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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « Dream from 5-31-11; A Terrifying Temple | Why Not Participate in Other Religious Ceremonies? »
    Thursday
    May312012

    "Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus" Critique (Messianic Judaism) 

    *This is a very long piece analyzing a book concerning Messianic Judaism and Christians seeking to incorporate Jewish practices.

     

    Intro:

    The basic premise of the book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, is thus: Christians are to imitate Jesus. Jesus was a Jew. Here (presented in the book) are Jewish practices. Since Christians are to imitate Jesus, they should imitate these other Jewish practices as well.

     

    Unfortunately, the authors contradict themselves and undermine their own premise with a quote found on p. 245-notes section- note 10 of chapter 10, “Most of these traditions postdate Jesus, but are lovely and wise nonetheless”. Here the authors admit certain traditions they are promoting are not ones Jesus did, therefore to do them would not be an imitation of Christ.

     

    The book paints a beautiful picture of the Jewish people, land, and culture. It gives some good background and examples to show how Biblical passages that seem strange to modern folks make perfect sense in light of the culture of ancient times.

     

    The importance of research and historical context when it comes to the Bible cannot be understated. The main premise however is faulty, and what follows is why.  

     

    Section I:

    One Culture above Another?

    As beautiful and rich as some cultures (especially ancient ones) are, it is dishonest to raise one culture above another as an ideal or utopia. No culture is perfect, all people have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23), but God desires all people and cultures to come to Him.

     

    God never elevates the Israelites above other cultures in Scripture as perfect, mighty, wise, or sinless, and neither should we or these authors. The only reason Israel is special is because God made a promise to Abraham (Genesis 17), not because the Israelites were righteous or devoted to God.

     

    “For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11) see also Deut. 10:17 


    “and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:3 and similarly in Duet 1:17)


    “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)


    “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."” (John 7:24)


    “I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man;” (Job 32:21)


    “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2:9)


    “Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34)

     

    Old Testament prophecy is full of examples of God chastising the Israelites (Jews) as well as Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, etc. The Israelites were disciplined even more harshly because they were given God’s law (the Pentateuch/Torah), had made a covenant with God to obey it, and constantly broke it.

     

    Old Testament stories, likewise are full of ways that God revealed Himself to other nations as well as the Israelites,

    For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18: 32)

     

    There is only one family of God. Maybe the biggest piece of evidence against the book’s premise is this: Paul also dealt with similar issues in the early church. Jews were giving Gentiles a particularly hard time over the matter of circumcision.

     

    Just as the premise states, the early Christians (the ones from a Jewish ethnicity) thought that because Jesus was a Jew and was circumcised, it was necessary for Gentile believers to also become so in order to imitate Christ. Not the case, says Paul,

     “Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” (1 Cor. 7:18-19) 

    (http://www.circumstitions.com/Xy.html, read more verses here)

     

    Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

    You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justifed by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6)

     

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

     

    “He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:20; Matt 12:49)

     

    Romans 11 recounts how much of Israel rejected the gospel, but in so doing also opened the door for Gentiles to be grafted into the family of God.

     

    Perhaps this verse comes even more to the point,  

    “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” (Gal. 6:12-13)

     

    The term “ethnocentric” is defined, “: characterized by or based on the attitude that one's own group is superior” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary /ethnocentric). There is a modern trend in America to be ethnocentric of other cultures. Maybe it stems from the demonization of being “ethnocentric” in college.

     

    Regardless, the trend is an attempt at cultural and especially religious ecumenism (all cultures/religions are good, worthy, relevant, etc. –except perhaps the American culture and/or Christianity).

     

    The New Agers are ethnocentric about Native American cultures, Neopagans and Wiccans are ethnocentric to ancient Celtic and Nordic cultures, Hollywood is ethnocentric to monastic Buddhism, and these two authors are ethnocentric to Jewish culture.

