Questions from the Heart

by Lonnie Lane 

 

Questions and comments come to us here at Messianic Vision. Following are a few of them. Here’s one wondering why we ask for forgiveness when we’re already forgiven.  

Q. "...Why should any believer ask for what he/she already has? As the writer of Hebrews put it, ‘Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.’ Messiah Yeshua shed His righteous blood for us once for all almost 2,000 years ago. Verse after verse in the New Testament letters (Acts through Revelation) say that we have been forgiven of all of our sins and received that forgiveness as a salvation experience. When we fall into sin, we should repent, yes, apologize (that is a personal thing for me) to Abba and thank Him that it is already forgiven, and ask Him for His strength not to do it again.

A. Well, Amen to that. Yes, we are forgiven already if we’ve received His once-and-for-all forgiveness and are born again. You’re right about that. I think there’s a certain reflex in us to want to turn away from the sin once we realize we’re guilty of it, so that we say “Forgive me, Lord” because we just want to be cleansed of it. Our brother is right that we should acknowledge our transgression to the Lord, and ask for His grace to enable us to not do it again.

But in actuality, it’s not that each individual sin has been forgiven, but rather that we have been entirely forgiven of the sin nature that kept us from God. The reason we want to repent of the sin is because we are no longer comfortable acting out of that sin nature; it’s not ours anymore so we just want to be right with God. Yeshua’s blood has entirely washed us clean of the sin nature. He released us from the curse of the Fall, so that when we accept His atonement on our behalf, we are given a new nature! “Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Now we dwell in a new spiritual realm that is free of sin and its consequences, “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”(Col 1:13).

I’m not sure we all really grasp the magnitude of that reality, for many of us labor unnecessarily under a false sense of condemnation or failure, not realizing that, if we are His, we aren’t trying to be sinless – we have been made sinless by what Yeshua did! We receive that position of sinlessness by faith that Yeshua bore the sins of the world when He died on the execution stake (cross). This means that when we accept this as true, legal and binding, we are no longer counted as sinners. As said above, we are new creatures, transferred out of a sin nature that kept us separated from God so that we now have access to “the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6).

We may “sin” on occasion, but those sins are no longer counted against us by God as sin. Rather than judging us for them, God uses them to teach us His ways, to build new spiritual character in us and to mature us. If we love the Lord, and are committed to following Him and His will and purposes, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God is on our side! He’s promised to sovereignly make good out of whatever comes in our lives. Will we make mistakes? Yes, how else will we learn? We don’t start out being all grown up in the Lord. We have to learn. Notice the Word does talk about new or immature believers who, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

We grow. We grow up. We learn through our experiences, “…for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). How does that discernment happen? Through being faced with situations that cause us to choose God’s way or the world’s way, or our own way, and then finding ourselves with the fruit of our choices. In time, we learn God’s ways, so that next time we make better decisions (or we need to go round the mountain again until we get it right). But, even if we have yet to learn the lesson, according to the verse we all know so well, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua”(Romans 8:1)!!

So this brother is right in that repentance isn’t asking for forgiveness for a believer, though we may want to tell God we’re sorry. We do so from within His forgiveness, not in order to gain it. As born again believers we already have His forgiveness. Hallelujah to that!!! 

This next question comes from a man in Haiti whose faith was shaken by some things he read recently and wrote for help. It brought him much pain in doubting the Lord. He came out of Catholicism and has been saved a little over a year. He asked several very fundamental questions. This may seem elementary to you, but if one person wrote, be assured there are others who would like to write and ask a similar question but didn’t. 

Q. “…I'm still questioning myself about what to think of Jesus and of Christ. Is Jesus the same as Christ? What's the relation between Christ and Jesus? I am confused. What to think? I now am scared to "give praise to Jesus.” For I am not sure I am doing right. Please help me.”

A. Let me assure you that the one thing in life you do not have to ever be afraid of is to give praise to Jesus. The devil is the one who wants the praise for himself that is meant for God and since Jesus is God – we can praise Him as we praise God. Be assured that Jesus and Christ are the same Person.

