness and the lawless deeds of darkness, from the motives and desires of this world. He brings us into the kingdom of His marvelous light, where His spirit dwells. His dwelling place on earth is in a people who have his heart and have surrendered their lives to do God’s will. Because they surrender all, they are being set free from all self-will, selfish motives, self-glory and natural strength. It is a lifetime of surrender choosing to do so every day!”
“The lack of community and the absence of fellowship is not God’s will for us…”
“This is the real deal!” I thought. “It’s a whole life change from everything I was ever taught.”
THE GOOD NEWS… REAL RELATIONSHIPS!
20 years later I am beginning to see just how deep the motivation of self life works in me. I am now starting to see what I need to be saved from. I am grateful to those who loved me enough to bring the true Gospel to my life and help me see the things I am dull and very blind to. They encourage me daily to pick up my cross. Now, all I can do is learn to love, and love to serve my brothers and sisters in the body of Messiah, walking in the works prepared for me every day.
The truth is, Yahshua came in the flesh as a man; He walked in the works prepared for him, as a human being like you and me. He loved, and had real relationships with people. We are learning to do the same.
Our Master’s heart was and is to restore true Godly relationships. God’s love and life is not a stage show or an isolated group. His life is a real life of fellowship between friends, brothers and sisters working together to build up the body of Messiah on earth. We have found that by serving our brothers, sisters, and friends as we cultivate healthy relationships in community. This helps us grow together, and fall in love with Him and each other more and more.
Though most Christians do not believe that it is necessary to keep these feasts nowadays, there is a small number of them who are starting to acknowledge that these feasts could still be relevant. But we are just simple believers without grand doctrinal statements. We keep these festivals because we love the clarity of our Father’s Word and we see how the festivals point to our Saviour. We do not see anywhere in the Bible a command that would make us think that these feasts have been canceled. And because we know the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, our Passover and Day of Atonement is very meaningful.
On the first day of the seventh month we are told to observe a “Day of Shouting” (Lev 23:23-251; Num 29:1-62) on which work is forbidden. This holiday is widely known today by established Judaism as Rosh Hashannah. However, the Bible never calls it Rosh Hashanah, but instead variously calls it Yom Teruah (“Day of Shouting”) and Zicharon Teruah (“Remembrance Shouting”).
Rabbis in Babylon renamed the holiday Rosh Hashannah (“New Year”), claiming it as the Jewish New Year. It is an odd claim, since the Bible refers to this holiday as the beginning of the seventh month. The actual beginning of the year, according to our Father, is the month of Abib, in the spring, as defined in Ex 12:2, which states, “This month will be for you the beginning of months; it is first of the months of the year.”
What’s the Purpose?
There are scriptures that make reference to shouting or crying out loud and/or sounding a trumpet (or shofar – ram’s horn) to call the people of God to repentance, such as Is 58:1.
Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. (Is 58:1)
This is not for the purpose of condemnation, or making people feel bad (as the spirit of worthlessness does) but for the purpose of repentance and healing.
[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
The festival of Yom Teruah is to awaken sin-sleepy Israel to see their desperate need and cry out for deliverance from their spiritual enemies.
Yom Kippur is about “soul-searching” to make sure we are living a life pleasing to God, and are not being hypocrites. It is actually a ten-day period, starting with the blowing of trumpets at Yom Teruah to alert us that it is the time of year to cry out and seek God. We ask Him to show us our hurtful ways so we can repent and be cleansed from them.
Yahshua the Messiah didn’t give His life as a sacrifice so we could just be forgiven, but so that we could be cleansed and saved from our sins! It is one thing to be forgiven (and yes, we need forgiveness) but it does no good to us or Him if we are forgiven over and over again for the same thing our whole lives and are never saved from its power over us.
You will hear trumpets sounding all day long on Yom Teruah if you come by to visit any of our communities on that day.
Yom Teruah alerts us to quit just “fiddling around” with your life and get down to business… are you really about our Father’s business? Or your own business? We need to wake up as to what motivates us, and our wrong ways, and how we’ve gone off, and how we haven’t pleased our Father like we wanted to.
So we have this chance every year, this special time to “wake up” on the trumpet day. Someone shouts, or blows a trumpet and wakes us up and we say, “What? Why? What’s going on?” It is to wake us up spiritually.
…are you really about our Father’s business? Or your own business?
There is an eternity in the mind of our Creator — an eternity of life and peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government, or of peace. So everything that doesn’t make for peace has to be judged and put away in order for that eternity to play out. Whatever is not love, whatever is not joy, whatever is not of peace, whatever is not kindness… (all the fruit of the spirit Gal 5:223).
…it is in the heart of our Creator that He could speak now to His highest creation, and there could be a conversation now about the “why.”