     

    One key element of ethnocentrism is a person who tends to paint an idyllic picture (which is mere and pure fantasy) of whatever culture. Wrongs are downplayed, and the embracing of said culture is promoted as “the” way to achieve peace, joy, hope, love, and a richer and fuller life in general.

     

    At the same time, the current culture is portrayed in as bad a light as possible. Many examples are sprinkled throughout the book such as pp. 145-147 in which the author tries to emphasize the drastic differences in how the “Western Church” translates the Bible versus Judaism, using the words “teaching” versus “law”.

     

    Judaism is put in a nicer light because the word “teaching” has a nicer connotation than the Western Church’s “law”. Pages 135-137 highlight another example with supposedly “western” styles of dining versus the Jewish Shabbat dinner (nothing is said about how Jews have dinner any other night). In other words, the authors paint a picture of the worst of one culture and pit it against a painting of the best of their chosen culture.

     

    Again on pp. 204-205 the “Western” Apostle’s Creed is painted in a dull light as opposed to the “Jewish” understanding of Jesus. As this essay proceeds, we will see just how “ethnocentric” towards Judaism these authors are (Ironically, the authors warn against just this thing at the tail end of the book (p.200)

     

    Section II:

    Loving God While Denying Jesus?

    In painting an idyllic picture of the Jewish culture, the authors fail to realize the Jews are a lost people. They not only passed Jesus up, they put Him to death. That isn't being anti-Semitic, that is a fact as recorded in Scripture and history.

     

    No matter how many blessings a day they might say, no matter how devoted to God they appear, no matter how wise or beautiful their traditions appear, they do not love Jesus (or they would be Christian, not Jewish*.). Therefore, we need to be preaching to them, not imitating them!  

    but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)


    “if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12)


    And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

     

    John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.

     

    1 John 2:23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (**See more verses at end of this essay)

     

    Jewish people are just as lost as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc. It is a lie from Satan to not speak truth to them because of their devoted appearances.

     

    *There is a confusion in terms here. To be “Jewish” denotes a) one’s ethnic culture b) one’s religion. They are not necessarily one and the same. Jesus was Jewish both ethnically and religiously, but He fulfilled the terms, bringing the Jewish religion to a culmination to begin something new.

    See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.(Isaiah 43:19-this portion of Isaiah is part of the Messianic prophecies)

     

    Practitioners of the Jewish religion do not acknowledge Christ and are therefore not Christian. Christians may be of Jewish descent, but they do not embrace the teachings of the Jewish religion (how could they, when all of Judaism is designed around the coming Messiah and Christians see He has already come?).

     

    Section III:

    Jesus’ Thoughts on His Rabbi Peers

    The authors seem to propose that because Jesus’ teaching style, calling of disciples, reliance on hospitality, and certain things He said that paralleled other rabbis’, He was in essence promoting these things as “good”.

     

    First, some of these examples are cultural, not religious (like how a disciple and rabbi interact), and some are not just Jewish practices, such as hospitality (the authors also use multicultural examples of hospitality).

     

    When it comes to the Jews’ religious practices, Jesus had a great deal to say, but the authors leave things such as these out of the book,

    (Mark 8:15) ““Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.””

     

    You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[c] ” (Matt. 15:7-9)

     

    “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matt. 23:2-3)

     

    In other words, Jesus is saying do not imitate these rabbis! He goes on,

    “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

    “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

    13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

    23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

    33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

    37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c] (my emphasis added)


    The authors like to look at the outside of the cup and the white-washed tomb. They see all these outward signs of devotion like the blessings, prayers, and special dress, and assume the people are deeply in love with God. But (see section II again) the Bible says a person cannot love God apart from the Son.

    “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7)

     

    Section IV:

    Subjectivism, Emotive Language, and Poor Scholarship: A collection of examples

     It must be understood that neither author has background or expertise in any field relating to Judaism or ancient cultures. One is a biology professor, the other a writer. Therefore, when they make claims they should back them up with sources and quotes from credible sources (evidence).

