FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Not long ago the sound of fireworks started splitting the air. At all hours of the day and night you can hear fire crackers and rockets. It reminds us that Independence Day is coming soon. We will celebrate two-hundred and forty-two years of Independence. Many of our ancestors came to this country because they wanted to experience freedom to worship God the way they felt led. They wanted to break away from the forced religious practices of Europe only to establish colonies that were just as religiously oppressive and legalistic as in Europe. Although free from European religion, their colonies were not free. You were free to worship if it fit within the religious framework of that colony.

Christ brought freedom from the religious legalism of the Pharisees of His day. His was the sacrifice that did away with the sacrificial system of the Torah. Galatians is the Apostle Paul’s treatise against the Judaizers who followed him and wanted the Gentile Christians to follow all the Mosaic law before becoming Christians. Paul preached freedom in Christ. Speaking to the Galatians who had been “bewitched” (3:1) by the Judaizers, he wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). That yoke of bondage referred to the covenant of Mount Sinai in Galatians 4:21-31.

Today there is a movement of Judaizing among Christians. A website I have seen recently is New2Torah.com. They teach that real Christians are discovering and returning to the Torah and becoming better Christians. Referring to the rite of circumcision that the Judaizers wanted to impose upon Gentiles, Paul wrote, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (5:3). If anyone wants to keep a part of the Law, Paul says he or she is obligated to keep all the law. “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The Jews couldn’t keep the Torah. Neither can Christians.

No one can keep all the Torah. You cannot pick and choose what parts you want to keep such as Sabbath worship or dietary laws. To keep the Torah, you must keep the required sacrifices of the Torah. Take this passage referring to making a sacrifice to God in Leviticus 3:1-2 from the Torah: “And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord (Yahweh). And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.” Aaron is no longer alive, and if you tried to perform this today you would be arrested for cruelty to animals. What’s more, there is no place to offer such a sacrifice as the Roman Army destroyed the Temple in AD 70. Further, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). There is no forgiveness in the sacrificial system, only a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:3).

Hebrews 10:1, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:17).

The problem with Judaizers like those of New2Torah is that they accuse of lawlessness anyone who does not fall back into their system. That is a false dichotomy. Being free from the law does not mean freedom to sin as Judaizers misinterpret it. Paul dealt with this charge as well. He recognized that Christians are no longer under the law, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). Peter echoed in 1 Peter 1:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

Galatians 3:10-12a, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law to do them.’ But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith’” If you go back to the Law, you are cursed. The purpose of the law was to point to the need of a Savior. No one can keep the Torah. The law is like a mirror that a person looks into and sees himself or herself. (James 1:22-25) The perfect law of the Spirit gives freedom, but the letter of the law kills. (He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6) Paul also wrote, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:21).

For more about the Hebrew Roots movement, see: https://www.watchman.org/staff/jwalker/ProfileHebrewRoots.pdf

 

ONLY TWO RELIGIONS—Part 3

“Jesus never said he was God.” I heard this comment often while I was in college. Some of my contemporaries willingly accepted Christ as a great teacher or perhaps a guru, but they were not willing to accept his claims to deity. These skeptics added that the “Church” made up these claims to enhance his story and teachings. They claim that he taught the same as most other religious leaders.

Many people today believe the same ideas about Christ. Others may believe that it does not matter what he claimed to be as long as we focus on the Golden Rule or the Ten Commandments, or if we just love Jesus. When someone tells me that all you have to do is love Jesus, my question is, “Which Jesus?” Isn’t there just one Jesus? No, He himself said that many false Christs would arise in the last days. Matthew 24:24 says, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

Does it make any difference which Christ we believe in? After all, anyone who believes in Christ is a Christian, right? Jesus told the Jews where he was from. John 8 records his discussion with them. He said that they were of the world, therefore they would die in their sins. He repeated that in the next verse. John 8:24 says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (NKJV). Notice what he says here in the original language. “If you do not believe that I am…you will die in your sins.” There is no complement to the linking verb “am.” Most modern English verses will add the word “He” in italics, or “the one I claim to be” in brackets in my earliest copy of the NIV translation. The brackets and the italics indicate that those words are not found in the original language.

That is a common practice in translation, not a deception. Sometimes one language expresses a thought in fewer words, but the target language requires more words to be grammatically correct. Jesus said that if you do not believe that “I AM,” you will die in your sins. The Jews recognized this as a claim to deity.  Later in verse 28, he used a similar construction: When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…”

He made the same claim later in verse 58. There he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” A former Mormon once asked me how this proved that he was claiming to be God in the flesh. I said, “Look at the Jews’ response.” The next verse says, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him.” I asked, “Why did they pick up stones to stone him? Because they recognized his claim to deity.” They could not stone him for not completing his sentences.

