Introduction to Messianic Judaism

I am not an expert in Messianic Judaism, but I do hold a Certificate of Messianic Studies (if I paid dues I would “officially” be a Messianic Minister) and I have been a Believer for over 20 years. I have been a Ministry head (Shamash) for multiple ministries and once was “Rabbi Pro Tem” for almost 2 years. I have been at two places of worship over these years and been asked to be a Council member at both. I am currently on the Council where I worship (a Hebraic Roots congregation here in Melbourne, Florida) where I help teach and lead the liturgy with the Senior Pastor.

I say all this not to brag, but simply to validate that what I am writing has some substance, both from theological training and experience.

Now that all that is out of the way, I want to approach those who are new Believers, either in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) or who are already Believers and now feeling the pull back to their Jewish roots, wanting to know more about the truth of who Yeshua was and is, and how they fit (as Gentiles) in God’s plan of salvation.

First off, let’s get the important basics covered:

  1. Yeshua is a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a criminal on a stake, and was resurrected as a Jew who still worshiped His Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The “Jesus” that most Christians know is not the real Yeshua who walked the earth and died for them. Christianity, today, doesn’t come from Yeshua’s teachings, it comes from Constantine’s establishment of the Christian Canon at the Council of Nicene. This is an important truth that you must know to understand why Jews want nothing to do with Christianity. Since as early as 98 AD, the Gentile leaders of the newly forming Christian religion have theologically and ritually separated themselves from Judaism, and persecuted their Jewish brothers and sisters.
  2. Yeshua never said anything against the Torah. His teachings were not as the Pharisees taught, which was only the P’shat (literal meaning of the words); Yeshua taught us the Remez, or Drash, which is the spiritual meaning underneath the written, literal meaning of the words.
  3. When we are “saved” through our repentance and acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (whose sacrifice provides forgiveness of our sins), that does not mean we are saved once and forever. When Yeshua died and was resurrected, His sacrifice did not replace the entire sacrificial system designed by God in the Torah. What He replaced was the need to bring a sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem: we still need to ask forgiveness from God, the Father when we sin, and that is for every sin we commit. We are sinful in nature, and even though as Believers we do not want to sin, we do. And when we sin we need to confess, repent (do T’Shuvah) and ask forgiveness, which we do now (since there is no Temple) through the sacrifice that Yeshua made for us. Salvation is a free gift from God which He will never take back, but through our lack of repentance (assuming that all sins are automatically forgiven and, thereby, failing to repent of the ones we perform) we can throw it away.
  4. You will get many to argue against what I am now about to say, and ultimately you must study, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and understanding, and make your own decision, but as for me, whatever Yeshua was before He came to earth, conceived by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and born of a woman, when He came out of Miryam (Mary) He was 100% human, and was (and still is) separate from God, the Father. Yeshua is our Lord, but He is not THE LORD. This is clear from all the greetings in the letters Shaul writes (he always says “from God, the Father and Yeshua, the Messiah”- clearly two entities) and from 2 John 1:7:
    1.   “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah’s coming as a human being. Such a person is a deceiver and an anti-Messiah” (Complete Jewish Bible)

Messianic Judaism is, simply put, living a Jewish lifestyle according to the Torah, and accepting that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised us throughout the Tanakh (Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim- the teachings, the writings of the Prophets, and the other writings); remember that “Torah” does not mean “law”, but “teaching” so through honoring God by obeying what is in the Torah we learn what God wants from us, meaning how to worship Him, how to live, and how to treat each other. Most Jews (I call them ‘Mainstream Jews”) will refuse to accept Yeshua because of the thousands of years of bigotry, persecution and misleading teachings that the “Church” has taught their own. I am a Jew, born a Jew by blood, circumcised, a Bar Mitzvah, and living a Jewish lifestyle in accordance with the Torah, yet if I told another Jew (one who doesn’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah) that I believe Yeshua is the Messiah, then that Jew would call me a traitor and a Christian. To a Jew, another Jew who accepts Yeshua is no longer a Jew. Of course that is ridiculous, but it is what they are taught. It is what I was taught, and believed, for over 40 years.

To a Christian, if I say I am “saved by the blood of Jesus Christ” but still obey the Torah and live a Jewish lifestyle, they accuse me of not really being “saved” because I live as a Jew, so I am not “under the blood” but “under the law!” They have ben taught Yeshua did away with Torah. Again, millennia of misleading teachings and lack of understanding.