In Rev 21:4-54, it says there is going to come a day when there will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more death! No more Satan! “The former things have passed away.” Everything that is evil will be done away with; it will be finished.
There will come a time when all mankind is going to be raised from the dead to stand before their Creator, and the books are going to be opened — the clear record that is written in every man’s conscience — on what he did and why he did it. Then the “why” is going to come out. Like it or not, the answer is in the book. But, it is in the heart of our Creator that He could speak now to His highest creation, and there could be a conversation now about the “why.” We can get all that worked out beforehand, before all that is left is regret — even eternal regret.
2 Cor 5:151 is the cure for selfishness. The end of selfishness is the end of Satan’s reign; Satan rules the earth through selfishness. He is skillful at planting a simple, selfish thought which, when received by the mind and soul of human beings, brings them under his sway.2
This is Satan’s touch.3 The curse and the fatal flaw of mankind. This is where the soul can be touched and persuaded by evil – the areas that are bent toward pleasing self. Can selfishness be cured?
How can Selfishness be Cured?
Matt 6:31-334 Seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness is seeking the welfare of His people. The kingdom of God is made up of people who do the will of God, his brothers and sisters.5
This is not talking about “random acts of kindness,” this is laying down your life everyday6 to love your brothers and sisters7 and build up the body of Messiah.8
Can selfishness be cured by love?
Selfishness was being cured in the first century, can selfishness be cured today?
The context of Acts 2:449 and 4:3210 is the practical reality of how we no longer live for ourselves, no longer seeking after our own food, clothing and shelter, having been set free to focus on meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters since they are now taking care of your needs. If you are not free to devote yourself to taking care of the needs of your brothers and sisters everyday, then you are still under the power of the evil one who keeps the world in bondage to self-life.
The good news is that you can be set free to love! Today, there are communities of spiritual brothers and sisters who have been and are being set free to no longer live for self. People are being cured of their selfishness!
The gospel brings you out of living for yourself, out of Satan’s reign of selfishness, and into the marvelous light11 of living for Yahshua by spending all your time and energy serving His brothers and sisters. Selfishness can be cured! The gospel is the cure for selfishness.
Eternal life is a free gift.1 Okay, that’s clear. But to whom is it given? According to the word of God it is available for all who overcome everything that is set against the freedom to drink of the water of life.
And He said to me, “It is done, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:6-7)
Now some people would think you were a heretic if you said that one had to actually do something to gain eternal life. But it’s true, there are obstacles that stand in the way of the free gift the Father offers all who trust in His Son. Oh yes, there’s that word: trust. The rich young ruler was one who could not overcome the obstacles that kept him from inheriting eternal life. He would not trust Yahshua.
“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
But the rich young ruler’s trust was in his riches:
Then Jesus [Yahshua] looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God?” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23-24)
So, what Yahshua said in verse 25 was the case for him:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)
In order for the rich young ruler to overcome the obstacle that stood between him and eternal life, he had to do what Yahshua commanded him to do. The disciples understood that this was foundational for all those who would follow Him, not just for this particular man, as some say. So they asked, “Who then can be saved?” Yahshua went on to tell them the good news, which applies to all who wish to receive the free gift of salvation.
So each one must overcome the obstacles, which stand in the way of faith, which grants trust (or belief); and trusting Him completely will motivate us to obey all His commandments.2 So we see from the example of the rich young ruler that eternal life is only given to those who overcome whatever would stand in the way of drinking freely from the water of life.3
Yahshua saw and understood the obstacles that would keep someone from coming to Him to receive the free gift of eternal life. He outlined these things extensively in the gospels, such as:
Your own life
In Revelation 21 it goes on to talk about how those who do not overcome these obstacles (once they are offered the water of life) are the worst kind of criminal, deserving of the second death.
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
First in the list of the worst criminals of humanity in Revelation 21:8 is the cowardly and unbelieving — those who have the privilege of hearing from someone sent from the Father exactly what they must do in order to receive the water of life, and yet they shrink back from trusting and believing.4 The rich young ruler turned out to be a coward and did not believe the Son of God. He may not have been like all the rest of the criminals in the list of Revelation 21:8, but he became the worst of them all.
The Creator of heaven and earth – and the universe – is offering you, through His sons and daughters, to get to know Him and have fellowship (deep, heart to heart communication) with Him and His family forever! Isn’t that the greatest thing you could possibly have? Isn’t that worth giving up everything else for?
It is real, and once you find it, it would be a serious crime to deny it. If you haven’t found that kind of intimate relationship with Him and with brothers and sisters who are becoming more and more like Him everyday, then you haven’t yet found the water of life. If you desire it enough to overcome whatever stands between you and that water, then please, visit one of our communities around the world where the water of life is being freely offered.
