Zealousness Misdirected

To be zealous means to have an overriding desire for something. You could be zealous for a sports team, collecting paraphernalia until you have a roomful of it. You could be zealous for work, staying late and starting early every day of the week and never going on vacation. You could be zealous for the Lord- worshiping daily, attending every community function that your house of worship holds, being on every committee, and talking about God and his plan of salvation to everyone and anyone you can.

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We are told that zealousness for the Lord is good. David talks about it in the Psalms 69 and 119; Isaiah mentions it in his writings (Isaiah 37, 59 and 63); and Pinchus was rewarded for his zealousness for the Lord in Numbers 25:11-13.

Now, as wonderful as it may be to be zealous for something, when that zealousness is misdirected whatever good may have come from it will be turned to evil.

We see this in the letter Shaul (Paul) wrote to the Galatians. This letter was written to protect the Messianic community in Galatia, which Shaul founded, from the Messianic Jews who were not trying to dissuade them from following Yeshua but to burden them with wrongful teaching about the necessity of following the Torah. This is what we have come to call “legalism”, which is the idea that without exact and literal obedience to the instructions in the Torah, we cannot be saved. Whereas it is true that we should do everything we can to obey the Torah instructions, it is not the path to salvation. Shaul was writing to remind the Galatians that faith comes before obedience, and obedience then comes as a result of that faith.

In Galatians 4:17-18 he says the following:

True, these teachers are zealous for you, but their motives are not good. They want to separate you from us so that you will become zealous for them. To be zealous is good, provided always that the cause is good. 

The issue of legalism that was a problem to these early Messianic Gentile communities has been replaced with the doctrine of Constantinian Christianity, created at the Council of Nicene in the year 325 C.E. From then on, legalism no longer mattered because by that time Christianity had become so separated from its’ Jewish roots that it was a totally different religion, which pretty much rejected the instructions in the Torah, altogether.

You would think that that would be the end of legalism, but it wasn’t. Today, Gentile Believers who want to worship as Messiah did, and want to go back to their Jewish roots, have resurrected legalism.

They aren’t so worried about following the Torah as they are about the minutia within the Torah.  For example, we see many arguments about something that would never even be a consideration for a Jewish Believer, or even a “mainstream” Jew, which is the way to pronounce God’s holy name, the Tetragrammaton. I have seen so many arguments about the difference between the Paleo-Hebraic spelling (Y-H-W-H) and the modern Hebrew spelling (Y-H-V-H) that I wonder if they even realize that none of the early Messianic communities ever pronounced that name, at all? Jews do not use that name because we respect it, yet Gentiles who suddenly feel the need to get back to their Jewish roots show no respect at all for God’s name. They misinterpret the use of “the name of the Lord” that is in the Tanakh to justify pronouncing the Tetragrammaton: their zealousness to know God better is misdirected and becomes disrespectful to God, and also to all the Jewish Believers who are told they are wrong not to pronounce God’s holy name.
I’m sorry, but we have been the chosen people for nearly Six Thousand years: not to sound self-centered, but maybe Gentiles should consider we know what we are doing?

I also see so many arguments about when the festivals start. The modern Jewish calendar is accepted by almost every Jew in the world and yet, Gentiles who are just beginning to observe God’s commanded festivals (which is a good thing) are now arguing over when they really start (which is a legalistic thing.)

I am saying “Gentiles” but I am sure there are Jews within these groups also who are of the same mindset, but from my experience, it is almost exclusively Gentile Believers who are arguing for this modern form of legalism.

For instance, Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the new month, which begins with the sighting of the moon in the new moon phase. Today we have science to show us exactly when this happens, unlike the ancient days when it was required to have three witnesses agree that the moon is in phase. Yet, I see so many people argue over when it really is a new moon, and when that festival really begins.  OY!!

Don’t they know that in the olden days, which they are trying to legalistic recreate, the new moon and festival beginnings had a “grace period” of some three days?  There might have been clouds in the sky obscuring the view or it could have been raining, in either case, the moon could not be seen. Once the ones responsible for officially stating when a festival began (who were in Jerusalem) agreed it was time, they would light signal fires on mountaintops throughout the land of Israel to announce the beginning of that festival. This means that the exact phase of the moon wasn’t really as important as everyone celebrating at the same time.

