"Uniting Christian & Jewish Clergy from Around the World"
As all Christendom approaches the Passover celebration for our Jewish Brothers and Sisters, and Easter reflections within the Christian community of Saints, I was moved recently to focus upon Messiah’s humility that was learned through His suffering. Our Holy Scriptures truly speaks to Messiah’s humanity has the Son of Man in an evil and ungodly society. Please consider the Word of God:
9. But we do see Yeshua [Jesus]—who indeed was made for a little while lower than the angels-now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for all humanity. 10. For in bringing many sons to glory, it was only fitting that God, the Creator and Preserver of everything, should bring the Initiator of their deliverance to the goal through suffering. Hebrews 2: 9-10 [The Complete Jewish Bible]
8. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things, which He suffered. Hebrews 5: 8. [The Complete Jewish Bible].
Much has been talked about historically and theologically as to the need for Messiah to suffer on the Cross-for sinful humanity. [We can discuss these multiple reasons at another time]. But what I wish to present to you is the example of a disciplined spiritual man who boldly demonstrated the lost spiritual discipline of Biblical Asceticism.
By its basic definition, the term Asceticism means practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline. [http://www.merrian-Webster.com], accessed March 18, 2010.
Asceticism as a chose path in a free society such as America somehow isn’t an attractive alternative nor often discussed if not taught as one of the major life-long disciplines of a disciple of Messiah. Researchers and theologians see our current age as Post-Modern. By Post-Modern, I am referring to the multiple conditions; the intention in describing the economic, religious, political and cultural state by each of us now must contend with, as did Messiah in the First Century. In some schools of thought hold that Modernity ended in the late 20th Century, and thus was replaced by Post-Modernity. For us today, Post-Modernity can mean our personal response to a Post-Modern society, and its multiple conditions which make it Post-Modern. [http://www.answers.com], accessed March 18, 2010.
In an overview of a well-written and very interesting article, which was entitled, “Asceticism and The Hopeful Self”, author Gavin Flood list four major aspects about the Ascetic Lifestyle that I hope to highlight for your edification. In order to embrace the complete essence of this article, I strongly recommend you reading it in its entirety at: [Cross Currents; Winter 2008, Vol. 57, Iss 4, p. 481-497, 17 p]. I would like to add before listing and briefly discussing these four aspects of Asceticism, that well within our Judaic-Christian credo is a well documented, multi-generational pattern and examples of Asceticism that was taught and practice by Followers of God the Father, and disciples of His Son Jesus The Messiah of all Nations.
· The Paradox of The Will
· Asceticism is Teleological
· Asceticism’s performance is to be measured (Objectively)
· Asceticism involves the Recapitulation [a concise summary-the way of the Messiah] of tradition.
Teleological- All learned spiritual habits and disciplines are directed toward a greater future course and or purpose as opposed to life in the present. Example: The coming glorified Kingdom of Heaven.
Always Performed- the inherited mind of Messiah, meaning living in the present world, yet not have this world [culture or system]. Living a lifestyle that seeks to reverse the evil flow, pull, impulses and powers of this age.
The internalization of learned Ascetic practices- Life-long disciplines obtained and mastered as a disciple of Messiah. Prayer, fasting, study and servant-leadership obtained through humility. Those before us have handed all of these disciplines down in this Judaic-Christian Faith. It is within the life-long discipline of following the examples of Messiah that three major objective behaviors are demonstrated before the godless culture of ours. They are self-evident: Love, Self-Mastery and a life of Prayer.
Of the many negative if not evil pulls and impulses that wars against the saints in this age, one is the most subtle yet the most deadly of all others, the spirit of Consumerism. This spirit quickly denies any hope for an Ascetic lifestyle in our Post-Modern Age. Believers, who are addicted to this pull, will not heed the message that God intends for this age. Our ever seeking for the next better thing has taken on a greater sin such as Idolatry. The spirit under girding the spirit of consumerism drives many toward objects of their desires and passions. These learned behaviors falsely deceived many into believing that to obtain things-they somehow will obtain happiness and satisfaction. In reality, our experiences do not attain the hoped for level of excitement, power, or sexual satisfaction that we sought through our interaction with the coveted items. Our response-we gets rid of it, only to seek after something else.
As noted by Eliezer Diamond in the article entitled, “The Way of Torah as Askesis, An Ascetic Conceptualization of The Life of Mitzvah”, this Post-Modern unhealthy learned cycle of behavior is a form of an addiction, which is very self-destructive. It not only harms the individual, but others as well. Spiritually, a lifestyle of getting and spending leaves little room for self-reflecting and character formation. [Cross Currents; Winter 2008, Vol. 57, Issue 4, p 563-577, 15p].
Our author writes that one comes to this world through God’s Grace with a mission to fulfill God’s will. It is by the process of Spiritual “rebirth” or regeneration that one begins to realize one’s humanity in the midst of a Perfect, all Wise and Divine Creator. The 2,000-year-old question is how do we in a Post-Modern culture bring about this self-transformation, which is necessary to offset this current evil pull(s) of this age? In closure, I leave these four worthwhile yet practical tools for the Body of Messiah to strongly consider.
· Recommitment to Biblical Literacy – Learn, study and develop a deeper understanding of the Torah of Truth, The Prophets and The Writings, as well as the New Covenant of Messiah.
· Learn The Spirit of God behind His Holy Word as it was written in its cultural context, and just how that initial message is very relevant for each of us today.
· With the Ministry of The Holy Spirit of God, seek within the Holy Scriptures for the clearly listed Ascetic elements that God has provided for all of His Children that are willing to learn what the requirements are toward a lifestyle of self-restraint, simplicity and honor.
· Finally, the challenge of an Ascetic Lifestyle is [Kavvanah] which means maintaining the spiritual mindfulness expected as God teaches His sons and daughters to see that our journey is a perpetual process of being trained for God’s eternal purposes. This is obtained through the revealed self-knowledge and character formation that can both result from the fulfillment of the Living Word of God made alive within these earthen vessels…now!
Brother Alonzoe’ Thornton, M. Div.
Sharing the Light of The Messiah…until He Returns.