Tent of David: Returning to Faith

TeshuvahFirst, the Christian church has forgotten that Jesus was and is a practicing Jew. Second, Christians have forgotten the centrality of Israel in God’s plan to redeem the world and her continued covenant status as God’s chosen people. Third, Christianity has an extremely low view of the Torah itself and the commandments God gave to the Jewish people. Fourth, the Christian gospel message, having replaced the broad and majestic vision of the kingdom of heaven with a knowledge-based individualistic salvation, has been emptied of its power.

-Boaz Michael
Chapter 2: The Church Needs to Change (pg 61)
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

If anything in the above-quoted paragraph shocked you as a Christian, then you probably need to get a copy of Boaz’s book and read it all the way through. However, I’m not writing this “meditation” today to shock you, but to remind you of something.

One of the objections I hear about “going to church” from believers who are not church-goers is that the church gives a whitewashed, “feel good” message, that doesn’t communicate the reality of the Bible, sin, and salvation. That may be true in other churches but it wasn’t in the one I attended last Sunday. It was anything but “whitewashed, feel-good.” The quote I opened this “meditation” with is part of that message. The message is that just because you believe, you may not have a terrifically realistic grip on the consequences of your belief. If you call yourself a Christian or a believer, but still can violate the Word of God with no feelings of guilt, anguish, or remorse, what you have may not even be what is called “faith.” Believing isn’t enough.

-from Day Zero

I mentioned in my last “church report” blog that Pastor Randy delivered anything but a “feel good” sermon about Christians and salvation. In fact, he was very pointed that “just believing” was not enough. We have to remember who Christ is and who we are in him and above all, why he had to die.

Interestingly enough, Boaz’s point about the Christian gospel message being emptied of its power seems to connect quite well to the Pastor’s sermon. Boaz continues.

Yeshua (Jesus) surely preached the gospel; his message – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – is just as much “the gospel” today as it was two thousand years ago. When Peter adjured the crowds after the coming of the Spirit on Shavuoat in Acts 2:38-39, his message was not “believe in Jesus; go to heaven.” It was “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

-Michael, pg 87

Admittedly, Peter was delivering this message, the message of salvation, to a totally Jewish audience, and so there is no misunderstanding, let me verify that this message is for the “rest of us” who once were far off.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-13 (ESV)

We non-Jews were also once “far off,” as Peter said, but now we too have been brought near thanks to the Messiah, the Christ.

But if Peter says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” what does that mean? Does it mean what you think it means?

That is the gospel message. Repent – change the way you live and your life and begin to obey the commandments of God. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand – you can, in some way, bring God’s rule down to earth through your actions; it is possible to “live now for the realization of this Messianic Age” (quoting Levertoff, “Love and the Messianic Age” (Marshfield, Mo: Vine of David, 2009), 32).

-Michael, pg 89

That’s probably not quite what Pastor Randy was getting at in his sermon last Sunday. Pastor was talking about people who have made an intellectual assertion that Jesus is Lord without ever incorporating that knowledge into an actual, lived faith…without any realization that Jesus died for my sins and that I have a personal responsibility to repent and beg for forgiveness.

awareness-of-godThat’s not the wrong thing to do of course, but looking at what Boaz is writing, salvation means more than just the saving of individual upon individual by giving out “go to heaven free” cards. The kingdom of heaven isn’t heaven, according to Boaz, and it has little to do with personal salvation as such, at least not as much as most of us were led to believe. Making a commitment of faith to God through Christ is an entire change of lifestyle in the here and now that has the power to change everything in the here and now. Salvation isn’t just the promise that we’ll go to heaven, it’s the promise that we’ll receive the power to, in some sense, bring heaven to earth.

As Boaz says, Yeshua didn’t simply teach “believe in me and go to heaven when you die.” If you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see that he doesn’t really mention anything about what happens to you when you die. He mentions what happens to you when you live, if you repent and come to a true and saving faith.

