Category Archives: Am I on the path?

Understanding The Law – What Does It Mean Today?

Today’s teaching is longer than most, but it is important. I encourage you to read it all the way through and truly reflect on it in prayer. It may challenge some of what you have accepted. Test it against the scripture. Ask YHWH to lead you.

There is much confusion about what the law means to Christians today. Many teachers of Christianity say that the law (and essentially all the instructions of the Old Testament) no longer apply now that Yeshua has come, died for us, and been resurrected. They proclaim that we are covered in grace and no longer in “bondage” to the law. In order to support this case, people point to passages from Acts and the letters of Paul, but ignore or disregard the Old Testament, the earthly ministry of Yeshua, and many other writings of Paul where he is clearly teaching that we should uphold the law. Further, they must ignore that Paul encourages others to follow his example, which is modeled after the example of Yeshua and includes adherence to the law. It can be confusing for sure and at times Paul seems on the surface to contradict himself.

If we do a quick check, we realize quickly that those teaching against the law are actually inconsistent. They are saying the law is null and void but still teaching that we should follow parts of the law and discard others. Do not murder? Do not covet? Do not have idols? Do not commit adultery? These are all part of the law of YHWH. So, too, is tithing… recognizing the law goes beyond the 10 commandments. We already pick and choose which elements to follow and which we will not. We should take greater care to challenge and understand what scripture says about which we should still be following vs. trusting the traditions of men taught widely in churches without testing against holy scripture.

People were similarly confused in in the early church. So much so that Peter even warned us about it .

[2 Peter 3:15-18]

15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

17 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

We should not simply dismiss the seeming contradictions and pick the scripture that feel most comfortable to follow. Instead, each of us should evaluate and seek to understand this complex and foundational issue. But whom should we trust? The Christian majority? Scholars and teachers?  A particular respected or popular teacher? or the word of God in the Bible, which would include the example Yeshua set in His earthly ministry?

The answer, I hope is fairly straightforward… we should trust in the word of God, in Yeshua, rather than the doctrine of men. It is fine to listen to the teachings of scholars and pastors, but we must test everything ourselves against scripture. This can take time and be hard, but that is no excuse just to take someone else’s word for it. That demonstrates a lack of diligence or lack of recognition in the importance of following Yeshua and certainly does not show a love for God and that He is a priority in our lives. (Yes, you should test what I teach as well, comparing it to the scriptures. Do not take my word for it, but rather seek to understand the methodology and truth revealed from studying scripture.)

First, let’s deal with the belief that the majority can not be wrong. If you claim to be Christian, then you already accept that premise to be false. The majority of the world rejects Yeshua as God and savior. Well then… perhaps it is the majority of God’s people, backed by scholars and teachers, that can not be wrong? Again, that would be contradictory to the foundation of Christianity itself. The most respected teachers and scholars of the law, with centuries of tradition on their side, were the Pharisees and Sadducees at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They persecuted and killed Yeshua, denying that He was God. Thus, as Christians we once again already believe that the religious majority of God’s people along with the  scholars and teachers (complete with centuries of tradition) were wrong. Perhaps then we believe that the Christian majority after the death of Christ can not be wrong? Once again, we can look to the Protestant Reformation as an example of true believers fighting against the wrong teaching and doctrine of the church. We have much to be thankful for that now we have God’s word available for all of us to read plainly in our own language instead of hidden away behind closed doors, written in Latin, and kept from the people. How can we possibly hope to know and follow God’s instruction fully if we are not allowed access to His word except a few minutes a week and that even only told to us through another person based on what they choose to share? In fact, God commanded us to study and know His word and to use it as test to identify false teachers. This is a command we can only do properly if we have access to His word.

[Deuteronomy 13:1-5] 13 [a]“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.

No teacher in all the history of God’s people is infallible with the notable exception of Yeshua. Yeshua, in fact, as recorded in the book of John was the very word of God made flesh.

[John 1:1-18] In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created,[aand his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

God sent a man, John the Baptist,[c] to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human[d] and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.[e] And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.[f] 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,[g] is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Yeshua is in fact eternal and is the word of God made flesh to dwell among us. So we should pay special attention to what He teaches about the law, and how he acts with regards to the law. In this we will find truth in regards to the law.  Let us then explore what God’s word says about the law. Is it bondage? Has it changed with the death and resurrection of Yeshua?

