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Posts Tagged ‘law’

My mental backlog of blog posts is starting to get a little overwhelming.   I could go into all the reasons why I have no time to write, but I guess I’ll just let this one fly off the cuff tonight.  It’s been a really strange, but wonderful day.

First I will start with a dream I had this morning, which I don’t fully understand, but feel it’s related in some way.  It was definitely one of “those” dreams – the kind that stands out from the normal kind, whatever normal is.  But some just scream, “Pay attention!’

I was in a small village, out in the main street, and many people were out walking around.  News was spreading that someone important was coming, and everyone seemed excited and started lining up on the sidelines like it was going to be a parade.  But a man began warning to not go and see, not to look.  He said a powerful woman was coming in really fine, splendid clothes, and an entourage, and you will want to look at her, but you must not look.  If you glanced at her in the least, you would be under her dominion in some way.  My excitement turned to fear, and I began looking for a place to hide from this splendid, yet frightfully powerful woman.  I could find nowhere, until I came upon a seating bench that had a lid with storage underneath.  I was trying to get in and place the lid over me, but I realized I was too late, so I sat behind it, facing away from the street, hoping to just not be seen.  I could hear the crowds going wild and felt powerless to stop what was happening.  A woman was standing near me who was not cheering, yet she was not hiding either.  A man from the entourage stopped, and I pretended to be asleep (so I could keep my eyes closed and not see anything.)  I could hear the woman near me talking to him.  She wasn’t afraid, but she was pleading with him.  The man was her brother.  She kept saying how much she loved him and it seemed she was hoping to be the one with the most influence over him instead.   Then I realized that I had based all my fear on the warning of one man, and not even known if he was telling the truth or not.  Then I woke up.

Not long after I awoke, my husband received a phone call from someone we met through this blog who does desire to obey God through Torah observance.  We never knew if we would meet in person or not, but he just happened to be in town today, so we readily agreed to get together, and had him over for dinner.  As I was working in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he and my husband were having a good visit in another room (which I could not hear), I had the strong impression that this dream is about our meeting in some way.  I will let the reader decide in discernment.

I let them know when the meal was ready and we all sat down.  He was very kind to patiently listen to my expounding (I get really passionate about Jesus, Spirit, and the power of Love).   We went around the usual circular discussions that are inevitable whenever the Old and New Covenant ways of thinking collide.  There are so many ideas, so many angles, and ways of seeing things.  I can’t give someone my eyes, or my heart vision.  Nor can I judge their heart.  I sensed in him a deep conviction, and desire that was very familiar.  I have it too.  I used to walk on that path he is on, but found a different way to apply that conviction.  In fact the practical application of my belief system continues to change and grow.  I believe now more than ever that patience and love is the most important element in relationships of any kind where religious differences are present.  Can we make the other party approach the table this way?  No.  Can we choose to?  Yes.  I have seen and sadly been party to some painful divisions since leaving the HRM between people who had much more in common than they disagreed on, yet the mountains of offense continued to build over differences in information and perception.

If someone believes with all their heart, they are doing the right thing, then they are.  Even if their ways seem crazy to us, their hearts are being true to what they believe.  I have a great deal of respect for our new friend who loves God, trusts God, and wants to obey Him.  That is a beautiful thing, even if that looks much differently to him than it does to me now.  Of course I did my best to explain the new and improved version of righteous fruit (it’s not really new, we just have it in HD with Jesus, with the static taken away).  But I can’t force him to see the world my way.  No one could have forced me.

After our friend had gone, I saw a status post on facebook:  “Do the right thing, regardless of whether bad things may come later or what it might lead to. Do the right thing today.”  This friend does not observe Torah as given to Moses, but follows Jesus whole-heartedly.

A short time later I found a similar quote while continuing an internet search I had been on for a few days about my family history.  I ran across an article written in 1961 about my grandfather who gave up his 15 year career as a law enforcement officer because he had just been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.  They would not allow for him to have Saturdays off, so he turned in his badge.  Ironically, the article was written by my other grandfather who was the pastor that baptized him.  The editors added a relevant quote from Ellen White that read, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”

I had seen this piece in a scrap book a long time ago.  Our family had held it up for many years as the picture of integrity.  My husband also for years would not accept a lucrative promotion at work because he refused to work on the Sabbath.  We followed our conscience and I don’t regret that.  However during those years, we have many regrets about failures to love with our whole heart.  Which will hold more weight in the end?   I am thankful for the few instances where we were given a chance to redeem those lost opportunities.

Today I also saw a picture of my grandmother’s headstone, wife of the former police officer.  I did not attend her funeral, and she is buried far from where I live.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Under her name it reads, “She Loved Country Music.”   She also observed the Sabbath and the feasts, and out of respect for her, I will only say that it makes me sad this was the love she was known for.  I loved her, but she loved very little and it has grieved me to see how the pain of not being loved gets handed down from generation to generation.

So there we have it, a day all about doing the right thing, which is not exactly defined the same way by everyone.  HRM followers disagree about this all the time between themselves, as well as Christians.  We think having a Law would simplify it and preserve it.  It doesn’t.

Often the right thing is determined by fear.  There is something that needs to be avoided, controlled, or protected, or an approval to gain and keep.  These fears used to drive my view of faith, scripture, and my value system about what is right.  I understand this path very well.  I go back there a lot in other areas of my life as it seems to be my default operating system installed since birth.  It takes conscious effort, or realignment I should say, to His heart and mind, to operate from the other center point.

Perfect Love casts out all fear.  I believe this is the example of the fearless woman in my dream.  What if the right thing was determined only by what was Love.  Perfect love loves no matter what.  Even to the death.  What is the right thing?  A legal system can never answer this question because the explanations take volumes of Talmud, endless Supreme Court cases, or other books and tapes and videos without end.  Yet there is always something left unclear and uncovered, or impossible.

Love answers the question with itself and satisfies all.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

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Today I read a passionate argument against some “hyper-grace” teaching that has become popular.  Living under my rock, I am not in a position to comment on teachings I have not heard for myself, but this has never stopped me before.  🙂  I will concede that maybe the message of Grace in Christ could be presented badly.  But I find it hard to believe that it could ever be too much.