The church needs to change, but not because the church is bad or that Christians are bad. The church needs to change because much of Christianity has taken the message of the Gospel and reduced it down to a simple “get saved” footnote and missed the larger point of what happens while we’re alive. No, it’s not a “works-based” salvation, but one of Pastor Randy’s scripture examples in last Sunday’s sermon was from James.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James 2:14-26 (ESV)

You cannot have a true and saving faith unless it has changed your life. If your every action does not conform to the message of James and you are not behaving in a manner that reflects faith, then you probably should ask yourself if you ever repented at all when you “confessed Christ.” And beyond the “generic” helping to repair the world, as I learned recently (and this is also echoed in Boaz’s book), when we are adjured to help the needy, we in the church have a special duty to assist the poor, the sick, and the needy of Israel as it is said:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:34-46 (ESV)

sukkoth-feastI know I’ve said a lot of this before, but I want to illustrate that Boaz Michael’s book has a much broader scope than you may have gathered from my previous review. It’s not just directed at those non-Jewish “Messianic” believers who are in the church or who are contemplating returning to church…it’s a message for all believers everywhere who may not have a complete understanding of what the Gospel is trying to tell us.

This is a message about who we are, who we are in Christ, and most importantly, what to do with the rest of our lives. It’s not a message about packing our bags and getting ready for the trip to heaven, it’s about what we do as disciples of the Master and sons and daughters of the living God. Where do we find God? Why are we needed by other people? How do we inspire hope in the world around us and be a light in the darkness?

This is the kingdom of heaven being drawn near to us and to the people around us…by who we are in our faith.

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20 thoughts on “Tent of David: Returning to Faith”

  1. You wake up my interest for the book of Boaz Michael. It’s a kind of a miracle that we have been busy with the same things as I just finished a booklet which asks the church to review its place with respect to the Jews. And which places the “times of the gentiles” in perspective. As it shows it’s good to be a gentile but we have to repent. Repentance is what we have to bring into the church. To begin with our own, but surely to speak about what we know about Hebrew Christianity.

    James, please give my book a glance by looking at my latest blogpost. there you can download a free pdf copy of it. (don’t throw it away because of poor English, I’m not native..;)
    All the best, Jos

  2. “If you are living in Christ, behold, you are a brand new living being, everything that is old has passed away, everything has become new” I Cor 5:17 paraphrase is mine.

    When we repent, we change our thinking. When we change our thinking everything else changes as well. I have often said that if you believe in something it must therefore change how you behave. We believe in gravity and therefore do not jump off of buildings (and it affects our behavior in other ways). It’s the fact that we need to change how we think about life itself the describes the need for repentance. Up until we come to Christ we live in independence. Trusting in self to live and depending on self for everything. That changes when we come to Christ. We must first of all acknowledge our complete failure to be able to trust in our self for anything (much less salvation).

    The one concern I always have about sermons such as the above is that you leave the church determined to live by values, or morals, or a principle that you attempt to do depending once again on the self to do it. I know from personal experience that I can be a very good rule follower, while completely failing in the one thing that is required of me in order to be a “Christian”, that is to live depending on and in relationship with Him.

    The “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” comes from this one distinction. When we live in dependence on Him, we find ourselves dancing a great dance. We can fulfill the law in every circumstance, not because we were trying to obey the law in our own strength, but because we were living in dependence, listening, following, walking with Christ. When we “set our minds on things above” we reveal the new creation that we were intended to be.

    When we talk about the kingdom of heaven what do we mean? Think about how heaven works, the one thing you can know more than anything about heaven, is that everything there lives saturated with the relationship with God that we were intended to have and it is by this that the perfect obedience that makes heaven such a lovely place, happens.

    When we try to live the law in our own strength, when we try to put the cart before the horse as it were, then all we become is frustrated or religious. Neither of which is what God intended for us to become. We must remember that we continue to “die to self” and live to Christ.

