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Posts Tagged ‘Yahshua’

When I am visiting someone’s home for the first time, if their bookshelves are visible, I find myself irresistibly drawn to look over them… not just because I love books, but because what people read or collect tells me so much about their perspectives on everything.

This week I happened upon a collection of books from an estate.  Of course when I see bins of books, I can hardly wait to dig in and search for treasure, but this collection was different than I had hoped.  Every bin contained a monoculture of a specific genre of religious teaching, one that was unknown in Christianity until the last 30 or 40 years.  When I realized I would find only a handful of “old-fashioned”  mainstream material, I pondered the phenomenon of being totally given over to a specific teacher or religious movement.

Having been there myself at one time, I remembered what this was like, and how it affected my own library shelf for awhile.  I remember as a child  we did not have any books published by any authors outside of our denomination which claimed to have “special truth”.  I distrusted books from Christians outside our realm, and considered them inferior even if they did have some good points.  They didn’t have ALL the truth.  And not only did we have just one source for books, there were many of them.  Many.  Our publishing houses churned them out as quickly as people would buy them.

Here I saw these same characteristics with the singular type and quantity of books as I sifted through bin after bin… losing hope of finding treasure and becoming increasingly sick as I surveyed some downright astonishing book titles and author’s claims.  A few verses came to mind.

This verse speaks to the thirst for only one kind of teaching; something “new” or “restored” (if Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles didn’t proclaim it, it doesn’t need to be restored),  and considering it superior to “that which we have received from the beginning… which was once and for all, delivered to the saints” (I John & Jude).

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3,4

I don’t know when I have ever seen a more clear example of this in a collection of books since I left home.  The sad, obvious fact:  the owner had no interest in anything unrelated to this new and exciting teaching.  Even books with subjects that seemed Biblical – such as “Forgiveness” – revealed chapter titles that brought this subject back around to the same falsehood.  Everything centered on the falsehood, not the truth.

As to the overkill in quantity, exactly how many books do you need that say essentially the same thing?  I’m sure the profits from book sales are intoxicating for these teachers.  Write the same thing, give it  a different title, repackage it 100 different ways, and people keep buying them!  Where can you find a better business model of repeat sales and residual income?  Rock stars maybe?

But the sad characteristic of feeding on spiritual falsehood is that you never have enough.  You never quite get to that place they promise, so you need one more book, one more DVD, one more reassurance that you have found the truth.   But this is not a new development.  We are told from long ago that the last days would be full of false teachers, and I find it interesting that this quality of a continuous stream of “learning” is described.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
2Timothy 3:1-7

False teaching is like junk food.  Once you start to take it in, you develop cravings and lose your taste for healthy food.  Broccoli and apples look boring and tasteless. (think…simple truth of the Gospel!)  The craving and addictions can become intense, but for all the quantity of food you consume, your body is not being nourished.  It seems the spiritual appetite can also be perverted in a similar way, with even worse outcomes.

In contrast, Jesus said..

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Rev 21:6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Who are we thirsty and hungry for?
So much deception plays on our desires.  We are led away by them.  Someone dangles a carrot and we blindly follow an empty promise, because they are offering something we want.  This isn’t the whole picture, but most of it.  Eve began in this error, and most of us walk in it too before we find the Narrow Way.

If what we want most in this world is anything but Jesus, we are our own worst enemy, and the world offers us so many appealing alternatives.  This is why the FIRST commandment is to LOVE the LORD with all your being.

When we want HIM with our whole heart, it won’t matter what else we have or don’t have.  We WILL seek Him and find Him.  He has promised this.   These teachers love to quote the Bible, and their books are full of verses to prove out what they say.  But unless you are willing to prayerfully take the Word by itself, verse by verse, passage by passage, to see for yourself – any false thing can be made to sound “Biblical”.

My collection of spiritual books I will actually read is narrowing down, as I find the Word of God itself has more treasure than any human teacher can offer.  I do enjoy what the Spirit has taught through many great brothers and sisters through the ages, and it always resonates with what He has shown me through His Word.  But if all I had was the Word, it would be enough.  Jesus is enough.  His Word is enough – through the Book and His Spirit.

My hope is that the owner of the collection I saw this week also found that peace and Living Water in Jesus Christ alone.

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By definition…
Judaize or Judaise
vb
1. to conform or bring into conformity with Judaism
2. ( tr ) to convert to Judaism
3. ( tr ) to imbue with Jewish principles

They have pure devotion to God as their banner and restoration of the Church back to Israel as their mission so the Jewish people may be saved.  Your pagan Jesus is getting in the way of Israel seeing the truth.  By keeping the law of Moses you will no longer offend them with your foreign Jesus and they will accept Him and you both.   Although it may have remained dormant for centuries, this “Moses is for everyone” mindset is nothing new, finding its birth in the unexpected event of a Gentile coming to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the early church, “those of the circumcision” seemed to cause the most controversy.  Today the majority of people placing the yoke of the Law on believers are in fact Gentiles.  You may find it hard to believe after the great effort the Apostle Paul put forth trying to divert people away from this distraction, that 2000 years later, people are now falling for the same divisive teachings.  If the Galatians were bewitched, we are beyond blind.  So many are willingly choosing a theology that requires Paul’s letter to the Galatians be ignored, denied, or twisted beyond recognition – along with many other New Testament passages addressing these issues long ago.