I’m not sure if the reaction is toward something that may actually be heretical or if maybe much of the Church has never understood that law and grace were never meant to be in balance.  Grace replaces law because it does what the law could never do; creates a new life, draws with love rather than fear of punishment, transforms desires which in turn guides a life toward Christ instead of self.  Maybe those teaching “hyper-grace” don’t know this either, but I have never heard anyone teach that Jesus has no affect on a life.  He just saves you and that’s all there is to it?  Nothing changes except you go to heaven instead of hell?  Are people really teaching this?  Or are some people afraid to let go and let Him be the Lord of the road people are on while seeking Him.  I would speculate it’s possible that neither side of this debate really know Grace.

I have wanted to write about this so many times, and never could quite seem to figure out how to approach it – because it’s kind of the depth and scope of everything about living in Christ. It’s like, if you don’t get it – I can’t give it to you.  But I see so many Christians , churches, and creeds missing the awesome power of Grace.

Real Grace (which is even beyond my ability to accurately define) is such a transforming power that squabbling over what you think you are allowed to do or not allowed to do becomes pointless.   Those debates are for those who don’t have enough grace, not too much.  Grace fills you with love for God that keeps Him in mind in all your actions, words, and even your thoughts.  Grace fills you with love for other people so that you lay down your prejudices, hates, grudges, and feelings of superiority.  Your heart lives with those who are last, not first, and you learn to lay down your life and take up your cross.  You even find yourself loving those who hate you.  Grace isn’t always easy, but it’s glorious.  It’s Jesus on a cross loving you and His executioners, saving us who were against Him.  You can’t have too much of Him.  Loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul does not lead to licentiousness.  Quite the opposite.  People think that when Christians begin to get comfy with sin (which is also sadly defined only by moral behavioral lines while the sins against love are ignored), they need more law.  I disagree. They need to see more Jesus, and we so seldom speak of Him.  We love to dwell on agendas and abstract ideas.  Even New Covenant recovering theology junkies like me are in danger of this.  Life is not a good idea we can talk about at a distance.  It’s a Person who is your Life and has an active participation in it.  We often turn His Spirit into a dead doctrine  or a band-wagon, either one.   Both of these forget that He is standing there as our Bridegroom, waiting for us to realize the intimacy and power of His Love.  Imagine an unpublished final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennett,  in spite of her hard-won love and admiration of Mr. Darcy, turns to a life of crime because he wasn’t stern enough to keep her in line.  That’s not how love stories go, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus intended for those who fall in love with Him.

It makes me sad when people believe Jesus isn’t enough and we need to step back to Moses to get a good dose of morality to stay on the straight and narrow, or to even find conviction for sin.  This isn’t what He taught.  The inheritance He gives us, His Spirit, His Life.. is so much more, so much greater.  And it’s continuing to open my eyes to areas that I had not surrendered to Him before.  Grace loves me enough to not leave me to wallow in my own ways.  In the last year, I’ve seen things that were so out of line with Him, that I used to believe were true (similar to the awakening which inspired the start of this blog).   The areas of my life being pruned would never have been brought into the light with the Law.  His Spirit goes deep into the heart and tests things against the Law of Love.  So much in my heart has failed this test.   This did not come about because someone came and said, “you need to repent of x,y, and z”.  Rather, it’s the fruit of walking with Him, and hearing His heart.  And I have much further to walk.  Maybe we need to move past God as a doctrine and realize that living in communion with him (as a husband and wife, father and child, etc… whatever family or friend relationship you relate to) doesn’t operate on this score and control system when it’s healthy.  What friend of Jesus did He ever have to force Himself upon?  Was there ever a more attractive Person?

I may have never encountered this actual problem of hyper-grace, and I may misunderstand the arguments against it, but I do appreciate the chance to say, Jesus is enough. 🙂  Always.

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Today was one of the most stressful days I have had in awhile.  Recently I asked God for more… an ability to do more for Him, going beyond giving material goods and money, to letting Him give of Himself through me, which really means I have to get out of the way and let Him do His work.  For years now I’ve been involved in charitable pursuits, but seem to have gotten stuck at the level of handing people a toothbrush or a bar of soap and not touching soul to soul.  It has been a wonderful privilege to be involved in these things, but I know there is so much more.  I long to see what God can do, and to see people really reached by His love.

Without delay He has brought me to a place of great stress, having to choose between what I want and what He has placed before me, for the sake of someone else.  Just one small change in the turn of events today changed the entire script, and on the outside it may have looked noble, but on the inside I was so frustrated, and complaining loudly.  This breaking doesn’t come easily.

I recently read an article stating the problem with our culture is no one knows what sin is anymore, and that we must really bring this back into focus if anyone is going to realize their need for God.  To most people this means we must preach the Ten Commandments.  Ask people if they have ever told a lie.  Go through each one and make sure we convince people they have broken them all, and therefore need Jesus, the “Get out of hell free” card.  I won’t say that never works, but I believe the Old Covenant mirror of the Law is far inferior to the New Covenant version.  

Last night I watched a program about a Benedictine monastery  and five men from various walks of life who had decided to go spend some time there for various reasons.  One was an atheist, one a former convict, another a spiritual seeker who had also spent time at a Buddhist monastery.  Being a spiritual seeker myself, most of my life, this show fascinated me, seeing men from vastly different walks of life coming together in answer to a spiritual call in their hearts.  Maybe there would be better places to find the answers than with monks.  But then again, I heard a great deal of wisdom coming from them.  Spending hours a day listening to God in silence must result in learning a few things.

One caveat of wisdom I heard, which I had also come to realize some time ago, is that in order to grow spiritually, we absolutely must live in community with other people.  One man in this episode had a particular distaste for another member of the group.  The monk mentoring him suggested that he had the most to learn from this individual who he detested so badly.

For most of us, the “community” of refining begins in our own families.  Marriage is the one of the most challenging relationships, then parenting.. after the ordeal of growing up with imperfect parents of course.  Outside of family, my culture has precious little that qualifies as genuine community.  The Church has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how this is done, and what it looks like. People are starving for this!  We need it because God wired us to be connected to each other, living stones in His temple.    

In all these relationships we find both joy and pain.  In all these, the opportunity to seek that which Jesus commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you.” When we pull down our defenses and are willing to see ourselves through the eyes of those closest to us, then we live in honesty, confession, forgiveness, restoration.  The true nature of New Covenant sin is to transgress love.  I Corinthians 13 should be the list of commands, if we thought we needed one to hang on the wall.  

