Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

Many are wondering why the world has become so ugly and hate filled—even by those who claim to be God’s people. The Bible gives us a very direct answer:

“Where there is no prophetic vision or divine guidance, the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who obeys God’s law.” (Proverbs 29:18)

What is this prophetic vision or divine guidance? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) If a people do not hear and obey God’s Word, then we can only expect society to break down—even within local churches. 

We see it within our own government officials and throughout the world. With the next presidential election coming up this year we hear all kinds of promises from the candidates: Immigration reform, equality for women, ending sex trafficking, Medicare for all, free college education, higher minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for it all. 

But do you know what won’t be mentioned in any of the speeches? Human rights for children, how to prevent sexual abuse of children and how to protect children from pedophiles living in their own homes or employed at their schools and daycares.

It was recently reported that at least 56 Nebraska educators were linked to sexual misconduct since 2014! Fifty six! And that’s only the ones who were reported! 

At least 74 students or recent high school graduates were victimized. In some cases, the abuse occurred years before the perpetrators were caught!  

  • In return for pictures of a 14-year-old student’s naked breasts, a Norfolk student teacher bumped the girl’s grade from a 79 to a 95. (He was only sentenced to six months in jail)
  • A Loup City teacher set up a camera in a locker room to spy on high school girls changing their clothes. 
  • An Omaha middle school math teacher groomed and then sexually assaulted a female student in his classroom during lunch.

A national expert said less than 10% of abused students tell somebody about the abuse because of fear, guilt or a misguided desire to protect the educator.

(read more at https://www.omaha.com/news/plus/i-m-really-disgusted-to-see-that-number-nebraska-educators/article_3fd2f36a-d6d2-59ae-baab-74fbb029f90c.html)

While many will be outraged by this, (and rightly so) they may be ringing their hands and asking, “How could this happen?” The truth is the reason there is so much immorality today is because God’s Word is not obeyed. And God’s way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30) But the real danger lies in defiling a holy God by transgressing His boundaries. Our God is a God of justice, and “the ways of man are before the eyes of the Jehovah, and all his ways He observes.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Stories of racism and anti-semitism has been in all of the news outlets lately. I just want to say that I love the people of Israel. But I also love the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia—Just as much as I love the mixed people living in the United States. The problem is not the people, but the political and military leaders of these people. 

It is time that the God fearing people in the world today put away their hate, repent, turn back to God and pray for our enemies. Remember: 

“You are far across the ocean in a war that’s your own—And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home—Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace—Is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” — Great American Novel by Larry Norman

 

 

Hanukkah and Christmas are similar in the fact that they both promote false narratives and traditions of men.

The Hanukkah story essentially describes a culture war—Us against them, rather than us against the Greeks and Syrians.The Hellenists were the Jews who had assimilated into the Greek culture, adopted some of the Greek ways of life and incorporated them into the Jewish culture. The group led by the Maccabees resisted any outside influences and not only purged the Greeks, but even their own countrymen. Similar to those in the United States today where much of the population is involved in some sort of culture war and promoting false narratives.

Although the New Testament records that Jesus was at the temple during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23) I don’t believe he was there lighting  a nine branched menorah and playing Dreidel. 

The real story of Hanukkah begins with a revolt, for reasons that would resonate to this day—gross inequality, immoral ideology and religious coercion. The truth is, is that Hanukkah originally had nothing to do with a miraculous oil supply or playing Dreidel, any more than the birth of Jesus originally had anything to do with decorating trees and houses, Mistletoe, caroling or exchanging gifts. 

I see nothing wrong with family traditions as long as they don’t take away from God’s truth of  the Bible. 

Since the Bible teaches that we are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 3:16) perhaps we should consider rededicating ourselves to God, just as the Jews rededicated God’s temple. 