Easter is a time when sincere Christians meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our discussions, many seem to consider that the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, ending with His dying on the cross, is what produced forgiveness for the sins of mankind. The whole consideration goes no further than His physical suffering on the cross. You may have imagined what it would have been like to be there, you may have watched the movie The Passion, emotionally stirred by the depictions of His brutal execution. But is there more to it than that? Does the Bible go beyond this?
The answer is: Yes.
To be very simple and direct, without splitting theological hairs, it is necessary to make a distinction between the process of dying and the actual presence of being in death.
Did the Son of God go into death, a state and place where the ultimate agony occurs, or did He just die on the cross, and then rest peacefully in the tomb until the resurrection?
According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, He was made to be sin for us.1 He became all of what our own sins caused us to be like, and took these sins to certain death. He took our place in death. He became what our sins made us into. The only result and consequence of sin is death — not dying, but death — the state and place of being after having died. Death is the only place to deal with sin. Dying is the transition; death is the destination.
How do we know this? Yahshua2 spoke to His disciples about this place in His parable about the rich man and Lazarus, and in His description, He spoke of a place where there was both consciousness and torment. There could even be comfort for some there.
In Luke 16:22 we see that both men died.3 If merely dying were the effective part in dealing with sin, then the story would have ended there. They both died, their sins were dealt with — end of story. But that was not the case.
Yahshua went on to say that something further happened. From verse 23 on, there is action and interaction. This is obviously not in the physical realm, since both their bodies were disposed of in whatever were the burial customs of the day. The rest of the story takes place in another realm — the spiritual realm — death. In that realm there are clearly emotions, consciousness, sensation, will, and intellect.
The rich man was in torment, and this is after him dying. Whatever he died of, and however he suffered in the process, it was not sufficient to deal with his sins. Now, in the place of death — the place of departed spirits — he began to experience what his choices against the promptings of his conscience had brought upon him. It was excruciating, agonizing torment.
Lazarus, the poor man, experienced something entirely different in death. The choices he made, in spite of his terrible circumstances in life, brought him to the place in death where he found comfort after dying.
Yahshua Became Sin
Yahshua became the sin of all of us, and having become the sin of the entire world, experienced no comfort in death. He even experienced what every murderer, liar, or filthy and unjust person would experience in death for eternity. His soul experienced total agony in that place of torment called death.4
What will all who love and practice lying, those who become cowards, unbelievers, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, and idolaters, experience after dying, going to the first death, and then judgment? There will be a horrendous second death.5 Yahshua experienced that as one of them. Having become those exact sins and more, He experienced to the fullest what all mankind deserves to experience, from the least to the greatest, from the best to the worst.
His physical suffering lasted around twelve hours, but His deepest agony in death lasted some seventy-two hours. No play, movie, or Easter story could ever adequately communicate the reality of that suffering. The spiritual is far greater than the physical.
To emphasize the physical torture and suffering only, without understanding what took place beyond that, is to miss the whole point and purpose of His death, burial, and resurrection. Many who grew up hearing the stories of His crucifixion are left with an indelible mark in their psyche concerning His physical suffering. In many there might be an unsettling desire to do something — to respond somehow. But what do you do? How do you respond? Where do you go from here?
When one understands that the sufferings of the Son of God went far beyond the physical, then it becomes clear that the spirit of man will never find peace, or forgiveness, until a fitting response is made… one that corresponds to the enormity of the sacrifice made by the Son of God.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Many take that verse to mean that the physical beating and the flow of His blood are what effected, or brought into reality, the forgiveness of sin. It says in Hebrews 7:22 that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. They take that to mean that the blood flow itself was what produced the forgiveness. It seems that most people view the sufferings of the Son of God from this perspective.
It is true that His physical sufferings were tremendous. Yet many people suffer unimaginable tortures in other parts of the world and die as a result. In His physical suffering, the Son of God didn’t experience worse pain than thousands of other victims of man’s inhumanity to man throughout history. So what makes the difference?
Without dying there is no death. Without death there is no dying.
Most of us can relate in some way to dying. You can see it; you can empathize with someone going through the process. Some have even experienced it to a certain degree, and lived to talk about it.
Death is the frightening reality — the unknown factor. You know it’s there, but you can’t see or experience it ahead of time. Everyone knows instinctively that it’s there, waiting for the dying to be over. Even though some have dared to deny its existence, it hasn’t served to erase the instinctive knowing that every man has.
You watch Him expire on the cross. The minutes, the hours, then days pass. What’s happening? Where is He? What was going on?
