Introduction:

The Need for Transformation

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh [this world].  Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that it is good, satisfying and able to succeed.”

Romans 12:2


 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1:  The Need for Transformation

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.”—John 3:16

 

“Just to be close to You.  Just to be close to You.  Just to be close to You . . . is my desire.”  Adonai (the Lord) used this sweet little hymn to awaken me this morning.  I get a song every morning in my spirit, a song that speaks directly to me.  I don’t use an alarm clock anymore.  I simply wait for my spiritual clock radio to wake me.  It prepares me for my morning quiet time with Him, which prepares my spirit, heart and mind for whatever I’ll encounter during the day.  In my time with God this morning, He reminded me not to forsake the intimacy He and I share in our relationship.  As a wife, mother and prophetess, it’s hard not to get bogged down with tasks and meeting the needs of those around me.  But my first love just wanted some quality time alone with me today.  It’s nice to be desired by God.

God adores me, and I have no doubts about that.  Not because I’m righteous, or because I work hard for Him, but because I am His and He is mine.[1]  He loves you in this same way.  My prayer for you is that you would receive God’s passionate love and allow it to flow into every area of your life; that’s transformation.

God loves us, you and me, so much that He sent His Son as a sacrifice to destroy every barrier between us and the perfect and wise Father.  It is Yeshua (Jesus) who extends the invitation to receive the precious gift of salvation from the consequences of our sins, which is death.[2]  Our loving and merciful Father takes it a step further though.  After we’ve accepted His salvation from eternal death, God keeps sending Yeshua (Jesus) to us to save us from death on earth, in every form,[3] and prepare us for eternal fellowship.  In short, He sends His Son over and over again to draw us closer to Himself.  The Messiah comes, and keeps coming, to continually transform us into His image,[4] making us sons of El ‘Elyon (God Most High) who are prepared to receive our eternal inheritance of life forever in His presence.[5] 

Each of us has a piece of God in him.  However, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the only human in creation who contains all of the characteristics of God in their fullness,[6] being fully man AND fully God.  It is He whom God sent down to earth to bear the sins of mankind, and it is He whom God continues to send to empower us to exist in the fullness of God as well.[7] 

The Scripture text from Romans 12:2 on the “Introduction” page is taken from the Complete Jewish Bible.  You will note that this particular translation reads, “keep letting yourselves be transformed,” rather than, “be ye transformed.”  As I spend time reading Scripture from a Jewish cultural perspective, I understand that most of the processes mentioned in the Bible are ongoing cycles, spiraling upward when guided by God and spiraling downward when guided by man.  Unlike Scripture written from a Western cultural mindset, the only final destination is death.  Until death, from the Jewish perspective, we never arrive at any place or achieve anything in this life, but rather we continue to learn and grow and change.  That’s what this book is about, the continual transformation of God’s people into the image of the Messiah, so that the Body of Believers (a.k.a. the Bride) will continually be prepared for union with her Bridegroom.[8] 

As children of El ‘Elyon (God Most High), we are in danger of spiritual stagnation leading to spiritual death whenever we stop allowing God to transform us.  When we become comfortable in our relationship with Him or our position in the Kingdom, we close our ears to His voice that always speaks new life for new levels.  Each time He desires to elevate us and draw us closer to Himself, we need yet another transformation so that we will “know what God wants and will agree that it is good, satisfying and able to succeed.” 

Going to the next level sounds wonderful, but our comfort with the current level will always compete for our loyalty.  Every time God wants to draw us closer to Himself and elevate us in His Kingdom, we must sacrifice the comfort we now feel because we’ve mastered some things and achieved some success on this level.  Moving on to the next level for many of us is like starting over.  And in many ways, we are starting over.  Remember it is a spiral, either going up or down, so the process will be repeated.  Each time, it should be on a higher plane though.  This is why we must keep letting ourselves be transformed.  Otherwise, we will not agree with God that going to the next level is good, satisfying and able to succeed.