For more information see:

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/the-astonishing-real-story-of-hanukkah-1.5296084

https://www.livescience.com/61073-hanukkah-history-traditions.html

Churches today, just as Israel of old, has forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calves of psychology, secularism, traditions of men and political bias—and we have reaped the rewards of our actions: Divisions, discord among believers, sexual perversion and worst of all, sexual abuse of children committed by the very ones who are supposed to protect them—from law enforcement to foster care to clergy in the Catholic and Protestant churches!   

It is a sad day indeed when the world tells the church that it needs to repent…And they’re right!  Hear what God says:

“As surely as I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did as you and your daughters have done. Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and complacent; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)

Notice that there is no mention of homosexuality. 

The real sin of Sodom was complacency and refusal to help the needy. And the church today continues on as if nothing is wrong—Much like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17—“You say, I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

The church today has spent so much time judging others that we cannot see our own sin. (Matthew 7:3) Here Jesus is speaking of judging rashly, or passing judgment upon someone on outward appearance alone. We must judge ourselves and our own actions, but not make our word a law to everyone else.

The apostle Paul addresses this when he writes: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5: 9-12) 

Many have chastised me for speaking out against sin in the church—criticizing me as being self-righteous or legalistic. But I am only trying to warn God’s people of the path of destruction they are traveling on. Many Christians believe that just because they repeated a “sinner’s prayer” and “accepted Jesus as their Savior” that they’re okay with God and they don’t have to do anything else because Jesus cleansed them of their sins, now and in the future.

But listen to what the prophet Jeremiah said to those with that same attitude in his day:

“For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore. Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD. How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done—a restless young camel running here and there, a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her.” (Jeremiah 2: 20-25) 

The apostle Paul speaks of the same type of Christians in the Corinthian church: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and dissension among you, are you not worldly? Are you not walking in the way of man?” (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3) 

But there is yet hope for us all who are called by His name:

“If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-14) 

Our land will not be healed by any political leader or policy. It will only be healed when God’s people, who are called by His name, humble themselves with repentant hearts, pray and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. Only THEN will our land be healed.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best of the land. But if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1: 18-20) 

Today is the day for repenting. Let us not wait until we are on the precipice of destruction before we cry out to God, like ancient Israel did. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion…See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3: 12-15) 

This is my prayer for the Church today.

Many Christians today have been taught, and believe that since we are now under grace, they are no longer obligated to obey God’s laws or observe His holy feast days and Sabbaths. They are also taught that as humans it is impossible for us to obey God’s laws at all. 

But why would God command His people to obey His laws if He knew that it was impossible for them to obey them? He wouldn’t. Not anymore than a loving father would demand his child to perform tasks that he knew was impossible for him to complete.

Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles had a problem with God’s laws. Paul wrote that his gospel of grace upholds and establishes the law. “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.” (Rom. 3:31 NLT)

And remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17 and19: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” 

Has everything been accomplished? No. If it were, we would be living on the New Earth with Jesus and all of the saints with our glorified bodies. 

Jesus continues to give us a warning in verses 19 and 20: “So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

Our attitude towards God’s laws is a litmus test of our relationship with God. So the problem is not with God’s laws, the real problem is with us. “So indeed, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

In the sixth chapter the apostle points out the absolute necessity of holy living, in the words: “Let not therefore sin reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness, unto God…What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6: 11-18)

There is a deep issue here. In Scripture, the person who understands grace loves God’s laws. One of the most absurd of all modern fallacies is to teach that “we cannot keep God’s commandments.” Yet, believe it or not, many pastors are actually teaching this to their congregations.

So let us see what God says about it and what Jesus taught. By studying Scripture we find that God spoke in no uncertain terms about the importance of keeping His commandments. And yet modern churches today have not only rejected God’s laws concerning His holy feast days, but they have replaced them with man-made holidays that are based in paganism and call them holy days.

Many in the church refer to the Mosaic Laws and biblical feast days as for “Jews only” and Gentiles are not obligated to observe them. So let us see whether God really meant that only the Jews should keep His commandments and holy feast days.

