Last week, I wrote a post to show that Christians have been called to a far better covenant than the old one God entered with the Hebrews. I lamented that too many Christians do not realise the beauty of the new or understand their liberty in this better covenant. Today, I want to look at THREE ways that Believers are stuck in the past, and why it is dangerous to the maturing of their faith in God. In no particular order, here they are:
1. Christians are not the 12 tribes of Israel!
It seems many Churches are built on this ministry, to recreate the Church to look like Israel! Why? Is it for a lack of a pattern or guidance on what Christianity is to look like? I think not.
Paul and Peter wrote enough in their Epistles for us to understand how different the make-up of the Church is to the Israelites. For starters, among the Israelites, the Levites were set apart specially for God as Priests, and had no inheritance of their own, but received as their portion a tithe from the other tribes – which was given as unto God.
But Peter tells us that we, as Christians, are a nation of Priests (1 Pet 2:9), and that each one of us should speak as “oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11). There is no set apart tribe or clergy, who should be dependent on our tithes in order to act as Priests on our behalf. We have ONE eternal High Priest, who is the only Mediator between God and man, and He is Jesus Christ. Through Him alone, we can boldly, each one of us, approach the Throne of Grace (Heb 4:15-16).
We do not need a type of Moses to go up on the Mountain to enquire for us what the will of God is. We each have the indwelling Holy Spirit, without which we are not Christ’s (Rom 8:9)! We do not need a Joshua to lead us into our promised land. We have no inheritance nor promised land to look to in this world, for we are pilgrims on this Earth (1 Pet 2:11), ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is our promise land…and Jesus has prepared the Way, we need only follow Him (John 14:1-4). We do not even need a David to rule over us, for we are indeed royalty, as children of the King of kings! Our King was slain and has risen, and we patiently await His return (Rev 22:12).
Rather than make comparisons to the Hebrews, Paul talked about the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), to which we are all members, with different types of gifting. Our spiritual gifts are given for a UNITED ministry, that we may preach Christ crucified in all the world, and bring men to the foot of the Cross, that they may be saved. He also recognised that since our gifts vary, we won’t all be Apostles or Prophets or Miracle workers or Teachers or Evangelists (Eph 4:11-12)… We won’t all be leaders, we can’t all be the hands nor the legs, but we must recognise, appreciate and fulfill our contribution to the Body (1 Cor 12:21-22).
As much as we can draw lessons from the Old Testament, on the types of things that please God and appreciating the foundations that were laid, we should not model the WAY (as Christianity was called in its wake, which indicated a SIGNIFICANT difference from Judaism) to Judaism. It’s an insult to the wisdom of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ and the power of the Cross. What has resulted is a Church that looks far more like Israel than it does to Christ, Whom we are to represent as His Body.
2. God doesn’t live in Temples made with hands!
The significance of the Temple to the Jew is no small thing! Do you know it was on account of the Temple that Christ was crucified? Do you also know that it was on account of the Temple that the Christians had their very first martyr??? Stephen concluded his speech to the High Priests and leaders, with a statement that got them all riled up, and got him stoned to death. He said: “…the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet” (Acts 7:48).
Children of God, where does God live? Jesus promised all who love and obey Him that God would come and dwell in them (John 14:23)… That is where He is pleased to dwell, for He loves to dwell among men and lead them. And to show that He had forsaken the Jewish Temple and their old covenant (which they broke), when they had killed His Son, He tore the veil covering the “Holy of holies” in two (Matt 27:51)! He did not care for His Spirit to abide with them a moment longer, but released His Spirit to abide in the purified hearts of His adopted children, those who believed in His Son.
Paul also enlightened us of this great truth, by not once, but at least twice, referring to each one of us as the Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16, 1 Cor 6:19). But yet, we don’t seem to get this. It is too abstract. How can we be sure who is saved without any outward sign? So the religion of worshiping at the Temple was continued…except now the Temple is a physical Church Building! And many love to adorn their buildings, guilt-tripping the children of God into investing in building projects for God, when they should rather be building up the Body of Christ.
Isn’t it interesting how Jesus had this type of discussion with the Samaritan women at the well… She wanted to know the true worship of God, and WHERE He was to be worshiped – the mountain or Jerusalem? Her question signified a long-running quarrel which had divided the Samaritans and Jews for centuries. Let’s read and pay attention to Jesus’ answer, for it might help us:
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24).
If we remember that God doesn’t live in buildings made with hands, then we will be able to fellowship anywhere, and appreciate modest places of gathering, putting our wealth into building homes for the poor, rather than showing off our fancy buildings. Heck, you don’t even need a special building. Jesus said, “wherever two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst” (Matt 18:20). But never forget that even if you are alone, the last sole voice speaking the truth, He has promised to be with you, for the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).
3. The Bible is not about you!
This may come as a shock to a lot of you, but the Bible is not about you! Let me say it again. The Bible, or more specifically, the Old Testament is not about you! Who is it about? Jesus answered the question already here:
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).
Yes, the Scriptures are also about the Israelites and their covenant with God, entered into by the circumcision of their flesh. It reveals God’s wonders among them, and their rebellion and their captivity. However, ultimately, the Bible reveals God’s plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ, to save the world, beginning with the Jews.
God promised Abraham that He would make him a Father of great nations, and that through him and his seed, the whole world would be blessed (Gen 17:1-7). Paul tells us that the seed alluded to here is Christ (Gal 3:14-18). The promise to Abraham has been fulfilled in Christ, through whom the righteous are justified by faith, and not through observance of the Law. However, there were also blessings and curses that were given later to the Israelites, which was tied to their observance of the Law (e.g. Deutoronomy 28). These blessings and curses are not for Christians to claim or to be afraid of!
When I see Christians who don’t realise the great blessings they have in Christ, but covet the blessings of the Israelites, I find it very tiring trying to correct their religious thinking! Do you want their curses too? Because when they disobeyed, they were indeed visited upon by God, and the curses were not removed by grace. If you choose to keep the Law, then you also exempt yourself from the grace of Christ, and are duty bound to keep all of it for your salvation (Gal 3:10, Jam 2:10). Good luck with that!
We need to stop being religious about the Bible and thinking that we can just point to a random verse and claim a promise or blessing. Do you not know that Christ is your great treasure (2 Cor 4:7)? He is the Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:44-45)! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)… There is no greater reward than the gift of eternal life He has given you by grace, through faith. Stop using the Bible as a magical book, and understand its purpose…to reveal Christ to the world and save many from their sins!
The Bible is also not a manual with rules for Christian living. When we receive in our hearts the Spirit of Grace and Truth, we will understand the Law of Liberty and of Love that we have been called to. We will live by the Spirit and not gratify the flesh (Gal 5:16). We will bear fruit. We don’t need a book of laws or even blessings, for the Lord Himself dwells in us, and is a Law and a Blessing unto us (Gen 15:1). Our spiritually circumcised hearts are the tablets of flesh that He has chosen to write His new Law (Jer 31:33).
So are you ready to really be Christian and not just religious?
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