This claim is magnificent. If you believe that Jesus was a wonderful Teacher, Master, Guru, Prophet, Example, one of many sons of God with many spirit brothers, an archangel in the flesh, but you will not believe that he was Jehovah God in the flesh, hear the words of Jesus: “you will die in your sins.”

Loving Jesus is not enough. You have to love the right Jesus, not the jesus who is not God in the flesh. This is another reason why doctrine is so important.

To recap: There are only two religions in the world. There is biblical Christianity, which makes these three claims: 1) Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, 2) You cannot do anything to earn your salvation, and 3) the Bible is sufficient to tell you how to be saved. All other religions and cults in the world deny one or more of those claims. They state: 1) Jesus Christ is anything but God in the flesh, 2) You must do something to earn your salvation, and 3) The Bible is insufficient to tell you how to be saved.

Are you following a man-made religion in which you will die in your sins, or are you following the God-man, Jesus Christ who alone can lead you to salvation because he has already paid the price in full for your salvation? How you answer that question will determine your eternal destiny.

ONLY TWO RELIGIONS—Part 2

Having gone back and reviewed my article from several years ago, I realized that I had focused on only one part of the three distinctions between the two religions. To refresh your memory, I wrote all religions fall into one of two categories. All religions except biblical Christianity hold these three teachings: 1) Jesus Christ is not God in the flesh, 2) adherents must do some type of works to be saved, 3) the Bible alone is insufficient for salvation. In that article I focused more on religions that had added books and other writings, from the Quran, to the Book of Mormon, and the Watchtower. You can review that post on mikemcg58.wordpress.com/2009/08/. Or you can purchase my books and find it there.

Today I want to focus on the second part. What types of works must we do to be saved? Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi. They found themselves in jail after having been beaten for casting a demon out of a slave girl. While they were singing praises to God at midnight, an earthquake came and released them from their chains. The prison doors swung open. They were free to go. The Gentile jailer knew if they all left, he would be put to death. Paul called out for him not to hurt himself. The jailer brought in a light and fell trembling at their feet asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Notice their answer. They did NOT say, “First of all, you have to be circumcised. Then you have to go to church on Saturdays. You have to keep all the Jewish laws, special feasts, and dietary restrictions. You have to wear purple tassels on your clothing. In fact, you have to become Jewish first.” They actually said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). It is quite simple really.

Adding all those rules is a human-made religion. This controversy caused the first Church Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The question of how Gentiles were to be saved caused a division in the church after the conversion of Cornelius, an Italian Centurion. Peter explained what had happened in Acts 10. Then he said, “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:10-11).

This was called Judaizing. Dictionary.com defines Judaizing as “to bring into conformity with Judaism.” Such people followed the Apostle Paul around causing all kinds of problems for him. They demanded that the Gentiles first be circumcised before being accepted. Here is what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:10-12, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” In Philippians 3:2, he called circumcision “the mutilation” (NKJV).

Notice what Paul wrote. Those who try to keep the law are under a curse. You are cursed if you do not keep all the law. I know of no one who still wears purple tassels on their clothing. (See Numbers 15:37-38. This was a commandment to be throughout their generations.) I know of no group who keeps the Sabbath by working six days a week. No, they all take a two-day weekend. Only Orthodox Jews wear Phylacteries on their forearms and foreheads in conformity with Exodus 13:9, 16 (See Matthew 23:5).

Galatians 2:21 says, “for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” He later wrote in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Christians are to live a life of freedom, not under the burdens of Judaism, but Paul further warned in Galatians 5:13, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.”

Read more about this in my books inked below

Embracing Faith Vol. 1

Embracing Faith Vol. 2

 

 

CHRIST’S SUPERIORITY OVER THE PROPHETS

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds”—Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV).

Before the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land, Moses gave them a review of God’s laws that they were to obey. In the second giving of the Law, known in Greek as Deuteronomy, Chapter 18, verse 15, God told Moses that He would raise up another prophet like him. God would put His word in that Prophet’s mouth, and whoever would not heed those words will be held accountable (verses 18-19).

The people needed to know when that Prophet came on the scene, so they could obey Him. Since false prophets abound, how would they know the true Prophet? God gave them a test. Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” A false prophet is known by his or her false prophecies. How many false prophecies does a prophet have to make before being labeled a false prophet? Just one.

Christ warned us against false prophets in the last days. He said in Mathew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” They are deceivers. Again, he said in Mathew 24:24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (KJV).