The quest for the salvation of the Jewish people (a most worthy cause) works as an effective lure to many Christians, especially as some segments of the church become increasingly interested in prophecy and the restoration of Israel.  But the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Movement pulls in Christians from all branches of the church, for many reasons.   Many no longer refer to themselves as Christians at all.  They have traveled down a path towards a Yeshua/Yahshua/Yehoshua/Yahoshua repackaged by modern Judaism rather than the Jesus of the New Testament Scriptures.  Although they can’t quite agree on a name for their new Messiah, they view their Christian roots as entirely pagan and their Hebrew Roots as not only restored truth, but a spiritual identity that causes them to feign a Jewish ethnic identity as well in many cases.  Some even ditch their Gentile names for Hebrew ones.

When I relate the story of our journey out of this movement, many Christians give me a look of disbelief that anyone could fall for something so illogical.  I am happy to reveal our own foolishness and am always relieved when others see it for what it is.  But as crazy and ridiculous as it may seem to some onlookers, the fact remains that this quietly encroaching disease seems to be taking down people left and right.  Every time I find myself wanting to put this to rest and move on to things I would rather talk about, I am presented with a new example of someone who has given their mind over to this movement.  Its teachers have painted a big, red, bull’s-eye target on your church, because you are the only ones with enough knowledge to understand and desire their complicated messages.  The lost person on the street is of no interest to them.

Spiritual Snipe Hunting
After a few years in this persuasion, focusing on the first five books of the Bible, we deeply sensed the group we led needed to study the New Testament scriptures as well.  We referred to the New Testament (called many things, but never New) when it reinforced the Torah study we were in, but we never approached the New Testament with the same systematic, reverent study as we did the Law.  We followed the same study schedule as the Jewish synagogues.

After one failed attempt to add a mid-week study night, we subscribed to a New Testament study course offered from a “Hebraic” perspective.  Although expensive, we felt it might encourage participation and moved the study to an early Sabbath session, before our main Torah study.  The Torah study took priority and could not be rescheduled or set aside.

I believed at last, after nearly six years, I would finally get to see this Jewish Yeshua that I’d been seeking for all along – to understand and see Him in His fullness.  For me, this had been the original attraction.  I’d been led to believe my Christian Jesus was incomplete and there was some deep wisdom and fabric of life underlying those gospel passages I just could not see.  If someone could bring that out for me, I was convinced I would know Him like never before.

The Hunting Outfitters
We initially chose this particular publisher because they avoided the most divisive subjects in the movement, presenting a sleek, scholarly approach.  Even though we are not customers now, we still periodically receive catalogs and fundraising correspondence from them.  Looking at their offerings with new eyes, I have been wanting to share what I believe are some of the most revealing focus statements.  (The letter discussed here can be read below in its entirety.)  Evaluate the following quotes with the overall pattern and focus of the New Testament writings.

Their Mission Statement:

Proclaiming the Torah and it’s way of life, fully centered on Messiah, to today’s People of God.

Proclaiming what? (Torah)  To Whom? (The people of God).  This is their reason for existence.  Does this align with any ministry found in the New Testament?  Searching the word “proclaim” in the ESV New Testament (often translated “preach” in the KJV) produced 27 results.  They overwhelmingly refer to the gospel of the risen Christ, and related subjects. Not a single example supports the direction of this mission statement above.  No one can proclaim Torah as their first priority and still be “fully centered on Messiah”!  If you are fully centered on Him, you will proclaim Him.

Their Plea:
The first paragraph states this mission is financially suffering and needs your help, even though one of their complete volume studies cost nearly $300 (but you can pay as you go, so it’s fair).

…..over 2 billion people in the world identify themselves as Christians…Almost the entire 2 billion of them are unaware of the Jewish roots of their faith and the amazing, transforming teachings of the Torah.  Who is willing to take this message to them?”

Where does the Word of God ever teach that the Law is the source of transformation for those who are in Christ?  In contrast, we are told:

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. Romans 8:3,4

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. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What could the Law not do?  Where does our transformation come from?  Who are they replacing with the Torah in these statements?

Some Christians use the Law of Moses as their tool to convict sinners and bring them to Christ, but this ministry is dedicating itself to teaching the entire Jewish system of Law to those who ALREADY trust Christ.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, will you be perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)  Good question.

Their Claim:
The letter becomes increasingly bold as it explains why this is so vitally important, a point which is even underlined for emphasis,

Christian ignorance of Torah is the single-biggest obstacle to Jewish evangelism and the restoration of the body.