The stripes and blood alone didn’t deal with the sin of the whole world. Sin is a spiritual reality with physical manifestations. It must be dealt with spiritually.6
The brutal dying of the Son of God stopped His body from functioning, so that His soul — the very essence of Him — could go into the ultimate horrors of death to experience what every human being must otherwise experience in order to pay for their own sin. This is what Isaiah prophesied, that His soul, not merely His body, would be an offering for sin, experiencing anguish in death on our behalf:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)
The Apostle Peter emphasized repeatedly in Acts 2:24, 27, and 31 the distinction between Messiah’s body that was in the grave and His soul that was suffering agony in Hades, the realm of the dead, until He had paid the full wages of our sin. Everything humanity must suffer to pay for their sin, to the ultimate extreme, the Son of God suffered. His whole purpose for being born was to do this, so that we wouldn’t have to go through that horror.7 There was no resistance in Him, which is why He was able to pay for the infinite guilt of the sins of all mankind in a finite amount of time.8
After accomplishing His work in death, the Son of God went through another spiritual and physical phenomenon. His soul — the essence of Him — was re-united with His physical body. Then the breath of life was breathed into that body that He might live for all eternity. Because He was innocent, death could not hold Him.9 Sin was dealt with forever.10
So He’s alive and somewhere in heaven.11 How do we handle all that? What was He expecting? What is God expecting? What should we do?
If what we now know can penetrate our heart, it causes us to love the One who went through so much for our sake. That love comes from understanding that He sacrificed His whole life for us, and it causes us to want to do the same for Him.12
Those who understood and were pierced to their hearts, not just in their emotions, in Jerusalem, did what all true disciples do.13 Their response corresponded to the sacrifice of the Son of God —a life for a life.
Please contact us to know more about those who are daily giving the proper response to the sacrifice that was made for the sin of all mankind. You are warmly invited to visit us at any of our communities around the world…
It was a hot, sunny day as Andrew walked along the dusty road toward Jerusalem for the Passover. A few steps ahead of him walked his father, head gray with age yet still very strong. It seemed a bit strange to Andrew that it was only he and his father making the journey this year, for in years past, all his brothers and sisters had accompanied them. But they were all grown now and had families of their own to care for, and soon even Andrew himself would probably be leaving home. At Andrew’s heels, following obediently, was his most beautiful young lamb. This was a special lamb, for this lamb was the whole reason for their long trip to Jerusalem. He was also very special to Andrew personally because he loved that lamb more than any other that had ever been born into his family’s small flock.
Andrew’s family were not shepherds as were many of their neighbors, but were fishermen by trade. Yet they did keep a small flock of sheep from which they were able to get enough wool for their clothing, plus provide for other needs. Ever since Andrew had been quite young he had been the one in his family who cared for the sheep, taking them often from one pasture to another, caring faithfully for them. Sometimes he would go out fishing with his older brothers, especially with Simon who was next to him in age, and with whom he was very close. But most of the time he was left home to watch after the sheep and other things there.
Andrew was a good shepherd to the sheep, and loved them all, but this young lamb, which today followed so obediently in his steps, was very close to Andrew’s heart. He glanced back at the lamb as they walked along the road, remembering so clearly the night of its birth. It had been a cool, spring evening and Andrew had taken the flock down into a sheltered valley quite a distance from their house. He realized that it was a bit far to go with them, but he knew that it would be a nice place for them to spend the night. He also knew that one of the sheep was due to have a lamb soon, but he certainly didn’t expect it that night.
As they settled in, he noticed that that certain sheep was behaving strangely. As the night wore on it became obvious that she would soon be having her lamb. This troubled Andrew, for he had never been alone with the sheep when one was having its lamb, especially this far from home. Andrew’s father knew a lot about helping the mother in case she began to have trouble during the delivery. Andrew began praying to the God of his father for a safe delivery.
The dark hours of that night passed very slowly for Andrew. The mother sheep began crying out in distress. Something was wrong. Andrew felt helpless and totally without the wisdom he needed to help her. She continued to bellow in pain, and looked pleadingly toward Andrew for relief. “What should I do?” His heart was breaking as he sat listening to her groans. His mind suddenly flashed back to something his father had been talking about at the table that morning. His father had spoken of how their God would not continue to delay long if he heard the cries of His people for justice and deliverance. His father always talked of such things, but that morning he was speaking with great conviction, and it had struck Andrew to the heart.
Now Andrew felt himself to be in a similar condition. Could he just sit by and let his sheep suffer without even attempting to help? No! He jumped to his feet, breathing a prayer to God for wisdom. Andrew’s hands moved carefully to free the entrapped lamb from its mother’s womb. In just a few minutes it was all over and the lamb lay cuddled at Andrew’s side, as if he knew it was Andrew who had saved his life.
As Andrew looked down at the new lamb, he was immediately struck by its beauty and perfection. The lamb’s soft eyes gazed up at him with a look of seeming gratitude. That night a bit of pain had pierced Andrew’s heart as he watched the first clumsy movements of this spotless male lamb, for he knew what the perfection of this little creature would mean. Though he hated to even think about it, he knew that this lamb would serve a great purpose.