     

    They do this when citing the Mishnah and Talmud, but their other sources are mostly other authors, many with unrelated backgrounds as well (these are called secondary sources. These are appropriate in measure, but it is poor scholarship to have the bulk of your premise based on secondary sources).

     

    When they make claims about Scripture interpretation, they ought to back it up, but they don’t. On p. 194, for example they quote Matt. 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. They go on to say, “People who are ‘poor in spirit’ are those who feel crushed by circumstances beyond their control, or those who are sick and tired of their lives under their own bad management…”.

     

    Says who? Not only is this poor scholarship, it is writing their opinion (since no source backs this claim) as if it were fact; a very dangerous thing to do with Scripture. P. 194, “’Blessed are the merciful’ because they do not want to see God’s judgment come on others and are shown mercy themselves.” That is absolutely not what the plain text states.   

     

    The authors believe that Christians who imitate the “Jewishness of Jesus” will receive peace, joy, a richer life, etc. But these promises are not found in Scripture.

     

    "When Jesus spoke about receiving the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17) or entering the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21), he wasn’t talking about how to get into heaven after we die, as many people have thought. He was speaking about having the greatest life possible.” (p.193).

     

    In this passage as in many others, the authors go on to show why this must be true since other rabbis wrote it. In other words, they use the writings of other rabbis (by quoting the Talmud and Mishnah) as if they were Scripture. We need to remember that these other rabbis rejected Jesus as Messiah (since the rabbinical writings postdate Jesus), and Jesus’ ministry focused on refuting some of the rabbinical teachings of His day concerning women, the Sabbath, and more.

     

    Instead, in order to make their points more appealing (and because they sincerely believe what they write), the book is peppered with personal (subjective) opinions written as if they were facts. One good example is found on pages 86-88, in which the authors describe a visit to the “Wailing” (Western) Wall in Jerusalem.

     

    It is hard to describe the awe I felt…If I could choose only two words to describe the experience, they would be these: immense and love. I had been to the Western Wall on a previous trip and felt nothing out of the ordinary. But now, here in this place, all the devotion and reverence I had witnessed since I boarded my flight in New York seemed to coalesce. I sensed the greatness of God as never before (p 88).

     

    It is not clear from this passage that God was there, only that the author felt God must have been there. But how does this passage jive with what we have already established from the Bible, that those who reject Jesus, reject God too (see Section II)?

     

    What is telling is what the authors often leave out. In painting an idyllic scene of Jewish life and religion (see Section I, ethnocentrism), they leave out unpleasant facts about Jewish history such as Jews (ancient and modern) actively and murderously persecuting Christians.

     

    In their use of the Dayeinu song (end of chapter 8), they leave out the laughable irony of “enough for us”. It wasn’t enough for the ancient Israelites to be freed from Egypt, it wasn’t “enough” that God gave them manna and kept their clothing from wearing out. It wasn’t even “enough” that He personally led them as a pillar of fire.

     

    They (just as we are still prone to do) complained the entire way! In chapter 8, the authors try to build a case for Christians to participate in a Passover Seder like Jesus did (the Last Supper). Unfortunately, they mention but do not emphasize the fact, that the kind of Seder meal they promote is very different from the one Jesus partook of.

     

    Then in chapter 14 (pp 203-204), they undermine their own argument for why Christians should do a Seder meal, when they recount the mistake of how one of the author’s churches misunderstood an aspect of how Jesus would have celebrated Passover.

     

    On the one hand they advocate embracing the Torah (which in this as in all cases, cannot be done) in obedience to God. On the other hand they easily dismiss what is disobedience to the Torah as laughable misinformation to be corrected next time.

     

    Emotional words like “sense”, “felt”, “presence”, “joyful”, “wise”, “beautiful”, “reverent”, and “devotion” fill the book as if what is perceived (experience) equals truth. The Bible however is full of passages that show why what we think we see, may not be what God sees (see Section III; Matt 15, 23, and 1 Sam. 16).