In fact, Yeshua is incredibly clear… He specifically warns us not to misunderstand why He came and to obey God’s law (not to ignore them) and teach them to others. He clearly indicates that some of the law has been accomplished or fulfilled in Him, and some has not. It is important for us to study and learn which is which and not just assume everything the mainstream Christian churches teach today is accurate and consistent with the Biblical text or the example of Yeshua.

[Matthew 5:17-19] 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yeshua further clarifies the subject of the law by clearly stating it is not bondage but rather God’s instructions on how to love God and love one another.

[Matthew 22:35-40] 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on loving God and loving one another. That does not sound like bondage at all! Why would God come as Jesus to die to set us free from the law… from loving God and loving others? This makes no sense. (You can read more about what God’s word says about the law throughout the Old Testament, such as Psalm 119.)

Yeshua went on to instruct his disciples in the great commission to teach others to observe ALL that He commanded them. This includes the teachings of the Old Testament including the law, which Yeshua taught and observed without fail.  Please note that this is after Yeshua died and was risen! Yeshua did not cancel the law, but rather confirmed its importance.

[Matthew 28:19-20]  19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Clearly, we must reconsider the misconception that Yeshua came to “set us free from the law”.

This is confirmed in several other scriptures in Old and New Testament. I have included but a few.

[Deuteronomy 11:26-28] 26 “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! 27 You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 28 But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.

[Psalm 19:7-13] The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

[1 John 2:3-6] And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

[1John 5:2-3]  We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

[James 1:25] 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Paul encourages those in Corinth to follow His example, which was modeled after Yeshua. Both Yeshua and Paul followed the law. Would it then make sense that Paul teaches to disregard the law? In fact, Paul teaches explicitly the importance of following the law! Keep in mind that when he writes 2 Timothy 3:16-17 there is not yet a New Testament. He must, therefore, be referring to the Old Testament.  Is he contradicting himself with regards to how he teaches about God’s law? A detailed study of context in Paul’s letter is necessary to understand properly what Paul is teaching.

[1 Corinthians 11:1And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.

[Romans 3:31] 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

[Romans 7:7] Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”[c]

[Romans 7:12] 12 But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.

[2 Timothy 3:16-17] 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

One of the most referenced scriptures by those who say we are no longer under the Mosaic law is Romans 6:14. However, careful study of context shows that Paul is not referring to Mosaic law, but rather what he refers to as the law of sin and death, as clarified in Romans 8:1-2.

[Romans 6:14] 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

[Romans 8:1-2] Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

To study more deeply about what Paul really taught about the law, we encourage you to visit 119Ministries.com and watch their video series on the “Pauline Paradox”.

Yeshua did not come to set us free from the law. The law is perfect. The laws sets us free. The law is God’s instruction on how to love Him and one another. Why would He want to set us free from this?

Yeshua came to set us free from the curse we receive when we fail to live up to God’s law perfectly. All of us fall short of perfectly executing God’s law. Jesus came to take our punishment so that we could be redeemed… be forgiven.

[John 3:16-21] 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[g] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[h]

So we know that we do not need to follow the law to be saved… to find salvation. Salvation comes through Yeshua alone by grace, through faith and not by works. So Yeshua now holds in our place the judgment and condemnation for our failures to properly follow the law. He has paid the price on our behalf.

To learn more  about why Yeshua came to live among us, died, was buried and rose again… please read our teaching about The Message of The Cross.

So why then should we still follow the law?

We follow the law not to achieve salvation, but because we are saved! We follow the law because God commanded it and because it was His instruction for how to love God and love one another. We follow the law to show God we love Him. The law is not then cancelled or no longer valid, but rather it serves us still as God’s guide and instruction for our lives. We do well to study carefully and ask God’s help to guide us in understanding what elements of the law have been fulfilled in Yeshua’s death and resurrection and which have not. The entire Bible is relevant and applicable to our lives today as we seek to know, love, and serve God.

To learn more:

Be Vigilant To Avoid False Prophets

Make no mistake, there were and clearly still are false prophets. They corrupt the teaching and instruction of YHWH and mix and mingle it with what is unholy. They lead people astray from YHWH’s path, especially those that do not study the Bible to know what it tells us and to test what others say YHWH wants. By definition, a false prophet is representing themselves in some way like they are bringing truth from the LORD. They do not announce that they are teaching things against YHWH. They slowly mislead people, bit by bit, away from the path YHWH has for us.

