This Ain’t That #5

Last week we established that good works are pretty important to God. But that leaves a huge, gaping question to consider. What exactly is good? I mean, we have a societal norm of how good is defined, we have family definitions of good, and we have our own personal peace with what we consider good. As I said before, some of what we talk about in this series is going to seem like a mental gymnastic as we renew our minds and change long-held mindsets to mold to Messiah’s way of thinking. So it helps me to think of it like this…have you ever noticed that Scripture never refers to us as the “Adults of God”?   We are consistently called the “Children of God”. Have you ever wondered why that is? Maybe it’s because no matter how old or mature in the faith we are, He is so much bigger than anything we can fathom that it takes a loooooong time and ALOT of work with Him for us to begin to think, and therefore act, like He does.

You can see this play out with children you’re around everyday. Have your children ever done something for you that they were so proud of but in reality, it wasn’t done quite like you would’ve liked it? Maybe they’ve “cleaned” their room, when really all they’ve done is cleared a path from the door to the bed? But to them they’ve accomplished a huge milestone. Or maybe they’ve cooked you something that isn’t really edible, but they’re SO proud that you eat it with a smile because they’re you’re children. If you were paying for that same meal in a restaurant, you’d likely send it back. Why? Because one meal is cooked by your children, who don’t yet fully comprehend how to put ingredients together, manage temperature, cooking times, etc. and the other is prepared by an adult, someone who purportedly is trained and has experience in providing quality meals that people enjoy. Now understand this…There is a difference in the one doing the work, but there’s also a different expectation from the one receiving the work. As adults, we expect more from adults than we do from children. How do children grow up to be adults? Well it’s our responsibility to train them. Its what we do as parents to teach them what cleanliness is and how to mix ingredients and prepare a meal that’s fitting. See, It is our role as parents and adults to define terms for our children. We set the standard in our children’ s lives for what “good” is. And this is really not at all about perfection, but teaching them to live and act in ways that not only benefit them, but that uphold our values and our reputations. When we think about our relationship with God in this way, I think it’s easy to see why we’re referred to as children…because, whether we’re 20  or  60, that’s exactly what we are.

Now the cool thing about how God has set this whole thing up is that there are physical/spiritual parallels for everything in life. So it stands to reason that if we truly are children of God, then we have to look to Him to define what is good because…we’re children. And even to a greater degree, we not only don’t know what God expects, but because we have been under the influence of sin for so long, we actually have the opposite understandings of much of how and what God thinks about things. So again, there’s much work to be done…hence this series.

So let’s start to look at how Abba defines good. Psalm 37:27 says, Turn away from evil, and do good; And dwell forever. Well that seems pretty easy. We can easily define “evil”, right? We all know evil…mass murder, child molestation, terrorism, Hitler…just to name a few. So if we aren’t lumped into one of those classes of evil, we’re good, right? Well not so fast.  Psalm 51:3-4 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. Against You, You alone, have I sinned, And done evil in Your eyes; That You might be proven right in Your words; Be clear when You judge. You see, when we think of evil, our leaning is to think of those kinds of atrocities we’ve witnessed all too often. But evil, from a Scriptural perspective, is anything that is against or contradicts God’s holy nature and His commands. Evil is essentially a lack of goodness. Here, Psalm 51 links evil with transgression, or sin. 1 John 3 tells us that sin is lawlessness. What law? The speed limit? The Norwegian Constitution? Leviticus 24:22- You are to have one right-ruling, or law, for the stranger and for the native, for I am ???? your Elohim.’ ” For the sake of time, we won’t read all of Psalm 119, but take a minute to read through it sometime. David is pouring out his heart in love for God’s commandments. So what is good? God’s law is good. Now I know that may be different than what you were taught. But God’s law, or, the Torah, is His instructions for living in His house…the kingdom. Remember the illustration we gave of adopting a child? Well here’s where it really comes together. See, we are adopted into His family but we don’t know how to act like He wants us to…we weren’t raised that way. We are legally adopted, but many are not finding the fulfillment that comes with being a child of the King because we haven’t learned how to do things His way. You know, you’ve heard your parents say, “if you’re going to live in my house, you’re going to have to live by my rules”. Even scarier is when you say the same thing, in the same voice, to your own kids, right? But that’s really how simple this is.

I know we’ve been taught that the law is some evil bondage, but the truth is that God’s Torah is His instructions for His creation. God loved us so much that He gave us step by step guidance for how to live this life. That doesn’t sound like bondage to me…it sounds like an incredible gift! from our Creator In His Torah, we find everything from how to eat, how to have fulfilling relationships, to how to worship Him in the ways He desires to be worshipped. The Torah is so much deeper and more beautiful than we’ve ever imagined. Even more beautiful is that we have a Messiah that showed us how to live out the Father’s instructions perfectly as He fulfilled them…or brought fulness to them. Now we, as humans, have a tendency to twist the things of God…it’s almost inherent in our nature. And we can become so militant and belligerent about the physical commandments that we forget altogether about the heart and intent of what Abba is trying to communicate to us through them. That is called religion. And THIS AIN’T THAT. Should we do our best to keep the physical commandments? Absolutely! Is it just enough for your kids to understand WHY they need to clean their room? Or do you expect them to actually keep it clean? So yes, we should keep the physical commandments and do our very best to do so as we follow Yeshua. But in keeping the sabbath, the feasts, and eating kosher, we can not forget that all of these things are teaching us about how God wants to be loved. The commandments are not a checklist that, if we do them correctly, we can present them to God and get a gold star. And that’s not what it’s about. If that’s the way we treat them, we’ve changed one set of religious rules for another…and THIS AIN’T THAT. As we’re “cleaning our rooms” we should be learning more about the heart and holiness of God.

There’s a big misconception out there that the Old Testament was all about works but the New Testament is all about the heart. The Old Testament was all about circumcision of the flesh, but the New Testament is all about the circumcision of the heart. That’s actually a huge lie. All over the Old Testament, we see that there were always two circumcisions…a circumcision of the flesh and a corresponding circumcision of the heart. See, this is God’s way. Like any good parent, He gives us physical directions in order to teach a spiritual concept. The commandments are also reminders of who we are and Who’s we are. Sounds a lot like the parables Yeshua taught, doesn’t it? Where did He get that from? The Father…it’s always been His way of transmitting spiritual understanding into the physical world.

So I hope that if you’re against the idea that Christians have any obligation to follow Torah that this will provoke some thought and study of God’s Word. If you’re new to learning Torah, I hope this helps you approach the commandments without becoming so overwhelmed. And if you’ve been studying and following Torah for some time, I pray this brings some balance to your walk and breathes new life into your relationship with the Creator. Wherever you find yourself, welcome to the journey…I pray your life will never be the same.