Once a year it was Andrew’s job, since he was the shepherd in the family, to pick out the very best of their young male lambs for Passover. He knew all the sheep well so was able to pick the most perfect and precious of them all. It was always difficult to make this decision because Andrew loved all of the sheep and because each and every one of them was valuable to the livelihood of Andrew’s not so wealthy family. The lamb which he chose was to be given up to their God as a sacrifice. And for Andrew and his family it truly was a sacrifice.
A sacrifice was necessary each year to the God of Israel for the forgiveness of their sins. When Andrew was younger he had not fully understood what this sacrifice was all about, but now he was beginning to see his own sins all too well. Andrew’s father had explained to him many times about their God and about how in the beginning when God first created man, man had sinned. From that sin, death came into the world and only through the shedding of blood could man’s sins be forgiven and he could be saved from eternal death. His father had also explained that it was true mercy that their God had made a way so that they could be forgiven and would not have to die as their sins deserved. God’s way was that they would shed the blood of a lamb. This was their sacrifice. Andrew knew that for it to truly be a sacrifice it must hurt. This was why his family had always been careful to give the most perfect and spotless of their flock to God as He had commanded, giving the one which hurt the most to give.
So this year, as he had every year, Andrew had gone out to the hillside to choose the lamb which they would take to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the back of his mind he already knew which one it must be, but he tried to ignore that voice of his conscience, looking at the different male lambs of the flock, examining each one. “Maybe it should be this one. No, maybe that one…” He was trying to overlook that special lamb which was so close to his heart. Then he felt a tug on the back of his tunic. It was his favorite lamb nibbling at the leather pouch that hung at his side to see if it contained a special treat. Andrew had often brought treats with him just for the purpose of giving them to his favorite of the flock. Looking down at him, Andrew cringed. “How can I try to deceive myself or our God?” he thought. He knew which one was their most precious and perfect passover lamb, and the only one which he could honestly call their “sacrifice.”
In their visits to the Temple, it had often bothered Andrew when he would see people bringing in animals which were puny and sick. He knew that wasn’t right and he couldn’t understand why the priests would just receive them as if they didn’t even notice their flaws. Andrew’s father saw this happening, too, but he had never slacked up on his standard for their own sacrifice. Andrew greatly respected his father for that. His father also never gave the slightest ear to the offers of the men with stands set up in the Temple court, who were selling inferior animals for sacrificing. He knew what was a proper sacrifice that would please their God. All this greatly grieved his father, and Andrew, too, now that he was getting old enough to realize what was going on. It seemed as if the people didn’t think that their God could see their deception. His family knew that God always judged men by their hearts, so they always wanted to give their best. And this little lamb, which today accompanied them on their long journey, was truly their best.
The sun was rising high in the sky now as they walked, making the heat nearly unbearable. Andrew’s father eyed a shady spot up ahead and decided to rest awhile. They sat down in the tall grass under a large tree. Andrew’s father lay back in the grass, sighed, and then began talking as he so often did, especially on this yearly journey to the temple. During these times he would speak about a better day when God would once again speak to His people. He spoke of their people’s need to hear the voice of the prophets in their land. And he spoke of the hope which was nearest his heart, that of the coming of the Messiah. He was old now and his life would soon be over, but he wanted to be sure that this hope burned in the hearts of his sons as it did in his own. Andrew loved to hear his father talk like this, and he had grown to love the God of his father.
As they talked, the little lamb frolicked playfully in the tall grass, eating his fill. Andrew watched him with pleasure, thinking that this was truly the loveliest lamb they had ever had in their small flock. His eyes filled with tears, seeing that young lamb so full of life. He skipped to Andrew’s side and lay down as if sensing his grief. Andrew burst out in tears. “Why, why, father, must he die for my sins? I should be the one to die … I hate my sin. Why am I such a slave to this evil heart of mine?”
His father put his compassionate arm over Andrew’s shoulders, saying, “Son, we need a Savior. We need salvation. Were it not for the mercy of our God, you would have to die for your sins. This is His provision, my son, for death to passover you. And in this there is a greater purpose.”
Andrew continued to sob, thinking of the fact that soon the knife of the priest would be piercing the throat of his precious lamb, draining all of its blood. Looking down at the passover lamb, he said, “Your blood for my sins! I am guilty and you are innocent.”
His father, wiping the tears from his own eyes, being touched himself by the anguish his son expressed, said, “The life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness for our sins.” He, too, hated their plight as fallen men. “All we can do is pray, crying out to our God for the consolation of Israel.”
They sat together silently for a while and then Andrew’s father motioned for them to continue on their journey. The lamb followed submissively without even a command, oblivious to his fate.
