Beginning Alignment with Heaven's Agenda
Part 1 of this teaching covered some basics of the Christian tenets of faith, within the framework of the completed works of the Cross of Christ. We will cover two of those in this segment. While everything which needed to be done to open eternity for mankind has been, that does not mean we are without some responsibility to the Kingdom of God here on Earth. We find in Luke 19 a parable which explains that slothful servants do nothing with the gift of their master but those who respect the master followed the direction to “occupy until I come”. Those who followed that directive increased the investment the master made into them. This obviously shows we have a duty to perform, but we must not do so from a works mentality, that is what paralyzed the slothful servant, but rather based upon the grace(s) given to us to prosper in the Word and spreading of the Gospel. In this segment of “The Two Faced Church” we will explore the concepts of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”, and the principle of allowing the Holy Spirit to be Holy Spirit and get everything which is man inspired out of the way:
John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Yeshua/Jesus delivered this message Himself. In fact, it was the underlying message of the preponderance of His dialog with the religious order(s) of His day. But we miss it so easily because we have lost our ability to connect with the Judaic culture of His day. Second Temple era Judaism had been inundated with rules and regulations which kept the average follower from ever being “good enough”. We mistakenly say that they followed the rigors of “the Law” and there was no grace under the Law. This simply isn't true. You see, the teachers of the day had adopted an idea which is prevalent in Christendom today; that a rabbi's word is as good as God's Word. In fact, some had even come to think of it as superseding God's Word by assuming the rabbi had gotten revelation of something in scripture and so since revelation is progressive it must be that God has shown the rabbi a better way. While revelation is indeed progressive, it must never be allowed to supersede the Written Word (we will see later that would make it greater than Christ Himself). Historically the religious establishments are not so different from those of the modern era; as a result we (also mistakenly) call this a dispensation of Grace while teaching that the time of the “Law” was predicated on strict adherence. I just don't know if actual history bears this out. Perhaps we'll look at that in Part 3. As for now, let's get back to the similarities of Second Temple(ism) to modern churchology. The words of a rabbi were considered forever binding upon his followers, so they were as irrefutable as the very Tanakh (Old Testament) itself. There are “Christian Religions” who hold the same view of their leadership. In fact, some who claim to not believe this way are as in 'bondage' to their local congregational leader as the disciples of any well known rabbi were in the Second Temple era. This is not to discredit healthy mentoring relationships, only those which carry “submission” to an unhealthy extreme which resembles servitude more than Biblical submission.
Yeshua came to point out that anything which is taught as Words from God but are the invention of man is unacceptable in the eyes of God. If you look at every discourse in which He had a confrontation with the religious leadership, it was over a point of contention He had with these rules. They are called takanot – loosely defined as laws added to the halakha (Jewish Law). The problem with takanot is that they usually changed the way the entirety of scripture was interpreted. So the Judaism that Yeshua/Jesus was born into was quite different in many ways from the First Temple Judaism which drove David to dream of a house of worship for God and motivated Solomon to build it. Before we move on, let me quickly address those who may be asking “I thought Torah was Jewish Law?”. No, Torah can be interpreted “Law”, but it is better translated as rules and even better than that as “instruction”. So Torah was teaching or instruction for the followers of God (YHVH – covered below). When a rabbinical figure said something which then became a takkanah, in order to establish some sort of civil order, it also usually changed the “instructions” for living that God had given to them by superseding what scripture said on the topic. Yeshua/Jesus did not come to do away with Torah, He came to do away with takanot. He did not come to supersede Torah but to complete it. In Matthew 5:17&18 He said:
”Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
We have to learn to understand the Judaic context of His conversations to fully grasp His mission. First, fulfillment is more like that of an Amazon order than a parts replacement on a car. When you order from Amazon and they deliver your package, the order is considered fulfilled. That is why their warehouses are called fulfillment centers. A (parts) replacement means the old is broken and a new must replace the old for the vehicle to be complete and operational. Amazon has the goods you need – so does the fulfilled covenant - Part 1 in the Old Testament and Part 2 in the New Testament, but one complete “Word/Covenant” of God. Here Yeshua/Jesus is simply saying: I came to complete the instructions; to seal the deal; to cross the t's and dot the i's and make certain that once and for all, the Father's will of redeeming mankind back to Himself is fully possible. Thus the reason the writer of Hebrews refers to the completion of the works of the Cross as a better covenant. [Of course there is the matter of freewill (better termed self-will), in accepting this offer of reconciliation, but that is a subject for another discussion.]
