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Is Yeshua the Messiah?

August 3rd, 2009

Given that our entire faith rests in the person of Yeshua (Jesus), that He was indeed the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world, it is critical that evidence be found for this claim in the Scriptures.
 
Following His death and resurrection, the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) record the following conversation that Yeshua had with His disciples.

“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
 
And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ [Messiah] to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49 New King James Version [NKJV]).

In this passage, Luke, a 1st Century disciple and a chronicler of Yeshua’s life (Gospel of Luke), records Yeshua’s assertion that the Jewish Scriptures (i.e. Law of Moses, Prophets, Psalms) repeatedly spoke of the coming of Messiah in terms of His life, death, and resurrection. Not only do the Jewish Scriptures speak of this suffering Messiah, Yeshua further declared that “repentance and remission of sins” came through Him, and that this message was to be proclaimed throughout the entire world, beginning in Jerusalem.
 
Luke’s assertion that Yeshua “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” is further indication of the disciple’s firm belief that Yeshua was the very Son of God, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.
 
Another of Yeshua’s disciples, John, also recorded the life and ministry of the Messiah. He makes explicit statements regarding the person and character of Yeshua as he describes the ministry of John the Baptist, who came preaching a message of repentance, warning Israel to prepare for the coming of her Messiah.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-18 NKJV).

There can be no doubt that John believed Yeshua was the Messiah, a belief which included his conviction that Yeshua was the incarnate God Himself. His commitment to Yeshua’s deity concurs with the prophet Isaiah who had prophesied the coming of Messiah some 700 years earlier.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV).

Early in Yeshua’s ministry, as recorded by John, we see evidence that others recognized the messianic credentials of Yeshua. Here’s how John records it:

…Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
 
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
 
Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [John 1:43-51 NKJV]

Numerous citations from the New Covenant Scriptures demonstrate both Yeshua’s claim and the disciples’ belief that he was indeed Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.

We welcome your comments and questions about our belief that Yeshua (Jesus) is Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of all who repent and trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Jews and Gentiles Approaching HaShem

May 6th, 2009

In his discussion about the futility of trying to gain merit with God through law-keeping, the Apostle Paul (Rabbi Shaul) wrote that it is through Messiah Yeshua that the “blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (Galatians 3:14).
 
Later in this same chapter of Galatians [v.28] Paul says that there is “neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Messiah Yeshua). And if you are Christ’s (Messiah’s), then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”

It seems obvious that Paul is not negating ethnic or gender realities – and in the context of his time, he also acknowledges the fact that slavery was a functioning institution. His point was simply that these categories are not significant in terms of one’s standing before God. All are lost in sin, and all need salvation which is available through Messiah Jesus alone.

When Paul wrote to the believers in ancient Ephesus he said that it was always God’s plan to bring both Jew and Gentile together as one. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two…” (Ephesians 2:13-15).

Jew and Gentile alike stand equal before God, and all alike must come to God in the same way – through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the long-promised Messiah of Israel and the Savior of all who believe in him.

We’d love to discuss this further. Leave and comment and begin the conversation.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Targeting Jews?

May 5th, 2009

As I stepped out of my car one morning, upon arriving at work, I heard a voice calling to me. I turned to see a young Jewish man (a Lubavitcher as I learned later) approaching me.

“What kind of a place is this? It looks like a synagogue, but any knowledgeable Jew would know that a synagogue would not have the words “New Covenant” in their name, unless they attended a synagogue like _______ (he named a large reform synagogue). But then, those are probably the Jews you are targeting.”

“Oh, targeting Jews,” I responded. “Well, if you know anything at all about evangelical Christians, you will know that we ‘target’ the whole world. We are interested in talking about Jesus with anyone who is open to speaking with us.” I then went on to explain that many evangelical ministries focus on specific people groups, and that the ministry I represented was committed to sharing the gospel with anyone, giving a particular focus to the Jewish community.

We often face objections from both Jews and non-Jews about our desire to explain the gospel to Jewish people. But we are convinced that Christians have a responsibility to share their faith with everyone, including the Jewish community.

