Exposing Self-Righteous Religion

Alcohol and Jesus

(Read Update here: https://daniellovett.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/jesus-and-alcohol-my-confession/)

Six weeks ago I had a dream that compelled me to dispose of around 8 gallons of alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic by any means, but had recently taken up a new hobby of making wine. I had stumbled on a Youtube video of dandelion wine and since my front yard was full of them, I decided to give it a try. As with any of my hobbies, I threw myself into this new hobby for a while and learned all I could. All while I was doing this I questioned whether I was stepping out of God’s will for me. “Is this OK?” I would ask, and one time I heard a “pour it out.” I dismissed this as my own religious notions or something and disregarded it.  And then I had the following dream:

I saw the world for what it truly was in the spiritual dimension. It was a place of darkness and confusion and the air was filled with poison. It was as if the entire world was a house filled with carbon monoxide. People were dropping around me like flies and I was shaken by it. Someone, who I perceived was the Lord, was trying his best to rescue people. But the people were hiding from him. Demons were also constantly busy hiding people from Jesus and in frustration he said to himself (the Trinity) “It seems like they are going to get away with everything.”

I woke up stunned around 3 am or so and walked downstairs. I knew that at times, I was the one hiding from Jesus and that, at times, I was using alcohol (among other things) to do just that. I knew that currently many others and, in fact, a great portion of the population of planet earth was using alcohol to hide from Jesus (not to mention the billions throughout history). I wanted no part of it! I didn’t want be a hindrance to Jesus and his ongoing rescue operation. I wanted to help! I wanted to be an asset. These are precious people to Jesus. He desperately loves them (and you) and felt their loss deeply.

“Pour it out”, I heard again. I wasted no time, because I knew if I delayed I would find some way to excuse myself from obedience. So I poured out 3 gallon batch of dandylion wine, 4 gallons of hard cider, and a nearly full $10 bottle of wine.  Every last drop of alcohol… gone.

It was a painful act of obedience.

My alcohol use history:

I remember when my mom once tried to cure us from the notion of ever turning to alcohol by letting my brother and I try a beer. I was 15 and my brother was 14.  I didn’t care for it at all. Apparently it is an acquired taste and I wondered why anyone would want to acquire a taste for piss water.

But then the trouble started.

images-1When I was 17 my parents started to fight a lot and during most of my later teen years we were not really a very happy family. I started turning to alcohol.

I found friends whose parents would drink and we’d raid their stash.  I remember drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels in the car before a school dance. I remember getting instantly drunk on just one sip of Everclear (95% alcohol) and walking down the street in my underwear. I remember drinking an entire  bottle of tequila, smoking two packs of cigarettes, passing out and waking up drunk the next day. We’d find someone to buy a case of beer and throw a party with all my new drinking friends. I did stupid things, I said stupid things, I made a fool of myself. I am ashamed of that year of my life.

Why did I do it? Was it to numb the pain of the strife at home? Was I looking in the wrong place for a sense of identity?

I must admit, it wasn’t just the pain of my parents conflict at home. It was the pain of sin itself. And drinking wasn’t the only thing I did to try to numb the pain and mental anguish. I would take steak knifes and cut up my arms and legs (still have the scars). I would bash my head with rocks. I tried marajuana. I am ashamed to admit what else I turned to… and so I won’t.

You get the picture. I was a wretch. I was a broken sinner and felt alienated from God. But I was also a “Christian”. I had been since I was young. I tried to reach out to God and he certainly helped me through a lot. But I never felt a sense of relief. I never fully landed on the peace I longed for.

When I reconnected with Jesus at 18, I didn’t drink again for probably 10 years or so. It wasn’t a temptation at all. I never thought about it. I was never even inclined to. I remember at one point getting pulled over because the police officer thought I was drunk. I told him I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in 6 years, I’m just a bad driver.

As time went by I started to have some beer a few times a year. I had, after all, years ago developed a taste for the piss water and I soon discovered my favorite Wisconsin micro brewed craft lagers and ales. In my early 30’s my habit had been to, every few months, buy a six pack and have one a day for week and then forget about it for another few months. That was it. I enjoyed one beer or a glass of wine on a very occasional basis. No more than one. No problem. Totally under control.

Then in the late summer of 2012 I had something of an identity crisis (mid-life crisis?). I struggled with who I truly was versus who I presented to the world. I would have bad days and painful and sometimes shameful memories would plague me. It caused me to swear and turn to alcohol. I can just hear the Christian say, “Why didn’t you just take every thought captive to Christ and overcome?” To which I would respond, “Where were you when I needed a true friend?”

I began to loathe all the posing that goes on among Christians. I loathed myself for being one of  the posers. If I am not a genuine Christian who loves everyone from the overflow of Gods love at work in me, why in the hell would I pretend to be?  The pretense nauseated me and I searched for meaning in other things, in hobbies. I renewed some interests I had as a kid. I got into the outdoors. Fishing, hiking, eating wild edible plants, and gardening. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with developing some hobbies! I was long overdo for hobbies other than reading my bible all the time and trying to convert everyone on facebook.)

gryllsBy December I really got into watching Man vs. Wild. I watched every episode I could and soon discovered why I loved Bear Grylls so much. I learned he is a Christian brother! He, however, was not a religious poser. He seemed real, not afraid to just be himself. He seemed comfortable in his own skin. He would say, “Expect good things from God because God is good.” His faith was simple. His relationship with God was simple. He loved life and took it all in. And so, for better or worse Bear Grylls became my new role model. (I was so into Bear Grylls that some of my very dear friends called me Bear Doogle, and if you’re reading this, it’s ok to still call me that once in a while. The doogle part of it is “Daniel’s google”.)

I read Bear Grylls book “Mud, Sweat, and Tears” and loved it. In the book he mentions his hobby of making cider and home brewing. Thus the inspiration for my taking up this new hobby of home brewing.

But, by this time in my life (in the midst of my identity crisis) alcohol started to become a bigger part of my life. My wife and I would fight about it and I’ll tell you why. I would have my “one” drink on an empty stomach and drink it fast. I would have a tall glass of wine to make sure I would feel it. I would buy beer with more alcoholic content. I would drink alone. I would hide my alcohol so as not to provoke a fight with my wife and sometimes, I would have 2 beers instead of just one <gasp>.

I never viewed it as a problem.

The day I realized it could be a problem (and why) happened when I went on a camping trip with a Christian brother. That whole first day was amazing! We both just gloried in God’s creation and truly experienced the wonder and awe of of it all. We enjoyed ourselves, we enjoyed each others company and conversation, and most of all, we enjoyed God’s fellowship. I could feel the Holy Spirit shining in my heart… and then, I broke out the 6 pack of high alcohol beer, had one, got a buzz and got silly. It was fun, but I couldn’t feel the shining presence of God as much… (I talk more about this later). And then, I had another… and then another, until I made myself sick. I felt nauseous and on the verge of puking all night long and woke up that way too. I was ashamed and regretted bringing alcohol at all.

I will never again abuse alcohol I vowed. Within a week I had the dream and poured it all out.

I decided to take a 6 week break from alcohol (which I did) and then planned to enjoy it responsibly from that point on. Someone might wonder, why not give it up altogether? We not be a teetotaler?

Answer: Because its in my blood. My grandfather on my mothers side was a rum runner during the prohibition. My grandmother on my fathers side was an alcoholic who died getting hit by a truck carrying a case of beer across the street.

OK, while those stories are both true, this isn’t the reason why I refuse to be a teetotaler. The answer is, (and I mean this!) is that this is a freedom in Christ issue and I am taking a stand. We have the right as Christians to eat meat (even brats – pork ones too!) and drink wine and enjoy all the gifts of life that God has given us.

Of course we also carry a tremendous duty to love one another and not make choices in our freedom to offend and cause someone to stumble. As believers we don’t belong to ourselves anymore and must obey our Master Jesus.

When Jesus was here he took the high road of defending the liberty of the Christian life to the great offense of the self righteous religious. He ate meat. He drank wine. His first miracle was to convert water into over 120 gallons of the finest wine the world has ever tasted. Wine was his idea. He doesn’t hate wine or alcohol just because well over half the world abuses it and uses it to hide from God. He has no vendetta against wine any more than he does against sex. Both are gifts to the human race to be enjoyed. If you abuse either, you are glorifying the gift above the giver. It is idolatry.