The Hebrew Roots solution to antisemitism is to teach Christians how to observe Torah.  Conversely, rejection of Torah, or suggesting Jesus did something new, is often viewed as antisemitic.  They go beyond calling this a reformation but a “restoration” … being entrusted with “the greatest revelation of biblical truth since the apostolic era.”  That is one of the most bold, arrogant claims I have seen. By “restoration of the body”, they mean the inclusion of followers of Yeshua into Israel, which requires their Torah observance.  In their present state, Christians are still defiled and “outside the camp” and the division in the body is our fault for offending our Jewish brothers with bacon and Sunday church attendance.

Jesus was indeed born of the tribe of Judah, keeping the Law, yet the Jewish people as a whole rejected Him then.  Why do these modern teachers think this will work now for the church?  The gospel of John reveals the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus because, “being a man, he claimed to be God.”  This is still a huge theological obstacle, and many Messianics have obliged by taking this out of the way as well, conceding that Jesus was just a man.

Impressing or Offending?
I asked a Jewish friend and follower of Christ, living in Israel, to share his perspective on effective Jewish evangelism.  Below is a short interview.  I so much appreciate his willingness to share his thoughts, and grateful to God for bringing our paths together.

8thday4life:  How likely is it that a large sector of Gentile “Christians” pretending to be Jewish (observing and adapting Jewish customs to their own liking) would be a catalyst to help the Jewish people accept their Messiah?

Jeremy:  From my observations most attempts by non-Jews to replicate the rituals of Judaism are clumsy. Therefore the effect is to basically defile those rituals. For example, I knew a (Gentile) pastor who draped a tallit over the podium in an attempt to “make Jews feel at home”. Most Jews are horrified to see their ritual objects used in a way for which they were not intended. It would be like taking the wine and wafer of the Catholic Mass and using it for snacks after the Service. (I have to use a Catholic Mass as an example because I can’t think of sacred objects in most Protestant ritual.)  In actual fact it is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him. (emphasis mine)

8thday4life:  What do you believe is the single biggest obstacle to the Jewish people recognizing Jesus as their Messiah?

Jeremy:  The Veil. This is a prayer thing. I believe that Christians need to pray and God will speak. God speaking is absolutely the best witness. When Christians humble themselves (in imitation of Christ) rather than imitate a work of man, I believe that this speaks. Love speaks. Love speaks to you, doesn’t it (she?)?

One day during the time when people were witnessing to me I came down with a sore throat. My friends could have laid hands on me and prayed for me and God would have healed me (they prayed their roaches away, so I knew He heard their prayers). But they didn’t do that. They made me hot lemonade. Their love healed my throat.

8thday4life:  What would be the best way for the Church to reach out to them in your opinion?  (Realizing – the history of persecution – the Church has done the Messiah no favors with His people.)

Jeremy:  See above. Make more hot lemonade! But in a natural way, i.e. as God leads. Not in a forced way. Richard Wurmbrand was led to the Lord by a man who prayed all his life that God would let him lead a Jew to Jesus. God put it together. Like I said, I think it’s a Prayer thing. A phony can be spotted a mile off!

(You can read more of his testimony and perspective on the Messianic Movement HERE)

It appears that love, compassion, prayer, and being led by the Spirit may be more effective than parading around in a tallit, nailing a mezzuzah to our door, learning the Shema in Hebrew or abstaining from food on Yom Kippur while we argue about the solar and lunar calendars.  And Jeremy also confirms from his own testimony, and many others like him, the veil Paul spoke of is still the spiritual obstacle to Jewish people seeing their Messiah, which remains while they are reading the Law itself as described in 2 Corinthians 3.

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:14-17

Lifting up Jesus (and acting like Him), rather than proclaiming our own law-keeping and affinity for Jewishness, seems to be the Scriptural approach.

"Back to the Wilderness" by Ramone Romero

No Snipe for Dinner Tonight
In the end, as we studied this esteemed publisher’s course, I still did not see this elusive Yeshua who was so superior to Jesus.  The course consisted of tedious, dry information which relied heavily on the writings of Jewish Rabbis who had never believed in their Messiah.  While these writings are valuable in many ways to understand Judaism and provide interesting historical insight, they are not helpful in understanding the Person they did not acknowledge.  These same sages have in some cases cursed both Christ and His followers.  Judaism was opposed to Jesus as its Messiah 2000 year ago, and last I checked, has not changed this firm position.  I am reminded of what the disciples were asked when they were looking for Jesus at the tomb.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Even though we were studying the gospels, it seemed as if the life had been sucked off the pages and replaced with discussions about the Torah, once again.  Because, in this movement,  the law is a god made synonymous with the incarnated God, who is worth an obligatory mention only as He relates to the higher god of Torah.

I am so thankful that before we finished the gospels, I had delved into Matthew again on my own and seen Jesus like I had never seen Him before – standing alone, above the Law and the Prophets.  This revelation is second only in my life to receiving faith in Him as God and Savior many years earlier, but the grief of my repentance was close to the same, if not deeper, because this time the truth I saw was so simple, I could not find any plausible excuses for my ignorance and vain wanderings.

