Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Judaiser: Age Old Heresy--New Age Following

The Judaizers were one of the earliest, most widespread, and most dangerous attack against the Gospel of Christ. This group insisted that to be truly justified, Gentiles (non-Jewish people) needed to observe certain Old Covenant (Old Testament) rituals, festivals, and Mosaic Laws--namely at the time, the most emphasized was the rite of circumcision, which was the physical sign for the Jews in the Old Testament as God’s chosen people.

The letter of Galatians is the Apostle Paul’s answer to this Gospel heresy. Paul starts his reply to the Judaizers in chapter three by pronouncing a divine curse on their false gospel. This same false teaching is also seen in Acts, in the book of Hebrews, and in various other New Testament Epistles. As you can see this false doctrine is seen as quite an error and one of the first examples of false doctrine that rose up from within the New Testament church.

The Judaizer’s doctrine, at first glance, seems to be a subtle error which hardly seems worth the fight. However, that subtle error undermines the very principle of justification through faith in Jesus Christ. Here is the break down of the Judaizer doctrine of salvation compared to the Gospel’s doctrine of salvation through Christ:

The Judaizer says that a man must--first--repent and believe in Christ AND--secondly--observe certain Jewish-Mosaic Laws the best he can over his lifetime, and then he will be justified by God.

The Gospel of Christ says that a man must--first--repent and believe in Christ AND THEN he is justified before God, at which he will immediately, through the Holy Spirit of Christ, proceed to keep the Law of God--Love God and love you neighbor.

Did you catch the difference? I think it is clear that the Judaizer believes that merely repenting and believing in Christ is only one-half of justification of sin, which the second-half is based on your works afterwards through observing certain Jewish-Mosaic laws--salvation to them is a two step 50/50 process. Now, the Gospel of Christ gives no other means besides repenting and believing in Christ by which to gain justification of sin--simply repent and believe and your sins are justified through the Blood of Christ and your salvation is sealed forever in Him. These verses from Paul clearly speak to justification by faith alone:

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(NASB)

Titus 3:5-6, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, (6) whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (NASB)

Indeed, the false teachings of the Judaizers are breaking new ground today; this age-old heresy is growing like a disease within Christianity in this modern age and it needs to be stopped. I have come across various sects within the modern-day Judaizer movement, who continue to twist the Gospel of Christ in each their own way; but no matter what their various twists are, they all break down the same--believe in Christ AND observe Jewish-Mosaic Law to be justified by God. However, out of all these sects there is one group who has recognized various biblical contradictions to the--by definition--Judaiser doctrine; therefore, they have placed a new spin on this old false teaching in order to mask its falsies to make it perceive more as Gospel teaching.

Now, granted; they are not so blatant to deny one’s salvation for not following Jewish Law as the true Judaizer; but nevertheless, the distortion of the Gospel is still there and should never be tolerated.

They state that justification for a one’s sin is only by the repenting and believing in Christ (sounds like the Gospel), but the purpose for following the Jewish Laws (here comes the deceit), such as observing only the Jewish-Sabbath Day (Saturday), not eating pork, and/or not properly proclaiming the Hebrew names “Yahweh” (God) and “Yeshua” (Jesus) the person will then avoid “grieving the Spirit,” and in return, reap blessings and favor from God. Although this group, at first, seems to be more in line with what the Gospel of Christ says; however, their error is the suggestion and the criticism towards other Christians that not following Jewish Laws is somehow displeasing to God. Nice try, but there is still no biblical backing for this group, and their Judaiser roots of heresy are still present: it’s all nothing more than just pure manipulation of Scripture candy-coated to further deceive.

The problem with the Judaizer--old or new--is not merely that they disagree with the Gospel of Christ, but that their disagreement involves such a vital point. The Gospel of Christ hinges on the very position that the Judaizer denies, which is, that sinners are justified solely on the basis of what Christ has already done on our behalf, and not in any way because of anything we must do for Him.

Galatians 3:8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.’”

Galatians 3:11, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’”

Gaining God's favor was never achieved by the Law of Moses, it was only a means for which one could recognize sin; faith has always been the means of gaining favor with God. Abraham was blessed because of his faith not because he followed the law and David was blessed because of his faith not because he followed the law. Hebrews chapter eleven gives us many other examples of those who by faith gained God’s favor.

The way the apostle Paul dealt with these Judaizers then is the only right way to respond to any false teacher who corrupt and compromise essential elements of the Gospel of Christ now--they must be exposed for what they are, and their doctrine must be refuted. Paul was very clear in his letter to the Galatia church that only faith in Christ was the way for salvation and that living by Christ's Spirit was the only means for righteous living--never by observing any laws.

Those principle elements were true then and are still true today.

Galatians 2:19-21, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. (20) I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (21) I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Galatians 3:5-6, “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (6) Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Satan's Greatest Deception

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, (4) and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” [II Timothy 4:3-4]

It concerns me to see that some professed Christians either claim there is no hell or say that hell is only a temporal punishment for the wicked and unbeliever. And that, when the day of final judgment comes, all will be redeemed into glory--not just believers. My concern here is for those who deny the very essence of Biblical doctrine, and to have them remember, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5.