I told my wife recently, “What if we drank wine for the glory of God? What if we were to submit alcohol and the enjoyment of it to Jesus and his glory?”

But then you go to Bible study and see the guy whose life has been wrecked by an addiction to alcohol there. He comes for the free food and leaves before the annoying talk about Jesus. You sense he is on his way to hell with a drink in his hand and there is nothing you can do about it. He asks you for money and lies about why he needs it. He is an absolute train wreck, all thanks to alcohol.

That is sobering.

And then you hear stories from genuine Christian brothers who had a past with alcohol, who were brought down and wrecked by their addiction, who were then radically set free by Jesus and avoids alcohol like the plague. They can’t imagine what anyone sees in drinking the poison of alcohol.

That is sobering.

And then you hear first hand stories of people whose dads drank and beat them and abused them or even molested them. You hear stories about people who have actually died from alcohol poisoning, or drunk driving or about someone’s alcoholic grandmother who died while crossing the street carrying a case of beer.

That is sobering.

And then you read Scriptures about how drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God and the many strong warnings by God in his word against drunkenness listed here (please read them):

 “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” Ephesians 5:18 NLT

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21 NLT

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Proverbs 20:1 NLT

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-13 NLT

“Who has anguish? Who has sorrow?
Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining?
Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns,
trying out new drinks.
31 Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is,
how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down.
32 For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake;
it stings like a viper.
33 You will see hallucinations,
and you will say crazy things.
34 You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea,
clinging to a swaying mast.
35 And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it.
I didn’t even know it when they beat me up.
When will I wake up
so I can look for another drink?” Proverbs 23:29-35 NLT

“What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning
looking for a drink of alcohol
and spend long evenings drinking wine
to make themselves flaming drunk.” Isaiah 5:11 NLT

“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.” Romans 14:21 NLT

“Do not carouse with drunkards
or feast with gluttons,
21 for they are on their way to poverty,
and too much sleep clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-21 NLT

“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 NLT

“Now, however, Israel is led by drunks
who reel with wine and stagger with alcohol.
The priests and prophets stagger with alcohol
and lose themselves in wine.
They reel when they see visions
and stagger as they render decisions.” Isaiah 28:7 NLT

“Alcohol is for the dying,
and wine for those in bitter distress.
7 Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.” Proverbs 31:6-7 NLT

“Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation. 10 You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean. 11 And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.” Leviticus 10:8-11 NLT

I LOVE this one:

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine.
Rulers should not crave alcohol.
5 For if they drink, they may forget the law
and not give justice to the oppressed.” Proverbs 31:4-5 NLT

So with all these sobering serious warnings regarding alcohol abuse you would think it would probably be best to never use it at all. Many Christians have, and that is fine if they want to, or are led by the Lord to do that. They have the freedom to abstain, but Christians also have the freedom to partake and enjoy. It is for that freedom I am taking a stand.

When I read through the Bible last time I was surprised at how the Lord put alcohol, when used in it’s proper context, in a good light. This verse was surprising and refreshing regarding instructions to sojourners to Jerusalem for festivals:

“When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household.” Deuteronomy 14:26 NLT

Isn’t that amazing! Feast and celebrate! Let the finest wine you drink and the best meal of your year be in the Lord’s presence with your family, celebrating God’s goodness! God has given us all things to enjoy! We must honor the Lord Jesus in our wine drinking, in eating, in sex, in everything he gives us to enjoy. Honor the giver in every gift he has given.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV

Timothy, to whom the above verse was written, was apparently a teetotaler and was suffering for it. Paul advises him to have some for it’s healthful benefits:

“Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” 1 Timothy 5:23 NLT

And lets not forget the previously mentioned first miracle of Jesus when he transformed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into the finest nonalcoholic wine the world has ever seen (just seeing if you’re paying attention). You can read about this story in John 2. Do you honestly think Jesus didn’t enjoy some of that wine with his disciples at this wedding celebration? If you think he didn’t, you better think again. He admits to it!

“The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” Luke 7:34-35 NLT

Jesus loves celebrations! He loves people! He loves when we share a glass of wine with family and friends! He is right there with us laughing and sharing our joy!

Is it so inconceivable to imagine that wine isn’t meant for hiding from God but to bring us closer to him and to each other? He is right there in the midst of our celebrations! Why would we shame ourselves? Why impose guilt onto the gift? Why has alcohol become something dark people use to slink off into the shadows away from God?

I am not suggesting that Jesus ever got drunk, but anyone who drinks wine knows the difference between the calm, relaxed, and yes, sometimes silly effects of alcohol and the rip roaring out of your mind drunk. I believe motivation and the state of one’s heart has everything to do with this and whether it is “OK” or not. This is between you and the Lord Jesus. Talk to him about how much is too much or if you should refrain altogether.

On my camping trip for instance. Why would I even question the freedom to enjoy a beer with my friend (providing it wasn’t getting me drunk)? I now believe it was wrong only because of what alcohol had become to me and my habits leading up to that point, this was why that beer became a sin and a snare to me and I’m convinced it was the sin that left me feeling farther from God, not the beer itself. And I should not have had more than one.

The Bible tells us that to the pure, everything is pure.

On that occasion, one beer led to another and another toward drunkenness because beer was not pure to me. It was not offered to the glory of God. It was darkness and an idol.

It doesn’t have to be this way and I believe Jesus wants to redeem the drinking habits of the world and wants people to recognize it for the gift that it is. He wants to take it out of the shadows and into the light. And he most certainly wants to take it off the pedestal in our lives. Piss water is not worth worshiping! If you do, you will soon be bowing before something you piss into (hint: it’s made of porcelain).

Jesus is worth worshiping!

That’s my perspective anyway. I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment!

“You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
15 wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.” Psalm 104:15 NLT

Thank you Father, giver of all good gifts!

Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cross Roads by William Paul Young (book review)

hqdefaultI have to admit it. I really do like William Paul Young! Yes, I even enjoyed his book The Shack, and I enjoyed immensely his latest book Cross Roads. I thank God for Paul Young. He is a gift to the human race. Could it be that God thought so much of his son Paul and his book that he said, “I want the world to read this! I want the world to hear his heart! I am so proud of my boy! I am especially fond of him!”

Sadly, I know I will get flack for standing with my brother Paul Young. I know many of my Christian friends think he is a heretic. I think many of my Christian friends need to repent for passing judgement on a fellow brother working in such a creative way to reunite God’s lost kids to their heartsick Papa. That’s what I think.

After reading Cross Roads, I went down stairs and picked up the Bible to see if the same relational unconditional-love-filled God that William Young writes about in his books is the same God that the apostle Paul presents in his letter to the Romans. Surprisingly he is, though for years I read it differently. I saw Jesus differently.

This is when I realized the power of paradigms in my own life. The following are some quotes from an interview William Young gave regarding the Shack and his new book Cross Roads:

“When Jesus showed up he was not recognizable inside the paradigm that religion had constructed.”

“Your paradigm will change the words right in front of your face. You will read it the way your system believes it should be rather than what it truly is. How do we read law into words of grace? How do we read performance into unconditional love?”

“God will go down any road to find you. He has come for every last one of his lost kids. Jesus didn’t come to make people Christians or to start a new religion instead he came to destroy religious thinking by introducing relationship. Relationship always moves you away from control and into mystery. The mystery of relationship.”

“It always hurts to get kicked in your paradigm.”

Over the past several years I have moved toward grace and relationship and away from a demonic fear controlled religion. My paradigm has shifted. The way I read Scripture has been transformed. The blinders are off. I see Jesus and he has a beautiful heart!

Legalistic self-righteous religion is a graceless, judgmental, and ugly thing. It makes God into a petty capricious bully with whom you never know where you stand. There is nothing that boils my blood more than to realize how many are being dragged down (and quite possibly to hell) by a form of religion that denies the slave who ascribes to said religion the joyful freedom that Christ offers us in a pure simple loving relationship.

I would propose that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion but to set humans free to know and be known, to love and be loved by their God who created them to love them. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

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Response to Jim Staley’s Identity Crisis (Hebrew Roots Movement)

“When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13 NLT

contradit - they can't all be right - John 14:6What is it that grounds you to reality?

