In my last blog post we tackled the tricky topic of salvation. In actuality, salvation is truly simple - it’s our taught doctrines that have tangled up the threads of truth and confused the simple way with conflicting concepts like “once saved always saved” and “salvation by works”.
I’d like to reiterate that neither of those seemingly polar opposite ideas is accurate according to Scripture. The enemy has distracted from the truth by enticing us to argue about what we think is the foundation of our faith and is in reality a faulty teeter-totter of either/or nonsense.
The truth doesn’t even lay somewhere in the middle. The truth is on a whole different playground! Salvation is not an either/or mentality of grace OR works. Salvation is a PROCESS that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Yahushua, our Messiah, is the Aleph and the Taw, the beginning and the end, the first and the last! He made salvation available to us through His death and resurrection, and He is coming back to bring the promised end result - the salvation of our souls!
Receiving the end of your belief, even the salvation of your souls.
1 Kepha/Peter 1:9
The bulk of the process of salvation is in the middle. That’s where most of us are right now - living between the decision to put our faith in the shed blood of our Pesach Lamb, and the blessed hope of His certain return to rule and reign forever, with us as His Bride, His family, and His Kingdom.
For by favor (grace) you have been saved, through belief, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim, it is not by works, so that no one should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
But according to your hardness and your unrepentant heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of Elohim, who “shall render to each one according to his works”: everlasting hai (life) to those who by persistence in good work seek for esteem, and respect, and incorruptibility; but wrath and displeasure to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. Romans 2:6-8
Look closely at those two scriptures again. If we’re not saved by works in the beginning, but we are judged by our works at the final judgement, something must need to happen in the middle, in between those two events, that is very very important!
The middle is what is often referred to as discipleship and without it we will show up empty handed on the day we are called to stand before Our Maker and give an account of our life.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another Book was opened, which is Hai (Life). And the dead were judged from what was written in the books, according to their works. Revelation 20:12
We Have What We Need!
In 2 Peter chapter 1 we read that the power of YHWH has given to us everything we need for life and godliness (reverence) and the because of this, we are to make every effort to add to our belief, uprightness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, reverence, brotherly affection, and love. These things, in increasing measure Peter writes, will cause us to bear fruit. Does YHWH give the final product? The fruit? Or does he give the seed which becomes the tree that produces the fruit?
Take a look at Genesis 1:11-13, Creation Day 3. YHWH created the vegetation to sprout, the plants to bear seed and fruit with seed in it, all to produce “after its kind.” We too grow from the seed of His Word.
Therefore put away all filthiness and overflow of evil, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your lives. And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:21-22
We, like seed, are to produce “after our kind” and we are created to be in the image of YHWH. So we are to grow and produce in our lives seed and fruit after His image. We are being TRANSFORMED INTO the image of His Son who IS the image of the Father!
Because those whom He knew beforehand, He also ordained beforehand to be conformed to the likeness of His Ben (Son), that He become the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
YHWH…has in these last days spoken to us by the Ben (Son)…who being the brightness of the esteem and the exact representation of His substance…Hebrews 1:1-3
Seed produces fruit which produces more seed which produces more fruit….and on, and on. He who HAS will be given more and He will have an abundance. He who doesn’t have even what he does have will be taken from him (Matt 13:12 and 25:29). In other words, if your fruit isn’t producing seed, then your harvest will be short lived!
It’s all about replication and overflow. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). We must be filled up with daily bread so we can produce the seeds of righteousness to scatter abroad to the nations.
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap according to kindness, break up your tillable ground, it is time to seek YHWH, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hoshea 10:12
How about an example!
A great example of overflow can be seen with the sisters Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:39-42) Mary first sat at Yahushua’s feet, filling up on the daily bread, the seed of the Word from the mouth of Yahushua. Martha tried to pour out FIRST, without filling up. Therefore, all she got was exhausted!
Yahushua said that Mary had chosen the better way - fill up, then serve. Martha was “distracted by much serving”. She was diverted from the better way of receiving seed and then producing a harvest that continues to produce more seed.
Apparently it’s not only sin that easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). We can also be choked out by the “service” of His Word without the time spent at His feet, being led BY Him before going out FOR Him. We must have fruit in order to produce more seed to spread to the nations!