Each level is more challenging as it brings greater glory to God and requires greater sacrifice from us.  Yet the things we learned and the strength we received on the previous levels prepare us for the next.  Moving to the next level for Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) meant leaving a thriving ministry in the desert to await execution in prison.  He was prepared for that level by the self-sacrificing lifestyle he led.[9]  Then immersing Yeshua (Jesus) in the Yarden (Jordan) River[10] provided the transformation he needed to understand and agree with God’s will for his next level move.[11]  Are you ready for the next level?

 

The Invitation

 

The Messiah comes to us when God knows that He’s prepared us to be transformed in an area of our lives.  The Father sends His Son when we’re at low points, crying out to Him.  It’s only at these low points that we can truly allow deliverance to transform us—deliverance from our present status or situation—because we‘re ready to give up the comfort of our current level for something more.  It’s then that Yeshua (Jesus) reveals Himself to us as our personal Deliverer, for the first or fiftieth time.

Yeshua (Jesus) said that He came for sinners, not the righteous,[12] the sick, not the healthy[13].  In these phrases, He tells us that we must first recognize that we are sin-sick sinners to accept His deliverance.  We shut Yeshua out of every area of our lives that we feel we can handle on our own.  That type of independence and self-righteousness will always hinder us from being transformed by our Deliverer.  Here’s a good example.  There was a woman who washed Yeshua’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, just before pouring perfume on His feet.  The Messiah contrasted her with the religious leader named Shim’on (Simon) who witnessed this act and judged the woman as a sinner.  Yeshua answered him with a story.

“’A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other.  When they were unable to pay him back, he canceled both their debts.  Now which of them will love him more?’  Shim’on answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.’  ‘Your judgment is right,’ Yeshua said to him.

“Then turning to the woman, he said to Shim’on, ‘Do you see this woman?  I came into your house—you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair!  You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet!  You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet!  Because of this, I tell you that her sins—which are many!—have been forgiven, because she loved much.  But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.’  Then he said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’”[14]

In this story, Yeshua points out that the religious leader was also a sinner, though his sins were not as blatant as the woman’s.  Like the religious leader, we won’t accept the Messiah’s deliverance if we don’t think we need forgiveness.  That’s why God often sends His Son when we’re at those low points.  This keeps us from being self-righteous like the religious leader and failing to appreciate the gift of deliverance.  Yeshua forgives sins, the subtle and hidden as well as the obvious and blatant.  In order to go to another level in Him, we must allow Him to show us the sin currently in us that can’t go with us to the next level.  Usually, these are things that seem insignificant to us on this level, and we may not even consider them sins.  He knows us though, and desires to prepare us and transform us to meet the challenges He’s positioning us to face.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.[15]  First John 1:8 reads, “If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Our sin separates us from a holy, sinless God.  Therefore, every attempt on His part to draw us closer to Himself and transform us more into the image of the Messiah will include deliverance from sin.  The key to deliverance is openly acknowledging that we are sinners (confession), submitting ourselves to God (submission), and accepting His forgiveness through the Messiah (acceptance), which empowers us to turn away from our sins (repentance). 

 

Transformation of Jews and Christians

 

This process of confession, submission, acceptance and repentance must continue throughout our lives as believers.  When we accept Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as our Deliverer, we receive forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed, but we still have to deal with the sins we will commit and how to stop committing them.  In the Written Torah (Law of Moses), the children of Isra’el presented sin offerings to God more than once in their lifetimes.  Sacrifices had to be made continually in order to receive atonement and cleansing of sins.  Yeshua made the ultimate sacrifice once and for all.  However, we must present ourselves to Him on an on-going basis to apply His blood to the newly uncovered areas of sin in our lives.  Without blood, there is no atonement of sins.[16]  In this way, we continually receive atonement and cleansing of our sins until we become the people He died for us to be.  He desires that we would truly be set free from slavery to sin in our hearts, not just forgiven of our acts.  This freedom comes only from an ever-intensifying intimate relationship with Him, as He empowers us to be holy in the presence of a Holy God.

