Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everything Old is New Again - Part One

THIS IS THE INTRODUCTION OF A FIVE PART SERIES, THE OTHER POSTS ARE A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK AT SCRIPTURE

I read the book of Galatians this morning, and my heart was broken again for those who are in the "Hebrew Roots Movement," and those who are Torah-Keeping Christians. Paul and I have read quite a few books and articles written by Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots proponents, so we understand well where they base their claims. It can be easy to be taken in, if you are not constantly filling your head with the whole council of Scripture (meaning reading the Bible cover to cover). I am writing this post with a particular audience in mind - those who are already Torah Keepers. (Though my prayer is that this post will bless all my readers, because chances are that you know at least one person - or read at least one blog - written by someone who is involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement, it is no small thing!) Please consider what I have to say. I have been down the road you are on, and I completely understand where you are coming from. Please know that this is not meant to be an attack, but a loving letter. I would not be putting myself under the scrutiny of all my blog readers, many of whom will not understand, were it not for my deep love and concern for you!

A prayer as I begin:
Father, please help me state things in a clear, concise way that will educate and encourage all those who read this post. If there be any trapped in any form of bondage, I ask that you will bind the Strong Man, Satan, away from their minds that Your Holy Spirit might work to transform their hearts. Use Your servant to show people Your Way. And, show me where I am in error or bondage as well.
I ask this in the Name of Your Son, the Christ, Amen.

A Brief Personal History:
Paul and I started looking into Torah Keeping in the Spring of 2009, after reading a few health books. These healthy living books were written from the perspective that if you keep the Law of God you will be healthy. One book in particular, which was written by a Messianic Jew, made a seemingly solid case that all Christians ought to be keeping the Law. I was persuaded and began sharing my findings with Paul. Together, we pursued this new-to-us idea that modern day Christians are to be Torah Keepers.

The first change we made was our diet, we began eating biblically clean foods - to the best of our knowledge. We read every label scrupulously. We threw out nearly every pre-packaged food item that was in my cupboards. We acquired a special cookbook, from the author of one of the books alluded to above. Just by taking this stance (eating only clean foods) we were cut off from nearly every family member and acquaintance we had! No one understood why we could not share a meal with them (without furnishing our own foods), and Christians were by far the least understanding - and typically, the most cruel.

Throughout our whole journey, it was the Christians who were hurtful to us, rebuking us with knowledge, but not always love. I am very grateful to the believers who loved us and prayed for us, without treating us like we were stupid! So, when I say I am writing this post "in love," you can be assured that I have felt the pain that well-intending Christians can produce!

Our second lifestyle change was to begin keeping a Saturday Sabbath. We kept our Sabbath from Friday night (sunset) to Saturday night (sunset). During that time we did not get on the computer, prepare meals, wash laundry, or do any other kind of work. Our Fridays became "preparation day" as we had so much to do to get the house and food ready for the next day without cooking or cleaning.

Paul's family could not understand our new way of doing things. And, at first they had no respect for our attempts to keep the Sabbath day holy. They would call or arrange for family get togethers on days that we could not participate. They were terribly hurt by our seeming lack of care or love for them. We did not mean to appear so un-loving, as that was not at all what was in our hearts. We truly believed that we were honoring the Lord above all, and that this was part of Christ's admonition that you have to love God more than family.

The last and biggest change that we made was a changing of the name of our Lord. Knowing that by One Name we would be saved, and that by One Name God would answer prayers and petitions, we became very concerned that we used the correct name. We began to be further separated from all the people we know and love, because we could not even pray together... because, who were they praying to? We were convinced that the name "Jesus" was an attack on the Son of God, the Messiah. We were disgusted by that name, because we believed that it was calling the Christ a pig - an unclean thing. (To my readers who have never heard any such teaching - please do not judge too harshly. It is by God's Grace that you have not ever been persuaded by such teaching yourself, and you ought to praise God and not boast at all in your own merits. You too can fall!)

Overall, we were in a position where we were keeping as much of the Law as we knew how. All the while, we were beginning to look down upon those who called themselves Christians, but did not keep the Law. We lost sight of the Gospel we once believed - for a time - and started focusing on our own deeds. How we kept the Law was far more important than the atoning work of God's Son on the cross.

I think that, for me, the breaking point was the name change. I felt like I truly lost Jesus. I did not know Him anymore. I was miserable. I began to hate preparation days and Sabbath. I was lonely and had no family or friends to turn to. I was cut off from all other believers, and in some cases doubted the salvation of all "so-called Christians" except for those who were Torah Keepers.

I was miserable. I felt like I was in bondage. I certainly would not have called this new life we had found "freedom!" I was trapped.

Read more in Everything Old is New Again - Part Two

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty.

Stephanie

Sarina said...

