• What JGIG Is:

    Joyfully Growing In Grace engages in an examination of beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related sects.

    The term “Messianic” is generally understood to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as their Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish/Hebrew Christians or simply, Christians.

    Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish Christians. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but are Gentile Christians who have chosen to pursue Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. Some will even try to avoid that label and say that they are followers of "The Way".

    These Gentiles (and to be fair, some Messianic Jews) preach Torah observance/pursuance for Christians, persuading many believers that the Christianity of the Bible is a false religion and that we must return to the faith of the first century sect of Judaism that they say Yeshua (Jesus Christ) embraced. According to them, once you become aware that you should be 'keeping' the edicts and regulations of Mosaic Covenant Law, if you do not, you are then in willful disobedience to God.

    It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism than they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christian altogether and some eventually even convert to Judaism.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil."

    Joyfully Growing in Grace examines the methods, claims, and fruits of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related, law-keeping sects.

    To borrow from a Forrest Gump quote, “Law ‘keepers’ are like a box of chocolates - ya never know what you’re gonna get!” The goal of JGIG is to be a resource to help those affected by the Torah pursuant movements to try and sort out what they’re dealing with. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

    Be sure to click on the many embedded links within the posts here - there's lots of additional and related information for you to access that way, as well.

    Welcome, and may God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

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  • Broken Links – UGH

    Do you find it frustrating when you’re directed to a link that does not exist? Me too! My apologies for any broken links you may find here.

    JGIG occasionally links to to sites that sometimes change hosting sites or remove content, forums that periodically cull threads, sites/posters that appear to ‘scrub’ content from their sites (or YouTube posts, pdf files, etc.) when that content receives negative attention, and others that over time simply cease to exist.

    Please let me know via the ‘Contact JGIG’ drop-down menu item under the ‘About’ tab at the top of this page if you come across a link that is broken so that I can try to repair or remove it. Please include the name of the post/article where you found the broken link as well as the link itself. You may be able to find content specified by doing a search and viewing a relocated or cached page/post/video.

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    – JGIG

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What About ‘Hyper-Grace’???

What About ‘Hyper-Grace’???

Over the past year or so (starting in 2013), a manufactured label, ‘Hyper-Grace’, has been made popular and applied to the Gospel of Grace.  Personally, I embrace the term, because in my opinion, the Living God coming to Earth as a man to die for our sin and bear the judgement due us, and then to give those who believe the gift of Righteousness and New Life in order to reconcile us to Himself is a pretty Hyper Grace!

That aside, not all believers embrace the term, and many are uncomfortable with the concept of pure Grace.  Rather those who mix Law and Grace use the term as a derogatory label, on which they pile false accusations about what the Gospel of Grace is and how those who walk in Grace live their lives.oh no!

A main instigator in applying the Hyper-Grace label to Grace-embracing believers is Dr. Michael Brown.  Understand that Dr. Brown is a respected theologian, and many take what he says quite seriously, seeing him as a credible source sounding a valid alarm – “Christians are seeing Grace as a license to sin!”, “Hyper-Grace teachings are leading to ‘grace horror stories!’” and the hyperbolic like.

You can do a search with Dr. Brown’s name and ‘Hyper-Grace’ and get a number of video teachings and interviews that he’s done on the subject, as well as an assortment of articles regarding the Hyper-Grace label/concept.  Note the ‘tabloidesque’ flavor to his interviews with Sid Roth, and the unbridled discussion about how this ‘hyper-grace’ can (and in their opinion does) lead to the loss of salvation.

How do you avoid losing your salvation?

By not sinning, of course!

How do you keep from sinning?

By keeping laws/commandments/rules . . . whatever the circle of like-minded folks you surround yourself with deems appropriate as the Biblical standard.

And if you do sin?

Repeated confession and repentance to God for sins that, according to their theology, God will hold against you if you don’t!

This of course, is contrary to contextual Scriptures (John 3:16-18,  Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 5:18-191 John 1:9, 1 John 2:1-2 for starters).

Many of the resources available on the Audio and Text Resources page here at JGIG refute the ‘Hyper-Grace’ hype, giving a Biblical defense for the Gospel of Grace.

Rob Rufus actually recorded a teaching entitled, ‘A Biblical Defense of the Gospel of Grace‘ several years before Dr. Brown made the ‘Hyper-Grace’ label popular.  A video version of the teaching can be viewed, as well:

Paul Ellis, author at the site, Escape to Reality, author of The Gospel in Ten Words, and The Gospel in Twenty Questions (links also in the left sidebar below), took the issue head on in “Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace” – a response to Michael Brown, which garnered a few hundred comments in a good, lively discussion.  One more (of many) good articles found at his site in line with what we’re discussing here: Confession, Conviction, Confusion!

hyper graceWhen Dr. Brown’s book on ‘Hyper-Grace’ came out, D.R. Silva put together a good resource rebutting the common arguments against Grace.  Silva builds a solid defense for the Gospel of Grace in about 68 pages, whereas Brown’s book spends 304 pages trying to refute the Gospel of Grace and expound on its ‘dangers’.

D.R. Silva does reference Dr. Brown in his book, but I think it’s important to note that Hyper-Grace: The Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God is not primarily a refutation of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (dangerous stuff, that Grace of God!!!), but rather a Biblical defense of the Grace position, taking on the common arguments/accusations leveled by those who mischaracterize the Grace position.

‘Grace is good, But . . . !’ should have been the title for Dr. Brown’s book.  A good audio by Rob Rufus, a teaching recorded several years ago, is available with a similar title:  Grace is Good – No Buts!

Edited to add 4/7/14:

Paul Ellis has published a book entitled, “The Hyper-Grace Gospel: A Response to Michael Brown and Those Opposed to thehyper-grace-gospel Modern Grace Message“, where he also provides an outline of the content, which systematically addresses the false perceptions of the Gospel of Grace as well as responds to specific assertions made by Dr. Brown.  Ellis puts together a definitive, clear presentation first and foremost of the Gospel of Grace.  Highly recommended:

A good video review of D.R. Silva’s book can be found here: Book Review “Hyper Grace – the Dangerous Doctrine of a Happy God

So if someone warns you of the ‘dangers’ of ‘Hyper-Grace’, the Audio and Text Resources, Video Resources, and The Gospel pages have lots of materials to support the Biblical Gospel of Grace, and this article has given you a few specific resources (click on the embedded links!) to help you defend the Gospel of Grace with confidence and good humor.  [Added 5/4/14 – And more good humor.]

And Grace \o/..

grace is hyper

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the other testimonies on the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Other articles of interest:

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Gateways into the Hebrew Roots Movement – An Examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and Related Teachings of Jim Staley

One popular and widely shared teaching from Jim Staley is ‘Identity Crisis’, considered to be one of the ’gateway’ videos that gets folks more interested in the Hebraic Roots of their faith.  This page will address that teaching specifically as well as some other related teachings from Jim Staley.

Since I receive so many emails and private messages asking about the Hebrew Roots Movement teacher Jim Staley and Passion For Truth Ministries, I’ve put this page together so that folks can send out a link to an examination of ‘Identity Crisis’ and other related Staley teachings.  A link to this page will also appear on the Articles Page here at JGIG.

There are a lot of teachings produced by Passion For Truths’ Jim Staley and there is no way logistically to evaluate them all.  A more practical approach is to take a few key teachings and find out how they fare when placed alongside the simple Truths of the Gospel as portrayed in the whole of the Scriptures:

  • Who Jesus is
  • What He came to do
  • What that actually accomplished, and
  • Who those who believe in Christ are in Him.

Another gateway teaching by Jim Staley that draws believers into the Hebrew Roots Movement, ‘Truth or Tradition’, will not be addressed here, since there are other resources which well address the issues raised in that video.

Two such excellent resources are Exit and Support Network and Ralph Woodrow’s ‘The Babylon Connection?‘, both of which do a good job sorting out truth from fiction regarding holidays. The Articles Page here at JGIG also has holiday-related articles listed under the letters “C” and “E” (which also has Two House/Ephraimite Doctrine articles).  As you navigate through that page (for which there is also a tab with a direct link at the top of this page) the articles are clearly titled.

Another reason I’ll not be dealing with the holiday issue here is that it really is a secondary disputable issue; I have no desire to convince folks to observe or not observe seasons or days, but am content, in the spirit of Romans 14, to leave their practices in such matters to their consciences.  The resources above are offered to help believers sort out the issues.Identity Crisis in Christ

Jim Staley’s ‘Identity Crisis’ teaching, however, is not a teaching regarding secondary disputable matters, but goes to the very core of the Gospel and is a teaching that twists the Truths of who believers are in Christ.

A relative sent me Jim Staley’s ‘Identity Crisis’ video link on YouTube many months ago, saying that the Lord woke them one night and felt that the Lord was prompting them to send it to me.  They had no idea that I’d ever heard of Jim Staley or that I was very familiar with his teachings.  Following is a detailed response to the teaching as well as some of some of Staley’s related teachings, edited and expanded for this venue.

Public Evaluation of Public Teachings

One more thing I’ll address here: Many who follow Jim Staley and Passion For Truth Ministries will take issue with this page.  They will write to me or on their own sites or on their Facebook pages about how I ‘should have gone to Jim personally if I have a problem with him’.

Folks, this is not an issue where I feel that Jim Staley has personally sinned against me.  He is a preacher/teacher out there claiming very publicly that he has Truth.  Jim Staley aggressively markets his brand of Law-keeping world-wide, and there are thousands of PFT DVDs and CDs that get passed around in the Body as well as PFT having a strong presence on YouTube and other online audio/video outlets.  Passion For Truth Ministries also has a strong presence on Facebook.

The search terms ‘Jim Staley Cult’, ‘Jim Staley false teacher’, ‘Jim Staley heresy’ and similar phrases are the most used search terms after this site’s name that bring people to JGIG, sending them to the Identifying False Teaching article, where a commenter asks about Jim Staley specifically.  As much as I hate to put the spotlight on any one teacher, it has become evident to me that the time has long since come for a few of Staley’s core teachings to be examined here at JGIG.

The comments function on this page has been turned off.  This page is for educational purposes and is published on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  For those of you who think that’s unfair, note that Passion For Truth has not allowed comments on their videos for, as of this writing, about a year.  You will, however, find a contact form at the bottom of this page where you can give feedback that will be sent to my email.

This page has information that anyone can check out for themselves.  I provide links to each of the teachings in question as well as many time stamps and transcriptions for specific issues raised.  I encourage folks to watch the teachings referenced in total to get a feel for context and tone.  I have no interest in it seeming like I’m trying to railroad someone by taking their words out of context.

Note that in the past, once he becomes aware of scrutiny regarding his teaching materials, Jim Staley has been known to have his staff edit out clips that have been addressed, take down and repost videos under different URLs so that original links will no longer work, or mark certain videos as ‘private’.

Other folks concerned about the teachings of Jim Staley have taken to YouTube, using clips of Staley’s teachings and evaluating them in video form.  Staley has had many of those videos successfully removed claiming copyright infringement.  Videos that remain are those that post ‘fair use’ laws in their introductions.

All that to say this:  Jim Staley seems to not like being challenged.  I note these things here so that if you as readers click on a link that does not work or go to a time stamp that does not say what’s transcribed in the article below, consider the possibility that the URL/content may have been altered by PFT.

Let me be clear:  I have no beef with Jim Staley personally.  This page is about examining his teachings and theology, seeing how they measure up when placed alongside contextual Scripture and proper interpretive practices and the simple Truths of the Gospel.

For those of you who are aware of other issues with Jim Staley and are wondering if those issues will be addressed here:  No, they will not.  This page is only about examining Jim Staley’s teachings.  At the end of the page there are some ‘More Concerns’ regarding the origins of PFT Ministries and his leadership style.

May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you read the following:

Click here to read the entire page.

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Related, off-site articles:

These off-site resources are offered with the understanding that the value of these resources outweigh any disagreements I may have with those sources.  Lots of good information below; as always, read/listen with discernment.

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Other related articles available at JGIG:

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Grace or Law? How Then, Shall We Live?

After salvation, how then, shall we live?

Is Grace the best path, or is Law the best path?

tug-o-war1

Many come to sites like JGIG that address issues of Law and Grace thinking that those in the Grace camp preach either easy believism, antinomianism, that Grace is a license to sin, or that we believe/teach all three.

Let Me Address the ‘Easy-Believism’ Misperception First
Some will make a charge of ‘easy believism’ against those who preach the Gospel of Grace, using this single verse from Scripture:

James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

They then try to equate that belief of demons with faith in Christ.  Demons do understand – they know Who Jesus is – they believe that fact – but they don’t put their faith in His Work.  It is not the same thing at all.  The unspoken accusation here, whether intended or not, is that belief by humans, without the added performance of Law, is no better than the belief of demons.  What a motivator, eh?!Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

Broken people who have been saved by Grace through Faith, in the midst of healing and restoring by the Spirit of God, don’t believe like the demons believe.  They are placing their faith and trust in the God Who came in the flesh to die a horrible death to satisfy the wrath that should have come on them and are instead receiving complete forgiveness that He freely gives, enabling Him to impute to them the Righteousness of Christ, resulting in New Life – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – making them a New Creation in Christ (Romans 5 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)!

No, the belief that demons exercise is something quite different indeed.

Now that THAT’S out of the way, let’s move on to the antinomian and license to sin charges.

The Misperceptions that Grace Teaches Antinomianism and/or a License to Sin
This is what the Scriptures say about what Grace teaches:

Titus 2:11-14
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It [grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but no . . .

Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that a gospel gained by Grace through Faith but not maintained by Grace through Faith from first to last (Romans 1:16-17) is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9), another huge issue in the Grace/Law debate, for the purposes here, I’ll limit this post to the following:

measuring up

Team Law relies on outward works of the Law as fruit of salvation – performance based evidence.

For Torah folk, whom JGIG tends to address primarily, that means the keeping of Old Covenant Laws: Feasts, days, dietary laws, wearing tzit tzit, etc.  For other team Law folks it may be baptism by sprinkling vs. immersion as proof of salvation or the speaking of tongues as the ‘proof’ or ‘fruit’ that one is truly saved, etc., what to wear, whether or not to go to movies, haircuts, head-coverings, etc., depending on the stream of thought in which one swims.  There are bunches more examples, but you get the idea.

Team Grace sees Grace and the Holy Spirit as that which/Who empowers us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.  Evidence of salvation lies in the production of the Spirit’s Fruit.  When one is truly saved, Fruit happens.

We don’t produce fruit; we bear fruit.

Fruit is the inevitable outflow of the work of God’s Spirit and Grace in and through us, those being the Fruits of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22-26.  Those Fruits often manifest in the flesh as works of love and service to others, opening up avenues for the sharing of the Gospel with the Lost. One can absolutely be demonstrating the Fruits of the Spirit while not Feast or day keeping, observing dietary laws, wearing tzit tzit, etc.

It’s interesting to note that Spirit-led Fruit tends to look outward with concern for others, having a heart for the Lost, while performance-led fruit tends to turn one’s focus inward, always self-examining to make sure they are in line with whatever system of law they’ve put themselves under. If they have time, they busy themselves examining other Christians, exhorting them to also put themselves under law in order to achieve holiness before God so that they, too, can avoid God’s wrath.  Little time (if any) is left over for the Lost.

Regarding the keeping of Law, let’s take a look at what we see in Galatians:

Galatians 5:16-18
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:22-23
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The first Fruit of the Spirit is love.  The rest of the Fruits, in my opinion, are all elements, or subsets, if you will, of love.  If one is loving (verb), they are, most likely, exhibiting joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There are no laws against such things.  This echoes Galatians 5:18, “If we are led by the Spirit we are not under law”, after which the Fruits of being led by the Spirit are listed.

A commenter at JGIG’s Facebook page asked this excellent question out of frustration:

Andrea wrote,
“But I can’t love because it is a command – Because I am under grace [and not under law].  Do see how you guys make absolutely NO SENSE?!”

Andrea was referring to the quoting of this passage:

1 John 3:21-24
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

It’s a great question!  If we’re not under Law, but after the Cross God commands us to love – sometimes referred to as the Law of Christ – what’s up with that?!

Here’s the really cool thing:

Love is a Fruit of the Spirit as well as a command.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Though love is a command, it’s also a fruit.

Do fruit-producing plants strive to produce fruit?  No . . . the branches bear fruit because they are attached to the vine/tree/plant which nourishes them.  Fruit is the by-product of LIFE, and it takes time for fruit to be produced.  If you are in Christ and are led by His Spirit, love will be a fruit produced in you.  If you are alive in Christ, abiding in Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to live through you, love is an unavoidable by-product of that relationship, fulfilling God’s command to love!that long groove

Commanding the one in Christ to love is like commanding a person who has life in them to breathe because it’s a law.  If a person has life in them, they automatically breathe – it’s something that we just DO.

If we are in Christ, loving others is something that we just DO. 

To command those in Christ to love is a ridiculously-unfair-in-our-favor-win-win-deal!

Here’s the other really cool thing:

We love because He first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)

By resting in the love of Christ and letting Him live His Life through us, bearing His Fruits, God’s command to love is obeyed (John 15:12, 1 John 3:23) and the Law is fulfilled (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14).

That is Grace.

And because of Grace and being led by the Spirit, when we love, we are not murdering, stealing, committing adultery, worshipping other gods, bearing false witness . . . do you see where this is going?

Can you begin to see how Jesus is our Sabbath Rest?

Note that fruit does fruit in stagesnot come out fully formed and completely ripe.

Good fruit takes time.

Don’t judge the blossom because it’s not yet a strawberry.

Let me take the example of a morbidly obese person, say, around 300 lbs. or so.  You may look at the person in question and make observations, thinking unkind thoughts about their size, their ‘obvious’ eating habits, their ‘obvious’ undisciplined lifestyle, their ‘obvious’ sin of gluttony, etc.  Please do not misunderstand; I’m not saying at all that obesity is a sin. This is an illustration.

Now let’s take a look at what you don’t see, because you CANNOT see what GOD sees, and you may be greatly misinterpreting what’s going on in someone’s life or how you perceive leadership to be handling a situation.  Be careful how you interpret what you think you see:

Perhaps that 300 lb. person used to be 500 lbs., and with God’s help, they have dropped 200 lbs.  They have good days and bad days, calorically speaking, but they are a work in progress, keeping their eye on the goal, persevering, and relying on God’s Mercy and Grace to see them to the finish line. Some in that position will reach their goal in a relatively short period of time; for others, it will take a lifetime.  For some, it may be a simple case of an over-active love for food.  For others, maybe they have an underlying medical condition.  For still others, it may be a comfort thing, where they are replacing the lack of care and love in their lives with food.  Whatever the issues, God is faithful to progressively address and minister to those issues over time.

