• 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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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
_________________

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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A Little Perspective Regarding Future “Law Keepers” Posts

Before I post the next installment in the “Law Keepers” series, I would like to do a little housekeeping, so to speak.  As some of you have already figured out, I’m not a theologian =o).  I’m just a simple heart living a simple faith, just like under the title of my blog says.  That said, I believe that “Joe”, or in my case, “Josephine” Christian is able to determine, with the Holy Spirit’s leading and careful study of the Scriptures, whether or not a doctrine, teaching, theology, belief system, etc. which crosses their spiritual path is sound or not.  Not only do I believe that we are able to discern such things, I believe we are CALLED  to do so!

2 Timothy 2:15
My son, preserve sound judgement and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;  they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble;  when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  (Proverbs 3:21-24)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 

Back to the part about me not being a theologian.  I do not know Hebrew or Greek.  I have not read the “great theologians”.  I do, however, have a basic-to-good working knowledge of the major streams of thought in Christendom, including those streams that are considered “Christian Cults” as well as other religions and philosophies.  I’m not afraid to ask questions, even if they seem dumb.  Though I may not know everything about Scripture, history, religions and philosophies, I do have access to (and so do you if you’re reading this!) lots of tools and resources for clarification regarding issues of language or perspective by those who do know a lot more than I do.  On the most basic level, I believe that when a belief system diverts away from or diminishes the Gospel and/or the revealed character of God, it is suspect, and should either be rejected outright or investigated further.  In the “Regarding What I Believe” section of my Statement of Faith I relay what I mean by that in a bit more detail.

The Bible is the plumb line.  I don’t presume to have every interpretation perfectly correct.  I do sincerely believe, however, that God has equipped believers – by His Word and by His Holy Spirit – to discern truth from error.  You can read posts on discernment here at JGIG on the Series page to get an idea how I go about evaluating any “new thing” that comes across my path.

I say all that to say this:  The balance of the posts here at JGIG regarding Law Keepers will be a compilation of observations I have made, along with resources I have come across regarding Law keeping perspectives.  I’ll be encouraging you to listen to/read teaching from a New Covenant perspective on occasion.  There are many facets to the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name movements.  I am under no illusion that I will be able to “lay it all out” in a totally comprehensive way for you.  There are some things in the Hebrew Roots Movement that I just “don’t get”, but have read enough to know that they’re “off”, doctrinally, and have chosen to not study those facets any further.  I will hit the high points, however, and will try to give you resources for further study.

I am firmly in the “New Covenant” camp.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  You can go to the Series page here at JGIG to read “Law Keepers” parts 1-5 of my journey into the land of the Law keepers posted thus far.  I will say that as I was in the thick of the research of the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Names movements, I felt at times as though I was in a swift-running river, and had to hold fast to the Rock of the Gospel and the completed work of Christ at the Cross to avoid being swept into the stream.  I exhort you, the reader, that if you do choose to investigate these movements in any depth, to do so prayerfully and purposefully anchor yourself firmly in the Word and the completed work that Christ did at the Cross as you go.  These movements are very seductive in their appeal and Bible-believing Christians have been led astray by their false doctrines.  I can’t stress enough how persuasive these movements can be. 

Studying these things can be taxing – both spiritually and emotionally.  People who have chosen to put themselves under Torah work really hard at it and work really hard at justifying why they do what they do.  It grieves my heart to see them trading in their freedom in Christ for a life of Law keeping.  I’m not saying that the Law is bad . . . it is God’s standard.  But we can never measure up to that standard . . . hence God’s provision of Redemption and restored life through Jesus.  You will find yourself having to staunchly guard your heart and mind, and for a while, everything you see and hear will be through the filter of the Law.  If you do choose to study these things in depth, rest assured that if you are holding to the Gospel (Good News!), you will come through with a much deeper understanding and an incredible appreciation for what God has done and Who He is . . . in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  There is much joy there!

After posting an overview about Law Keepers, (which will list a few observations I’ve made regarding some basic beliefs as well as a bit of information I’ve gleaned from research regarding the Hebrew Roots and Sacred Names movements) I’m thinking a “glossary” post may be in order.  One of the things that is really important to be aware of regarding these and other heretical movements is that they engage in the re-definition of terms.  Once that is accomplished, those re-defined terms become fields in which seeds of questionable doctrine can be cultivated.

My prayer is that those who have come in contact with or have family members who have been exposed to these false teachings will have a better understanding about where these teachings are coming from, their basic belief system/structure, and resources to which they can go where they can learn more.  Most of all, I pray that “Joe” and “Josephine” Christian will be encouraged in the Gospel as God has provided it according to His Word, and that they will be able to recognize false teachings whenever and wherever they encounter them.