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea… An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. It is resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate… The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” (from the movie Inception)

An idea planted deep in a psyche is a very powerful thing, very difficult to remove, and it may cause untold damage and shape someone’s destiny. I know this because I’ve personally experienced it. Some ideas can liberate and give us great joy, while other ideas can put us in bondage. Consider that Communism started out as an idea for a utopian society. Evolution started as the idea that perhaps God didn’t create us after all. Plato and Aristotle had ideas that shaped how all future Western civilizations would function. All this to say that ideas have power.

I think we often fail to respect the power of ideas. After all, it is ideas that shape our worldview (paradigm, the lens through which we perceive reality). How we see the world, history, God, and Scripture depend on the ideas we let in and the authority we allow shape our worldview. We have a certain amount of responsibility as the gatekeepers of our worldview and thankfully we are not without guidance. If you are born again believer in Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit to guide you. You also have God’s word. These two are the final authority for reality as it truly is. If we have a paradigm shaped by any other source than God’s Holy Spirit or a correct interpretation of God’s word, then our worldview gets bent and twisted and we are living some version of a lie.

Jim Staley in his message Identity Crisis is offering us a new paradigm for both God’s word and history. Should we bite? Will his ideas liberate or enslave? Should we allow this man (and the “Hebrew roots” movement he espouses) to be our shepherd and exert such power in our lives by implanting ideas (with untold amounts of assumptions that often go unchallenged) into our minds and redefine our reality and worldview?

Having an “open mind” to any ideas can be a dangerous thing and we must be careful about who or what we allow to shape our worldview. There is a right way and a wrong way to be open-minded:

“The people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” – Acts 17:11

The Bereans would not just swallow anything Paul was saying, however exciting it sounded, but would test all that he said by the word of God. Jim Staley, who I’m sure believes every word of what he preaches, asks us to test him by the Scripture because he feels confident he is on to something. No doubt, Jim Staley has some beautiful insights. After all, no one is completely wrong about everything. In fact, there were times while listening to his message I was excited and praising God because of some of the true things Jim was talking about. But it’s the very nature of all the half-truths throughout his teaching that make it so compelling and so very dangerous.

There is a reason there are so many false religions and cults in the world and billions who adhere to them even though the truth is accessible and the facts are easily obtainable. One can easily prove any false religions and cults false by sound and reasonable arguments and by God’s revealed Word yet people still stubbornly cling to their false beliefs. Why do you think that is? What is it about us or in us that resists whatever contradicts our already held beliefs? (I do it too). Why are we, as humans, stubborn to correction, even when it is this correction that will set our hearts free? Is it fear? Pride? A “we can’t all be wrong” mentality? (Consider the huge Muslim portion of the world’s population).

I don’t pretend to be the corrector or have all the answers or to be free from error myself but I know someone who is and who does, and I know his word is trustworthy. In fact in all the researching I was doing, my own pride was humbled as I was challenged to truly live out the Gospel – the way of the Spirit of God, not as Jim Staley suggests, but as the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 7:6:

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (ESV)

This blog is not just about pointing you away from something that I perceive as dangerous based on God’s word, but also about pointing you toward something exceedingly beautiful.

People are in search of answers and this is a good thing. How do we take our relationship with God to the next level? How do we properly love him and others? How do I overcome all that ails my current “Christian” experience? What is the secret to the Christian life? There must be something more!

I say, never stop asking and searching and praying and seeking God until you are filled with the fullness of Christ. Believe me, I have spent years asking these questions and I have found some answers along the way. As much as I would love to download all the wonderful things I have learned that have set my heart free, it just doesn’t work that way. We must all discover and experience these answers for ourselves. It’s between you and Jesus. He wants to walk that journey with you and me. We can only point people to Jesus (aka Yeshua). What is the secret to the Christian life? It is Christ! Keep seeking him and loving him!

I have examined Jim Staley’s message and his bottom line in light of the Scriptures and historical facts and have found him to be false. If you disagree, then please take the time to read on and if you find an error, correct me! Please don’t be scared off by all the words as I did have to wade through more than an hour long teaching. I spent well over a dozen hours of prayerful research and writing this blog over the course of three days and had lots of fun doing so. Perhaps “fun” isn’t the right word considering my heart is weighed down by the fact that Jim Staley has already gotten to thousands with his distortion of the Scripture and historical facts and has already implanted his ideas in their minds. I know how hard an “un-brainwashing” can be and how long it can take (from personal experience), but in the end I trust you will come to a greater appreciation of the Grace of God and the beauty of the Gospel. I have attempted to remove any of my responses that were initially resistant and sometimes snarky and to humbly ask, “Could this be true?” about everything Jim Staley presented.

I would ask you to prayerfully cross examine his teaching (and the Hebrew Roots Movement) for yourself. Ask questions. Question and research everything! Search the Scriptures! The discoveries you make for yourself are going to mean a great deal more than anything I have to tell you. Take it to Jesus, ask him about it, read your Bibles – preferably before you dive into any more brainwashing sessions with Jim.

The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17 NASB)

JIM STALEY – “Identity Crisis

For those of you who aren’t interested and won’t read a point by point response to Jim Staley’s talk (below), I have tried to give a summary of his talk and a summary of my response:

SUMMARY OF HIS TALK:

According to Jim Staley, if you are a believer in Jesus, then you are Israel. Like, literally bloodline Israel. He “proves” this by referencing “the most important phrase in the Bible” in a blessing to Ephraim “you will become a multitude of nations” which Jim says actually means “fullness of the Gentiles”. The fact that you responded to the Good news about a Jewish Rabbi and Messiah named Yeshua proves that you are Israel in the bloodline of the lost ten tribes, the Northern kingdom (aka Ephraim), who were exiled by the Assyrians from the promised land and, according to Jim, never returned to their land and became essentially “Jewish Gentiles” spreading Israel’s bloodline to every area of the globe. (In his post talk he allows for converts to the “renewed covenant” from pagan Gentile population, just as there were with the Egyptians joining the community of faith in Exodus, but this is NOT the thrust of his entire message at all). And because you are Israel, you are beholden to keep the entirety of the law and the feasts right down to the ceremonial food laws – with the help of the Holy Spirit of course – and that the New Covenant is simply a renewed and empowered Old Covenant (according to other HRM sources you have a safety net in Jesus (Yeshua) when you do fail). Jim says that Jesus only came to save His Bride (Jews and Israel) and that we must make ourselves ready to bring about the return of Jesus by diligently following the law.

MY RESPONSE:

He’s wrong.

Jim tries to reshape your interpretation of the New Testament, and your identity in Christ. Instead of talking about our identity “in Christ” as Paul focused on (in whom the terms “Jew” and “Gentile” means absolutely nothing), and the freedom of the Gospel (literally “Good News”), Jim instead focuses on your identity “as Israel” and insists that you keep the law, Sabbaths, and feasts. He claims this is biblical mandate!

I am not advocating that we ignore the law of God. I am not saying that the law has no purpose. It serves as a mirror to show how dirty we really are and our desperate need for a Savior. It leads us to Christ! Can you think of a better purpose than this?

How would we have a standard for truth without God revealing it in the law? Sure, we all have a conscience and his laws are built into every human heart, but we can, and have, ignored, profaned, and desensitized our conscience since birth (with the help of our sinful culture and society). The law serves to reawaken our conscience to the holiness of God and the holy standards of righteousness, and makes us aware of the depths of our sinful brokenness.

But, just as we don’t wash our face with the mirror, we certainly don’t become righteous or maintain our righteousness by diligently following the law. I think that while Jim Staley will no doubt agree that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, could he be making the very same mistake that the Galatians made that prompted Paul’s stern letter and warning?:

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NIV)

(Of course I realize he has clever ways of denying this by saying the Holy Spirit empowers us and that we aren’t doing any of this by means of the flesh. But by saying that the law, feasts, and Jewish dietary law is mandate flies in the face of so many clear teachings of Paul.)