As God’s children, whether Jew or Christian, we often assume that our position in the Father’s Kingdom is secure.  However, there is always something we must do to meet God where He’s working.  We must be committed to allowing Yeshua to transform us into representations of Himself.  The emissary Sha’ul (apostle Paul) said that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.[17]  This acknowledges our need for a Deliverer and the requirement for us to surrender ourselves to Him daily, that we might be changed.  The transformation from sinner to servant is not an easy one, and it takes all of our lives to complete.  We can’t do it in our own strength, and we can’t restrict Him to doing it in our lives only part-time.

Our deliverance requires more than just believing that Yeshua is who He says He is.  We must acknowledge with our mouths that He is Adonai (Lord and Master):  Adonai over our lives, our decisions and our actions.  By claiming Him as Adonai, we surrender to Him power and authority over ourselves and everything we own, so that He might lead us. Ya’akov (James), the brother of Yeshua and leader of the body of believers in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), admonished believers for not living the words they believed and lining up their actions with their faith.  He said, “But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions.  Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!  You believe that ‘God is one’?  Good for you!  The demons believe it too—the thought makes them shudder with fear!”[18] 

We can believe that Yeshua died for our sins without surrendering ourselves to Him completely.  But “If it seems bad to you to serve ADONAI (the LORD), then choose today whom you are going to serve!  Will it be the gods your ancestors served beyond the River?  or the gods of the Emori, in whose land you are living?  As for me and my household, we will serve ADONAI!”[19]  We will be slaves to our flesh, which is sinful, or slaves to the Messiah; there are no other options and no middle ground.[20]  A slave does not make her own decisions; instead she does everything her master commands her to do.  This is what our LORD requires of us, and He will settle for nothing less.

 

Transformation of the Body of the Messiah

 

Because Yeshua is close to returning, He is currently taking the global Body of the Messiah through a transforming experience just as its members are all being transformed.  The House of God is being set in order that we might take our rightful place in the physical and spiritual realms.  We’ve not been able to do so in the full power of the Messiah because of the disorder and lack of authority in the Body.  The disorder is caused by the absence of the children of Isra’el from the Body of the Messiah, which we will now explore.  The lack of authority comes from not fulfilling all five of the five-fold commissions,[21] which we will explore in chapter 10.  In these last days, Yeshua has been working overtime to restore both order and authority to His Body, though.  We must meet Him where He is working. 

In the last few decades, the children of Isra’el have begun to openly acknowledge Yeshua as the Messiah in large numbers.  Rather than “converting” to Christianity, which would strip you of your heritage and rob Christians of the wealth of knowledge and history you’ve preserved as a people, God has instead begun to teach the children of Isra’el how to receive the Jewish Messiah as Jews.  This empowers Messianic Jews to train Christians through the strengths and wisdom He has developed in His people Isra’el over the millennia, placing you in a unique position in the Body of the Messiah that, since the early formation of the Body of Believers, has been left unfilled.  It also releases Gentile believers to worship God freely in accordance with our varying cultures and heritages, rather than feeling that we must worship in accordance with the culture and heritage of the people group who first presented the Good News to us.  In years to come, believers will gain new insight and understanding of the will of God through this and other transforming experiences in the Body.  This new understanding, when coupled with obedience, will position us for greater blessings from Adonai, which will increase our power to change the world.

It was always God’s intention that the children of Isra’el and the Gentiles would come together in worship of Him.  It’s a part of God’s promise to Avraham (Abraham) in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18, to Yitz’chak (Isaac) in Genesis 26:4, and it was prophesied in Isaiah 49:6.  The emissary Sha’ul (apostle Paul) addresses the union of Gentiles, who were far off, and the children of Isra’el, who were nearby, in Ephesians 2:11-22, in which he states the following:

“But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.  For he himself is our shalom (peace, wholeness)—he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah (dividing wall) which divided us by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah (Law of Moses), with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances.  He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity.  Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby, news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers.  On the contrary, you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family.  You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself.  In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord.  Yes, in union with him; you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!”

