Why Christianity Has Ignored the Torah

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Today I am doing pretty much an opinion piece but the historical references are accurate.

I have two theories about why Christianity, in general, has ignored the Torah. In truth, most of the Tanakh is ignored, but the Torah, which has been misidentified as “the Law”, is taught to have been done away with by Yeshua’s sacrifice. As such, Christianity has been focused on love and forgiveness, and has marketed salvation through the Blood of Christ as a “Come as you are” party, after which you can “stay as you are.”  

First, we must remember that in First Century Jerusalem there were two religions: Judaism and Roman paganism. When a Gentile repented of their pagan ways and accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, they were converting to Judaism- there was nothing else. When a Jew accepted that Yeshua was the Messiah, he didn’t convert to anything because Yeshua was (and still is) Jewish and taught from the Tanakh, which included the Torah. So, Jews were still Jews and Gentiles were converting to Judaism.

The Elders in Jerusalem gave the new Gentile Believers some time to wean their way (so to speak) off of paganism and into this very different lifestyle by only having 4 absolutely “You can’t do this anymore” items on the list of immediate changes they must make (see Acts 15:19-21.) Soon, there were more Gentiles accepting Yeshua than Jews, and the distance between a Jewish lifestyle and the changes Gentiles had to make was growing further and further apart.

To add to the problem, Rome was persecuting the Jewish population because they were rebelling against Roman rule. This was not a religious persecution, mind you- it was a political one. To the converting Gentiles, though, it didn’t matter- the closer they were associated with Jews, the more under Roman persecution they came. Let’s not forget that the power elite in Judea also was persecuting this new sect of Judaism(it isn’t Christianity yet) because the teachings of Yeshua eroded the power base of the Pharisees, which was a performance-based salvation through which they could control the people by use of traditions they created.

By the end of the 1st Century leading into the 2nd Century, the majority of Believers were Gentiles who changed the rules of worship. The Sabbath was changed to Sunday and Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Judaism and (now called) Christianity were unable to exist together. At this time we see most of the commandments in the Torah being ignored and the (mostly) Gentile Believers no longer had anything to do with Judaism.

NOTE: this back-fired on the Christians because to the Roman government, what was even worse than rebelling was forming a new religion. The Jewish persecution stopped sometime around the time of the first Jewish-Rome wars (60-90 C.E.)  when Rome had killed thousands of Jews and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. The next devastation of the Jewish population was about 60 years later during the Bar Kochba Rebellion, and by then Christians only had to worry about Rome.

The second reason, in my opinion, that Christianity ignored the Torah is because of a terrible misunderstanding of the “Great Commission”, which is considered a commandment by Yeshua to go out and make disciples of everyone in the world. This is found in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19.

I call it a terrible misinterpretation because it has been used as the justification for slaughtering thousands upon thousands of Jews and Muslims over the centuries (the Crusades and the Inquisition are the best-known means of performing what can only be called a “religious genocide”, but Nazi Germany and the Russian Pogroms are an indirect result of this.) The idea of going throughout the world and spreading the Good News was meant to be a benevolent ministry, not a military incursion where people are forced to convert or die. Any condemnation for rejecting God and/or Yeshua was to be administered by God, not people.

At some point, people realized that instead of the threat of death, to make the “Great Commission” successful market it as a “Once saved, always saved” program, and to sell the idea that “God loves you just as you are, ask forgiveness in his name and go to heaven.” Now that is an easy sell!

“Wow! All I have to do is proclaim Jesus is the Messiah, I am sorry I have sinned, please forgive me in Jesus’s name, Amen…and that’s all? Really? Just repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I will be guaranteed a place in heaven forever? Where do I sign?”

See what I mean? Now, if I came to you and said you need to repent, accept Yeshua as your Messiah and follow the 613 commandments in the Torah, you might want to think about it for a while. Like, maybe, for the rest of your life think about it! It’s not an easy thing to just jump into a completely different lifestyle. There is a Shabbat where you aren’t supposed to buy or sell anything, you aren’t allowed to work on many festival days during the year, and you can’t eat any pork or shellfish. You can’t fornicate, you can’t lie, and you have to do this for the rest of your life! In fact, even after you have repented, if you return to your old ways of sin you will lose the salvation that you were given.