Think of the harvest festivals- no harvest is at the exact same day as the prior year. Shavuot is one of the most important holy days of the year, one of the three pilgrimage holy days requiring us to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. It begins 50 days after Habikkurim (First Fruits), yet first fruits depended on when the harvest was done, which was never the exact same time every year. Today we celebrate Pesach, Habikkurim, and Shavuot based on the calendar days and not on any harvest. That means that no one who uses the Jewish calendar is exactly right about when First Fruits and Shavuot begin. So, nu? Do you think that God is going to send every person who observes his festivals based on the Jewish calendar to Sheol?

Here’s the problem with this modern form of legalism: it is misdirected zealousness. The zealousness to be obedient to the Torah has been perverted to obedience for the sake of obedience, which leads to faithlessness. I believe this to be true, and just as Shaul told the Galatians that they were being made zealous for someone else, the Enemy of the Lord wants to make us zealous for him. And how can he do that to faithful Believers? By separating them from God through misdirected zealousness.

When we are arguing amongst ourselves over things that have no relationship to our salvation, such as exactly when the moon is in a certain phase, or how to pronounce a name, or when a festival begins we separate ourselves from each other. Haven’t you ever heard the term “divide and conquer”? Well, that is what this legalism is doing within the Messianic and Christian Believing communities.

It is good to be zealous for proper worship, which I define as worship the way God said to do so. He gave us a User Manual to teach us how to worship him properly, which is called the Torah. All we need to do is follow the instructions as best as we can. I cannot speak for God, but since he constantly tells us throughout the Tanakh that he is not interested in the blood of bulls or sheep (meaning obedience for the sake of being obedient) and that he sees the heart, I think it is safe to say as long as your heart is zealous for God he will understand and forgive you if you celebrate a festival day early or a day late. To be safe, just use the same calendar that every other Jew in the world uses.

Also, if you want to get back to your Jewish roots, don’t reinvent the wheel by doing what Jews don’t do, such as pronouncing the holy name of the Lord. Use Adonai, Lord, God, Elohim, HaShem or some other biblical name for God. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t use transliteration spellings that are wrong, like Quodash or Alohim- OY!! If you use a transliteration, use the ones Jews use because they are based on the Hebrew spelling, which is the correct pronunciation.

Legalism is trying to do things exactly as instructed for the sake of being correct. God really doesn’t care about performance, he cares about the reasons for that performance. If your desire to be obedient is zealousness for God as a direct result of faithfulness, then that is good. You don’t have to be perfect, just willing to try from a heartfelt desire to show God you love him.

If your zealousness for God leads you to obedience for the sake of obedience, that is legalism and zealousness misdirected.

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Parashah Shemini 2019 (the 8th day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah picks up from last week’s reading, where we left Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days as part of their anointing to be Cohanim (Priests) to the Lord.

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Now, on the eighth day, they are to perform a series of sacrifices to complete their anointing ritual, but after doing so Aaron’s two sons present their own incense before the Lord, which was not part of the ritual, and the punishment for that was their immediate death. Moses commands that drinking alcoholic beverages when serving the Lord is forbidden, which the rabbis have understood to mean that Aaron’s sons were drunk, causing their irrational and sinful behavior.

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the one that gives the instructions for Kashrut, the kosher regulations.

This is probably one of the most argued against instructions in the entire Bible. Christians have misinterpreted Mark 7 and Acts 10 for centuries as doing away with these instructions; even within Judaism, Reform Jews (within my experience) generally do not keep Kosher and many Conservative Jews I have known may maintain a kosher home, but when outside their home will disregard these instructions.

Rabbinical thought categorizes the Kashrut instructions as Chukim, which are regulations we are expected to obey, although the reason for them transcends human understanding.

We can know this one thing about the instructions in Leviticus 11: they help to make us holy, where holy means to be separated.