The Beauty Side Of Our Freedom In Christ

The freedom of the good news is that you get to observe the Sabbath… or not. You get to consider the advice of the dietary laws if you want to eat better and likely live longer… or not. (God tells us what’s best for us because he loves us! But he is not about to make what we eat into a sin issue! Imagine that, God breaking fellowship with you because you had a ham sandwich!). You get to explore the meaning of the feasts and discover Jesus in them… or not. You get to explore the significance of the sacrifices and find the beauty of Christ in them… or not. The point is, that there is no condemnation or mandate for any of these any longer for these are all a dim shadow of things to come… which, incidentally, has COME! (In case you missed it, I’m referring to Jesus Christ.):

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 NIV)

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Hebrews 10:1 NIV)

One of the questions I wrestled with as I studied was this: “Weren’t the Jews also being called into a New Covenant that freed them from the sacrificial system, dietary laws, and the “old way of the written code”? Are completed Jews (those who have received their Messiah) now free to eat pork and lobster? Free to observe the feasts and Sabbaths or not?”

Jim Staley’s message hinges on this assumption that Jewish believers are mandated to keep the law, feasts, Sabbaths, and kosher laws (I use the term “law” here loosely because we are all beholden to the law of Christ). But are they? We all assume that Jews must keep the law, the feasts, and kosher laws but the Scriptures from Colossians (above) were no doubt written to Jewish believers in Collossae as well as Gentile, and most certainly the book of Hebrews (above) was written to the Jews.

Jim teaches that by returning to the law, celebrating the feasts, and eating kosher that he is loving and serving Jesus better as God would have him do. He thinks he is earning God’s approval by doing all these things and mandating others to do so. After all Jesus said:

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20 NLT)

This is Jesus talking so we must take every word he says seriously! It is good for us to wrestle with this and I wouldn’t dare interfere with what Jesus words are meant to effect for you in your life. But Paul, who knew and kept the law better than most anyone, warned us that if we try to find our salvation in keeping the law, we have fallen from grace:

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Paul Galatians 5:4 NIV)

So, are we getting mixed messages? Jesus saying, “obey God’s laws and teach them”. And Paul saying if you are trying to be justified (made righteous) by the law then you have been alienated from Christ? What’s going on here?

(As you can see, this can become quite a complicated issue for some, as it was for me for most of my Christian life. It really comes back to humility. Your amount of pride will dictate how you read it and will skew your paradigm of Scripture. Humble yourself and receive grace or go another round in the ring with the law. Can you guess who will win?)

PLEASE don’t let Jim’s heresy rob you of the beauty and richness of the Old Testament, the true purpose and usefulness of the law, and the amazingly beautiful Hebrew and Jewish heritage of our faith. Yes, in many ways we do have Hebrew roots even as Gentile believers in Jesus. We are even refered to as “the Israel of God” in the New Testament. You and I didn’t need Jim Staley to tell us this. The Apostle Paul tells us this. Paul writes that Gentile believers are grafted into spiritual Israel as the wild olive branch (Jim will try to twist the meaning of this) into the olive tree of Jesus and the people of God (Israel):

“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Romans 11:17 NLT)

“But far be it from me to boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:14-16 – see this for a wonderful exposition on this verse)

We are grafted in to the blessings and promises of Israel, the people of God! But, this doesn’t mean that we return to the law for not even the Jewish people were asked to do this but to “serve in the new way of the Spirit”! (Romans 7:6) And we have a new law, the law of Christ:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34 (NLT)

Just because there is a spiritual Israel, comprised of believing born again Jews and Gentiles (and there is no difference because Jesus unites us in him), this doesn’t mean that the Jews, of the bloodline of Abraham, are not Israel anymore. God will continue to have dealings with and will always be faithful to all of his promises concerning the physical, natural, bloodline of Abraham, Jews. The Bible is clear on this.

One example of how Jim Staley twists Scripture to suit his purposes:

“Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)

He claims that this Scripture is addressed only to the “Jewish Gentiles” who are familiar with the law but are estranged from the covenant (the lost ten tribes of Israel) who were divorced by God (see Jeremiah 3:8) and who wern’t allowed back into covenant because of the law of remarriage (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4) that they are now back into the covenant because Jesus death reconciled them to the law. But this isn’t what the Scripture actually says at all is it? How did Jim miss verse 4?

Let’s remember that the New Testament was written by Jewish men about a Jewish Messiah to mostly Jewish listeners. It is important for us to understand the Jewish roots and heritage of our faith, but it is absolutely vital that we not leave Jesus (the one we now belong to) to return to placing ourselves under the law (the thing that we died to) as Jim Staley suggests.

Again, I am sure Jim sincerely believes everything he teaches as every deceived person does. I don’t believe he is knowingly lying to anyone which is why he comes across as so convincing. He is convincing because he is convinced. But as you will see, as we cross examine him in light of Scripture and historical facts, he is in fact deceived and sadly, deceiving others as well.

THE DANGER

Study for yourself in the New Testament the purpose of the law. Paul says it was a tutor to bring you to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Once you have found Christ, are born again and filled with the Spirit, you don’t then return to the tutor! You don’t need him anymore, you have Christ! Unless you don’t have Christ, in which case, go for it. If you want to spend a few or more miserable years under God’s curse (the law) then it is your choice. Maybe that’s exactly what is needed to break your pride to bring you to Christ. I mean it. Dive in. Try to keep the whole law. Why not raise some goats and sheep and do the sacrifices he requires too. But be sure to carry out it’s punishment. If you sin in such a way to exclude you from the community, then your out. If you sin in such a way as to merit the death penalty… (it would be unethical for me to suggest anything at this point).

This is what the law is: your condemnation. It’s purpose is to humble your pride and so make you poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) and ready for the Savior. At it’s core, the law is good and loving. It is the good and loving instructions of a good and loving God. But you are not good and loving and you will find yourself judged as such and crushed under it’s weight. In the end you will be filled with utter horror and despair. If you need to find that out for yourself as I did, be my guest, though I don’t recommend it. I won’t judge you or love you any less and will welcome you back with open arms when you do return. I had to go that route myself as you can read about in many of my earlier blogs.

Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices and the whole of the law and took away all that condemns us (sigh of relief) IF (and only if) you trust in Jesus and him alone (not in the keeping of the law) for salvation and are born again by His Spirit! Then (and only then) do we become partakers of his New Covenant. Christ in us and we in Christ – the new and living way of abundant life – the Spirit of Jesus in you, fellowshipping with you and guiding you, washing you, making you holy and most of all, making you loving! This is the new covenant! Not a renewed strength and zeal to tackle the old covenant successfully down to each particular ceremonial food law, keeping to the letter of the law… this is way of death.

Please press on to fully embrace and explore this New Covenant. You will know you are living it when you love others as Christ has loved you and when you love Jesus with all your heart. Without love you are nothing (1 Corinthians 13).

As always, if there is something you disagree with or want to discuss, or find me in error, PLEASE correct me! Leave a message so that we can dialogue. I would be happy to correct any errors!

———–

POINT BY POINT THROUGH JIM STALEY’S IDENTITY CRISIS:

Jim Staley starts out his talk with five minutes of reporting on the deplorable condition of the church. No doubt Jim Staley has some solutions to fix what ails us. Lets dive in and examine what he has to say.

THREE COMMON MYTHS

Jim Staley says the following three statements are common myths:

1. He states that the Jewish people are not the chosen people. Are the Jewish people the chosen people?

While addressing the Jewish people God says this in Deuteronomy 14:1-2:

“Since you are the people of the Lord your God, never cut yourselves or shave the hair above your foreheads in mourning for the dead. 2 You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.” New Living Translation (NLT)

(Do you need more than that? If so read below – if not, skip to point # 2.)

The Torah also says,

“Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me from all the peoples, for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7).

“And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

“The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

“You only have I singled out of all the families of the earth: therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

2. Jim Staley states that the Torah and the law were not given to the Jews.

Was the Torah and the law given to the Jews? Yes, of course it was. Just read Exodus thru Deuteronomy.

Paul in his letter to the Romans remarked that this was one of the very things that made the Jews special – that they were entrusted with God’s word. Romans 3:1-2 “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God”

3. Was the Passover and other Feast days that Jesus and the disciples kept “Jewish” feast days or not? Jim Staley says they aren’t.