Hi, Bethany!
I have had some experience in this area of legalism that you speak of. The fact is that the torah in modern day is impossible to keep. I personally believe it was written for the nation of Israel during the time period they were to keep it. The seventh day truly is the Sabbath. However, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Hebraic roots of Christianity and that our Messiah was born a Hebrew are facts that cannot be denied. I think it necessary to inquire of these Hebraic roots to "study and show yourself approved." Just because there are people that use the movement to impose legalism doesn't mean it's foundation didn't begin in truth. There are thousands of denominations within Christianity. Inside many of them you will find legalism, cults, dogma, and endless man-made tradions. Would you tell someone not to inquire about Christianity because they many encounter one of these? The truth is there for those he seek with all of their hearts.

Blessings to you and your family!

Sincerely,
Sarina

Bethany W. in mid-MO said...

Sarina,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You make some very good points.

You said that "the Torah in modern day is impossible to keep." That is true, but we need to point out that it was always impossible to keep. That is why we need Jesus. The only person who has ever/will ever keep the Law perfectly.

You also said that the seventh day is the Sabbath. My husband and I see this much like you do.

Where I disagree a little with you is your statements about studying Hebrew roots. You are absolutely right that Jesus took on a Hebrew body, and lived as a Jew. Thank God for that! By His perfect keeping of the Law we have freedom! BUT, I think that if I had just read the the entire Bible more (early on in my Christianity) rather than avoiding it, I would have found the answers to my questions. A Christian (or a lost person) needs to look no farther than the Bible itself to see the importance of the Law and the perfect Law-Keeper (Jesus). Books, articles and sermons can be helpful. They can also be dangerous. Who would have thought that a simple nutrition book would so rock my world?!

And, you are absolutely right that many people are in bondage to man-made traditions and rules! I agree that many Christians are caught up in legalism. Let me define what I think legalism is: a work that man does to try to earn salvation, or at the very least to feel assurance of his/her salvation. Unfortunately, I think most Christians (myself included) fall prey to this in some area or another.

What I am warning against, is the mentality that believes in Jesus for salvation AND their own good works. I will never forget what my father said to me, when I told him that we were studying Torah Keeping. He said, "You show me someone who is keeping the Torah and I will show you someone who believes in works righteousness." I was very angry at the time, and thought he was off-base. But, looking back, he was absolutely right!

Would I tell someone not to inquire about Christianity because of all the legalistic sects? No. BUT, I would give them a sound warning and tell them of my own experience and short comings. And, that is exactly what I was trying to do with this series here.

Thanks again for your comment.
Bethany

Sarina said...

Bethany,

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond. If I may say a little more on this subject, I sincerely hope not to offend you.

You are absolutely right about the need to read the bible in it's entirety. For one to learn the Hebraic roots of Christianity they need not look further than the Old Testament.

Some of the laws of the torah such as the sanitation and dietary were concerning health and longevity. These laws had nothing to do with earning salvation. Futhermore, God tells Israel to follow his commands so that their days may be prolonged.

Deut 6:2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
(KJV)

I think the concept of grace is somewhat confusing. A tree is known by its fruits. Also, anyone who says we no longer have commandments is speaking contrary to the scriptures.

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
(KJV)

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
(KJV)

Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
(KJV)

Also, the apostles were still keeping the Lord's feasts in the New Testament. See Acts 2, Acts 18:21, 1 Cor 5:8, Acts 20:6, Col 2:16, etc. In regards to the Sabbath see Hebrew 4.

I write these things to you as a fellow student in The Way, seeking truth and understanding. May you be truly blessed in your walk with HIM.

~Sarina

Bethany W. in mid-MO said...

Sarina,

I am not advocating lawlessness. Did you read the other posts in the series? They are more thorough and I believe they address your concerns.

Bethany

Sarina said...

Hi, Bethany!

Yes, I realized after my last comment that there were four more parts to read! I agree with what you quoted directly from the mouth of Messiah. Nothing is greater than to love Him with all our beings, and to love our neighbor as ourself. (Yes, one must love theirself, and in correct proportion to properly love others)

Lately, I've been pondering His commandments, and what some consider His. I realized He never wanted us to be burdened by man-made laws. The fact is that man's laws are to much to bear. Only that Him who's laws are written on our hearts are of an easy yoke. And because we are His children doing His will bring pleasure to our hearts.

The pressure of the world is powerful so we must be diligent in seeking Him with all of our hearts.

In His love,
Sarina

Lexie said...

I came across your story and had to comment I too got mixed up in the whole "torah observant" mess and I was honestly so depressed and isolated that it was a miserable dark time for me to look back on. I was so caught up in the "rules" that I was driving myself crazy. I thankfully have left it behind, but it seems to be spreading especially in the blog world since reading blogs is how I got sucked into the whole thing in the first place. I thankfully have reconciled with God and I am proud to call on Jesus as my savior.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Lexie,
Thanks for commenting. I know just how you feel. I am glad that you are now free to "call on Jesus!"

Bethany