The “rabbi” who was actually a Christian

Here’s a fun story from the Times of Israel:

WARSAW, Poland — Taking a glass half-full approach to the extraordinary saga of the “rabbi” who duped a Polish community for years about his Orthodox credentials, but who turned out to have been a Catholic ex-cook, Poland’s chief rabbi noted endearingly Thursday that nobody in Poland would have pretended to be a Jewish religious leader just a few decades ago.

The deception achieved by Ciechanow-born Jacek Niszczota — who passed himself off as Israel-born Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell to the satisfaction of the Poznan Jewish community that utilized his volunteer services — is indicative of a growing interest within Poland in its once-large Jewish community, which was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said.

“Who, 30 years ago in this country, would have pretended to be a rabbi, to say nothing of 70 years ago?” Schudrich asked.

Schudrich added that he had met Niszczota/Nistell a few times, and always found him to be “very sweet and smiley.” Still, he stressed, it was not good that the man misrepresented himself

I think it’s fair to say that there are a more than few people in the Messianic movement doing something similar. But look, if you’re convincing enough, you’ll win the Chief Rabbi’s respect!

Israeli Messianic leader Howard Bass on Larnaca Statement: “compromising post-modern Christian humanism”

Well said Howard Bass:

This joint statement by 30 believers from Israel and the Palestinian Authority (disputed territories), sponsored by the Lausanne Movement, was issued in February. It purports to present a Biblical approach to conflict resolution between the Jewish and the Arab believers in Yeshua/Yasua/Jesus. You can read the full statement here: https://www.lausanne.org/about/blog/mena-updates/larnaca-statement

What struck me about the statement is the total absence of any reference to the coming again of the Lord, or that Islam is a direct rejection of YHVH, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. For all its ‘niceness’, it is not really a “Christian” statement, IMO, but rather humanistic in its approach, however well-intentioned, giving “narrative” priority over the unchanging truth of God’s Word as we have received it in the whole Bible.

This is a compromising post-modern Christian humanism, rather than sound Biblical faith in the sovereignty and wisdom of the one true God. Therefore, all their hope is, practically speaking, in this world only — that man can make this world right — and they are all frustrated and/or angry at the state of things that find no earthly, human resolution.

The answer which YHVH God has given is the proclamation of the gospel until the end of the age, the coming Day of the LORD/ the day of vengeance of our God, and the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ to make the world right. All glory to God, and to the Lamb upon the Throne!

Jamie Cowen: If you reject Palestinian nationalism, you’re a racist

Writing on Kehila News, Jamie Cowen makes the claim that “many Zionists inadvertently contribute to racism.” Cowen contends:

“There are still millions of Arabs who live in a stateless condition. Quite frankly, what they want to call themselves or any future state that is established is up to them. But it’s a form of racial discrimination to claim an ethnic group has no right to its own nation, especially when it’s not part of another nation nor does it want to be part of another nation.

I believe we can be fervent Zionists and still care for the Palestinian people and seek a solution for their and our well-being. To devalue and delegitimize another group is racist and, quite frankly, ungodly. While blame for a political quagmire certainly can be laid at the feet of Palestinian leadership, what good does it do to constantly raise the issue without also seeking a just and fair solution? Let’s be a people who fervently support the Jewish state, but who also call for ultimate justice for all people, including Arabs living under Israeli rule.

The definitions of racism given by the Oxford English Dictionary are as follows:

  • Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior
  • The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races:

Cowen’s definition of racism is a new one, to “devalue and delegitimize another group”. But this does not sit quite right with me. If you do not consider a group to have racial or ethnic characteristics which are particular to themselves or inform their behaviour, and your criticism of a movement related to that group does not discuss their race or ethnicity, then how can you possibly be considered a racist?

If Cowen is to accuse Messianic Jews who do not recognise Palestinian nationalism of racism, then he ought to at least provide the historical context which led them to this conclusion.