The New Testament Scriptures are clear, all people should hear the gospel. It was Jesus himself who commissioned his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19 NIV*] The Apostle Paul (the former Rabbi Shaul before coming to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Savior) wrote:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (gentile).” [Romans 1:16 NIV]

There was no question in Paul’s mind but that the gospel message – salvation, the forgiveness of sins – is a message that must be shared with all, beginning with the Jewish community. How tragic it would be if we failed to share the message of Messiah Jesus with those who have been “entrusted with the very words of God” [Romans 3:2 NIV].

While we “target” Jews no more than any other people group – we speak with far more Gentiles than Jews – we make no apology for seeking to “Encourage Conversation about Jesus” with the Jewish people we meet.

Without reservation we believe Jesus is our only hope of salvation. It was the Apostle Peter (a Jewish believer in Jesus) who declared to the Jewish religious leaders of his day:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” [Acts 4:12 NIV].

As long as God gives us the ability, we will share this wonderful news of salvation in Yeshua (Jesus) with everyone who is willing to listen, including Jewish people.

We’d love to talk about this with you.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.
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NIV = The Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

April 23rd, 2009

A few months ago, publishers of SEVEN magazine asked me to write a cover article entitled “Easter: Is it for Real?” for their March 1, 2009 issue. You can read the full article, and the whole issue, online. Scroll down the page for the appropriate PDF of the magazine. Below is a brief overview of the article.
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“Could you come over and explain the real meaning of Easter to our boys? I don’t want them to think that Easter is only about the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs.” Though expressing no open commitment to the Christian faith, this young couple instinctively knew that the story of Jesus dying and rising again was at the heart of Easter, that it was something important for their young boys to know.

Christians, at least in the evangelical branch in which I was raised, tend to make a great deal of fuss over Christmas, while observing the surrounding events of Jesus’ death and resurrection with relatively little fanfare. And yet, Easter presents a great opportunity to talk about the heart of Christianity – that Jesus lived, died and rose again to make atonement for our sins.

A couple of years ago, while discussing Judaism and Christianity with an orthodox rabbi, he challenged me: “Prior to his crucifixion and alleged resurrection, why would a first century Jew have believed that Jesus was the Messiah?” In calling the resurrection “alleged,” my rabbi friend was stating he did not believe it to be true. However, though I doubt he meant to do so, his comment underscored the importance of the resurrection as the crucial, watershed issue in establishing the credibility of Christianity.

Given its vital importance, are there reasonable evidences for believing Jesus actually rose from the dead? There are four common lines of evidence for the physical resurrection of Messiah Jesus.

    The Old Testament Scriptures clearly predicted the death and resurrection.
    Jesus really died. It may seem strange to raise this as evidence, but many refute the resurrection by claiming that Jesus never really died.
    The empty tomb – Where is his body? To this day, no one has ever produced the body of Jesus.
    Jesus appeared to many people in different places.

Aside from the factual evidence above, the circumstantial evidence for Messiah’s resurrection is simply too great to ignore. As Christians we are committed to the truthfulness of Scripture – both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament scriptures. It is God’s Word – we believe what it says. But not everyone shares our commitment to the veracity of Scripture. So is there anything else to which we can appeal? There are several matters demanding plausible alternative explanations, if we are to deny the resurrection of Jesus. Here are just a few.

    The radical change in behavior of the disciples must be explained.
    The conversion of hardened skeptics is significant.
    The worldwide existence of the Christian church cannot be ignored.

However, as valuable as apologetics is, I believe one of the best defenses for the reality of the resurrection is the testimony of a transformed life. The New Testament says “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Just as Jerusalem’s citizens marveled at the bold witness of the early Christians, our culture also takes note of those who live authentic lives. When Christian faith truly informs a believer’s life – in marriage and family relationships, in one’s work ethic, in one’s interests and ambitions – the surrounding community takes note that something powerful is at work in that life.

This was surely true in ancient Thessalonica, for Paul wrote to them: “…your faith in God has become known everywhere…we do not need to say anything about it … they tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10).