See what I mean? If I am trying to convert people from a gluttonous, sexually free and hedonistic religion to one of moderation, sexual purity and servitude to others, I will not be very successful. However, if I say just proclaim faith in Jesus, ask forgiveness and you are set for eternity, I will get many more people to join the club.

Following the Torah is being made holy, which means you are separated from the world and that results in the world not accepting you. People, human beings, want to be accepted. We are a social animal, and so the true religion that God gave to the Jewish people to bring to the world is not going to be a popular choice. Christianity, especially after Constantine, was and still is being sold as something very simple to change to.

Throughout history, Jews have not encouraged anyone to convert to Judaism- but Christianity is all about converting, and the easier it is to convert without really changing your current lifestyle, the more converts you will get.

So there you have it! Christianity has rejected the Torah because:

  1. they didn’t want to be part of the persecution of Jews by Rome; and more recently
  2. it makes it easier to get converts.

Let me again state that these theories are my own ideas. I expect that most Christians raised and accepting typical Christian dogma will vehemently disagree with me, and most Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots Christians will agree with me, or at least accept that it is possible things happened this way.

 

Religion is Why People Don’t Believe in God

You heard me correctly. Religion, which is defined by Webster as “An organized system of beliefs, rites and celebrations centered on a supernatural being power;” should be the means by which people come to trust and believe in God. And when religion does what it is supposed to do, i.e. bring people into a proper relationship with God through observance to His commandments and performance of the rites He requires, it works as it should.

So why do I say religion is the reason people reject God? Because we see, every day, and we hear, from many people, how their upbringing in a religion (I include all religions) has turned them off to God. In many cases, they reject not just the religion, but the power behind the religion, which they wrongly assume to be God.

That is where religion fails those who follow it, and also fails to serve God’s plan of salvation, and it happens in every religion because God has no religion! God gave us His rules for living, for worship and for interpersonal relationships. He told us how to work with each other, how to love and care for each other, and how to worship Him. He even sent His son, Yeshua ha Maschiach, to show us exactly what He meant, and (ultimately) to pay the price for our inability to do as God told us we must. Despite that, we still have different religions in the world today, all creations of men who have wanted to worship God their own way.

Even Judaism, which was given the Torah to show everyone how God wants us to be, has changed the rules; we have created Halakha (the Way to Walk, found in the Talmud, a man-made set of rules) and now have 6 different sects of Judaism: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic.

Those people who have created different religions “sell” their religion by approaching people who are fed up with the current religion, and offer more “appealing” rites, rituals and promises. Even as far back as just after Yeshua was resurrected and ascended into the heavens, the Elders of the Messianic Community (there was no “church” in the First Century) reduced the immediate observance requirements for Gentile converts to Judaism (that is what was required when a pagan began to trust in and follow Yeshua/Jesus) to just 4 requirements (Acts 15); these were not the only expected changes in behavior but just what was needed to be done immediately after converting. When you read the entire chapter you will see that James confirmed the words of Moses would be heard by these new converts every Shabbat in the temples. That means that the requirements under the Torah were still expected to be observed, but just not all at once. This was done so that the pagans converting to a totally different religion than the one they had grown up with would not find the process so difficult that they would just give up.

And that is how all the different religions came to be- by appealing to those who found what they were doing too cumbersome, or spiritually unfulfilling. That could be the fault of the leaders, the rites that were created, or both, but it still resulted in those people rejecting the religion, and in some cases, also rejecting the god behind that religion.

I don’t need to justify that statement with surveys or formal studies because my reasoning comes from plain old common sense: when you don’t like something you are required to do, and you are offered something more attractive and enjoyable, then you go with your feelings: that’s human nature. Each new religion has taken from it’s parent and changed what needed to be done to present itself as more fulfilling, spiritually, mentally and physically. And each time a new religion is “spun-off” from the original, it changes the way they worship God and treat each other.

God, on the other hand, never changes, and therefor what He said He wants us to do never changes, either.