We must be intentional. We must seek YHWH. Follow the example of Yeshua to be sure. Study and pray and walk out the life according to YHWH’s word, which we have now in the form of Bibles. Do not be idle or lazy or just take the word of men. Test everything, even that which you have been taught by churches and your family against what God’s word actually says. Study it. Pray about it.

Think about it this way. If I love my wife, do I simply listen to what others say about what she values and wants? or do I listen to her words directly? Which is the better source? If someone tells me something which does not sound right, I would test it with her and what she has told me in the past. I would trust her input over that of others if there is a conflict. If I have a point of confusion, I would seek her out to clarify, not the other person. In this way, we should also pursue the LORD.

2 Peter 2

The Rise of False Prophets

      1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

      4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8(for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.

      17These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Instructions for Godly Living, Not For the Faint of Heart

We are continuing in 1 Peter 3 after he writes about servants honoring and obeying their masters in chapter 2, even if they are unreasonable masters. He writes about how Christ is our example in how we react to the way in which others treat us. Then we pick up in chapter 3 and continue into some important and deep guidelines for how we are to live in a godly way.

1 Peter 3

Godly Living

      1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

      7You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

      8To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

10For,
“THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS,
MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.

      11“HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;
HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.

      12“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER,
BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”

      13Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Sadly, our culture continues to depart from godly virtuous living. Women are taught they should not obey their husbands, or only if the husbands deserve it. Peter paints a very different picture and with a purpose that goes well beyond ego or pride or hurt feelings that one may struggle with while submitting… Peter points directly to how this behavior may win souls for Christ.

Similarly, husbands are guided to dwell with understanding with their wives, not to dismiss them and run roughshod over them.

All together we are to be kind and humble and, when necessary, suffer for doing what is right. We are not to trade insult for insult, but rather return blessing.

Prayerfully reflect over this guidance and how to apply it in your life today. Let our lives preach the gospel to our spouses and to the world.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

 

Honor Authority

Peter provides some challenging material to think through about honoring secular authority.

1 Peter 2:13-20

Honor Authority

      13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

      18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

On the surface, this seems reasonable. Generally speaking it seems right to respect and honor authority. Where this gets tricky is where we are told to honor authority even if they are unreasonable. It seems the main thrust is that you are more likely to bring honor to YHWH and to bring others to him by honoring authority. This is not to be taken to mean that ungodly authority can instruct you to rebel against the ways of YHWH and you just say you are honoring authority for even as you are subject to earthly authority, you are more so subject to the authority of the creator. Consider Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego. Consider the disciples and Yeshua himself as they confronted authority in the Pharisees while preaching and teaching. There are boundaries and we are accountable first to our Creator.

However, we are warned not to let our freedom be a covering for evil, but to let our freedom lead us to be bondservants of the LORD, choosing willfully to serve him.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Draw Near To YHWH And Our Fellow Man

James identifies a really targeted list of behaviors and attitudes that help us draw nearer to YHWH and our fellow man. We should carefully read through them and prayerfully reflect, asking YHWH to open our eyes to how they apply in our lives.

James 4

Things to Avoid

      1What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

      11Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

      13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

There is a lot in this list. We should not skip any of it, but I will pull out a few items that may often be misunderstood. Where he speaks about not being a friend to the world, the context is an adulteress. Where he speaks about turning joy into mourning, he is talking about us as sinners no longer finding joy but rather mourning in our sinful behavior and attitudes so we may become humble before YHWH and repent. Where he speaks of “judging”, let us first recognize that he is recognizing the law as the righteous standard of conduct we should follow, even after Yeshua was raised from the dead. He further is emphasizing that we should focus more on obeying the law ourselves and less on judging how others are doing about it. That said, we know from elsewhere in scripture we are to discern or judge right from wrong so we may reject what is bad and embrace what is good. Thus I think his emphasis here is on those who rather than follow the law themselves, just gossip and speak against others who follow it imperfectly.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

Do not be distracted by those that say we are saved by faith, and thus works have no value or significance… they are unnecessary. What a selfish view to think that works are only for your own purpose to get into heaven. James makes a strong case for us to consider that our faith, if genuine, leads us to do good works, to live the way Yeshua tells us. We do good works because we serve Yeshua, not to be saved. One can readily ask, “If you have not works evident in your life, are you really submitted to Yeshua? Are you really saved?”