As important as it is to be informed about the reasons for believing in the resurrection, Christians must also be transformed by that resurrection power residing in them through God’s Holy Spirit. It is that empowering presence of God’s Spirit in one’s life that compels the Christian to share the great news that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Please read the full article . And as always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Jesus is for Jews too!

April 22nd, 2009

New Covenant Forum encourages conversation about Jesus. We believe that humankind’s only hope of salvation, forgiveness of sins and right standing with God, is found only through faith in Jesus.

We believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah of Israel – the one of whom the ancient Hebrew prophets spoke. The Apostle Peter, a first century (CE) Jewish fisherman who became a Jesus follower spoke of this in his first epistle. In an extended discussion about the living hope Jesus followers have, he says:

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was reavealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into. [1 Peter 1:10-12 New King James Version]

We believe the New Testament scriptures when they record that Jesus voluntarily laid down his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who will believe in Him. We also believe that it is our responsibility to take this good news – salvation and freedom from the guilt of sin is available in Yeshua – to the entire world.

We also believe that this message is critically important for the worldwide Jewish community. Jesus was born a Jew, lived a Jewish life, and included Jewish people in his atoning sacrifice on that cursed tree. This gospel that has been embraced by millions the world over is a good news message for Jewish people too.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of keeping the Jewish community in mind when declaring the gospel message of salvation in Jesus. In his letter to the believers in Rome, he writes:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (gentile). For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’. [Romans 1:16-17 New King James Version – emphasis mine]

Generally speaking, Jewish people are conditioned to reject the messiahship of Jesus, to view Him simply as the gentile god. But that is not how the first century Jewish followers of Jesus saw things. It is certainly not how the Bible (e.g. New Testament) speaks. The gospel message must go to the entire world – the Jewish community included.

Because there is so much misconception about Jesus among contemporary Jews, we are committed to encouraging conversation about Jesus. As far as is humanly possible, we want Jewish people to respond to Jesus out of a clear understanding of who He is, why He came, and what He did on our behalf.

We welcome your comments.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Finding Jesus in the Torah

April 20th, 2009

According to the Bible, Adam & Eve, the human father and mother of all humanity, lived in a perfect world – the Garden of Eden. Placed in this perfect environment by Almighty God Himself, history’s first man and woman had complete freedom to enjoy the fruit of this paradise with but one exception. The Scriptures tell us that God clearly prohibited Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of one tree in the center of this garden – a tree Scripture describes as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” [Genesis 2:9].*

Very soon in the biblical story, we find the evil one coming to Eve and tempting her to disobey God’s clear command to avoid eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden. It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.'” And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die, but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths.

They heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day; and the man and his wife hid from the LORD God among the tree of the garden. The LORD God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree from which I had forbidden you to eat?” [Genesis 3:1-11]

In a moment of disobedience everything changed. A perfect relationship with the Creator was broken, a pristine world was lost, and the innocence of human nature was utterly destroyed. The evidence that everything had changed is seen in the response of Adam and Eve to God’s presence: “the man and his wife hid from the LORD God…” Centuries later, when writing to followers of Jesus in Rome, the Apostle Paul conveyed the utter ruin brought about by this willful act of rebellion against God’s clear directive:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… [Romans 5:12 New King James Version].

The Apostle states that the sin of our first parents plunged the entire human race into sin. When they sinned, they corrupted their human nature, and because of that all their offspring are born with fallen natures that must be redeemed and regenerated.

Returning to our Genesis 3 text, we discover that Adam, when confronted by God, blames their failure to obey God’s directive on Eve: “The woman you put at my side – she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12), his wife. Eve in turn, casts blame on the serpent – on the devil himself: “The serpent duped me, and I ate” [Genesis 3:13].

A just, holy God must be true to His character and word. He had warned Adam and Eve of the consequences of disobedience, and now He must act. Their disobedience resulted in their expulsion from the Garden, and consigned them to a life of battling with sinful tendencies. However, even in his words of judgment, God demonstrates his mercy and grace.