Bible answer: Yes. Every Feast day has it’s roots in God’s dealings with his chosen people the Jews. Here are a few websites that go over these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays

http://revive-israel.org/2006/fall_feasts.htm

http://biblelight.net/feasts.htm

THE TWELVE TRIBES

Jim Staley said that only one tribe was “Jewish” of the 12 tribes gathered at mount Sinai? Why would he say this? Every tribe is Jewish, and every tribe was there at Mount Sinai. There is no explanation for this until later in his talk when he says that only Judah returned to the promised land and so, only Judah is Jewish. Which is ridiculous and not true as we will look at later on.

He then touches on the blessings Jacob gives to his sons. Jacob’s firstborn blessing goes to… (drumroll please)… (pause for effect)…

Judah! and Joseph? Of course Jacob’s spiritual firstborn blessing went to Judah. Later, Jacob gives a firstborn blessing to Ephraim, Joseph’s son:

“…he (Manasseh) also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” Genesis 48:19

Jim Staley says that “multitude of nations” in Ephraims blessing is THE most important phrase in the Bible. Then Jim redefines this phrase to mean “fullness of the Gentiles” – obviously to tie it to that phrase also found in the New Testament and so link it in peoples minds:

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles (some translations render this “fullness of the Gentiles”) comes to Christ.” – Romans 11:25 NLT

Later, Jim Staley redefines Gentile here and above in Ephraim’s blessing to mean “Jewish Gentile”. Which is nonsense. Gentile means any person who is not Jewish.

Jim Staley insists that the ten tribes of Israel became immersed into the surrounding nations at the time of their deportation and their bloodline would have mingled with the surrounding nations and become indistinguishable from any pagan Gentiles essentially losing their identity.

I would venture to say that most Jews know who they are even though they have been dispersed into most every nation around the world (and yes, becoming in essence, a multitude of nations). Ephraim (being the largest of the 10 tribes, and from which came both Joshua son of Nun, successor to Moses and Jeroboam, the first King of the Northern ten tribes) came to represent all of Israel, the Northern kingdom, who were first to be dispersed to all the Gentile nations at the Assyrian conquest of Israel.

It would be a fabrication to say that they don’t know who they are however. It’s just that we don’t know who and where they all are – that doesn’t mean that they are “lost” tribes at all. Lost tribe is NOT a biblical phrase or idea at all. And remember, Hitler had little trouble identifying more than 6 million of them to murder throughout Europe.

Do you honestly think that being a Jew is easy to forget? Just think about what would have to happen for people to lose their identity and forget who they are. Parents, grandparents and great grand parents would have to willfully not tell their kids, grandkids, great grand kids that they were Jewish. The truth would get out. Can you even imagine a people group trying to deceive their children and hide their identity from them? Talk about a conspiracy theory!

What does Scripture say about the lost tribes of Israel?

Paul verifies that the 10 tribes were not lost at all in Acts 26:7: “This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.”

Jesus affirms the existence of all 12 tribes in Matthew 19:28, “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Dave Hunt says this at his website at www.thebereancall.org regarding this notion of the lost 10 tribes: “James wrote his epistle to the 12 tribes scattered abroad, so I guess he didn’t know that 10 of them were lost… God has promised that He would preserve them, and in the last days would bring them back into their land (which incidentally he has). And Jesus promised that his disciples would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. So, if 10 of them are lost, then the Bible isn’t true, and as you said, God must be 100% true, so this is very serious. So, if 10 tribes are really lost, then God’s a liar, and Jesus is a liar. Now, what about it? What does the Bible say? See, this is a myth, as you said, it comes out of the idea, well, because there were 10 tribes carried away by the Assyrians, that therefore they never came back. Now that’s a joke! Of course they came back.”

Indeed Biblical history records that a population from many if not all of the so called “lost tribes” stayed on in the land of Israel at the time of the Assyrian exile and intermarried with people groups that the Assyrians imported to the land of Israel and became the Samaritans.

It was interesting to look at the various people groups who do trace their lineage as Jewish and many know from which tribe they come as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Lost_Tribes

Jim Staley says that northern Israel never came back? This is not true.

Who are the Jews today? Jim says just Judah. Is he right? No.

“Israel became as Gentiles and he will gather them all to the land again.” Jim says.

Why does Jim Staley seem to be ignorant of what occurred before and after 1948 when Israel became a nation again? Why does he ignore this? He keeps insisting there is a future calling back of the northern tribes to Israel. Isn’t he aware that the land of Israel is full of Jews from every tribe and has been since before 1948? And they keep coming. God has and is fulfilling his promise to regather his people, the Jews, to the land of the Jews.

THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

Jim said that the Bride must be spotless before he comes back to take her with him, he says Jesus will not take a spotted bride back with him. Insinuating what? It’s up to us to purify ourselves by keeping the law by the Spirit to usher in the coming of Jesus, rather than the good news of the Gospel that Christ actually accomplished our justification and sanctification at the cross.

I was immediately reminded of this Scripture:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

This shows that sanctification is something Jesus does for us, not what we do for him as Jim Staley insinuates. Jesus said at the cross, “It is finished”. Jim Staley says, wait just a minute, maybe not.

Which brings up a very important question:

Is salvation a God’s work or ours?

This question has plagued theologians for ages and prompted many arguments. This is what the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is all about. I believe the answer is less complicated than theologians make it. According to the following Scripture, the answer is both:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philipians 2:12-13 NIV)

(Great article on this Scripture)

Salvation is Christ’s work from start to finish! He promises to complete what he has started:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – Philippians 1:6 NIV).

I don’t want to in any way diminish the fact that we have a responsibility to obey the Gospel of God. Our part is to work out this salvation with fear (reverence) and trembling, obey and follow Jesus and the Holy Spirits leading and impulses, REST in him, rejoice, and just be thankful as we love God and others and fulfill the law of Christ (to love)! Not what Jim in the end suggests that we do. Keep the law, observe your Sabbaths, keep the feasts, etc…

Jesus said that the abundant Christian life he has for us is easy and restful! Are you experiencing this?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

His “yoke” refers to his teaching. As I read through the whole Bible in a few months time I was impacted by the overwhelming message of the New Testament: “Relax in Jesus! Rest in Him!”

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV)

THE BLOODLINE ISSUE

Why does Jim Staley build this entire case for Ephraim and the “lost ten tribes of Israel” and say that Jesus only came to save his Bride, He only came for Israel, and then suggest that the reason that you have responded to the Gospel is because you are a “Jewish Gentile” and must have the bloodline of Israel. He uses a foolish argument, “Why would pagans respond to the news that some Jewish rabbi named Jesus has now made it possible to be reconciled to God?” He says, “That’s because the apostle Paul and all the rest of the apostles were only reaching out to the lost tribes (Jewish Gentile). To say to those estranged from the covenant that you are received back into the covenant. He has made a way for those that God had divorced (Israel) to be remarried to Christ.”

There is an element of something beautiful here as well as a dangerous and blasphemous heresy. God did indeed want the Diaspora (the estranged Jews from the covenant and homeland – i.e.. “Ephraim”) to know that they were accepted and embraced back into the fold of the people of God by the sacrifice and death of Jesus, but not back into the Old Covenant but into something new. And this did not apply to only the Jews but also to everyone else.

THE GOSPEL TO THE JEW FIRST – THEN ALSO THE GENTILE

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul indeed went to synagogues to his fellow Jews (the Diaspora) first with this good news, but if they rejected it he said, “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46 NIV)

And again:

Acts 18:6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Acts 22:21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 28:28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

First of all, the Bible can’t say Gentile any other way than to say Gentile (meaning everyone who is not a Jew). How convenient then that Jim Staley invents the idea of  a “Jewish Gentile”. According to his view, how unfortunate it is for all who fail to have a drop of Jewish blood in them to be saved because Jesus didn’t come for you (Hey, it’s what is implied). It’s ridiculous!

Honestly, God does not need literal Abraham blood line to somehow make any of us special in God’s sight – to think that we somehow as believers have a literal blood tie to the so called “lost 10 tribes” is ridiculous. God knows who they are and most of them know who they are.

Just think. If you are human (and you are) then you have a blood line to God himself (see Luke 3) and all of us share part of Christ’s lineage back to God himself from Noah and back on up the line to Adam with whom he made his first promise of salvation by sending the seed of woman to crush the serpent and free us all (see Genesis 3).

