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Watch 2022 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - Engaging the Church

Jonathan Bernis - Engaging the Church

Jonathan Bernis - Engaging the Church
TOPICS: Second Coming, Church

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice and thank you for joining me today. I'm Jonathan Bernis. My co-host, Ezra Benjamin is with me again today as we open a discussion on whether or not the church is ready for the return of the Messiah. Let me ask you. Are you ready for the Messiah to return? Because he is coming back, and I believe he's coming back soon. Now, here's another question. Would Jesus even recognize the church as it is today? Ezra, you have a lot to say about this and I want you to unpack this because you've been giving this a lot of thought, so...

Ezra Benjamin: I have. I have, you know. And the core thought really, Jonathan, is I'm realizing more and more as I read Romans, and read the Old Testament and the New Testament alike that what we don't always give a lot of emphasis to and we should is that the fullness of the gentiles or God's full heart and plans for believers from every nation is inextricably linked to this other scriptural promise of the salvation of all Israel. And here at Jewish Voice ministries, we're committed, for 55 years and counting now, to reaching Jewish people and their neighbors with the gospel.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, let's reference this so people understand the context.

Ezra Benjamin: Romans 11:26.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, let's put it up because this is an important point, "The fullness of the gentiles". It actually says here that the blindness will come off of the eyes of the Jewish people.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Which presuppose that God has not finished with the Jewish people, replaced them. "That the blindness will come off their eyes". So there's a spiritual blindness covering their eyes now that keep them from recognizing who Jesus is, that he's the Jewish Messiah and it connects it to the fullness of the gentiles coming in. What does that mean?

Ezra Benjamin: That's right. Well, I think, you know, the word there in the Greek, in the language that this book to the Romans was written in is "Pleroma" and it doesn't mean a numeric fullness. You know, sometimes we get the wrong idea, right? And it's like God's up in heaven with one of those amusement park clickers, and when he gets to the right click for the gentiles, "Okay, now it's time to deal with Israel, to save the Jewish people". That's not the idea.

Jonathan Bernis: But it's very commonly understood that way.

Ezra Benjamin: It is.

Jonathan Bernis: And several translations say, "The full number".

Ezra Benjamin: Right, but if we look at the Greek word, what it really means is almost... If you can envision like a cornucopia, a full abundance. Now, there's a quantitative factor to it as well, but what Paul's really saying is when the full abundance of God's heart and plans for the nations, right? Because "God so loved the world," Jew and gentile alike, "That he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life". And so, when the fullness, the full abundance of God's heart and intentions for the nations, in essence, a remnant of believers from every people, tribe, and tongue is realized, then we get to this point where we see the full realization of God's heart for Israel which as Paul shares is that they might be saved, that they might come to the knowledge of Jesus.

Jonathan Bernis: I wanna come back to this idea of abundance and have you unpack that more. How does that connect to someone watching right now that heard us say, when we started the program, "Jesus is coming back, are you ready"?

Ezra Benjamin: Well, let me ask you a question, we'll look eye to eye for a minute. Do you care about the return of Jesus? And of course the answer I hope you're standing up from your sofa and saying, "Absolutely, of course I do. You know, I'm giving my life to see Jesus come back in my lifetime. Amen". But what we need to look at scripturally, and Jonathan, what we spend so much time on this program unpacking is what does it take for that to happen, right? There's some things scripturally, Old Testament and New Testament, the prophets saw it, Jesus confirmed it, Paul talked about it in his letters, some things that need to be true before Jesus' coming back, coming back that second time to rule and reign. One of them is we know that the gospel has to be proclaimed to all nations, right? We know that a time of intense trial and tribulation has to come, but there's also this element of the fullness of the gentiles and an increasing testimony of salvation among the Jewish people. These things have to happen before the return of Jesus and a real challenging question is, you know, we know that God's omniscient, he's omnipotent, right? He's very aware of the state of his people, of the state of Israel, and of the state of the church, but if Jesus somehow, after he ascended to be with the father, disappeared for 2.000 years and came back today, would he recognize what he saw in the, if you will, the Ecclesia, the body of believers worldwide? And I think, Jonathan, Paul's dealing with that in Romans, we're gonna spend the balance of our time looking at Romans 11 today, on this idea as the majority of believers in the known world, midway through the first century, are no longer Jewish, they're gentile. And Paul's speaking to a predominantly gentile audience in the book of Romans saying, "Make no mistake, though you're now the majority, I wanna talk to you about this olive tree whose root is Israel".

Jonathan Bernis: This is such an important topic because it's connected to you if you want to see Jesus return.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, I think we get so distracted in the body looking at the sign of the times as all of the negative things that are going to happen.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: The growth of wickedness, natural disasters, the emergence of the anti-Christ, and so on, the Mark of the beast instead of focusing on what God wants to do with his people. In the midst of darkness...