     

    “Because so many Jewish prayers are repeated, the rabbis emphasized the need for kavanah [intention or direction], so…the words are fresh and full of passion, with a sense of reverence for the awesome God who is their focus” (p 87).

     

    That sounds pretty and exciting, but nowhere does the Bible direct Christians to pray with passion, intention, or “freshness” (praise God!). Instead, it says,

     “Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

     

    And Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

     

    The book underscores a poor understanding of Scripture as well, “Is it possible to cultivate a sense of God’s presence, particularly during prayer?” (p 87)

     

    If Christians have the Holy Spirit in their hearts, why would they then have to invite God “down” again? God is already present! What they are trying to cultivate is an emotional experience. “When you enter the octagonal Church of the Beatitudes just up the hill from the Sea of Galilee, you may immediately sense that you are in a holy place” (p. 124).

     

    But Scripture tells us repeatedly that God does not reside in buildings, but in the hearts of people,  

    Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

     

    People can be holy if they are sanctified by God; buildings and actions are not. Ironically, two paragraphs later the authors (contradicting themselves again) admit this very thing, “Unlike other gods, Israel’s God was not confined to a geographic location, not even to the temple in Jerusalem” (p. 124).

     

    To promote their belief in celebrating the “biblical feasts” as they call them, the authors quote a Jewish mystic, Abraham Heschel as saying Jewish worship, “sanctifies time instead of space” with holy days (Sabbath, feasts) (p. 124). But not one shred of Biblical evidence (quotes) is used to back this claim. If God is calling Christians to participate in the Jewish feasts, why doesn’t the Bible say so (see Section I, circumcision)?

     

    P. 155 begins a section titled, God’s Teaching Methods in which the authors claim God is continually teaching people “new” things. Though this sounds like God changing His decrees (Scripture clearly teaches He doesn’t), the authors sidestep that issue by saying God is continually revealing teachings until His “real” goal is attained.

     

    “Like a good parent…God was working within the limits of his people’s capacity to obey. In Genesis, for instance, God let Jacob marry two sisters, Leah and Rachel. Then in Leviticus, though not prohibiting polygamy, God said that a man should never marry a woman and her sister. Later, Jesus clarified things further. God’s ultimate desire…was that one man should marry one woman for a lifetime” (p.157).

     

    What they are advocating is continual revelation (which the Bible speaks against, Rev. 22:18-19). Aside from the issue of not quoting the passage from Leviticus, the authors do an injustice to God. From the creation of one man and one woman in Genesis, He has always had one husband and one wife in mind.

     

    Just because Jacob married two sisters, doesn’t mean God told him to do it. A careful reading of Scripture shows that those (including Jacob) who practiced polygamy ended up with more problems than they bargained for. Fighting between the wives and the children often occurred. In King David’s case, his children (by different mothers) raped and murdered each other.

     

    The authors claim at the end of chapter 11 Touching the Rabbi’s Fringe, that Jesus did not fulfill and therefore end the law as we Westerners have long believed. They split hairs in order to “prove” that it is not only still a valid, but a “wise” thing to continue practicing Torah Law (“teaching” they would rather call it).

     

    They do not comment on why the Temple curtain was torn (Matt. 27:51), the Temple later destroyed in 70 AD as Jesus predicted (Mark 13:1-4), or what Jesus then meant by His exclamation, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

     

    In chapter 13, The Mysterious Kingdom of God, the authors make the claim that Jesus did not come to judge yet (but He will at the Second Coming). They emphasize His healing, forgiveness, and atonement, but ignore some of the harsh things He said/did, like driving out the money changers with whips (Mark 11:15-17 and John 2:15).  