To its credit, this same study course had a lesson with a description of a rabbinic disciple in the time of Jesus, explaining how they would mimic their teacher in every aspect of their lives.  I realized, by definition, I was not a disciple of Jesus because I was not focusing my attention on His words and endeavoring to imitate Him, but Moses.  I was a disciple of Moses first.  In seeking Jesus, my veil was also lifted.

Don’t Be Led Astray

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3, 14

The closing boast of this letter alarmed me most, and prompted me to write this post.

We are in churches, connected with the Church, and bringing truth to the Church with no concern for denominational lines.  Hundreds of pastors from all different denominations read and study FFOZ materials because…. a shared faith in Messiah and Jewish roots is something we all have in common. (emphasis theirs)

This is not about simply engendering understanding between Jews and Christians, but about drawing Christians into Judaism and away from the simplicity of Jesus Christ.  If the common bond you have with someone is defined as Messiah AND something… anything…. presented as “essential and equal truth” you have been taken in by a man-made agenda.  The Jewish people need to be reconciled to their Redeemer and to see in Him the blood of their Passover Lamb they can no longer even sacrifice.  Christianity does not need to be reconciled to Judaism, which is the end goal of this endeavor.  Genuine love will reconcile people to each other who have at one time been enemies, and this unity also comes only in Christ. (See a pattern here?)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:13-19

The wall of hostility in Paul’s day between Jews and Gentiles was the law.  Jews looked down on Gentiles as a sub-species and history shows Christianity later developed a deep hatred for Jews.  Both of these sad developments of human pride are taken away in Christ.  We don’t need to glorify the Law of Moses, but agree with Paul, a pharisee of pharisees, that it has been taken out of the way for both parties, lifting up the Cross where we can stand united, fellow citizens.  Praise God He has done this, is doing this, and will continue to do this, until His Sovereign will has been carried out in this world!

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So many religious movements who claim to follow Christ actually demote or destroy the Deity of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they chip away at this truth with subtle contradictory teachings that elevate the “godhood” of man, and erode the definitions of  our Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent Creator/Redeemer God.  Others are blatant, as a publication recently left at my door by a Jehovah Witness which claimed to  entirely disprove that Jesus was God in the flesh.  I was also shocked how many people in the Hebrew Roots Movement have lost this truth and succumbed the the idea common to Judaism (and the chief reason this religion has not yet acknowledged its own Messiah – see John 10) that God’s son was to be a mere human, with a special anointing.

The New Testament teaches very clearly that Jesus was in fact God – in many places.  Jesus Himself accepted the adoration and worship allowed only for God, where angels are always seen to reject this response from humans.  Jesus made bold claims. You cannot profess to follow Him while simultaneously rejecting what He testified, and the Father and Spirit testified, was true about His Identity.

All this to share one great free resource!

Here is a free chart download from Rose Publishing which summarizes the New Testament witness concerning Jesus.

Jesus is the Truth – but there are many impostors.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this in my many years as a Sabbatarian, or how many times I may have said it.  Now I’m saying it again, because I still agree it’s true.  I may not put it on a bumper sticker like I’ve seen some do, but the next time I see one, I might honk and give them a thumbs up.  Just wish I’d have time to explain why I agree.  They won’t understand.

Most SDA Sabbatarians resolve to observe the correct Sabbath Day but hold the largely false presumption that all of Christianity has replaced Sunday with the 7th day Sabbath as the Biblical day of rest.  It’s true that some do, but this does not represent most Christians.  Most evangelicals don’t “keep” Sunday, they celebrate it.  Does anyone tell you to “keep” your birthday, or mother’s day?  Where is the law that demands you honor the people or events these days commemorate?  There isn’t one, but yet you love to anyway.

The fact is, most Christians have never even stopped to think about the correlation between the 4th commandment and their custom of worship on Sunday, which is why so many of them are easy prey for SDA Sabbath teaching, or other Sabbatarian groups.  And some others have been erroneously taught to see Sunday as a “sabbath” and for them as well as Sabbatarians I resound… “Sunday is NOT the Sabbath.”

Jesus is.

Just as the temple sacrifices pointed to the work of Christ’s atoning blood, the Sabbath was also a foreshadow of Christ’s work… HIS work and our rest in that work.  Jesus didn’t rest on the Sabbath during His ministry, and He infuriated the Jews because of it.

The Sabbath also represents our death with Christ on the cross.  The only way we cease from our own works is to die… reckon ourselves dead, as Paul says.  His flesh, our flesh, lay silent in the tomb on the Sabbath.  Every weekly and festival Sabbath pointed to this event.

Hebrews is a book showing the parallels between the Old Covenant pictures, and the New Covenant reality.  It invites us to walk in the reality, not the shadow.  Chapter 4 speaks to the shadow of the Sabbath showing specifically there is a rest for us in Christ… a rest that is every day… all day.  It’s our daily privilege, to rest (die) daily to our own works.