Now let’s apply that same concept of what you can and cannot see to all different kinds of situations and sin scenarios.  I won’t detail any here; we all have people and situations familiar to us that we’re thinking of right now.

Here’s the thing:  While some are radically delivered from their addictions and/or lifestyles, for many, though positionally they have been forgiven of all their sins, it can be a life-long process for them to have victory over sinning.

For most, behavior is a manifestation of heart issues, and those things are not dealt with by employing behavior modification techniques.  Those are things that take time to heal – not that God can’t deliver immediately and completely – that can and does happen – but for many, like skittish animals that have been abused, it takes time (for some, a lifetime) for the deeply wounded to learn to trust Who God is, how completely He loves and accepts them, and who they are in Him.

That said, God does save completely:

Hebrews 7:18-26
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

As a result, we have unlimited and uninterrupted access to the Grace of God:

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

However the woundedness manifests in sinful behavior, it is God’s desire to see the positional New Creation in Christ in the spirit become the New Creation in this life:

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What struck me as I re-read the above portion of Scripture is that God isentrusted committing to us, the Body, this message – that in and through the Work of Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them.  I don’t often look to commentaries, but my sense in reading, “that this is the message of the Gospel that God is committing to us means that it is something that God is entrusting believers with, that we would communicate this Gospel of Grace, this Good News, to others, indicated by the ‘ambassadors’ language following.  I found this, from Barnes’ Notes:

Tyndale renders this: “and hath committed unto us the preaching of the atonement.” The meaning is, that the office of making known the nature of this plan, and the conditions on which God was willing to be reconciled to man, had been committed to the ministers of the gospel.

The Scripture goes on to say that “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”  What kind of ambassadors of the message of reconciliation are we being?

How can we be proper ambassadors to the world if we, as the Body of Christ, are holding sins against people that God no longer holds against them?

I’m not speaking of Universalism, here, at all.  What I am saying is that all sin was dealt with at the Cross; the sins of the entire world were propitiated for by the Work of Christ:

1 John 2:2
2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

That being the case, all do need to respond by faith to believe in the Work of Christ and receive that forgiveness and the free gift of righteousness (Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:12-21, Romans 10:9-15).

By grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are then positionally declared justified and righteous not because of anything we have done or ever will do beyond receiving God’s free gift of righteousness, but because of Who Jesus is, His actions as the Last Adam – His Perfect Righteousness – which is imputed to us.

Note that imputed righteousness is preceded by imputed sin.  It doesn’t seem fair: ” . . . as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin . . . therefore as by the offense of one, judgement came upon all . . .”   Neither is imputed righteousness ‘fair’: “ . . .  For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”  (From Romans 5)

threeimputations

We are condemned by the sin of the First Adam (though the Scriptures cover the sin issue from two angles: sin was imputed to you, but by the Law we were all found guilty; no one is righteous).  We who receive the gift of righteousness are declared righteous by the actions of the Last Adam (Christ Jesus).  Not only that, but the result is this:

Romans 5:20-21
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

It’s very convenient for a religious spirit to ‘deal with’ believers sinning by applying the nice, neat, template of Law (an improper use of the Law, as the Law was made for the unrighteous, not believers, who in Christ, are declared righteous).  One can just throw the Law out there and hope that the ‘target’ will ‘get it’ and turn from their evil ways (reduction in sinning) under the threat of ‘or else’.

Note that people sin under Law; people sin under Grace.

Yet according to the Scriptures, Team Law’s approach has the exact opposite of the desired effect (a reduction in sinning):

Law was given to increase sinning:

Romans 5:20
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.

Law stirs up sinning:

Romans 7:7-8
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.

Law produces death:

Romans 7:9-11
9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it [the commandment] killed me.

Law produces fruit unto death:

Romans 7:5
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

Law is the power of sin:

1 Corinthians 15:56
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

What do Grace and the Spirit produce (Team Grace)?

Grace teaches us godliness:

Titus 2:11-14
11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It [grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The Spirit produces life:

Romans 8:5-6
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (see also Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, and Ephesians 6:14-17)

The Spirit produces the Fruits of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-25
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

How there is even a debate . . . I get it, but I don’t get it.

Law-Perfect-300x210

For those of us who aren’t dealing with the big, obvious sins (other than spiritual pride, arrogance, and judgementalism, that is), we need to be actively aware of the struggling believer’s secure position in Christ in the midst of their condition in the flesh.  That active awareness should translate into gently lifting up those who struggle with their condition in the flesh, establishing them in the reality of their position in Christ, reminding them of the Throne of Grace that they/we can approach in Christ in their/our time of need.  That’s talking about help when it comes to sinning, folks, and the Throne spoken of is not a throne of judgement (from the Law), but the Throne of Grace!

Apparently, the Thessalonians were really good at this:

1 Thessalonians 5:11-24
11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.  14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 

16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt.  21 Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  22Avoid every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

It is important to understand that the Gospel does not place any condition on the wounded and broken except to believe on the One God sent.  The command to love one another is ultimately fulfilled through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as He produces His Fruit through us – we bear that Fruit; it is a by-product of life in Him.  Our sins – past, present, and future, along with the sins of the whole world, were paid for at the Cross, Christ Jesus having taken the wrath of God upon Himself to spare us that wrath.  If we receive that forgiveness, we receive the Life of Christ, sealed with His Holy Spirit, adopted as sons through Christ Jesus and co-heirs with Him, Who then begins His work of healing and restoration in us.

Dear Believer, read through the letters to the early Body of Christ.

Read them out loud.

Discover who God says you are in Christ.

Lift up those areas of weakness and sinning in your life – “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

grace always wins

Grace recognizes that for a lot of people, it’s not so neat and tidy; it can take longer for some than for others, for all – a lifetime, and it can be messy.  But where sin increased, grace super abounded, and God is faithful:


May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it!


Highly Recommended Related Audio Teachings (free downloads)
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Other articles of interest:

For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Hebrew Roots Movement – Are They Judaizers?

As often happens on forums, questions come up to try to clarify the Law/Grace issue.  The following is a post posed by one person trying to sort out if there are differences between those who are part of the modern ‘Hebrew Roots Movement’ and the Judaizers that Paul spoke about in his letter to the Galatians.  Following is her inquiry and my response:

Originally Posted by LabbyLove –>
I’m trying really hard to understand this Hebrew Roots information that I get in bits and pieces. You know I struggle with the Sabbath and what to do with that law…

Anyway, if you follow HRM or are VERY familiar with its teachings, then would you please tell me what the DIFFERENCES are between people who follow some laws some as dietary, circumcism, sabbath, passover observances, etc., (which I think are HRM) and those that were named Judaizers in Paul’s day.

Did Judaizers believe that you had to follow the laws in order to be saved, or once you were saved by Jesus Christ that you had to follow the laws? Did they equate following the laws with gaining salvation, or were they okay with people becoming Christians, but felt they needed to follow Jewish laws to be in line with God’s will? What if they didn’t follow the laws, did they feel salvation would be lost?

It seems the Gentile Christians were told after the Council at Jerusalem that they only needed to follow the four rules set before them by the apostles, thus freeing them from following all of the mosaic law. Trying also to understand what Paul is saying in Galatians about all of this.

My impression is that HRM differs from the original Judaizers in that they don’t feel it’s necessary, but helpful or loving to follow some of the law? Do I have that right?

From JGIG:
Hi LabbyLove,

Bank tellers, when trained to identify counterfeit money, are trained first to become thoroughly familiar with genuine money.  They handle it, examine it, study it, becoming so familiar with it’s look and feel that when a counterfeit bill comes across their path, something will feel/seem ‘off’ enough to them that they will examine it further.

That’s how it was for me when the concepts/teachings in the Hebrew Roots Movement came across my path.  The perspective was fascinating; the motives of its followers seemed to be pure.  After all they were just doing what they were doing because they love and want to obey and please God, right?  Yet something seemed a little ‘off’ to me, so I determined to learn more.

As a Christian I understood how the Feasts of God, Sabbaths and other observances in Mosaic Covenant Law pointed to Christ and for some to decide to celebrate them now in order to learn the beauty of how the Law points to Christ did not disturb me at all.

I have Jewish/Hebrew Christian friends who maintain their heritage and traditions of Feasts and Days and dietary observances.  They see the beauty of God’s provision of the Law for Israel and take great joy in celebrating Jesus, the Fulfillment of what the Law pointed to.  It is no longer Law to them now, however.  Their lives revolve around the Reality in Christ, not around the shadows of the Law.

Then I started hearing things like, “If you really love God, you will keep His Laws – all of them”, “If you don’t keep God’s Law, you’ll be called least in the kingdom”, “If you’re really saved, you’ll keep the Law”, “Jesus is coming back for the Bride – if you don’t keep the Law you aren’t part of the Bride” . . . and more. You may have heard similar things said in a more ’round-about way.

As I heard those things and heard more teaching from those who had chosen Torah observance, many Scriptures came to mind.  The teachings that I was hearing were not matching up with what my heart had hidden deep within me – the Word.  It is not the ‘teachings from pastors or church fathers’ or the ‘brainwashing of the modern church’ which cause me to disagree with the teachings I have discerned as false, it is the Word hidden in my heart!  I’d see a teaching and the thought process behind it (which more often than not seemed reasonable on the surface), but it wouldn’t sit right in my heart.  The words of Scripture would come to mind, I’d go look them up, and sure enough, error was revealed in whatever particular teaching by a plain reading of the Word.

It seems that you may be experiencing some of the same from what you say here:

It seems the Gentile Christians were told after the Council at Jerusalem that they only needed to follow the four rules set before them by the apostles, thus freeing them from following all of the mosaic law. Trying also to understand what Paul is saying in Galatians about all of this.

My impression is that HRM differs from the original Judaizers in that they don’t feel it’s necessary, but helpful or loving to follow some of the law? Do I have that right?

Judaizers, in one form or another, have been around since the infancy of the Body of Christ.  They come in many forms . . . the sect that Paul addressed directly in the letter to the Galatians, those who have more concern about religious observance than about abiding in Christ, and more recently, those in the HRM streams of thought who preach adherence to Mosaic Covenant Law in addition to the simplicity of the Gospel.

In short, and in principle, a Judaizer is anyone who adds to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To be saved or to stay saved, it’s Jesus + (insert pet theology here).  While the term Judaizer definitely lends itself to the Law and traditions given to Israel, the spirit behind Judaizing takes many forms and its intent is to take the believer’s focus away from the complete work of Christ and abiding and resting in Him and to put the believer’s focus and efforts into what they must do in order to be pleasing to God and remain in His good graces.

So while the ‘mechanics’ of Judaizing or legalistic movements may be different from group to group and age to age, the underlying intent of the Enemy is the same:  To take your focus off of Jesus and to turn your focus back to yourself (what do I have to do to please God, what do I have to do to receive status in the kingdom, what do I have to do to stay saved, what must I do to be a part of the Bride, etc.).  The focus becomes very much on the flesh, and very little on the Spirit.

As you read through the writings to the Body of Christ after Pentecost, you will see over and over how God shifts focus from the Law and the flesh to Jesus and the Spirit.  It is not that Law ceases to be, it is that our relationship to Law changes.  We die to the Law in Christ, and the Law becomes obsolete in Christ.  The message is clear.

If someone has to start telling you that the Scriptures don’t really say what they clearly say and then they have to build linguistic or theological contraptions to make their point, then red flags should start going up.

Be careful, as you consume HRM information in bits and pieces, that you don’t become as the metaphorical ‘frog in the pot’.  Bit by bit is how many become deceived; if given the whole picture up front, many would reject false belief systems outright.  For some, other elements come into the picture, such as discontent with churchianity, woundedness, etc.  Read HERE for the progression of how it goes for many who choose Torah pursuance.

Keep the Law to be saved?  Keep the Law to stay saved?  Keep the Law to prove you’re saved?  Keep the Law to be blessed?  Keep the Law to not be cursed?  You can only please God by keeping His Law as given to Moses?  The only way to know and to stay in the will of God is to keep the Law?  You’ll be the least in the kingdom if you don’t keep Mosaic Covenant Law?  Yep, you will find a number of or all of those beliefs and more in the HRM.

I know you asked for a simple list of differences, and I’m sorry I could not do that for you. 

The key is actually simpler than a list.

You just need to stay in the Word and become well grounded about who you are in Christ.  Even if you were to just go through the New Testament and read through, paying special attention to every time the text says, “In Christ”, “Through Christ”, “Because of Christ”, “In Him”, etc. and keep in mind the HRM teachings you have under your belt thus far, you might find some confusion clearing up and begin to see the difference in focus between what you’re seeing plainly written in the Bible and what you hear from HRM sources.

You may also begin to see why one of the tenets in the HRM is that Yeshua is the Living Torah.  That is a key false teaching in the HRM designed to take your focus off of the Living Christ Who did the work of the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the sending of His promised Holy Spirit and to put your focus on Torah instead.  It is the attempt to replace the Living Christ with the written Law.  Did Torah do all the things that Christ did?  No!  Then how can Yeshua be the Living Torah?  Torah is a partial revelation of God’s Word.  Yeshua/Jesus is the FULL and LIVING expression of God Who bled and died and rose again to fulfill the promises of God.

I’m sorry this is so long.  There were several points I thought important to make.  It sounds like as you’re reading things like Acts 15 and Galatians for what they plainly say, you’re seeing some disconnects in what you’re learning from HRM sources. Those I know (and I know quite a few now) who have come out of the HRM, tell me that that’s exactly how it happened for them:  When they just sat down with the Word and read what it says to the Body of Christ, it was clear to them that they truly were not under Law but under Grace.  There are some testimonies from some former HRMers HERE, as well a more information about the HRM if you want to take a look.

When one’s focus remains on the finished work of Christ and who we are in Christ, so many things become so clear.  May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

Blessings,
-JGIG

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Other articles of interest:

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the other testimonies on the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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Take Just 10 Minutes – Law and Grace Teaching

Here’s a portion of a teaching from Bob George on Law and Grace.  For a longer (about 55 min.), more in depth audio teaching on the New Covenant with study notes by the same teacher, click HERE (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).  The New Covenant teaching will also be added to the Articles Page.

Be blessed!
-JGIG
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They Changed the Sabbath to Sunday

While there was just an article on JGIG regarding whether or not the Sabbath is still mandated for Christians today, this article is also excellent, bringing out some of the more historical issues in question, as well as some additional Scriptural/doctrinal issues.  This article will be linked to on the Articles Page here at JGIG for future reference.  The other article recently posted regarding the Sabbath can be found HERE, as well as at the Articles page.
-JGIG

From Let Us Reason Ministries (used as per copyright rules as stated at end of article):

let-us-reason1

THEY CHANGED THE SABBATH TO SUNDAY

There is no point of greater distinction between the reign of law and of grace then the observance of the seventh day and the first day of the week. Each represent a different dispensation and how God related to man.

There are many Sabbatarian groups that trace this event to Constantine in 321 A.D. and the council of Laodicea held in 364 A.D. In changing the Sabbath day of worship to Sunday. In the 4th cent. Sunday was declared to be the day of rest and worship. This does not mean Constantine changed the Sabbath day to Sunday, the Sabbath is still Saturday.

On the contrary there is much historical evidence to show Sunday worship was a universal practice of all the church’s outside the land of Israel by the beginning of the 2nd century. While there was a dispute between the Roman Catholic and eastern church hundreds of years later, on which day to worship there certainly was a repulsion to keep anything that was related to Judaism. While there may be a grain of truth in some of the arguments their is much exaggeration and even more extremism in changing the historical facts. Some go as far as to say Sunday is the day of the sun (worship ) so that is what Christians are doing they are practicing paganism. That early Christianity was mixed with pagan practices that led to the adoption of Sunday worship. This kind of rhetoric appeals to ignorance. Those who motivate others with guilt say you must worship on Saturday know this word is named after the Roman god Saturn. Like every day of the week it has a reference to a pagan name since many of these words come from that time period. The point is we don’t worship the day or the name of that day which would be idolatry. We worship the maker of that day and every day. God made all the days of the week and does not expect to be worshipped on only one day.

Philip Schaff a noted historian who is honest with history writes in his book the history of the Christian church cites Ignatius, Barnabus and Justin Martyr as observing the first day of the week. History includes Dionysius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian of Africa and numerous others attesting to Sunday as the day of worship from the beginning of the church.

Schaff writes in the Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia of religious knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 Article on Sunday. “Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lords day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the new testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal.” In other words this wasn’t to replace the Sabbath but held as a whole new day for a new dispensation

Ignatius 110 A.D. wrote in his epistle to the Magnesians 9… “If they who were concerned in old things, arrived at a newness of hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living according to the Lord’s day, by which our life sprung from him and by his death (whom certain persons deny)…we have been made his disciples, let us live according to Christianity.”

Barnabas 120A..D. “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus rose again from the dead”

Justin Martyr 140 A..D. “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness, made the world; and Jesus Christ our savior , on the same day rose from the dead.”

Didache 80-90 A.D. “And on the day of our lords resurrection, which is the Lord’s day meet more diligently.”

We do not make our doctrine from history; all these quotes which are few in comparison to numerous others available. They show what took place in history. These are quotes from those who kept the canon of scripture, built churches and defended the faith among the pagans. There is too much evidence on Sunday worship and none for Sabbath keeping except to evangelize the Jews. The change of day was not instituted by the pope centuries after the apostles nor was it made to replace the Sabbath day no matter what a certain church claims.

Catholic Encyclopedia states “Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning, but for Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in Apostolic times as the day set apart for the public and solemn worship of God.” 

It is claimed by Sabbatarians that Constantine’s edict was the institution of change from the Sabbath to Sunday as  the day of worship. What nonsense.  Pliny was governor of Bithynia, in Asia Minor from AD 106-108. He wrote to Trajan the emperor concerning the Christians in 107 AD. “They were wont to meet together, on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as God….When these things were performed, it was their custom to separate and then to come together again to a meal which they ate in common without any disorder.” 

History agrees with this. The day the early church broke bread was Sunday according to the Bible. “Upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).

  Ireneaus in 155-202 A.D. wrote: “The Mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, and on this alone should we observe the breaking off of the Paschal Feast.” We all know he resurrected the day after the Sabbath, the feats of first fruits which establishes what the early church calls the LORD’S day. All these quotes prove the Church held Sunday as a significant day long before any edict in the 300’s. What Sabbatarians want to do is ignore historical fact and make up a fantasy to promote their own legalistic view of what a Christian can and cannot do.

THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

What we need to do is look at what transpired on the first day of the week and then look at the scriptural evidence for the assembly on the first day in the New Testament.

1. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week after the Sabbath (John 20:1). He was the first fruit until eternal life others were also raised Mt.27:53. The resurrection is the capstone of our faith and the proving of the new covenant. He was raised for our justification..