I keep kosher according to the instructions in the Bible, but I am not kosher according to the rabbinic regulations in the Talmud, which greatly expand the ones in this chapter. As such, I can tell you, absolutely, that I am separated from those who do not maintain this diet.  For instance, when I go to an Italian restaurant I have to ask if there is pork included in the meat that they use for their lasagna and meat sauce. For breakfast, I have to double-check that there is no bacon fat added to the home fries, which many chefs use to enhance the flavor. When going out for breakfast, I know the turkey sausage I order will probably be cooked on the same grill with the regular sausage, but the heat of the grill is enough to destroy the treif (Yiddish for unclean) germs left behind. The fact that the heat of the grill makes it OK to have kosher next to treif comes from the same reasoning the Rabbis give for using the same plates for meat and dairy (fleishig and milchig), so long as the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize the dinnerware.

My obedience to Kashrut is what separates me from the rest of the patrons, and when asking about the food preparation I have an opportunity to demonstrate obedience to God’s instructions and (maybe) set an example to others.

What presents a serious problem, to me, is when people argue about why certain animals are kosher and why others aren’t. The problem I see with this is that it shows a need to know why God does something.  We are allowed to question God, but this human need to know everything works against faith.

Faith is believing that which can’t be seen or proven, and I believe when we have to know “why” it represents a lack of faith: I say this because by having to know why we apparently don’t trust that God will only have us do that which is good for us. When it comes to obedience to the instructions God gave us on how to live, worship and treat each other, I think we should follow the motto from the Nike shoe company: Just do it!

I am not saying we cannot ever question the Lord; he is big enough and compassionate enough to allow this. My concern is that constantly questioning God’s reasons might result in losing faith when we don’t get the answers. This is what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) found out- trying to understand God at God’s level is like chasing the wind. It was impossible and resulted in disappointment and depression.

Obedience to the instructions in Chapter 11 of Leviticus, as well as any other instructions God gave to us throughout the Torah, should not be based on understanding the reasons why God gave them. Obedience for the sake of obedience is what many think will help us earn our entry into heaven- it won’t. This is what I call “Performance-based Salvation”, and is the “legalism” that Shaul spoke against when he wrote to the congregation in Galatia.

Obeying the instructions for Kashrut (as well as every other instruction in the Torah) should be based solely on faithfully accepting that God would not tell us to do anything other than that which is good for us. He says, over and over throughout the Tanakh, that we should obey so that we will live. He doesn’t mean live this life but to live eternally with him. When we are truly faithful, that faith generates a desire to obey. The more faithful, the more obedient.

What is really sad is that there are many, many people who do have faith, but their obedience has been stifled with wrongful teaching through traditional Christian (meaning Constantinian) doctrine that was not designed to honor God. Neither was it created by the early ‘church” fathers to separate Christians from the unholy, but to separate Christians from the Jews.

God sent the Messiah to bring all people back to God, but men have distorted that event into further separating people from God by teaching disobedience.

Each one of us has the right to choose what we will do. God has given us all the instructions he wants us to know, which are all the instructions we need to know. And we do NOT need to understand why he has given any of them, we just need to faithfully accept they are what is best for us, and obey them. God has said many times in the Tanakh that he has presented to us life and death, and tells us to choose life, that we may live.

So, nu? You can choose life or death- which one do you want?

Thank you for your interest and please share me out to help this ministry grow. Also, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the button in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. If I get enough subscribers I will earn a little advertising money and I use that to send my books to foreign countries that are asking for hard copy (it cost me over $100.00 to send 6 books to Uganda earlier this year.)

Tonight is Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Legalism in a Nutshell

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Legalism- just what is it? Many Christians have, for centuries, been taught that it means people who follow the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle are not really saved because they don’t have faith in Jesus. To a Jewish person, following the Torah is the ultimate indication of faith.

So, what legalism is, in a nutshell, is a belief that one can achieve eternal glory and be welcomed into the presence of God (i.e., be “saved”) through the performance of activities, specifically those which God gave in the Torah. I call it performance-based salvation.

Faith is not a necessary element of legalism, but it is not absent in those who are legalistic. In other words, one can have faith in God and still be legalistic. The main issue is whether or not salvation is considered to be the result of faith, which inspires obedience, or if obedience is how we attain salvation, which also requires having faith in God.

Legalism is a form of putting the cart before the horse.