There are a few books you could find on this topic that will help you. One I suggest is “Hebraic Roots” by Ken Garrison; it is an easy to read history of how today’s Christianity has become totally separated from Judaism. You can also read “The Jewish Manifesto” by Dr. Daniel Stern, as well as his other books, “The Complete Jewish Bible” and his “Jewish New Testament Commentary.”  This will help you understand Messianic Jewish viewpoints and the writings of Shaul (Paul) much better than an NIV or KJV bible ever will.

Finally (since this is just a brief introduction) understand that Judaism is as diverse and confusing as Christianity, in that within Christianity there are so many different religions and within Judaism there are so many different sects. There are the Chasidic Jews (ultra-Orthodox and mystical), Orthodox (the remains of the Pharisees), the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist (mostly interested in the traditions of Judaism.) I include Messianic Jews as a sect of Judaism, but the mainstream Jews won’t. In fact, even within Messianic Judaism, there are different organizations, each one with a different viewpoint of who Yeshua was/is with regard to His divinity, position, etc. There is the  Chosen People Ministries, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC). There are other Messianic organizations, as well, but these three are the major ones you may hear about.

If you look these up in Wikipedia, it will say these are Evangelistic Christian organizations, which is an example of the subtle Anti-Semitic tone that most Christians take towards Jews, even today.

What is interesting is that if you visit a Messianic Synagogue, you will find (as I have in my experience) that the majority of the people there are Gentiles wanting to get back to their Jewish roots and actually live as Yeshua lived. This is the role the “church” has in God’s plan of salvation: to make their Jewish brothers and sisters “jealous” for their own Messiah by seeing the Gentiles (the Goyim, or Nations) worshiping God and honoring Torah as they do, but with the closeness and relationship that Jews cannot have because they maintain their need for the Temple (in Jerusalem) instead of accepting Yeshua as their substitution for the The Temple, through whom they can be cleansed of their sin.

I have given you a lot to think about, and done so in a very blatant, open teaching. If I may add one last thing, my own definition of what Messianic Judaism is to me: Messianic Judaism is Judaism that has come full circle: living as God told us all we should live (as the Torah says) and being saved from the death we all deserve from our sinful lives through the Messiah God promised us he would send, who is Yeshua. I am not a “Born Again Christian”- I am a “Born Anew Jew!”

GOD HAS NO RELIGION!!  He gave the Torah to the descendants of Abraham in order to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham, which was that all people would be blessed by Abraham’s seed. The Torah is for all living beings, and Judaism is a religion only because other man-made religions arose, causing the need for labels.

Finally, please constantly read the bible, verify EVERYTHING (including all I have said) and accept nothing without asking God to show you the truth of it. Always remember that what you hear from people is going to be what they heard from people- rarely does anyone do any real research. People have been misled and lied to by people who thought they knew the truth, and who learned it from people who thought they knew the truth, who learned it from people who…well, you get the point. Humans, if you tell them something often enough, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, will eventually accept it as true.

Good luck, and may God send His Ruach HaKodesh to you to guide you in your journey to find the truth God has for you.

We all need a scorecard

Ever been to a baseball game? You’ll hear vendors crying out, “Hey! beeeeer heeeere!” or “Hot dawgs! Git yer hot dawgs!” They also scream, “Scorecards! Can’t tell the players widout a scorecard!” (you may have noticed my experience at baseball games has been exclusively in New York stadiums.)

It’s the scorecard that tells you who is who on the teams. And with the scorecard you can also keep track of the each play, marking down who scored when, which players (and in what order) played the ball in the field, and later this record can help you to relive the game and re-familiarize yourself with the players you had seen.

In real life we all need a scorecard, but not for baseball players. We need to know who the spiritual players are, the good guys from the bad guys, if you will.

The legions of the enemy don’t have uniforms, and (frankly) neither do the angels of God. The way we tell who is who is by following the advice that Yeshua gave in Matthew 7:16. In the same way you tell an orange tree from a lemon tree by looking at the fruit that grows on it, we can tell the good guys from the bad guys by looking at their fruit. A good tree gives forth good fruit, so look at the fruit of the person.