Finally, religion is seen as representing God, isn’t it? I mean, if I am a member of a religion, and that religion tells me I worship this way, I act this way and I believe this way, then I can only conclude that is what the god of that religion has ordered. After all, when Popes, Rabbis, Ministerial Councils- whatever religious authority is in charge- tells us these are the canon, and these are the holidays, and these are the prayers, etc. that we use when we worship God, it is not because they say ,”This is what I want you to do.”; they say it is because that is how God wants us to be.  It’s all God’s fault. So, understandably enough, when someone rejects their religion, they reject the god that religion has told them is behind all these rules and regulations. And if I go so far as to reject the validity of what a religion is telling me, obviously I must reject as valid (or existing) the god behind that religion.

I am using the small ‘g’ for God is some cases because I believe that so many religions have gone so far astray from what the true God has told us to do that their god is not the God, and as such doesn’t deserve to have the word capitalized.

Strong words… I know; strong sentiment and a truly viral accusation…I know that, too. But do you really think I am wrong when I say that religion is the reason people (end up) not believing in God?

One day, when Messiah returns and all people will do as we are told in Isaiah 45:23, then all people will be worshiping God as God said we should. There will be no more religion to confuse and cause people to reject God because there will be just the one Messiah ruling the world, and we will all know the One God and worship Him correctly, together.

Parashah Ha’azinu (Give ear) Deuteronomy 32

As we come to the final chapters of the Torah, we find Moses finishing his service to the nation of Israel (and to God) with a song,  just as he did after crossing the Red Sea, when he was just starting.

This “Song of Moses” is both a stern chastisement and a promise of hope for the future. He recounts how God has been faithful, loving and generous, forgiving over and over the sins of the child who was given everything and has shown only rebelliousness and rejection. Moses tells of the way God has taken care of Israel, and all Israel has done, in return, is reject and rebel.  Moses further tells them what will happen in the future, how their rebellion will be punished, but ends with the hope of salvation and, eventually, the promise that God’s loving presence will return once the nation returns to God.

There’s an old song called, “We Always Hurt the Ones We Love.” I often think how many times, over the millennia, have we hurt God. When I say “we”, I don’t mean Believers, or Jews, I mean “we”- i.e., everyone. Believers, non-Believers, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, New Wavers, Skin-heads, whatever and whomever; in other words, people. Just plain people, no matter what their spiritual beliefs.

All people are God’s children, and we all hurt Him when we reject Him. Really, no one likes being hated or rejected; no one likes having those they love turn their faces away as they approach. No one likes being told, “You have no place here!”; and when you think about it, that is exactly what this nation, America, has told God. We have told Him that He has no place in our schools, no place in our courts, and no place in our work areas.

If we, as simple human beings with limited capacity to love, don’t like these things, can you imagine how much it must hurt the Lord when He is the object of derision?

To be even more direct, when it comes to rejection of God and hurting Him by not obeying His laws and commandments, which He gave us so that we will live and be happy, I should be saying how I have hurt Him. Yes, we have, but I have, too. I have disobeyed, I have done wrong in His eyes, I have rejected Him, and I can’t feign ignorance because I do know better!

Through 40 years in the desert, the children of Israel had God with them always; a cloud by day and fire by night, feeding them, watching over them, yet all the time they kept ignoring Him. They took advantage of Him, they grew (as Moses says in his song) fat and kicking (to represent an over-fed ox that won’t take the yoke) and yet God still remained with them and took care of them.

I can understand how God must have felt because I have two children (from a previous life) that I visited when they were growing up and living with their mother. I drove from Philadelphia to Queens, NY every weekend at first,when they were just 6 and 1. Then, as they got older (and I got older, too) I went every other week, then eventually my daughter rejected me and, finally, after child support was over and my son was in college, he rejected me, too. This was, of course, partially my fault, but in honesty it was mostly their mother’s hatefulness that she force-fed them their whole lives, addicting them to ADHD drugs  (they were never diagnosed by a medical professional) and filling them up with half-truths and complete lies, using them as weapons to get back at me for leaving the marriage.