We need to have the right type of faith: is our faith in God to “save” us based only on obedience, or is it because we believe God knows what is best for us so we do as he says? Isn’t that the type of faith Abraham had? Trusting in God so much that he obeyed without question.

Here is what I see as the foundation of wrong teaching in all religions- Abraham trusted without needing to know why, but “religion” tells us why we should trust, why we should obey and that we need to do what our religion tells us is the proper thing to do. God has no religion, but men have created “religion” in order to have power over other men by pretending to know best how to do what God said to do.

I believe that organized religion is the ultimate form of legalism.

For me, salvation is the result of faith, which inspires obedience, and together they result in salvation…but that is too simplistic a definition. What I should say is that proper faith will lead us to the desire to obey God, and when we are obedient for that reason it will strengthen our faith even more; ultimately, just as iron sharpens iron, our faith will strengthen our desire to obey which will enhance our faith. It is a win-win situation.

There are more than a few times in the Bible that God has told his people, through the Prophets, that lip-service to him is unacceptable. It is clear from the Bible that just doing what God says, just to do it, is not true worship- it is nothing more than being an automaton. God doesn’t want automatons, he wants worshipful, thinking human beings who love him and show that love through faithful and unquestioning obedience.

I am not saying we cannot ask God for explanations- he is always there and always listening to us. But (I believe) with the proper faith you will ask God without demanding an answer, and be thankful if he decides to give you one. Usually, this is done through prayer, and we all know (or should) that prayers are always answered, but God’s answer may be “No”, or it could be “Maybe later, but not now”, or “Yes, but it isn’t going to be what you expect and it won’t come when you expect it.”  And sometimes we get an immediate answer that is just what we asked for- but if it should happen to you, don’t get used to it!

Legalism is still around today- not the same kind that Shaul (Paul) argued against, but from (mainly) Gentile Believers who are getting back to their Jewish roots. However, their form of legalism is so exacting that they forget faith is more important. They argue over how God’s name is pronounced, and stating that if you use what they consider to be the wrong name or pronunciation you are praying to idols. They are “anal” about when the moon sets and what calendar is the absolutely correct one. They universally reject all Jewish tradition, yet follow many traditional Christian teachings, such as Yeshua said all food is clean so we don’t have to be Kosher (Mark 7 or Acts 10), or Christians really only have to obey the 4 commands given by the Elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and other teachings like these. Their desire to be obedient is so strong that the pendulum has swung from one far side to the other, and their attempts to be correctly worshipful has caused them to stray off the path of true worship.

It is really simple: trust that God knows best, and believe that what he says is what we should do. Without question, without rationalization, without needing to know why- we should just do as God says because we trust in him and because…well, he’s God and we’re not!

Anything more than that is walking down a path that may lead us away from salvation.

When is Study of the Bible Too Much Study?

No video today.

Let me start off by saying, absolutely, that the study of the Bible is a life-long quest and is what we should all be doing. We should be reading and analyzing and trying to understand what message God has for each one of us within the words of the text. 

That being said, I am asking, “When does it become too much studying?”

Too much of anything can be bad for someone, and too much studying, even of the word of God, can end up misleading us from what God wants us to know. 

Most everyone reading this probably knows about Gnosticism, and how that belief in hidden messages and secret knowledge being the pathway to salvation is considered a “bad” thing.  Another “bad” thing is legalism, i.e. only through absolute obedience to the laws and rules is how we are redeemed, and that faith is not necessary. 

I have seen many people who are good students of the Bible become lured away from understanding what is in the Bible because they want to understand absolutely everything in the Bible. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that their desire to know what every little detail means leads them to see only the individual trees and they lose sight of the forest.

Doesn’t God tell us in Deuteronomy 29:29 that those things he wishes us to know he will reveal, but the secret things of the Lord are his alone?  The writer of  Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) says that knowledge and work and everything is useless. Do you know why he says that? It’s because Kohelet wanted to understand why God does what he does and to know what God knew. That’s why everything under the sun was useless to him- it is impossible for any of us to fully understand God. 

I once read that any god that can be understood by the mind of man is not worthy of the worship of man.  How true that is, and how unfortunate that so many people just don’t understand the implications of that statement. 