As they neared the village of Bethany, they heard the sound of many voices in the distance. They wondered what it could be. Turning aside from the main road, they headed toward the river from where the sound seemed to be coming. As they rounded the top of the hill overlooking the Jordan, they were amazed at what they beheld. In the river stood an unusual-looking man. He was calling out in a loud voice to the crowd that had gathered. He was also baptizing some of the people as they walked out into the river to him. Andrew’s father recognized those being baptized as his fellow Jews.
“What?” he exclaimed, “Is this man baptizing Israel? Only the heathen have ever needed to be baptized. Can this be a prophet of our Holy God, calling His own people to baptism?
They walked quickly down the hill toward the crowd. In the midst of the group, some of the priests and Levites from Jerusalem appeared very disturbed at this man preaching from the water. They yelled to him, “Who are you?” Andrew was glad they had asked that question for that was just what he was wondering. Some people in the crowd answered the question, “He is John the Baptist, sent to us from the God of Israel.” The Levites hushed the crowd, advising them to let the man answer himself.
“I am not the Anointed One,” replied the man they had called John.
“What then, are you Elijah?”
“I am not,” he responded.
“Are you the prophet?”
“No!” he called back.
“Who are you then, so we may give answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
“I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. ‘Make straight the way of our God,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
As Andrew heard these words from John, his heart leaped. He pressed through the crowd to draw nearer to John. The priests and Levites continued their interrogation, “Why, then, are you baptizing if you are not the Anointed One, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
John answered, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
After that he refused to respond to any more questions.
Andrew didn’t like the way the priests were speaking to this man. It seemed strange, because Andrew had always greatly respected and admired the priests and Levites when he had seen them each year at the Temple in Jerusalem. But now they seemed so different. He was puzzled as to why they were treating this man of God with such disdain. To Andrew, it was obvious that this man had been sent from God, and he wanted to hear more from John. Andrew was pleased at the way John was not intimidated by the hostile spirit of the priests and Levites.
Andrew had become so wrapped up in listening to John speak that he had totally forgotten about his father and the whole purpose for their trip. But soon he felt the warm hand of his father rest upon his shoulder. Andrew turned and looked into the eyes of his father, conveying in that one look more than a thousand words could have said. Andrew’s father seemed to be equally as touched by John’s words. Without a word spoken, they turned and walked arm and arm into the cool waters of the Jordan.
“May Israel see the meaning of this baptism!” Andrew’s father shouted as John was baptizing him.
A few moments later, Andrew and his father stood together, dripping wet at the edge of the water. John finished speaking and began walking away. Andrew’s father motioned for his son to come along with him to continue their trip to Jerusalem. Andrew hesitated, glancing in the direction John was walking. His father caught his son’s hesitation and turned, looking him straight in the eyes, saying, “Go, Andrew. Go and do what your heart is telling you to do.” He spoke in a voice torn with emotion. His father embraced him warmly and turned to leave, not looking back. Andrew stooped to pet his passover lamb for the last time.
“May I fulfill the purpose for which I was created as you are fulfilling yours, our sacrificial lamb. There is hope for Israel now, for God has sent us a prophet. Perhaps our redemption comes soon for he speaks of the Anointed One. Oh,” said Andrew, rising to his feet, “I wish you could understand.” He directed the lamb to follow his father.
Andrew watched as his father walked off through the crowd. Andrew knew that the tears that he had seen in his father’s eyes had not been tears of sorrow, but rather of joy. It was a joy coming from deep within, as he realized that what he had desired fervently all his life would soon be coming to pass — perhaps even before his death. His father and the lamb vanished in the crowd and Andrew turned to follow the hope of Israel.
The next day, Andrew stood once again at John’s side as John cried out to the people of Israel of their need for baptism in order to be prepared in their hearts to receive their Anointed One. Then, suddenly, John stood in awe as he gazed upon a certain man who had just approached the crowd. John raised his arm, pointing toward that man and exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Andrew’s heart stopped as he heard these words. His mind went immediately to his own lamb, which was probably at that very moment being slain on the altar for his own sins. “Why did John call this man the lamb of God? Is this God’s own lamb? Did God search heaven for the most perfect, spotless, and precious of His own flock? A lamb that would take away the sins of the whole world? What can this mean?”
The man to whom John was pointing walked into the water, coming to him to be baptized. At first John refused, saying that he was not worthy to do that, but that it should rather be that this man would baptize him. The man insisted, saying, “Please, do it at this time, for all righteousness must be fulfilled.” John then baptized him.
Andrew’s mind was bursting with questions, not fully understanding all that was happening.
As this man came up out of the water, John suddenly called out. “This is He whom I spoke of, saying, ‘After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him before, but He who sent me to baptize in water said, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and now tell you certainly that this is the son of God!”
“The Son of God?!” Andrew didn’t understand much, but he surely knew what it meant when John said, “The Son of God.” As Andrew was pondering these things, the man who was just baptized disappeared into the crowd.
