Twelve Pillars (1): Kingdom, Worship, Community
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, May 14, 2011

Since the Tikkun America conference is coming soon (the first weekend of June), it seemed to me wise to review the core values of our network of Messianic congregations. Bennett confirmed it when I asked him during our prayer time at Lehigh--he said he has a hard time distinguishing Tikkun from the MJAA. How many of you know the difference between these two? We relate to both: the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, or MJAA, sponsors the Messiah conference, the Joseph Project for humanitarian aid to Israel, and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregation and Synagogues, through which I have my ordination as Messianic Rabbi. Tikkun and the MJAA agree about the Messianic Jewish vision, reaching our people with the Good News of Messiah Yeshua and the prophetic destiny of Israel in these last days. But Tikkun is intentional in its agreement about more core values.

Today I will review some of these core values, which Dan Juster described in his paper, "The Twelve Pillars." You can find this paper on the web site, TikkunAmerica.org. These twelve pillars are core principles about which the leaders in our network agree.  Like columns in an ancient synagogue, these pillars hold up the structure of the building. Ephesians says 2:20-22, "You have been built on the foundation made up of the shlichim [apostles] and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua Himself being the cornerstone. In Him the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple for the Lord. In Him, you also are being built together into God's dwelling place in the Spirit."

Though I know we've been praying and talking about a physical building, and there many amazing prophetic words and manifestations on the property last Shabbat, I hope we can agree that our first priority must be to construct the Temple of the Ruach HaKodesh, in His body. V'eemru? (And let us say?)

Twelve is a lot to cover in one message, especially since Dan has a lot to say and of course I have to add a few cents here and there.  So today I will cover the first three: Kingdom, worship and community.

Pillar One: The Good News (or Gospel) is the Good News of the Kingdom

Many have been taught that the Good News is a message about how to get to heaven. It goes something like this: Yeshua died for our sins, and if we believe in Him, we will go to heaven. So when I said the sinner's prayer in Janesville, the folks there celebrated and figured they were done. But since I was coming from Reform Judaism and agnostics, I was really clueless. I didn't know how to pray; I didn't know it was important to have fellowship with other believers.

At its worst, it has been taught that no change of life is necessary for going to heaven. Any life change would salvation by works rather than by grace. This version is anemic; it doesn't explain that God's grace brings transformation through discipleship. Grace is not merely unmerited favor, but the power of God that transforms us. To receive Yeshua as Savior and yet not receive him as Lord is not saving faith. In Dietrich Bonheoffer's words, that's just "cheap grace."  He would know: he went to prison and laid down his life resisting the Nazis.

Romans 10:9 says, "For if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." To believe and confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord (not just Savior) means that you entrust your life completely to Him and begin to follow and obey Him. Have you all done that?

Moreover, the Good News is much more than a message about going to heaven. Far be it from me to disparage in any way the hope of our life after this one. However, the Good News is much more than the hope of heaven.  Yeshua and His disciples said little about heaven (though just enough to assure our faith). First century Jews were more concerned with the Messianic Kingdom of God, foretold by the prophets, in which Israel and the nations would be one under the rule of the Messiah, the Son of David.

As was written in Isaiah 2:2-3 (and which we recite when we take the Torah out of the ark), "In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.' For the Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

In the last days, Israel will be delivered from all her enemies in such a mighty intervention from God that the nations would stream into the Kingdom of God. Swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Nations would no longer go to war. The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The Lord would be one and his name one in all the earth as we read in Zechariah 14.

In the first century, Jews were concerned about when and how the Kingdom of God would come. The Pharisees sought to apply the purity laws given to the priests to the people as a whole. They thought that if we can get enough people to be as pure as the priests and the land to be as pure as the Temple, the Messiah will come and bring deliverance for Israel and the redemption of the world!

The problem with this scheme is that the purity God requires is unattainable by mere human effort. As Isaiah 64:6 says, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags"

The Essenes saw the Pharisees and Sadducees as compromisers with a corrupt Temple and priesthood. They therefore sought purity more strict than the Pharisees. They live in communities that practiced daily immersions and strict ritual purity. Their hope was the salvation of a faithful remnant that would fight in the wars of the sons of light against the sons of darkness as reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Zealots looked upon such ritual extensions as foolish diversions. Faith was understood as raising a revolt against the Romans. When a sufficient number were in revolt the Messiah would arise and lead Israel to victory. The Zealots led our ancestors to the disastrous war against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem. That's why Yeshua would not let the people to make him king by force or use brute force to overthrow the Romans and establish his kingdom.