So what is Sunday if it’s not the Sabbath?  Why did the early Christians begin honoring this day as noted in the earliest Christian writings?  Because the most amazing thing to happen so far in human history occurred on that day!!  Their sorrow and total despair (because they had not believed His Word when He said he would rise again) was turned to unspeakable joy at the discovery that He had risen… just as He said!  Jesus honored this day with His presence among them on numerous occasions after His resurrection.  To stop at the Sabbath and not see the glory of Sunday would be like leaving the movie theater in the saddest part of the film and miss the happy ending!  We praise and thank Him for our rest, but we can’t walk in death.  We walk in newness of life… resurrection life!

“Therefore, if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will surely be united with Him in a resurrection like His….. So you must also reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – from Romans 6

We find no written command anywhere in the New Testament to the church concerning any specific days or observances outside of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  To worship God on Sunday is to voluntarily rejoice and honor a risen Lord,  a freewill offering of love and corporate fellowship.  And through the Spirit, we can have this joy on any day as the church in Acts met in some form, daily.  It says, “With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”  Acts 4:33

If you delve into the message of the apostles, you will find a big emphasis on the resurrection.  Sabbatarians in my experience as a whole, spend very little time on this event in their worship and discussion.  Most refuse to even gather to worship at the yearly celebration of this event… Resurrection Sunday during the Passover season.   We never saw the magnitude of a completed covenant, and the joy of the New one.. in a risen Christ.

Sunday is not the Sabbath, this is true.  The Sabbath pointed to a future rest the adherents of the Old Covenant could not truly enjoy, just as the sacrifices pointed to a future complete atonement the blood of animals cold not procure.  The first (or eighth) day points to something even greater we are looking to now; our own glorification and final union with our Lord in the coming resurrection, our Blessed Hope. Until then we have the seal and promise of His Spirit as we walk by faith, trusting He will do as He said.

He Lives

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.  I know that He is living no matter what men say.  I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer.  And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

Rejoice Rejoice O Christian, lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!  The Help of all who seek Him the Hope of all who find.  None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus Lives today!  He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.  He lives, He lives, salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.

Hymn by A.H. Ackley

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Wonderful article from JGIG!

The Law of Christ – Defined and Defended

In the last several months the Law of Christ has become clearer for me.  Not that I haven’t necessarily understood what is the Law of Christ, but expressing that understanding has been challenging, especially when in a discussion with those who believe that we, as believers in Christ, are commanded by God to keep Mosaic Covenant Law…  CONTINUE READING

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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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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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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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When giving our own testimony about leaving Torah Observance for Jesus alone and His Covenant,  I have always tried to make a distinction between the Hebrew Roots Movement (comprised almost completely of Gentiles) and Messianic Judaism, which I had no direct experience with.  Watching it from a distance I assumed this was culturally relevant for Jewish people having these customs as their background.

When I came to meet the brother who has shared this booklet I’m passing on to you, my theory was turned on its head.  I am so thankful that God has led him to write and freely share the wisdom he has learned from God’s Word.  He has blessed our lives incredibly with his words and I pray it blesses many others.

Judaism has beautiful elements in its practice and can be extremely alluring to those who mistakenly think they can learn to  “do what Jesus did.”   This is just the beginning of many distractions and deceptions, leading people to flirt with practices and philosophies of Judaism.   To draw from this well, as a believer, whether Jewish or Gentile is to drink from a broken cistern, guaranteed to run dry on you, most certainly NOT the Living Water that leads to everlasting life.

This booklet entitled “What Went Wrnog With the Messianic Movement” is a Jewish believer’s plea to reject the futility of false religion and inherited lies in favor of the One saving truth of Jesus Christ in a powerful, honest, heart-felt manner.  I praise God for the deliverance He has so graciously given so many of us who were once blinded, but now the veil has been taken away as we turned to Christ.  Here is an excerpt and a link to read the PDF copy.

“Judaism appears to be righteous and godly, but anything that turns away from or hates Jesus and His wonderful work also turns away from, i.e. hates, God as well. Therefore, because the spirit of Judaism is so virulently set against Jesus and His work on the Cross, the God of Judaism cannot be the God of Mt. Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets or any god at all. That Judaism and practitioners of Judaism hate Jesus reveals something much deeper in the character of the religion and the practitioners thereof. He who hates Jesus, hates God and cannot be said to be in any way godly.

But there is a redeeming characteristic to normative Judaism. Zeal. The day will come when “all Israel will be saved”, and when that day comes it will be with great zeal. The knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets will be added to zeal, to the eagerness to serve God. Lying, legal (and other) fictions and manipulative mental gymnastics of the mind of man will be put aside. The eagerness to seek God — the readiness on the tongue to discuss Godly matters —will be added to the clear vision of the eyes of faith. But it is dishonest to say that that day has come. Normative Judaism is not a beautiful religion for those who mean to seek the very face of God as described in the New Testament.