But even community is not the perfect mirror. Once again – Jesus is.  Looking into Him, deeply into Him, we find the most humbling of pictures, the brightest revealing light into our own souls.  We see the cross he invites us to take up and crucify our own desires, ego, agenda, resentments and fear.  Let them die.  The Ten Commandments, or even 613, will never come close to bringing the conviction in our hearts that one look at Jesus will do.  Zacchaeus  knew the law from birth.  He had learned to live with the guilt it bound upon his life.  But as soon as He saw Jesus, and realized Jesus loved Him, he not only truly knew His sin, but was free from it.  He let it go, with great joy in response to the Creator of the world coming to eat at his table.  Beautifully, the root words in the name Zacchaeus mean pure, transparent, and clean.  And the town could not believe Jesus would eat with such a sinner!

Today, even as I prayed for God to deliver me from a task, he herded me right into it.  I had no way of escape.  As the day wore on – the demands increased, and so did my frustration. But He showed me repeatedly that love was a much higher priority than my plans.  Love revealed my own selfishness and impatience.  But love also made a way out to a place of peace.  This is a mirror that not only reflects, but transforms.  By beholding, we become changed, into His likeness. 

 

 

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When Christianity misses the New Covenant GOOD NEWS by teaching moralism and methods, it also fails to see repentance in the light of relationship instead of behavior.   Actually, it fails to teach repentance at all because in this paradigm you only need to change your thoughts and actions, rather than die and be birthed by God.

Too often people are told to “trust Jesus” to save them from hell, but you have to work out the rest of this life on your own.  To them “repent” means, “I’m sorry I was bad.  Jesus forgive me.  Now I will try my hardest to be good and keep my Christian “to do list” checked off daily.”

In the story of the prodigal son, the picture does not focus on the debauchery of the son, but shows how his path led to his brokenness and desire to RETURN to his father, a father he knew had no obligation to even accept him as a son any longer. The scene of the return demonstrates the love of a Father who rejoices over his son who was lost, and “dead” but is now alive.  Repentance is to return to our Father from our own pathetic devices and desires.  Do we come home and party like we did when we were out in the world?  Does our Father have to demand that we don’t or do we stand amazed in his mercy as he takes away our shame?  Is this not the most transformational relationship you can imagine?

I want to share a statement from a friend of mine whose journey has led her to a similar conclusion.  I am always overjoyed to find fellow travelers who have seen the inner core of LIFE.

The cry of my heart is to try to focus on Jesus … because for me I came from a watered-down nothing church, to a good, Bible-centered church that had somehow or other, in spite of all the wonderful Biblical correctness, missed the New Covenant completely.  When a person is truly introduced to Jesus, he will never stand for a counterfeit, and cannot stand to be without Him.  Although that person becomes Christ-centered, rather than behavior-centered, he is more sensitive to sin or the slightest unkind thought or action than he could have ever been while concentrating on behavior.”

This echos the statement of Paul here in 2 Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

And what John proclaimed in his gospel.

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I have probably said this before… but we don’t need a balance of Law and Grace as so many teach.  I know these teachers mean well, but are motivated by fear that if you let go of the law, all hell (literally) will break loose.  Ironically, when you focus on the law, you will find something similar to that result.  If you observe most of the children raised in this environment, you will see the fruit of rebellion and disillusionment.

Grace has a law built in, (Romans 8:2) one that renews and gives life and REAL change, not condemnation.  Paul tells Timothy that the Law (previously given) is for the unbeliever, the wicked man.  When we are born into Christ, we are no longer under that law.  The New Covenant never gives us a list like the Old Covenant had.  We find two defining principles which encompass all of life; our First Love – God alone, Who then passes His love through us to each other.

As I wrote in “Our First Love”..

If we loved Him more, we would believe Him more fully in everything He promised.  If we believed Him, we would trust Him in all our ways.  If we trusted Him, we would follow and obey Him.  If we obeyed Him, the world would see Him through us.

This journey begins only when we come to the end of ourselves.  I would now add… if we loved Him, we would seek Him.  As we seek Him, we know, love and trust Him more.  Trust, faith, belief, whatever you name it, produces fruit as surely as a rose bush will bloom a flower given the right soil and fertilization.  This is why James says, “Show me your faith”.    But we can’t get the fruit by using the fruit as the root… which is what we do when we focus on ourselves and our own performance.

Was I sorry for my sin when God drew me to return to Him?  You’d better believe I was sorry… grieved to the core.  In the moment I saw Him, I became aware of so many ways I had betrayed His love to me and given Him my rebellion in return.  I became keenly aware of my sin as the rejection of His love and sacrifice for me, not that I had broken a list of rules.  While the new birth is a one-time event, repentance may be necessary often in the sense of retracing our steps when we lose sight of Him and go our own way.  I have grieved deeply for this as well, not just when I was first saved.  While He is faithful to show me the truth about myself (which is often painful), He is also faithful to give me hope and to take my hand and move forward.  In Him, there is no condemnation.

Let us return to God our Father, look to Jesus without the veil, and be continually changed into His likeness though the Spirit.

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I have already written quite a lengthy post on legalism.. but had more thoughts on it recently.

One day Jesus was teaching a house full of scribes and lawyers.  The account (Luke 5) says  they were from every village in Israel so I am going to take a little bit of speculative license here and assume there probably wasn’t room in the house for many regular folks.  They were conducting an investigation it seems.  Outside four men are carrying a friend on a stretcher who is completely paralyzed.  They want to bring him to Jesus, but they can’t get through the wall of lawyers.  The lawyers would have summed up this man as a hopeless sinner, judging from his physical condition.  Their evaluation would not be questioned, but they would have not offered to help, nor would they have been able to.  Indeed no one was even foolish enough to ask them to help.  The only way around this obstacle seemed to be to come down from the top, through the roof.  These four men took their friend directly to Jesus.  They knew without any doubt He could do the impossible.

When Jesus saw their faith He simply told him, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The Law was appalled.  It said… “How can you DO that?”, outraged at this breach in procedure.  Then Jesus proved out the authority to forgive by healing his body as well, and the man walked out on his own.  They were speechless.  The law can say nothing in condemnation of healing (unless of course done on the Sabbath day..:)).  It can only watch in amazement.  Grace does not just forgive, it heals and makes all things new.  A changed life proves out a changed heart.

To me, this miracle is a parable in a picture.  The paralyzed man represents our fallen condition – totally helpless and condemned.  His four friends have no names and I believe represent the the Holy Spirit as He inspired four written testimonies,which bring all of us directly to Jesus.  The lawyers represent the “ministry of sin and death” – (2 Cor 3) – the thing which tells the truth, but cannot help us.  And the act of forgiveness and mercy that Jesus shows the helpless man is God’s heart toward all who seek His Son for their righteousness … by faith.