False prophets, false prophecies, and their organizations abound in our society. Remember the test: If a prophecy does not come to pass, that person is a false prophet. I personally possess a book printed in 1914 that stated the that world as we know it would come to an end on October 31, 1914. The author was Charles Taze Russell of the International Bible Students Association. Today that organization is called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, otherwise known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although World War I broke out in 1914, the world did not come to an end. Not to be phased by his false prophecy, Russel “recalculated” to 1915, then 1917, the year in which he died. His followers then chose the dates 1918, 1925, and then as recently as 1975. Russell did not pass the true-prophet test. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an organization founded by a false prophet. God said not to fear such a prophet.

Likewise, Joseph Smith made several false prophecies in his lifetime. Many leaders over the past few centuries have made many predictions that have not and cannot come to pass. Anyone claiming to be a prophet today must take painstaking care that they not be found to be false prophets. Listen carefully to what they say. If their prophecy does not come to pass, do not listen to them. Would you want to be guilty of following a false prophet? Not all churches teach the same thing, and not all prophets preach the same message.

God made Himself known by special revelation through the prophets. His fullest and final revelation came through Jesus Christ who is, “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV). For “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9 KJV). From the biblical point of view, no prophet is superior to Christ. If you want to know God, then get to know Jesus Christ. He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NKJV).

God put his words in Jesus’s mouth. Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do” (John 5:19). Further he said, “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (John 12:49 NKJV) He is the Prophet that we should heed.

Jesus said, “Repent…and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15 KJV). If you do not heed what Jesus says about salvation, you will be lost forever. You will be held accountable.

THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST

Christ’s resurrection shows his superiority over all other religious leaders. Choose any religious leader from the past. All passed away. Choose any present leader. They will all pass away also. Christ died for our sins on the cross; he was buried and rose again the third day according to the scripture. (See First Corinthians 15:3-4). I have previously dealt with the reality of Christ’s resurrection in other blogs. My purpose here is to show his superiority. If you do not believe that Christ rose from the dead, then this article will mean nothing to you.

One purpose of the Book of Hebrews was to show Christ’s superiority. Over the next several weeks I will deal with each of these following topics in more detail. For now, I would just to give you a brief overview of the Book of Hebrews. Several books have been written on the superiority if Christ as seen in the Book of Hebrews. You can check them out for further study.

The Book of Hebrews shows:

  • His superiority over all the Old Testament prophets (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
  • His superiority over the angels (Hebrews 1:3-14)
  • His superiority over Moses (Hebrews 3:3-6)
  • His Sabbath rest superior to the Old Testament Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:1-11)
  • His High Priesthood ministry superior to all others (Hebrews 7:26-8:6)
  • His Covenant superior to the Old Testament covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7). The first covenant (OT) is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:24). The law is but a shadow of the good things that were to come. As Paul said in Colossians 2:16-17, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Christ is as superior to the law as the substance is to the shadow that it casts.
  • His sacrifice superior to the OT sacrifices (Hebrews 9:11-15). His sacrifice fulfilled all the OT sacrificial system (Hebrews 9:24-28)

There is no other sacrifice: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26). This verse is not talking about the loss of salvation, as some have taken it to mean out of the context of the entire Book of Hebrews. It means that once you know all about Christ and his sacrifice, you have received knowledge of the truth, and if you reject that and try to turn back to the old covenant, you will die in your sin because there is no other sacrifice. The Jewish Temple was destroyed by September 8, 70 AD some 1948 years ago. Since that time, Jews have been unable to offer sacrifices for their sin. The good news is that those sacrifices never saved in the first place (See Hebrews 10:4). Jesus’s sacrifice can save forever those who come to him (Hebrews 7:25). If you reject Christ’s sacrifice once for all on the cross for you, there is no other sacrifice. No other religious leader ever died in your place, and no other religious leader ever came back to life. Only Christ did. He is superior to all others.

SEEING CHRIST IN THE PASSOVER

Much of what is celebrated today as Easter has nothing to do with the biblical account, and we need a biblical understanding of Easter. Bunnies, eggs, and lilies are not what the Easter story is about. It is about that first day of the week where a small group of Jesus’s followers went to his tomb to prepare him for burial. They discovered the stone that had blocked entrance to the sepulcher had been rolled away. They heard the angelic story of his resurrection. Therefore, many Christians attend worship on Sunday.

The night before he was crucified, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in an upper room (1 Corinthians 11:23ff.). A Bible chart by Rose Publications says, “The Passover is the Old Testament feast that celebrates and remembers God’s liberation of Israel from Egypt.” After four hundred years of living in Egypt, God’s people cried out to him for deliverance. Through a series of ten plagues, God showed his superiority over the gods of Egypt. The final plague was to take the lives of all the firstborn among the Egyptians. The only way to be free from this plague was the blood of the Passover sacrifice. Exodus 12 details the instructions for the celebration.