What is the difference between faith and lack of faith? Well, that is an open question, isn’t it? For the purpose of this message, faith is accepting that we can’t understand some things and so we should focus on what we can, and weak faith is ignoring what we can understand and focusing on that which we don’t.  In other words, God will let each and every one of us know what he wants us to know, and what he doesn’t want us to know will remain unknown until such time, if any, when God will reveal it to us. For me, faith is accepting that we won’t understand everything, whereas lack of faith (or a weaker faith) is to delve into minutia that isn’t going to edify or help anyone to know what God wants them to do. 

Didn’t Micah tell us that all God requires of us is to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God? Didn’t Yeshua say to love God and each other are the most important commandments, and that by following these everything else will just fall into place?? There is no commandment that says we must understand why God tells us things, or exactly what God’s purpose is when he tells us to do something. 

What God requires of us is faithful obedience and faithful acceptance that whatever he tells us is for our own good. When Yeshua said we need to come to him like a child he meant without needing to know “why” or with excess questioning, although anyone who has ever reared a toddler knows that endless questioning is part of their makeup.

I am sorry if this isn’t as “cut-and-dried” as I would like it to be. I am not saying we shouldn’t study the Bible, and I agree that understanding only comes with judicious study, as well as listening to others with knowledge to share. What I am trying to say is that when our desire to know what something means gets in the way of simply accepting that there are some things which aren’t necessary to know, some things which we will never know (such as the Chukim laws), then our “study” of the Bible has gone too far.

I am saying that faithfully believing God will let us know what he wants to reveal to us, if and when he does, is better than forcing ourselves to know everything we possibly can.  Too much knowledge can lead to misunderstanding if it is for the wrong purpose, meaning for prideful desire to show others how “spiritual” we are, how knowledgeable we are, or how much better we know the “Word” than they do.

I pray that this message is getting through, and I am sorry that I haven’t been able to phrase it better. We all should never stop reading and studying the Bible, as well as extra-biblical sources, but only in order to know what God wants from us. We should not try to understand God, or try to know what he knows, or (especially not) try to see hidden messages or find secret truths within the numbers or words. That leads to Gnosticism and a system of legalism. 

Never stop reading and studying the Bible and remember it’s more important to know what is in there than where it is. If you have a question about a meaning or passage, bring it first to God and ask for the Ruach HaKodesh to give you understanding. If God wants you to know, he will reveal it, and if it isn’t revealed then faithfully accept that you don’t need to know it.

God will let you know what you need to know, when you need to know it. That’s what he did with Moses, that’s what he did with David, with the Prophets, and that’s how Yeshua taught both the people and his Talmudim. 

If it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for us. 

Born-Again Christians and Legalism Born Again

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First and foremost let me say that I am ecstatic to see more and more Christians wanting to know their Messiah and who he really is, and what he really taught. They are realizing that the Jesus they have been told about is not the Yeshua who lived, preached and taught from the Torah. This is a wonderful and prophetic happening and will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy that one day all knees will bow and all tongues confess that Yeshua is Messiah; on that day we will all be one in Messiah, worshiping God as he said we should.

That being said, let me go a little further and point out that with this new-found love for their Hebraic roots and for Hebrew, both Modern and Paleo, I see a really upsetting dark cloud on the horizon. That cloud is a new form of the legalistic mentality that was prominent in the First Century, which both Yeshua and Shaul (Paul) were totally against.

Let’s get something else clear before we go on: “Legalism” is the system under which faith is not important or needed to gain salvation. Under a legalistic system (which is what the Pharisee’s taught) you can be saved ONLY by strict and complete adherence to the Torah, as well as the rabbinic traditions that the Pharisee’s added to one’s activities and worship. Again, so no one misunderstands: under the system of legalism, faith is not needed to be saved. All we need to attain salvation is absolute obedience to everything we are supposed to do stated in the Torah, as well as strict and total adherence to Halacha (Talmudic, or Oral Torah) requirements.

Now, on to today’s message.

I have been blogging for over 5 years, and am a member of a number of different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and one of the most prevalent arguments that constantly comes up is how to pronounce God’s Holy name (called the Tetragrammaton), how it is spelled, how to pronounce the name of the Messiah and how these things are absolutely necessary to prevent one from being fooled by the Enemy and (even worse) to not call out to false gods.