Addressing the serpent directly, God says:

Because you have done this, accursed are you beyond all beasts of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will pound your head, and you will bite his heel [Genesis 3:14-15 Tanach: The Stone Edition, Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 1996 – emphasis mine].

Did you catch the singular pronouns in the final sentence of that biblical quote? When God says there will be enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed, He points to an ultimate showdown between two individuals. The serpent, a representation of Satan, will bite the heel of the one who will pound the head of the serpent.

I believe this is the first biblical reference to the redeemer who comes to atone for the sins of all who will accept him. This is none other than promised Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the World – Yeshua haMashiach – Jesus the Messiah.

When Jesus came to earth, He came to fulfill Torah. He is the only person who has ever been completely Torah observant. Having fulfilled the Law’s demands, Jesus voluntarily gave his life to make atonement for the sins of all who will repent and place their trust in Him. In dying on that accursed tree, Jesus in fact defeated Satan, and made full and complete atonement available to all who will believe.

In future posts, I hope to explore this salvation more deeply. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and questions. New Covenant Forum actively encourages conversation about Jesus. Whether by commenting on this post, or by emailing directly, I hope you will join the conversation.

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.
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*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society, 1985, 1999 – The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press. 2004.

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A deliverance greater than Purim!

March 9th, 2009

Purim is one of the happiest holidays in the Jewish calendar for it commemorates a mighty deliverance for the ancient Jewish people. The biblical book of Esther recounts the story and the origins of the celebration.

The historical setting is 473 B.C.E., near the end of the 70 years of Babylonian exile, when many Jews were living in exile in Persia. Powerful King Ahasuerus had a right hand man named Haman who hated Jews and longed to see them exterminated. His implacable hatred of all Jews was conceived in his utter disregard for one Jewish man – Mordecai. Determined to rid himself of Mordecai, and every other Jew in the empire, Haman devised a scheme to enlist the support of the King himself. In chilling words, all too familiar to the Jewish community, Haman prevailed upon the King with these words:

“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let it be recorded that they be destroyed…” (Esther 3:8-9 – The Stone Edition Tanach, Artscroll Series).

King Ahasuerus gave Haman permission to carry out his evil plot, even providing his signet ring to Haman, ensuring that the Persian people understood the King was in full agreement with Haman’s plan. The biblical text identifies Haman as the “son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 3:1 The Stone Edition Tanach, Artscroll Series). Students of the Bible will recognize “Agagite” as hearkening back to the days of King Saul.

During Saul’s reign in Israel, God had commanded him to utterly destroy King Agag and the Amalekite people. Saul failed in that responsibility, a failure that cost him and his descendents the throne of Israel. We should not miss the fact that Haman’s presence is a direct consequence of Saul’s failure to carry out God’s directive concerning the Amalekites. Haman was a descendant of Agag. Had Saul been obedient, there would have been no descendants of Agag to pose this threat to the Jews.

The biblical book of Esther tells the story of God’s (though he is never mentioned once in the text) sovereign control of history. By providentially bringing Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman, into the Persian King’s household as his queen, God ensured that Haman’s plot would fail. I encourage you to get a Bible and read the story for yourself.

Haman’s evil plot failed, God preserved his covenant people, and Mordecai proclaimed an annual celebration whereby Jewish people would remember their mighty deliverance from annihilation.

…these days are recalled and observed in every generaton: by every family, every province, and every city. And these days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the memory of them shall never perish among their descendants” (Esther 9:28 – Tanach, Jewish Publication Society).

As history readily shows, the dramatic deliverance in ancient Persia, was just one of many divine interventions, ensuring the survival of the Jewish people. The survival of the Jewish people, along with the presence of the modern state of Israel, is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Millennia ago, he declared through the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus said the LORD, Who established the sun for light by day, The laws of moon and stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is LORD of Hosts: If these laws should ever be annulled by Me – declares the LORD – Only then would the offspring of Israel cease to be a nation before Me for all time. Thus said the LORD: If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done – declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37 – Tanach, Jewish Publication Society).

As long as creation stands, the King of the Universe will ensure the survival of the Israelite people. Jewish people have faced many enemies throughout their long history, and from them all God has given faithful deliverance.