2. Jesus appeared to ten of His disciples on that first day of the week (John 20:19).If he appeared on the 7th day do you think the Sabbatarians would use this to promote the Sabbath ?

3. Jesus waited one week, and on the next first day of the week appeared to the eleven disciples (John 20:26).

4. The promised coming of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the first day of the week, the day of Pentecost he was sent, (Pentecost by law came on the first day of the week (Lev. 23:16).

5. On the first day of the week the first gospel sermon  preached by an apostle on the death and resurrection of Jesus was by Peter (Acts 2:14).

6. On that first day of the week the three thousand converts were united into the   New Testament covenant separating from Judaism (Acts 2:41). While at the first Pentecost 3,000 were slain on this day God reversed it and instead they were given eternal life. The law kills the new covenant gives life.

7. On that same first day of the week the rite of Christian baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was administered for the first time (Acts 2:41).

8. At Troas Paul preached to the assembled Christians on the first day of the week The only example of the Lord’s supper being practiced on Sunday (Acts 20:6, 7). So did the churches of Galatia and Corinth.

9. Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to make contributions on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:2).Why did Paul specifically give orders to the church for this to be done on the “first day of the week.”  Offerings are a part of worship itself. Offerings are a part of our worship and since offerings took place on the first day of the week, wouldn’t it make sense that worship also took place on the same day of the week. This is only day in the New Testament that commands Christians to give, they would have to be gathered to do so.

If Sunday was not an allowable day to worship or teach on then none of this would have occurred.

There is a biblical numerology in which 7 is the number of completion (of rest) the week is completed in 7 days. The number 8 is a symbol of new beginnings. Both days were used as In Ex.12. given at the same time.

No one ever changed the Sabbath day to SUNDAY

The Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest. The first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work.

The Sabbath commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and God resting on the 7th day. The first day commemorates Christ’s resurrection, victory over death and eternal punishment . It gives hope that all who believe will also be resurrected from the dead.

The Sabbath is a day of rest and quiet. The first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday! There were other Sabbaths given to Israel on other days. The Sabbath was made for man to rest, God was telling Israel to keep the rest, their focus was not a day.

Christians met in houses for their assemblies Philemon 2, Romans 16:5, Col.4:15. According to the Sabbatarian’s they were to assemble together in the temple so they are breaking the Sabbath not keeping it.

The New Testament, principle is given in Heb.10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” If on does not want to assemble with the rest of the believers during a service certainly reveals a spiritual anemia. The day of the week to assemble is of the church’s choice whether it be Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. Many churches today have Saturday services as well as Sunday. The New Testament has no legislation for which day we are to assemble. History shows the early church chose Sunday because of its significance, not because they hated the Sabbath. Almost all the church the first 10 years were Jews. They certainly knew the difference. How can a believing church meet in an unbelieving Synagogue. To meet together in worship is beneficial to oneself and others. It stirs up others to hear what God is doing in each others life. This verse of Hebrews tells us to encourage each other by being present.

1 Cor. 16:1-2: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come”. To give has always been a means of worship. Paul sets the rule telling them as they gather together to take up an offering. This is not a tithe as in the O T. but a principle of as the Lord has prospered you, ( giving cheerfully not out of obligation) there is an absence of legalism that one would find under the law. Notice he says that he has instructed the churches in Galatia the same as the Corinthians. This certainly indicates this was not an isolated command but a common practice during even the apostles time to gather on Sunday.

Acts 20:7: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” When to come together was an option of choice not obligation. Obviously this was decided upon and they were already carrying it out by the apostles. To break bread consisted of what is called a love feast, eating a meal and taking communion which is to be done in an assembly. Paul was speaking til midnight. The Jewish first day began on sundown Saturday so this took place Saturday night Through the first day, after the Sabbath.

The truth is 9 of the commandments Ex.20:3-4 are repeated and incorporated in the New Testament epistles but the 4th one is not, why?

The 1st and 2nd commandment- which prohibit the worship of other Gods (50 times) and idols are repeated (12 times) Acts 15:29, 17:16: Rom.1:25; 1 Cor.6:9-10, 10:14: 1 Jn.5:21: Rev.21:8, 22:15.

The 3rd commandment of reverencing his name not to take it in vain (4 times ) Ex.20:7 is also repeated in the New Testament  Mt.5:33;  James 5:12.

The 4th commandment- ? Where do the apostles teach to keep the Sabbath? Its missing even for the Gentiles who had no concept of the Jewish laws would need to be instructed.

The 5th commandment- to respect your parents is also repeated (6 times) Mt.15:4-9: Eph.6:1-3 and Rom.13:1-7.

The 6th commandment- of forbidding murder Ex.20:13 is in the New Testament (4 times). Rom.13:9; Mt.19:18 and the true intent is explained in Mt.5:21-22

The 7th commandment- prohibiting adultery and any sexual sin Ex.20:14 is also found ( 12 times) in Acts.15:20; Rom.2:22, 13:13: 1 Cor.5:11, 6:9, 13,15, 18: 10:8: Eph.5:3,11-12.

The 8th commandment- forbids one to be dishonest, stealing,Ex.20:15 is found in the New Testament (6 times) Rom. 2:21 Eph. 4:28: 1Thess.4:6: Jms.5:4; Mk.10:19; Lk.18:20.

The 9th commandment- condemning a false witness, to lie Ex.20:16 is found in the New Testament (4 times) Mt.15:19,19:18; Lk.3:14 and 1 Tim.1:9-10.

The 10th commandment- tells us not to covet Ex.20:17 is repeated (9 times) in Mk.7:21-23; Lk.12:15,33-34; Rom.1:29, 13:9 1 Cor.5:11; 6:10; Eph.5:3.

Isn’t it amazing the one law that the legalists use to bully everyone around to show their disobedience is not found specifically in the New Testament? Why? Not because its practice was self evident as some claim! Its just as self evident not to murder. This was law before the 10 commandments but it is repeated often. The answer is in the fact the Sabbath is not suppose to be there! Not once in the New Testament is breaking the Sabbath called a sin or do we find anyone punished for it. Its ceremonial not moral because the very things forbidden for that day are allowed on all others , this would not be so if it was a moral law.

While Sabbatarian’s state “there is no command to worship on Sunday” They can’t produce a single command that the Church was to assemble on the Sabbath for worship? If there is one in the New Testament epistles (the teachings for the Church), please bring it to our attention and we will do it. Instead we find the very opposite. 

Contrasting the Sabbath day in the Old Testament covenant

Neither Jesus nor the apostles teach it necessary for the believer to keep the Sabbath. There is no command after the death and resurrection for the Church to keep the Sabbath as an obligation to Christ nor is it a salvation issue (actually Galatians makes it a gospel issue- if one adds it, it destroys the gospel of grace.) The epistles were mostly corrective letters reinforcing what was taught in person by the apostles and to add further revelation to what was being taught. There was absolutely no warning against Sunday worship that would be construed as pagan worship. In fact we find it is the very opposite, they were given freedom where they did not have before.

At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 dealing with the teaching of the Judaizer’s and how the Gentiles are to practice their Christianity it does not mention the Sabbath. The very law (circumcision) that is a requirement in the Abrahamic covenant and a condition in the Mosaic is rejected in the New Covenant. Under the Abrahamic covenant it was for Jews only. Under the Mosaic it was mandatory for the Jews and the gentile proselytes showing their submission to the law (Lev.12:3). Paul states “for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to the whole law. (Gal.5:3) This can be substituted with any part of the Mosaic law, diet, clothing and the Sabbath. The Hebrew epistles such as James and Hebrews written to dispersed Israel never refer to continue keeping the Sabbath day because even Jewish believers were not obligated.

“Grace that had been behind the law came to light through Jesus Christ so that it could be realized.” (Arthur Pink)

D.N. Canright who left the 7th day Church in 1914  had this to say: For myself, I feel profoundly impressed that the Sabbatarian theory is built all the way through upon a narrow, forced, and unnatural interpretation of the Bible, one that cannot stand the test of fair criticism. The more I study it the more apparent these facts become to me. I am devoutly thankful to God that he has led me out of that error.

The New Testament Church clearly saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning. The church was given the resurrection and used this day to proclaim the very capstone of our faith. What some have done is use fear and devious manipulation to prove one is under the wrath of God by simply worshipping on a day apart from the Covenant given to Moses.

There is no Scripture in the New Testament which states that God will punish Sabbath breakers. There are in the New Testament statements for those who practice idolatry, thieves, liars, murderers,  the covetous, the sexually immoral will not enter the kingdom of God and be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur (1Cor.6:9,10; Eph.5:5-7;  Rev. 21:8). These were included in the 10 commandments for Israel but notice the Sabbath is missing. Because it was not in the moral law category but a ceremonial one.

Acts 13:38-39: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” The Sabbath was part of the law of Moses.

Gal.4:10-11: “You observe days and months, and times, and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” To observe days the months years the holy days is a sign of weakness and immaturity. The DAYS are the Sabbaths and Holy days. Months are the new moon festival, seasons are the festivals of Lev.23, years are the sabbatical years and the year of jubilee. Paul did not want the New Testament believer to become entangled in bondage again. We are free to live toward Him every day, we don’t rest on one day or another but rest spiritually in Him.  [Do not] condemn those who do not practice the days, food codes and the rest of the law that has clearly been removed from the New Covenant.

© 2008 No portion of this site is to be copied or used unless kept in its original format- the way it appears. Articles can be reproduced in portions for ones personal use. Any other use is to have the permission of  Let Us Reason Ministries first. Thank You.

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Hebrew Roots Movement – Humor Break

Discerning the errors of the Hebrew Roots Movement can be a heavy subject.  Let’s lighten things up a bit, shall we?  Following is a bit of satire my husband put together several months ago as I was in the thick of researching the HRM.  I found the following to be a fun read and thought it appropriate to post here on the heels of “Messin’ With the Word” . . . 

The Results Are In!

Dearest Wendy,
 
Great news!  The results are in!  Feel free to forward this to your mom’s forum friends.  Or not.
 
I’ve been in a bit of a quandary about those pesky Bible verses that just seem to keep popping up.  You know the ones.  They don’t quite mesh with our world view or our ability to give or receive love. And those verses where they encourage us to confess stuff or accept discipline!  Whew!  And then there’s that part about the “front” of the book not seeming to line up with the “back” of the book.  What is one supposed to do? It causes us to walk around with a dissonance in our hearts that just won’t go away.  So, “Huh”, I said to myself, “there must be an answer.  Surely my Creator would want me to ‘have life and have it the way that is most comfortable for me.’  I mean, what is right in my eyes never fails me, right?”

We all know how difficult some parts of the Bible can be.  So I’ve decided that instead of adapting my life to Scripture, or better still, letting the Holy Spirit lead my life, I’m just going to edit the Word as I see fit.  Well . . . therein lies a bigger issue!  What sort of marker is appropriate for the job?  Well, honey, your Dear Husband is on the job!  Did you know that Office Depot stocks TWENTY-FOUR BRANDS of markers??  That’s right!  Twenty-four!  Woo-hoo!

My initial choice was of course the “Mean Streak.”  Seemed fitting.  The problem was it comes in yellow and some other completely inappropriate colors.  I mean, come on, we’re looking for complete coverage!  (On a side note there is something appealing about yellow, for some reason.)  [Update: The Mean Streak does now come in black!]
 
So, to jump right to it…  the winner is, after hours and hours of testing (just kidding), the Sanford Sharpie Magnum in Black!  This puppy can cover!  And with its wide tip I can blot out entire paragraphs of scripture in just a couple of passes.  Don’t like the stuff about speaking in tongues?  Gone!  Can’t seem to reconcile the “women speaking in the congregation” stuff? Blammo!  Just can’t stand the Apostle Paul at all?  Toasted!!!  Best yet, I have seen this thing completely remove from my Bible all the references to the Blood of Jesus and living a life of faith in Him!  Pow!  Freedom!  Who knew it could be so easy?  Please keep in mind that this coverage doesn’t come cheap.  These bad boys run $3.29 a piece.  But guess what, the ink is toxic!  Perfect.
 
For those budget-minded blotters out there the choice-du-jour would of course have to go to the Eberhart Faber 3000 Chisel Point Permanent in Black.  Great editing at only  $.59 a piece!  Be warned – more strokes are needed, but when you’re on a roll what’s a few more passes? 
 
Honorable mention would have to go back to the Sharpie brand with their “Click-It” line of retractable markers.  A great little product that allows you to edit almost anywhere.  Please be advised that the tip is tiny compared to the winning choices so care will need to be taken to get full coverage.
 
I hope this has been helpful.  I am so excited to know that even though Jesus said that “His burden is light” and we should “take up our cross and follow Him” that with a mere swoosh I can do it the way I want to do it.  Yeah!  What peace.
 
One word of caution.  These are PERMANENT markers!  They seem to work best for some reason.  I just marked out some stuff and got carried away – I marked out something about “your sins are forgiven” and now I’m not sure what to do.  Oh, well.  No worries . . . 
 
Love,
Your Dear Husband

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The Hebrew Roots Movement: So What?

So what if Christians want to keep the Law?  What’s wrong with keeping the Sabbath and observing the Feasts?  Are those things wrong?  The dietary laws, purification rituals . . . after all, we are talking about the Law . . . God’s standard for righteousness here, not some weird pagan ritualistic stuff, right?

I’ve been thinking about this the past few days as I’ve been compiling an HRM glossary (coming soon) and going through (again) the Hebrew Roots Movement doctrine I’ve become familiar with in the past several months, and the question does periodically come to mind, “So what?”

Some of you may be thinking the same thing.  What is the big deal about those who want to keep the Law?  Simply celebrating the Sabbath and feasts, in my opinion, are fine.  There is much to be learned by doing such things.  It’s important to know, however, that that’s where the HRM gets its foot in the door of a lot of people’s hearts, because if you’re already doing part of the Law, shouldn’t you be doing it ALL?  In and of themselves, celebrating the Sabbath and the Feasts are not a bad thing.  But it is important to understand that they are not a required  thing.  Understanding the completed work of Jesus at the Cross and what the New Covenant is – it’s so important to understand the freedom that was purchased there at so great a cost.

There is this impression put forth in the HRM that the Hebraic model of worship and relationship with God is the be-all and end-all to religious expression.  And that it’s not just an expression, but that it is required expression – required of all believers.  That Judaism is the root of our Christian faith.  That Judaism was never intended by God to be done away with.  Folks, relationship between God and man PREDATES  Judaism.  Jesus – and God’s promises that would be fulfilled through Him – PREDATE  the Law!

I found a post regarding the HRM over at “Labarum”, a blog from a decidedly more liturgical point of view.  I’m not knocking that, by the way . . . the more I learn about the shenanigans the HRM “leaders” are pulling, the more I’m learning to appreciate liturgy and its original purpose in defining and defending the foundations of biblical truth and doctrine while holding fast to my evangelical moorings.  Here’s an excerpt from the Labarum post entitled, “Root of the Problem”:

The movement [Hebrew Roots Movement] overall also suffers from a complete misunderstanding of both God’s motivation in choosing Abraham and his sovereignty in choosing the time when the Eternal Word would become incarnate. The choosing of the Jews had far less to do with God’s preference for Hebrew as it did with His rewarding the faith of Abraham.

It also never occurs to these folks that God in His sovereign will chose a time when the Mediterranean world was under the rule of one state (the Roman Empire) whose engineering feats had made quick travel over long distances possible through its vast network of roads, the highly expressive Greek language was the common tongue for learning, and Hellenistic culture had greatly influenced much of the known world since Alexander the Great.

The Greek language is highly suited for philosophical endeavors whereas Biblical Hebrew was relatively simple by comparison. I do not believe it was a coincidence that God chose a time when the infrastructure, language, and culture of an empire allowed an easy expansion of the faith, the widespread use of a language that allowed its forceful defense, and a rich culture that allowed it to be placed in the context of the fulfillment of all that is good within mankind.

Restricting the faith to some alleged “Hebrew Roots” that define a faith other than what ever existed removes two of the great strengths of Christianity – its universality and its historicity. However sincere its proponents may be, they are assuming Christ has never been able to fully realize His purpose for the Church until they came along. And, to borrow a term from the Jews, that’s chutzpah!  [Bolding mine.]

As Christians, we need to understand that those who claim to keep the Law perpetuate practices that Jesus ended when He completed His work at the Cross.  For example, Jesus took over and performed with finality the duties of Priest and sacrifice, not just the covering of sins, (as did animal sacrifices) but the erasing  of our sins, putting us in a position of justification before God.    

Hebrews 10:11-14
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are “the holy ones.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

Hebrews 10:26-29
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Those in the HRM will argue that we need to keep the whole Law (barring sacrifices, though some think that should be brought back as well), because if we love God and want to honor Him we will keep His commandments.  Even as redeemed, Holy Spirit filled Christians we cannot keep the Law.  Most use Hebrews 10:26-27 as a “you can lose your salvation if you keep on sinning” passage.  Law Keepers use it as a “See, if you put yourselves under the Law and obey its edicts, you will not be in danger of losing your salvation.”  What about verses 28 and 29, though?  Let’s look at it again:  

Hebrews 10:28-29
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” 

Could this be speaking to the believer who goes back to the Law?  Could this passage be intended for the Torah observant Christian?  Is the Law keeping believer treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him and are they insulting the Spirit of Grace?

If we could keep the Law, (which we can’t) scripture tells us how God sees the situation of our attempts at Law keeping in Romans chapters 3 and 4.  From Romans 3:21-31:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.  Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.  Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. 

Now before any Law Keepers say, “See!  We aren’t supposed to nullify the law!  We’re supposed to uphold it!”, let’s look at Romans 4:13-25:

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.  As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’  The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. 

Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, and that Sara’s womb was also dead.  God asked Abraham to believe the impossible.   It was crystal clear to Abraham that in his present state, there was nothing that he could do.  He was inherently unable to carry out what God had mandated.  God said, “I have made [past tense] you a father of many nations”.  Abraham believed that God would do what He said He would do – that God had the power to do what He said He would do, and it was that faith that was credited to him as righteousness.  It wasn’t anything that Abraham did, it was what God did.  Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised“.

God asks us to believe something just as unlikely as Abraham was asked to believe as we look at our old, dead selves.  We are asked to believe that God has the power to do what he has promised – that we believe that it is what He does that puts us in a position of fellowship with Him, not anything of ourselves.  God mandates that to be acceptable before Him we must be holy.  The Law is that standard against which we must be measured – it is not nullified – it is upheld!  The fact remains, however, that we are inherently unable to keep the Law, that standard of holiness. 

Jesus met that standard on our behalf!  Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification in the midst of our old, dead inability to meet that standard.  When God looks at the repentant believer, He sees holiness because of the justification that HE brought forth for us through the work of Jesus.  Though the Law is the standard by which all the measuring is done, it is not the means by which justification comes.  Justification comes through the amazing grace and mercy and work of God to meet the standard of the Law on our behalf.