Did you just overlook the teachings of Jesus Christ on hell in The Bible? Did you know that Jesus talked more about hell than He did about Heaven? Did you also know that Jesus talked more about hell than all of the prophets and apostles combined?

Hell is not man's doctrine, its Biblical doctrine--straight out of the lips of Jesus Christ. Jesus in several passages within the New Testament Gospels (Matt 5, 8, 9, 18, 25; Luke 16--just to name a few) clearly gives warnings of a place of everlasting--not temporal-- torment called hell. How can you consider denying the teaching of Christ?

The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), gives us a clear picture of hell, which was told--dare I say it-- by Jesus Christ. Even though you might discount this as only a parable, here is a little thing to notice about this parable: it was the only parable that Jesus told where He used actual names from actual people--Why?--because it actually happened. If hell is not real, why would Jesus use a false doctrine to teach truth? In addition, if Jesus--the Son of the Living God--is not enough for you, the New Testament apostles also wrote of such a place called hell: II Peter 2:4, 9; Jude 6, 7.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”[John 3:16] God is--indeed--a loving God, and because of His love, He gave His Son, Jesus, as sacrifice for all mankind. However, it is a two-way street: those who choose His Son’s sacrifice, they will gain “eternal life”; but those who deny His Son’s sacrifice, will “perish.” And please, stop using I Timothy 2:4 which states, “[God] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” as the all points’ verse that suggests all of mankind will be saved. My “desire” one day is to own a Porsche, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The point is: of course God “desires” or “wills” (found in other versions) that all of His created mankind will accept His great salvation; but He knows, and we know through Scripture, that will not happen--all will not accept.

Of course the New Testament is not the only reference to a place called hell, let us not forget the Old Testament, which in several passages gives us a clear picture of a place of eternal torment or hell, "everlasting burnings"--Isa. 33:10-14; “to some eternal life, but to some eternal shame and disgrace”--Daniel 12:2.

Now, the notions that the word “hell” was incorrectly placed in most versions of The Bible through lack of bad translation or that the translators for some reason wanted to create a place called hell is a complete farce. Though this might--at first glance--be a good argument, it still does not erase the strong warnings of Jesus Christ of a place of torment and darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and the fire is never quenched--Matthew 8:12, and 13:41-42

If Jesus and the apostles intended to depict hell as temporal, then I am sure they would have used different imagery and wording. Furthermore, if hell is temporal than why such strong warnings? Hell is eternal, I do not think there is any side or forgotten meaning where “eternal” means “temporal,”--Revelations 14:11, "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image…”. And yes, "ever knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,”-- no doubt that believers and unbelievers alike will confess; but for the unbelievers, who chose to deny Christ in the here and now--it will be too late.

Moreover, if hell is not a real place or only temporal, and that all will be eventually redeemed, then what is the whole point of the Great Commission and what is the point of even serving Christ? In The Bible, Christians are taught to love, respect, witness, and to pray for those who are unbelievers; so why are we told to do that--what is the point any of it?

The devil is a very strong, smart, and deceiving adversary, and this has to be his biggest deception to mankind. PLEASE TAKE NOTE--to deny, disregard, or manipulate the clear teachings of Jesus would be calling Him a liar or perhaps, in so much to say, to deny His very deity. The fundamental hope of Christianity is that through accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, we will in turn, live eternally with Him. To take away that hope and say that all believer and unbeliever alike will have this hope, breeds the questions--“What is the point then to witness and proclaim this Hope to the lost?”

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” [Galatians 6:7-8]

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being Filled...The Fullness Of Christ

The roles of Jesus Christ can be expressed in a fourfold way--Savior, Healer, Sanctifier, and Coming King. When we speak of Jesus being the Savior, most Christians have a good grasp of what that means; and most--if not all--evangelical churches would agree that it is an absolute necessity to have the experience of Christ as Savior in one’s life. In the same regards, most Christians have a good grasp on the understanding of Jesus the Healer and Jesus the Coming King. However, when we speak of Jesus being the Sanctifier, confusion and disagreement often set in among the Christian community.

For years, I was always under the impression that sanctification (“to be made clean” or “to be separate”) was essentially intertwined with salvation--one in the same. When we receive the Holy Spirit of Christ, the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit helps us to clear out the “mud” in our life in our new walk towards righteousness. My past understanding was not totally incorrect, in regards to the general scope of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit once we receive Christ. However, the underlining error in my understanding lied in the full understanding of what it is meant to be truly sanctified through the Holy Spirit. The relationship between salvation and sanctification is apparent--you cannot have one without the other--but there lies a distinct difference between them within a Christian’s life.