Is He Really the Word – Yes or No?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1&14
The Torah was a means to salvation to those who followed it. King David himself wrote over and over again in Psalm 119 about God's Word, commandments, statutes, rules, laws, directions, instructions, etc. being his salvation from sin. In fact in the KJV, verses 10-12 say:
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
David clearly draws a parallel of the statutes of God, His ways/directions (vs 3) are a path to salvation. Enabling him to live a life dedicated to God. Sounds a little like the modern church's doctrine of salvation in Christ doesn't it? How can this be? Yeshua/Jesus is the incarnate Word – John Chapter 1. He could not yet indwell them, but He was in their “hearts” (Old Testament wording for the combination of soul and spirit). There just wasn't yet any blood spilled which could wash their sin away. It wasn't until He sacrificed Himself that their sins were cleansed. We have to accept that those who followed Tanakh (which of course included Torah) (His Word and His Word alone) were believers in the very Son of God we now worship. He simply had not yet been revealed, though He had been slain before the foundation of the world – literally. That is how He in written form could be salvation to those who submitted to His written existence. I know this is controversial, but we have made such a dogmatic cesspool of religiosity and denominational theology that we have left the original meaning of scripture in the dust. We have walked away from a correct contextual understanding of who He is and what He was really saying in B'rit Hdashah (New Testament) because we chose to be disconnected from the very Jewish root of Jesse when we left the root of the people to whom He first made covenant. This is a Jewish Gospel, whether we choose to accept that or not. If we will humble ourselves and learn what the cultural relevance was to each of Yeshua/Jesus' statements, we will have a better understanding of how God wants to move now. Yes He now calls all to repentance through the blood of the completed covenant in Yeshua/Jesus. Acts 17:30 clears this up some And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (KJV)
Once we reconcile our own theology/doctrine around these simple facts (there are many more but there just isn't space to discuss them all), we will better understand the writings of Shaul (Paul) since He was trying to convey Jewish concepts in the Greek language. Imagine the difficulty of writing Judaic ideals, as they were fulfilled in Messiah, from a language which used a pictorial method of communication by translating it into that which evolved from man based philosophical and logical perspectives. That is exactly what Shaul did when he wrote the letters which were originally penned in Greek! Further, imagine trying to convey Jewish religious ideals (which are what the Hebrew language evolved around) using a language which evolved around human philosophy and logic......plus then translating all of this into various languages of the modern world! Is there any wonder how and/or why we have lost so much?
Moving on to Perfection....
To take the foundation that Christ laid (the subject of Part 1), which grew from the First Principles of the doctrine of Christ (Hebrews 6) and to move into complete alignment in operating with Heaven's current and up to date agenda for Earth (thy Kingdom come and thy Will be done....) we have to first clear the rubble that religion has left in it's wake of destruction to said doctrine of Christ and that of the first century Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:20). In order to clear the rubble, we must be able to clearly determine what is part of the original foundation and what is man made theological inventions added to that foundation. To do this we must understand the context of scripture better and we must be willing to let go of all that is not directly from God. I will not pretend to know exactly how to accomplish this in it's entirety. But I do believe if we start from the basic tenets of the faith and look into the cultural relevance of the B'rit Hadashah (New Testament) we will find the clues we need to point us in the right direction. Errors will be made; some will decide to encamp along the way by settling on some pet doctrine or group of beliefs (which si how we got in this mess to begin with); some will just be lost to the concerns of the world because their heart posture was not truly about serving God, but more about some self serving ideal. However, to those of us who stay the course, I believe we will find and operate in the same power and authority the first century church did and make the same (and greater) impact on our societies, for the Kingdom of God.
Shall we get started?
Philemon verse 6: That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.(emphasis mine)
So much of what we do, believe and accept in modern Christendom just does not line up with one simple principle found is Scripture (actually several, but we will focus on just this one here). I call it the Law of Acknowledgment, I have recently learned others call it that too. If our faith is to truly be effective, we need to establish some things. One is that faith is not even a word in Hebrew. The closest Hebrew word for “faith” is 'êmûn, and it means “established” or “trust”. We tend to make a mountain out of the word “faith” sometimes. It becomes bigger than life itself and we even make statements in the affirmative. In fact, it gets elevated so high that some find it impossible to live up to and others are crushed under the weight of it. I've heard it said “have faith in your faith”. It sounds spiritual but it really is nothing more than rhetoric when we compare it with the precepts of scripture. We are to “trust” in the LORD (YHVH in Hebrew and ancient writings/artifacts prove His name to be YeHoVaH). I don't know about you, but I find that even though trust is difficult, it seems more obtainable.
Psalms118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
NOTE: Any time you see LORD spelled in all caps, it is YHVH in the original manuscript.