What we have to understand is that when God gave His commandments to the Hebrews, it was a mixed multitude of people—tribes of Judah (the Jews), as well as other non-Jewish tribes of Israel—including some Egyptians who left with them. (See Exodus 12:37, 38) In other words, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews. But God gave His laws to ALL of the multitude; Jews and non Jews alike. AND God expected them to obey them throughout all their generations.  (See Exodus 12:17; 24; Leviticus 23:41) God was even more specific when it is stated throughout the Torah (The first five books of the Old testament) that these commandments are God’s laws and God’s feasts. Never does it state or even allude to that God’s commandments are for Jews only.

When my children were young they obeyed all of my rules: Don’t play in the street, be nice to each other, respect your elders, brush your teeth, say your prayers, obey your teachers, etc. They didn’t obey me because they thought that I would love them more if they obeyed, or that I would love them less is they didn’t. But BECAUSE they loved me, they obeyed my rules. 

We should not obey God’s commandments because we think He will love us more if we obey or that He will love us less if we disobey. But BECAUSE we love Him we obey His commandments. 

This is not about salvation or legalism or being more righteous. It’s about loving God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.

“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3) 

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:3)

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the very commandment you have heard from the beginning, that you must walk in love.” (2 John 1:6) 

There has been a dangerous shift in God’s Church recently that should disturb anyone who profess to be Christians. Those who have believed and followed the teachings of the Bible for years are now refusing to acknowledge sin. 

In fact, I have witnessed many who actually support those who are living a sinful lifestyle—and even question if their actions are sinful even at all! And these are not new converts who are ignorant of the Scriptures. They are people who have lived godly lives for years—and even taught others the Bible truths that they now claim are not relevant anymore! 

Words we hear a lot of Christians use these days is tolerance and love. They are both good words, but we have applied them too often, where they don’t belong. What has been the result? Murders and violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. 

Just like much of the evils in the world, it began oh so subtly. First we invited unsaved people to attend our church services. Not only do we invite them to church, but we go out of our way to make them feel welcome and try not to offend or upset them by calling out their sin. Maybe even go the extra step of making the unbeliever part of your church family by allowing them to work in the nursery or teach a Sunday school class. Then before you know it they’re preaching their lies from the pulpit. 

What’s most concerning is that churches today have altered how they conduct Sunday services and how they market to attract unsaved people to an event they weren’t biblically meant to attend in the first place. The unsaved are not ready to experience what churches are supposed to offer. They’re not ready to hear the truth from God’s Word, the Bible. So churches attempt to accommodate them with worldly influences. Many church services today resemble a rock concert atmosphere more than a place of worship and discipleship. God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” But churches today have called clean what God has called unclean! 

In being so tolerant toward sin, churches today have become more like those they once preached against. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character. Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In some things Jesus was the most tolerant, loving man who ever lived, but by today’s standards, Jesus would be considered one of the most intolerant, narrow-minded and unloving people. Many bring up the fact that Jesus dined with drunkards, prostitutes and other sinful people. But they neglect to acknowledge that he was the most intolerant  and narrow-minded when it came to obeying God.

Jesus was tolerant toward the sinner, but intolerant toward the evil that enslaves the sinner. To the woman caught in the act of adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He forgave her because he loved her, but he condemned her sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred. As Christians, there are certain things that we should be intolerant about too. Jesus was so intolerant toward sin that he turned over the merchant’s and money changer’s tables in the temple and called out the hypocrisy of the priests. And in the end he sacrificed his own life in order to free us from the power of sin. 

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” throughout the Bible revolve largely around two major concepts. The first is that of transgression. To transgress means “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit.” Most of the other words translated “sin” in the Bible involve a second concept, “to miss the mark.” 

Both of these concepts translate the idea of failing to measure up to a standard. Academic and athletic courses and tests are graded or judged according to a minimum standard. If we don’t meet that standard, we fail that test or course. 

This is where the biblical definitions of sin become important, because Scriptures define the boundaries and standards God set for us and on how we are to live our lives. The definitions of sin in the Bible are not simply arbitrary dos and don’ts. Instead, they show us the way God lives and the spiritual principles by which He lives—The same standard of conduct He expects His human creations to live by. 