Palestine was one area of Ottoman Syria within the Ottoman Caliphate, with a continuing and unbroken Jewish presence especially in Jerusalem, and which tolerated Jewish emigration during the 19th century. The Ottoman Caliphate lost the First World War, at which point Britain assumed control of the region of Palestine, whilst France oversaw Syria. The right of the Jewish people to their homeland in Palestine had been outlined clearly in the San Remo Resolution of 1920.

Here are minutes from the League of Nations in 1926, in which the Arabs insist on calling Palestine “Southern Syria”:

Arabs claimed that it was not in conformity with Article 22 of the Mandate to print the initials and even the words “Eretz Israel” after the name “Palestine” while refusing the Arabs the title “Surial Janonbiah” (“Southern Syria”) […]  As a set-off to this, certain of the Arab politicians suggested that the country should be called “Southern Syria” in order to emphasise its close relation with another Arab State.

At the time, it was in vogue to believe that Palestine was part of a notional Arab nation, and could be dubbed “Southern Syria”, and that Syria itself was part of a Caliphate whose “Rightly Guided Leader” would be an Arab, not a Turk as under the Ottomans. This was the teaching of Rashid Rida, who inspired The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini.

A state was promised both to the Jews and the Arabs in this area; the Arabs however rejected the UN’s partition plan. The day after Israel was declared a nation, five Arab armies invaded, and were repelled by the nascent Jewish state, which nevertheless suffered significant loss of life. Many Arabs left the Jewish state at this time due to the war situation, responding from a call from the Arab Higher Committee to flee the Jewish state until it would be defeated by the Arab armies. Around the same time, many Jews
were forced out of Arab countries after a string of anti-Semitic pogroms, creating two refugee scenarios.

Israel survived the war, and built up the Jewish state as Egypt occupied the coastal territory of Gaza (Gush Katif), and Jordan occupied the areas of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). During this time, Jordan and Egypt did nothing to build up state institutions, and did not suggest giving the Arabs of these territories sovereignty in a Palestinian state. In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was established.

In its founding Palestine charter, the PLO rejected all Palestinian claims to Gaza or the West Bank, and said they were only interested in taking over the territory currently held by the Jewish state. You can read it for yourself, in Article 24:

This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.

The West Bank and Gaza became attractive to the PLO, then, once Israel occupied these territories. In other words, Palestinian nationalism defined Palestine as wherever the Jews were present between the river and the sea. It was less about asserting Palestinian nationalism, and more about undermining Jewish nationalism.

Since then, Palestinian leadership under both Arafat and Abbas have been offered a sovereign Palestinian state with Israel making significant compromises in order to enable it, only to reject these offers.

There are Zionists who are aware of this history, and are skeptical to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism, because they consider it to be a euphemism for ending Jewish nationalism.

There are also Zionists who – in spite of their awareness of history and their pessimism about contemporary Palestinian politics – nevertheless affirm Palestinian nationalism and agree with the Israeli government that the best solution is a two-state solution for Israeli people and Palestinian people, side-by-side. They would agree that Palestinian national identity is a recent innovation, whilst also taking the position that most national identities are constructs as such, and ought to be recognised and celebrated. These Zionists will recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism, whilst refusing to accept any Palestinian state that would pose an existential and demonstrable threat to Israel’s national security.

This, then, is the division – not between evil racists and good liberals in Israel, but between two non-racist and honest Israeli approaches to the same question.

Is it then fair to portray skeptics of Palestinian nationalism as ungodly racists? I think it is not.

Yet these are the fruits of the Larnaca Statement which Cowen signed. Professing itself piously to bring unity to believers, it actually did the opposite. Larnaca framed opponents of “theological resistance for Palestine” as liars, and celebrated its proponents as beloved allies. Larnaca dishonestly bracketed murderous Palestinian terrorism and responsible Israeli counter-terrorism together as “lethal acts of violence.”Cowen then failed to represent our critique of Larnaca accurately. In the latest production on this conveyor belt of theological chaos, Cowen has now smeared his brothers in Christ who hold to differing political opinions than he does, as ungodly racists.