Despite the cruel, disrespectful and hateful things they constantly did and said to me, I still kept going back for more. Why? Because  I’m some sort of saint? No way. Because it made me feel good to be yelled at and insulted? I don’t think so. Maybe because there was a monetary reward for it? C’mon! I used to drive an extra hour or two just to avoid tolls when I first started seeing them, and when I did have some money I spent it on movies, or archery, or breakfast, or anything to get them out of the house (the mother never took them anywhere); we went to the City (New York City, of course) and visited museums, we went to parks, we went to events, etc., all of which cost money.

Never, ever did I get so much as a “Gee, thanks Dad! That was really fun!” Not even close. In fact, usually we ended up in an argument that was created long before I ever got there- they were primed and ready for me before I even picked them up.

So, nu? Why did I keep going back? I kept going back because they are my children and I love them. Even now, all I want is to be reconciled with them.

I am not telling you this for any pity or remorse- please, that is not the point. I have God, what else could I possibly need to give peacefulness to my soul? And I have forgiven them, mother and children, because that is what we are expected to do.

No, the point is that I can understand how God feels. Anyone, any of you reading this, who have ever loved and not had that love returned, knows (at least) a little bit how God feels when His loving kindness and compassion is returned with rejection.

And when we try to tell God how He is supposed to feel, such as people who say, “Oh, that’s OK because God will forgive me” or “It isn’t that important- God didn’t really mean that”  or even worse, “I don’t really believe in God: it’s all just a made-up story”, I can only imagine how much God wants to just shake them up a little; maybe throw some lightening, drop a fireball or two, possibly split the earth under their feet. You know, just a little wake-up call to let them know, “Hey- I am here, and I AM!”

But that’s not His style, and I can say that because He has shown us His ways throughout the Tanach. Yes, He has thrown fire now and then, and He has shown His majesty and power through miraculous events, but overall He has let others, humans, perform the work in order to have His plans come to fruition.

There are so many ways we can accept that God exists, everyday miracles we see all around us, but we refuse to accept the truth of His existence, and thereby, reject Him. That is what Moshe (Moses) is telling the Israelites in his song. And he calls heaven and earth as witnesses.

God is here; He always has been here, is here this very instant, and He will be here always. Here- just within reach, always reaching out to you, always wanting to be in communion with you, always willing to forgive you when you do T’shuvah (repent), always loving you with a love that is so complete and overwhelming that you can never fully grasp the depth of it.

That is what Moses is telling the people, and that is the hope we have, each of us, every day. God is not there- He is here! He has never left, and He will always be close enough to touch.

All we have to do is reach out.

God is not my Co-pilot

People from my generation may remember the title of this blog comes from a book (made into a movie) about a WWII pilot. The saying and idea that God is our co-pilot has been picked up and used to show how God influences our life and is with us.

But God isn’t a co-pilot.

Technically, the co-pilot is the second in command of the aircraft, junior to the Captain. Although he has the same skills and training, the Captain is (usually) the more experienced.

I don’t think God is ‘junior’ to anyone. And when we put God in the job of co-pilot, we are taking away His authority and replacing it with our own.

Actually, I think God is the Navigator. Although the Navigator is an NFO (Non Flight Officer), he is , in his own rights (or hers), the one who directs the plane.

The Navigator is the one responsible for making sure the flight path is known and that the plane stays on course, and the Captain and Co-Pilot follow the directions of the Navigator. Even though the Captain is the one driving the plane, the Navigator is the one who tells him where it goes.

That sounds more like how God influences our lives.

God knows what is best for us and He can see where we need to go; He directs us through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) so that we stay on course. When we ignore His directions, we get lost. That is why so many people, both saved and unsaved, are flying at hundreds of miles per hour, making distance but not getting where they need to be. And some are not even flying a parallel course to salvation, but are going in the opposite direction. They are lost and getting farther and farther from their God-given target.

We all want to feel like we are in charge -it is almost a part of the human psyche to want to be the one giving the orders. It’s my choice, it’s my life, it’s my decision and I have a right to do what I want to do. Yes, you do have that right. God gave each of us Free Will so that we can make our own decisions.

He is hoping that we make the right ones, the most important (I think) being that it may be my life, but God gave it to me and He never really gave me full title to it. It is His to give and His to take away.