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: He wants activity to take place within the body. In other words, we get brighter, and brighter, and brighter. And part of that is what you're talking about here, this abundance, this fullness.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. It's almost, in every generation, we wanna see more fruit being put in the cornucopia of the fullness of what God wants to do among Israel and among the nations. And you're absolutely right. I mean, is there a place to understand that difficult times are ahead, and to understand that there's trial and tribulation in the world, and increasing opposition against the message of Jesus? Yes, but if we camp only there, we're missing what Paul was pointing to. What the prophets saw is that the Kingdom of God, though it begins as a mustard seed, is gonna get bigger, and bigger, and brighter, and more powerful, and God's people, Jew and gentile alike, are gonna walk in increasing levels of victory.

Jonathan Bernis: That's what we should be focusing on. Listen, I understand that we need to operate as if the end is near, I understand that we need to understand the times, but God has a destiny for you and a destiny for the church, and that is to grow in power, grow in authority, grow in abundance, and fulfill a destiny that he's ordained for us as a people before the foundation of the world.

Ezra Benjamin: Jonathan, it's easy to be consumed with the news, whatever brand of news you subscribe to, and all of a sudden, the world looks like a very dark place, and in many ways, it is, but that's not our calling as believers, is to live in this kind of defeatist, "Well, that's just the way it's gonna be, and, you know, the world's going to hell in a hand basket, and there's nothing we can do about it but come, Lord Jesus". Our calling as believers is to manifest the victory and authority we have in God, to bring the Kingdom of God to bear here.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, this is not a rescue mission. Let me ask you. Are you watching the news or are you watching the good news? Are you reading the news or are you reading the good news?

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: We should be consumed with the good news because, Ezra, there is good news.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: Talk more about the church as a victorious church in the midst of darkness.

Ezra Benjamin: Two passages I'm thinking of, Jonathan. The first, the Bible says, "Don't be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good". And I feel like right now, maybe you can relate, watching the news, reading the headlines, you know, wherever you're at on Google, there's this push for God's people, Jonathan, and the Jewish believing community, and believers from every community to be overcome, right? To be flooded, to be overwhelmed with bad news.

Jonathan Bernis: Yup!

Ezra Benjamin: But the scriptures are very clear. Don't be. Overcome it with good. And if the scriptures are commanding us to overcome evil with good, then there in lies a promise that we actually can, and maybe you forget that. I forgot that for a season, and it gets pretty depressing when we forget that we can actually overcome evil with good. And the other passage I was thinking of is Yeshua, Jesus saying to his followers, and he's about to be crucified. I mean the darkest hours in history lie ahead for Jesus, and in the midst of this, he says to his followers, to his closest followers, he says, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God: believe also in me". Right? "I'm going to prepare a place for you and if it weren't so, I wouldn't have told you". It's a very Jewish argument. "If it weren't that way, I wouldn't say it".

Jonathan Bernis: But think about the context. The whole context is a culture that is subjugated to Rome, right? That on a daily basis, people are being killed, on a daily basis, people are being forbidden from practicing their faith, they're overwhelmed with taxes. This is not a good scenario. In the midst of that breaks forth the Kingdom of God.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen. Amen. And it's a battle, I mean, it's intense language. Jesus is commanding his followers, he's commanding you and me, "Don't allow your heart to be troubled. Don't let the anxiety, the defeatist, the fatalistic view that the world's trying to overwhelm us with, don't allow that to be your narrative. Overcome that with good, trust in the father, trust also in me because I'm up to good things".

Jonathan Bernis: Hey, when we come back, I wanna talk specifically about what the church looks like.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And what would it look like to the Jewish Messiah, and what would be, say, out of line, out of context with what he left behind? We need to take a short break as our announcer comes to tell you about an incredible opportunity to support Jewish Voice outreaches. Your giving today, in addition to supporting our medical outreaches, our clean water program, so many other outreaches, will also help us in supporting new congregations of Jewish believers and their neighbors in Africa, and their growing every day. Please consider what you can do to provide the funds needed to keep these vital ministries alive and growing because they are growing with your help. Don't go away, Ezra and I will be right back.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back to the program. About to ask Ezra the question, "Would Jesus recognize the church today I he came back"? What's different than it was in the first century? Before we get into that discussion though, I wanna take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who are supporting Jewish Voice. Honestly, we could not do this work without you. Our ministry is about reaching the lost, reaching Jewish people with the gospel, and providing the care they need through medical care, clean water, anything they need to show them that we love them, and you can be part of that on a monthly basis. So thank you for those who are monthly shalom partners and please know your ongoing support to this ministry is valued, greatly valued. Ezra, take it away, talk to us about how the church differs from the expectation that Jesus may have as a Jew returning.