I think Cowen should reword his critique of people he disagrees with politically, in a more accurate manner.

Is blogging damaging to serious theology?

Reformed Christian theologian Derek W. B. Thomas wrote in Always Reforming:

It is to be feared that the democratisation of the theological process (every blogger now demands the right to have centre stage and equal validity) destabilises serious theological engagement. The church’s affirmation of its ‘tradition’ becomes engagement with last week’s posting.

As one of the blog readers pointed out, Thomas himself has a blog on Reformation 21.

In any case, I consider this quote to accurately sum up a common attitude amongst some theologians towards blogging. In their minds, they are engaged in the serious academic work, and therefore blogs somehow cheapen and dilute this effort; even “destabilising” it.

Anglican theologian Christopher Wright recently commented, in allusion to the Rosh Pina Project, that our recent critiques of the Larnaca statement were “hostile personal attacks.” Wright was defending the Larnaca Statement, which bracketed terrorism and counter-terrorist self-defence together as “lethal acts of violence” (drawing moral equivalence between immoral murder and moral response to murder) whilst dismissing “lies on blogs” –  again a not-so-subtle swipe at RPP.

So are these academic theologians correct? Do they have a point? Are blogs to be despised for their lack of academic acceptance?

You have to say that, just because someone puts in a lot of serious academic study into a topic, and makes a career out of this quest, does not mean that we should accept their opinions as authoritative, as what they are claiming in their tomes may still be wrong.

Paul was God’s designated apostle to the Gentiles, who nevertheless preached to the Jews first, including in the synagogue at Berea. The Jews there searched the Scriptures, and judged Paul against these. Rather than getting uppity about this, or suggesting that the Bereans lacked Paul’s professional training, Paul actually commended them, and commended others to act like the Bereans.

The authority we submit to is the Word of God, not to someone’s theological study. Paul wrote bluntly:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians discusses the idea that wisdom is not achieved by worldly effort or logic, but rather.by revelation from the Holy Spirit. We should weigh his words carefully:

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Did Paul go to a theological seminary? Did he publish his academic PhD as a 500-page book? The theological critique of bloggers, then, is incredibly hypocritical, because in one breath they are implying that seminary and academic training is a prerequisite to theological wisdom, and in the next breath they are explaining the words of Paul: a yeshiva graduate who concluded that all his theological training was of no value, compared to his personal relationship to the Messiah, and who wrote that wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit, rather than by worldly approaches.

Paul wrote to the Philippians:

If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

There is indeed value in serious theological scholarship. We have much to learn from interacting with serious scholars, but their work is also to be weighed against Scripture. What counts is not the medium you use for your message (blog or book); what counts is your message itself. In any case, were Paul’s letters closer to blog entries or theology books? It is not so easy a question.

The fear here is that bloggers will take focus away from academic theologians as the go-to source for Scriptural insight. This overlooks that believers ought to go directly to Scripture, and are welcome to use any appropriate tools to better understand it. Also, we are a priesthood of all believers, and your observations on Scripture do not count for more because you have theological training; rather, they count if you yourself are faithful to Scripture, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your reading and understanding.

Through the authority of Scripture, lay believers have all the legitimacy and rights they need to challenge views preached by the clerics, and their public actions, which do not correspond to sound teaching. This was the view of the early Reformers, and this motivation is what drove us to liberate ourselves from the legalistic and heretical teachings of Rome in the first place.

You do not need a badge of authenticity to be taken seriously on theology. The Wycliffe Bible translation was an unlicensed translation, and truth does not demand affirmation from peers.

The teachings of men who handle God’s Word have always been discussed in cafes and living rooms – now the conversation is public on blogs.

It’s a conversation which you participate in to, contributing to the theological zeitgeist in the 21st century. It is a dynamic conversation, and it is open to anyone with a keyboard at their fingertips.

Yad L’Achim’s Benny Vulcan complains to police about Christian security guards

bennyv.jpg

RPP and Yad L’Achim Watch have previously covered the antimissionary activities of Yad L’Achim’s Benny Vulcan here, here, here, here and here.