This booklet is not written for Jews who have never known Jesus. They should enjoy their religion in good health. However, for believers in the shed blood of the Messiah, normative Judaism is nothing short of spiritual adultery. In Romans we are told that we were made to die to the Law in order to be joined to (married to) the Messiah.”  p. 10

“Our heritage is beautifully described in the sixteenth Psalm:

“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” Psalm
16:5, 6 (emphasis supplied)

When David the psalmist says, “my heritage is beautiful to me” we should know that our heritage as believers in Jesus is not our culture; our heritage as believers is God Himself in diametric contradistinction to what has been handed down to us from our fathers. “Thou wilt make known to me the paths of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy. In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” These three amazing things (knowing the paths of life, fullness of joy and pleasures forever) are not obtainable from
our fleshly fathers; not from rabbis and not from books or lectures. Only the inheritance that we have as sons of God through Jesus (John 1) can bring us this inheritance.”  p. 42

Click below for full version

What Went Wrnog with the Messianic Movement

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Finally the long-awaited finish to an explanation I started for a friend months ago.  I put off completing this far too long, being overwhelmed with how much I wanted to say.  I finally accepted that to finish was better than to worry about what I might leave out.    It will be posted as its own page under the first two parts which can be found here:

Part One and Part Two

Note:  The name Yehoshua is used in place of Jesus out of deference to the intended reader.

First to recap the information in the first segments….

1 – Yehoshua is the pivotal, unmovable element in our faith – being fully God and fully human, He is the highest revelation of God to man. (Heb. 1:1,2) All the Law and the Prophets pointed to him, but were mere shadows of His reality. The Law given to Moses cannot be an equal or synonymous expression of God Himself, and is not of equal authority. The Torah clearly commands that all are to listen and obey the Prophet who was to come. In Acts, Stephen and the Apostles make it clear that they believed Yehoshua was the fulfillment of this. By refusing to accept the testimony and resurrection of the Son of God, most of Israel had become lawbreakers in the worst sense, by rejecting God Himself. But as promised repeatedly in the prophets, and as Paul affirms in Romans, God will restore their sight in His time, and seems to be doing so now to some extent.

2 – To obey this command “to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:15) requires that we give ample attention and respect to the credibility of the four witnesses of Him in the New Testament, as well as to the teachings of the one He personally called to bring the truth of Him to the Gentiles. If we do not accept this testimony, or doubt its authenticity and reliability, we are left with the problem of an all-powerful God that can incarnate, die, and rise from the dead, but not able to preserve a trustworthy witness to these events. If this witness is not true and valid, then we cannot even firmly establish these events at all, and our faith is a myth and legend.

Listening to Yehoshua also means we are led by Him through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God in written form is the field manual, and the Holy Spirit is the two-way radio. We need them both in order to truly follow and obey Him. (not really a recap, but an introduction on that point).

3 – We believe Torah is better described as God’s unchanging principles based on love for God and man, and not a finite list on tablets of stone. The law as given at Sinai is an expression of His Torah, but we do not believe He intended it for all people for all time in this form. The same principles are included in a better Covenant, founded on better promises.

Nature is an amazing expression of God’s character, wisdom, and power – so much so that man has throughout the ages made it an object of worship. The Hebrew scriptures are also an incredible, complex expression of Him – as beautiful and intricate as any wonder of the natural world. However, they are still a gift of creation, and not God himself. The written scriptures were not given to man in order for us to venerate them or to create a distraction away from God Himself, especially as expressed in the Son. We did not openly state that we placed the Torah at this level, but our actions revealed this was the place it held in our hearts.

To Continue from There…

There are many different camps of theology when it comes to the covenants. I have not studied them all in depth so I will not attempt to compare and contrast them.  There are precise names and definitions and well developed “systems” of theology behind all of them, which for the most part makes my brain hurt. I am not a theologian, but I greatly desire the truth. I have to believe that truth is available to uneducated people like me, or I would lose hope.

That being said, the following discussion would be too oversimplified for most people who prefer complicated explanations. We took great pride in being complicated in the past, thinking it demonstrated how smart we were. Our supposed “wisdom” became a stumbling block to us, so I now value simplicity. The Greek word for simplicity in this following verse also means “singleness” (according to Strongs) I like that too.

But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity due to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3

What we believed in the past…

Being raised an SDA, we were taught a special brand of replacement theology. Not only had just the Gentile church replaced Israel, but our denomination was now THE remnant of Bible Prophecy. We were the new Israel. I think the Puritans may have had similar ideas when coming to America. Much of our Protestant theology seems to have been inherited from them. The SDA view of the Law is very similar to most Hebrew Roots thinkers. They believe it existed from creation, the eternal Law of God that would never change and the ultimate expression of His character for all people on earth.  One thing they are correct about is the belief that if you are to follow the Ten Commandments as the standard of obedience to God, you cannot replace Sabbath with Sunday. There is no basis for this change whatsoever if you are looking to the Sinai Covenant Law as your guide.

The main difference between the SDA and HRM viewpoint is the SDA side breaks up the law into categories, saying everything commanded outside the 10C were “ceremonial” (or civil) and these were the laws abolished on the cross. This is also the position of most Baptists, and Covenant Theology type churches.  This argument holds no water because the Sabbath is not a moral command.  In addition you will find plentiful commands within the whole body of law which are clearly moral issues.  Even Abraham married his half-sister, something morally forbidden in the Torah.