     

    They go so far as to make the claim that John the Baptist, though he heralded and knew Jesus as Messiah, didn’t understand Him (p. 190-191). They come very close (but don’t cross the line) to the ecumenical belief that all ways (religions) lead to God. Still, their claims disregard Jesus’ own words about Himself,  

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Matt. 10:34-36). This doesn’t sound “merciful” (p.193).

     

    Once again, in order to build a case for why Christians should follow the Torah, the authors string together Scriptures which say if a person doesn’t follow God’s commands, they are disobeying God and not a believer (p. 194-195).

     

    The not-so-subtle implication is that to obey God is to obey Torah. This false argument forms an emotional response of horror and fear in the reader, and toys with a Christian’s usual inclination to want to obey God.   


    “As we reconnect with the Jewish background of our faith, we must realize that we, too, have a lot of soul-searching and repenting to do for the sins of our forbears” (p 201).

     

    Aside from not being precise about how we should “repent”, this is in contrast to Scripture which says,

    The one who sins is the one who will die.(AF) The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.” (Ezekiel 18:20)


    P. 202 issues an emotional charge similar to the one on pp 194-195. Here the authors insist that “good” Christians will readily admit everything in this book is good and necessary to a proper Christian faith. We don’t want to be “brittle”, after all.

     

    Section V:  

    Promises, Promises

    “There is a way that seems good to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25)

     

    It was very interesting to me to find (when scanning the notes section and while reading) that nearly all the sources these two ladies quote have very strong mystic backgrounds, whether Christian or Jewish.

     

    Eugene Peterson (author of The Message Bible), Philip Yancey (quoted 4 times), Lauren Winner, Annie Dillard, Nan Fink, Thomas Cahill, Donald Hagner, and Abraham Heschel (maybe the most quoted) are all well-known mystics. Not to mention the publisher, Zondervan has been producing questionable material (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/publishers.htm).

     

    Ironically, the authors issue a warning at the end of book to “treat the sources you read with caution” (p. 202). Perhaps the authors would be wise to practice what they preach.

     

    The mystics are fond of non-Biblical practices that focus on outward looks, actions, and physical states in order to cultivate a better spiritual life (which this book emphasizes over and again) (See above and Section III for why this does not hold water). If a practice is not specifically mandated in the Bible, it falls into the category of “traditions of men”. Here is what the Bible has to say about such things,  

     “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

     

    "Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3)

     

    For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” (Titus 1:10-14) (my emphasis added)


    Because mystic premises and promises begin with a faulty foundation (one apart from the Word of God), they inevitably end up leading the practitioner even farther from the Bible’s commands

    (“If you love me, obey my commands” John 14:15),

    which leads them farther from God. Ironically, this all happens at the same time they look and sound as if they are growing closer to God.

     

    At the same time mystics profess a love for God, they disobey His commands in order to “feel” holier. They become socially active doing “good works”  

    (“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matt. 6:1)

     

    at the same time they persecute God’s people (see Fox’s Book of Martyrs or research the founders of the Catholic Inquisitions)! Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Catholics have all (and still do) persecute Christians unto death.

     

    Interestingly, at the same time they persecute Christians they attempt ecumenism (all religions are equal, which is contrary to Scripture). The authors have given up the fight for Catholics (p. 135 quotes a passage about the Eucharist, then goes on to say,

     

    “Regardless of how our own church understands this act of worship [communion]…”).

     

    In this book, they have given up the fight for Jews. The Mormons are riding the coattails, mystics already embrace paganism, New Age, and the occult, and Islam is next on the acceptance list. One of the authors of this book, Lois Tverberg stated in the book that she is founder of a ministry called En-Gedi Resource Center. Right on their homepage it states, “En-Gedi is an ecumenical educational ministry…” (http://www.egrc.net/).


    And while good works are certainly emphasized in Scripture (James 2:17), the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:21-22*).

     

    These fruits are cultivated by simple righteous living and obedience to God’s word. Mystics believe these are cultivated through “spiritual disciplines” (experiences). Here we see the authors claiming that practicing the Law will bring love, etc.