And fruit comes by…..receiving the seed FIRST! It’s a process :)
So then belief comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of YHWH (Torah). Romans 10:17
A couple more examples
The account of the disciples feeding the 5000 in Matthew 14 is another great example of overflow. The food they HAD was multiplied. They didn’t have MUCH, but what they HAD became more - like seed.
Like the mustard seed (Mark 4:31-32), a perfect example of how the kingdom of YAH works. The smallest seed becomes the biggest tree. It’s all about the seed!
A newborn baby is not yet an adult, but they are a complete human. They have much growing to do spirit, soul, and body. However, everything they need to BECOME the full-grown adult is already inside of them! They just need to nourish and tend to what they have so it will grow and become what is already inside.
After Its Kind
Recall in the “Becoming Learned and Stable” blog we recognized that the Greek word “manthano”, translated as “learned”, is the kind of learning we want. It is the type of learning that results from being intimate with the Teacher.
Let’s look again at Genesis 1 on Day 3 of Creation and we will see that YHWH created all the plant life to produce seed “after its kind”. We don’t want any other kind of seed than the seed of Truth so that we won’t produce any other fruit than the fruit of righteousness and of the Ruach ha’Qodesh (the set apart Spirit of YHWH).
We do this by making sure that the source of the seed is the Ruach Yahushua Himself. We want to become LIKE the one of Whom we are a disciple. If we are disciples of Yahushua we will learn from Him, the way He learned, and produce the kind of seed He produced.
John 8:28 - He was taught BY the Father
James 6:44-47 He learned OF the Father
Hebrews 5:8-14 He learned BY the things he suffered
John 7:15-19 He was a disciple OF the Father
John 14:10-11 He is IN the Father, they are echad (one)
Deut 6:4 YHWH Elohim (“God”) is echad (one)
John 14:28 Yet the Father is GREATER than the Son!
They are “One”, the same, yet the Father is “greater”. Yahushua is a perfect reflection OF the Father (John 14:8-10) leading us to learn FROM the Father, the Way that He learned.
But the anointing which you have received from Him stays in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as the same anointing teaches you concerning all, and is true, and is no falsehood, and even as it has taught you, you stay in Him. And, little children, stay in Him, so that when He appears, we might have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone doing righteousness has been born of Him. 1 John 2:27-29
Yahushua gives a conditional commandment and promise to some of His believing followers: “IF you stay in my Word, you are truly My talmidiym (disciples), and you shall know the Truth and the Truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) His Word (the Torah), which was the only Scripture at that time, is the Truth.
Many love to quote the 2nd part of that scripture - “The Truth will make you free” - but forget that the promise is preceded by an “IF” statement. “IF you stay in My Word…”
Let us follow Yahushua’s teaching here: His true talmidym (disciples) stay IN His Word, and THEN they will know the Truth, and THEN that Truth (His Word) WILL MAKE them free! This is discipleship - the process of salvation!
Remember that in Acts 4:13 the Pharisees were surprised by the knowledge that Peter and John had and noted that they had BEEN WITH Yahushua. That’s the key to being a disciple - spending time with the One who is your Teacher.
Along the Way
The disciples of Yahushua didn’t become like Him in the moment they accepted the invitation to follow Him. They were changed along the Way!
Baruk (Blessed) are the perfect in the Way, who walk in the Torah of YHWH. Baruk are those who observe His Witnesses (this is a reference to the 10 Commandments. See Exodus 25:16 & 21), who seek Him with all their heart! Psalm 119: 1-2
They weren’t complete the moment Yahushua died or when He rose from the dead, nor even when they received the Ruach ha’Qodesh on Shavuot/Pentacost as we read about in Acts chapter 2.
Yahushua’s disciples, just like us, were being changed, being made perfect, being transformed into the image of YHWH every day of their life.
Not that I have already received, or already been perfected, but I press on, to lay hold of that for which Mashiah Yahushua has also laid hold of me. Brothers, I do not count myself to have laid hold of it yet, but only this: forgetting what is behind and reaching out for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of Elohim in Mashiah Yahushua. Philippians 3:12-14
One of my all-time favorite books is ‘Hinds Feet on High Places’ by Hannah Hurnard. This timeless classic is an allegory of a girl named Much-Afraid who lives in the village of Much-Trembling along with her family members, the Fearing Clan. She is a servant of the Chief Shepherd, much to her family’s disdain. Many of her valiant friends, also servants of the Shepherd, have made the journey to the High Places, been transformed and given new names.