As we became interested in our Hebrew Roots, we saw it was a completely man-made concoction to say the Law could be split up into pieces, some abolished, some eternal. We saw it stood or fell altogether as one body of legislation. We still believed the Law of God as being the Law from Sinai so we then shifted our belief that the WHOLE thing had to be written on our heart and we should seek to obey every part of it we could. We still had to see some things as fulfilled – or at least – temporarily deferred until a temple was rebuilt and we were all living in Israel again. We became consumed with trying to learn more about doing all we could do at the present time. We took in the teaching that we were also Israel because we believed in Israel’s Messiah. With this, we believed we had a right to the stated material blessings through Torah observance, and the obligation to practice traditions of our elder brother Judah (from modern Judaism). We still believed Yehoshua alone was enough for Christians, and they were saved if they believed on Him, but we considered ourselves more obedient and more blessed.

Some people we knew went so far as to think there was no way to be saved unless you observed the Torah, because if you didn’t, you were worshiping a different God. Now when I say Torah observance, we criticized Christians for their failure to observe rituals and days – not on love or moral purity. Someone could place all their trust in Yehoshua and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (character traits, not works) and still be considered a lost, pagan apostate if they did not keep the Holy Days, and ate pork. I never personally believed this but I was still proud about being superior.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “renewed” Covenant – but we didn’t stop to study it out, or test this term when we heard it. This idea fit what we wanted to believe and mirrored the SDA position I had always held which taught Messiah came to re-state the Sinai Law with His life and give us the ability to really keep it. Everyone was referring to the New Covenant as “renewed” or just simply “The Covenant” as if there was only one, and “New Covenant” became one of the many taboo words. To utter the phrase “New Covenant” was seen as anti-Semitic, anti-Law, anti-God Himself. When we looked at the original languages and scriptural context of New Covenant passages, we could not support the teaching of calling it renewed.

Our Present View of Old and New Covenants

We now believe the specific laws as given at Mt. Sinai were the conditions (terms) of the temporary contract between God and His people. Unlike the covenant made with Abraham where all he did was “believe God” the Sinai covenant had a HUGE obedience contingency. The contract was breached simply by their disobedience if nothing else.  As Hebrews says, “He found fault with them.” (The question is, what was instituted in its place?) The contract had physical rewards or consequences – nothing pertaining to eternal life. As with the custom of covenant agreements during that time – the parties were designated, terms agreed upon, and a sign was given.  In both covenants, man was tested to TRUST God.  Abraham passed the test, and Israel failed, repeatedly.

If you simply renew a covenant, it would make sense that the terms would remain the same. Even if this was actually what God did, it’s difficult to maintain that everyone in every country could be obligated to all the terms in this covenant. If simply accepting Israel’s Messiah brings you into this covenant, as we believed it did, this creates numerous problems. A huge percentage of the laws cannot be kept if not in the Land of Israel, without a temple, and without a government that adheres to this law as their civil structure.

However, if you make a new contract entirely, you could change the terms quite drastically – and God did. The Sinai Covenant and Covenant of Christ both have a different purpose, and are contrasted quite clearly in Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. Here is an overview of three pivotal covenants.

Abraham

Contracting Parties: God & Abraham

Terms: Abraham believed – God promised land, many descendants and that through his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (through Messiah)

Sign: Circumcision

Israel

Contracting Parties: God & Israel (with the invitation to people of other nations to enter in through circumcision)

Terms: Israel obeys the Law given through Moses, God blesses with the Promised Land and abundance. Israel rebels, curses upon curses, and then… more curses.

Sign: Sabbath days

Sinai was conditional, Abraham’s Covenant is called the covenant of Promise because it was unconditional. This one is the foreshadow of the one we have in Christ. It simulates it and prophesies it.

New Covenant

Parties: God and “whosoever will” – given to Israel first,  who believe on His Son (the “works” of God are to believe on Him who He has sent. John 6:29)

Terms: Belief (not just a mental assent, but TRUST, a heart thing) – God promises eternal life

Sign: Love for one another(John, I John)

Seal: The Holy Spirit (Eph. 2)

Many Sinai Covenant devotees argue there is no evidence this covenant was ever abrogated. This is simply not true. Even a surface reading of the NT will reveal a clear teaching it was at that time (even while the temple was still standing) – “obsolete” and “passing away”. (Hebrews) The Sinai Law has not been given to all men from the dawn of time, but was given at a specific time, after the Promise to Abraham (Galatians). Paul makes it clear that when you are in Christ, you die with him (die to the old contract) and are raised to new life in Him – married to another (Romans 7). Galatians shows by way of analogy you cannot live under both at the same time, comparing Hagar and Sarah. If you want the fullness of the New Covenant – and the freedom of life in the Spirit, you have no choice but to throw out the bond woman and live in the Promise alone. According to Paul, living under both simultaneously is simply not possible. This is why we must twist Paul or reject him as a teacher completely in order to maintain that Torah observance as given to Israel is the only way to please God.