In the Gospel of John, it is recorded that when John the Baptist saw Jesus walking down the road, he shouted--“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In John’s statement, he is clearly proclaiming Jesus as the Savior; moreover, in just a few verses later, John shouts a second statement--“…this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33). In John’s second statement, he is also proclaiming Jesus as the Sanctifier. Now, there are some Christians that would disagree with these two points; however, it seems clear to me that John the Baptist had a pure understanding that there was not one gift, but two great gifts, Jesus was bringing to His people--salvation and sanctification.

When we come to know Jesus as our Savior, we experience the deliverance from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death and separation from God. However, when we come to know Him as our Sanctifier, we experience the deliverance from the power of our inherited sinful nature. In other words, salvation in Jesus Christ--the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--releases us from the guilt of our past, brings freedom from eternal death, and then, brings life everlasting; but sanctification--the filling of the Holy Spirit--brings us freedom to live in the power of Christ’s Spirit and equips us to resist the temptation of sin that will come in our Christian walk in the here and now.

At the point of Salvation, Christ lives in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. At the point of sanctification, Christ starts to live through us because we are now filled with the Holy Spirit. The distinction lies in understanding the crucial difference between “indwelling” (salvation in Jesus Christ) and being “filled” (sanctification through Jesus Christ) by the Holy Spirit.

*Side note: when I say “filled,” I am not implying anything about speaking in tongues or that it is proof of being “filled by the Holy Spirit”--perhaps the case for some, but not for all. My experience was at first crying because of my weakness, but then, the tears turn to pure joy of the strength of Christ--nothing miraculous, just a sense of pure humbleness.*

In all of this so far, a question perhaps comes to mind, “Is there two types of Christians?” Indeed there are--Christians who are Spirit-filled (completely control by Christ’s Spirit) and Christian who are not Spirit-filled (still controlled by the human spirit). Paul makes the distinction in I Corinthians 3:1-3, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. (2) I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, (3) for you are still fleshly.”

Paul is clearly pointing out in this passage two types of Christians--“spiritual men” (Spirit-Filled Christians) and “men of flesh” (not Spirit-filled Christians). The Holy Spirit of Christ is equally indwelling both types of Christian (the “seal” of salvation in Christ); however, the “spiritual men” have went the step further to surround their human spirit completely to the control of Christ’s Spirit, whereas, the “men of flesh” still live under the control of their human spirit of fleshly desires; and until they complete surround is made, they will always be mere “infants in Christ” unable to eat “solid food” to gain their full potential as Christians.

Please, do not get me wrong, I am not implying that Christians who are not filled with Christ’s Spirit are still living wicked--the intentions are good and pure, but the control of the human spirit is still “pulling the string” which often causes confusion and uncertainty in the Christian walk. Paul, in Romans chapters 7 and 8, brings into play the battle that goes on inside us when we accept Christ as our Savior--the Holy Spirit and our human spirit are at war. Paul states that the only way to overcome the battle properly is to totally surrender our human spirit to the Holy Spirit--it won’t always be “roses” but if the Holy Spirit is in complete control the battle inside is better “managed,” so to speak.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, are you in a state where the “joy of the Lord” is lacking right now in your life, do you feel that your service to the Lord is suffering because of it; is there bondage, sin, or something else in your life that is always present and it seems you cannot shake it loose? You are not alone; there are many Christians who feel the very same way--I know, I have been there.

Just this past Saturday night, during the altar call at my church, the Holy Spirit of Christ convicted my heart for me to give my all. For the last four years, my soul has been burning for more of Christ, my desire to study God’s word, pray, help others, and serve Him was strong; however, at the beginning of this year much conflict, distress, and the lack of desire and passion manifested itself in my life as the months went by.

It was not until two weeks ago, after a conversation with a dear friend and brother in Christ, the reading of I Corinthians 3, and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit when I realized that all my desires in the past were all partly due to my own drive and not completely from the Lord; I do believe though, that God in all it was also setting the table for something greater for me. I truly was one of the, as Paul wrote, “infants in Christ” living off the simplicity of spiritual “milk,” but now, through all the various conflicts of this year, God helped me to see that spiritual “solid food” is needed in my life; and the only way I am going to be “ready to receive it” is to completely let go of the “fleshly” controlled me (my human spirit), and seek the complete fullness of Christ’s Spirit.

Great is He--the Lord Most High--for since last Saturday night, my (His) desire and passion just shifted into a new and wonderful gear of a more fulfilling walk with Jesus--Praise God!!!

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Spirit” which is the foundational piece in all of this--if there is something in your life that is grieving the Spirit, the only way to live by the Spirit is to get rid of it. So, I encourage you--if there is a sense of weakness in your Christian life, give all of you--not “it”--to the Lord; and He will in turn, give all of Him to you and all the “its” in your life causing your weakness will shed away. In addition, if you haven’t yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, but you want to experience the fullness of Christ’s Spirit--you must believe and accept Him first (read John 3 and Romans 10).

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

When we start to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” the full embodiment of Christ’s Spirit will render us a new and glorious fullness in our Christian walk with Jesus our Savior, Healer, Sanctifier, and Coming King.