What, then, are the boundaries and standards God has set for us that define sin? The most basic definition of sin is in 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Here God defines a boundary for mankind. He says that sin is transgressing His holy, spiritual law (Romans 7:12-14). God’s laws are good. The problem is with us. Breaking that law—crossing that divine boundary, that God has set for us—is sin. 

Just as a good parent shows their love to their children by establishing rules for them, God gave humanity His laws to show us His way of love toward us. Those laws also define how we demonstrate our love to God and our fellowman. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Matthew 22:35-40; 1 John 5:3) Sin is in violation of that law of love. God showed us a way to live in peace and harmony with Him and with mankind and defined this way of life by His law. When we violate or transgress that boundary and break God’s law, God defines it as sin. It boils down to whose will is most important in our lives. Is it our will, doing what we want to do? Or is it God’s will, doing what He thinks is most important? 

Revelation chapters 2 & 3 gives us an insight of what Jesus thinks of sin and what happens when God’s people refuse to repent. The question every Christian should ask themselves is, “What church do I belong to?”

The solution for the Church today is simple, but not an easy one. John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” explains the hardships,  trials and temptations the Christian life can be. I have learned that whenever you speak God’s truth to people you will risk being looked at as the enemy. Even from other Christians. But in the end, it will be well worth it.

Shavuot 2019 (pronounced SHävo͞oˈōt) will begin in the evening of Saturday, June 8 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 10. In ancient Israel various herbs and legumes were harvested in spring, but the most important spring crops were cereals—barley and wheat. A spring ritual took particular note of the cereals: Newly harvested grain could not be eaten until the first fruits of grain had been offered on the day after the sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (Leviticus 23:9-14) Shavuot, near the end of the grain harvest, included grain and loaf offerings. (verses 16-17) Shavuot was also called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16).

Although Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival, the holiday has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary for modern Jews to decorate their homes with greens and fresh flowers on Shavuot as a reminder of the spring harvest and the ancient ritual of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. Many Jews prepare and eat dairy foods (often cheesecake or blintzes) on Shavuot as a reminder of the sweetness of Torah.

Many people stay up all night studying Torah on the evening of Shavuot. This custom evolved from the story that says that when Moses went up Sinai to receive God’s laws many of the Israelites fell asleep and had to be awakened by Moses. As a result, many modern Jews stay up all night to study and celebrate receiving the Torah. Interestingly, when Jesus went away to pray in Gethsemane, his disciples also fell asleep and had to be awakened. So to honor our Messiah we too, may want to stay up at night reading Scripture. 

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during services in synagogues on Shavuot. Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot’s sons, born of incest with his daughters. (Genesis 19:30-38) When Ruth’s husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi and adopted her Hebrew faith and her people as her own. (Ruth 1:16–17) To feed herself and Naomi, she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz is taken with her, and eventually they marry. Among their descendants is the famed King David. Ruth (a non-Jew) should be considered an example for all Christians to accept and obey the Torah as God’s holy instructions, just as the Israelites did at Mt. Sinai. 

In Exodus 19:1 we read that the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai in the third month. The third month after the Exodus is Sivan; since this was also the month of Shavuot, the rabbis deduced that God gave the Torah on Shavuot. Today, it is widely accepted that the Torah was given by God to the Hebrew  people on Shavuot. In this sense, every year on the holiday of Shavuot the Jewish people see themselves as renewing this experience. We too can use Shavuot to renew our acceptance of the Torah and observe all that He commanded. 

We need to understand that although God had given the Torah to the Hebrew people, (Israelites) this also included the mixed multitude that left Egypt with them. (Exodus 12:37-38) It is possible that many of these Egyptians were the offspring of Egyptian task masters who had relations with Hebrew slaves. Just as many of the slaveowners (such as Thomas Jefferson) did in America’s history. The Hebrews of the Exodus did not become Jews until after the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah. (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10) This means that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.