Nevertheless, Yeshua began his ministry with an astonishing announcement that was very relevant to the expectations of our people. In Mark 1:14, He announced, "The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Good News." "At hand" meant "available to you." Yeshua's life, ministry, and teaching were all about explaining the Kingdom and how to enter into its life-transforming power. Want some?

The Kingdom of God is not just about heaven bye-and-bye; it's the power of God to heal the sick, cause the lame to walk and dance, give sight to the blind and deliverance to the demon-oppressed. The Kingdom is also the authority to forgive sins and give everyday people-the poor, the prostitutes and even the tax collectors-clear consciences and eternal value in the sight of God. Want some?

Where is this Kingdom of God? It is wherever the rule of God is established and respected. Yeshua came with the power to establish His kingdom, beginning with His rule in our hearts. The power of the Kingdom delivers from disease and demonic oppression. Satan and his demons sow these things as disorder; Yeshua came to restore God's order. Moreover, God's Kingdom power enables us to live according to the teaching of Yeshua. Messiah's teaching brings Torah to its highest application, for Yeshua was not looking for mere external observance, but transformation of the heart and mind. When hatred is removed from our hearts, murder becomes impossible; we even love our enemies! "Let your yes be yes and your no, no" means we are honest and true to our word, from the heart. We are free from religious pride and pray with sincerity, even in secret, when only Abba can see. We can live free from material greed--no longer worshipping Mammon but God alone. And we can live free from material worry, for we trust if we seek first the Kingdom of God, all things necessary for the kingdom will be added to us. Want some?

The parables of Yeshua show the nature of the Kingdom he offers. It spreads by the seed of the word of God and finds reception in willing soils (hearts). It grows from a small beginning, a mustard seed, into a large tree. It is the treasure that supersedes all else (Matthew 13). Though Yeshua kept foretelling his own death and resurrection in Jerusalem, the disciples did not understand that Yeshua's death and resurrection were necessary to fully establish His Kingdom.

The gift of the Spirit at the feast of Shavuot made the Kingdom of God to all peoples. Before Shavuot the Kingdom was limited to those connected to the earthly life of Yeshua. That's why He said, in John 16:7, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away! For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." The presence of the Ruach of God makes the power of the Kingdom available to all of us. So Yeshua's message of the Good News is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, available. The Kingdom message is the promise that God will put all things in our lives into his right order, Kingdom order, Torah in the New Covenant. The Kingdom message is the promise for our personal lives, families, communities, businesses, artistic talents, and so much more.

The invitation to the Kingdom is only possible because Yeshua died for our sins. Because our sins can be forgiven in Him we are invited to the banquet of the kingdom. Now can live in and from the Kingdom of God by the Spirit's power in us. This power now affects every dimension of our lives. We embrace the quest for establishing God's Kingdom order in every aspect of our lives. We seek first his Kingdom, a relationship with the King, the establishing of his right order, and the extension of the Kingdom by the invitation of the Good News. In the Kingdom, we have His gracious power to obey God's commandments beginning with our love for Him and our neighbor. When a Jew asks, if Yeshua is the Messiah, why is the world such a mess? What's the answer? The Good News: it's not a mess everywhere, but is in order where the Kingdom has been embraced. We invite others to come and see. Want some?

Our lives and our congregation should demonstrate that the Kingdom has come and is available. When I was searching for God in Brussels, a met another young man named Ed Conlin who told me about the power of the Holy Spirit. I was intrigued. I wanted some. And I got some Holy Spirit! It transformed my life, filling me with inexpressible joy and enabling me to hear and obey God.

That's why we should embrace the Power and Love Ministry, and take it another level. That's why, as we count the days toward Shavuot, we should press into prayer for a fresh outpouring on the congregation and in each of our lives for more of the Spirit of the Kingdom. V'eemru?

The other eleven pillars flow from understanding the Good News of the Kingdom and the importance of fully coming into God's Kingdom order by his power at work in us.

Pillar Two: The Kingdom is Expressed in Worship
The Kingdom that is available to us is founded upon honoring and worshipping the King. All the dimensions of Kingdom attainment flow out from worship. The Moravians under Count Von Zinzendorf well knew this when they came to Bethlehem. Their communities featured 24 hour centers of worship--a worship that especially emphasized their gratitude for the suffering Messiah.

As Nancy Hahn said in a prophecy to us last summer, the Spirit of God wants to restore the wells that the Moravians dug in this region--from Nazareth to Emmaus. In John 4:22-24, Yeshua said to the Samaritan woman, "You worship what you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." In the Kingdom of God, believers can worship anywhere, so long as it is with integrity and fervor.