Andrew’s mind was in a turmoil. “Who is this man? Is He God’s Lamb and God’s Son? Is God’s own son the only lamb that can satisfy His standard of perfection? Is this the only sacrifice that God can make which will take away the sin of the whole world? This will surely be the ultimate sacrifice. Is He God’s Passover Lamb sent to Israel for us?” Andrew found no rest for his questioning mind.
“Behold, the Lamb of God!” Those words thundered through Andrew’s mind, piercing his heart, “God’s Lamb… God’s Lamb, the Lamb of God!”
Andrew walked quickly from the water to follow that man of whom John had spoken. Andrew knew in his heart what that meant… the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God…
As in the Bible, the use of the word “man” on this site is not always gender specific. The word “man” in most cases refers to all “mankind” both male and female. Only in cases where the context is obviously referring to an actual man (such as Yahshua the Messiah) is the word specific to the male gender. For our women readers, please feel free to substitute the word “woman” where it may apply.
One of the most difficult things to imagine is: ”how would God act if he were a man?” Or “how would a man act if he was like God?”
Would he be the most loving person? What would that look like?
Would he always be giving thanks and praising his Father and the good he saw in those around him? Would he be expressing joy even while suffering?
Would he communicate with complete and total peace even when others are reacting and accusing him?
Would he have endless patience for those who could never seem to “get it”?
Would he be kind to every one, never making anyone feel like he thought he was better?
Would he be the most generous – giving you the shirt off his back for no apparent reason?
Would he be the most faithful and loyal? A man of his word, doing what he said he would do even if it killed him? Would he be true to his heart and to his word? Would he stand by you as a friend even if he knew you were going to betray his friendship?
Would he be the kind of friend who still loved you when you were down, and down-right unlovable, and brought to your attention the things you did that were hurtful to others? Would he be the kind of man who really listened to what everyone had to say, encouraging what was good and never promoting his own good ideas?
Would he show honour and sincere respect to all women; never making them feel unsafe or worthless, never charming, flirting or degrading?
Would he show interest in children and youth, encouraging them to speak while guiding them with words of wisdom? Would he never be foolish with them, always expecting the best, believing in them while over-looking there maturity?
Would he have a gentle way about him even when sternly correcting someone who was doing something really bad?
Would he be strict with himself, never eating more than he needed or taking anything for himself other than what he needed? Would he deny himself so he could focus on caring for others?
When he prayed, would he pray for others?
Would he never fight back or resist his circumstances, but resist his own urge to seek his own justice?
Would he always be honest but never hurtful?
Would he be more concerned about where your heart was at than whether you did something right or wrong?
Would he be just as forgiving the tenth time you did the same thing wrong as he was the first time you did it?
Would he never blame anyone else, but take the blame even when he didn’t do it?
Would he love you, believe in you, have hope for you and teach you how to be like him?
What king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. (Luke 14:31-32)
The Good News is the message of love between God and man. God loves man with such an intense and compelling passion that He could only express it through incarnation. Only through divinity dwelling in humanity could God fully demonstrate His desire to be one with man — His highest and most precious creation. Love was the compelling force that caused the divine Word to leave behind all His divine rights in heaven to come to earth and take up residence in a man. Only in that way could He deal with the enmity that divided Him from those who were made in His very image and likeness.1
What did God see in us that compelled Him to make such a sacrifice?2 It wasn’t as if the sacrifice He made didn’t come at a great cost to Himself, for it was this very thing that the gospel discloses about His true character and heart, which compels us in the same way to make that corresponding sacrifice of our own lives in surrendering all that we are and have to follow in His footsteps. Somehow, underneath all our accumulated layers of hardened callous, there lay a heart which He knew still had the potential of being reunited with Him to accomplish His purpose on earth — even when we were yet His enemies.3
The story of Jonathan and David gives us understanding of the essence of the gospel. Jonathan was the son of Saul, the first king of Israel. As such, he was the rightful heir to the throne, though David was God’s choice to be king in place of Saul. But Jonathan loved David more than his own right to the throne. If we can’t comprehend the gospel in this story, then we can’t be saved. We will never be united with God, for it is through the covenant of Jonathan and David that we can see the heart of Messiah and the heart of a true disciple and what is required of those who follow Him. It contains the very essence of the true gospel.
In 1 Samuel 18:1-4, Jonathan made a covenant with David (who represents Messiah4) because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his armor and even his sword, bow, and belt. In doing so, Jonathan ratified his covenant with David in an act of total capitulation (surrender) to his coming kingship and kingdom,5 giving himself to David as a servant. This was a sign of his recognition that David was the anointed king.6
Jonathan gave up his kingdom, his sovereignty, to the greater king. He laid down his arms and gave up his possessions — representing his very life. David was to replace Jonathan as heir to the throne, and Jonathan gladly gave David the preeminence. In giving David his robe, he capitulated his own kingdom to the greater king. In giving David his sword, his armor, his bow, and his belt,7 he showed that he was no threat to the authority of the coming king. Jonathan was fully surrendered to David.