Vulcan has previously threatened Israeli Messianic Jews with being “erased from Arad.” Despite Vulcan’s fearless efforts to boldly go where no anti-missionary has gone before, his latest trek saw him claim is Arutz7 to have been beamed up (or should that be beaten up?) by security guards at a Christian event where he was hanging around, whom he accuses of themselves being Christian missionaries.

He has filed a complaint to the police, so we’ll have to  wait for the results of any pending investigations before commenting further, but given Vulcan’s history of threats and violence against Messianic Jews, and indeed his participation in the hateful and violent Yad L’Achim fascist organisation, it seems highly illogical that he’s suddenly become a victim.

Ultimately, Yad L’Achim’s resistance is futile, as Messianic Jews plan to live long and prosper in Israel; no matter what plans and machinations Mr. Vulcan has against them.

Is antisemitic Islamic terrorism divine punishment upon Jewish people?

John MacArthur is one of the world’s leading Reformed Baptist theologians, who believes in the future salvation of Israel, and admires the IDF. I’ve highlighted his work positively and hope to continue to do so. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering this aspect of his theology, which I feel would be fruitful to discuss:

I think what we’re seeing in contemporary Israel today, with regard to Israel as a nation, is the judgement of God working out. They are vulnerable, they are in constant danger, they are a horribly abused and beleaguered people through history. But you have to keep in mind that this is judgement. This is the judgement of God for the rejection of their Messiah. So Israel today is under divine judgement. They still exist however, because God has determined a future day in which He will save that nation Israel.

Is John MacArthur right here that Israel is under judgement?

I hold to the idea that God is ultimately in control of the universe, and nothing happens without Him allowing it to. I also believe that He allows evil to happen, in a world in which wars and rumours of wars will abound before Messiah returns to establish His Kingdom, and certainly Israel is no exception to this.

In principle, I agree that suffering is a consequence of sin, that everyone is guilty of sin, and therefore we bear the burden of rejecting God’s plan for the world, including rejecting His Messiah Jesus by crucifying him on the cross with our sin. To that extent, as participants in human sin, you can say that Israel’s suffering is a form of judgement. The Old Testament highlighted the severity of disobedience to God, as Israel read out the blessings and curses that obedience and disobedience to the Torah implied respectively.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus does say to Jerusalem that “your house shall be left desolate” – it is possible then, to see the misery of Israel’s struggles as a consequence of its rejection of the Messiah,. However, I wouldn’t see this as a unique judgement on Israel in particular. God is set to judge a world that has rejected Him, and not just one nation.

Alongside Jesus’ words about Jerusalem, we must also consider his comments to his Jewish contemporaries about those Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed in with their sacrifices, and the Jews who perished in the Tower of Siloam. Jesus warns those who speculate about their deaths, not to assume that these people were worse sinners than they themselves; so this is the balance that believers today must be cautious of, when evaluating world events.

The question over whether Israel faces a particular judgement is really the relevant question here. If Israel faces judgement, then the world does too, because God no longer overlooks the world’s ignorance. I weigh Paul’s words on Mars Hill in Acts 17:

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

If in prior times the nations can be said to have been acting in ignorance; now, they cannot be. Islamists have heard of Christ, but misrepresent him as a forerunner to Mohammed who was neither put to death nor resurrected. They not only deny He is the Son of God but ascribe malice to those who do; it is difficult to see how they can be considered instruments of God’s justice.

Can Islamists who make a mockery of the Gospel in any way be considered agents of God’s particular judgement on Israel? To ask the question is to contemplate the moral preposterousness of the very idea!

When you read about the ancient nations that God allowed to wage war against the Israelites, there was a sense of them fighting not to destroy Israel, but rather because they were territorial rivals or burgeoning empires. These types of nations God allowed to bring temporary victories over Israel in order to humble her; however these were different to the sworn enemies of Israel who wanted to utterly annihilate her.