In a word, these concerns are ridiculous! A bunch of drek that no ones who really knows the Lord would be worried about. God isn’t going to condemn someone to Sheol (hell) because they call out to Jesus, or when praying to God use the name Jehovah or Yahushua, or if they call Yeshua Yahshua. If the person praying is praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their mind and heart, and invoking the name of the Son of God, the Messiah God sent to earth to save mankind, it doesn’t matter what name they use. God knows the heart and the mind of everyone, as does Yeshua, so believe me when I tell you they know who you are talking to.

Not only is the name issue important to these people, but I see other ridiculous issues- we should pray after we eat and not before because it is a commandment to thank God for our food only after we have eaten it. As such, they imply (or even state) that praying to God and thanking him for the food on our table BEFORE we eat is a sin! Imagine! Thanking God is a sin! Who woudda evah tought’ it?

This need to be absolutely accurate using God’s name, or taking one single sentence from the Torah (specifically, Deuteronomy 8:10) and expanding it out of context, to indicate that we must perform some physical act correctly or we cannot be saved is Legalism.

They may not say this that way, i.e. if we don’t pronounce God’s name correctly we won’t be saved, but the indication is clear- not doing this is a sin, and since we all know sin prevents us from being in God’s presence, well…you can all add, I’m sure.

I am concerned that the zealousness I see from a number of people for this minutia, this useless straining of gnats while swallowing a camel, is going to choke the seeds that were sown and are starting to grow, just as it did to the new Gentile converts to Judaism in the First Century.  This is why I call it a new form of Legalism, the same thing that Yeshua, Shaul, and the Disciples fought against when Yeshua’s ministry was first growing.  Once the Council of Nicene got in the picture, then this issue of new converts to Judaism being taught the wrong message was totally overridden by the separation of Yeshua’s followers from mainstream Judaism. Essentially, after Constantine, obedience to the Torah as necessary for salvation was no longer a concern for Christians.

For those of you who are reading this and thinking that I am wrong, so be it. If you really believe God will condemn me to hell for calling him Adonai, or God (many even think the word “God” is pagan!) then I can tell you right now, absolutely, you have no idea who God is or what he is about. I pray that one day he will open your eyes and minds to the truth that he is a forgiving and compassionate God, and not as thin-skinned as you seem to think he is.

“Legalism” is a tool that the Enemy can use to cause dissension and confusion within the body of Messiah. It was used thousands of years ago to dissuade new Believers from the truth and tie them up in traditions and activities that didn’t lead to salvation, and today it is still being used to do the same thing. Those who are adamant that God’s name is spelled or pronounced a certain way are leading us away from the truth of who and what God is, and not edifying anyone. Those who take one sentence out of context and imply that praying to God to thank him for our food before we eat is a sin are just being silly, and misinterpreting the Torah (which is the real sin.)

PLEASE!!!  Stop worrying about how to pronounce the name of God; stop worrying about when you are supposed to thank God (I can tell you absolutely that God will never, ever be upset with you when you thank him for his blessings and provisions); stop worrying about ancient Hebrew; stop worrying about minutia and insignificant details. What you should be worrying about, if you must worry about something, is being led off the path of true faith in God. Too much emphasis on detail and performance is going to lead you into a hole, and when you make it necessary for others they will fall into that hole, with you. God is compassionate and understanding, God is looking for faithful obedience and not proper grammar or pronunciation, God wants you to obey him with a contrite and humble heart, not puffed up pride from the study of ancient scrolls and a Gnostic attitude towards salvation.

We do not need to understand God or even understand his word to be saved- we only need to be like little children, obeying as best we can out of love for our Father. Faithful obedience to Torah is an act of love, a response of thankfulness and trust that God knows what is best for us.

I am not saying be totally ignorant, but instead read the Torah, ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide your understanding, and don’t get all tied up in minutia and details. Yeshua told us to love God and love each other is all we need to do.

I believe that studying the Bible is a wonderful thing, and should be a life-long activity. But- when it becomes more important to do every little thing, know every little detail, study every ancient manuscript and tell others they must do what you think is right otherwise they are in sin, you have gone too far. Once you place “doing because it says to” over “doing out of faithful desire to please”, you are legalistic.