     

    “because Christ himself was the goal toward which the Torah was aiming. And this is our goal too-to be filled with the love and goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 161).

     

    “Experiencing Jewish traditions—like praying blessings, observing a Sabbath, or hosting a Seder—can enrich our understanding of Christ. Those who have done so have discovered how meaningful these practices are. With every experience, they grow deeper in their understanding of Scripture and God’s ways” (p 205) (my emphasis).

     

    “Every new experience leads to somewhere better, and the ‘a-ha’ moments never come to an end” (p. 208).


    Mystics look holy and righteous (on the outside), at the same time using occult practices. “Occult” means “hidden” and it is the goal of those who practice such things to uncover and tap into the supposed hidden spiritual power in nature/God.

     

    They perform incantations, special rites (labyrinths, holy days), meditation (contemplative/breath prayer), spells, and prescribed prayers to their divine being(s) in order to have elitist experiences, special knowledge, some aspect of control over their world, and to cultivate love, joy, and peace.

     

    Mystics use the exact same methods (with an endless variation to keep a person’s attention) to the exact same ends, though with different names to sound righteous. The irony here is God has called us “to be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

     

    If all the other religions in the world practice the same things to the same ends, how “holy” (meaning “set apart for God”; “different from the world”) are we really? The ultimate goal of mysticism is to attain union with God. This is however, a union apart from faith in Jesus (hence, the ecumenism) which is no union at all (see Section II, Can you love God and reject Jesus?).

     

    In this same vein, the authors claim,

    “The way we understand Jesus’ words about the kingdom is critical to the kind of life we will live. If we think that the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is simply about Christ’s second coming or about going to heaven when we die, we’ll be tempted to become passive and complacent.

    But if Jesus’ kingdom is a living, dynamic reality-a reality that is right now steadily advancing against the kingdom of darkness-that’s a different story. As followers of Christ, our obedience is vital because it is a catalyst for the Spirit’s work, making us more like Jesus so that his reign can spread across the whole earth.” (p.195).


    Let’s dissect this passage. Notice first, all the emotive language to get readers fired up: critical, simply, tempted, passive, complacent, living, dynamic, reality, right now, steadily advancing against the kingdom of darkness.

     

    Notice too the appeal to emotion instead of reason with the “if, then” statements. One “reality” is presented as dull, boring, and will threaten followers with temptation, passiveness, and complacency. The other however will be an exciting (dynamic) “reality” in which followers can actively participate in fighting for God (if nothing else, the authors understand what motivates their audience).

     

    Which one would you rather believe? But the choice isn’t up for us to decide. One is reality, the other fantasy. This is a taste of Dominionism; a belief that Jesus will only come back once the world has been “taken” for Him. We should let the Bible tell us which is which, and it already has.

     

    Jesus is not interested in having “his reign spread across the whole earth.” Notice especially in the first verse below, “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

    John 17:14-18

    "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."

     

    John 15:18-21

    “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you... because they do not know Him who sent Me."

     

    John 16:1-4

    These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [today it might be from churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them."

       

    Galatians 5:11

    "And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased."

     

    "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Luke 20:25) 

     

    My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there(D) to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back(E) and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)


    ****This last verse consequently undermines another claim made in the book, that the disciples had met not in a house, but in the Temple when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts.

     

    Conclusion:


    The “Western Way” of interpreting Scripture is sound and trustworthy. We can always learn more about Jewish culture, especially the world in which Jesus lived, but we are not called to re-burden ourselves with the Law.

     

    The authors interestingly point out a contradiction when discussing a book, The Year of Living Biblically,

     

    “Over the course of the next year, he would do his best to keep every one of those commands, except those that were clearly illegal, like killing magicians or slaughtering oxen for sacrifice (p.159)

     

    (Though the authors make light of it, the book is meant to show how supposedly ridiculous the Bible is). Although they call for a return to the Law, it is impossible for modern people to fully live it out the way Jesus would have. Therefore what they are really advocating for is a “return” to Judaism the way modern Jews practice it (See section I)!