Ezra Benjamin: Well, I wanna spend the balance of our time, Jonathan, looking at what Paul has to say about that, and he uses this image, maybe it's a bit mysterious for you as you read it, this image of an olive tree, and it's in Romans 11. We quoted a few minutes ago, Romans 11:26, and we've been talking about this abundance, right? This increasing authority, and victory, and power, and confidence that the Ecclesia, the body of believers, Jew and gentile alike is to have, this fullness, this full abundance, almost like a cornucopia. But there's another fullness, using a different word in the Greek, that I wanna look at, and it has everything to do with what Paul was telling these predominantly non-Jewish believers in Rome, that the body of believers, the church if you will, needed to look like. Paul was very clear on this, and he uses the picture of an olive tree. So I wanna back up in Romans 11, and let's look at verse 16 and 17 here. Paul says to the Roman believers, "If the first fruit is holy, so is the whole batch of dough: and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some branches were broken off and you-being a wild olive-were grafted in among them, and became a partaker of the root of the olive tree with its richness, don't boast against the branches. But if you do boast, it's not you who support the root but the root supports you". And Jonathan, the word there in Greek for richness is literally like a fatness, so Paul's saying to these, to these non-Jewish believers, "Understand that Jesus didn't show up on the scene and invent a new religion called Christianity: Jesus showed up on the scene as the one who came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and the Savior of the whole world". The ultimate sacrificial love expression of the father planned before time began, and he's inviting non-Jewish people into a tree whose fatness is God's history with Israel and the Jewish people.

Jonathan Bernis: So Ezra, these are Christians, these are gentile Christians who are being told by Paul that "You have become partakers of the fatness," meaning the blessings as I understand it, right?

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: That are passed on through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Ezra Benjamin: This abundance, and what are those blessings? It's covenant promises, it's God's promise that "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". It's his promise that "I've inscribed you on the palms of my hands". It's his promise that "Every promise I make to you, I'm going to keep because I'm the ultimate promise keeper". It's his promise that "Though you sold yourself for nothing into sin, without money, I've redeemed you, by the blood of my son, I've redeemed you, and I'm inviting you as a son or daughter into my kingdom". And we can go on and on.

Jonathan Bernis: So it's the basis for the promises of healing, and deliverance, and provision, right?

Ezra Benjamin: Protection.

Jonathan Bernis: All of these things are inherited promises.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: For Christians now, and I think of Ephesians. You were at one time afar off.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Separated for strangers and aliens, now you've been brought into this commonwealth.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Not to replace them, right? You're not a replacement for the Jewish people, but you've been grafted into that, I love that, to this fat.

Ezra Benjamin: To the fatness, that fat root.

Jonathan Bernis: To this nourishment.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And very practically, right, Yeshua says, Jesus says, "I'm the vine and you're the branches. You can do nothing apart from me". Paul's pulling on a similar agricultural idea here, right? If a branch gets proud and says, "I don't need the root," that branch is gonna die though it's been grafted in, into the fatness, into the abundance of this olive tree who's Israel, Paul's almost, Jonathan, he's warning this predominantly gentile church saying, "Don't forget the root that you've been..".

Jonathan Bernis: It's amazing. This really predates what became historic replacement theology.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: And yet, Paul's giving the warning, he sees it ahead.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And he says, "Don't boast against the natural branches. You're connected to them".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right, and I think, you know, what's interesting is a friend of ours, a mutual friend, says that the disciples, the apostles probably could not have imagined a day when it wasn't understood in the body of believers that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, that he was a Jew, that he is a Jew, and that the first disciples were Jewish, and that the root of the olive tree was Jewish. And yet, Jonathan, over the centuries, that was somehow, little by little, stripped away, and it's almost like those wild olive branches got together, and said, "You know what, we don't wanna be an olive tree, we wanna be a fig tree," but that doesn't change the reality that the root is Israel.

Jonathan Bernis: So let me restate that. They never, it was never in their mind. They never comprehended a faith in Messiah that was separated from the culture and heritage...

Ezra Benjamin: And its history with Israel. That's exactly right. And it's almost, you know, Paul of course is full of the spirit here, and as much as this was a message for the Roman Church, it's a message for us today. Paul's saying, in essence, Paul's continuing to speak to the Ecclesia, to the body today, saying, "Jesus came first for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and don't forget the story, and the history, and the promises, and if you will, the people, don't forget the people that you've been grafted into".

Jonathan Bernis: That's so good. Ezra, one example of disconnect, where, something that Jesus would be surprised about, I mean, he's not surprised 'cause he knows what's going on, but an example of misalignment.