Much-Afraid has a lame foot and a crooked mouth, and is certain she is unfit to make the ascent to the High Places. “Oh if only I could escape from this Valley of Humiliation altogether and go to the High Places, completely out of reach of all the Fearings and my other relatives!”, she cries out. The Shepherd immediately responds by saying, “I have waited a long time to hear you make that suggestion, Much-Afraid!”
The conversation continues: “It is true,” said the Shepherd,”that you would have to be changed before you could live on the High Places, but if you are willing to go with me, I promise to help you develop hinds’ feet.”
He then goes on to tell her that she must allow Him to plant the seed of Love in her heart. He explains, “It will take you some time to develop hinds’ feet and to climb to the High Places, and if I put the seed in your heart now it will be ready to bloom by the time you get there.”
She willingly bares open her heart and the Shepherd plants the sharp little seed deep into her chest.
The rest of the story is about her journey - an adventure filled with hills and valleys, seemingly impossible precipices, guides that are everything other than what she expected, and members of her Fearing family trying to pull her from her path.
I’ll leave out the details and the ending so you can get a copy of the book and read it yourself if you haven’t already. I promise it’s worth every word!
The point, so beautifully illustrated in this amazing story, is that the journey we all take, like Much-Afraid, from the hopeless valleys we were born into, to the top of the heights of the Eternal Kingdom of YHWH starts with a seed.
We too, like our unsuspecting little heroine, are being transformed all along the Way to the final destination. It is the hills and valleys, the hands of sorrow and suffering, and the battles we overcome, all under the faithful tutelage of the Shepherd Himself, that transform us as we go and make US fit to receive the Love that has always been there for us, from the beginning to the end.
The salvation that was bought by our Shepherd is complete. He has finished His work. When we accept His invitation to go to the High Places, He plants the seed of Love in our heart. This is our moment of salvation that many of us received when we “prayed the sinner’s prayer”. Yet Scripture tells us we must now “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)
Wow. Much-Afraid was from the fearing Family and lived in the village of Much-Trembling! She lived up to her name and did her fair share of fearing and trembling all along her way! The seed was truly in her heart. She wasn’t working for the seed. She was working for the soil of her heart to be tilled, weeded, and nourished so that the perfect seed of salvation could grow and come to fruition in time.
Can you see it?! Is this making sense?
There is no devaluing of the gift of salvation by recognizing the need to work it out. The gift is given, not earned. Just like the parable of the talents.(Matthew 25:14-30) The master gave gifts to his servants. They didn’t earn them, but they were required to show a return on his investment in them.
We have each been given the offer of the gift of salvation. If we accept that gift, we are like Much-Afraid - bearing our heart open before our Shepherd and allowing Him to plant that seed of Love, the hope of salvation, in our soul.
That’s where our journey begins. We aren’t earning our salvation, we’re working it out! How beautiful that Abba Father gives us the opportunity to participate with His process in us. He wants a Bride that loves Him with all her heart, who seeks Him, serves Him, and forsakes all others. That kind of love is evidenced by that kind of work!
How does your garden grow?
The worries of this world, the traps of the adversary, and the scorching trials of life will come to try to snatch our seed, shrivel our shoots, and choke out our fruit. Yet we have the assurance that NOTHING can snatch us out of His hand or separate us from His love! (John 10:28, Romans 8:38-39)
However, the parable of the sower (Mathew 13:1-23) clearly shows that not everyone who receives seed produces a bountiful crop. It actually appears that the majority of recipients fall prey to snatching birds, scorching sun, or choking weeds.
Have you ever planted a garden? We just recently planted seeds and very small plants. We didn’t plant any fully grown produce and we don’t expect to reap the harvest tomorrow! We understand that growing a garden takes time and effort, and…work.
Personally, my husband and I have heard pastors and well-meaning believers dismiss our desire to keep Torah and walk in obedience to YHWH’s commands as “works based salvation.” Hopefully we are all beginning to see more clearly that none of us receives the seed of salvation by our own works, by keeping Torah or the Feasts, or by guarding the Sabbath. Yet all of those things are a necessary part of the process of growing the seed into a fruitful plant.
No wonder the enemy wants to turn the word “works” into a dirty word. If works grow our seed and we will be judged by our works on the final judgement day, the enemy has surely sown some seeds of deceit that would keep us from being fruitful if we allow them room in the garden of our mind.