     

    Again, though they issue a warning that, “many Jewish traditions are lovely, but have little to do with Jesus” (p. 205), they fail to understand that all current Jewish traditions have nothing to do with Jesus.

     

    We cannot reenact the kind of Seder meal or festivals Jesus would have celebrated. The Temple no longer exists, animal sacrifices are no longer made, there is no more priesthood (and praise God!), etc.

     

    Any kind of ritual or Jewish experience reflects modern Judaism more than that of Jesus’ time. And even though He grew up Jewish, the Divine side of Him transcends any people group. He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13).

     

    Old Testament and New are full of reminders of how the Israelites rejected God over and over again. This is not anti-Semitism; this is directly from the Bible, even the O.T. the Jews revere. Jesus had harsh things to say about the rabbis of His day. The very things the authors of …Rabbi Jesus uphold as practices to emulate (because they were impressed) are outward shows of devotion which Jesus condemns!

    Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    Prayer

    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt. 6:1-8)

    …”When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt. 6:16-18)

     

    Why do we disobey Jesus’ commands by embracing traditions He clearly condemned? The authors gush about the beauty of phylacteries, tassels, rocking in prayer, and reciting blessings by the hundreds as ways to increase one’s spiritual joy and sensitivity.

     

    But Jesus says these outward shows of “love” for God do not reflect a genuine inward love. God’s commands are found in Scripture alone, not prayer shawls, mezuzah, or experiences.  

     

     

    **Jesus is the Only Way Pt.4 – Reject Jesus, Reject the Father

    Most people don’t think about it, when you reject Jesus, you are rejecting the Father. People like to say “I am religious, I love God, but I do not need Jesus or I don’t want anything to do with Jesus.” Why is this wrong? Can you turn your back on Jesus and still have a relationship with God?

     

    Luke 10:16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

     

    John 5:23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

     

    John 5:37-38 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38“You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

     

    John 8:19 So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.”

     

    John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.

     

    John 12:48-50 “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50“I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

     

    John 14:7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

     

    John 15:20-21 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

     

    John 15:23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.

     

    John 16:2-3 “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3“These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.

     

    1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

     

    1 John 2:23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

     

    1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

     

    1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

     

    1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

     

    1 John 5:9-12 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

     

    2 John 1:7-9 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.

     

    (http://whychrist.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/jesus-is-the-only-way-pt4-reject-jesus-reject-the-father/)

     

    If God is Your Father, You Must Love the Son


    The Old Testament story of Joseph offers many wonderful lessons with one that is particularly relevant to our topic.  Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, was betrayed by his ten brothers, sold into slavery, and reported dead to their father. 

     

    While the brothers directed their hatred toward Joseph, they broke their father’s heart.  While Jacob’s favoritism was certainly wrong, the brothers should have accepted and tolerated Joseph out of love for their father.  In their scheming, they not only showed a lack of love for Joseph, they also demonstrated how little they loved their father.  Any love for their father should have curbed their envy and vengeance toward Joseph.

     

    In John 8:42 Jesus informs the unbelievers,  

    “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” 

     

    The Jews – Jesus’ brothers by national descent – claimed a relationship with God, calling Him their Father.  Yet they rejected God’s Son as their Messiah.  Jesus’ simply states if you love God then you must accept Me because God sent Me. 

     

    To believe in a Divine Being yet reject the Son whom He sent does not demonstrate one’s love for that Divine Being.  Furthermore, to seek a relationship with that Being by circumventing Jesus is impossible since,  

    “No man comes to the Father except by Me.”  (John 14:6)

     

    Do you love God?  You must love the Son, Jesus.

    Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. (1 John 5:1)


    (http://www.onetruechurch.net/jesus-christ/do-you-really-love-god/)

     

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