Very simply, as wild branch Gentiles, never at any time were we under this contract with God. Jews and Gentiles are separate in the flesh, and united only in Christ, not in a Law. (Eph. 2) The Gentiles were never commanded or required to come under Israel’s covenant when coming to Christ. Jewish believers were never required to stop observing the way they were accustomed to, however they were forbidden from requiring it of Gentile believers. (Acts 15, Romans 14, Col. 2, Eph. 2)

Even as a Jewish person trusts Yehoshua as their Messiah, realizing they have no righteousness of their own, die the same death the Gentile dies. We die to sin, self, and works. We are relieved of the condemnation of sin because it died on the cross. Just as Paul says in Romans 7 – death releases you of a contract! We are raised to be New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. The very God of the universe comes to live in us through His Spirit – (still can’t fathom the reality of this!) and becomes our Torah. The whole of New Covenant obedience is hinged on the two great commands – (1) Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. (2) Love one another as God has loved you through His son (John 13:34, 15:12) – a much taller order than loving your neighbor as yourself. He could not even command this until He had come to demonstrate exactly what that meant. This was truly, a “new” commandment.

Yehoshua did not command his disciples to be identified by their outward observances as under the Sinai Covenant. Never in the NT are the Old Covenant observances reiterated to any segment of the Jewish or Gentile believers. Only issues of love, morality, and upright character are reinforced repeatedly, all such commands being connected to fervent love for God and one another. To be obedient under the New Covenant has a much higher degree of accountability than in the Old.  Those who “drew near” to serve God were repeatedly snuffed out of existence when they sinned, God holding them more accountable than the general population.  In Israel only one man could enter the Most Holy place in God’s presence.  Through the mediation of Christ, we are all a “royal priesthood” and have access to God’s throne, an astounding privilege.  We have not begun to understand what we have been granted, or the measure of grace God has given for us to have this privilege.

Far from being “lawlessness” as so many people claim, life in Christ is in fact being obedient moment by moment to a living God that dwells in us. He may command me through His Spirit to stop and help someone with car trouble, or prompt me to say a word of encouragement to someone. The Torah of the Spirit encompasses all of life. A list of rules can never do this. This life is not about external demands of clean/unclean or days and times, but becoming completely transformed. The Law could define our problem, but only life in the Spirit can solve our problem (Romans 8). The Law still stands today for all to see – it remains as a witness, but we are no longer in a relationship with it. We are no longer under it as school children, but have been promoted to sons and daughters. (Galatians)

Sadly I have to admit, many church-going Christians have never seen this either. Even though they are not keeping the Law according to Moses, they are still trying to come to God on external terms, and in their own efforts. They serve God out of sheer duty and striving, or for some hope of recognition and blessing. They do not enter the rest of complete trust and submission to God. Serving God becomes a means to an end when Yehoshua should be the desired end and blessing in Himself. They cannot even see the depravity of their hearts because they are assuring themselves with the multitude of their churchianity. This is not the life Yehoshua called his followers to live. We aren’t to look to a list written by Moses, or a pastor, or a denomination. Yehoshua alone is our Rabbi and our Lord.

Growing up in the SDA denomination, I never learned what it meant to be “born again” as Yehoshua taught, and as Paul explained. We were instructed as children to never say we were “saved”. They would correct other Christians who would claim they had been “saved” at a certain identifiable moment in their lives when they became new. This was something we were told we needed to do every day. We had to make sure everything was confessed at any given moment. If we let any sin remain unconfessed, we could lose our salvation if our number came up. At least Catholics had purgatory where they could work all that out and still get to heaven. We had to strive for perfection in fear of being lost instead of the “full assurance of faith” that Hebrews speaks of.

When we saw the New Covenant, I also for the first time understood being born again. Even though I had experienced this many years before, I had NO idea what had happened to me and had no way to express it, or testify to what God had done in my life. Now I realize that there was one day I was confronted with my sin and a Savior. I became so convicted by my own actions that were sick beyond belief, and so drawn to His gift of love in spite of myself, that I repented and threw myself at His feet.  I realized I had no other hope in this world.  I knew I had sinned against HIM personally and it was painful.  But at the same time, I sensed His deep love for me and He offered peace and not condemnation. This does not always happen in an intense moment that someone can point to. It can happen quietly too – especially in small children. However, the Word teaches that we become a New Creation. Old things are passed away. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and is a seal of our adoption into God’s family. (Eph. 2) Now I know my holiness does not come from the outside, but from within as He works love into my life – more for Him and for others.

I could go on for many more pages, and I’ll leave the technicalities to the theologians. But so much liberating and transformational truth is lost when the New Covenant and Christ are demoted to a subset within the Sinai system. This goes for HRM, SDA’s and many evangelical Christians who have no idea they are coming to God under the terms given to Moses. The foundation to the New Covenant is the unconditional Promise of Christ – and He is the one who is all and in all. So much in His name has been a sham, especially in the United States. I would urge everyone who wants to truly know God, to seek His Son first in the pages of His Word. It’s the most liberating truth there is, but the most demanding at the same time. To live it, we must reconcile that we die with Him, and be raised with Him. Only in that are we truly free.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:31-36

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