I wonder how the healed man conducted his life from that point on, and how he treated others he met who were lying helpless in a bed.  Did he look on them with contempt like the Pharisee or bend down to let the love of God flow through him to heal others?  A parable Jesus told about a man who received forgiveness of an enormous debt he could not pay, then afterward demanded payment from someone who owed him a small mount, without mercy,  indicates to me we can fail to extend to others the Grace we have received.

Our new life in Christ is manifested not only in seeking to live an upright life to the glory of  God, but also by the love of Christ flowing through us to others.  If the “new life” simply succeeds in adhering to a moral code, it is honestly no different than the thing which failed to help in the first place, and according to I John, is not new life at all, but a farce.   But sadly Christianity (not just cults) often defines this new life only as “being good”  (refraining from doing immoral things), or adopting a pious lifestyle with lots of churchy activity, rather than being love.  Some people can fake good, but you can’t fake real love.

Paul gives us only two options for the motivating force in our lives; flesh or Spirit.  If we do not walk in the Spirit (which manifests in purity AND love – Gal. 5) then we are in the flesh and no matter how upright, moral, well-versed in scripture we are, respected of men, or applauded for our integrity – we are still in our own inadequate righteousness.  We will not forgive others their shortcomings while we boast of our own accomplishments.  We won’t talk about Jesus and how He changed our lives but about our church or denomination and why it’s the best of all.  Because we do not sense our need for mercy we don’t extend it to anyone else.   We harbor resentment and encourage others in theirs, especially if it sympathizes with the direction of  our own.  We can be thorough Bible teachers but only relay information.  We cannot give living spiritual food because we have none to give.  Our houses may be immaculate, the picture of hard work and godly self-discipline.  But we probably wouldn’t want any unseemly people hanging around to mess it up.  We are pragmatic in our relationships and don’t have time for people who can’t further our agenda or make us look good.  We can tell everyone about right and wrong, have an impeccably orthodox doctrine and a spotless Biblical worldview when it comes to politics and social issues.  But we are strangers to love.  This kind of legalism is simply an outward righteousness devoid of  mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.  I John says this falls short of what we as children of God will exhibit in our lives.  Jesus said above all things, to love one another as He loved us.  When he said our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, this is a major  key difference.

We all have a potential legalist living in all of us.  Before we receive grace, we either rebel against God in total, or strive to reach Him on our own terms.  But even after we come to Christ we can still fall into this mindset so easily, because it is our natural tendency to focus on ourselves and become puffed up in what we see as our own success compared to others we know.

A person who has fallen into this trap will be a person that gives many others an opportunity to practice the love, patience, and forgiveness of Christ.  We cannot shun this brand of legalist and treat them as they treat others or we will become just like them.  We should take the opportunity to demonstrate to them what unconditional love looks like as we respond to them in a way they don’t understand.  They have seen a false standard of righteousness and thought themselves up to the task rather than seeing themselves as they are without abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ and the  Spirit.  This is why Jesus came with new authoritative teaching.  I heard a sermon on the radio recently that had me cheering as we were driving down the road.  The teacher was pointing out that if you want to truly recognize your depravity,  study the Sermon on the Mount more than the Law.  What Jesus taught confronts the deepest inward motives of our heart, our secrets.  There is no wriggle room there for the Pharisee in us.  We have no choice but to cry “I fail” and go away in despair or to accept the grace that totally forgives and transforms us to be able to in any small measure, exemplify the life that Jesus describes.

Having begun in the Spirit, are we perfected by the Law (from any source, Moses or Church)?  – a rhetorical question asked by Paul, who knew both paths intimately. (Gal. 3:3)  Rather the answer is.. “If we live by the  Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25)

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

For the law was given through Moses;

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  John 1:16, 17

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In many ways I am thankful for our time in the Hebrew Roots Movement, simply for the perspective we gained.  I find it so difficult to express in words the magnitude of the contrast between a law-based approach to the Word of God and  a Christ centered one (so this post might be a jumbled mess).   In the HRM our eye was filled with the Torah and the modern nation of Israel.  I was recently looking over the website of a self-proclaimed Messianic “prophet” and had to dig long and hard to find any mention of  Yeshua.  I finally found Him mentioned almost in passing, and no New Testament scriptures were referenced anywhere in all his teachings that I could find.  I asked him via email what he believed regarding Yeshua, and he agreed we were reconciled to God through His atonement, yet this fact was not worthy of addressing in his writings. (And of course not applicable if we refuse to obey the Law of Moses.)  Plenty of criticism of Christianity for not keeping the Torah, and other such things, but no gospel.  Not even a false one.  Our focus was not much different. Of course we claimed faith in Jesus, but we seldom spoke of Him unless it was how He upheld the Law in some way.

Reading the gospels now, we sense so strongly the tension Jesus created when He began to declare His  authority both in Word and in demonstration. The point of contention truly was His authority.  The religious leaders were not remotely interested in genuine righteousness or justice.  The Torah put them in the “seat of Moses” so they were not about to let anyone rob them of the influence and authority this gave them.  When Jesus challenged them and the Law itself, establishing His own authority as God, they sought to kill Him.  They said..”What will we do?  Look.. the whole world is following after Him!”  Even Pilate sought to set Him free “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. ” Matt. 27:18.

John tells how they came to take Him in the Garden and He asked, “Who are you looking for?”  They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  He said… “I AM”.   My Bible translates it “I am he” but the footnote says the pronoun is not there in the Greek.  John 18:6 says that when He spoke this, they drew back and fell to the ground.  This is the name of God.  Did it occur to them they were seeking to kill God in order to sustain their own authority?  Isn’t this the bottom line for all of us?  We all have chosen our own authority at some point over God’s.  When we have done so, we also are members of the angry mob yelling “Crucify Him!’

Jesus declared I AM several times through the gospels.  It seems like a subtle way to say.. “I am God, and this is what God is for you.”  I AM the bread of life, I AM the water of life, I AM the light of the world.  In all these things He was showing Himself to be the sustenance of our humanity, our true Source for life and light, and the fulfillment of all the types and shadows contained both in the Law and in the mighty acts of God in the past to sustain and deliver His people.  At the end He prayed to the Father, “I have made your name  known to them.”