As Job said when he lost everything in the world (or, should I say, everything of the world) that meant anything to him, all within the span of a few minutes:

The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Everything that there is, ever has been or ever shall be belongs to God. We may be given many wonderful blessings, but what we have is still His- He has made us governors, managers and tenders of His creation, but He has not given it to us as a permanent possession. Even the land, which is promised to us as an inheritance, was given to us from others, and God clearly and unabashedly warns us that if we do not treat the land with respect and keep it free of sin (specifically the sins of the prior owners) then we, too, will be ejected. We read this warning in Deuteronomy, in Leviticus, in Isaiah, in 2 Chronicles- throughout the Tanakh we are told, over and over, that the former occupants are being ejected because of the sins they polluted the land with, and that if we also turn from God’s commandments and pollute the land with those same sins, we will be ejected, too.

And that is exactly what happened.

We may be driving the plane, but we need to listen to our Navigator- he is really the one getting the plane where it needs to go. He has the maps, he knows the way, and he can see how far off course we are getting. We are in control of the plane, no doubt, but if we don’t listen to our Navigator we will never get to the landing field; we will fly naively thinking we are really going somewhere, but when we run out of fuel we will crash and burn.

Especially burn.

Listen to your Navigator, respectfully obey His directions, and keep on the life course that God has given you. We all get to do what we want to do, and when we want to listen to our Navigator we will fly sure, with good weather and clear skies. Even if we do have to fly through some heavy clouds and we can’t see where we are, our Navigator knows; all we have to do is go where he tells us to go.

Letting God run your life is not giving up being in charge of it, it is simply making the decision to let God tell you which direction to take. You are still in charge of where you go. And you are also able to let someone else tell you where to go- that is the real problem we all face. Knowing which Navigator to listen to.

When you read the bible you learn who God is; when you accept Messiah Yeshua as your Savior and ask for the Holy Spirit, you will receive it; knowing who God is, accepting Yeshua and having the Ruach haKodesh is the only way you will know God’s voice from the voice of the enemy.

Then, knowing God’s voice, you will be able to pick the Navigator who will direct you to Eternal joy.

 

If you don’t believe , why get so mad?

Have you had the same experience I have had when talking to people about God who say they don’t believe in Him? I have found that they first get very edgy, and most of the time they will tell me they don’t want to talk about God, and sometimes they even get downright rude about it and verbally attack me as weak and foolish because I do believe.

Isn’t it strange? If you don’t believe in God, why be so defensive because I do? Why get stressed out and angry that someone else does believe? If I said my favorite baseball team was better than yours, you would argue for hours with all the stats and achievements of your team and it’s stars. You would argue all about how well the team works, it’s accomplishments, and maybe you would attack some of the people on my team, but mostly it’s all about why you love your team.

Yet when I tell you I believe in God, you attack me, you attack God, the bible, et.al..  But do you tell me why you don’t believe? Not a chance. The best I get is, “I just don’t believe, that’s all.”

So, again I ask, if you don’t believe, why get so hot about it?

The answer is simple and the non-believer (alleged, that is) will never admit why: it’s because, deep-down, they do believe. They are scared that God does exist, that what He says is true, that they are sinners, that what they have been told about God being the final judge and about Sheol (hell) is all true. They don’t want to go to hell, and they don’t want to change how they live, so they just stick their head in the sand and say it doesn’t exist.

Then, like someone putting ice down their back, we come along telling them about how God has shown Himself to be real and to exist through the many ways He has acted in our lives, and giving not just our testimony but the testimony of many others we have heard and seen. The truth about God is an attack against their fantasy, their protective wall that blocks out the truth of their sinfulness, lack of control, and the hopelessness of the fact that they are headed for destruction.

When you think about it, no wonder they attack us: professing our belief in God, or any reference to God that so much as implies He might exist, is a direct attack against their protective wall of lies, so it is only natural they would defend themselves by attacking us back.

These are the people living in the dark to whom we are supposed to be a light. The problem is when we start to show that light it hurts their eyes and makes them see, as the little child called out from the crowd, “But the Emperor has no clothes on!”

And they know they are the Emperor.