Ezra Benjamin: Well, one is, and we hear this all the time, Jonathan, people say, "Well, if a Jewish person wants to convert to Christianity, they can, but otherwise, they're cut off from God". Jesus never used the language, "Convert to Christianity". He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," promised by the forefathers, seen by Moses, seen by the prophets, "Come to me".

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, this is so important. This is one of the reasons that Jewish Voice is on television.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: To tell people that the Jewish people haven't converted to another religion accepting Jesus, but in fact, in acts 25, the question wasn't "How do we receive these Jewish believers, and what they can and can't they do"? But is "How do receive", the question was "How do receive those from the nations, gentiles that are coming into a Jewish faith"?

Ezra Benjamin: That's exactly right. Yeah, that counsel in Jerusalem in acts 15, right? The struggle of these Jewish leaders, if you will, Jewish leaders of the church, Jewish leaders of the body of believers and the whole known world wasn't, you know, "How do we package this thing so Jewish people will understand it's for them"? Everybody understood Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house if Israel, the question was "What we do with all these people not from Israel, not subject to those covenant commandments and the law of Moses, who are coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah"?

Jonathan Bernis: They were stunned that the gospel had started to spread through signs and wonders to the nations. Now that was always God's plan. Please don't misread what we're saying. God so loves the world, but God has a plan, a redemptive plan. Ezra, what else? Give us one more example of misalignment where the church doesn't... Isn't the same picture, or isn't recognizable to a Jewish person as part of their heritage?

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, I think the idea, Jonathan, you know, Jesus said, "I haven't come to abolish the law and the prophets, I've come to fulfill them," right? And until the heaven and the earth pass away, not the smallest stroke of a pen in the law of Moses is being nullified, and that's something also, we tend to juxtapose, right? That this, the Old Testament was the age of law and the New Testament is the age of grace, and never the two shall meet, but Jesus had to die, we talk about this a lot, we'll talk about this on other programs. Jesus had to die because of what Moses and the prophets saw, because the wages of sin is death. This wasn't a Christian idea, this was a Jewish law, this was a Jewish principle univerSally for Jews and gentiles alike. So Jesus was coming to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgive...

Jonathan Bernis: That is a whole program or two.

Ezra Benjamin: It should be.

Jonathan Bernis: Because you'd think he could just say, "You're forgiven". But he had to follow very specific guidelines that were established in the mosaic covenant.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right, that's right. And so, part of, you know, as we do, and I know you at home are looking toward the day when Jesus returns, you're praying for that, we need to understand that the Ecclesia, the body of believers that Jesus is returning too will understand and will operate in the fullness of a root who is Israel.

Jonathan Bernis: So much in here, we're just getting started, but we need to take a short break so we can share some information about the resources that we're making available this week. They'll actually help you understand the conversation. Make sure to stay with us by the way because in a few minutes we'll come back, and we're gonna join in prayer and agreement with you for your needs and the needs of your family. God answers prayer. Don't go away, we'll be right back.

Jonathan Bernis: We wanna take the last moments to pray for you and the needs of your family. Listen, there is a blessing connected to blessing Israel that you can apply to your family, to the salvation of your family, to divine provision, to prosperity, actually, in the biblical sense, shalom, completion, wholeness, Ezra, all those promises are available.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: Would you lead us together? Because the Bible says, "Where two or three agree on earth as touching anything, it shall be done".

Ezra Benjamin: That's right. So just agree with us wherever you're watching today. Lord, we thank you that your word over us is abundance, is fullness, and we pray for and we invite your abundance and your fullness into the circumstances of our lives, into the circumstances of our loved ones. Those who are far from you, Lord, would you overcome them with your merciful love and kindness, and bring abundance and fullness into their lives. And Lord, we bless those watching today, and thank you that you're not only giving a love for Jewish things, you're giving them, by your spirit, a love for Jewish people as you explain the fullness of your heart's desire for them. We pray these things in Yeshua's name.

Jonathan Bernis: Amen. Amen. And I speak shalom into your life, I speak the peace of God that passes all understanding, I break the spirit of fear that's come into your home through all of the bad news, through the reports of this pandemic never coming to an end, I speak life and the peace of God over you, in the name of Yeshua, in Jesus name.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: If you'd like more information about our ministry, you can log onto, and there's so many helpful resources there, and you can send your prayer requests on the website to us. We want you to know that we care for you, that we'll pray for your needs by name specifically because we believe God loves you, he does, and he will hear your prayers. So thank you for your support of Jewish Voice around the world, and as I close the program, we wanna remind you to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6 says, "May the prosper who love thee". A special thanks to Ezra for joining me again today, and until next time, both of us wish you shalom, peace, in the name of Yeshua, Jesus. Amen.
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