    I guess I stress this distinction because the one thing that I see over and over again in the church is a whole bunch of people trying live religious lives. It’s so easy for us to make this huge mistake and we do it regularly. And the cost is enormous, when we dance the great dance we become living creatures that are salt and light to the world, but when we become religious, we become third rate religious zealots. Because really, if you want religion, Buddhism, Islam, and several others I could name beat us hands down. Christianity was never intended as a religion, and neither was Judaism. Both point to a relationship with God that was broken in Eden and is being restored individual by individual on person at a time.

    Sorry, that this post is so long. This really is a burden on my heart. I’ve seen people get it wrong so many times and it screws up their lives. I’ve been down the path of doing it myself (more than once I’m afraid to admit), and I know where it leads…exactly nowhere anyone wants to go.

    Thanks for your patience with me in this Jim. As usual when I get a chance to read your blog, I get challenged to think, examine, and evaluate. Very good stuff.

  3. @Jos: I’ll be glad to take a look at what you wrote. No worries about language. I have great admiration for bi-lingual people. I’ll email you my thoughts o your booklet.

    I hope you will be willing to get a copy of Tent of David. I think you’ll find it illuminating.

    @Dree: No worries about the length of your comment. With the length of some of my “meditation,” I hardly have room to talk.

    I think we’re all trying to say the same things. When we come to faith, sometimes we don’t know what to expect. I don’t know about anyone else, but once I declared my faith, I didn’t immediately feel any different. In fact, for a while, my life got a lot worse as God was trying to straighten me out (He’s still working on me). I didn’t instantly feel magically transformed and my “walk of faith” has taken many, many years and I suspect it will be a lifelong process of change and (hopefully) growth.

    Sometimes, I think people believe they are expected to live “religious lives” and that’s the extent of a life of faith. There’s confusion between the church’s lifestyle and culture and living faithfully in relation to Messiah. People aren’t accustomed to having a supernatural relationship with God and I suspect, the relationship is uniquely different for each person. One of the reasons I write this blog is to “take my own temperature,” so to speak, relative to my own faith. Making it public allows others to comment on how they think I’m doing as a believer. Naturally, I have some critics.

    But a life of faith doesn’t just start and stop betweent the individual and God. Being saved isn’t the end of the journey, it’s just the beginning. There’s the vast panorama of the kingdom of heaven to consider and how we are a part of it. How do we see Israel, the Jewish people, and what do we anticipate from the return of the Messiah King?

    That’s how I read where Boaz is coming from in his book and that’s where the challenge lies for the church.

  4. It certainly is unanticipated unless you know where Boaz Michael goes to church on Sundays. If one Messianic Jew can make such an impression in a small Baptist church in small-town, Missouri, what impact can we make in our own churches?

  5. I’ve met a lot of people who go to church every Sunday and you can tell by the way they look, lived like hell the night before. i guess the guilt creeps in and they think by going they justify their actions. I know, I used to be the same way. Not until I started seriously reading scriptures, especially, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” that it made me realize, the way I conduct myself in this world is what actually reflects what I believe. When i took that scripture and started applying it to my daily living, things started to change immediately.
    You mentioned the reason you write your blog is so to take your own temperature, it’s funny I always wonder if that’s what it meant in Revelation about being “lukewarm”. Often times I find myself in that category also. I guess we’re all a work in progress. Just ask the Israelite’s in their journey’s and all the miraculous signs God did for them. Like you said, it’s a lifelong process.

  6. I meant the “temperature” part as metaphorical, but it looks like your example applies, Vincent. May we all endeavor to become “hotter” this winter.

  7. I will note that I think that the small town has something to do with receptivity. I’ve found in the larger cities this mission is much more difficult. To many distractions and competitions. I will also say, that this mission is not just proving fruitful in my church, but in others. As part of my research and intention I asked others to go into churches, guided by the ideals of Tent of David, to see what happens. In general, most of these efforts have proven fruitful and have turned their church back to Jerusalem (Emmaus road reflections intended), back to the Gospel (and discipleship), back to the roots and origins of Christianity.

    Tent of David is an appeal to replicate this mission and transform the church for the sake of Israel. Tent of David is intended to bring unity, healing, and a sense of something greater that we should all be laboring towards the full realization of—the kingdom of heaven.