I can’t speak for God, but I am pretty sure that so long as what we do, we do to please him and try to be in obedience, he will be pleased.

Was I Saved Before I Knew About the Torah?

A wonderful movement in Christianity that is gaining momentum is the Hebrew Roots movement. Basically, this is made up of Christians (mostly Gentiles) who are discovering the roots of their faith, the “real” Jesus (Yeshua) and the truth that the Torah has not been done away with, but is still valid for them, and all who accept the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the Messiah God promised to all, Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah.

But some of the wrong attitudes inherent in “Constantine Christianity” are being seen in this new movement.

God’s word is the same for everyone

Here I am, sitting at home, writing in my blog and wondering how much longer I will be able to go before the caffeine (actually, lack of caffeine) headache starts to hit. Last night began Yom Kippur, and we had a Kol Nidre (Hebrew for “All oaths”) service. Despite technical issues, it went well. Normally there would be prayer services all day, which makes the time go by faster, but not this year. Maybe, if we grow more and get enough people who want to celebrate this day in prayer, we can hold the evening and all day services, as well.

I was talking with someone last night who was drinking something from a cup as we talked, and this person has been a Believer and Hebraic Roots Christian (the other side of the Messianic Jew coin) for a long time. Yet, here he is, drinking in front of me knowing that I am fasting.

He was telling me of plans for a break-fast together at the house of one of the people who has a home fellowship meeting every Wednesday, and they usually bring food and eat at around 1830 or so. Of course, Donna and I were invited but we have our own traditional break-fast that we have done for nearly 20 years and have no desire at all to stop doing: it’s called the Outback Steak House!

Anyway, back to the story: so, I tell him that it would be too early to eat since the sunset isn’t until around 1930, and you wanna know what he accused me of being? He accused me of being “legalistic”! He has no idea what an insult that is, and no idea of what he was talking about, either. Legalism, as Shaul (Paul) used it in the letter to the Galatians, means to follow the Torah only as a means to attain salvation; in other words, we do what God says so we can be saved. I don’t do what God says to be saved- I do it because God said to do it. God didn’t say to do it half-way, or in whichever way is easiest for us, or whichever way we want to. God said this is what you are to do, and this is how you are to do it. Period.

I am not really mad at this person for the sin he accused me of. He needs to re-read the word of God, and include those sentences that come after what he wants to believe. Such as when, in Acts 15, the Elders told the newly-converting Gentiles that they are expected to do 4 things. That was not the end or entirety of their expectations. The letter sent to the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism- if you followed Yeshua that is what you were doing- said that they need to immediately stop eating blood, stop eating anything strangled, stop eating anything devoted to an idol, and to stop fornicating. But that wasn’t the end of it-there was more. Most Christians like to think (or have been taught) it stopped there, and that all the other commandments in the Torah were left up to the individual Gentile to take it or leave it. Not true.

As Paul Harvey would have said, “And now for the rest of the story…”. These four commandments, so to speak, were to be immediately adhered to by new converts, but all the rest of the Torah was not thrown out- the next sentence says that these new converts will be hearing the laws of Moses in the synagogue every Shabbat. Why did they say that, if the Mosaic law (Torah) wasn’t important? They said that because the point is that these 4 restrictions are just the start, not the end, of the process these new Believers would be going through. These 4 restrictions are what the Elders felt could be reasonably expected from Gentiles who have spent their entire lifetime without any restrictions. To throw the full weight of the Torah on them, all at once, would be too much to expect of anyone. Even the Jews, who were expected to fulfill every command of Torah and who had been raised from infancy with those restrictions, even they still couldn’t obey them completely! To throw them all, all at once, on the Gentiles was unreasonable, and would only result in creating a stumbling block in their path to salvation.

That’s why I say we all need to read the next sentence. The Elders clearly expected that these converts would now be leading a Jewish lifestyle, and going to Synagogue every Shabbat where they would hear the words of God and learn the Torah. And, as such, it was expected that they would, eventually, be able to take on the fullness of the Torah.