I believe God’s promise to preserve the Jewish people is a promise for this life. However, there is an afterlife, an eternity where every man, woman, boy and girl will dwell – either in the presence of God or in a place called Hell, forever separated from Almighty God.

Yeshua (Jesus), God’s anointed Messiah, came to earth nearly 2000 years ago. Isaiah prophecied that Messiah would come to bear the sins of his people (Isaiah 53), and this is exactly what we see in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He was the one that John the Baptizer said was “the Lamb of God”  (John 1:36). As the Lamb of God, Jesus came to bear the sins of all who would believe in him. He is the perfect sacrifice – he is the only one who could identify with us and bear our sins before a just and holy God. Of him, the writer of Hebrews said:

…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 – Holy Bible: New International Version.

 How tragic then, if at the end of this life, the greatest deliverance God will ever provide should be missed. It is right and proper to celebrate Purim – it was a divine intervention of miraculous dimensions. It was the faithful arm of a promise-keeping God.

But this same God has declared that salvation – deliverance from an eternal death – can only be found through faith in his Messiah – Yeshua. We read of Jesus in the New Covenant book of Galatians:

[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:4-5 – Holy Bible: New International Version).

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Looking for Messiah

March 6th, 2009

L’Chaim-Toronto is a free weekly publication available at many shops and businesses in the Jewish sections of Toronto. Published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Brooklyn, NY, the newsletter addresses items of interest to Jewish people. I often pick up the newsletter because it provides a window into the thinking of the Lubavitch branch of Judaism.

The June 1, 2007 issue carried an article entitled “When Did That Happen?” addressing the importance of recognizing the arrival of the Messianic Era. After describing how many Jewish sages understood the arrival of Moshiach (Messiah), the article reminds readers of the teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “…the time of the Redemption has arrived, if we open our eyes we can see that the table is literally set for the Messianic banquet, all we need to do is greet Moshiach.”

Though one would be hard-pressed to define a single view of Messiah within Judaism – some looking for a personal Messiah, others for a Messianic age, and still others for no Messiah at all – it is clear that within Lubavitch circles, there is an anticipation of a divine Messiah.

For example, the author writes: “Since the creation of the world nearly 6,000 years ago, when the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters (and as the commentaries explain, the ‘spirit’ is that of Moshiach), we have been moving toward Moshiach and the Redemption” [emphasis mine].

I find it fascinating that this Lubavitcher writer understands this Biblical text as a reference to the Messiah! The text in question (Genesis 1:1-2) reads as follows in a popular Jewish translation: “In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth – when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters – …” Stone Edition, [emphasis mine]

If the “spirit of G-d” or the “Divine Presence” mentioned in Genesis 1:2 is really the “‘spirit’ of Moshiach”, as the writer of the article contends, then we have an amazing declaration of the deity of Messiah. What is even more amazing is the fact that the Scriptures will show that this Messiah is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.  While the Lubavitch community would refuse the messianic credentials of Jesus, the assertion that the “spirit of G-d” is the “‘spirit’ of Moshiach” can lead to no other conclusion.

Numerous Biblical prophecies regarding the coming of Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus. The New Covenant Scriptures clearly connect Jesus with creation.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV)

The presence of Messiah Jesus so permeates the Bible (both the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures) that, without intending to do so, the writer of the L’Chaim article points directly to Jesus as the one who reveals God to us because he is God manifest in human flesh.

The writer concludes with a call to live as one will live in the Messianic age – “performing additional acts of goodness and kindness; studying more Torah; experiencing Jewish living more fully; trying to see G-d’s hand everywhere.”

My prayer is that those longing for the coming of Messiah will discover that He has already come to provide redemption through His death and resurrection, and that He is coming again to receive all who have placed their trust in Him.

[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the weill of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. [Galatians 1:4-5 NIV]

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Doing what Christians do

March 4th, 2009

I vividly recall a conversation I once had with a friend – a devoutly orthodox Jewish man. We were talking about my vocation as an evangelical Christian pastor, and in particular, about my desire to share the gospel of Jesus (Yeshua) with Jewish people. As we talked, he said:

“I don’t like what you do, but I understand why you do it. You are simply doing what Christians are supposed to do. Christians are supposed to share their faith with others, including Jewish people.”