When we strip bare their lies and ignorance, what can they do other than attack us? In truth, we are attacking them and their beliefs  by professing our love and commitment to God.  Not that we do it on purpose, but from their point of view that’s exactly what we are doing. And so many Believers who try to minister to people don’t have the slightest idea of how to make an argument or sell anything, and they make it even harder for spiritually mature ministers to talk to these people. And yes, we are selling God. We are trying to get the world to invest in it’s own salvation when it rejects the idea that there is any need for salvation.

People only believe half of what you say, but they believe everything that they say. If you want to be a light to those in the darkness, you will never succeed by telling them how dark they are. You need to get them to tell you how dark they are. You need to get them to realize their system of beliefs, which is (basically) not to believe, is not justified. They won’t believe what you tell them so you need to get them to say it, themselves.

“How the heck can I do that?”, you may ask (I just did!): you do it by asking questions. Don’t tell them why you believe in God, ask them why they don’t. And when you get the answers, which are always (trust me, they always are) weak and unsupported by much more than “just because “,  you keep asking why. For instance:

“I know why I believe in God, would you tell me why you don’t?”

“I just don’t.”

“Then if I understand you correctly, you are saying  you don’t believe in God because you don’t want to?”

“Yes. I have the right to my opinion, don’t I?”

“Absolutely, everyone does. So, then, you don’t believe pretty much because you choose not to, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, so if you don’t believe because you choose not to, then God very well could exist, but you choose to reject that idea for yourself.”

“Yes, that’s it.”

“So you say God doesn’t exist but only because you don’t want to believe, which means you have no proof  that God doesn’t exist. I have no proof that He does, so  when it comes dowm to it, you say He doesn’t and I say He does, but neither of us can prove our point. Do you agree?”

“Yes.”

That puts us on equal footing, and the next step is to ask:

“If we both believe just because we choose to, doesn’t it make more sense to believe in something that is wonderful and has hope for the future than something that has no hope and can lead to nothing but living your whole life just to die?”

Silence.

That’s scripted, of course, and a real conversation may not take that exact course, but I hope you get the idea. We need to show that their rejection of the existence of God is not based on anything other than opinion, and opinions should be based on facts, yet there aren’t any. Just as we cannot prove, scientifically, that God does exist, they can’t prove He doesn’t. And accepting that there is a chance God does exist puts a little hole in their protective wall.

Once they admit their reason for not believing is based only on their choice not to believe, then you can offer, gently, why you do believe. One or two examples, something that made you absolutely certain God exists.

As for me, I tell how I felt His Ruach (Spirit) literally coming into my body when it happened. I had a totally physical and real-life experience. I have seen answers to prayers that are hard to explain away. I have heard the testimony of many people of miraculous events, healings, release from addictions, all very hard to explain away as just coincidence.

You can’t tell someone what they should believe, but you can tell them why you do. First, though, you have to get them to see their own reasons as weak and unsupported. And that has to be done patiently, gently and compassionately.

In the sales world, we learn that you never sell the quality of the steak: you sell the sizzle! Looking at a steak, reading the nutritional value, getting a good deal- none of that is why people buy a steak. They buy a steak because it tastes great and even more, because it sounds and smells absolutely wonderful when it is cooking. Just picture a steak on the grill, the browning of the fat as it is gently melting, the flames coming up around the edges, the aroma of the steak as it broils….

That’s what sells the steak- not how good it is, but how good it makes you feel.

God is good (all the time) and we love Him for who and what He is as much as what He has done for us. Well, maybe more for what He has done for us. That is why we need to get people who don’t believe to realize that their belief system has done absolutely nothing for them except suck out all the hope they could ever have in their life, and leave no hope for anything better after this life.

That is the selling point, that is what you need to bring them to realize: they choose to have no hope for no reason other than that’s what they choose. We choose to have hope in the resurrection and eternal joy, and if we want to believe that for no other reason that that’s what we choose to believe, then our belief that God exists is just as justified as their belief He doesn’t exist.

So the question is now, “Why would anyone choose to have no hope for anything wonderful in their life?”

If they don’t have a snappy comeback for that one, you are on your way to saving a soul.