God is to be extolled as Creator, the Infinite One, who is merciful, loving and just. He must be extolled as the one who intervenes in human history to bring about His good purposes. We remember the exodus and his deliverance of David and Israel in the Psalms. However, Yeshua is making a distinction here between the Mosaic order and the New Covenant order. Yeshua says, "An hour is coming, and now is." In the new covenant order, our worship exalts "God in Messiah reconciling the World to Himself." Our worship content must be full of the reality of Yeshua, full of New Covenant content. That's why our worship service moves from the Shema to the Yeshua Hu-Mashiach, after reading Scripture from the New Covenant exalting Messiah Yeshua. Our form must be recognizably Jewish, yet also Yeshua-centered, for He is the Messiah of Israel. V'eemru?

Worshipping in spirit implies a fervor of spirit, from the heart. Jonathan Edwards, the leader of the Great Awakening in 18th century America, wrote in The Religious Affections, saw that "our relationship to the Father, Son and Spirit is an affectionate relationship that must include emotion. The Holy Spirit kindles this affection, which is acceptable to God as true worship."  Folks from traditional services may find it difficult to relate to how others show passion for the Lord. It may be in warm feeling quietly expressed but deeply felt, or it may be in emotional exuberance. Both should be valued, so long as they we are able to draw near to God.

David describes it this way, in Psalm 42:1, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." The Rabbis also recognized this principle, when they required that prayers be said with kavanah--intention of the heart. What good is prayer if it said in a rote manner? It's a Kingdom principle, for our King Rabbi Yeshua also said, in Matthew 6:7, "when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words." But worshipping in spirit and truth is more than our own kavanah; it is a unity of the human soul with the Spirit of God. How many of you have experienced it? How many of you want more? A Kingdom principle is that we have a King who wants us to draw near, to seek His face, to come into His presence. He is a good King; He loves us enormously and wants us to experience His love. A Kingdom principle is that we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with all our heart & soul.

On the day of Shavuot in Acts 2, we read of the great day of the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh. The outpouring came because it was God's time and because the talmidim waited and prayed for it. In fulfillment of Joel 2:28, sons and daughters of Israel prophesied in many languages and saw visions of tongues of fire. It was so powerful, the onlookers thought they were drunk at 9 in the morning. But as Ephesians 5:18 says, "Don't get drunk with wine. but keep on being filled with the Spirit." The 120 followers of Yeshua were pressing in, gathering in a public area in the Temple courts for the festival. Do you want some? Contrary to popular impression, the outpouring not the upper room--after all, there would have been no crowd near a private upper room, to think they were drunk, nor space to gather to hear Peter. The new temple of the Spirit was birthed out of the Old Temple. In this temple reality of the Spirit, we experience His presence and His gifts of the Spirit. We go forth from the temple to the market place where signs and wonders confirm the Word of God. Therefore in the New Covenant order, we are called to strive for the manifest Presence of the Spirit in our midst and a worship that is fervent and sincere. V'eemru?

Wonderfully, this worship can take place wherever there is a committed community to do so. Which leads us to:

Pillar Three: The Kingdom is Expressed in Community
In Matthew 16:18, Yeshua says, "Upon this rock I will build My community; and the gates of Sheol will not overpower it." What many build in this world, which looks successful, is not according to the pattern of Scripture. It is worldly. Worldliness is not violating a set of rules: "Do not touch, do not look, do not drink." Rather, worldliness is conforming to a world system of values. It's subtle, but pervasive & dangerous.

The great sociologist-pollster, George Barna has documented the reality. Many modern Christians are building consumer Christianity. In consumer Christianity, a congregation is a group of individuals who are buying into the product to a group of leaders. That group usually consists of a paid clergy with a handful of volunteers (those unusually committed) who put forth a product. First of all the product is the weekly morning service. For today's consumers it must be a brief service, an hour to an hour and a half maximum. (Uh oh!) It must be upbeat. The message should be short and encouraging. It should be seeker sensitive.  (Actually, true seekers will keep seeking no mater what it takes to find the truth. A better term is "visitor friendly.") Visitors should feel good when leaving, not tired after the service. They should feel their burdens lifted. The preacher should be truly entertaining; good jokes are a must! During the service, there must be childcare. People do not want to be sitting with noisy children. So there should be entertaining programs for children, also for the teens, for singles, single parents, divorce care, professionals....

Now there is value to such care, but now the congregation is stratified and not integrated. So along comes the consumer believer. He looks for the best program to "meet his needs," where he can "be fed." He goes shopping and when he finds, he joins (maybe, for membership is not longer to be expected in some circles). After a while, he tires of a program, a new shopping adventure takes place. Worldly consumerism has swept the American church world.