Have you ever watched a mystery unfold in a movie?  I enjoy movies where you really can’t predict the outcome.  They hold your attention till the very last minute when everything is finally explained.  The climax of the whole story is to know the TRUTH about what had taken place.  We read the Old Testament now with full knowledge of how Jesus fulfilled it.  We lose sight of the climax factor in the story.  Try to imagine reading the Bible for the first time with no knowledge of the outcome as you read.  Do you realize how HUGE Jesus is to the scope of the story the whole Bible tells?  He is just not one of many interesting stream of characters, He is the climax of the history of the entire human race!  How on earth can we shove him under the table as essential for salvation, but unnecessary in knowing God and His will for us?  How can we look to a contract with an ancient people for our ultimate revelation of who God is?  This is a good definition of insanity now that I look back on it.

So many gain followers by merchandising secrets, but the truth about God is no longer a secret or a mystery!  It has been declared and made manifest in His Son!  Instead we get bored with that simplicity and try to find some other complex hidden thing that no one else has ever found in the 2000 years of the faith.  I promise you.  There is no new truth under the sun.  Lies are often recycled, but truth has been made plain.  We can grow deeper in it – but it doesn’t move.

I have been working through the Gospel of John several times and am seeing a very interesting picture I hope I have time to write about soon – if I can get a working outline.  Jesus truly is everything.

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Many followers of Old Covenant Law really love and enjoy their lifestyles.  They don’t see it as drudgery or duty so much as a privilege.  I have heard some claim that to give it up would be equal to losing a family member; or they could possibly question all their other doctrines, but never under any circumstance would they give up the Sabbath. I can readily appreciate their love and enjoyment of obeying what they believe God wants them to do. I did not come to my present position because I got tired of the Sabbath or Festivals. I enjoyed them greatly and saw no reason why I would ever cease walking that path.

Nowhere does the New Testament forbid observing these things (although it strongly warns multiple times from making them obligatory to others, or presenting them as a way of righteousness before God, either as a means of salvation or a required fruit of it.)  In the New Covenant, you are free to love God through the shadow if you wish. It is your liberty.

Often in Law-keeping circles we heard the following emphasis about the Messiah:

Jesus came to (among other things):

  • Demonstrate the Law
  • Make it possible for us to keep the Law
  • Clear up misunderstandings from the Rabbis about the Law
  • Reinforce and glorify the Law

While we acknowledged His role as Redeemer and Savior, this was not our area of focus.  Now I do not see His chief mission as being to point us back to Sinai, but for the sake of this challenge – I will ask… IF THESE PRINCIPLES ARE TRUE.. then should we not look very carefully at all Jesus said and did rather than just simply turn right back around and look to Moses? As a law-keeper, have you ever given equal weight to the words of the Messiah Himself?

Carefully consider the following verses

What the Torah commands:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. Deuteronomy 18:18 , 19

How Peter used this scripture from Torah on the day of Pentecost:

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:22-26

Question: If they had the Torah already, and great teachers of the Torah (scribes and Pharisees) who knew it backwards and forwards, in what way did Jesus come to turn them away from their wickedness?

What God the Father says:

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:5-8

What Jesus says:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  Luke 9:26

Question: Based on the previous verses, when Jesus speaks of His own commandments, does He mean for us to only open the Torah or to pay attention to the words from His own mouth?

What the Apostles say:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1,2

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own. (Paul, speaking of his good standing in Judaism and training in the Torah) Philippians 3:8,9

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 1 Corinthians 9:21

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….   Colossians 3:15, 16

The Challenge

I have often heard it said, “The Law is a representation of the character of God” yet Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” When was this ever said of the Law? I agree the Law is an expression of the heart of God, but Jesus IS God. The Law is limited, but in Jesus, the fullness of the Godhead was present on Earth!

My challenge to you as Sabbath keeper or Torah Observant believer is not to abandon what you love, but to seek Jesus and HIS WORDS on equal terms with the Law you love already. One way I would suggest is to take a notebook and read through the gospels, writing down all that strikes you as important from the mouth of the Messiah, or record actions that demonstrate a principle or truth you can apply to your life. Tradition says the Torah has 613 commands. Those who enjoy making lists have found over 2000 in the New Testament. My hope is even if you never give up the shadow which points to the Messiah, in this investigation you will see Him as never before.

(My New Covenant readers will not like the part about making lists of New Covenant commandments but trust me on this… :D)

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Gen 1:3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Hebrews 8:5  They (the Levitcal priesthood) serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 10:1  For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

Colossians 2:16, 17  Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.   These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Galatians 3:19  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made

John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I saw this as a picture, so I don’t know if I can explain it clearly.

In the beginning, the very first thing God gave us was light.  The Word says he separated the light from dark, which created a day – the beginning of time as we know it.  God and man had nothing between them.  He spoke to them and taught them.   Man was not afraid of God, and was naked before Him without shame, the essence of purity and innocence – a perfect creation.  The Word even says, a Son of God.  (in the NT geneology of Jesus).

Having no knowledge of spiritual darkness, man was deceived to reject the light of God and the world was plunged into darkness.  Sin came between God and man.  Man ran and hid and was ashamed of his nakedness.  He was exiled from his home, and the way to the Tree of Life was blocked.

But God came near.  As He came close to Adam he offered him hope.  The light of God still shining, His Presence could not be completely obscured by the darkness.  His light was broader than the obstacle of sin, and sin cast a shadow on the earth, in the form of a sacrifice.  God gave His first promise, the first shadow of what was to come.  Sin could not overcome the light or distort the truth of the light.  When the light shone on it, even the very shadow pointed to a future light to come.

In Noah, Abraham, and Moses, He drew near again, a little closer each time.  The closer He came, the clearer and larger the shadow became around the wall of sin, and His plan became more visible.  He came so close to Moses that his face glowed with the glory of God.  The shadow cast on the earth from Sinai was magnificent.  He commanded His people to live in this shadow of His love where they would be preserved and prosperous.  But once again, man chose darkness even over the shadow.

At the appointed time, God moved His hand into our space and time, and came to be with us, the true Light came into the world.  No more shadow.  No more sin.  No more shame.  Those who were in darkness far off who never even knew of the shadow were called into His Light.  Man is still choosing the darkness, and some prefer the shadow.  If you are walking in the Light of Christ, you have no need for a shadow (or lesser light).  We are restored, redeemed, and children of the Light.  Praise God for His undying love toward us, who have all at one time or other, chosen the darkness over His light.