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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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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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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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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About “Law Keepers” – Part 1

It’s been an interesting past several months, spiritually speaking.  There is an online forum that I subscribe to and on which I post every now and then, geared for moms of many young siblings.  We have six children, aged 11 and under, and the forum of which I speak has been a HUGE blessing on so many levels.  I have been stretched and challenged, gotten many well used tips, and had many good laughs along the way for the past 3 years I’ve been subscribed there.

Shortly after I subscribed, there was a discussion about Grace vs. the Law.  That issue, (along with others) is one that comes up periodically on that forum.  The discussion that brought it out at that particular time was a rhetorical (or so I thought, and in reality for most it was a rhetorical discussion) about being “unclean” during one’s menses and the pros and cons of carrying out the Mosaic Law “back in olden times” regarding such.  Some of the posts were quite funny, fantasizing about not having to be on mommy or wife “duty” for one week each month!

Then one mom wrote in about how she actually keeps niddah, the edicts of the Mosaic Law in this area.  She also wrote a lengthy post on her interpretation of the book of Galatians, which I found to be a very curious and involved interpretation, one that had NEVER occurred to me, and one with which I disagreed quite a bit.  Call me slow, but at this point I still did not grasp that there are several moms and their families on that forum that actually adhere to and observe Torah.  The online discussion became quite a large one.  That was three years ago.  The following is what was my first post regarding the Law vs. Grace on that forum.  Looking back and knowing what I know now, it’s kind of cool to go back and read it again .  But at the time I really had no idea how deep the issue was . . .

About Galatians and the Law

OK, ladies.  I’ve been reading posts till my eyeballs bled about the Law and Galatians and historical context etc., etc., etc.  May I offer this rhetorical question?

Was not ONE of the purposes of the Law to show us that we COULD NOT fulfill it, thus making us acutely aware of our NEED for the SAVIOUR?!  I will concede that the Law has God-given boundaries and wisdom, which culturally I do not have the benefit of wholly understanding.  When I read about the “clean” and “unclean” issues surrounding our monthly cycles it serves to prove to me that by our very PHYSICAL nature we are bound by the Fall and that we need the Saviour whom God in His infinite Love and Grace has provided for us, ALL PRAISE AND THANKS TO A LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER!  (For those of you who think way too much, I don’t mean to imply that our cycles are a result of the Fall . . . I really don’t have any idea if cycles even existed pre-fall or not . . . does it really matter . . . just going by what God says about being “clean” and “unclean”.  Our cycles do not fall into a category of choosing to sin or not . . . it’s part of our physical existence, hence my above conclusion.)

Deep breath.  Sorry if my “caps” are coming on a little strong!

Galatians 3:21-25 “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.  “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to LEAD US TO CHRIST [caps mine] that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

This is by no means a simple issue.  I don’t mean to imply that it is.  One thing that God has taught me through my children is that God is the God of the complex, and also the God of beautiful simplicity.  He appeals to the highest intellect in His complexity regarding lofty streams of thought such as Predestination, Sin, the Law, Free Will, etc., and can communicate His principles of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness to the developing mind of a child! [Wish I had added here in this post that God actually tells us that we need to come to Him as a little child!]  Most of us fall somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum, and WHEREVER we fall on that spectrum, God can reveal His truth relevant to us and our life circumstances and cultural background, equipping us for our place of service in the Body!

One more thing I would like to add, though I wish to tread lightly, so as not to offend, so here goes.  I think we need to be very careful not to communicate that one can only understand Scripture if they have all the background and cultural information, history, original language, understanding, etc.  Not to in any way denigrate those things.  They are valuable in understanding more deeply the amazing Word God has provided for us.  At the same time, God’s Word is for everyone . . . and it is the Holy Spirit Who reveals that which He wants to impart to us.  For anyone to be discouraged from going to Scripture because they might not “understand it correctly” would deeply grieve the Holy Spirit, in my opinion.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in you 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.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.”

Amen! =o)

The Grace vs. Law issue has come up from time to time since then, but there was a kind of mushrooming of posts by “Law Keepers” this past Fall and then again after the first of the year.  In the Fall I kind of tuned the Law posts out . . . didn’t have the time to really try to understand them.  Then there was a lull, and a bunch more Law posts in January.  I tried to stay out of it, really I did, but the Holy Spirit would not let me rest until I wrote in response to the Law point of view.  Stay tuned for Part 2 . . .

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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