Alas, this pattern is not what the Bible teaches. It is self oriented, rather than servant-hearted. And it produces decline. For though there are some big consumer congregations, Barna notes that as a whole the body of Messiah has become largely ineffective and declining in numbers overall. While it is well to make visitors feel welcome and meet the needs of different subgroups, the meaning of congregational life is something on a very different foundation: it is a rock of firm commitment.
In the New Covenant Scriptures we do not go to Church or Synagogue, we are members of body, which is a community of committed covenant relationships. It is a community to which we are submitted to be equipped to do the work of ministry. Do you see the difference?

A test of what we are building is whether covenant relationships are formed that last a lifetime. Dan and Patty Juster have covenant relationships with scores of people that go back over 30 years. That's why I especially value my relationships with folks like Bennett, Barbara, Paul and Sue: I believe these are examples, as Proverbs 18:24 says, of "a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

It is the Holy Spirit that joins us in community. We see this pattern clearly at the end of Acts 2:42-47: They were devoting themselves to the teaching of the shlichim and to fellowship, to breaking bread and to prayers. Fear lay upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were happening through the shlichim. And all who believed were together, having everything in common. hey began selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as any had need. Day by day they continued with one mind spending time at the Temple and breaking bread from house to house. They were sharing meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord was adding to their number those being saved."

Notice two things: First, size is not the key characteristic. The Acts 2 community was large. Larry Kreider of Dove International in the Lancaster area has built large, yet according to the Acts pattern.

The key characteristics are intimacy, devotion, covenant love, and Spirit-led worship. First, the Acts communities had intimacy and met from house to house. They were building their lives together in community. They were in real fellowship!

Secondly, they were devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching. When the Spirit is poured out historically, there has oftentimes been a major change in the willingness of the people to receive teaching. God's people will not learn the Bible well in 20 minutes a week. People must be challenged to pursue discipleship and their own devotions and bible studies. In today's consumer cafeteria, some may choose education, but most will not. Barna documents the appalling Scriptural ignorance of today's believers, and their children.

Thirdly, they were full of love for one another. Open homes and hospitality were their way of life. Houses provided the primary meeting places for the first century New Covenant community. Sharing of possessions was spontaneous and exuberant. Acts is not describing a socialist community. Neither the Roman state nor the congregational leaders required that everyone sell everything to give to the common finances. It was entirely a matter of free will offerings. That's why it was remarkable and encouraging when Barnabus sold some of his property, and it wasn't necessary for Ananias and Saphira to lie about selling what they had to impress anyone.

Fourthly, they were also devoted to worship and prayer. Acts and the apostolic epistles reveal a people who lived in covenant communities with mutual accountability under an eldership. They come into recognized membership upon immersion in water. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, "[Messiah] Himself gave some to be shlichim, some as prophets, some as proclaimers of the Good News, and some as shepherds and teachers-to equip the kedoshim [saints] for the work of service, for building up the body of Messiah."

New Covenant kedoshim build themselves together in long-term covenant commitments and will stay in one community, until or unless the Spirit sends them forth. All seek to exercise their gifts and talents to build up the community. 100% involvement is the goal. We should note that the Bible assumes that the small group, which we call havurah, is a basic foundational gathering, like the house fellowships of Acts and the epistles. Both in homes and large gatherings, Paul says that each is to bring their song, teaching, exhortation, prophecy, tongue, or interpretation. In smaller groups each member finds a prayer covering and share their victories and challenges. Each may be touched by prophecy, perhaps not every week, but it is available frequently. Newcomers can experience the friendly atmosphere of a home. Leaders are trained in the context of leading small groups. The Biblical pattern is unmistakable. This pattern is flourishing in China, Africa, Eastern Europe, and even in Israel. Why not here? In community there is accountability for decisions. We seek confirmation. If we do not receive it, we should pray more and check whether we have really heard the Spirit.

Thus each person is accountable to God, but confirmation helps provide discernment about our motivations and calling. After all, as 1 Corinthians 13:9 says, we only "know in part and prophesy in part." In this age and in these bodies, we must acknowledge that we are finite and what we know is partial. We come closer to the fullness of the Kingdom of God when we are submitted to one another in covenant relationships under godly eldership. V'eemru?

Like Dan, I am looking to participate in a network of congregations with people of deep and lasting covenant relationship and faithful commitments, just as God is faithful to us. How about you? I am looking for our congregation to participate in an outpouring, not just on ourselves, but upon the whole body of Messiah. How about you? I am looking for the Kingdom of God and its power.