We start on our journey of salvation by receiving the free gift given by the One who redeemed us from sin and death. He paid the penalty that we all owed because we all have sinned, missed the mark of the perfection of Torah, and fallen short of the esteem of YHWH. In other words, no one was able to earn their own salvation, to make it from seed to plant on their own.
From the point of planting, to the end of harvest, is the season of work.
Does Scripture contradict itself?
For by favor (grace) you have been saved, through belief, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim, it is not by works, so that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
James (Ya’acob) said:
So also belief, if it does not have works, is in itself dead…Do you see that the belief was working with his works, and by the works the belief was perfected?…You see, then, that a man is declared right by works, and not by belief alone. James (Ya’acob 2:17, 22, 24)
Upon first reading these 2 verses, it may seem that Paul and James are in direct opposition to one another. Are they not stating opposite ideas? Paul seems to say that salvation is by faith and not by works. Yet James clearly states that a man is not saved by faith alone, and that faith without works is dead! Who is right?!
Scripture settles the seemingly audacious argument easily. I like visual examples, so please allow me to summarize just once more and paint a personal picture that has literally brought the parables of Yahushua and the understanding of the complete counsel of His Word home to me.
In our backyard, Joel made a lovely stone path leading to the garden and he diligently prepared the soil which had previously just been part of our yard on the side of the house. If on his way to the garden Joel tossed some seed on the stone path, nothing is going to grow there. In fact, I guarantee that all the lovely little birds in our yard would be quick to come snatch up all that seed for lunch! The seed was good, but it’s of no use and will never produce a crop on the rock path or in the bellies of the birdies. The seed is essentially dead.
Now imagine that Joel had not prepared the soil in the side yard but instead had just tossed some seed out on top of the ground. We might see some growth at first. It’s possible that some of that seed might germinate and begin to sprout. But the roots would be unable to go deep and so when the hot Virginia summer sun scorches the seedlings, they are going to shrivel up and die. The seed was good, but it is of no use without soil to sink into and grow.
Joel did prepare the soil. He tilled it twice, made lovely little rows, and watered it in preparation for planting. He planted all the seed and seedlings we had purchased and made an amazing diagram so we’d know exactly what we had planted and where. But what if he never did any more work on the garden - never watered it, never pulled out the weeds, never put any nourishing compost on it? Would it grow to fruition and produce a crop? Not according to Scripture.
The plants might start to grow, and depending on the cooperation of the weather, they may even begin to produce. But guess what else is going to grow - weeds. And those weeds will grow up and choke out any growth that voluntarily came up from that good seed. Again, the seed was good, but without work, it will be dead because it will not be fruitful.
We all can imagine the perfect picture: wonderful soil, tilled and prepared for planting, good seed sown into this good soil, a worker to daily tend to the garden - to water it, weed it, nourish and prune it, and eventually reap a harvest.
Would it be the works or the seed that brought about the harvest? YES! :) Remember, our walk is not an either/or situation, but a yes and amein (amen) promise!
If Joel had perfect soil and worked endlessly to care for the garden, but had neglected to plant the seed, there would be no harvest. Paul was right - we aren’t saved by works so that no man can boast.
If Joel had planted the good seed, even in good soil, but had done no work, there would be no harvest. James was right - faith without works is dead.
Here’s the equation: FAITH (seed) + WORKS = SALVATION
Paul and James were speaking of the same equation. They were just each highlighting a different missing piece, pointing out that without both of them, there is no harvest - no salvation.
The gift of salvation is the seed
For the wages of sin is death, but the favorable gift of Elohim is everlasting hair (life) in Mashiah Yahushua our Adon. Romans 6:23
Life is in the seed. It’s been given to us - everything we need. We cannot do anything without the seed.
The soil is our heart, prepared by YHWH to receive the seed - the Word of YHWH. We are tilled by life’s circumstances, pruned by the hand of the Master Gardener, made ready to be good soil. This is our willingness to receive the free gift of the seed. If we are a hard path, shallow soil, or full of weeds, that means our willingness to accept and receive the gift of salvation is hindered by us, not by the seed. We must accept the seed, like Much-Afraid, into our hearts - that is what it means to have good soil.
The work is what we do to work out our salvation - the seed planted in good soil - watering it, pulling weeds, and nourishing it. In other words, living out the instructions (the Torah) given to us on how to garden while we’re living here in the land of the temporary.