And remember that most everyone we look at is human, and like humans, not every fruit from even the best tree will always be good. And also remember that a good tree can sometimes be attacked by bad bugs, turning their fruit rotten even as it hangs on the branch (Job would be a good example of this allegory- he was treated with disdain by his friends because of the suffering God allowed to test his faith, so even though his fruit seemed bad because of the tsouris he was going through, Job was still a good tree and once the ‘bugs’ were removed, he again put forth good fruit.)

This is a hard thing to do because no one always has good fruit. The bad tree can produce fruit that seems good, but may be full of worms. As they say, the only thing worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm is finding half a worm. Sometimes we end up knowing that the fruit is bad only after having taken that bite.

The thing to do is throw the fruit away once we realize it is bad, but not let that turn us off to trying new fruits, or trusting in trees that seem to have good fruit.

The enemy will turn out what seems to be good fruit to get us to bite into it, and once we taste his fruits, we are in big trouble. That’s because the fruit of the enemy is extremely habit-forming. It tastes good, it makes us feel good and we want more of it because it appeals to our sinful nature, the natural part of us that is hedonistic and self-absorbed.

How do we tell the fruit of the enemy from godly fruit? Well, you keep score with your scorecard and you learn the players.

The scorecard we all need, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is the Word of God- the Bible. And we also need the announcer, who is the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to keep us aware of all that is happening, play-by-play, so we know what is happening as we watch the game unfold.

Reading the bible is so important- you have heard me preach this to you hundreds of times, and I will never stop saying it. Reading the bible is so important (oops- there it is, again!) because it is the best way to know the good guys from the bad guys.

The fruits of the spirit are told to us by Shaul (Paul) in Galatians 5:22-23; and the 13 attributes of God are related by Moshe (Moses) in Exodus 34: 6-7. This is the “fruit” that we should look for. And no one will have all of these, but the ones who regularly show most of these fruits are the ones we should trust. The ones who only show a little are the ones we should watch very closely.

You don’t need to watch your friends, and you should never take your eyes off your enemies.

If you haven’t been using your scorecard, now is the time to get it out and track this game (like it or not, you are in the game of salvation and you need to pick a side.) Read Galatians and Exodus (as referenced above) to start, if nothing else. But that’s not enough- you really need to read the entire bible, that’s from Genesis to Revelations. Even if you aren’t Christian (i.e. you’re Jewish and not Messianic) go ahead and read the New Covenant writings. If you can, get a Messianic version so the subtle anti-Semitic references aren’t so distasteful, but read it. Yeshua (Jesus) did not create a new religion- that was Constantine. Yeshua preached and taught Torah because that was the only scripture there was. In fact, Yeshua was, is, and always will be the Living Torah.

Here’s a pre-game warmup for you regarding the time from Yeshua’s birth to about the Third Century: when He was born there were Jews and Pagans. That’s was all. After He started His ministry, there were Jews who did not accept Him as their Messiah, Jews who did, Gentiles (i.e., pagans) who accepted him and were converting to Judaism, and pagans who kept to their religion.  After Constantine “legalized” (what at that time was being called) Christianity, at the Council of Nicea it was Constantine who created the “Christian” religion which totally separated the Jews and the (now called) Christians.

When you read the entire bible, more than once, and memorize the attributes of God and the fruits of the spirit, then you will be able to hear the Ruach tell you who to trust and who to watch out for.

As Sherlock Holmes used to say at the beginning of a case, “The game’s afoot!” This game is afoot, and has been since Adam and Eve got their eviction notice. But we’re in the Ninth inning, and the game is going to end soon.

The bible tells us that the loser will have a tremendous rally in the top of the ninth inning, and it will look as if the home team (God owns the earth so He is the home team) will be too far behind to catch up. But don’t worry- this scorecard is already filled. Yeshua will hit the ultimate Grand Slam that will defeat the challengers, and everyone on God’s team will win the universe, for all eternity.

You know that credit card that ends it’s commercials with the catch phrase, “What’s in your wallet?” Well, here’s my catch phrase: “Who’s team are you on?” And don’t be fooled by anyone who says you don’t have to choose a side because that is a lie. Yeshua tells us, clearly, that whoever is not with Him is against Him. And when you read the Tanakh, that is clearly what God says, as well. Just go to Exodus 20 and read the first two commandments, if you think God is willing to cede any part of His authority or uniqueness.

So, nu? Who’s team are you on?