Until recently, the children of Isra’el have been delayed in accepting Yeshua as the Messiah, however.  In Romans 11:25-26 Sha’ul (Paul) states,

“For, brothers, I want you to understand the truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do.  It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved.  As the Tanakh (Old Testament) says, ‘Out of Tziyon (Zion) will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya’akov (Jacob) and this will be my covenant with them, . . . when I take away their sins.’” 

The Scriptures above confirm that the acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah by the children of Isra’el is an essential transforming experience for the Body of the Messiah.[22] 

Throughout our study on transformation, we will look at the most well known example:  the first transforming experience of Sha’ul (Paul), the emissary (apostle) God used to write the Scriptures above.  The emissary Sha’ul was a devout Jew and Parush (Pharisee),[23] yet the Messiah transformed him into an emissary to the Gentiles.  His ministry to Gentiles was instrumental in the early formation of the Body of Believers throughout the world.  Despite his dedication to his mission to Gentiles, Sha’ul never forgot his brothers; in fact, his love for them and desire that all Isra’el be saved continued to grow.[24]  He is an excellent example for us to study because of his deep love for both Jews and Gentiles.  Hence, he shares the Word of God without bias or taint and always with the goal of uniting the Body of Believers.  His many transforming experiences helped to make that possible. 

            Because he’s not one of the original twelve emissaries and is stopped by Yeshua while on his way to persecute believers, Sha’ul maintains a humble devotion to God throughout his ministry.  He’s not arrogant with Jews or Gentiles and welcomes all into the Kingdom.  His testimony is an example for us of the power of transformation in the life of a believer and in the Body of the Messiah.  If God can use Sha’ul to set the world on fire for Yeshua, surely He can use you and me.

 

A Young Man Named Sha’ul

 

At the beginning of Acts chapter 9, we become acquainted with Sha’ul (Paul), a young Parush (Pharisee).  Our brief introduction to him in Acts chapter 8, verses 1 and 3, reveals that he approved of the stoning of Stephen, a believer full of God’s grace and power,[25] and that he began to destroy the community of believers by going from house to house dragging off men and women and putting them in prison.  Chapter 9, however, begins to really depict his zeal for persecuting believers.  Not only did he carry out assignments from the chief priests, but he also requested an opportunity to pursue believers outside of Y’hudah (Judea) and bring them back to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) for persecution.  It was on his mission to Damascus that Sha’ul encountered Yeshua and was changed forever.

Beloved, we can have transforming experiences like that of Sha’ul, provided we answer Yeshua’s calls when He comes to us.  Before the Messiah reveals our folly to us, we make decisions for ourselves based on our flawed thinking.[26]  Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There can be a way that seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death.”  This Scripture is not just referring to eternal death away from the Father, but also to death in areas of our lives and souls.  This Scripture is proved true in our Biblical example of Sha’ul.  He actually believed he was fervently serving God by persecuting those who belonged to “the Way.”[27]  He used his formal education about the Torah (Law) and his recollection of the story of Akhan’s (Achan’s) stoning[28] to justify his sinful thirst for blood.  Sha’ul was a violent man,[29] and the wrath in him found a legal and socially acceptable way to live out its desires.  Such thinking will always lead us down a road to destruction.  Though Sha’ul thought the road to Damascus was leading to the deaths of believers in the Messiah, it was in fact leading to his own spiritual death.

We all desire certain things in our flesh; we’re all inclined to particular sins.  And much like, Sha’ul, we all continue to carry religious ideals created by people, from both Christianity and Judaism, that are not Scripturally sound and stand in opposition to the true heart of God for unity within the Body of Believers.  Without the help of Yeshua, we’ll continue to structure our lives around feeding those desires and religious ideals, long after we’ve accepted Him as Adonai (Lord) and Deliverer.  The people with whom we associate, the ways in which we worship, the jobs we choose, the clothes we wear, how we plan our days and many other decisions are often predicated on whether or not they will help us fulfill our desires and uphold the ideals within us.  Feeding our desires and upholding our ideals is comfortable; it creates the least amount of conflict with others and within ourselves, that is, until Yeshua shows up.