Even then, these nations that did come against Israel were still judged for opposing Israel. Furthermore, God speaks through the prophet Zechariah:

“But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.”

These nations then veered into spite and malice. If God judged these ignorant nations for their excessive sins towards Israel, then how would He judge modern terror groups for whom malice is at the core of their purposes, as they seek to murder Israeli families in their homes and streets?

A key question for me, is whether the nations opposing Israel today can be said to be doing so in ignorance. As per Paul’s words on Mars Hill, God no longer looks upon the nations with ignorance. By persisting in murderous antisemitism then, Islamists confirm that they are wilful enemies of God seeking to destroy His people.

If we accept Paul’s wisdom on Mars Hill that God no longer views the nations of this world with ignorance, then they have moral agency as human sinners before a just God, much as Jewish people do. If we are clear-eyed and fair, then the Nazi Holocaust must be seen a Nazi moral failure not a Jewish moral failure. Similarly, Islamic terrorism today must be seen as a moral failure of antisemitic jihadists, and not an Israeli moral failure. Moral logic instructs us that the victim must be viewed as the victim, and must not be blamed retrospectively for the evil violence perpetrated against him.  God is just and merciful, and these attributes are reflected in the moral standards He establishes in his Word.

We should address the ignorance of nations in former times.

The Philistines, as we read in the First Book of Samuel, stole the Ark of God in relative ignorance, and only realised the gravity of their actions when the people of Ashdod – where the Ark of God was brought to – broke out in tumours, prompting them to send the Ark back to Israel. Iconoclastic and destructive Islamic terrorists have no such respect for the concept of holiness. Were a Hamas or ISIS city to break out in tumours, I doubt they would care much, and would prefer death to any honouring of the God of Israel.

There is a clear difference between the Pagan nations who lived in ignorance of God, and the maniacal, depraved genocidal Islamists of today who wish to murder all Zionist Jews, and any Muslims who turn to Christ. Could an Islamic terrorist could simultaneously be persecuting the church of God, and acting as a proxy of God’s justice, if he murders Jews and Christians in the same terror attack?! This would seem to me a logical absurdity.

I think God makes it clear that he views any attempt to destroy his nation very dimly. He tells Abraham, before Israel has done anything right or wrong (it is still in his loins!):

Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

The judgement here is upon Egypt, rather than upon Israel. Likewise in Persia, when Haman seeks to destroy the Jews, he is defeated, and the Bible notes the foundation of the festival of Purim to celebrate the failure to destroy the Jews, and rather celebrate the destruction of their enemies:

Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.

The Biblical pattern is such that, insofar as we meet characters in the Bible who want to destroy Israel, God opposes them. We read in Psalm 2, the Psalm of the Messianic Son of David, pointing towards Jesus Christ:

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

Those seeking the destruction of Israel are themselves those who face judgement, rather than Israel itself. The book of Zechariah expands on similar imagery, viewing the nations as coming against Israel to attack her. God allows this, not as a punishment upon Israel, but rather to set the scene for the arrival of “He whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12) – in other words, world attention is focused on Israel allowing Jesus to return to Jerusalem.

Romans 11 reaffirms that God will use global opposition to Israel as part of His divine plan to bring blessings and redemption to the world. We read:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

There will probably be a political context to this opposition to Israel, out of which will come a glorious future for Israel. So Israel’s troubles do not necessarily point towards a future judgement, so much as a future glory, as MacArthur rightly highlights.

I disassociate with the approach of suggesting that Islamic terror attacks are part of a divine judgement upon Israel, because I think that it may lend strength to the beliefs of Islamists that their murderous actions will be interpreted theologically as divine judgement.

Keeping an awareness of the moral responsibility of all nations, and not just Israel, is therefore vital. But if you have lazy thinking on divine judgement,  and you do not view Hamas primarily as depraved murderers but rather as agents of divine judgement, then you are less likely to preach the Gospel to Hamas. This line of logic ends with thinking that Hamas can’t be changed by the Gospel: they are less human sinners, and more like avenging angels with swords to take to the Jews.