John 3:17 – 21  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

1Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

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I recently entered a discussion with someone who expressed concern that I might be a little too heavy on grace and feel-good verses in the Bible and not heavy enough on the requirements of God. He is not SDA or Hebrew Roots, but an evangelical Christian who is zealously living out his faith in a way that puts 99% of us to shame. I have a great deal of respect for him and I understand his genuine concern for Christians to walk worthy of the Name they carry. I am very disgusted to see and hear believers justify their sin on the basis of grace.  None of us are perfect, but a believer should never justify himself in his sin. If he is not grieved, I also have to wonder if his faith is real. Our discussion moved into what defines legalism.  I am not in a position to discern if he is a legalist or not, but am responding here to some explanations he gave me.  I found it interesting to be having this discussion with someone in the evangelical world rather than with members of the various law-centered groups I have belonged to in the past.   I decided to post this so I can refer people here instead of repeatedly explaining my position over and over.

The interesting thing about legalism is everyone thinks they know what it is, but you can’t find anyone who will admit to being one. The very nature of the problem prevents people from seeing they have it. Only by looking to Jesus is this veil removed.

Your assertion that legalism is not defined in the Bible, as well as your own definition of it (that it is simply requiring more than God does) are both the hallmarks of how legalists often defend their positions. Using the phrases “what God requires” and “in order to be accepted by God” also are red flags to me that someone is confusing their legal standing with God, based on Christ’s all-sufficient work alone, and their own success in living up to the righteousness of God they see in Scripture. Even in your explanation that “what God requires is constant repentance for sin” in order to maintain His approval, you are creating an impossible standard that cannot be quantified. I can never know if I am even aware of every sin in motive, action, or omission. The fact that it may be hidden from me makes it no less a sin and no less in need of cleansing from my life. Our justification and approval before God however can be measured at 100% immediately in the moment of our salvation. It does not diminish to 80% or 25% on any given day based on our ability to keep our repentance up to date. If it is possible to fall back into unbelief (big if) then it would go from 100% to 0%. There are no in between states of being. You are in Christ, or you are not.

Legalism – which is coming to God through any other means than through faith (believing ALL He has promised) – is rebuked in its many forms all through the Bible in the Old and New Testaments. People do this in various ways, and for a wide array of reasons.  We often live by the natural reflex of our fallen nature.  We tend to think something has to depend on us, try to do God’s work in our own way, or accomplish what only God alone can do. We try to get around really submitting to God by looking like we love him on the outside, while still following our own agenda and keeping our secret sins. While it often does manifest as a focus on man-made traditions or standards, it’s definitely not limited to that. We most certainly can be a legalist attempting to obey only God’s commands alone. It can also come in an over-emphasis on God’s laws instead of the Lawgiver (a form of idolatry) and man’s efforts instead of God’s work.

The worst forms of legalism in my opinion are those that teach you cannot be saved (and/or stay saved) unless you successfully meet God’s requirements in your Christian walk. They say, “Yes Jesus died for your past sins, but you better toe the line from now on or He may throw you back out.” There is an element of uncertainty here that can never be overcome and does not bring the “full assurance of faith” described in Hebrews. First of all we can’t find a clear picture of how high the bar is because people come away from Scripture with so many different conclusions about what our obligations are; and secondly, we can never truly know if we have “arrived” or if we have fallen. Even if you do not believe “once saved always saved” there is still much more assurance available in our relationship with Christ than this form of legalism allows. The opposite danger is for the legalist who has not received Christ to take comfort in his obedience as his assurance, filled with pride at his own performance. He is the Pharisee who prays, “Thank you Lord that you have not made me like this pitiful sinner I see over there.”

The New Covenant is conditional only in the sense that God’s covenant with Abraham was. Belief. Read what happened when God made the covenant with Abraham. God did it all, promised it all, and performed it all. He made the oath with Himself. Abraham was involved only to the point that as a bystander, he believed what God had promised. God called it righteousness. He wasn’t perfect either in living out his belief. He fell into doubt and works and tried to make the Promise come about how he thought it should happen.  Galatians equates this action of Abraham with the Sinai Covenant.  Both of these examples are demonstrations of the failure of works.  Works can’t bring about the Promise of God, and works don’t ever hold up our own promises to God.   In Christ, we are of the faith of Abraham. We believe the promise of God, but neither are we always perfect in walking in the Spirit when we find opportunities to do it our way.

Sinai was a temporary covenant intended to show man he can’t fix himself, and to foreshadow the perfect finished work in Christ.  He made this covenant with Israelites and all those who would agree to be circumcised and join them. (God’s principles are not temporary, but this contract and many details within it were.) It contained conditional blessings and curses depending on their obedience – having to do with the temporary physical realm. Salvation was never promised through this covenant, only earthly blessings and the status of being God’s Chosen People.  (Even though Israel broke the covenant, God promised them they would never cease to be a nation before Him.  He has kept that promise.  He has also promised to completely restore them.  God never breaks a promise.) The conditional nature of this covenant based on performance is never implied in the New Covenant. Obedience in the New Covenant comes as a RESULT of an unconditional promise, not a prerequisite.  Some legalists see the New Covenant as nothing more than the very same terms and laws as the Old Covenant – except Jesus gave you the power to keep up your end of the bargain now so you have no excuse for failure.  This is completely out of line with Hebrews, Romans, Galatians.. Acts..    Short of quoting the entire New Testament, this is trying to live for Jesus under Mt. Sinai, still making promises we can’t keep because like it or not, we are still living in fallen human flesh.

What God requires is absolute and complete perfection. No less. To say He demands less is to find a loophole somewhere (maybe another form of legalism?) I fully admit I can never meet God’s requirements. Only in Christ are they met. In Christ I stand fully and completely forgiven, past, present and future. If this is a dangerous truth – it would be only to those who have not truly known Christ. No one who knows Him can take Him for granted and respond to this flippantly. Result, not Requirement. It’s what God deserves from us, and develops in us – our reasonable service – a living sacrifice. There is no fear of condemnation in failure, but hope and victory when we give it to Him. If we are stubborn, He is faithful to discipline, not reject. (speaking as one who has been more stubborn than submissive). Can I fall into unbelief and throw His gift back into His face? Theoretically I guess it would be possible, but I can’t imagine it. Paul says the “The Love of Christ controls us.” That’s a pretty strong power. It flows from Him to Him and through us to others.

Jesus commanded us to obey Him and He said if we abide (not strive) we will have fruit. I have heard sermons detailing the “to do” list of how to abide in Christ. But Jesus gave a very simple explanation of His own command. “And this is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.” To have the love of Christ – that is our command. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.” But we don’t trust love. We run back to the many details of the letter of the Law, not realizing that Love IS the highest law. It covers morality, justice, compassion. It speaks to every situation. It raises the definition of sin considerably higher as well. I Corinthians 13 shows love is a more excellent way in every way. Self cannot exist on the throne in its presence.  It is the very essence of God Himself.  But this is not a reason to reject the Word of God which reveals He is also a God of wrath against wickedness and sin.  God is full of paradoxes we struggle to balance out. But children do not fear his wrath. We may need to stand in fear of his rod, but not his wrath.