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL

“Mystery”, in Biblical terms means “a spiritual truth heretofore hidden, incapable of discovery by mere reason, but now revealed.” (Fauset’s Bible Dictionary). The mystery of the Gospel is that everyone else besides the Jews (the Gentiles) are now welcome and accepted at the table of God’s grace to freely receive the blessings and promises of Abraham and the salvation that Jesus offers. You have already been reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus. Accept it. Receive it. Believe it. Open the gift.

“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” – Romans 16:25-26

SCRIPTURE

Jim Staley asserts that when Paul wrote, “all Scripture was God breathed and useful for…” (2 Timothy 3:16) that he was only referring to the Old Testament. But, consider that when Peter writes his second letter he says that people were distorting Pauls letters as they do the other Scriptures (see this Scripture below), thus asserting that Pauls letters were Scripture! All the churches possessed these letters of Paul and Gospels (some really early Gospels by 50’s AD) which they copied and shared and copied and shared among each other to every community of believers on the planet at the time. Yes they had the Old Testament but they had the whole of the New Testament by AD 100 which was already considered Scripture!

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV

Jim redefines words and terms used in the New Testament by the Hebrew Scriptures? Which sounds like a good idea except that I have read that Greek is in fact a far more expressive and precise language than Hebrew is. It can define itself quite clearly as it is which is why God chose to deliver his most important message to the world in this language (I have heard that HRM have suggested that the New Testament was originally in Hebrew – there is no evidence to support this at all).

We must remember however, that the New Testament flows from the context of the Tanach (O.T.) and it is a thoroughly Jewish story from Genesis to Revelation. Certianly the New Testament can be best understood by being familiar with the Tanach. I was struck, when I read through the Bible in a few months time, of how Jewish the whole of the New Testament really is!

It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed (Here is a great article about this). As believers in Jesus we understand the Old Testament in light of the New, AND vice versa.

WHO DID JESUS COME FOR?

Did Jesus come only for His people the Jews or Israel (lost tribes or otherwise)? Jim Staley insists that Jesus came only for his Bride, only for his people (Jews and Israel).

Jesus did in fact say, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 NIV)

For the sake of God’s plan and purpose for his people the Jews and their salvation, this was only right and ought to be a compelling reason that the Jews should (and some did) receive their own Messiah. But, they were hardened for the benefit of the rest of the world… but not forever. (See Romans 11)

Do you remember that some Greeks wished to see Jesus and Jesus response?

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:20-24 NLT)

So you see, it was always God’s plan to reach the whole world. Have we forgotten what John 3:16 says:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The everyone who believes are one and the same as the scattered children of God (which Jim would say are only refering to out of covenant Jewish Gentiles):

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.” John 11:49-52 NIV

It is distressing that Jim hijacks and redefines all these passages with his “Gentile Jewish” paradigm. Of course he would interpret the “scattered children of God” as this.

Again Jesus says in John 10:16:

“I have other sheep (Gentiles) that are not of this sheep pen (12 tribes of Israel). I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

No doubt Jim would interpret this through his paradigm of Jewish Gentile. But how does Jim ignore Jesus instructions to his disciples? After his resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to preach the message of the kingdom of God to all nations:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 NLT)

And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[all peoples] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’” (Luke 24:46-47 NLT)

So yes, while Jesus was sent to and for his Jewish brothers (“to his own”) he sends out his disciples to everyone else.

Once again, to delineate between “pagan Gentiles” and “Jewish Gentiles” is silly and is dangerous to anyone taking this seriously. He is suggesting that the pagan Gentiles are doomed and all the Jewish Gentiles will be saved. This is flat out heresy and is not what Paul was excited about or why he was appointed to be the missionary to the Gentiles – but only the Jewish Gentiles. “Sorry pagan gentiles, you are out.” WRONG!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

According to Jim, if we happen to be Gentiles we all better pray there is a drop of “Jewish Gentile” blood in us or we too are doomed. That is not what Gods heart is, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Not just all the Disporia or so called “Jewish Gentile”. Jim’s Gospel is not good news to any pagan gentile. This is fubar religious nonsense.

GOD WANTS EVERYONE TO BE SAVED!

“God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 NLT

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Jim Staley suggests that Cornelius was a “Gentile Jew” because he has to be to fit his theory. What shenanigans Jim is up to.

His 10 second treatise of predestination? What was that? Does he fully agree with Calvin? Would Calvin agree with him?

Peter and James were both ministers specifically to Jewish believers, so their letter intros make sense in light of this.

He redifines everything to insinuate that the “mystery” of the Gospel was not the inclusion of pagan Gentiles but the remarriage of God to the lost tribes (so called “Jewish Gentiles”).

Jim’s bottom line: “You are Israel!” Yes, spiritually we are Israel in so much as we are believers and are grafted into the vine of Jesus and depend on him fully for our salvation and not our own works or adherence to the law, Sabbaths, and feasts. But the Jews are Israel as well.

SHEEP IN NEED OF A SHEPHERD

At the start of this blog I asked if Jim was qualified to be a shepherd (i.e. “pastor”) to us. Jim says at the end of his talk that we are sheep and gullible. I can’t help but agree with him.

Paul says at the end of the book of Acts:

“I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29 NLT)

Yes, it’s true, we are all sheep which is precisely why we need a good Shepherd, and I’m sorry Jim, I already have one. The job has been filled.

Jim’s Post TALK:

Jim trys to clear up the blood line question though you cannot deny that his teaching contradicts his supposed correction. In fact the blood line and the Ephraim blessing was the whole thrust of his message.

He clears up the replacement theology issue by simply denying it.

He keeps insisting that the Jewish people is just Judah and that the rest of Israel is dispersed and lost and has no idea who they are. Which is not true. They may not be aware of which specific tribe they are from but most have a knowledge of who they are. This was true in Jesus day (which even Jim draws attention to by mentioning Josephus and historical records of the time) and still true now.

God has regathered his people from all tribes into the nation of Israel – they are now the reconstituted nation of the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel, and will be enlivened by the Holy Spirit in the last days. And they are temporarily excluded from the fullness of the covenant to the advantage of all who Jim refers to as the pagan Gentiles. But this won’t always be the case (Romans 11).

The Hebrew language had no other way to say Gentiles than to say Goyim which refers to nations as well. That is perfectly fine, but still there is the overriding implication of bloodline here which he tries to say isn’t important in his post talk but was central to the entire intitial teaching. You can’t just backpeddal like that trying to redefine what you initially and actually said. Unless you are Jim Staley and then you can. (Listen, Paul was kind of snarky to the Judaizers of his day, saying that he wished they would castrate themselves, so I think its ok to be a bit snarky to modern day Judaizers like Jim Staley.)

I must say that there were many aspects of the teaching that WERE true and exciting and caused me to praise God and worship God and get really excited. BUT this doesn’t validate his teaching or his direction he is taking this, because he is taking this in a dangerous direction. The apostle Paul, whom Jim venerates and respects so highly, would punch him in the nose and say, “What are you doing? Haven’t you understood anything I was trying to say in all me letters? Why are you insisting on going back to the law when you have something so much better?” Is Jim Staley a modern Judaizer and an enemy to the true Gospel? I think he is.

If he is preaching a different Gospel then these warnings Paul wrote to the Galatians are true of him and also applies to anyone taken in by him:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel (good news) at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:6-9)

JIM STALEYS BOTTOM LINE:

You, as a believer, are Israel, the lost Northern Kingdom, so you better learn the covenant our ancestors kept. He is saying, go back to the law, the renewed old covenant, keep the feasts, observe the ceremonial food laws, and keep the Sabbath.

Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?

I’m just going to end with many Scriptures that Jim Staley no doubt is scrambling to redefine for you before you read them for yourself. I did check at his website and saw that he already has teachings to redefine Romans and Galatians, both of which contain clear warnings of the likes of Jim Staley and his false teaching.