David was not a usurper of Saul’s kingdom, but the Spirit of God had come upon him to rule. Samuel had taken the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of God came upon David in power. A small circle of witnesses to David’s anointing assured its reality.8
Do you know a coming king who is worthy of unconditional surrender and capitulation, or is Luke 14:31-33 meaningless to you? Do you see the worth of Messiah as Jonathan saw the worth of David? Like the disciples of Yahshua, Jonathan’s loyalty to David extended beyond earthly ties and loyalty to family — father and mother, wife and children, etc.9
Saul gave in to a Satanic impulse to kill David.10 Those who are under Satan’s control do not recognize the Greater King, nor those who are sent from the King.11 But like Jonathan’s covenant with David, the New Covenant in Messiah seals our loyalty and enduring faithfulness to our King. Our only authority to represent Him is the reality of His Spirit working in our midst — the Spirit of love and unity, which is our only witness. Wherever the fruit of love12 and unity is,13 there the Spirit is poured out without measure,14 and there is eternal life.15
There are many degrees of service and love to Jesus in the system of Christianity, but no such degrees existed in the first church. It was all or nothing.16 You either saw His worth or you didn’t. The proof of recognizing His worth was revealed in your obedience to the call to forsake or forfeit family, possessions, your own life — everything you have and are. Whoever accepts these terms of peace17 receives 100 times as much in return for everything he gives up in this life: homes, farms, families, etc., along with persecution, and eternal life in the age to come.18
In the story of Jonathan and David we can see the essence of the gospel, the message of capitulation — absolute and unconditional surrender to the Greater King. Anything short of this response to the message of salvation does not recognize the worth of Messiah.
Many excuse themselves by saying they are only required to have a willing attitude in forsaking these things for His sake. But our Master said in John 7:17 that if anyone is willing to do His will, then he will recognize it and, of course, do it. He won’t reason it away. Our Master doesn’t have to force recognition of His Kingship upon those who truly hate their own lives.19 The gospel’s demands simply expose our innermost heart — what we deem to be of greater worth than Him.
If the gospel you’ve heard did not communicate to your very heart the worth of Messiah, compelling you to give up all to follow Him, then you aren’t saved. If the gospel you heard did communicate that to you, then you will be loving as He loved.20 It takes a 100% sacrificial response on both sides — His side and ours. That is what brings about the establishment of New Testament Community, because we are all on common ground through our common sacrificial response of love for one another. He gave up all — we give up all. In that way we become one in the covenant community of Messiah. That is how His Kingdom can come through the Good News. Is it good news to you?
REAL. That’s the word you would use to describe him. He wasn’t playing a game. He wasn’t projecting some image, trying to get people to look up to him. If ever you asked him to tell you about himself, he might say something like, “I am who I am.”
That would be a pretty good description. There wasn’t a speck of deceit in him. He didn’t have anything up his sleeve. He was exactly what he appeared to be. He said exactly what he meant. And that’s why people loved him. Or hated him.
Some people promise you the moon, but he wasn’t like that. There was sub-stance to what he said. He talked about real things. Like greed. And fear. And selfishness. Things that are inside everybody. Things that phonies don’t want to admit and cowards don’t want to face up to.
But he wasn’t gloomy and depressing. He was full of joy and full of hope. He knew a way out. That’s why he talked about those real problems: because he knew that those things were taking people to death, and he didn’t want them to go to death. He wanted them to be full of life — life that would never end.
He talked about love — real love — not some word you hear in a song that makes you feel good until the song ends, and not some plastic religious pretense. The love he talked about was the love he lived. Love that costs you something. Love that costs you your life.
That’s why he didn’t just give people the same old song and take off, leaving them in the dust. His life wasn’t his own. He got right down there in the dust with them and healed their hurts and helped them through their hard times and dealt with the stuff inside them that was taking them to death.
And he didn’t just help people out for a while and then go home, either. He didn’t have a home of his own. The only home he had was the people that he loved. They were his everything. He loved them so much that he wanted them to be with him. He called them to follow him, to leave behind homes and families and possessions and, of course, self, and embark with him on a radical life of loving the same way he loved.
It was a high calling. Just think about it: actually caring for others at the expense of your own interests. Who could live such a life? Many have tried and failed. But to those who are needy and desperate and trust in him, he gives the power to do what would naturally be impossible.
We follow this man Yahshua.1 How could we do anything else? He proved his love for us by taking our place in death. We never knew love like that before — a love that is stronger that death. He is the one whom death could not hold. He is our everything.