So what about keeping the Law as believers?  Is it not really a question of sanctification for the Law keeping believer?  Isn’t that the essence of the question I posed above?  I won’t pretend to have this all ironed out and nailed down perfectly.  And I honestly can see both sides of the issue when it comes to simple Law keeping, barring the heretical doctrines prevalent in the Hebrew Roots Movement today.

But I always have to come back to the Cross.  

The priesthood, sacrifices . . . death . . . all were done away with at the Cross.  Yes, Jesus kept the Law.  Before the Cross.  The Cross was the great dividing line in history . . . there was a clear path from death to life, from the sinful state to righteousness, from condemnation to justification.  And not once did Jesus or anyone else in the Bible ever say that salvation was attained or maintained by observance of any part of the Law.  You can cry “point/counterpoint” all day long when it comes to Paul’s writings . . . but the end result will always consistently be:  By faith, not by works we are saved.  By the Holy Spirit working on us from the inside out, we are sanctified, not by how well we “keep” the Law.

Works are a natural result of redemption in the believer’s heart.  I’ll say it again – it is not by the outward performance of Law keeping that we become sanctified, it is by the completed work of Christ in our hearts that changes us intrinsically – belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing according to the Merriam-Webster definition of intrinsically.

What does that mean?  It means that the Holy Spirit changes our nature – we belong to Him – we were purchased with a price – and that the Law keeping that takes place in the life of a believer is a natural fruit-bearing process as we grow in Christ, not of keeping this festival and that law.  The fruits that we see in the Church were not designed to be the keeping of the Law . . . those fruits are designed to be seen as God remakes us from the inside out through the working of His Holy Spirit!  (Romans 15:14-19, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 

I think about the High Priest, the only one who was permitted to go to meet God on behalf of the people in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle/Temple.  He had to go through much purification before entering that Holiest place.  And even then, there was no guarantee that he would survive the encounter.  That’s the Law, folks.  Through Christ, however, and His work at the Cross, the Most Holy Place was made available to all, and all have the right to enter who are cleansed (not merely covered) by the Blood of the Lamb.

It is obvious that God DID do away with some very specific, pivotal points in the Law immediately  at the sacrifice of Himself at the Cross.  More of the Law passed away as time went on.  Why was the temple not rebuilt after AD 70?  If the early Church felt it so important to the worship of God to maintain the Hebrew point of view, why didn’t they rebuild it?  Where are the stories of Christians being thrown to the lions because they were intent on rebuilding the Temple?

Could it be that the early Church recognized that the new Temple was the Church, the Body of Christ, not built with blocks of stone, but with living stones, those being the redeemed people of God, with their Cornerstone being Jesus Christ Himself?  Indeed, is this not what Paul was telling the Church in Ephesians 2:11-22?

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

If we are not obligated to keep the Law, yet some in the Church are convinced that we are, what a cunningly deceptive way for the Enemy to enslave and immobilize portions of the Church.  The idea that the Holy Spirit enables us to keep Torah seems good and right, but the goals of Christ for the Church are so much loftier than for Her to keep Torah!  Christianity goes beyond the scope of Law keeping (which focuses on what we do to please God) and makes us dependent on the Holy Spirit for the renewing of our minds and hearts and actions (which focuses on what He does in/through us – Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 1:9, Philippians 3:1-11)!  While obedience is required in either scenario, which one do you think results in the writing of the Law on the heart versus the Law which has already been written on stone?  Who gets the glory in each scenario?

Have you ever had someone (an unbeliever) come up to you (a believer) and say, “What is it with you, anyway?!  Why are you so peaceful all the time?”  I have, and it wasn’t because I was wearing tzit tzit or a head covering or turning down unclean foods or preparing for Shabbat.  It was because the Holy Spirit is ALIVE in me, and He shows!  It is nothing of myself, but the Holy Spirit that is within me.  He gets the glory.

What do I do?  I submit to Him, I stay in His Word, I pray as the Spirit leads.  I love God and I love others as I love myself.  And when someone does come up to me and asks me “what’s so different about me?” — out comes the Gospel.  How God made a way from death to life, how He loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus, God incarnate, to take the penalty of our inability to keep the Law, and how if we make Him Lord of our lives HE CHANGES US! 

The “Go out into all the world and make disciples” command becomes a natural outpouring in the life of the believer.  For some believers, that will mean that they will be called to a literal foreign mission field, ministering to people groups in the far corners of the globe.  For others, they will have Divine appointments with those they come in contact with in their daily lives.  And the Temple of the Lord under the New Covenant is built – living stone by living stone.

Conclusion

So what?  What is the big deal about Law keeping?  If keeping the Sabbath is something you feel God has asked you to do out of obedience to Him, do it.  To make it Law for everyone, however, is not supported by the New Covenant Scriptures.  We have a Sabbath rest in Jesus.  If you want to celebrate Feasts to gain a deeper understanding of the pictures they paint of God’s plan of redemption and restoration, I think that’s fine.  To do so feeling commanded by Scripture, however, is not supported by New Covenant Scriptures.  The Law and it’s Feasts and Holy days were a shadow of things to come.  We live in the reality that is Christ!  (Colossians 2:17)

If you find yourself leaving the reality that is Christ and what He completed at the Cross, then look out.  Look out for those who will say Torah observance is mandatory for every Christian.  Look out for those who will lead you through scriptural mazes to bring you to “hidden truth” or “lost doctrine”.  Beware of false teachers and prophets that will have your head so wrapped up in “new knowledge” derived from questionable sources and practices that it will be hard to ever see true Grace and Mercy again!

For me the “So what?” boils down to how God views Law keeping through the Blood sacrifice that He personally provided for us.  The Grace extended, the suffering endured, the Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension . . . those things were accomplished to give us NEW life.  The Law was given as instructions to lawless people – people bound by sin.  To behave and practice as if we were still bound by our sin when He has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west – well, are we then trampling the Son of God underfoot?  Are we treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified us?  Are we insulting the Spirit of grace?

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For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

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If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.  May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.

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About Law Keepers – An Overview

Edited to add, 18Oct 2011:  This Overview was written relatively early in my experience with the beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic/Netzarim movements.  I have added links at the end of this post that will help give you a more well-rounded view of the different facets in the Law ‘keeping’ community.  To borrow from a Forest Gump quote, “Law ‘keepers’ are like a box of chocolates . . . ya never know what you’re gonna get!”  The goal of JGIG is to be a resource to help those affected by the HR/M/N movements to try and sort out what they’re dealing with.  Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

Every Blessing,
-JGIG
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Following is an overview of the Hebrew Roots Movement from a New Covenant perspective.  The Hebrew Roots Movement is the present-day version of “Law Keepers” that Paul corrected in several letters to Christians in the fledgling Church under his apostolic care.

Background 

If you’ve read parts 1-5 of the “Law Keepers” posts, (see the Series Page to link to those posts) you have a good idea about some of the basic concerns that came to my mind regarding the concept of mandatory Torah observance for Christians.

In those posts, I give account of my experience with an online Christian mom’s forum (which has been a tremendous blessing in many ways) that I frequent where there has been a definite, discernible trend toward “Law Keeping”, i.e. believers that are Torah observant.  Their belief system encompasses observance of the Sabbath, keeping the biblically mandated feasts, and also keeping all of the dietary laws and even adhering to parts of the Law regarding things like when a woman is considered a “Niddah” .

Discussion on that forum about the Law bubbles up occasionally and over the years has been a progression of “Law vs. Grace” to debates about “what is legalism” to more recently, the subtleties of “keeping God’s commandments because we love Him and want to please Him” and “this is how Jesus lived and worshipped” or “this is how the first century Church actually did things” to those promoting the “keeping of the Instructions”.  All of that was eventually revealed to mean that some Christians feel commanded to be, and are striving to be, Torah compliant.

Posts on the mom’s forum from those who are Torah observant have always seemed a little “off” to me, doctrinally, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me.  After all, how can you look at “if you really want to please God” and “if you really love God” and “this is how Jesus worshipped and we’re just doing what Jesus did” and “we are just following the commands of Jesus” as being a bad thing . . .

Still, I saw that what Christ did at the Cross was being minimized.  It was like they came to the Cross, got “saved”, and then turned around and went back to the Law.  For me, I went to the Cross, made Jesus Lord of my life and became a follower of Christ.  Instead of turning backwards, I followed Christ beyond the Cross, as a part of the Body of Christ!

There wasn’t really a “light bulb” moment for me when I realized that there was indeed false doctrine being posted at the mom’s forum.  It took nearly three years for me to be able to pinpoint some specific things that led me to find the “sources” of the doctrine I had seen posted.  However, some key elements did come together for me when one mom in particular, whose family keeps the Law, responded to my “The Law – What About the Blood?!” post.  At that point I had something I could identify doctrinally, and could investigate further.

Being a Grace oriented Christian, I come from the perspective of the completed work of Christ at the Cross.  We, as believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, ARE NOT under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant.

It is distinctly clear to me from scripture that Jesus did not shed His Blood and give us new life to endorse a mere continuation of Judaism.  He came to make the spiritually dead spiritually alive.  He came, died, and rose from the dead to restore relationship with God to all tribes and tongues and nations, establishing the Church (Body of Christ), the Body of which all who truly believe the Gospel belong.

One more thing, and this is really important:  My purpose with writing this overview is not to put down those who have chosen to keep Torah.  Most who have chosen to do so have sincere hearts and truly do want to please God because they love Him.  They have received false teaching that is very persuasive and deceptive – even seductive, because it is labeled as “hidden”, “forgotten”, or “previously mis-translated” truth.  They have been subjected to a progressive chipping away at the accuracy of the canon of scripture and told that much of what they believe in Christianity has pagan roots.  “Rabbis” in this Torah for Christians movement systematically purpose to establish that Christianity today has its roots in the Catholic church, not the early Church, the Body of Christ.  They are told that the “church fathers” (aka the Catholic church) have lied to the Body of Christ for centuries and that now, finally, the truth of the roots of our faith are available to them!

From what I’ve observed thus far, there are the “mainstream” Law Keepers, (keep the Sabbath and observe the Feasts) the “legalists”, (they are very serious about keeping as much of Torah as they possibly can, even going to Jerusalem at the appointed times) and the “fringe” Law Keepers (who are also very serious about keeping Torah, promoting a “Yahshua Messiah as Torah incarnate” concept, possibly engaging in more primitive practices such as the slaughtering of a goat for the Passover meal and using its blood for the painting of their doorposts and/or practicing polygamy).

As with any false belief system, the first objective is to cast doubt on what really is truth, then replace that truth with the “truth” of the new belief system.  Many precious souls have been led astray, while others have been willingly deceived by what their itching ears want to hear.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn  aside to myths.  (2Timothy 4:3-4) 

Objective

My intent is not to pile a bunch of information on you, rather this is an overview to hit some of the high points, some “red flag” raisers, that I’ve learned about where Christians who are Torah observant  are coming from.  In the past several months, I’ve done some in-depth research about the doctrine I’ve seen posted on that mom’s forum as well as additional doctrine I’ve come across online.

The movement that teaches Law keeping to Christians is very seductive, persuasive, and wrong.  Much of what they say seems to make sense, but if you pay careful attention, when you look for the Gospel in what they teach, it isn’t there.  It’s always “Jesus plus something“, the Gospel is never permitted to stand on its own.  And there are some corners of this movement where I’ve poked around and couldn’t find any hint of the Gospel at all!

Due to the seductive and persuasive nature of Law keeping doctrine, if you haven’t already, please read “A Little Perspective Regarding Future ‘Law Keepers’ Posts”.

The following information is just for you to tuck under your hat in the event that you cross paths with a “Law Keeper” or come across websites proselytizing Torah observance for Christians.  It’s been my experience that Law keepers will throw lots of information at you, so it’s good to have a few things in mind as they volley stuff your way . . .

The Overview

1) Law Keepers minimize what Jesus did at the Cross.  Many (not all) Law Keepers believe that Jesus died for past sins, not that there is grace for all sin.  That’s one reason it’s so important for them to follow “the instructions” about how to live.  They fall into the trap of the externals, when Jesus constantly pointed to and stressed the internals.

The Law in effect becomes an idol to them.

Law Keepers rely on the Law for sanctification, having it take the place of the Holy Spirit, Who enables believers to become more and more a reflection of Jesus, being part of the living Body of Christ.  Law Keepers see the Holy Spirit as the One Who enables the believer to keep Torah, not as the One Who progressively changes (sanctifies) the believer from the inside out (1 Corinthians 1:21 Corinthians 6:111 Thessalonians 5:19-24, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17Hebrews 10:291 Peter 1:2).

Law Keepers consistently say, “This is how Y’shua worshipped!”, yet they dismiss the radical change in worship and practice in the New Testament Church (Body of Christ) after Jesus accomplished what He came to do!  They do not recognize the Cross as being a definite dividing line in history, delineating the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  

It is also important to note that Law Keepers rarely refer to the Epistles, unless they’re trying to discredit them or trying to convince you that they say something that they just don’t, in context, and in view of the Cross, say.  Isn’t it interesting that the Epistles are where guidance, instruction, and correction of the fledgling Church occur, as well as the establishing of sound doctrine and warnings against false doctrine?  Others in the Law keeping community feel it necessary to throw Paul (the writer of the bulk of the Epistles) under the bus altogether, saying that it was he who established “christianity” (small “c”), not Jesus.

2) A subtle, though sometimes outright denial of the Trinity.  There are great ponderings among Law Keepers about how paganism has permeated Christianity throughout history.  Some of it is true – some pagan customs have influenced Christian traditions.  That topic will be addressed in a future post.  In the realm of the existence/non-existence of the Trinity, however, Law Keepers take it a bit far.

Pagan sun worship apparently has its gods in sets of three, and Law Keepers extrapolate from there that the Catholic church applied that pagan concept of God to their doctrine and came up with the Trinity.  From the Law Keeper’s view, over the centuries “church tradition” has perpetuated the concept of the Trinity.  But thanks to the “new information” uncovered by those in the Hebrew Roots Movement, we can now be aware of our error.  How this very serious error has escaped the Church (Body of Christ) for nearly 2000 years is truly amazing!

Actually, Scripture, not the Catholic church, clearly confirms the concept of a Triune God.  For example, the doctrine of a Triune God – one God in Three Persons, is a clear concept in the Word.  (Matthew 3:15-17 Triune God present at the baptism of Jesus;  Acts 2:32-33 all 3 persons of God simultaneously present, then the Holy Spirit poured out on the believers at Pentecost; Genesis 1:26-27Genesis 3:22 not explicitly triune references, as in the NT, but clearly plural descriptions of the one true God, to give a few examples.)

And if you are willing to throw out the concept of the Trinity, Who loses their deity?  God the Father?  Jesus the Son?  The Holy Spirit?  Let’s think about that for a minute:

-If it is Christ who loses His Deity, then the work of the Cross cannot be, as the blood shed there had to be sinless, and if Jesus was not God, then He could not be without sin, and the cross counts for nothing.  It would also mean that if Jesus was not without sin, He could not “do” the Law, making His claim to be God, His example to us,  AND  His commandments to us a big fat lie.

-If it is the Holy Spirit who loses His Deity, then the believer cannot obey the whole Law, as it is the Holy Spirit Who enables the believer to carry out the edicts of the Law (according to HRM doctrine).

-If it is God Who loses His Deity, then everything for everybody falls apart and nothing matters anyway!

This presents quite a dilemma for those adhering to any “Law for Christians” doctrine who also deny the Trinity.  In a discussion with a Torah observant Christian, I asked if it had ever occurred to them that “if, in Babylonian sun worship, gods always come in sets of three, that it may mean that the sun worshippers were counterfeiting the three Persons of God and not that the Church was copying the pagans?  That’s what the Enemy does – he takes that which IS and perverts it!”

From the link above, regarding pagan god “trinities” at “Let Us Reason”:

“Where did the pagans get a concept of three ? Why not two or four ? Where did they get the idea of a God in heaven anyway? What about their belief in a virgin and a son, where did that originate from ? Rom.1:20-25 tells us that man from the beginning knew God.”… ‘and their foolish hearts were darkened” vs.25 “they exchanged the truth for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.” When mankind fell into darkness of sin, they still retained some elements of the truth but distorted its meaning and it became lost.”  (Emphasis mine.)

3) Some Law Keepers deny the deity of Jesus.  Some are quite forthcoming with that belief.  While others say  they believe in the deity of Christ (Yahshua), when you read through their teachings, you find that their writings do not support that belief.  There are still others in the Law keeping movement who do believe that Jesus is God, yet when you take their doctrine to its eventual end, they remove the power of God from the Messiah.  In their belief system what Jesus did is not enough – it is not complete.  They in effect remove the Godly characteristic of omnipotence from Messiah, since their belief system is a “Jesus + Law” equation.

4) Mandatory use of the “Sacred Names”.  This is almost universal among Law Keepers.  Though many Law Keepers would not consider themselves aligned with any movement, there is a Sacred Name Movement that’s been around since the dawn of the 20th century to which they are adhering in practice.  The basic idea is that there is one true name for God, and He requires that we use it, or we are in violation of the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain.”

Just a very few of the variations I’ve seen of the “Sacred Names” are YHWH, YHVH, YaHWeH, Yahweh, Jehovah, Yahuweh, Yahuah, Yah (understood to be sort of an affectionate shortening of the other Yah-whatevers) and G-d . . . those are for God.  For Jesus, a few variations I’ve seen are Yeshua, Y’shua, Yahshua, Yahushua, Yahoshua . . . so if getting the names right is so important, which ones are they?!  I’ll be exploring this concept further in a future post, along with providing links explaining the movement in detail.  (Also see below about the issue of language in Acts 2.)

5) This one is a biggie:  In both the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name movements, there is a tremendous emphasis on the understanding of the scriptures through the lens of Hebrew thought and of the Hebrew language.  Most adherents believe that the entire Bible was originally written in Hebrew, and that the New Testament was translated into Greek from its original Hebrew.  As a result, in the HRM view, ALL New Testament writings were contaminated and corrupted with Hellenistic thought.  And since, according to Law Keepers, our accepted canon of scripture (compiled by “corrupt church fathers”) and eventual English translations came from a contaminated and corrupted source, they can’t possibly be accurate!  While some Law Keepers continue to use their current Bibles, they do so with suspicion, often relying on outside commentary or perspective from the HRM for clarification of their “flawed” texts.

Due to their suspicion of our current Bible, some in the HRM have worked to provide us with new “translations”, such as the “Restoration Scriptures”,  “The Hebraic Roots Version”, the “Complete Jewish Bible”, and the “Ancient Roots Translinear Bible”. 