In saying this, my friend was concuring with something the Apostle Peter wrote to first century Christians scattered throughout the ancient world of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1). To them he wrote:

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).

As Christians we have been called to go into the entire world, seeking a hearing for the gospel. We have the words of Yeshua to that effect.

“Jesus came to them [his disciples] and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

A few years ago a Lubavitch young man accused me of “targeting Jews” in my work at New Covenant Forum. I replied:

“If you know anything about Christianity, you will know that Christians ‘target’ the whole world. We are interested in speaking with anyone who is not a follower of Messiah Jesus. And in our desire to share our faith as widely as we can, we share that message with Jewish people also. Why would we go to the whole world and neglect to share our deepest beliefs with our Jewish friends and neighbors?”

As implausible as it might sound right now, there is a day coming when thousands upon thousands of Jewish people will acknowledge Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) as their Messiah and Savior. Rabbi-turned-gospel-preacher, Paul, wrote to the ancient church at Rome about a coming time when many of his countrymen, Jewish men and women, would turn to Messiah in repentance and faith (See Romans 9,10,11). We work in anticipation of that coming day, and we look forward with eager anticipation for the time when the Apostle John’s vision becomes current reality.

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb [Jesus]. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb'” (Revelation 7:9-10 NIV).

My friend was right. I am simply doing what Christians do. I’d love to talk with you about that if you care to post a comment.

 

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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Standing between Moses and Jesus

March 3rd, 2009

On a recent visit to Israel, I had the privilege of attending a week-night Bible study provided for the homeless and others afflicted with various addictions.

As the meeting opened, the leader welcomed me and asked me to share a few words. Speaking through two interpreters – Hebrew and Russian – I shared my testimony of coming to faith in Jesus – of repenting of my sin and trusting in his atoning sacrifice as payment for my sin. I spoke of my desire to tell others of the forgiveness of sins available in Jesus. Without warning, a homeless woman in the group interrupted me. Speaking in flawless English, she said:

“I was raised in a Jewish home. We faithfully attended synagogue where I was taught to obey God by following Moses. I have attended a few of these studies and you are telling us to follow Jesus. Now I’m standing in the middle – between Moses and Jesus. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to follow – Moses or Jesus?”

I responded by saying that if she truly followed Moses, she would eventually find Jesus, for Moses spoke of Jesus. Jesus said:

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46).*

After a bit more conversation, I suggested the Bible study leader take over so that everyone present could better enter into the discussion about following Jesus.

Since that evening in Israel, I’ve been reflecting on how Moses spoke of Jesus.

We read in the gospel of Luke (New Testament Scriptures) about Yeshua (Jesus) encountering two men walking along the road to Emmaus. This was following his death, burial and resurrection. As Jesus approached the men, the Scriptures record that they were “kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). He asked them what they were intently discussing and they related the events of the previous days – the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. This was the one who they had hoped was the Messiah, the one who would redeem Israel. But he had been put to death, and it seemed all hope was lost. Now, amazingly, the tomb of Yeshua (Jesus) had been found empty and that women had been told by angels that Yeshua was alive!

As they continued walking, Yeshua responded:

“‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ (Messiah) have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

I am convinced that a proper reading of the Tanach – the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians refer to as the Old Testament – leads directly to Yeshua. Isaiah spoke of him as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:1-12.

Though many would have us believe that Jesus is for Gentiles, we are convinced that he is first of all for his own people – the people of Israel. Along with rabbi-turned-apostle, Saul of Tarsus, who was later named Paul, we are

“…not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is reavealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17).

We believe Jesus is for all who will acknowledge their sin and need of a Savior. It is this wonderful gospel of God’s grace that we want to share with all who are open to listening.

We welcome your comment and response to our belief that salvation is found in Yeshua alone.

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version.

 

Contributed by David Daniels, former General Director of New Covenant Forum and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond Hill.

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