How does this relate to us as Christians?

The Bible also says: “count fifty days”, which is why, in the New Testament, the name for the holiday is usually translated as “Pentecost”. Shavuot and Pentecost are actually two different names for the same Festival. Therefore, the events of the first two chapters of the book of Acts must be seen against this biblical background. For instance, when in Acts 1:4 Jesus commanded his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, we would better understand this command if we remember that Shavuot is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, when all Israelites were expected to be in Jerusalem: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that He will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths.” (Deut. 16:16) Many Jews and non-Jews alike describe these as Jewish only celebrations. But Leviticus 23 makes it plain that these are God’s feast days: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘These are My appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (vs. 1 & 2) 

Remember  that mixed multitude that traveled with the Hebrews on their Exodus? Concerning His feast days God proclaimed to them, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14)  And in case it wasn’t clear enough God also said, “The same law shall apply to both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.” (v. 49)

Preparing for the Holiday

The Bible teaches that the Israelites had three days to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. To ready themselves for the momentous occasion, they were instructed to wash their clothes and to stay ritually pure. (Exodus 19:10-11) By recalling those three days, today we can use the three days before Shavuot to prepare ourselves personally and spiritually, as a family, and as a community to re-experience this life-changing event.

Shavuot in the New Testament

In Acts 2 we read, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  (Acts 2:1-3) 

We  have to remember  that the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) forms the background of this event and that by the first century the festival was already associated with the covenant made with Moses. We would then understand that it was certainly no coincidence that the descending of God’s Spirit is described on the day of Pentecost, and we would be able to see these beautiful and profound parallels between God giving His Torah and giving His Spirit. On both occasions, Shavuot becomes the day when Heaven is opened and God Himself claims His people. 

The “noise like a violent storm” in Acts 2 definitely echoes the thundering and the fire of Exodus 20:18. It seems that Luke consciously builds these parallels and describes the events of Acts 2 in terms of a “second Sinai”, thus, Jesus’ command to the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem might also be understood as a hint that, as God’s Torah was given on Shavuot, God’s Spirit was also given on Shavuot. 

The Christian version of Pentecost

Today, many Christians are taught that Pentecost was the day that the Church was born. But if Pentecost was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not include Gentiles in his message? Why did Peter not mention the cross, salvation through the blood of Christ, or forgiveness of sins based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Why did he not offer salvation by faith alone, apart from works? Why did he not say a word about the body of Christ? To press further, why did Peter or any of the Twelve ever mention the body of Christ? 

Because Peter didn’t know anything yet about God’s salvation based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—salvation by faith alone, or even the significance of the blood of Christ! Peter didn’t even know what Church was let alone the teachings associated with it. Peter only knew God’s prophetic, kingdom program. He only knew the prophecies of the prophets which Jesus had proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry. God had kept this revelation a secret until He revealed it to Paul. (Ephesians 3.1-7) The term ‘Gentiles’ would be better translated ‘Goyim’—meaning non-Jew. Or someone outside the tribe of Judah. (Remember, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews) The prophets reveal that the Goyim will be blessed through the Jews. (Zechariah 8:23)

The confusion continues

Great confusion has resulted from failure to understand that the events of Shavuot in Acts happened to believing Jews and Israelites—not to the Church. Because the Church did not exist yet! Another area of confusion has been the speaking in tongues. Some denominations and churches teach that believers are supposed to speak in tongues as proof that they “have the Holy Spirit” because that was the evidence experienced by Peter and the other followers in the upper room. Some even claim that a person cannot even be saved until they speak in tongues! 

Lastly, we should note that when one is saved by believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) he is immediately baptized by God’s Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). This baptism has no sign—such as speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues all but ceased long ago, and one day will be done away with completely. (1 Corinthians 13.8) But even when they operated in the Church, they were not a sign for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14.22)

The Scriptures indicate clearly that the Church—the body of Christ, did not begin at Pentecost. Pentecost is one of God’s feast days and is still in effect today. God had never revealed or even hinted that His feast days were only for Jews, that they would ever end, or that the Church would replace the Israelites as the new body of Christ. What He had revealed was that Goyim would be blessed through the Jews. The Church was merely the method God used to bring us all—Jew and non-Jew alike, to the knowledge of His saving grace through His son, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. 

