by Rayola Kelley
One of the greatest challenges I have faced in my Christian walk is that of taking detours in my spiritual growth and service. The truth is, that it is easy to take detours.
There are many avenues vying for our attention. There are the rabbit trails (good causes), the endless attractions (the world), the short cuts (religion’s best) and the scenic routes (latest fads or movements in Christianity). These avenues are not necessarily bad but they can easily take an individual away from Jesus’ best, which cost valuable time, resources and energy.
The key to avoiding detours is balance. But the only one who can bring balance is Jesus. This can only happen when everything in our lives begins and ends with His reality. Anything that falls short of Him, no matter how good, is a detour. One of the “good things” that is being promoted in Christianity is the “so called” need to get back to our “Jewish roots.” This promotion has opened a Pandora’s box. Today this subject is greatly debated. You can find this endless argument on the Internet.
This debate includes the place the Law, Jewish feasts and the nation of Israel play in prophecy and in Christian practices and beliefs. The problem with such debates is that they are unprofitable because they can’t save an individual nor do they lead a person into a greater relationship with Jesus (Titus 3:9).
Even though I have already dealt with some of these subjects in the past, I feel compelled once again to consider them. My hope is that I not only challenge people to consider where this debate is leading, but to bring some balance by pointing them to the real heart of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul contended with these very issues in his day. He wrote epistles that still speak loudly; and yet, many Christians continue to fall into the same traps that existed in Paul’s day.
One of the traps people are falling into is the one involving the Law. The Galatians were falling into this trap when the Apostle Paul accused them of accepting another gospel and frustrating the grace of God (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:21).
It is important to note that if anyone understood the purpose of the Law it was Paul. In Galatians Paul explained the law’s main purpose was to serve as a schoolmaster that pointed people towards their need for Jesus Christ and His salvation (Galatians 3:24 & 25).
In Romans 7, this former Pharisee talked candidly about the Law being a hard, unbearable taskmaster. In fact, at the beginning of the chapter he compares his relationship with the Law to marriage. In his description of this marriage, he tells how the Law is a harsh husband who could never be pleased by fallen man who is influenced by that which is contrary in nature to the Law. Paul knew he could never meet the requirements of the Law, making his relationship with the Law unbearable. He also realized he was bound to the Law and only death could legally separate him from this dreadful husband. This made the situation more hopeless because the Law is eternal and will never die; therefore, he was forever bound to an unloving spouse.
But in Romans 6, the Apostle Paul cleverly set up the stage to help Christians put the Law in a proper perspective by showing that a death did take place. This death releases individuals from this unloving first husband to pursue a new spouse and life. The death he was talking about was the death of every blood-bought saint.
The Law would never die, but if a person is truly in Christ, he or she is already considered dead in Him. This death sets every Christian free from the claims and demands of the first husband and the old hopeless life that had existed with him. This death also allows these individuals to take on a second husband by the name of Jesus who proved both His love and commitment to each of them on the cross. This is why the Apostle Paul was able to make this declaration, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”(Romans 7:24 & 25a).
Today Christians are trying to come under the Law while holding onto Christ. If you consider Paul’s reference towards the Law as a first husband, you would have to conclude that individuals who are attempting this are either committing an act of spiritual adultery or they are guilty of polygamy. If this is true, it is important to remember Jesus is a gentleman. He will be the first to bow out of such a relationship because He will have no other adulterous loyalties before Him.
In the past I have talked about the place that Jewish feasts should play in the lives of Christians. I for one have studied them but never saw the need to actually practice them. The feasts are shadows that pointed to the reality of Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16 & 17). We need to realize these feasts were designed so that Israel could celebrate the life they enjoyed in, through and with their Jehovah God. If you note, all the celebrations that God set up celebrated the presence and reality of HIM among His people!
God with us, Jesus Christ, is a constant reality in my life. He has given me His life, which has been a means of satisfaction and celebration to me for over 23 years. I will always appreciate the shadows that point to Christ but to actually practice them in light of Christ is to substitute beggarly elements (as Paul called them in Galatians 4:9-11) for that which is real and glorious.
Apparently many Christians are now getting caught up with Jewish practices, not to discover Jesus, but to find their “so-called” Jewish roots. Is there something wrong with this picture?
I realize that I have a spiritual inheritance that not only identifies me with Jesus Christ but also leads me back to the first man who truly gives insight into possessing this inheritance. His name is Abraham.
Abraham’s real claim to fame was not that he was a father of the Jewish nation, but that he was a man of great faith (Galatians 3:6-9). He was a man that believed God and out of his faith came a nation and a spiritual legacy we enjoy today.
It seems that some Christian Gentiles are more interested in laying claim to a nationality due only to those who are Jewish by natural birth than to the spiritual inheritance that was purchased on the cross and can be received by anyone on the basis of faith.
The attempt for those of the body of Christ to become national Israel has thrown the church into an identity crisis. The question is why are Christians trying to replace National Israel with the body of Christ? The answer is simple. They want to claim the worldly inheritance that only belongs to Israel. Apparently having a spiritual inheritance is not as wonderful as having an earthly inheritance that includes an earthly kingdom.
John the Baptist put the arrogance or elitism of being a Jew in this perspective: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).
The Word of God tells believers they are spiritual Jews but this heritage is not determined by a biological event such as physical birth, but rather by the heart (Romans 2:29). This spiritual heritage can’t be traced back to Jewish roots but to the person of Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:11-25 tells us that the Gentiles are wild olive branches that have been grafted into the Vine. The vine is Jesus and not the Jewish Nation (John 15:1-8). It is Jesus who has the eternal root system that so many seek today.
I have accepted the fact a long time ago that I am a Gentile by natural birth and would never be considered the natural branch like those of Israel, but it doesnÕt matter. Each branch can only find its life in Jesus. This is where real birth, life and inheritance begins.
This reality has set me free. It is not my race, gender or nationality that gives me purpose, life or identity, it is Jesus Christ alone who holds all the important keys to my life.
I shake my head as I watch people put value in things that are temporal. I often say a small prayer,
“Oh, God deliver me! Deliver me from the pettiness that narrows man’s already limited mind, feeds his already inflated arrogance and exalts him in his ignorance. Lord, deliver me from the religious practices that condone self-righteousness while condemning truth. Deliver me from the theology that seems to change with the times and offers endless debates that are never solved. Lord, deliver me from the nonsense that embraces that which is minor in your sight, and honors foolishness while ignoring that which is important to your heart. Deliver me Oh God from the snares of man’s pride, the selfish motives of man’s pursuits and the conceits of man’s ignorance. Deliver me from it all so that I can begin to know you, love you and begin to enjoy sweet communion with you.”
I pray that your sincere prayer is to know Jesus and what is truly important to His heart.
We want to thank you for your sacrificial support. We trust God will bless you mightily.