The Passover marked a new beginning for the Israelites. It took place in the first month of their year. In Christ, every believer has a new beginning by becoming a new creation through faith in Christ. Families chose a year-old male lamb without defects for the sacrifice. Christ also was inspected by Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas. None of them found any fault in him. Christians are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

The entire community was required to participate in the Passover meal. To become a part of God’s community, each person must accept Christ’s sacrifice. “The righteousness of God apart from the law is now revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22).

The lamb’s blood was spread on the sides and top of the door frame. First John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” At Christ’s baptism, John the Baptist called Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

The Passover was to be permanent memorial for the Jews to remind them of God’s deliverance from their bondage. Jesus took the bread from his last supper with the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24 NKJV). For Christians, the Lord’s Supper is the permanent memorial of the price Christ paid to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death. He also took the cup after his last Passover supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:25 NKJV). The Lord’s Supper is a memorial, not a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice.

No bone in the Passover lamb was broken. To hasten the death of those on the cross, Roman soldiers went to break their legs. As Christ had already died, they did not break his legs.

Hebrews 8:6, 13 says, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises…In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (NKJV). Christ gave the Passover a fuller meaning. God said, “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13) They demonstrated their faith through their obedience to his requirements. He did not say, “When I see your religion,” or “When I see your good works.”

When God looks at your life, will he see the blood of Christ, or will he see your man-made religion? There is no difference between Jew or Gentile, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one can keep all of God’s laws perfectly. The good news of Easter is that you can be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

Recent attempts locally to remove monuments of the Ten Commandments seem to reflect a nationwide trend to move away from “Religious” monuments. While the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, one group by name wants freedom from religion. Opponents want to remove the monument claiming it violates the separation of church and state.

If we remove the religious element from the Ten Commandments, what is left? Let us abolish and repeal the Ten Commandments and see what happens. This should not be shocking since we already ignore most of them anyway. People frequently take God’s name in vain. The Sabbath is routinely broken. Thievery abounds. Adultery is rampant. Covetousness is now a motivation. Children often dishonor their parents. Our idols today come in the forms of worshiping cars and sports teams rather than bowing before metallic statues. Neglect of regular worship demonstrates that most people put other things before God. Lying is common on every level.

The sixth commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). Apart from abortion, let’s deal with the sin of murder. If we were to do away with the law (we can’t have this law because it is religious, so, the government must not enforce it), how would that affect society? Without God, what would be the moral basis for not murdering?

Objection: “Everyone knows murder is wrong!” Says who? If we cannot take God’s word for it, who can say that murder is morally evil? Without an objective standard stating that murder is evil, why should we not practice it?

Objection: “You’re being absurd. No one would accept murder as moral and acceptable.” Ask the millions who perished under the Nazi Third Reich. Not only did the Nazis accept it morally, they also thought of it as necessary in their evolutionary ideology of the pure Aryan race. Since we are being forced to accept atheistic evolutionary religious dogma, what if it is better to enhance my survival by murdering someone else so I can survive? I am not talking about self-defense. I am talking about what if I want your property or your spouse, and I decide I want to take them from you? Since murder cannot be outlawed because of its religious nature, what would morally prevent me from committing murder to get what I want?

Such philosophy lay behind the expansion of the Axis nations before WWII. The Japanese saw China’s resources, so, they invaded their land and killed their people. The Nazis viewed Poles as inferior, so they invaded Poland. Later they confiscated the property of the Jews and systematically began to kill them, along with other undesirable people, such as Gypsies and Slavs. So, without an objective moral standard, murder can no longer be considered a sin.

If we remove the religious nature of laws and morality, the only basis would be based on majority vote. If everyone decided that it was legal to kill a certain group of people, and we voted to make it legal, no one could say it was morally wrong. It is not just the matter of the monuments; it is also a matter of the principles.

If we remove religion, what makes the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution morally right? Nothing. In a pure Democracy, the people could vote to overturn them, and then we would have tyranny, which these documents were designed to prevent. “Morality is not determined by a majority vote.” (Frank Turek “Stealing from God” p.98)

This is called the moral argument for God. Turek goes on to say, “If there is no God above Hitler and every other human, who says murder is wrong?” (p. 96). If society is allowed to determine right and wrong for itself, would you rather live in a society designed by Mother Teresa or Adolph Hitler? (p. 97).

During the Eighteenth Century a man named Thomas Paine also wanted to do away with religion. He wanted to usher in the Age of Reason. Paine believed that people could be good without religion (See my blog “Good Without God”), and that we should do away with religion altogether. Franklin responded by refuting Paine’s beliefs claiming many people could not overcome vices without the restraints that religion provides. Franklin wrote: “If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?” You can read Franklin’s entire response here: https://wallbuilders.com/benjamin-franklins-letter-thomas-paine.

This railing against God is not new, and it will not stop. It began in Eden’s garden and continues today.