And I long for the day that we will all worship him around the throne of God!

I have noticed that there are many people on Face Book who post memes with Bible verses telling people to, “Like and share if you’re not ashamed of Jesus”. Then on the same page this same person shares some off color joke or obscene post.    

I try not to be judgmental, but it got me wondering, do people who profess to be Christians actually know what that means? Do they even know what they believe? 

If you asked them, “Well, why do you believe that?” Or, “Can you show me that in the word of God?” Some may reply with, “I heard my pastor say that and it seems right to me.” The problem with this answer is that feelings change and as a consequence, a hunch or a feeling, or “My pastor said” or “It seems right to me” will not hold up under cross examination. 

We have all heard the saying, “If you were accused of being a Christian would there be evidence to convict you?” But if a Christian stands to defend his beliefs in an actual court room, their testimony becomes quite critical. Because the court has said that a person cannot hold to their beliefs if they cannot describe them. Their belief cannot be a hunch or a feeling. In a court of law, a defendant must be able to state their beliefs from the Bible orally.

The court does not expect eloquence, but it does expect the defendant to be able to explain his or her beliefs in a simple and concise manner. This becomes important because often we like to hide behind a title. We may claim to be a “Fundamentalist” a “Messianic” or an “Evangelical Christian,” which are descriptive of what group you belong to, but not what you believe personally. In the matter of beliefs, the court realized there must be a test to determine which beliefs are upheld and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Below are excerpts from his book, Conviction vs. Preference, by Attorney David C. Gibbs Jr., Christian Law Association, Conneaut, Ohio. These are actual incidents that have occurred during court proceedings. 

In 1972, the court came down with such a test. (Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder, 406 U.S. 205) Ironically, that test case involved Christian education. An Amish man who lived in the state of Wisconsin by the name of Jonas Yoder told the state that he would no longer send his children to the state school. The state of Wisconsin advised him that he must, to which he replied, “I don’t think you hear me. I am not going to send my children to your school.” Mr. Yoder was threatened with being sued if he refused to comply but still he refused. He was warned that if he was sued and if the state won the case, he could go to jail. His only response was that he would not send his children to the school. Even under the threat of losing his children, he refused to change his mind, explaining that his religious beliefs prohibited him from complying with the demand.

Mr. Yoder did not fare very well in court. He lost the case and was told that now that he had had his day in court, he must comply with the ruling. He still refused, never altering his position and he found out something very interesting. After losing his appeal, his case went to the U. S. Supreme Court, where Mr. Jonas Yoder was told that the First Amendment protected him and he was not required to send his children to the state school. This case laid down the test that was to be used for all subsequent cases to determine which beliefs are to be protected by the First Amendment and which are not.

The first definition the court made was, “Every religious belief is one of two types. It is either a conviction or a preference.”

Most Christians carelessly use the word conviction. In reality, the test of whether or not a matter is a conviction is a very severe one and not to be taken lightly. It will be seen here that most of us possess only preferences. 

WHAT IS A PREFERENCE?

A preference is a belief that is held with such intensity that a person can go into full time service in the name of that belief. He can be a minister of the gospel, a Christian schoolteacher or a missionary. He might even give all of his wealth to it and the court decides he still has only a preference. His belief may energize him to stand on a street corner and witness and proselytize, but it would still only be a preference. If a belief can change under some circumstances, the court calls it a preference. True conviction cannot be changed! When a man knows what he believes is right and allows the pressure of others to cause him to bend, the court calls the belief a preference. 

Lawsuit pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. There have been many men who say, “I am for this, but I am not going to get sued over it because the news media makes us into villains.” If you avoid taking a stand that will cause you to get sued because you do not want to see your church membership drop and that causes you to change your beliefs, then your belief was a preference. 