We cannot be transformed to resemble the life of Christ by gazing at the ministry of death (the Law engraved on stones). It serves to show us our depravity, but does not offer any help or hope. (hence the name Paul gives it)

2Corinthians 3:17, 18: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

You cannot behold the Glory of the Lord and not be changed. Isaiah’s instant response was, “I am a man of unclean lips…” We realize our need AND we get the coals from the fire under the throne of God – to cleanse us – the power of our death to sin and a resurrected life!(Romans 7 & 8 )

The legalists in Judaism asked Jesus,

John 6:28, 29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The very next word a legalist says is “But…” There is no but. As with Abraham, so with us.

Everything else grows out from there, and the Promise of God does not depend on the level of maturity we achieve from this point onward. Our rewards in the Kingdom are, but not our destiny of eternal fellowship with God.

If we belong to God I believe we will love Him and bear fruit, but I also think we need to be careful in judging the fruits of others. Not only can we be fooled by fake fruit that looks real, but we can also sometimes miss genuine fruit and pass judgment when we have no right to do so. I do believe we need to be accountable to one another in humility, with a great deal of discernment and love, not being puffed up – remembering what we are without Christ. Very few people can hold others accountable in love and humility. Paul said he wrote to the Corinthians, those hard sounding letters, in tears. I don’t see that too often in those who wish to expunge sin from our midst.

I am deeply grieved as you are by “believers” who live as if they have been set free to sin. I don’t know how anyone who has truly seen Jesus and realized the gift of God could not care if they spit on Him an bring shame to His name by calling themselves a Christian. But as I’ve already stated and continue to be redundant, this horrible situation is not cured by placing external demands on people. They must see Jesus as He is and fall on Him in brokenness, either as a lost person, or an immature believer either one. The solution is the same. It is the only way the heart is changed.

Where the Spirit has fruit (Gal. 5:22) legalism also has fruit which is cold, hard, unmerciful, and demanding. It is also often arbitrary because when rules are the focus it becomes impossible to be consistent. It doesn’t understand “exceptions” as Jesus tried to explain to the Pharisees, reminding them of how David ate the bread that was only for the priesthood. It can’t bend for mercy. Judaism has written volumes of Talmud trying to clarify and protect the Law. Legalism of any form always has to do this. People react to the the FRUIT of legalism without realizing the root problem. That’s why they can’t put their finger on what it is.. they sense something amiss, but the root is hidden deep. Often people who are the most disturbed by it have the same problem and they don’t even realize it. There are few things more fierce than legalists battling each other! 😀

After I had lived as a believer for several years, I came to a place that felt like spiritual death, in spite of all my fervent religious activity. I was in misery and thought I must need to try harder. I lost all desire to worship, to reach out, and wanted so badly to just give up because I saw no transformation taking place in myself or anyone else around me in the group we were in. We were very proud of some aspects of our “obedience” but it had not done anything at all to change the things that mattered the most. Finally through reading the gospels and hearing the words of Jesus I was terrified to realize the fruit I valued and was striving to produce had nothing to do with the kind of fruit Jesus said His followers would have. Mine was based on performance, His were centered in having my heart motivated by love – no fake imitations. I was so far from what I saw there that I knew I couldn’t even claim to be His follower at all, even though I appeared very religious, and led a very upright, moral life. It was a time of intense grief and repentance, but I am so thankful God revealed this sin to both me and my husband independently and nearly simultaneously. My deepest sorrow was that I had put Jesus in the backseat and had my “obedience” riding up front with me for all to see, and I was driving!! Now I endeavor to let Him drive, and I try not to be a backseat driver.  (He is now my chauffeur.)

Since then I pray for real fruit and God is continuing to answer. He is changing my heart and attitudes. I love people I couldn’t love. I am becoming less cold, hard, and judgmental. Instead I say, “But for the grace of God, there I am. Father help them!” It’s not the old me.  Because of the love He is pouring into me and through me, I read I John’s words where he says, “I write these things to you so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” and agree – not because of what I do, but precisely because I know I didn’t do it, and none of it has come from me. All of God, none of me. The litmus test in I John, in context, is love – over and over he says this. But for some reason, people see the word “commandments” and run back to a list of rules on stone tablets. Those rules fall so short of what God wants to create in us. We are not without law. We have a higher law and a better promise.

Some legalists are not saved because they have never trusted the work of Christ, but believe they earn their way to heaven. But I know some have received the gift, but are not aware of what they possess. Both the legalist and the freedom-loving antinomian spend most of their time pointing out each other’s faults, but both need to see Jesus and the fullness of the Promise and the Sacrifice.

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I cannot let this Easter slip by without a discussion on what this day means to me now.  The name of my blog comes from this, so of course I have to talk about it!  Every Sunday is a mini Easter, a time to remember the LIFE we have in Christ.  I do prefer to call it Resurrection Sunday (just because it explains the meaning), but I don’t get up tight about names of things anymore!:0)  It’s the reality of a thing or person that matters, not what it’s called.  I want to begin with the truth as the Word of God proclaims it.  Paul testified from one Roman official to another that this was the key point for which he was being hunted down by his Jewish brothers.

1Co 15:14  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1Co 15:17  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

Eph 1:19  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Eph 1:20  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Rom 6:4  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Col 2:12  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Rom 10:9  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I don’t think I ever saw this element until just now.  This last verse says believing in the resurrection is part of saving faith, just as we are instructed to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  This is not something I often hear, but shows how vital the resurrection is in the gospel message.

To understand where I am now, here is some background.  Growing up as an Adventist, the actual day of Easter was never recognized.  The Sabbath before Easter would sometimes have a sermon with some reference to the resurrection (depending on the church or pastor – some ignored it completely).  Most often the emphasis was on the fact that since Christ rested in the tomb on Sabbath, we were encouraged in our own observance of this day.  We never quite got past the quiet tomb to the empty tomb.

On Easter we went about our business as if nothing significant had ever occurred on this day in the history of the world.  To corporately gather and honor the resurrection of Christ would have been to participate in “Sunday worship” – an evil and pagan practice.

