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The Hundred-Sixtieth (Why Yeshua?)

Continuing in the theme of grounding in core scriptural lessons/truths this week, we're going to ask the question, why Yeshua? Now, you may be 100% confident in why, out of all the religions in the world, we should choose Yeshua. If you are, that's great. If not, perhaps this week's message will help. Either way, as things get worse in the country, and the world, and people start questioning why things are happening the way they are, perhaps what we get into will help formulate some ideas for talking to them about Yeshua.

The aspect to look at when answering this question is motivation. After all, no matter how selfless or selfish a person is, or claims to be, we all do things out of some motivation. It could be to look out for #1, themselves, or to look out for those less fortunate, or even to look out for everyone, but the question is why someone would choose any of those paths.

Obviously, the path of looking out for #1 is a motivation of self-preservation/exultation, to make sure the individual either gets ahead or at least doesn't get behind relative to everyone else. The other two paths seem less selfish on their face, however that is not necessarily the case. While we may never know a person's true motivation, because they could really say anything when asked, the underlying reason someone helps others could be just as selfish as those looking out for #1.

In order to understand this, it's worth taking a look at some of the beliefs of other religions. Now, there are those out there that are not religious, maybe considering themselves atheist or agnostic, that still help others, and we will touch on that a bit later. The major religions themselves give insight as to what a person's true motivation might be.

Setting aside Christianity and Judaism for a moment, the other three of the five oldest religions are Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Buddhism and Hinduism both have a belief in some form of returning to a life on earth following death, whether it be reincarnation as some other form of life or rebirth as yourself. This return is directly dependent on the idea of karma. Namely, the "quality" of your return is dependent on how good you are in this life. So really, while you may see a Hinduist or Buddhist doing good, in the end it's highly possible they are working toward a better reincarnation when they come back rather than selflessly caring for others.

Islam, on the other hand, has a lot of the same beliefs of Christianity/Judaism in that there is only one god and he provided a set of "rules," so to speak, on how he wanted people to live. Interestingly, if you look at some of the writings of those promoting Islam, this aspect of the religion is presented as a way to not be controlled by worldly things. To put it another way, it provides "freedom" to the individual from the things of this world. Likely, the justification that being bound by a stricter set of rules actually provides freedom is that these rules come from a higher power, namely Allah, but still, why follow the rules in the first place?

When you look into the beliefs of Islam, it seems that while many so-called prophets made statements of receiving rewards for following the rules, it doesn't really say that in the actual Quran writings. The desire to comply is simply based on an extreme sense of devotion to Allah, but they also hold the writings of their prophets as high as they do the Quran so those promises of rewards cannot be discounted as a possible source of motivation for rule following. As far as helping others specifically, that doctrine does include a belief of being rewarded for such actions, but the real discriminator between Christianity and Islam has to do with cleansing of sin.

In fact, the discriminator between Christianity and all the other major religions is cleansing of sin. In Buddhism and Hinduism, there is no actual cleansing of wrongdoing. You are only able to try your best to do more good things to outweigh what you did wrong. In Judaism, the only way to cleanse sins is through a sacrifice at the temple, which is not in existence anymore. Therefore, Judaism also doesn't have any way to cleanse sins currently. In Islam, the only thing required in order to be returned to a sinless state is true repentance, which begs the question of if you believe you truly repented but you made a mistake and committed the same sin again, did you actually truly repent? True repentance means turning back from the sin you committed and never doing it again, but we know sometimes that's easier said than done.

The key here is that Yeshua is the only way to be cleansed of sins and attain righteousness (Hebrews 2:17-18). His death, not any action of our own, is the only thing that fully cleanses us of sin and enables our return to life after we die. This may seem disconcerting to some, since we are not in control of something that directly affects us, but really it should evoke joy, since we know how many mistakes we make on a daily basis and should realize that the chances of us being able to successfully save ourselves are zero.

To expound on this further, and really to answer, "Why Yeshua," there is no amount of good works you can do that will result in your obtaining eternal life, or righteousness in general. Think of it like this: imagine your life as a bank account. Sin has already caused a debt to accrue against your account, so you're in the negative. How do you pay back that debt? You have less than nothing to your name. The only defined method to settle that debt is through permanent death (Romans 6:23)...unless someone comes along and settles that debt for you. The problem is that everyone else's account is just as negative as yours. Except Yeshua's. His sinless nature (Hebrews 4:15) resulted in His death having sufficient value to not only pay yours and my debt, but the debt of everyone from Adam and Eve to the last person born before this heaven and earth pass away.

While in other religions doing good things can move you up in status, and the next day you could make a mistake and do something bad that moves you down, with Yeshua your status remains the same because it has nothing to do with you. Yeshua's sacrifice, the one He did voluntarily for those dead, alive at the time, and not even born yet, is the one and only thing that gives us the right to return after death and live forever. We must, of course, believe we have that right, though. Otherwise, we'll be working for our salvation just like other religions.

Without His sacrifice, we would be subject to a life of trying to figure out how to live so that we know that we are assured that life after death. This is the life the Israelites lived following the issuance of YHWH's commandments, which continues to the life in Judaism today. A set of rules is only as strong as its interpretations, which means over time man creates guidelines to provide a buffer, ensuring that there is no chance one of the rules is broken. We see a perfect example of this when Yeshua sees a Pharisee surprised by Him not performing the Jewish ritual handwashing before eating (Luke 11:37-41). This was a made up tradition, meaningless in the eyes of Yeshua, so He used it to make a point.

This man-made rule was intended to cover the hand rinsing requirement of Leviticus 15:11, but if you read this commandment it's specific to those who had a discharge. They even had a term in Hebrew for the origin of this type of law: asmachta. It means using a verse as a hint to the law rather than basing the law solely on the verse as written. What those that created this rule failed to understand though, is that for YHWH it was never about the commandments themselves to begin with. Yes, He gave all those commandments for reasons, which I personally believe are still valid today, but attaining righteousness was not about following them. Abraham was righteous simply by having blind faith in YHWH, long before the commandments were even given (Genesis 15:6). Elijah, again long before the law, was so righteous by his faith, which like Abraham was expressed by his obedience to YHWH, that he was spared from death (2 Kings 2:11). The commandments themselves were a lesson in faith since most of them didn't come with a reason other than, "for I am the Lord your God." Still, the focus became how to make sure they didn't accidentally break the law vice just following exactly what it said.

So, what does that make a Christian's motivation for helping others? Do we get a leg up in the afterlife for it? Well, Yeshua did talk about storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20), but this is likely not the materialistic, worldly view of treasure that most people think. No, for a true Christian it's about obedience and not reward.

While other religions acknowledge an existence of a higher power or supernatural being, Christianity is the only religion where that Being voluntarily took the form of His creation (John 8:58) and suffered and died at the hands of the beings He created, nurtured, delivered from bondage and led to the promise land, so that creation could have the opportunity to again be delivered, this time from the bondage of death (Romans 6:23). The very least that we can do for Him is be obedient.

So, out of all the possible beliefs and religions in the world, why Yeshua? Because He is the only way for us to be righteous, and as a result our only motivation for good is obedience to Him, not personal gain. Oh, and those atheists and agnostics mentioned earlier and their motivation to do good? Well, it has to come from somewhere, right? And despite their beliefs against the existence of YHWH, or being "not sure," these actions of good or feeling like "it's just the right thing to do," come from Him either way (Romans 2:14-16). Their lack of belief or outright disbelief doesn't make the existence of YHWH and how He designed His creation any less true for them than it does for anyone else.

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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