The problem with trusting in our trust, or faith in our faith - is that it wavers. It can change from one day to the next or even one hour to the next! Our faith/trust is rarely mature enough that it does not get shaken by the cares of this life, the relationships we have, and the experiences we have - even with Godly testing. When depending on something which can be shaken, we have to understand that steadfast "faith" is not faith that will not ebb and flow with life's situations. It is rather a trust which chooses to trust even when it is weakened. It is a matter of choice, or acknowledgment. Did David fail? Was he still not called a "man after God's own heart"? Did Peter falter? Yet, was it not the revelation he had that Yeshua/Jesus was the Son of God that the Church has been built upon and the gates of hell have not been able to stop? We really need to stop taking single scriptures and building doctrine around them. For too long we have built doctrine from reading a single bit of scripture like
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
How many of us have heard a message (or preached one) on this passage and exposited upon the dangers of wavering faith and being doubleminded in every way because of our wavering faith? I know I have, in fact quite fervently, as a young preacher. What I did not know then was that there are multiple styles of writing in scripture and I needed to learn to recognize them to help me understand the letter of Yaakov (James) to the First Century Messianic Jewish Community. Before I could become accomplished at that, I first had to learn to look passed the numbering of Chapters and Verses. The Word is a book of letters. In fact, in many ways a book of legal exposition of which the guarantors are the Trinity. It is signed sealed and delivered in the covenant Blood of Yeshua Ha'Maschiach (Jesus the Messiah), who is our legal advocate and mediator (1 John 2:1 and Hebrews 9:15*). The writers were attempting to convey a LOT of information in short but condensed courses of training. Not unlike a modern condensed college course, you get crammed full of info in a short time and then have the rest of your life to go over it and make your analysis for application to your life. Let's get back to the idea of writing styles. In fact, let's focus precisely upon the writing style employed in this chapter of James. The easiest way to remember this style is A-B-A-B. It's easy to recognize when you read without the confusion of the verse numbers. But you can also see it with an alternating theme on two subjects. Sometimes they are related and one helps to clarify the other, but not always. Let's break the first part of James down and see how this plays out.
In this case, we are looking at writing style to further emphasize the need to learn to discern the segments of scripture within the writer's chosen style. The emphasis for the sake of this discussion is on the removal of the numbers and recognizing when a thought is being intermingled with another within the confines of the modern usage of Chapter and Verse numbers.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
It would seem this first segment is simply encouraging those who have faced "divers temptation". Which is different from the "lead us not into temptation" found in most English versions of The Lord's Prayer (or the Our Father). I say this because in the Hebrew version of Mattityahu (Matthew) we see a very different wording. [NOTE: for those not familiar, Matthew was most likely written in Hebrew first and then transliterated into Greek. Numerous copies of Matthew in Hebrew have surfaced and the oldest of them probably predate the oldest Greek manuscripts of Matthew.] In the "Hebrew Matthew" it says "lead us not into difficult tests". This is quite different than "temptation" and it prevents scripture from seemingly disagreeing with itself or a contradiction bewteen the books of Matthew and James. Especially as we go futher into our discussion on this segement of the book of James.
James 1:5-7 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
Here James is encouraging readers to be focused on a single task until the goal is met. Not to waver between two needs. The real problem is not in their knowledge of God, and this is why he sepcifically mentions the need for wisdom in this group. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge. Notice he does not say wisdom and (insert anything you wish here), or wisdom for (insert anything you wish here). This is purposeful. Clearly there is a connection between "counting it all joy" when facing temptation and their need for wisdom. It would seem, he is pointing out that wisdom, in the form of knowing how to apply their knowledge of God and scripture, will help them to not only overcome temptation, but also to not lose their joy when being tempted from many directions. He is conveying an ideal that if you keep wavering between two or more things and never settle on what you really need, you will never see it acccomplished in your life. Yes God can and does give all things to all liberally ('men' was added to the original manuscript at translation). There are too many other places in scripture which would indicate that we can faulter and still succeed. Scripture is all true or all lie; if it truly contradicts itself then it is a partial truth which is still a whole lie. It is true that the higher we go in God, the deeper we understand His Word and the closer we are in intimacy with Him the more accountable we are (Luke 12:48b). But that has everything to do with our level(s) of understanding and what God has entrusted to us, and nothing to do with basic doctrine. After all, even James says God "upbraideth not" – which according to Webster's 1828 Dictionary means He does not "reproach; or chide” - referencing this very scripture. So, if God does not bring reproach upon us, then our wavering trust is something He expects, even provides for in our relationship with Him. But we do have to learn some simple principles if we are to succeed for His Kingdom. One such principle is right here in James 1:5-7, stay focused and don't bounce back and forth between two things – or two systems of belief. Some in the Messianic Community may have been wavering between the truth and increase of their covenant with God and going back to the first half of the completed covenant only. At least as is in the context of this letter to the obviously less mature believers he was writing.