He is the Son of God who was born as a man, experiencing all that mankind experiences and then willingly died on the cross to pay for our sins. No one but God was sinless enough to pay the price for sin, so God came in the form of a man – Jesus, to be the sacrifice for our sins. And no one could have been that forgiving and willing to die for others, especially with the suffering He had to endure, except Jesus alone. No matter how bad it got, only Jesus could see it through to His last breathes and then still ask for forgiveness for everyone who did that to Him. That is a good bit of what to think of Him – He’s your Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Healer, your Friend and your God!

The name Christ is a title, not a name. It means the same thing as Messiah, or anointed one of God, but the name was changed as translations of the Bible were developed, so that the name Christ with which you are familiar, is really a translation of the word Messiah. Just like Jesus’ real Hebrew name was Yeshua, not Jesus. His family and friends called Him Yeshua, but it got changed too through the years according to the translations from Latin (which the Romans spoke) to Greek (the language of the New Testament world) and eventually to English. So the term ‘Christ’ simply means the anointed one of God, which is who Jesus, or Yeshua, is. All that is to say, yes, Jesus and Christ are the same Person, the Son of God.

Yeshua means “God is salvation.” Whether you address Him as Yeshua or Jesus, God knows who is speaking about or to Him. As we said above in answer to the question above, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam’l 16:7). Whatever you call Him, He knows you’re speaking to Him with love for Him in your heart. I got saved when I came to “Jesus” so that name is precious to me. Later I found out what His real name is so I personally use both Yeshua and Jesus.

So yes, Jesus and Christ are the same Person. You are safe in giving praise to Him whatever you call Him. Whatever name is meaningful to you, Jesus or Christ, or Yeshua, when you are addressing God or His Son, the Son of God you are speaking to and giving praise to. Be at peace. He’s watching over you. 

Next Question: This one comes from a pastor in Ghana. He sent pictures: From the jungles in Ghana, of a witch doctor in his witch doctor garb who just got saved surrendering up his idols to this pastor to be burned, another one of the small thatched roof ‘house’ that is their meeting place, and one of the congregation sitting on the ground (no chairs) for a service because they don’t fit in the house. I love that this brother writes to us for some input. What’s amazing to me is that somehow he has access to a computer and the internet. He writes:

Q. In our home fellowship, we try to follow the example of Christ in all things, so because His disciples did full immersion baptisms we do also. However some brethren have been questioning if sprinkling is not acceptable by God since He is more concerned with the intentions of our heart than our traditions? Please if you can share your thoughts about this, it would be very appreciative.

A. You are right that God cares more about the intentions of our hearts than our traditions. The important thing is that you desire to follow the Lord in baptism and that act of obedience is pleasing to Him. The word ‘baptize’ in Hebrew means to immerse, not sprinkle. John the Baptist in Hebrew is Yohanan (his real name, close to Jonathan) ha (the) mahtbeel (immerser). So the idea is for the person to be fully submerged under water. This is a symbol of being buried with Christ.

However, sometimes water is just not available enough for immersion, in which case, sprinkling will have to do. Pouring a bucket of water over the person might be better than sprinkling, if such water is available, so the person can have the sense of being fully wet and his sins washed away. This would be better than sprinkling in which there is very little water used. The idea of being immersed as much as possible for both cleanliness and ritual purposes is desired, so yes, immersion is the most desirable. But, thank God, He is not a legalist. If need be, use what you have and get the person as wet as you can.

While we’re talking about baptism, allow me to add some thoughts. The preferable (rabbinic) way of baptizing people has always been in living water – a stream or river, like where John baptized people. Though rain water is collected for purposes of purification as well. Synagogues were built with a mikveh or baptism pool and were so important that they were built first often before the rest of the building. The idea of a mikveh or baptism comes from the Hebrew commandments regarding washings in order to be ritually clean for ceremonies in which the immersed person could now approach the Lord. It is also for hygiene purposes.  

We tend to think of baptism as a one-time act as part of our salvation experience. But the Hebrews in the Bible would enter the waters of mikveh as often as needed, including monthly for women. For those who have been through difficult times and want kind of a fresh start with the Lord, a kind of washing clean of all that has just transpired, it would not be unbiblical to desire to enter the waters of baptism again.

To sum it up, if there’s water enough, yes, immerse the person. If there isn’t, well then do what you can to get him/her wet. The important thing is not the letter of the law but the spirit of the act and a heart of love for God that desires to obey Him.

 

 Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010. 

 
  

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

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