  8. Boaz, as the mission continues, it would be illuminating to hear about other churches involved and the Shaliachim who have been involved. Maybe a sequel to “Tent of David” or even something on FFOZ.tv

  9. Certainly, I think it would be encouraging for others. I do plan to draw from their experiences in my training seminar Tent Builders. Sharing their experiences, stories, fruits, hurdles, etc. I’ll place a link here for those that may be interested in that course. http://www.tentbuilders.org

  10. So Boaz, you do not attend a messianic jewish congregation, but a regular church? How does that fit with the messianic jewish view of FFOZ?

    thank you

  11. Everything First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David do are in support of the Messianic Jewish revival and movement. Personally, I live a traditional Jewish life. Yes, I also attend a church. I am blessed there by the fellowship, friendships, and opportunities to grow. FFOZ has the mission to assist the church to recover all that has been lost. I feel that true change can only be done within the context of relationship. I am willing, for the sake of the mission, to work towards a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. So I sacrifice my time and effort to attend church on Sunday’s as well as honoring the Sabbath.

  12. Yayin King, it’s not that unusual for Christians to attend a Jewish synagogue or for Jews to go to a church. You find this most commonly with intermarried couples. For a number of years, I attended the local Reform shul with my family and back when my wife and I became believers (she’s Jewish), she attended church (I should say that she’s no longer a believer and is pretty unlikely to attend church these days).

    Also, I know of at least one Jewish woman (not a believer) who does occasionally go to the church I attend. We go where God leads us.

  13. I am not offended at all by this approach. In fact I find it as a fulfilment of the commandment to love your neighbour as your self and it is also a sign of spiritual maturity with drawing many close to God’s plan for humanity.

    I always wondered what it would be like if a messianic congregation would opt for having a church service on Sunday which would help strengthen the Christians in their faith while be exposed to their Jewish roots. In other words, the messianic congregation is to functions fully within it’s Jewish frame work, but go the extra mile in bridging relations to allow a church service to be conducted on Sunday according to Christian customs.

    Might be wishful thinking, but if MJ leaders could shed some of their ego against the church we may be surprised to see the glory of God from such an idea. Respect to you Michael, thank you for your reply. And James, thank you for your reply.

  14. Thank you for this article James, I’d like to post a link to it on my own blog.
    I think I’ll have to try to track down a copy of the book you mention.

  15. James, I listened to the sermon by Boaz entitled Reformation Reloaded. At the time, I was discouraged with the church. I was still holding onto the One Law doctrine, but I was willing to rethink things. Boaz’s message inspired me to take up my cross, so to speak, and be a gracious messenger for the Lord at the church. I was worried that outing myself as Messianic would damage my relationship with others at the church. On the contrary, things have been getting better since!

    We have now gone through HaYesod with many of the men, including the minister of the church. The minister received affirmation from God, I believe, when he realized that he grew up with Daniel Lancaster. The have since reconnected via email. Chris, the minister, has now spoken about the soul from a Jewish perspective and touched on the topic of Torah. I have spoken to the church on the concept of blessing the Lord for all things using the siddur for examples. My friend Andrew, also Messianic, has lead a corporate study on the Kingdom of Heaven using, in part, FFOZ’s new show on the subject. Last Sunday, one of the leaders of the church lead a sermon on the dietary laws and fellowship. I was worried how that would go over, but it was excellent. It lead to a great discussion.

    I’m looking forward to reading Boaz’s book(it’s in the mail). I know that God will do mighty things, if we will simply humble ourselves and allow Him to direct our paths!

  16. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your perspectives, Sheldon.

    It’s good to hear the views of someone else (like myself) who formerly held a One Law view and has since re-evaluated that position. Last November, a friend of mine published some responses on his own blog from people such as you and I in the hopes of encouraging folks that there not only is life after One Law, but a true and vital place in the Messianic movement for non-Jewish believers.

    I’m excited about what the future will bring, and especially how we are taking greater steps in brining the kingdom of heaven near.

    Blessings.

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