Once the canon of Scripture is put under a shadow of doubt and “new” scriptures are introduced, the door opens wide for great doctrinal deception by leadership and within the laity of the Hebrew Roots Movement.  It’s interesting that in this area there is a similarity of the Hebrew Roots Movement with Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness methodology regarding the scriptures, as both cults also have their own “versions” of the Bible, “correcting” the errors in the accepted canon.

It should be noted and understood that the “new” versions of Scripture being peddled by those in the Hebrew Roots Movement are typically works written by individuals.  Reliable translations of the canon have been the work of groups of linguistic scholars, providing built-in oversight and accountability within those groups of linguists.  However, if one does internet searches on the authors’ names of these “new” versions, their scholarship and methodology come into serious question.

Regarding the issue of the importance of understanding Scripture through the lens of Hebrew thought and the Hebrew language:  I have been re-reading the book of Acts because of Law Keepers referring to it a lot in respect to “how the early Church worshipped”.  Looking through the lens of the Sacred Name and Hebrew Roots streams of thought, Acts 2 really jumped out at me!  I must repeat – those streams of thought say that to truly understand the scripture, one has to come to an understanding of Hebrew language and of Hebrew thought.

It would be reasonable to conclude that if it were God’s intent that His Word was to be correctly communicated to the world in Hebrew, that the gathering at Pentecost would have been an ideal time and place to make that clear.  Instead, God made provision, by His Holy Spirit,  for every person, from every nation, to hear the Gospel in their own tongue.  Interesting on even a deeper level, because Acts 2 says that “God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven had come to Jerusalem”.  If there was ever a crowd gathered that probably knew Hebrew, it was this bunch!  When the New Testament says “God fearing Jews” it means the ultra-faithful to Judaism, and they would KNOW their Hebrew.  Yet God made sure that the Gospel was available IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGES!

I reach the conclusion that God is not concerned with the language in which the Gospel is communicated, but rather that the Gospel IS communicated!  As for the “Sacred Name”, for me, God is God.  Jesus is Jesus.  He knows Who I’m talking to/about.  Those are words in our language that represent the essence of Who He is.  And based on what God did in Acts 2, I’m pretty sure He’s ok with that.

6) Watch for a doctrine that teaches that if you don’t observe the Sabbath, you are taking on the Mark of the Beast.  No, seriously.  I know of at least one “Law Keeper” who has written this doctrine to someone who indicated an interest in learning more about observing Old Testament Feasts and about the concept of being Torah observant.  This comes from early Seventh Day Adventist doctrine, and has influenced other Law keeping sects, as well.  As you’ll see in future posts, there are streams of thought from many different sources in the HRM, including the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of God (of which there are numerous strains), The Way InternationalThe World Wide Church of God (Armstrongism), British IsraelismJudaismJewish sages and their writings, and Kabbalah.

7) Watch for language about information that has been hidden, the rest of the gospel, or that which has been erased.  It’s the perfect set up for the same thing that cults do:  convince you that what you know cannot possibly be true, or is incomplete, then come in with “fresh revelation” based on previously “hidden” information.  The Hebrew Roots Movement is absolutely saturated with the revealing of so-called “hidden” or “forgotten” or “erased” “truths”.

8)  Some Law Keepers consider themselves to be actual  Israel, part of the “Lost Ten Tribes”, which they also refer to as the “Diaspora”, and label themselves “Ephraim”.  The Diaspora, or dispersing of Israel, is a real thing, but some who keep the Law have taken a real thing and added to or blatently twisted it.  Many Law Keepers believe one of two things: Either they believe that they are IN REALITY part of the Lost Tribes of Israel (Ephraim) and the Holy Spirit is “calling” them back to their “roots”, or they believe that since they are “grafted into Israel”, they actually become Israel.  Some (self-proclaimed Ephraimites) have actually petitioned the Israeli government for citizenship (Aliyah).  Not being able to provide appropriate documentation of their “roots”, their applications are summarily denied.

A fundamental misunderstanding of what Christ did at the Cross and of the New Covenant leads to much error!  Gentiles don’t become Jews when they become followers of Christ.  Likewise, Jews, when they choose to become followers of Christ, don’t become Gentiles!  We, in Christ, become one new man!  (See Ephesians 2 HERE.)  And our “roots” aren’t Hebrew, our Root goes back much further than that!  Check this out . . .

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  (Revelation 22:13-16)

9) The Homeschooling Connection  There is a prominent homeschool resource company called Heart of Wisdom Publishing.  This is an organization that actively promotes Law keeping from its basic educational philosophy to the materials that it offers.  One resource, in particular, is a “textbook” called “A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays”.   One mom told me that in the homeschool support group she belongs to, her family is the only family not keeping Torah.  The common denominator of those families who are keeping Torah?  A study of “A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays”.  The families that completed the study felt commanded  to keep Torah by the time they were done. 

To be clear, the HOW curriculum is subtle in it’s Law stance.  HOW presents their book on Biblical Holidays as a “textbook” for learning about the OT holidays, with projects, crafts, recipes, games, and songs for celebrating each holiday(sounds like fun, doesn’t it?).  But if families start keeping Torah because they feel commanded to after completing the study . . . well there you have it.  It’s at that point where it goes from being curriculum to being dogma. 

There are some other providers of homeschooling curriculum out there that promote Law keeping, but Heart of Wisdom Publishing seems to be the biggest.  Heart of Wisdom also has a website titled “Biblical Holidays”, a Hebrew Roots Movement site through and through.

Homeschooling families are independently-minded and open to “out of the box” and “counter-culture” thinking.  THAT IS NOT A BAD THING.  Without discernment, however, homeschooling families can fall prey to false doctrine in clever packaging.

 

10) Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name Movement “Buy” Products  Let’s take a dip in the pool of cynicism for a moment, shall we?  While the great majority of those in the HRM and SNM do what they do with honorable intentions, there are those in the “leadership” who have countless wares, books, and videos available for purchase. 

For instance, to truly understand the Word of God, you’re going to need a new Hebrew Roots version of the Bible, right?  Perhaps also some commentaries from a Hebrew Roots perspective?

To abide by the commandment in Exodus 20:7, you’re going to need to dump all your old music that contains the names of “Jesus”, “God”, or “Lord” . . . tapes, CDs, sheet music, hymnals . . . it’s all got to go!  Don’t worry, though, your buddies online with the HRMwill fix you up with new music, with the right names, and the right doctrine!

Of course, you’re also going to need to correct your view of history – of the Church in particular.  You’re also going to need to brush up on all that is pagan, since so much in Christendom has been contaminated and corrupted by pagan practices and symbolism.  You’ll be sure to have your own copies of “Fossilized Customs” by Lew White, “The Two Babylons” by A. Hislop, and “Too Long in the Sun” by Richard Rives, to mention just three.  Heck, buy a case of each, so you can pass them out to your friends!

Then there’s all that new doctrine you have to learn . . . sorting out all the Two house, One Stick, House of Ephraim, House of Joseph, Wife of God, Bride of Christ, etc. etc. etc. theology . . . gotta have resources for learning all of that, right?  And don’t forget about the Law, itself!  How to keep it, the dietary restrictions and stuff like that . . . there must be a few books out there about how to actually keep  the Law!

Don’t forget your tzit tzit fringes, (can get expensive at $10-20 a pop if you have a big family – are you allowed to make your own?) prayer shawls, a shofar, head coverings . . . there’s lots of stuff to buy to get you and your household into Torah compliance!

Conclusion

Can you almost hear Paul, perhaps with his hands on either side of his head, while shaking it slightly, saying to the Galatians . . .

“You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”  (Galatians 3:1-5)

I know this has been long, and if you’ve stuck with me this far, you either know me =o), have a family member(s) involved with the Hebrew Roots Movement, are interested in the HRM, or have come across the HRM in some form and have been unsure what to make of it.  My prayer is that this information will provide  insight for prayer to those with family members in the HRM, discernment for those interested in the HRM, and tangible “jumping off” points for further research by those who have come across the HRM, think it’s a little “off” and feel like they should know more.  

May God guard your hearts and minds and grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider these things.

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For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Law Keepers – Part 5 – What Got Me Asking Questions

As you might imagine, there was a bit of a dust-up on the mom’s forum regarding Grace and the Law.  I wish I could share posts from both the “Law moms” and the “Grace moms”, but I can’t, or I’d be violating the copyright rules of the forum.  I’ll have to settle for sharing one mom’s main points here, and my responses to and questions about those points.  I will do my best to be faithful to her points without being able to directly quote her.

This one mom in particular is one that has been progressively more vocal about Law-keeping on the mom’s forum and has stated that Torah observance is mandatory for all Christians.  I’ll call her “Rose” and paraphrase her points for the purposes of this post, as much of the post below was a “conversation” between us as we discussed the issue of Torah observance for Christians.

I want to be clear about one thing:  I really like “Rose”.  “Rose” and her family have been in my home, we have met at one homeschooling field trip, and I’ve conversed with her on the phone a number of times.  I find “Rose” and her family to be very pleasant people.  I think “Rose” is an intelligent woman and I really enjoy her wit and sense of humor.  Another really important point about “Rose” and her family:  They are not messing around when it comes to being Torah observant.  They are going about their Torah observance with a lot more commitment and integrity than many Christians go about their faith.  This post is not meant to slam “Rose” for what she believes.  My intent in posting this is to point out what I believe to be error in how Law Keepers interpret Scripture in relation to the Law.

“Rose’s” portion of the conversation (paraphrased) will be in green below, my response as it was seen on the mom’s forum will be in blue.

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Hello ladies and Rose, whom I also consider friend,

To you and the other families who are Torah observant:  Let me be clear. Though my family and I find no reason to be Torah observant, and indeed find [Scriptural] reasons to not be Torah observant, it is absolutely your decision what you do in your family.  I feel compelled to write my views on the subject here just as you do.  One mom wrote that she’s tired of feeling like she has to defend herself for doing what they as a family feel God has led them to do in observing Torah. 

On the flip side, I feel like I’ve had to defend the reasons why we do not observe Torah.  The inference is that those of us that are not Torah observant love God less because we do not observe the Law.  Do we obey His commandments because we love Him?  You bet.  We just don’t follow the set of laws/rules that God gave to Israel, God’s chosen people.  Are we grafted into Israel when we believe on Jesus Christ?  Yes.  We share the same roots and receive life from the same source, but as Gentiles, we are different, and God made it clear that we were not required to abide by the Law.  Jesus even summed up the Law into two requirements – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourselves.  It’s funny, ’cause I’ve read mom’s here who have posted about how if you observe the Law, your doing those two things anyway.  Kind of makes me wonder why some Torah observers try so hard to convince us “un-observers”, who abide by the commands of Jesus, to observe when in the end we’re both honoring God in the ways we feel He has asked us to!

That said, I feel compelled to respond to my friend Rose’s post.

Wow.  Rose gave me a lot for me to respond to and some important questions for me to ask.  I’ll take her points bit by bit. 

Rose wrote [from here on I’ll not quote “Rose”, but distill the general ideas of what she was saying] that since the shed blood of Jesus and grace is preached in most churches we need not to speak much of that, as most Christians understand that.

I must strongly disagree!  From the time that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, everything God did pointed to Grace and the Shed Blood of Christ!  These things are the ONLY things that bring mankind back into right relationship and fellowship with God and are absolutely foundational to the Gospel.

Rose continued that there was, however, more to the story, a rest of the gospel, things that had been erased, hidden, shunned, and despised.

WHAT rest of the story, WHAT rest of the Gospel, WHO erased it, hid it, etc.?  WHERE does this teaching come from?

As for Rose’s response to my paragraph on indisputable core issues, [From “The Law – What About the Blood?!” which you can read here] one of which is the existence of God in three Persons, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, Rose responded that she would agree to that, but not limit the almighty to 3 parts.  Rose, you did not elaborate on that point.  What does that mean, exactly?  Where does the teaching that God is more than 3 persons come from?

Rose’s response to my paragraph about secondary, disputable issues.  There were three things we disagreed upon, two of which I’ll address here.  1)  Regarding the Sabbath, I’ll save for another post.  [You can read that post, “The Law – Thoughts on the Sabbath” here.]

2)  Tithe.  Rose stated that the tithe is a commandment and belongs in the indisputable issues category.   Commanded, yes, though not required for salvation, so it should stay in the secondary issues category.  I debated whether or not to include that in the disputable issues, as there is no clear direction in the NT on this, except where Jesus says, “When you tithe . . . ” It is understood that He is referring to the OT description of the Tithe, which is an assumption we also use as a guideline when it comes to our personal practice of giving to our local church.  

3)  Dispensationalism. [I since have learned that the more accurate term for what I was describing is “cessationism”.]  From my post:  “Spiritual gifts for the Church today or dispensationalism [cessationism]?”  Rose responded that the word dispensationalism is not even found in scripture.  Rose, you are correct, dispensationalism is not a word found in scripture.  It’s a word describing a view of the Gifts of the Spirit.  Some hold that the demonstrable gifts of the Spirit were for a season, “dispensed” as they were needed in the early Church (tongues, healing, words of knowledge, prophecy, etc.) and that those gifts are no longer active.  This is a ‘dispensationalist’ view.  Then there are others who hold that the Gifts of the Spirit are active in the Church today.”  I classified that issue as a secondary , disputable issue because salvation does not hinge on someone holding to one view or the other.

Then Rose came out with something that really puzzled me.  Saying that we needed to throw out all of our religious ideas and rhetoric and that the scriptures are clear about who YHWH’s people are.  Then she said that YHWH’s people are not just the Jews or the Christians and that that fact can’t be disputed in scripture.

WHO exactly are you referring to and what Bible references confirm that view?

Rose then talked about how the only way the above 3 issues can be categorized into the “disputable matters” is if man’s definitions, theologies and ideas are interjected into YHWH’s word.  She then talked about how she is not a god, does not set herself up as a god, and does not believe that any person, institution or religion should set itself up as a god.  One religion, according to her, has set itself up as Elohim, and has changed the set apart day (the Sabbath) to the first day from the seventh.  In addition, she takes this issue seriously enough that she states that in their home, they give allegiance not to man and his religious system (which she equates with Satan), but to YHWH.

Wow.  So are you saying that Christians at large have submitted to Satan because they worship God on Sunday?  Where does this idea that Bible-believing Christians have given their allegiance to Satan just because they worship on Sunday come from?

About the term “Judaisers” [my husband and I had been discussing the Torah-observance-for-Christians issue and he had made the comment that “Judaisers are alive and well in the Church today, resulting in a dilution of the Gospel.”  You can read “The Law – What About the Blood?!” to see this reference]

Rose stated that she had made an observation over time that those who speak the loudest about love often show hatred toward the ones who don’t believe the way they do, especially when it comes to those who choose to follow His Law.  She also informed me that the term “Judaiser” shows hostility toward the Jews and is intended to put down those who choose, because of their love for God, to obey YHWH’s instructions.  She then pointed out that it was “Christians” who exterminated Jews and their fellow believers for practicing what the “Christians” considered to be “Jewish”.  And that it would happen again.

Rose, to be clear, my husband’s use of the term “Judaisers” had neither malice nor hatred in intent.  “Judaiser” was simply a word used to describe Jewish believers in the early Church trying to bring Gentile believers under the Law, just as a “painter” is one who paints a wall.  Both he and I are ignorant of any connotation beyond the simple descriptive value of the word as I’ve explained here.  [A brief description of the term “Judaisers” can be found here.]

In addition, the intent of my husband in using that term was to say that just as Jewish Believers in the early Church were trying to make Gentiles come under the Law, it appears that (some, not all) Torah observant Christians are attempting to do the same today.  Paul told the Jewish Christians to stop.  If they wanted to place themselves under the Law, that was their choice, but they were not to impose it on anyone else (Galatians 2:11-4:11, 5:1-26) Paul describes the freedom of life in
Christ and how we go from living under the law (as good and beneficial as it was, those relying on observing it were also under a curse – Galatians 3:10) to living by the Spirit of God.  That God, because of what Jesus did on the Cross, nailing all of our iniquities there and putting them away forever, can now INDWELL us, as the Holy Spirit . . . “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18 ) .  We are no longer dependent on the Law for a conditional relationship with God, but we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and have intimate, personal relationship with the Living God because of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and Risen!  How awesome is that?!

Rose relays that the Law that YHWH established was never to be done away with.  That it was the penalty, not the Law, that Y’shua came to destroy.  [This next part is difficult to paraphrase, because it is a unique interpretation of Ephesians 2:15.]  She talks about the enmity referred to in Ephesians 2:15 being between Judah and Ephraim, not between Jew and Gentile, using Ezekiel 37 as one explanation for that deduction.  She goes on to explain that the whole house of Israel includes Judah, Ephraim, and others that have been grafted in by faith, [she does throw in some Gentiles there] and that the enmity that was slain on the cross was the enmity between those houses.  And further that that enmity between the houses is not the Law itself, but rather the man-made ordinances that had been added by the Jews, not YHWH’s laws.

So according to this (Rose’s stated) interpretation, she concludes that 1) the Law was never to be abolished, 2) the part that WAS abolished was the “man made” laws of the Jews, not YHWH’s laws, and 3) that the removal of the man made laws made peace between the “houses” possible.

Ladies, please take a few moments to read all of Ephesians 2 to get the full context of what is being said.  Yes, I agree with Rose that Jesus came to destroy the penalty for our sins, the second death that we all deserve.  But He came to do SO MUCH MORE!  Verses 1-10 chronicle the miracle of salvation.  Verses 11-13 talk about the separation of the Gentiles from God but how they have been brought near to God through the Blood of Christ.  Verses 14-18 bring Jew and Gentile together because of what Christ did on the cross.

In Ephesians 2:15it states ” . . . by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations” and it more likely refers to the ceremonial rituals that rendered nonobservant Gentiles ritually unclean.  That the verse says “the law WITH ITS commandments and regulations” (caps mine) says to me that those are parts IN the law and not parts ADDED to the law by man.  There’s a lot there . . . please take time to read it.  The chapter wraps up with how Jesus made us (Gentiles) fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household . . . Jesus is the chief cornerstone.  In HIM the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  The imagery of the reality of the indwelling of God in us through Jesus Christ is so beautiful.  The whole book of Ephesians is such an encouraging place in the Word!

I posted “Why did Jesus do what He did if the Law is still to be observed”  The tearing of the curtain . . . restoring fellowship with God . . . the atonement of sin . . .”  Rose asked which curtain was torn, and referred to two curtains: one being the one behind which lies the Holy of Holies and the other one being one which Jews had put up to keep Gentiles out of the holiest placeIn Matthew, Mark and Luke, where accounts are given of the temple curtain being torn in two, the curtain referred to is the one beyond which lies the Holy of Holies.  The symbolism here is that we have access to the Father in a new way through Christ.  HE is our High Priest, and by the Blood of Christ we have full fellowship with and access to God.  Hebrews 10:19-21 also describes the “confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.”

