This Ain’t That #3

In this post in our “This Ain’t That” series, I want to talk about how faith is not what most of us think and it’s not what most of us have been told to believe it was. There has been a long-standing debate over faith vs works. The sad thing is that we see it as FAITH…versus…WORKS. Do the two really work in opposition to each other? I want to propose that if they do, if faith and works are really in direct opposition to one another, it would’ve been news to the disciples of Yeshua, Paul, and even Yeshua Himself.

As I said in our last video, I grew up in traditional evangelical Christianity, so that’s my reference point and in that traditional understanding, I can’t tell you how many sermons, Sunday school lessons, devotionals I sat through that pounded into my head the idea that “all of our righteousness is as filthy rags”. I had become so convinced that I could do absolutely nothing to ever please God that I eventually quit trying. Oh, I still went to church faithfully. Heck, I even started teaching and preaching. I even went so far as to make my entire life about teaching other people about God. But I always struggled with this idea that not even my most earnest, humble, heart-felt desire to please God and do things that He says are pleasing, would please Him. For instance, Yeshua Himself commanded us to care for the widows and orphans, those downtrodden and less fortunate than us. So if we do those things, does that not please the Father? We are commanded also to love God above all and to love our neighbors as ourselves…does that not please God? The 10 commandments…when we do our best to live out the “Big 10”, does God not look upon that with pleasure?

There seems to be a disconnect here somewhere. Christendom is filled with writings telling us that all we have to do is put our “faith” in the finished work of Christ on the cross. That when God sees us in our despicable, rotten, sinful state, He looks at us through Yeshua’s righteousness and we are able to commune with Him because of Christ’s sacrifice. So the big question is, what does that mean? I mean, tangibly, what does that mean. Because I don’t know about you, but for me, there is a real life out here that I have to live. One with challenges, opportunities, relationships, careers and families. Is all that we need to please God “faith”? Well, yes, that’s certainly the basis and the foundation. But what is faith? Thousands, maybe millions, of people have defined faith. Just do a Google search for “what is faith” and you could literally spend the next 2 weeks reading opinions and attempts at defining it. I’ve done this and have read for days and days, people’s outlook on what faith is and honestly, very little of what I’ve read seems to reconnect this disconnect.

In Deuteronomy 32. Verse 20 says, “And He said, ‘I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very forward generation, children in whom there is no faith”. Wow, sounds pretty harsh on the Israelites, doesn’t it? Well, let’s look at it like this. Israel had been delivered from Egypt, which is a type and shadow of the greater Exodus that Messiah would provide as He delivered us from slavery to sin. So the Israelites were “saved”, delivered…they had become the nation and people of God that He chose to be His nation of priests to the entire world. So why was He so peeved at the nation? Let’s read up just a few verses. Verse 16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19 And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. So apparently Israel had committed some offenses that got God really ticked. But they were already delivered, remember? The point is that their actions AFTER having the FAITH to follow God out of Egypt and leave their slavery was very important to God, both their obedience and their disobedience.

Let’s fast forward to Isaiah 64. Starting in verse 5You shall meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. See, You were wroth when we sinned in them a long time. And should we be saved? 6And all of us have become as one unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as soiled rags. And all of us fade like a leaf, and our crookednesses, like the wind, have taken us away. 7And there is no one who calls on Your Name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our crookednesses. 8And now, O ????, You are our Father. We are the clay, and You our potter. And we are all the work of Your hand. 9Do not be wroth, O ????, nor remember crookedness forever. See, please look, all of us are Your people!

Here we have the famous, or infamous, verse about our righteousness being as filthy rags. The term “filthy rags” is really interesting. Most English translations clean it up to make it less offensive. The word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” The word rags is a translation of begged, meaning “a rag or garment.” So, these “righteous acts” are considered by God as repugnant as a soiled feminine hygiene product. Sorry if that disgusts you, but it’s Scripture—so blame Isaiah. Isaiah is drawing a pretty vivid picture of our “righteousness acts” here. But, there’s more to the story.

What righteous acts was Isaiah referring to? Well, in chapter 42, we see that they were indeed worshipping, but they had turned their backs on Him by worshipping false gods, in chapter 65, they were making sacrifices and burning incense…seems like they were doing as God instructed…but they were sacrificing on strange altars. Isaiah had even called Jerusalem a harlot and compared it to Sodom in chapter 3. See they were doing all the things that God had commanded, but they had twisted them and were being haphazard with them. Sounds a lot like the Golden Calf doesn’t it? So God did not esteem their “righteous acts” as anything but “polluted garments” or “bloody tampons” to use today’s vernacular. Their falling away from walking out the Torah of God as He commanded it, had rendered their righteous works totally unclean.

Now we can see that the “righteousness” that is called filthy rags is not actual righteousness. Isaiah may have been imploring the use of a little sarcasm here. Or, he meant that what Israel really was convinced was righteousness was actually way off from what God intended. It was a perversion and twisting of His perfect Torah. But they were still the people of God and in covenant with Him. So does God care what we do after we’re “saved”? Again, if He doesn’t, it would’ve been news to Isaiah and those who heard his words.

Ephesians 2 tells us that by favour you have been saved, through belief, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim, it is not by works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah ????? unto good works, which Elohim prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. See, we were delivered from the law of sin and death to be doers of good works. Just as Israel was delivered from Egypt not by their own power, we are not delivered by our own power. But does that mean we’re off the hook to perform righteous acts after our deliverance? Peter encourages us to ADD TO YOUR FAITH. That constitutes actions on our part.

So if you’re understanding of faith is simply an agreeing with the facts of the gospel of Messiah, then guys, this ain’t that. It’s not the fulness of faith. Faith is believing, but it’s believing to the point that it causes us to act in accordance with what we believe (good works). Faith only in the head is not faith at all. James tells us that he shows his faith BY what he DOES. So it’s very important that we rid ourselves of the mindset that we can never do anything to please God and thereby we don’t even try to attain righteousness. Simply understanding gets us nowhere. We are called, even commanded to ACT. That’s true faith. And what do our actions tell us? They tell us unequivocally what we believe and whether what we say we believe and what we actually believe are 2 different things or not. Faith and works are only opposed if they contradict each other. And for too many believers, this is the case. Faith and works are a beautiful choreography of our new lives in Messiah.

If you’ve heard over and over that you can never please God by what you do and that even your best tries at holiness are offensive to Christ’s’ sacrifice, and maybe you’ve given up on working on your faith and you find yourself frustrated and empty thinking there must be more to this life, let these words resound in your mind…THIS AIN’T THAT. It’s time for us to correct this mindset and start being God’s people who God is pleased with.

So welcome to the journey, I pray your life will never be the same.