 So let us keep our moral compasses, following the principles established in the Word of God by our just and merciful God, and call Evil “Evil”, knowing that all – both Jew and Gentile – will give account before God’s holy throne for all our deeds.

Are you putting sin to death?

There’s a wonderful book for followers of Jesus named Mortification of Sin in Believers, by John Owen, writing in the 17th century. He was a Puritan and an English non-Conformist, who was interested in helping believers to fully understand the gravity of sin, and to appreciate that they must kill off the sin that remains within themselves, by a process known as “mortification.”

The Gospel Coalition has a helpful summary of the book, which has been given a makeover and a foreword by John Piper, in order to bring this classic work into the 21st century.

This issue is really important. Often when I talk to people who have fallen away from Yeshua or had crises of faith, I sometimes wonder whether this happened less due to pure intellectual inquiry, and more due to their failure to mortify sin. Then they feel ashamed they are less obedient to God than they should be, because they have fallen into Satan’s traps, and afterwards they develop intellectual questions and doubts in order to make this process seem more noble and respectable. No-one in their natural pride wants to admit they feel too defeated by their own sinfulness, to carry on following Yeshua. But we must carry on, looking to Messiah Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. God sent Jesus as our eternal saviour, and God remains faithful when we are faithless. He sends the Holy Spirit in order to equip us to serve Him, glorify His Son, and mortify the sin within ourselves.

Mortification is the process of putting to death your flesh, so that you stop sinning. You can’t do this through strength of will or determination, but only by looking towards the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, who died as the Jewish Messiah, as an atonement for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification. Just as Jesus died so that we could be forgiven for our sin, so our old nature must itself die – we must crucify our flesh (our sinful nature), just as Jesus himself was crucified on the cross.

Owen writes this verse:

“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work?

Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work;

be killing sin or it will be killing you”

This, for me, was a standout quote, based on Romans 8:

The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought you to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.

The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: Ei de Pneumati, — ” If by the Spirit.” The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that “dwells in us,” verse 9, that “quickens us,” verse 11; “the Holy Ghost,” verse 14;  the “Spirit of adoption,” verse 15; the Spirit “that makes intercession for us,” verse 26. All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, Rom. ix. 30-32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, “This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about.”

Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in
the world.

I know we have a lot of discussion about theology, politics, and the public conduct of believers with a visible public profile here on RPP. These realities are part of a wider spiritual battle being fought, which ultimately involves every follower of Yeshua who wants to live a holy life.

We know we should avoid sin, yet we compromise with sin because we want to please other people, we want to enjoy passing pleasures and taste the world, we have let our thinking grow lax and our love for God grow cold, or we are bound up in sin and find it very difficult to escape it, and are struggling for a way back. Sometimes we can be too relaxed about sin, abusing the concept of Grace by sinning and “banking” on God to forgive us of these sins at a later, more convenient time for us.

The reality is that God cannot be mocked; He is a holy God and he wants our obedience today. In approaching God, we have a High Priest who sympathises with our weakness (Jesus the Son of God) who was tempted like we are, but did not sin. By looking to his victory, we can have victory too.

He has defeated sin on the cross, defeating the power of death, and now he wants us to put our own sin to death by “crucifying” our fleshly nature, and we can do so by looking to Jesus’ victory on the cross and letting the Holy Spirit fully impact our lives, in order to have a victory over sin and our flesh, in our own lives.

Here is an 8-minute-plus John Piper talk on killing sin, that you may want to listen to over Shabbat:

 

If you haven’t considered the concept of mortification for a while, and you’ve let sin cause a rot inside of you, maybe now’s the time to get serious about fighting it. After all, God’s given you all the tools to do so in Messiah Yeshua, and you’ll only be truly happy as a believer if you use them.

We wish to see more spiritually-mature Messianic Jews, and mortification is a healthy and cleansing activity for us to participate in. We wish you the best if you do choose to mortify sin more and more!