Rose asks what it is about the Law, something that our Creator gave to His bride as a marriage covenant that was so beautiful that He promised to write that Law on our hearts (the law written on hearts of flesh instead of on stone) that is such a burden to follow?

God gave the Law to Israel.  As I see it, in my limited capacity at this point writing this into the wee hours, 1) The Law was to point God’s people to their need for Messiah by showing them their inherent inability for righteousness before God.  2)  The Law was a protection for God’s people spiritually and physically.  3)  The Law was a way for God’s people to be set apart from the world.  There are maybe some more points to be made here, but again, wee hours, so . . .

As a repentant believer in Jesus Christ, point 1) is fulfilled because of the Blood of the Lamb.  Through Christ I am righteous before God (Romans 3:22, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2Corinthians 5:21, and my favorite, Philippians 3:8-9 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the  surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”) Point 2) still applies in some respects, as in the area of diet.  Again, the spiritual aspect of the Law was completed in Christ.  And under Grace, dietary laws are not mandated, though if you choose to practice the guidelines, that’s fine.  Point 3)  I consider this to be a very important point.  Where the Law majors on rules and the externals, the Gospel majors on principles and the internals.  The Law says, “Be set apart from the world by your outward actions.”  The Gospel says, “Be in the world but not of it . . . be more concerned with the condition of your heart and relationship with God rather than if you’re following a set of rules . . . Go out in to all the world and make disciples of all nations!”

Also, the Law’s reach is limited culturally.  The Gospel  reaches into all cultures and welcomes all who believe on the Blood of Christ into the Kingdom of God.  I write more about this in another post coming soon to a digest near you.  First, I sleep =o).  [That post is “Law Keepers – Part 3 – Thoughts on the Sabbath”.]

My dear Rose, I love you still through our disagreements and discussions =o).

I love you, ladies, and my prayer for you all is “that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

Lovingly submitted,

Wendy

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During the time of these discussions on the mom’s forum, I started researching where these teachings could be coming from.  I found out a lot.  My next post will be an overview of some of the basic beliefs of Torah observant Christians, with subsequent posts on this topic detailing websites, teachers, and some of the doctrines from this Law keeping movement.  I say “some of the doctrines” because there are some doctrines in the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name Movements that have one jump through so many scriptural hoops, I don’t know that I totally understand them (nor do I necessarily want to) enough to try to explain them!  Stay tuned . . . I’ll try to get the next “Law” post up a little more quickly =o).

For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Calvinism/Reformed Theology (And What I Think is an Obvious Disconnect)

Discussions here  . . . here . . . and here have prompted me to write a few thoughts here on my own blog. Let’s Talk About Calvinism was the first post to start one of what I conclude are many, many debates over what Calvin taught/believed as well as what his teachings/beliefs morphed into in the hands of others over time.  I think it’s important to note that until comment #87, the parameters of the discussion asked “readers to post comments, questions, arguments, etc.”  Well, that’s what happened, and then the parameters of the discussion got edited.  Comments pretty much petered out after that, with the balance of the comments (10 at last count) consisting mostly of a Calvinist Mutual Appreciation Society =o).   That’s fine . . . the author of the post pulled the plug as is her prerogative.

The disconnect?  From what I gather so far, the Calvinist view is very concerned with God getting all of the glory, man getting none, and keeping salvation a total result of God’s Grace and Soveriengty and none of man’s doing.  I get that.  I even agree with that.  My question is this:  Is the Kingdom of God being furthered or hindered by such heated debate?  [Re-reading this I guess in the world of Calvinism’s concepts no one but God can truly affect His Kingdom anyway, so maybe the point is moot?]  Are the Fruits of the Spirit being demonstrated by either/both sides?  Are believers (those in the Body of Christ) being built up or torn down as the concepts are discussed?

I get the impression that while those who ascribe to Calvinism view the Word as the final authority, they are still viewing the Word through an external lens.  And those who react/respond with disdain or even pain toward some of the “harder” teachings of Calvinism do so with almost a hand-in-the-flame reflex.  Those who have been deeply wounded and saved by a loving and gentle God cannot fathom those “hard” teachings, for they portray a god they don’t recognize.  To which Calvinists may retort that maybe they do not know the real God after all.  Again, Fruits of the Spirit?  The furthering of the Kingdom of God?

Is all of this perhaps an exercise in futility?

Does it really matter how we “get” redeemed?

Okay, let me qualify that.  Of course it matters that we believe on Jesus Christ and the Gospel as communicated in the Bible.  What I mean by does it really matter how we “get” redeemed is this:  What difference does it make whether or not we know when we actually become “regenerated”?  If it was the moment before we submitted to the Truth of the Gospel or after?  How is it that God gets any more or any less glory or gains any more or has any less sovereignty – whichever way we find out it actually happens?

God’s glory and His sovereignty, in my opinion, are demonstrated in a most obvious and wonderful way in the changing of a person from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life.  Is at what exact instant that transformation takes place – God regenerating a person to enable them to receive the Gospel, or a person freely receiving the gift of salvation extended to all mankind (raising my shield in anticipation of what some of you Calvinists will have to say about that “all mankind” thing) – really a place we need to put great focus or have disagreements over?  Does God, in reality, lose any of who He truly is based on what view we in the Body of Christ take on the matter?

Do not we (the Body of Christ) all, in reality, believe that no one comes to the Father but by the Blood of Jesus?   I guess one of the reasons I get kind of frustrated about this kind of debate is that I don’t see much beneficial fruit that comes from it.  While one side swears up and down that the grace, sovereignty and justice of God is at stake, another side swears up and down that the love and compassion, grace and justice of God is at stake from their perspective, as well.

Me?  I see it all as a big pile of chicken wings sitting on my table, not sure that I want to put the time and effort into picking it all apart ’cause, back to my question, does it really matter for us to know the exact instant and in exactly what order our redemption “processed”, or does it matter more that we are redeemed.  Speaking for myself, I know  Who saved me.  I know  I did nothing to merit or earn what it took to redeem me.  I know  that God orchestrated my conversion circumstances.  I know  that His Holy Spirit prepared my heart and drew me to Himself.

I also know  that God put it all out there and allowed (let) me choose whom I would serve.  Did He foreknow me?  Yes.  Did He predestine me?  Yes.  That’s what the Word says.  Do I fully understand all of that?  No.  There are actually several things I need to ask God about that I’m pretty sure I won’t understand ’till I’m completely restored at the Resurrection.  Can I still trust in the God of my salvation even if  I can’t conclusively for sure have every bit of the process nailed down pat?  Yup.  Maybe I’m too simplistic, but then I see things in the word like this:

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  1 Corinthians 3:4-9  

Does God, in the view of Calvinism lose some of His glory because of the planters and waterers?  And this:

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The rest of that chapter is good to keep things in perspective, too. 

Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Knox, Augustine, Tyndale, and dozens and dozens of others have written many many many more pages on theology than the Bible itself contains!  I’m thinking we need to focus where??, exactly, with our time and effort?

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Edited to add:

Click here for a good video summary of Calvinism and Arminianism by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church.  I really like what he has to say about being in different camps and still loving one another and functioning as the Body of Christ.  Mark Driscoll is in the Calvinist camp, and I like also how he distinguishes Arminianism, with its 5 points and theRemonstrants, and Calvinism, with its 5 points and the Synod of Dordt, from the men Arminius and Calvin themselves.

A brief telling of the long history of the Calvinist-Arminian debate can be found here.  Yeah, it’s just Wikipedia, but it will give anyone wanting to do further study a good jumping off point should they choose to do more research on the subject.  [Did I just say “choose”?  =o)]

This is an excellent 21 minute broadcast about predestination, election, and free will.  It lays out a scriptural foundation . . . what does the Bible really say about those things?  Listen HERE and click the play button for the audio.  Stick with it through to the end . . . the teaching does come full circle.

Check out this article in Christianity Today by Roger E. Olsen.

I came across this post at “Christ is Deeper Still”.  A really good perspective on functioning in love within the Body of Christ from a Calvinist perspective.

This reviewer of “What Love is This?  Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God” makes some points that I really like.  See the review hereIf you take the time to read more reviews of the book, her point is well-made.

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Further edited to add (3/28/13):

I’m sorry to add here that Anne, the author of the ‘Let’s Talk About Calvinism’ post referenced above, and one who staunchly defended Calvinism, is now (again) a practicing Pagan.  My prayer for her is that she would encounter the Gospel of Grace as opposed to the Doctrines of Grace.

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Law Keepers – Part 4 – Thoughts on the New Covenant

Okay, so about Torah observance for Christians . . . setting aside – just for a moment – the scriptures which support the concept that we are free from the Law because of what Christ did at the Cross, there are some practical problems with keeping the Law in a post-Cross world, are there not?

There is no temple, there are no high priests, most  believers do not or are not able to go to Jerusalem at the appointed times for the appointed feasts.  So how do believers who are Torah observant reconcile these and other inconsistencies?

The following was posted by me on the mom’s forum I subscribe to in response to posts by those who “keep” the Law:

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I just want to stress again that the following is intended as a defense of what I believe to be scripturally sound teaching regarding Grace and the Law.

At the Last Supper Jesus held up the bread and the wine and said, “This is my Body and my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-20)  Jesus says in Luke 22:20,“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  Jesus wants us to remember that His Flesh and Blood took the place of the old covenant (Law) to make us acceptable (free from sin – from spiritual death to spiritual life) before God.  It seems to be a rather significant point made during the observance of a feast itself.  He shifted the focus in a very clear way from remembering what the Passover was all about to remembering what the breaking of  HIS Body and the shedding of  HIS Blood was all about . . . replacing the blood on the doorposts (a TEMPORARY solution) with His own Blood (the PERMANENT solution).

To say that that is not enough, or to say that one does not realize the full meaning of all God has done UNLESS one observes the Torah, or that one is not pleasing to or loving God enough if one is not observing the Torah is to say that the shed Blood of Christ is really not enough.  That is ground I would not care to tread upon.  And make no mistake, that is where you are treading if you feel we all should be Torah observant. 

It is not Jesus plus anything that pleases God.  God in the flesh – Jesus – fully God and fully man, was crucified and shed His blood for our sins, rose from the dead three days later, and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.  He finished the complete work of salvation.  God does not require that we follow Torah.  He nailed the written code to the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).  He released us from the Law when He released us from our sin through the Blood of Christ. 

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:1-4) 

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a repentant believer, cleansed by the blood of  THE Lamb, results in the changing of a person – from the inside out!  The Law works itself from the outside in.  And it’s never enough.  Jesus talks a LOT about that in Matthew 23.

Can one truly be “Torah observant” when, in reality, one is selective in which parts of the Law one obeys?  Are there not parts of the Law that require a High Priest and a Temple?  What about animal sacrifice?  Did God become flesh and spill His blood simply to spare us the inconvenience of sacrificing animals?

What about penalties for those who violate the parts of the law for which the punishment is death?  Who will take on the “responsibility” of making sure that appropriate punishment is administered according to the Law?  Do not Deuteronomy 27:26 and Galatians 3:10 say that “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do EVERYTHING written in the Book of the Law?” (Caps mine.)

How is it, in the view of Law keepers, that Grace exempts one from observing/performing the parts of the Law that one finds inconvenient or impractical, but does not exempt one from observing/performing the more palatable parts of the Law?

Honestly, my intent is not to be antagonistic here.  I really wonder how those who are “Torah observant” can reconcile these obvious problems with consistency in obedience to the Law.  If you do go ahead and decide to perform sacrifices, to be consistent, then of what use is the Cross?  Have you not left the Cross, rejected the redemptive work of the Blood that was shed there for you by the Lamb of God?

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  (Colossians 2:13-17)

I wonder . . . . . how does God view Law-keeping through the lenses of His Grace and His Blood?

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Are we justified before God because of Jesus’ work at the Cross or are we not?   I found a really really good teaching titled, “Justified Through Faith” at Pass The ToastI suggest that you turn on the audio as you read through the teaching.  The audio is a little fuzzy, but I found that I got much more out of the teaching as I listened while I read, to hear the inflection in the words which were being spoken.

May I also suggest that you take a look at the testimony of Aaron Budjen, a Jewish Christian.  He gives a very good account about how God showed him the difference between spiritual death and spiritual life and how God led him from one to the other – all from the perspective of one born a Jew and raised a Jew – studying to become a Rabbi.  His perspective on salvation and the Law is very enlightening.

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Though the above was one of my last posts (there is one more in response to another “Law” mom I’ll be posting here later) on the mom’s forum regarding Torah observance for Christians (the discussion was shut down by the moderator to those of us who had been debating there), it was evident to me that based on the responses posted by “Law Keepers” that there was a stream of thought . . . a source of teaching . . . this doctrine was coming from somewhere.  Not only that, but after my “What About the Blood?!” post, the responses that came from “Law Keepers” contained discernible heresy.

These and other issues regarding the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name Movements will be discussed in future posts here.  Stay tuned . . .

For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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The American Concept of Harvesting

With all the news stories about farmers not growing this in order to grow that in order to make the other . . . well it got me to thinking about the farm “industry” in this country vs. the small local farmers.  And that made me think of this . . .

The American concept of successful harvesting is for a farmer to climb up into the big air-conditioned cab of their combine, fire it up, crank up some tunes, and proceed to mow down the fields before them.  There is little contact with the ground, and the harvest is swift.  The crop is shuffled off to the next stage in production (cleaning, sorting, inspecting) and then arranged neatly in attractive packaging for sale at market.

Hmmm . . .  do you see any elements of the above paralleling some [mega] churches and formula-based movements out there?

Plant . . . Water . . . Then WHO Makes Them Grow?

Seems that Grace vs. Law, Legalism and Judgementalism, formula-based belief systems vs. gospel-based belief systems . . . they are regretfully always there to be debated and discussed. 

Two very un-related posts on Adventures in Mercy and White Washed Feminist (don’t let that “f” word scare you . . . the site is not feminist in the stereotypical sense) reminded me of a post I wrote nearly two years ago on a mom’s forum.  It was in response to a thread of discussion about being responsible for how our kids “turn out”, modest dress (or lack thereof) in churches today, body piercings, tattoos, and just what many thought acceptable behavior (though it was based more in appearance than in character) should be from believers in general.

The connection between the following and the current blogs’ posts mentioned above?  Well, the Adventures in Mercy post was titled, “Those Who Leave Christ and My Own Story (Of Why I Could Not)”.  Molly’s heartfelt post (wonderfully transparent, as usual) is an account of a key part of her journey thus far, honestly relaying her doubts and questions along the way, about how some of those she knew did  leave the faith, and why she did not.  It brought to mind the different elements that go into anyone’s journey of faith . . . how a person is put together in their mind and heart by their Creator, their free will, the external influences that come into play . . .

The connection with Anne’s post, “Dear Lady Lydia”at WWF, was more me pondering along the lines of how certain, shall we say, more “rigid” belief systems tend to respond to exposed belly-buttons and nose rings.  Not that Anne’s post really addressed that kind of thing.  Her post was about much more serious stuff than body piercings and too-short skirts.  But as I read Lady Lydia’s post, “What if This and What if That”, (linked to at “Dear Lady Lydia”) I just wondered how Lady Lydia would respond to a young tatooed, purple-haired believer that might somehow wander into her church.  As I pondered such a scene, I was reminded of some of the things I had seen posted at the mom’s forum that were, well, pretty rigid, too.  And two years ago, I was prompted to write the following . . .

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I’ve been reading all of the recent posts on the subjects of legalism and judgementalism with great interest.  For us as the Church, I believe these issues to be extremely important.  So many precious souls who are drawn into the Church are discouraged in their spirits (many to the point of leaving their faith) by well-meaning Christians who view holiness as a set of rules or a formula to be followed (law).  The principle of worshiping in Spirit and in Truth gets reduced to things being done “a certain way” or worse yet, “not a certain way”. 

Just think about the beauty of the way GOD has set things about.  One can go into ANY culture, in ANY language, ANYWHERE, and communicate the LOVE of God through Jesus Christ. Ladies, I’m not talking just about the primitive cultures of the deep dark jungles, but also of the cultures in all of civilization as well.  INCLUDING the girls and guys with their belly-buttons showing or with body piercings and tattoos!

I’m trying to condense my thoughts to really say what I want to say here.  After salvation through grace has been received, it seems that many in the Church “turn off” the GRACE!  These sweet little baby Christians (OK, so lots of times they’re big and un-cuddly and it’s hard to picture them this way . . . work with me on this one) are expected to behave with maturity they have NOT YET GROWN INTO.  

1 Corinthians 3:1-9  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers;  you are God’s field, God’s building. 

I think when we read the above passage, we tend to apply it personally, thinking how glad “we’re not there” and skip over what Paul is saying.  Do we forget that new believers struggle immensely as they transition from being in the world without Christ to a new reality of being in the world WITH Christ? 

On to an analogy we can all relate to without any stretch at all:  What do we expect of our newborns?  We feed them.  Often.  Change their diapers.  Often.  Comfort them as they grow and struggle to deal with their “new” life outside of the womb with all of its new stimuli and experiences.  We LOVE them.  No matter what.  We rejoice as they pass developmental milestones . . . . . and continue to clean up their messes, which can on occasion be sizable and very unpleasant to deal with. We lovingly guide and instruct them as they slowly mature. 

You can mentally carry the analogy on through the growth process of your children, paralleling it with the spiritual journey of a new believer.  Don’t forget to include the pure joy of seeing the first smiles and watching them “get” a new skill or understand a new concept.  Do we take the same joy in watching (and watching over if called) a new believer as they grow and stumble and pick themselves up and “get” things as they grow? 

Why is it that we as the Church are so impatient (lacking in Grace and Love) with new and/or fellow believers?  Yes, the “infant” stage can be exhausting.  But without proper nutrition and LOVE, the infant may die.  Some will live, but struggle greatly because of improper care. Sadly, I believe there are MANY believers in this category.  Without Grace and proper discipline (teaching) a toddler will become defiant, frustrated, rebellious, or simply lose direction.  My children are not yet at the adolescent stage, so I haven’t experienced the day-by-day walking out of the next part of the analogy.  But having worked with college aged young people, I do know that tremendous time and discussion is required to meet their needs. 

Such idealism, passion, vision, and paradoxically cynicism or lack of vision . . . such a season can be nearly as exhausting as the newborn season! 

When relating to new/fellow believers, we need to remember that we are not the ones who are in “control” of how a particular believer “turns out”.  That’s God’s deal. They are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). We plant.  Someone else waters.  GOD MAKES THEM GROW.  Some of us will have the privilege of discipling someone through to maturity.  Some of us need to be content with being a “piece of the  puzzle” in someone’s life, maybe never seeing the complete picture until eternity.  Whatever God calls us to, we need to be faithful to act in LOVE, or we become a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). 