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
James takes the time to further the point of being focused in our prayer time. I separated this not because it is a change to the other of the two points, but to emphasize this is the segment of this part of James letter which many (including me) have often driven home the presumptuous point that faith cannot waver if we want anything from God. We even go so far as to assassinate the character of any would be waverers; causing any who struggle with wavering faith/trust, which has not yet reached a state of maturity, into a closet of despair or a facade of pretense. But, when having removed the verse numbers and “rightly divided" this portion of the Word, we can clearly see James is talking about a loss of focus. We cannot waver between two thoughts or two systems of belief and expect to accomplish anything. Even the false religions of today know the value of being completely invested into an ideal. Why then do we, who serve a God of Grace and Mercy think He would operate by those principles alone? Why would He knowingly create an environment which requires trust but vaporizes it when it is not mature and complete immediately upon accepting the One who brings them into the fold? Of course He doesn't and that is why James cannot be saying that if your trust in God wavers the slightest bit that you cannot get anything from God. He is trying to train believers who are obviously not mature and grounded to focus on growing in one area at a time.
After verse 8 James talks a little about the equality of all people of God and that rich or poor in this life, we are all equal to God and we all live and die. (verses 9-12). I cannot currently comment on this odd switch from A-B-A-B to a stray thought. But, I am sure with some investigation you can find someone more scholarly than I to expond on this for you.
In verses 13-15 back to a short discourse on temptation(s) – remember not the same as the “tough testing” in the “Our Father”.
Finally James ends "Chapter 1" by going back to the topic of the good gifts that God gives to those who are in Christ.
Obviously there is some value in the numbering of chapters and verses. Without them, it would have taken considerable more effort for me to be able to isolate each segment of this chapter and make it easy to follow. It was difficult enough using them. I still hold to the idea that when we are reading scripture, especially where it relates to developing our doctrine from study (theology) we must be careful to not allow the scriptures to become “soundbites”, taken out of context to the totality of scripture, or the cultural relevance of it's meaning to those to whom it was written.
Can you now find it easier to "trust in YHVH with all your heart" after seeing He does not bring reproach on those who waver? Now that you realize He gives liberally to all, does your future look brighter and less daunting? How about the things you are facing RIGHT NOW?
We are living in the most exciting time in the History of the World! If we will dismantle our own pride, tear down the walls of competition and separation, remove the rubble of man-made religiosity, and rebuild on the original foundation, I am convinced we will move into the most powerful time the church has ever seen. In fact, a time when all believers will operate in Acts 4 Greater Glory, and move in all the promises of authority over this present darkness we live in. We may be in the world, but isn't it time we live like we are not of it?
In the next segment of this article....
We will further discuss how to bring heaven to earth with the strategies which Christ Himself gave us. He left us clues to daily bring His Kingdom to Earth in our lives. Let's look at how Mark 16:17&18 and Acts 10:38 are strategies for every believer, in every day life, to conduct warfare on the kingdom of darkness. After all, every person we bring into the Kingdom of God is one less subject the enemy can rule and reign over. Let's empty his kingdom by walking in the demonstration of the Gospel and abandoning the archaic programs for winning the lost from past moves of God
Mark 16:17&18 - And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. -
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. - Acts 10:38
* Hebrews 9:15 - And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. This verse uses “first testament” and “new testament” when describing the first and second half of the completed work which Christ came to accomplish. Why would they not use “first and second testament” if they were separate works of God. This is why I say I don't believe that the “Old Testament” was a period of time (dispensation) when God required strict adherence to the law without grace and that the new testament was a period when grace was introduced. Rather, that God's ability to fully operate in His grace was limited until such time that the blood of a perfect sacrifice, one which would eternally satisfy divine justice, could be poured out in this physical existence. The timing had to be right according to the condition(s) of humanity. Also while in this physical existence, He had to fulfill all of the “law” and the prophets, tear down the takanot, reshape the spiritual atmosphere of the world and plant sufficient spiritual seed to produce perpetual fruit until His return. God was gracious to covenant with Adam and Eve with the sacrifice He Himself completed to give them skins to wear for clothing. It was also the beginning of a covenant He would later write into the life of Avram (Abram) and build upon with His chosen lineage until Messiah came to complete the work on the cross so that we of this "new" or completed and "better" (now that both parts are complete) covenant can "move on to perfection" in our understanding of and walk with Him.
Are you ready for it?