I recently was given a sermon by an SDA pastor entitled “Who is Jesus”.  He began his presentation with a video of people on the street being asked who Jesus is, and getting every answer but the Biblical one.  He went on to explain who Jesus is, (as if he was answering these people with no knowledge of Him.)  I kept waiting for him to cover the resurrection and what that means for all who believe in Him.  He left this part of the gospel out completely, an oversight difficult to understand in light of the above verses.

The entire subject has many problems in Adventist belief.  Here is how Ellen White describes the resurrection of Christ, via an ANGEL!

“…The face they look upon is not the face of mortal warrior; it is the face of the mightiest of the Lord’s host. This messenger is he who fills the position from which Satan fell. It is he who on the hills of Bethlehem proclaimed Christ’s birth. The earth trembles at his approach, the hosts of darkness flee, and as he rolls away the stone, heaven seems to come down to the earth. The soldiers see him removing the stone as he would a pebble, and hear him cry, Son of God, come forth; Thy Father calls Thee. They see Jesus come forth from the grave, and hear Him proclaim over the rent sepulcher, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” As He comes forth in majesty and glory, the angel host bow low in adoration before the Redeemer, and welcome Him with songs of praise. {DA 779, 780}

Jesus proclaimed, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”  If He is the embodiment of these things, why was an angel involved?   In John 2:19 Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” – speaking there of His own body.  The scripture speaks in many places of God the Father who raised the Son, but in the understanding of the Eternal Godhead, we know Jesus to be in the Father and the Father in Him.  In another verse it speaks of the Spirit – so all three aspects of the Godhead were present and working together as They are in all things.  (Thank you to some of my friends who helped expand my perspective on this recently!)

But there is yet another even more damaging doctrine of the SDA religion in connection with Easter, that of  “soul sleep”.  The death which Christ died, they call the “second death”, is the final annihilation they believe the wicked will experience at the final judgment.  Not believing in hell or any spirit that lives on after the death of the body, this death means a person completely ceases to exist.  They distinguish this from the state of unconscious  “sleep” they see as the current state death of all men until the final resurrection.  While it is not clear what this distinction is, the resulting problem is in the death of Christ,  you are left with only a dead physical body of God in the tomb.  Part of the Trinity ceases to be.  This destroys the Christian understanding of the Triune God and the absolute Deity of Christ.

But in order to maintain an Investigative Judgment, you must have the doctrine of ” soul sleep”.  How can we have our reward in Christ if the judgment of our souls did not begin until 1844?  In having the absence of a “spirit”, we are left with a God that passes in and out of existence.  The dominoes topple a very long way from the original falsehood.  But when you understand the first Adventists believed that Jesus was a created being, just as Satan was, then all of this nonsense becomes easier to fit together.  They have left the initial Arian belief behind, but are laden with many remnants of this horrible heresy, including the teaching that Jesus is represented in scripture also as Michael the Archangel.  (Without believing in a human spirit, it is also impossible to understand what it means to be “born again.” – which is more the essence of what I will cover toward the end.)

As a Hebrew Roots follower, we also dismissed the resurrection, even though it had a place within the Israelite holy days!!  Three days after Passover we had the Feast of Firstfruits, with the obvious symbolism.  But did we acknowledge it?  Not as a group, and not in any of the various groups we attended.  I knew some individuals who had a quiet recognition of it at home (reading some rabbinic blessings) but the huge production of the season centered around Passover.   Not until we were delivered and saw the New Covenant did we realize this Firstfruits nearly always falls on the “Christian” Easter, unless it was a leap year on the Jewish calendar.  We could have honored it all along, but we didn’t.  Just as SDA’s hated Sunday and saw it as a symbol of false worship, likewise the HRM saw every Christian holiday as a thing to be avoided, even if it meant denying an Israelite festival we were claiming to observe!  (Our entire story is here on this blog starting with the page “There and Back Again.”)

Seeing the HUGE significance of the resurrection it becomes obvious why the enemy’s deceptions target this day for the  maximum minimization possible, not just through false beliefs, but more widely through secular, commercial distraction.  All these lessen the Person and work of Jesus Christ,  the aim of nearly every deception.  His resurrection is the proof for everything He claimed and performed in the past, and the hope for everything we have in Him for the future.

Very early in our new perspective of the covenants, I realized the significance of Sunday.  I saw that it was not the 1st day of the week, but the 8th day!  Woven throughout many of the Torah festivals and requirements you can see an 8th day motif.  It symbolized new birth, renewal, new life.  For Christ to rise from the dead on this day was the mark of the new order of things and the guarantee to every promise we have in our relationship to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The old order proved you cannot change the heart from external mandates.  The old life must die and the new life must be put on, the very Life of Christ.  “Let this mind be IN you, which was in Christ Jesus…  ”  Unless we understand that from the moment of our new birth we are fundamentally different and made alive in Christ, we have no idea who we are or what is available to us.   Many who have experienced this as a spiritual reality are still trying to come to God under the old system of the outward methods to achieve holiness in their present walk.  In Christ, true transformation comes with laying down the dead self and putting on the risen Christ.   It’s a cycle of submission and renewal, not striving and failure.  In the areas where we are compelled to strive, we will be guaranteed to fail.  We all fall into this trap without even realizing it.  It’s our old man thinking it can help and do something in its own strength.  Even if our willpower musters up enough strength in some cases, the victory is still not in Christ, and we will take the credit.

Rom 7:6  But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

So often I hear people quote Paul’s discussion immediately following the above verse.  He goes on to describe the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit; how we don’t do what we want to and do what we don’t want to.  But so many people stop there!  Paul answers his struggle with a solution!  Chapter 8 is a continuation of this thought.  Read this whole discussion together and see the awesome truth we have through our resurrection with Christ.

Romans 7:24-8:11   Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.   If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Not only do we have a future hope, but a present deliverance!  Of course we fall, and of course we will not manifest this perfectly here in this life, but we are no longer slaves!!  We have a path to victory and a way out of addiction, shame, and the injury we often inflict on others through the service of our “self”.  We cannot use the old man as our excuse as so many do.  The flesh is a reason, but not an excuse.

We have our future hope, our present total justification and forgiveness, and thank God we now have the privilege of showing Jesus to others through our own lives, to the extent that we behold Him and become changed.

2 Corinthians 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This Easter let the reality of the resurrection move beyond an apologetic for the Christian faith and sink deep into our hearts and minds as a Living Faith for the here and now, as well as for the glorified life we will have with Him in the future.  Let us remember He is Risen Indeed, and He dwells with us and in us.  We do not have just the truth, we have the Person, and we are all in Him.

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