We need to recognize that God may be calling a new or fellow believer to a different culture (be it jungle-type or inner city- type) for ministry that we may not be comfortable with, – that would be why God would be calling them and not us :o) – and that God’s best for them (and His purposes) is to maybe keep that nose-ring or weird hair for a time.  And there are also those, sadly, who by an act of their will, choose to reject God.  Heartbreaking all the way around.

About “not being fearful to stand up for righteousness”.  I agree that we need to take a stand for what’s holy and righteous in this world and in our churches/fellowships.  I would ask you to take a moment to think about this question:  Are you concerned more for the outward appearance of the people in your church/fellowship/family, or with the condition of their spirit in their relationship to a Holy God?  How do we actually flesh out taking that “stand”?

Ephesians 6 talks about obedience, honor, respect, fathers training and instructing, making clear that they are not to exasperate their children.  How masters should relate to slaves, making clear that God shows no favoritism between the two and that He indeed cares how all are treated.  Skipping down the the “Armor of God” portion of the passage, Paul makes it clear that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Then he talks about taking on the Armor of God.  Vital principles in which to clothe ourselves.  Character and spiritual truth type stuff.  He doesn’t go into a what-to-do or not-to-do rules and regulations type thing.  He calls us to something much higher and nobler, for the battle is far too important to rely on outward “armor”!  And without a new paragraph, flowing right into vs 18,  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Does that mean pray something like, “God, please convict Sally of her exposed belly-button”, or does it mean praying something like, “God, please show Sally how precious and valuable she is in Your eyes.  Let her know who she is in You!  Show me if there is anything I can do to help communicate that truth to her!”   Should our goal simply be for Sally’s navel to be covered, or should we be more concerned with the condition of her heart and her relationship with God?  Do you not think that Sally’s heart, in a right place relationally with God, would be more open to guidance regarding her navel?  Perhaps no specific “navel guidance” would be required, since God has a superior way of making us NEW CREATIONS!   

Are you willing to cover in prayer a young/fellow believer who still demonstrates worldly attributes while they are maturing? . . . . . . . Are you willing to be patient and let GOD MAKE THEM GROW and watch those “worldly” things fall away as the believer matures and sees them and casts them off readily to HONOR the God who has SAVED them and LOVED them and has bathed them in GRACE? 

Are you willing to WAIT for GOD to show you the proper time and place to speak TRUTH IN LOVE into someones life?  And then have the Godly boldness (don’t forget the Grace!) to actually do it?  Are you willing to be QUIET and TRUST the Holy Spirit when He SHOWS you to be quiet, and trust that HE knows what HE is doing?  Are you willing to LOVE the one who is the object of your disapproval, and not try to “change” them so that they are “lovable” before you love them?  Are you willing to do any of the above and not simply reject someone because of your disapproval? 

Do we want churches/fellowships full of believers who look “right” on the outside, but are broken and wounded and in some cases rotting (white-washed sepulchers) on the inside?  Or do we want vibrant, alive, humble, REDEEMED believers in our churches/fellowships who draw unbelievers (yes, many will be wounded and flawed) into the Kingdom of God by the LOVE of God for which mature believers have become free-flowing vessels?

Please look through any concordance under “love” and read just the short phrases.  God cares very much about us getting this concept.  He has inspired much to be written on this subject.  He loves us so much and desires for the Church to be a healing place for the wounded and the lost.

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While the above post had more to do with appearence-based issues being discussed on the mom’s forum, on the spiritual level, we also need to be so careful to let God do His work, and not try to force things along or reject someone when we think or feel that they’re not progressing as they should.  We need to stick to nurturing, discipling, exhorting, and above all, loving new and fellow believers, leaving the making-them-grow part to God.

Law Keepers – Part 3 – Thoughts on the Sabbath

Following is Part 3 of my journey into the land of the “Law Keepers”.  The topic of the post below regards the Sabbath, though the point I was really trying to emphasize was this fact:  Where the Law cannot translate into all cultures, the Gospel can.  The following was posted on an online mom’s forum to which I subscribe, in an ongoing discourse regarding Torah observance for Christians.

Where “About Law Keepers – Part 1” chronicles my introduction to the concept of Torah observance for Christians, “Law Keepers – Part 2 (What About the Blood?!)” gets to the heart of the matter – If you are a repentant, cleansed-by-the-blood-of-Jesus-Christian and think it is necessary to keep Torah, how do you view yourself positionally with God?  If the Word declares you righteous positionally before God, how then are we, as cleansed-by-the-Blood-alive-in-Christ-believers to relate to the Law?

Right up front, I want to make clear that I’m not against Sabbath-keeping.  There are many families that keep the Sabbath as a day of rest and it has been a wonderful thing in their lives.  The post below was written to those who say that God has commanded the keeping of the Sabbath for everyone, forever.  That you are in willful sin if you do not abide by the Sabbath and its rules (peripheral laws).

Here’s another chunk of some things that have been on my heart about the Law . . . . . And again, if you are observant, this is not a personal attack on you or what you are doing.  These thoughts are offered here as insight from a non-Torah observant perspective.

“The” Sabbath.   I know the quotation marks seem to be in an odd place in that sentence.  This has been a particular point of discussion in the Law thread. 

My understanding of the law regarding the Sabbath in the OT is that there was a requirement of a specific time period set aside each week, where certain things would/would not and could/could not and should/should not be done.  It was a time of rest and a time of undivided time for God.  Failing to abide by the Law regarding the Sabbath had a penalty of death. 

My understanding of the sabbath in the NT is that it’s meaning shifted from a law-based reality to a concept/principle-based reality.  Love trumped Law when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, for example.  The New Testament is full of principle-related and Holy Spirit led instruction instead of specific “do this – don’t do that” instruction.   And what about Gentiles who became Christians?  When all cultures and people groups gained access to God through the Blood of Christ and salvation from sin through Grace, the original Sabbath took on the characteristics of a distinctly Jewish tradition in the spreading light of the Gospel.

Culturally, the Law doesn’t always translate.  But the Gospel always does!  Where the Law fails, the Gospel succeeds.  The Gospel can be taken into any culture and understood.  The Ten Commandments can be taken into any culture and be understood.  In cultures that have not been exposed to Judaism (think deep dark jungles of Africa type places) they often have a rudimentary version of the Ten Commandments, the Law written on their hearts by their Creator.  But the Levitical Law is not there, and it should not it be imposed upon those outside of the tradition of Jewish Heritage. 

At an Urbana missions conference my dh had the opportunity to go to years ago, one speaker talked about how many people groups don’t know what bread is.  They have no concept of grain and leavening and the making of bread.  They don’t know what a sheep is.  Culturally they are worlds apart from the things of the Law.  They CAN understand Grace and the gift of sacrificial, substitutional death for their sins, however, and the conquering of death through the resurrection and the reconciliation to God through what Jesus did!  The Gospel takes RELATIONSHIP with God to a universal level, available to all cultures.  Keeping the Gospel connected to Torah observance restricts the Gospel’s availability culturally.  The Law says “stay separate from the world”.  Grace and the Gospel say “Go out into all the world . . .”!      

What about those who are not able to go to church on Sunday, or are not able follow the Torah in the area of the keeping of the Sabbath due to work responsibilities?  I used to work second shift for an airline.  My typical shift required me to be at work from 2:30pm till 11pm.  I was able to go to church on Sunday mornings, but due to my seniority (or lack thereof), for several years my days off were Tuesday-Wednesday, or some other mid-week two day “weekend”.  I had my day(s) of rest, though it did not always coincide with the day I was able to worship with other believers.  Amazingly enough, I discovered that fellowship with God was not restricted to “set aside” times of worship.  Some of my most intimate times with God were out on the ramp or on a jetway waiting for a flight to come in, singing praise and worship songs at the top of my lungs through the noise of jet engines and APUs (auxiliary power units – they’re really loud!).

How do Torah observers handle this?  More importantly, does God require that it be “handled”?  Should it be that one should quit one’s job to be Torah compliant?  There were no allowances made by the company that employed me for “religious scheduling”.  If every Christian left jobs that required shift work in order to become Torah compliant, where would the Light and the Salt come from in those workplaces?  What about the people we worked with that came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as a direct result of me and other believers being faithful to live out our relationship with a Living God in their presence, being available to love them into the Kingdom?  I STILL hear of fruit being borne from the years we were there, and that was over 13 years ago!  Again, the Law says, “stay separate from the world”, the Grace and the Gospel say, “Go into all the world . . .”! 

The concept of a day of rest still stands, however.  God worked six days creating the earth and all of creation and rested on the seventh day.  Because He was tired?  I think not.  He was setting an example for us.  Even BEFORE the Law.  He designed us physically to need a day of rest!  I personally do not think God cares if, in our modern day calender, it’s a Saturday, a Sunday, a Tuesday, or whatever-day!  As long as we are setting a day aside for Him. (Colossians 2:16,17)   

The point I’m trying to make is this:  Christ has made it possible for us to be set apart by the living out of the two commandments He summed up in Matthew 22:36-40.  People are not going to be so drawn to God through us because we follow the Torah faithfully . . . . they’re going to be drawn to God because we love Him and find ways to love them faithfully and in ways relevant to THEM!  It’s not the observance of the Torah, it’s the demonstration of the redeeming power and love of Jesus Christ through the Fruits of the Spirit that will bring the lost into relationship with Him.

As I researched the issue of the Sabbath, (after writing the post above) I discovered that within the Sabbath-keeping community itself there is division.  There are those that observe a simple seventh-day Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday).  There are those that view Sunday as the NT Sabbath.  Then there are those that follow a lunar reckoning of the Sabbath.  The first time I became aware of this method was when someone from the mom’s forum recommended this site.  Check it out.  Check out this section at that site, in particular, addressing a geocentric vs. heliocentric view of the solar system (universe?).  No, seriously.   So this is one of the “more interesting” sites that mandates lunar reckoning of the Sabbath. 

In light of the divisions within the Sabbath-keeping community above, as well as those Christians who do not feel commanded to keep the Sabbath, the following Scriptures come to mind:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.  Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.  He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it do you still submit to its rules“Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!”?  Colossians 2:16-21

Commentators supporting a mandatory Sabbath will make this argument about Colossians 2 . . .  The gist of that position is that Paul wasn’t telling the church at Collose to not observe the Law, but to put away the pagan practices of denying themselves any pleasure associated with eating, drinking, etc. in their observances of the biblical Sabbaths and Feasts.  Fair enough.  Culturally, in this instance, that may be what Paul was saying.  (Here comes the big but) BUT, the more encompassing point he was trying to communicate was that it is not by anything we do that earns or maintains our salvation.  That is a finished and completed work by Christ at the Cross.  Jesus + any other requirement is out of bounds.  We must be careful not to lose connection with the Head!  If, in your Christian liberty, however, you want to celebrate Feasts and the Sabbath, have at it!  Paul said don’t let anyone judge you for that!  What I must have good judgement about, however, is recognizing that God’s Law, imposed on the redeemed believer, when we are freed from the Law by the completed work of Christ at the Cross, (I know I keep saying that, but it is central to everything) is also out of bounds.

Here’s an example of where culturally the Law was the issue:  Well, um, let’s just say the whole book of Galatians =o).  This post is getting long, so let me just hit the high points:

Galatians 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

Galatians 3:1-5 “You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  [Paul, now echoing what he was talking about in regard to pagan practices in Colossians talks here regarding the Law] Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

Galatians 5:1-6 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  [I have to break in here, because this is key: Law keepers believe that though salvation comes through faith in what Jesus did at the cross, they believe that sanctification comes by their keeping of the Law . . . that the Holy Spirit enables them to keep the Law, and that keeping the Law is where their sanctification is attained.  Paul says it is by faith, waiting on the Holy Spirit, through which our sanctification comes.  We are positionally righteous (verses on that in Part 1) before God.  We are painfully aware, however, of our day-to-day challenges with sin this side of eternity.  Therefore, we “eagerly await through the Spirit (not by performing the edicts of the Law) the righteousness for which we hope.”  How does that come about?  On to vs. 6 . . .]  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Then Paul goes on to say to not abuse the freedom we have in Christ, and indulge in the sinful nature, but again calls us to serve one another in love, and states that the ENTIRE Law is summed up in one command:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  (Galatians 5:13-21)  Then Paul goes to the “internals” as did Jesus, and gives us this:

Galatians 5:21-26 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature, its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

There is so much in Galatians.  Go read it again!  Click here for it online.

I need to be done for now.  Christ’s completed work at the Cross, the new life purchased for us there, and living submitted to the Holy Spirit all have to be at the center of all that we do.  The Gospel will universally translate into any culture (Go out into all the world . . . ).  The Law cannot, nor was it ever intended to (requires isolation from the world).  New life by Grace alone, though Faith alone, in Christ alone really is an amazing thing!

For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Politics and Religion – What the Left is Afraid Of (I guess I’m a little slow)

It has always puzzled me –  the fear and vehement disdain with which Liberals/Democrats/the Left have reacted to religious political conservatism.  Having paid pretty close attention to politics since the 1980 presidential race, I thought I had a good grasp on the Right vs. Left, the Conservative vs. Liberal, the Republican vs. Democrat stuff.   And in reality, I think I do have a good understanding of what those different dots on the line to the left or right of center believe.  But this irrational fear, the lashing out, the disdain and in some cases hatred from the Left for the Right . . . I just didn’t get it.  Until . . .

Until I became aware of “Christian Reconstructionism”.  Until I became aware of “Dominion Theology”.  And then there’s “Christian [ultra]Patriarchy”, and the far right “Christian Fundamentalism”.  Before you “righties” start tuning me out, check out my Statement of Faith so you know I’m not off the deep end here.  And for you “lefties” out there who may have stumbled upon JGIG somehow, don’t bug out quite yet.

Lately I’ve wanted to put everything I see under a microscope.  Since I became aware of Christians putting themselves under the Law (Torah observance, Hebrew Roots Movement), more factions, for lack of a better word, have come to my attention that more or less do the same thing, to varying degrees and with different flavors.  So out came my spiritual microscope, and I don’t particularly like what I see.

I feel like I’ve lost a degree of my spiritual innocence.  You know, the “Jesus Loves Me, This I know” and the simple heart living the simple faith thing under my blog title.  To allay any fears of those who know me, I have NOT been shaken from my faith in any way.  If anything, I’ve been STRENGTHENED by God’s Grace and His faithful protection of my heart from so many of the things I now see.

I’m one who could have been so easily sucked in by any one of the above “belief systems”, because, well, I like to be right.  I like to have everything neatly sewn up, just as many of us do.  And the above belief systems seem to have every detail of our messy existence all worked out.  Life will be happy and ordered and just so if you follow formula steps A, B, and C.  And if you don’t, or worse yet, walk in rebellion, off with your head!  You think I’m kidding?  Read those links I put in this post.  No wonder the Left fears/hates “Right wing” conservatism.  Well, those folks scare me a little, too.

Let me get one thing straight right here and now.  I do believe that God is the final authority on all matters.  I believe that He has a plan for the ages, and that HE’S IN CHARGE, NOT US.  God’s instructions to us were to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, not to dominate and rule over all nations.

One of the primary stones in the foundation of Reconstructionism/Dominionism/ultra-Patriarchy is that the Church is to establish God’s kingdom here on earth, preparing the way for the return of Christ.  Their view is a post-millennial view (a time I’m pretty sure we haven’t arrived at yet), and in their world, they set up the Kingdom for Jesus to come rule instead of Jesus coming to set it up.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how it reads in the New Testament.  If anything, there will be a great falling away, increased lawlessness (to coin a favorite term of theirs), a decaying of society, if you will, before Jesus comes back.  Jesus is the One who will set it up the way He intends.  We are not able to do so nor have we been commanded to do so.  Okay, so I’m leaving some timeline stuff out, but here’s the main point:  We, as Christians, were told to Love the Lord our God, Love our neighbors as ourselves, and to make disciples of all nations (first by loving them, not by dominating them!).  The rest is God’s deal.

Let’s take some things that the Reconstructionist and Dominionist types would have a particular problem with, and by that I mean they would impose a penalty of death, according to “God’s Law”:  Fornication, Adultery, Homosexuality, abortion, murder . . .  First, how did Jesus deal with the sinner?  Pick a sinner, any sinner.  I can’t for the life of me think of one time He condemned any sinner to death for their sins.  What did He do?  He loved them first, showed them His Grace and Mercy, called them to turn away from their sin, and exhorted them to sin no more.  He preached (as did the apostles) that those who sinned would not inherit the Kingdom of God . . . but He didn’t squish them like a bug right then and there.  And then He DIED for them.

Jesus is God.  There is no doubt that He, as He walked the earth, had a MUCH bigger problem with the sin He saw here than we ever could.  He also sees the damage and wreckage that occur as a result of sin more than we ever could (and the woundedness that often leads to certain kinds of sin).  His first response to sin?  Love.  Perfect Love.  Love that sees us as He intended us to be the first moment He began to knit us together in the womb.  Then we have a choice to make: to accept or reject the perfect gift of salvation by Grace, through Faith, in Christ.

I have to ask those in the Reconstructionist/Dominionist/Ultra-Patriarchy/Ultra-Fundamentalist camps, and I’ll admit, not in the most respectful of tones, Who died and made you God?!  Not Jesus!  He did not die and rise again so that anyone could hold the Law over the heads of mankind.  If you hold the Law over anyone’s head, you are putting yourself  in the place of God.  God’s Law.  God’s standard.  God’s way to show us that without Grace and Mercy and the Cross of Christ we will always always always fall short.  God’s way to show us our desperate need for Him.

What was the title of this post again?  Oh yeah, what the Left is afraid of.  Well, Lefties, those scary guys mentioned above?  It’s okay to be afraid of them.  Us run-of-the-mill conservative Christians?  We’re not so scary.  We may disagree with you about lots of stuff, some of it really important stuff, but we aren’t out for world domination, either.  We’re just loving God and loving our neighbor, and telling those who don’t know the Good News about Jesus.

Debating a Belief System (With Yourself or Another)

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on “competing”, for lack of a better word, belief systems, or more accurately, areas of secondary doctrines within Christianity.  Some of them have been more “out there” than others. 

I won’t get into the specific issue that was being discussed on the blog I was looking at, but in the comments area, a woman was talking about how she needed to not discuss that particular issue any further (after a considerable amount of contribution explaining her viewpoint) because she was always going to interpret scripture her way and the person challenging her was always going to interpret scripture their way and, well, what was the point?  

While I would agree that in certain instances that is the appropriate course, the particular discussion in question was fascinating.  I thought the two engaged in the conversation and the view points being defended were both well stated.  It was a little disappointing to see the discussion that had developed between the two come to an end, frankly.