GOD’S BOTTOM LINE:

Romans 10:4 (ESV)
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Galatians 3 (ESV)

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Ephesians 2:15 (ESV)
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

Romans 7:7–9
The Law and Sin
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

Galatians 3:24 (ESV)
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Romans 6:15 (ESV)
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

Romans 7:6 (ESV)
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Concerning keeping ceremonial food laws, feasts, Sabbath day:

In Colossians 2:16-17, the apostle Paul declares, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Similarly, Romans 14:5 states, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

(Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/Sabbath-keeping.html)

ACTS 15:

“Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18 things known from long ago.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15 NIV)

Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion, Gospel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 170 Comments

Blue Like Jazz and “Being Real”

The following was written during a dark time in my life and originally published in January until I pulled it down. Looking back on it now six months later, I can say God has been so wonderfully kind to me and moved me past so many of these struggles. Most of what follows is admittedly self-focused which is perhaps the most dangerous trap any of us humans face. I realize that, sadly, this is where most people live. Here it is:

Cover of "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Th...

Blue Like Jazz is a book and recently released film by Donald Miller. I must say that most of the movie was painful to watch. But, the film ended so well that you couldn’t help but cry and clap and absolutely love it! Perfect.

This movie will not be appreciated by anyone who isn’t willing to explore how disenchanted liberal Christians see the world and how their faith finds expression. To be perfectly honest I have a very real struggle with how to uphold the standards and truth of the word of God while still genuinely showing love to people. As the movie points out, the truth and salvation comes after one knows they are loved, and rarely the other way around. People intrinsically know what sin is and that it makes them miserable. What they don’t know is how insanely loved they are in spite of it all.

After watching the film I had this desire to just be “real”. You know what I mean? Cut through the crap and get to the deeper heart issues. The only problem I have found with “getting to the deeper heart issues” is the inability to do so. And even if I had the clarity of mind to perceive the true nature of my heart, would I like what I found?

I have been terrified to be real. But I am even more terrified that I don’t even know what “real” even is. What is “real”? I could reveal all my sinful thoughts, words, and deeds and paint you a picture of myself that would leave you doubting if I am even a Christian at all. But, on the flip side I could just as easily tell you all sorts of things I think, speak and do that would leave you thinking I am a saintly dude.

Both images of me are flawed and wrong wrong wrong!

All this thinking brought up some very serious identity issues. Who am I? Am I really accepted as I am or does a major heart transformation need to take place first? How do I be “real” without being a self-destructive devil? Is ‘devilish’ really at the core of who I am as so much of my thinking and failures would sometimes demonstrate? Or does the struggle with sin and “trying to do right” define me? Or are both wrong and something entirely outside of myself define me? I think the last option is central to understanding the gospel message and what happens to us at salvation.

Whenever I have heard someone say, “I’m trying to find myself.” I think to myself, “Why in the hell would you want to do that?”

Sadly, my own history and experience tells me I am a sinful wretch. I want to be a hero, but instead, I find I need a hero to save me… from myself.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)

So here is a bit of me being real with you:

I have been going through a rough patch lately… like the last 35 years. (I can’t believe I am as old as I am and still have no clue how to truly live well.) There have been several days recently that I swear and curse most of the day, have too much to drink, and wouldn’t mind so much if I died in a car accident.

I think I’m dangerous. Not like physically dangerous but so pent-up with all kinds of mental stuff that I’m about to explode. I desperately want to be on the right side but feel so stuck on the wrong side. I feel so at war with myself, like I’m coming apart at the seams and that I’m not safe to be around, or safe to be an influence upon others.

So, does my “being real” mean that I vomit all this wretchedness that I find in me onto others? God forbid. But on the flip side, does it mean that I only present some sanitized version of me that isn’t true at all? Puke! No. I don’t think hypocrisy is what God has in mind for us either.

Wouldn’t it be glorious if we could become genuinely loving and good and selflessly serve our fellow human beings? That’s what I really want. But is it possible? Is it conceivable that this is precisely God’s intent and fully consistent with the message of Jesus? Yes, I believe it is.

The last several months have been some of the worst self-introspecting and miserable seasons of my life. I was saying “B.S!” to what I perceived to be just a sanitized hypocritical yet “presentable” me. I was in an identity crisis. And God was going above and beyond to reveal his trustworthiness to me and forgive some pretty blatant rebellion.

Paul writes in Romans 7 about what “sin” really is and I am truly comforted by what he has to say and most especially the distinction he makes between “us” (our identity) and “sin” that lives in us. It’s an extremely important distinction.

A few years ago God gave me a profound dream regarding the nature of sin. He pulled back the veil and let me see the “distinction” for myself. Praise God for the distinction! You are not sin. I am not sin.

Our identities are not sin for only one reason. It is only because Jesus became sin and condemned sin, forever separating us from sin and its ultimate consequences, identity issues, and yes, even its presence in our lives. This is the real shocker and a truth pill that most cannot swallow. It gets caught in the throat of so many “christians” who love their sin. Of whom I am the worst.

THE GREAT EXCHANGE

So Jesus became sin so that God could condemn sin in sinful man (Jesus) once and for all. What did he do to become sin? He certainly didn’t sin. He received the sin of the world upon himself. What then do we do to become righteous in God’s eyes? It isn’t anything righteous we have done. The Bible is clear on that. It is when we receive the righteousness of Christ, and only when we do this, that we are made righteous. And so abundantly righteous that God treats us as though we were Jesus Christ himself with all the loving affection of the Father to his Son.

So is Jeremiah 17 still true? Is the hearts deceitful above all things since Christ? Doesn’t Jesus make a difference to the equation? Does his sacrifice touch or effect this “sin” within us? Good question.

The New Covenant Scriptures regarding identity that came to mind were these:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:6-15 NLT)

So, what does this teach us about identity? Is this really saying that our sinful nature is cut away? That it is no more?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears,then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:1-11 NLT)

This clearly teaches us that if we are truly a believer that we are indeed a new creation in Christ! What are your thoughts about this Scripture? Do you believe it? Or struggle to believe it? Leave a comment!

Part 2:

did you miss meDid you miss me?

I noticed when I started posting again in this new year that it had been a four month break between posts. During this time I wasn’t quite myself. My wife has said it was a midlife crisis. I was in crisis to be sure and I knew exactly why as well.

In a post just before I went “off the grid” I told everyone how I sometimes felt that people are better off without me and how I would crawl into my gollum cave to spare everyone. Well, once again, that’s exactly what I did.

I had attempted over those months to write a post which talked about my struggle and identity crisis (that eclectic mess was a blog entitled “Blue Like Jazz”) and had accidentally posted it. Sorry to everyone who read that.

I want to tell you what was at the heart of my crisis because I think it’s important. I fear being a disingenous religious prick. In other words, I don’t want to be in your life as just one more person who doesn’t genuinely love you. And I know how selfish and unloving  I can be.

Just yesterday I was hanging out with a few friends and dissed a mutual friend while I was with them. I thought to myself, I wish I wouldn’t have gone to hang out because of what I had said, and fortunately I only had two people that I needed to apologize to to make it right… which I did. But, did my apology make it right? I might have poisoned them against that person I spoke ill of. Damage was done. Which once again tempted me to say, they really are better off without me. It’s time to retreat to cave and mope.

Is this too much information? Do you despise me for my struggle? Does Jesus still accept me? Is it ok to be honest with the world in a blog about my struggle? Is this helping anyone? Is there any hope for me? Any lasting transformation just around the corner? I think so.

Why do I stubbornly cling to hope when seemingly all the evidence says, “give up, you’re a lost cause”? Because I know God is love and love always hopes. Because I know he has me, and won’t be letting go… ever, because love never fails and always perseveres. And at the end of it all isn’t that the most important thing to remember? God doesn’t believe in a lost cause.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

So when I read this again I am struck by my need to be loving. I need to be getting to the love and moving past the selfishness. In fact I think it is essential to a true experience of the Gospel. Transformation must take place. As Jesus said, “you must be born again”, and “only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven”. However, “it is the Fathers good pleasure to give us the kingdom”. So what is needed? Humility. Realizing I haven’t arrived or even to admit I must be born again. As Jesus also said, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:41)

Sometimes we just need the humility to say, “I’m blind”. Is there anything holding you or I back from a full transformation?

Update 7/17/13:

I am happy to report the Lord Jesus is good. By His grace I’ve learned to genuinely love my friends and neighbors. I enjoy fellowship with Jesus and my brothers and sisters everyday. I have never enjoyed being more than I do now. Notice I didn’t say existing, or being anything in particular, but just being and living an abundant life just as Jesus promised.

Categories: Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Bricks and the Scale

WILL MY GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGH THE BAD?