James 2:14-26

Faith and Works

      14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

      18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Test Christian “Norms” Against the Biblical Text

Much of what is taught in churches today has drifted far from the early church and the followers of Christ… from those like Paul and the written record we have in the Bible. I think in many cases, it is hard for us to accept it because so many of us just accept what we are told by others around us, by our parents, by people at the local church. How often do we really test it against what is actually written in the Bible?

2 Thessalonians 3

Exhortation

      1Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

      6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

      14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

      16Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

      17I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Reflect prayerfully on the following, some of which may seem contradictory to what many Christians teach or how they act.

  • We are not to hang out with others who lead an unruly life, even if they claim to be Christian and come to the same church we do.
  • Work hard to support yourself and your family. Seek not to be a burden on anyone. Do not take or demand handouts on a recurring basis if you don’t need them, even if you could justifiably ask for them.
  • Do not continually support and feed those who refuse to work for themselves. This does not mean those who can not work, but those who choose not to work. Let them eat their own bread. While this may seem offensive to some, think about it. If we screen out the lazy who could support themselves, we will have more to help those who really need it and can not help themselves. Charity is not intended to support sloth.
  •  Shame has a place. It is useful and appropriate at times for someone to be or feel shamed when they are doing something wrong. Our world tries to teach that no one should be “shamed”. This is false. Shame can help lead to repentance. We are to separate ourselves from those who claim to be Christian but live as the pagans do. They are not enemies, but they are to be admonished. This includes pastors and churches teaching false doctrine which is not consistent with the Bible.

These are not my opinions… these are the words of Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit and included in the Bible for our reference from YHWH Himself.  They are intended both to protect us from drifting away from Him and also to help encourage others to avoid drifting away from Him to be more like the culture around them. These instructions lead to helping the body of Christ shine as a light to others, different from the world around them and lead to glorifying God. We never glorify God by simply adopting the ways of the pagan culture around us and blending in.

As we close, spend time praying and reflecting on the following:

  • Pray that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
  • The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one if you seek Him and submit to Him.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Saved By Mercy, How Now Should We Live?

We are saved by the mercy of YHWH. We are saved by grace, through faith and that in Yeshua as Messiah. It is a gift and not earned.

Ephesians 2:8

8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

We too were (or still are) foolish and disobedient in our lives to Yeshua. Let us then be peaceable and gentle toward others who are struggling. Let us show consideration toward men as they journey from sinners to saved by grace and beyond in the maturing of their  relationship with the Father.

Let us also recognize, however, that our lives before YHWH should be more than an alter call asking Yeshua into our heart. If we are genuinely turning away from our sin and submitting to Yeshua as Lord, then our lives, demonstrated by behaviors and attitudes, should begin to change and continue to change as we continue to mature in our understanding of and relationship with YHWH.

What might that look like? Let’s take a look at one view presented in Titus.

Titus 3:1-11

Godly Living

     1Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

How Are We To Behave?

The entire Bible is a guide for us to help us lead our lives in proper relationship with our heavenly Father. In his letter to Titus, Paul takes time to instruct on the way in which older and younger men and women should behave. This is not a comprehensive list of everything we should do, but it is a good checklist at least on some of our attitudes and behaviors toward YHWH and toward one another.

Titus 2

Duties of the Older and Younger

     1But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

      3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

      6Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

      9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

      11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

      15These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The Futility of Life Without YHWH

Reading a chapter at a time from Ecclesiastes can lose some of the focus and clarity compared to reading the whole book start to finish. The context is important. A wise man, likely Solomon, reflects on his life and observations toward the end of his life. He shares this wisdom. The key conclusion is found in chapter 12. It helps keep the rest of the book in context for us.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

 13The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

It is difficult to find any true and lasting significance in life without consideration of our Creator and our relationship with him. With that in mind, let’s explore chapter 6.

Ecclesiastes 6

The Futility of Life

     1There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men— 2a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires; yet God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction. 3If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, 4for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5“It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. 6“Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things—do not all go to one place?”

      7All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. 8For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living? 9What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind.

      10Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is; for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is. 11For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man? 12For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.