The woman who chose to end her part of the discussion relayed that she came from the privileged position of having a husband educated in Greek and Hebrew and that he had written many papers on the subject being discussed.  The implication, no doubt, was that his interpretation would be the correct one, because of all of his education vs. the “lay person’s” study and interpretation.  I won’t make the assumption that the view opposing hers was from either a “lay person” or from someone not as educated as her husband.   

Well, okay, let’s just for the moment assume that the challenging view did come from one not as well educated as her husband.  So what?  Funny how some think that God can only speak to/through the educated – that they are the ones to whom we must primarily look to divide the Word correctly.   A verse in the book of Acts comes to mind where the priests in the temple observed that the apostles Peter and John were not educated men . . .

When they [the priests] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

Peter and John, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, were boldly proclaiming the Gospel.  And they were using the Scriptures and their witness of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to do it.  They were not formally “schooled” in religion – they were bathed in the Word and they were led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Unschooled, ordinary men.  Hmmmmm . . .

I’m not knocking education and higher learning at all, but what was it that these priests (educated by definition because they were priests) “took note” of?  That these men had been with Jesus!  

Education can be a valuable element in dividing and interpreting the Word correctly and discerning the things going on around us, but it must be an element, not the primary foundation on which we choose to stand.  That which we choose as our primary foundation must always be the Word and prayer asking God for wisdom and discernment. 

We have available to us the resources to look up original Hebrew and Greek for any passage in the Bible and there are lots of resources explaining cultural and historical issues of whatever period of time you may be studying.  If you’re reading this, you have all of that information available at your fingertips. 

But sometimes, folks, we need to remember that God has been faithful to provide His Word in our language, and often it just says what it says.  Yes, we need to be confident of the overall integrity of the translation(s) we’re reading, that’s part of discernment and being responsible in what we choose to read.  Yes, there are parts of the Word that have imagery and poetry and history, etc. that require further study, but mostly it just says what it says.

I’ve read some “word studies” that have taken people to places nowhere near where the text intended them to go.  I’ve seen some go into a study trying to prove a pre-supposition or mis-conception and get themselves (and unfortunately others, if they are in leadership) so tangled up in semantics or jumping through so many hoops linguistically, that the end result is just plain false, and not at all what God intended.

Beyond that, there are even those who deny the canon’s validity and have come up with whole new “translations” of Scripture to support their views and teachings.  One example of this is in the Hebrew Roots Movement, which claims that the New Testament, for instance, was really originally written in Hebrew (a claim for which there is no credible historical or archaeological evidence, by the way),  for Hebrews, and from a Hebrew perspective, opening wide the door for questionable and outright false doctrine.  These folks will then tell you that the scriptures need to be looked at from a Jewish mindset, and not a “Hedonistic, Greek, Westernized” mindset.  (I guess they forgot about all those Gentiles to whom Paul preached and wrote.)  Then, of course, you need them to lead you in that “new way of thinking”.  Then the door opens wider still to “hidden meanings” or “forgotten truths”, or “restored translations” setting up unsuspecting hearers for great deception. 

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We need to be careful not to puposefully take scripture and make it fit what we believe instead of taking what we believe and submitting it to scripture. 

I’m getting the impression that for some, when a long-held belief or “system” of belief is challenged, some tend to do the equivalent of closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their spiritual ears and loudly singing “la la la la la la la la”!  Not to say that we should be tossed about by changing winds of questionable interpretation or doctrine at every turn.  That’s why praying for wisdom and discernment and staying grounded in the Word and the Gospel are so important.   

Of course EVERYTHING has to measured by the Word of God. That’s the conundrum, I suppose. We come back to interpretation, then, don’t we?  That’s where having “formulas” in our belief systems can really stick it to us. Learning to hear God, and letting the Holy Spirit speak to us in spite of our pre/mis-conceptions . . . that’s the challenge!  That’s our responsibility.

Law Keepers – Part 2 – What About the Blood?!

I’ve been debating with myself and praying about how to present to you, the reader, that which I’ve learned this past winter about those who consider themselves to be Christians, yet choose to live under the Law of Moses, i.e., those who are Torah observant.  The course of action I’ve landed upon is to take you on the journey (wild doctrinal ride, really) that has been my experience.

Last Fall, I noticed that the Law and Grace issue had bubbled back up on the mom’s forum I subscribe to (which has been a very big blessing in my life, by the way – so helpful and challenging and edifying and encouraging in so many ways) as it periodically seems to.  I blew by the posts on the Law, first because they were really long and I didn’t have the time to read them thoroughly, and second, because I knew if I read them thoroughly, I’d probably feel compelled to put my two cents worth in on the subject, and I just did not have the time.

Fall came and went, Christmas came and went . . . and the Law posts kept on coming.  And their tone had changed from “This is what we do in our family” to “If you really love God and want to please Him, you must do this” and “If you follow Jesus and love Him you must follow His commandments (code for Torah)” and “This is the way the early Church worshipped . . . even Gentile Christians were required to abstain from certain things (Acts 15:19-21) and that as the Gentiles were taught in the synagogues it was ‘understood’ that within the one or two years that they were under that teaching that they would be fully Torah compliant.”

That’s the one that got me.  NEVER, EVER, had it EVER, in reading the New Testament about the Church and its founding, floundering, and growth, did it even remotely occur to me that we, as Christians, especially Gentile Christians, were to put ourselves under the Law of Moses.  In fact, it was very clear to me that we were not to put ourselves under the Law.  For those who were Jewish Christians, it was not expected that they would reject their customs and heritage (rich and meaningful!), but even they were admonished to not live by the Law, as they were now under Grace.  Letters written to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Colosse, and to Jewish converts addressed in the book of Hebrews all contain repeated admonition and exhortation that we are not under the Law, but under Grace.  To say that the early Church was operating under Torah at the direction of God?  Sorry, just didn’t square with Scripture from what I could see.

Not only that, but the Gospel was rarely, if ever, mentioned.  Nor were the gifts of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit, The Great Commission . . .    And the only times that Jesus was mentioned were the times that Law Keepers would talk about how they were following His example of how to live a holy life by the Law and that He personally had commanded us to do likewise.  Every example that they gave was pre-work-of-the-Cross.  It was like the Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus were inconsequential to those who were posting about Torah observance.  Their claim was that people would be drawn to Christ by their “being set apart” resulting from their Law keeping, when in reality what they were advocating was isolationism, not at all what Jesus intended when He said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .”

At this point I was somewhat confused about why they believed the way they did in light of the completed work of the Cross.  I went to the archives for that forum’s posts and looked at the “Law” posts from the previous Fall, just to make sure I was understanding correctly exactly what they were saying.  Following is the first of three posts I wrote on that forum questioning the logic of Torah observance for Christians:

Hi Ladies,

I can’t believe I’m jumping into this can of worms, but I can refrain no longer.  Here goes . . .

I have noticed in many of the posts of those who are Torah observant that discussion of Grace and the shed Blood of Jesus is glaringly absent or greatly diminished.  What about the Blood of Christ?  What Does it DO?  What DID it do?  HOW does the Blood affect our relationship and standing with the Father in reality?

Let me give you an idea where I’m coming from.  I believe that as repentant, born-again, cleansed by the Blood of Jesus believers, there are core issues which are indisputable.  One God existing in three parts: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Divinity of Jesus Christ.  The Virgin Birth.  The sinless life of Christ.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The sin nature present in every human (original sin).  Repentance from and confession of our personal and original sin, and the cleansing of that sin by the shed Blood of Jesus, the free gift of God by His Grace, resulting in restored relationship and fellowship with Him.  The in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer, as promised by Jesus at the Ascension.  Those basic, essential beliefs are at the core of Redemption as God has promised and designed it according to His Word.  [To see my complete statement of faith, click here.] 

Outside of that core of essential beliefs, there are secondary, disputable issues.  Just to name a few . . . Method/style of worship: Musical instruments or not?  More formal or casual dress?  Weekly, monthly, quarterly or whatever schedule of the taking of communion?  Hymns or Praise and Worship or a mix of the two?  Baptism – by immersion or sprinkling . . . of infants or professed believers?  (Many put Baptism in the indisputable core issues category.  For me, as salvation is not contingent upon Baptism, but Baptism is a public profession of conversion, I fall in the immersion-of-professed-believers camp, but recognize that salvation hinges upon repentance and the cleansing of sin by the Blood of Jesus alone.)  Method/percentage of tithe and offerings?  Sabbath keeping or worshipping on Sunday?  Church government and structure?  Spiritual gifts for the Church today or dispensationalism [I have since learned that the more proper term for the gifts not being in operation today is more accurately referred to as “cessationism”.]?  The drinking or not of wine? etc. etc. etc.

These secondary, disputable matters are issues about which believers have strong convictions, varying by degrees.  Believers who are like-minded concerning such issues tend to gravitate together and worship together.  For those who forge their path in Love and Grace (Romans 14), the Gospel is exalted and preserved.  For many, the secondary issues overtake the Gospel and the Gospel is forgotten in a sea of religiosity.

Then there are issues that I would classify as issues of personal obedience:  Homeschooling, head coverings, dresses only, tv or no tv . . . things like that.  These are things which God may or may not call an individual or a family to that may be for a season or for a lifetime.

You may have noticed that I did not put Torah Observance in the above paragraphs.  Should Torah observance really have a place in practice in the Body of Christ?

I’ve shared several posts from this forum concerning Torah observance from both sides with my husband and his response (as well as some good discussions) was that Judaisers are alive and well in the Church today, resulting in the dilution of the Gospel.  Indeed.

It is a humbling thing to receive Grace.

Can you imagine, as Jesus bent to wash the disciples’ feet, how they must have felt?  The God of all creation washing their dirty, dusty, (think of the streets of the day) feet?  Jesus came to Peter, and Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No”, said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you , you have no part with me.”  Peter knew Jesus wasn’t just talking feet now, and realized the spiritual implications of what Jesus was saying and doing and said, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but may hands and my head as well!”  (John 13:6-9)  Peter was all in!  His first inclination was that he was too lowly and too dirty to let God in the Flesh wash his dirty, nasty, feet (self).  We would do the same thing – “NO!  I should wash your feet, Lord,” is what I can imagine many of us saying to Him.  But by humbling himself, Peter realized that JESUS is the One who does the washing, and unless He does it, and we LET Him do it, we have nothing to do with Him.  Of course, the washing Jesus was referring to was the washing He was preparing to do with His Blood.

What about the Blood?

What did the washing away of our sin with the Blood accomplish?

Why did Jesus do what He did if the Law is still to be observed?  The tearing of the curtain . . . restoring fellowship with God . . . the atonement of sin . . .

Which brings me to . . . our realistic place before God because of the Blood.  We are sinless, blameless, sins washed away, sanctified, justified, our sins are as far as the east is from the west.  (Ephesians 1:3-8, Acts 22:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, much of the letter to the Hebrews, Psalm 103:12, and BUNCHES of other places in Scripture!)

IF that is true, WHY would one think or feel that there is a need for the Law to be observed?  I’m not speaking of learning or knowing about the Law, but of carrying out its edicts.  The Law is for the lawless (see 1 Tim. 1:8-11).  Its purpose was to show us God’s standard and our inherent inability to be righteous before Him.  To show us our need for Redemption through repentance and our dependence on God’s Grace and Mercy.  Our need for Jesus!  Are not we, as repentant believers, free from that sin, and from practicing the Mosaic Law because of the Blood of the Lamb?

What about the Blood?

So that was the question I had for the families that had chosen to place themselves under the Law (it is still bizarre to me to write that . . . that there are those who choose to be Torah observant in light of the Cross).

The responses I got were at the same time enlightening and confusing.  Those responses prompted me to ask the question “Where is this teaching coming from??”  And the research began.  I began to look in the archives for that forum for postings by the most prolific writer about Law keeping for titles of books, websites, names of teachers/preachers/authors . . . anything that would give me insight as to where this teaching was coming from.

It is at this point that I want to make something perfectly clear:  I do not doubt the sincerity or hearts for God of any of these women or their families who are Torah observant.  I believe that they believe that they are doing the right thing.  They do what they do out of love for God and a desire to please Him.  That’s what has added an element of confusion for me about this whole issue, after all, how can loving God and wanting to please Him coupled with adhering to His Law be a bad thing?!

God, in His faithfulness, has provided answers to these questions.  And amazingly enough, research revealed the “movement” that had grabbed my attention to meet one and in some cases both criteria for false teaching/religions – denial of the Deity of Christ (some in the movement outright, and others more subtly, in the form of denying the Trinity) and perpetration of the Original Lie, “You will be like God”.  It took a while before I saw how/where those two criteria fit, and it at first glance is subtle, but definitely there.  Stay tuned for Part 3 . . .

For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.

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Other articles of interest:

A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE.  For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

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Labels II

I’m going to get out my big spoon and stir the pot just a bit . . .

Reading through comments following the Labels post got me to thinking – especially one particular comment.  I’m not picking on this commenter, but a few things came to mind as I read her second comment.  Based on what I just wrote in Discernment in Action (Chicken Wing Theology Applied), they are things I’d like say to right up here in post-land instead of back there in comment-land.

From “a thinking woman” in her second comment pertaining to Labels:

“I agree that too often labels are used to draw battle lines.  But that is not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about practicality.  Nearly everyone in the US says they believe in God or are a Christian.  Our family is Reformed, and currently looking into joining ourselves to a Presbyterian congregation.  But if no one wanted to use labels, we could go around for years or decades trying to find a like-minded church to join.”

I’d like to offer some thoughts on the concept she presents in the last sentence of that paragraph first.  If we’re seeking after where God wants us to be, and He is faithful, AND we’re listening to Him, I doubt that years or decades will pass as we “go around” trying to find which church is for us.  God says that if we seek Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him.  He is faithful.  To be clear, I’m no proponent of “church hopping”.  But to take one’s time visiting, evaluating statements of faith, listening, praying, discussing, getting to know the leadership and the vision of a church or churches . . . I think it’s okay to not be in a big rush to find the “right” church.   

Again, from “a thinking woman”:

“I’m talking about practicality.”  

In today’s American Church culture, I’m afraid that the leading of the Holy Spirit takes a back seat to practicality. 

If, as we seek, we trust only that which falls within the boundaries of some prescribed set of denominational beliefs, (I’m talking about beliefs outside of the core, indisputable issues of the Christian faith) the risk is that we will not grow and mature as God has intended for us to.  We need to let Him guide us to where and with whom we are to worship.  That place may or may not be within the comfort-zone of our denominational bent.  Actually letting God do that leading is very challenging in practice, because then we have to give up control.  Not the self-control-type control, but the-I-wanna-go-where-I-feel-comfortable-and-agree-with-everyone-most-of-the-time-type control.

Say we choose to fellowship within our “labeled boundaries”, which I’m not saying is a bad thing, by the way, as long as we’ve been faithful to let God lead us to that place.  If we follow along, trusting that which comes from someone within the boundaries of our chosen label, then we run the risk of letting our spiritual guard down, and failing to “Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22) Like I’ve said before, I’m not saying that we should all be cynics, but we do need to listen to all teaching from all sources with a critical ear.  Notice that I said a critical ear, not a critical spirit.

For example, I trust our pastor.  I trust his teaching and his counsel and his integrity.  I see the fruit that is borne out from his life and how and where he ministers.  His marriage and family are solid.  I would (and do) heartily invite and welcome visitors to our church.

That said, when I sit down as part of the congregation to hear a teaching from our pastor or someone speaking in his place, 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 always stands watch in the back of my mind.  For me, this results in three things:

1)  I remember to measure everything I hear against the Word, even if it is from a trusted source.

2)  I remember to set aside my pre/mis-conceptions that I may have about the issue at hand. 

3)  This makes me humble myself before God and allow the Holy Spirit to change my viewpoint if it needs changing.  It makes me teachable, yet I maintain the “filter” that the Word and the Holy Spirit afford me.

Even if you consider yourself to be in a “safe” place, having what you consider to be a filter in the form of a label, I would submit to you that your label-filter should neither a starting nor an ending place be.  A label filter should only be used as a factor, not as the primary element in your filtering process as you evaluate the teaching and practices of any church.

My point of view, as moot of a point as it may in reality be, is that if no one used labels, we’d all have to rely on the Word and the Holy Spirit to direct us thereby giving God the greater control in our lives.

      

Chicken Wing Theology

Okay, bear with me.  A more accurate title might have been “A Chicken Wing Approach to Discerning Theology”, but it wasn’t as catchy.  There is an analogy or metaphor or whatever floating around in there somewhere. 

I’ve been reading a fellow mom’s blog of late, Adventures in Mercy, where there has been great discussion and banter about formulas and philosophies in several different areas.  Somewhere in the midst of the posts and comments, there was a comment written that while we should all know how to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of any new concept we come across, not all believers are mature enough to do that.  I agree, and would add that there are many people out there that want to have it all figured out for them and just want to follow something that’s all laid out for them.       So they swallow it all.

It’s not the words or views of your pastor, your mentor, your parenting philosophy guru (for lack of a better word), or any teacher or teachings or philosophies that you may follow that are responsible for what you believe and/or do.  It’s YOU.  It’s YOUR responsibility to

1 Thessalonians 5:21,22
“Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.”  
 

When the Holy Spirit Who is your Counselor nudges you or speaks to your heart or raises a red flag or pricks your spirit or does whatever He does to get your attention, LISTEN TO HIM.  Learn to listen early, so that the equivalent of a spiritual 2×4 doesn’t come sailing your way.  Worse yet, if you won’t listen to the promptings from the Holy Spirit, He may just quit trying to get your attention altogether.

Oh yeah, about chicken wings.  (For those of you who don’t eat chicken wings, this metaphor may be lost on you.)  As good and tasty and as aromatic as chicken wings can be, one needs to take a bit of time to glean the meat from the bones.  It does take some time and effort, but to ingest and take into one’s system only the good parts of a chicken wing is a pretty important process, and nearly always a messy one.  To not take the time, however, and to take the bones into your system can really mess you up.

It’s the same with concepts and philosophies and teachings . . . it takes time and effort to sort truth from error; it can be time consuming and messy, but necessary for good spiritual health.  And there will be times when you discover that the idea at hand is so full of bones that it’s just not worth your time.  That’s okay.  Move on.  Or maybe God would have you to study about a certain “bony” philosophy or movement to learn all you can to caution others who come across your path practicing or expressing an interest in that philosophy or movement.  

Pray for wisdom and discernment and direction.  Be faithful to press on in an area in which the Holy Spirit is challenging you.  Be willing and faithful to step away from things He shows you are not for you, even if they are attractive to you.

It’s your responsibility.   

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See also Discernment in Action (Chicken Wing Theology Applied)

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