Sha’ul believed that he was on a road to success, to rewards from man and God, and to self-fulfillment.  We can’t see that destruction lies ahead unless Yeshua points it out to us.  We’ve been trained our entire lives, even in ministry, to see only what we want to see, just as Sha’ul was.  It’s not until God uses the Light of the World[30] to grab our attention that we have the opportunity to see and accept the truth:  we are STILL sinners and our sins lead us to death.[31]  The Messiah is the detour sign on our road to Damascus, a.k.a. destruction.  He came that we may have life in its fullest measure,[32] and every area of our souls that is undelivered is an area of death in us.  Who among us would continue to drive down a road with signs marked “Danger Ahead: Steep Cliff”?  No one in their right mind would do that, but we often continue on those roads, in the spiritual sense, in various areas of our lives.  We do this because we’re NOT in our right minds.

In Romans 8:1-14, the emissary Sha’ul (apostle Paul) addresses the sinful nature and the mind controlled by it.  Such a mind is unable to submit to God.[33]  Romans 12:1-2 explains the transformation process from living according to the sinful nature to living in accordance with the Spirit of God.  Simply put, it consists of sacrificing our bodies, not conforming to the world (which includes man-made religious systems), and renewing our minds to know (and live out) the perfect will of God.  God was able to use Sha’ul to deliver this message of transformation because of his personal transforming experiences.  He himself was transformed from a sinful, religious man headed toward death into a son of El ‘Elyon (God Most High), not only guaranteed life in its fullest measure but also leading others in the Kingdom to it as well.

As we journey through this book together, allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to reveal to you the divine perfection of Sha’ul’s first transforming experience, depicted in Acts 9:1-22, and explore similar testimonies of transformation from myself and others.  God still speaks; God still redeems; God still saves souls.  To live with Him forever, we must allow His Son to transform us from sinners to servants.  Times change, people change, but God does not change.[34]  His will for us is the same as it was when He sent His Son to die for our sins:  He wishes that none would be lost.[35]


 



[1] See Isaiah 43:1 and Song of Solomon 6:3

[2] See Romans 6:23

[3] See John 10:10

[4] See 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Philippians 3:10-16

[5] See Romans 8:9-17 and Revelation 21:1-8

[6] See Colossians 1:19 & 2:9-10 and Ephesians 1:22-23

[7] See Ephesians 3:16-19 & 4:7-13

[8] See Ephesians 5:25-32

[9] See Matthew 3:4

[10] See Matthew 3:13-17

[11] See John 3:22-36

[12] Matthew 9:13

[13] Matthew 9:12

[14] Luke 7:41-48

[15] Romans 3:23

[16] See Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22

[17] Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

[18] James 2:18-19, but please read the entire book of James regarding living like the Messiah.

[19] Joshua 24:15

[20] See Romans chapter 6 and Luke 11:23

[21] See Ephesians chapter 4

[22] I suggest reading all of Romans chapter 11.

[23] The P’rushim (Pharisees) were religious leaders in Yeshua’s time.  See Matthew 23:1-36 (also 3:7-12, 5:20, 9:11-12, 9:32-34, 15:1-20, 16:1-12 & 22:15-22) and Luke 18:11-14 for descriptions of the P’rushim (Pharisees).

[24] See Romans 9:1-5

[25] See Acts 6:8

[26] See Isaiah 55:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 

[27] See Acts 9:1-2 and John 16:2

[28] See Joshua chapter 7

[29] See 1 Timothy 1:13; the writer of the letters to Timothy is the emissary Sha’ul (apostle Paul), who is the young Parush (Pharisee) Sha’ul after his transforming experience.

[30] who is Yeshua, see John 8:12

[31] See Romans 6:23

[32] John 10:10

[33] Romans 8:7

[34] See Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8

[35] See Matthew 18:14