“Nothing at All”

“I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your favor
I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your love
I have been broken and bruised by my sin and my folly
But you have been broken for me redeeming me with your blood

And how is it that I am accepted?
How is it that I am made clean?
Why should you even care for a wretch like me?
And how is it that I am made righteous?
And how is it that you have saved me?
Why would you choose to die for a wretch like me?

You have been longsuffering, as I have tested your patience
You have been calling to me, as I have wandered from you
But you go to great lengths to prove that you still care
And you went to great lengths to woo my heart back to you

Your blood cries out Father forgive them
Your blood cries out Father I love them”

(Lyrics to “Nothing at All” – a song by Daniel & Catherine Lovett which appears on their latest album, “I Will Bring You Peace” – See the Support our Music link above to learn more about this project! Or visit: www.reflectworship.com)

Here is a video of this song on Youtube:

Several years ago, I had an epiphany – an insight into something that was ingrained in my thinking patterns. I know that I had learned this same lesson on several occasions before, but a dialogue I had with my wife drilled it home once again. Here is how that went down:

My wife and I were visiting with my sister-in-law Stacy. During our visit, Stacy told us that she had felt ill for the past few months and after many visits to the doctor she was just told that she has cancer. The doctor had given her about a year to live. Of course this news was a blow to my wife and I. We couldn’t imagine how they were handling the fact that she was facing imminent death.

The thing that amazed me the most was that she was more worried about her husband having to raise the kids by himself than the fact that she was going to die. During our visit I did not sympathize as I should have. Instead I said something like, “Well, we all are going to die.” I went on to philosophize about death and how we are all living on borrowed time anyway and how fragile life really is and what a miracle it is that any of us are breathing. It was very eloquent.

On the way home my wife confronted me about my lack of compassion. I became instantly defensive, and then went into a tirade of how I must be condemned because I have no love in my heart and where is the activity of God in my life anyway that I should be such a heartless jerk? I was being slightly facetious because, in fact, I really did love myself and thought very well of me. I must humbly admit in retrospect however, that I was very wrong. Anyway, most of what spewed from my mouth left me feeling terrible and alienated from God.

The next day I started once again in the new mercies of God, but I had to ask myself why did I react in this way? Then this thought hit me:

“Will my good deeds outweigh my bad?”

I realized then that I had been carrying around this idea of a “scale” that weighed and measured my good deeds against my bad deeds. My worth depended on how well I performed and how well that scale was balanced.

This mentality was so deep-seated in me that I reacted badly when anyone dared to confront me with a fault. It was as if they were adding one more brick to the ‘bad deeds’ side of the scale. For this reason, I hated taking responsibility. In fact, I hated words such as “responsible” and “accountable”. I didn’t want to face the punishment for my own sins, much less be held responsible for someone else and have their blood on my head. This was why I, in the past, I didn’t function so well as a worship leader in “church leadership”. I felt that I was responsible for people’s souls and I could not cope with that. I would even wish for sickness or a broken down car at times to escape the constant pressure. Of course this is just one of the many ungodly beliefs that over my lifetime have become embedded in the gray matter.

I began to recognize that I was not alone. Many people operate out of this mentality in which they “hope” that their good deeds will outweigh their bad in the end. Whole religious systems of thought are based on this idea. As I thought this way it led me to try to seek approval through doing good and performing well. I thought that by just adding more good bricks to the good side of the scale that things will all work out in the end, and in the meantime, I will feel better about myself and be accepted.

My good bricks were my good deeds. For instance, if I played spiritual concerts for the elderly at nursing homes, then I would finally be accepted and approved by God. Each “successful” concert left me feeling much better. In fact I only considered a concert a success if it left me feeling better about me. I had to feel good.

It was thrilling for me when I preached my first sermon, because in my mind this was a good and heavy brick. I would definitely be in God’s favor now! I called my mother and left a message for her, “The most exciting thing had happened to me! I just preached my first sermon!” A few days later she called me back and told me how proud of me she was. As she was telling me that, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I reflected on my initial reaction to “my first sermon” and how excited I was about it, I realized that yes, I could be excited about it, but not for the reasons that I was. I now see that the Lord is just as offended by the good bricks as he is by the bad ones. Trying to earn God’s favor is an insult to his grace.

Radical New Perspective

I have come to see that God doesn’t want us burdened with any bricks (good or bad) that weigh us down and keep us from following him. Besides, the constant balancing act is no way to live. Jesus wants to liberate us and he invites us to drop all of our “bricks” at his feet and learn to walk with him and live for him as we are meant to.

At one point after about nine months of playing hymns for the old folks several times a week the Lord asked me, “So when are you going to start doing these concerts for me?” Wow. His question cut me to the heart.

I was playing these concerts for me. It is true that I became free from a long seven year stretch of chronic depression when I first began to bless the elderly with music. How could I not be changed by a constant interaction with, not only the liberating truth that is in so many classic hymns, but also the love and support of so many of my elders? How could I not be blessed when I have a hundred year old lady shake my hand and say, “God bless you”?

In spite of all the good things that came from all my good deeds, my performance mentality still stood in the way of the relationship that the Lord desired to have with me.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul comments about his Jewish brothers. He says, “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4 NIV)

I could identify with this Scripture but I didn’t know how to change. Ever since I became a “Christian” I was always trying to establish my own righteousness. It’s not even that I was raised to think this way, but perhaps this is just a universal human default mentality to want to (or feel like you have to) earn God’s favor. I even once caught myself praying, “Lord, make me worthy of your grace.” I was missing the point of grace altogether.

My own grandfather was once presented with the good news of Jesus by my parents. At the time he told them, “If I can’t have a part in my own salvation, I am not interested.” He has since passed away, and it burdens me now more than ever to think where he might be.

Why is it so ingrained in human nature to want to earn our own way? Why is it so difficult for us to receive God’s saving grace – his unmerited favor and blessing? Our own pride is the enemy of our own salvation.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NIV)

We must humbly admit that we cannot do a thing to save ourselves (be “poor in spirit”). We must humbly admit that we cannot even add an ounce of our own righteousness to the scales that will somehow make us acceptable to God. On our own, the scales will always be out of balance and never in our favor. Thank God that he does not leave us on our own.

Of course the Lord knows our desperate situation and has given Jesus as his answer. I believe he is telling us to abandon our scales and bricks once and for all and then simply come and follow him. Jesus will teach us how to truly live. He will teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace”. See Matthew 11:28.

THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

The apostle Paul had a pile of good bricks. He was a pure blooded Israelite. He was able to say that he kept the law faultlessly. He was a Pharisee, the most zealous and strictest sect of the Jewish spiritual leaders. By all appearances he was a model example of spirituality. Yet he says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV emphasis mine).

Paul abandoned his bricks for a new approach to spirituality. A spirituality based on and flowing out of an affirming love of God that is entirely separate from any good deeds.

Think about it. Before Jesus had even begun his ministry, his Father spoke from heaven affirming him with his love saying, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (Matthew 3:17)

As you trust in Jesus, the Father will speak those same words over you. You become the delight of his life. As you trust in Jesus, you become his beloved. As you trust in Jesus, you become a member of Christ’s body – part of Christ himself! As you trust in Jesus, the Father says that he loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Because you are one with Christ and in Him!

This is the ‘mystery’ that Paul keeps referring to throughout his letters. This is what Paul was so excited about that even imprisonment, beatings, persecutions, and all the other sufferings and hardships that Paul experienced did nothing to dampen this flame of Christ within him! This was Paul’s cause to live and to die for – Christ, the one new man – “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NIV).

———–

O God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that we no longer need to sweat about our own efforts and our lack of “measuring up”. Thank you for Jesus, your gift to us, who did all the measuring up for us on our behalf. Thank that as we simply trust Jesus, we are included in all that you have planned – all of the wondrous and beautiful and glorious blessings that you delighted so much in planning for us to experience.

We trust you. We trust in you our kind Creator and our good shepherd. We trust your good intentions for us and in your salvation which runs far deeper than we can even or ever imagine. We thank you that our salvation is not depended on our own efforts, but that you have freely given salvation to us all who least deserve such a gift. Help us to receive your grace well and learn to, once and for all, lay down the scale and the bricks at your feet… at the cross.

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