Jail pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. The incarcerated are isolated from their Christian influence, friends and family. And they are thrown into the middle of often-brutal men who normally relish the thought of breaking a Bible-toter. The court says if you change your beliefs for fear of going to jail, then your beliefs are preferences. 

Death pressure causes most people to change their beliefs. The court will ask if you are prepared to die for your belief. The court says that for a belief to be a conviction it will not change, even in the face of death. Why? Only a belief that is God-ordered is a conviction. Therefore the court must first decide if your belief is a conviction or a preference. Only a conviction is protected by the Constitution. 

WHAT IS A CONVICTION?

A conviction is something that you purpose in your heart, as a fabric of your belief system. It is one that you will not change due to any circumstance—It says, “When you believe that your God has required something of you, you will withstand all of the tests put to you.” It has been said that a man is never made by a crisis. The crisis exposes the man for what he already is. 

A conviction is a personal belief. The court says that if you require others to stand with you to maintain your beliefs, then your beliefs are preferences and not convictions. There have been preachers willing to stand on their belief only if they have the backing of a certain college or group to stand with them. That doesn’t go over in a court, for your belief must be a personal conviction regardless of what anyone else thinks or does. 

A conviction is non-negotiable. The court says if you can discuss the negotiation of your faith, it is a matter of preference. Why? How do you negotiate what is God ordered? Recall what the three Hebrews said because it illustrates the last point the court chose. “King, we believe that our God can deliver us, but even if you throw us into that furnace and God does not deliver us, we are not going to bow” (Daniel 3:16–18). In the case of Jonas Yoder and others the Supreme Court has ruled that the test of conviction is if there is a consistent lifestyle of one’s beliefs. A good part of every court case is about whether what you say with your mouth is consistently being practiced with your life. (End of excerpts)

A conviction can also be misinterpreted and misguided. Many of the suicide bombers had such a strong conviction of their beliefs that they were willing to give their lives for it. And yet, even among terrorists there has been instances of their beliefs being a preference rather than a conviction.

Take for example, Hoda Muthana, a young woman from Hoover, Alabama who traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Five years and three husbands later, she says she regrets what she did and is now begging to return to the US. In a recent handwritten note obtained by CNN from a family representative, she writes, “When I left to go to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman. I thought that I understood my religious beliefs.”  As it turns out those religious convictions were actually her preference at the time. And those preferences changed when pressured by outside influences. 

On the other hand, Christians in Nigeria and other countries have given up their lives rather than deny their Lord and convert to Islam or some other religion not grounded in the Word of God—even when it would be much easier and safer to comply with their torturers. Their beliefs were obviously a conviction.  

So are your beliefs a conviction or a preference? 

When Jonas Yoder went to trial and lost, he still won. When he appealed and lost, he won. And when he went to the Supreme Court and the judges unanimously said he was right, he knew he was right all along. He stood in this country when no one else stood with him. But when all the tests of preference and conviction were applied, he passed.

 Pressure from friends and family members, threat of lawsuits, jail or death will decide if your beliefs are a conviction or a preference. It is a conviction of Christians that pornography should not be viewed, that obscenity should not be spoken, that nudity should not be viewed. It is a conviction that unrighteous themes should not be exalted or promoted. Most would agree that these are the convictions of a Christian because the Bible requires it. Is it a sin to do otherwise? I believe that the answer is a resounding yes.

So how is it that so many who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following Christians show no consistent lifestyle? Perhaps it is time to place ourselves on trial to see if we really believe what we say we believe. Are we really living consistently by the things that we say are convictions? It is unlikely that we will ever be put on trial for our beliefs, but whether or not you are ever brought into a courtroom and put on trial by men, you are on trial every day before your God. He demands holy living and consistency of life, not just in words. Anyone can say they believe in certain things, but as a child of God we ought to live a life consistent with what we say we believe. God help us to make it so.