The statement made to me by my brother last night, which was that Jews are expected to honor the entire Torah but Gentiles don’t have to, is ridiculous. It is nearly blasphemous, accusing God of playing favorites, and announcing that what God said is required (of those that follow Him) is not true for all people. Basically, he called God a liar.

GOD HAS NO RELIGION!  He has Torah. He gave the Torah to the Jewish people, His chosen people, who are chosen to bring the Torah to the world. There cannot be any discussion or argument against that; at least not if  you read the bible, either Old or New Covenant, and read all the sentences. And what I mean is that you don’t just read what you want, pull something from here and something from there: the entire bible is valid, from the first line in Genesis to the last sentence in Revelations. And there is nothing in the New Covenant that is new- and there is nothing anywhere that says some have to do what God says and others don’t- and there is nothing Yeshua (Jesus) said that goes against Torah- and there is nothing Shaul (Paul) said that goes against Torah.  There is nothing, anywhere, in the entire bible that says all laws are for Jews and only some are for Christians.

God is very clear that anyone who sojourns with His people, meaning anyone who wants to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and call themself one of God’s chosen, has the same rights and privileges as a natural-born Jew. That goes both ways- if you have the same rights and privileges, you are also subject to the same laws and commandments. You can’t have your Kugel and eat it, too.  If you believe in God, if you profess that you are saved because you have accepted Yeshua/Jesus as your Messiah and Savior, then you MUST honor His word and worship Him as He said to.

And how we do that is in the Torah.

When Yeshua died for our sins, it did not release us from obeying God’s word. I am spending today, this very moment, fasting and praying for forgiveness NOT because Yeshua’s sacrifice doesn’t cover me, but because I am still a sinner, and because God commanded that this day, the tenth day of Tishri, is a day to be devoted to asking for forgiveness. The fact that Yeshua has covered my sins doesn’t mean I don’t ever have to ask to be forgiven anymore.

Think about it: if you don’t ask for forgiveness of a sin, that means you don’t really feel any remorse, and if you feel no remorse, then you can’t be repentant. Yeshua’s sacrificial death will not save a sinner who is unrepentant.

I fast this day because God said to, and that means the entire day, sunset to sunset, as God decreed it should be done. That’s not legalism, my friends, that is called worship! That is called devotion! That is called demonstrating my love for God by being obedient!

My friends, my brothers and sisters out there somewhere, reading this now- I pray that the truth of God’s complete plan of salvation is fully revealed to you. I pray that the forgiveness provided by Yeshua’s sacrifice, which is the ultimate demonstration of God’s willingness and desire to forgive you when you do T’shuvah (repentance), is not diluted and perverted into some form of license to ignore Torah.

Thanks to Yeshua, I will not go to hell if I eat ham, and with or without Yeshua, I will not go to heaven just because I don’t eat ham. However, if I chose to obey the laws of Kashrut in Leviticus 11, I will demonstrate my desire to please God, to obey Him, and I will earn blessings for obedience.

Obedience brings blessings- it is the promise of God (Deuteronomy 28)-do you have so many blessings that you don’t want any more?

Do you feel that you don’t need to ask for forgiveness? Have you lead a totally sinless life since you accepted Yeshua? Do you think that just because Yeshua died for your sins you don’t have to stop sinning? What is a sin? Isn’t it disobeying God? If God said, “This is what you are to do”, and you refuse to do it, for whatever reason, isn’t that a sin?

If you think that because you are a Gentile you don’t have to follow the Torah, you are wrong. Sorry, don’t mean to burst your “Buffet Believer Bubble” that you can obey what you want and ignore the rest. But, the truth is that everyone, whether or not they accept God or Yeshua, EVERYONE is required by God to do what He says to do. That is the truth. If you doubt me or disagree with me, that’s your right- God gave us all free will to decide for ourselves. It is not just your right, it is your choice, your decision, and whether or not you make it because of what you believe the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has told you, or what your religious leader has told you, or just simply what you would rather believe because you want to- it is your choice.

And when you come before the Lord, God, Almighty- and we all will come before Him – you will be held accountable for whatever choice you have made.

That is why I pray you make the right choice: the choice that is right in God’s eyes.

May God bless you all with peace, joy, wisdom and discernment.

And may you have an easy fast.