Without doing the work, the good seed, even in good soil, will not produce a bountiful crop. It is possible that good seed in good soil, even with no work might possibly produce a few scraggly crops. But it will surely not be a bountiful harvest. YHWH is merciful and some will be saved by the skin of their teeth.
Each one’s work shall be revealed, for the day shall show it up, because it is revealed by fire. And the fire shall prove the work of each one, what sort it is. If anyone’s work remains, which he has built on, he shall receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, but so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
This is Scripture, my friends! Not my own doctrine! I would love to tell you that all you need to do is say a prayer and earnestly mean it, then that’s it! Just wait till “the Lord” returns to take you away to “heaven”. But that’s not in Scripture, not anywhere. It’s only in the doctrine of man and it is false doctrine - bad seed planted by the enemy with the intent to deceive and choke out the good seed.
One last parable
Take a moment and read the parable of the weeds found in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 if you’re not familiar with it.
In that parable the Master sows good wheat seed in His field, but during the night and enemy sows bad seed that grows tares, weeds that look like wheat. The workers ask the Master if they should pull out the weeds, but He says to leave them alone and let them grow up among the wheat of the good seed and He will take care of them at the final Judgement.
This is the part of the Work that YHWH will do with His garden - the World. He will weed His garden one day and those weeds (the tares that appear to be wheat), referred to as “those doing lawlessness,” will be gathered up first and thrown into the fire. Then the wheat - the good produce - those who have received the good seed, done the work, and have a return to bring to the Master, will be gathered together to dwell with Him forever!
This is a sobering picture of how we will be judged by our works! We will be inspected to see if we are truly wheat (good seed) and have worked until the end, proved by the bountiful crop, the growth in our lives.
No amount of work or good soil will produce wheat without seed. The seed is essential, bottom line, no ifs, ands or buts. Yet the seed is not the end result, it’s not the crop.
The crop is the result of the work put into caring for the good seed. All that is needed for the crop is inside the seed. Yet the seed MUST be tended to with work in order for that life to spring forth and become the fruitful crop it was created to be.
This is salvation. It’s not one or the other. It’s the full equation.
We have been given the seed of righteousness and we will be judged according to the perfect Law of righteousness in the end, at the final harvest. What we do in between accepting the seed and harvest time is called being a disciple - hearing and doing what we’re being taught through the written Word and the Living Word of YHWH. If we turn back, like many of Yahushua’s disciples did, we will not be part of the harvest.
…work until I come. Luke 19:13
But he who shall have endured to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:13
Here is the endurance the qodeshim (the set-apart ones, the disciples), here are those guarding the Commands of YHWH and the belief of Yahushua. Revelation 14:12
Remember, not anyone or anything can snatch you out of the Master’s hand! We are not to live in fear of falling short because an outside source “stole our salvation!” That is a false doctrine as well. We cannot “lose” our salvation in this sense, as if it can be stolen from us at any moment. But we certainly can choose whether we will be a faithful worker or not.
The only way we could “lose” our salvation is by burying it and not tending to it. If we just bring back the seed to YHWH at judgment day we will not hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21 & 23) We will hear, “Depart from Me you workers of iniquity (lawlessness).” (Matthew 7:23) That is what Yahushua Himself said.
YHWH is faithful to complete the work He started in us!
Now here’s some really good news!
…He who has begun a good work in you (planted good seed) shall perfect it until the day of Yahushua ha’Mashiah. Philippians 1:6
We have the most excellent Teacher - the Ruach ha’Qodesh (the Set-Apart Spirit of YHWH), and we are disciples of the Living Word Himself, Yahushua ha’Mashiach. He will teach us and train us and make sure the work is done in us, and by us, and through us.
And I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh, and put My Ruah within you. And I shall cause you to walk in My Laws and guard My Right-Rulings and shall do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27
Our part is to be His disciple. That is why I have said that discipleship IS the process of salvation. It is not the seed and and it is not the harvest. Discipleship is the means by which the seed becomes the harvest.
…Adonai, to whom shall we go? You possess words of everlasting hai (life). And we have believed, and we know that You are ha’Mashiah, the Ben (Son) of the living Elohim. John 6:68-69
…choose for yourselves this day whom you are going to serve…But I and my house, we serve YHWH. Joshua 24:15
(*note: In the Torah the concept of being a disciple is referred to as walking in “the Way”, and that will be the topic of my next blog!)
(Quotes taken from “Hinds’ Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard, Tyndale House Publishers 1975)
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