We all agree with the statement that Christ is in us, but then we may wonder, "Can I enhance what I have in Him?
Today, the Messianic movement: How far can we go in learning about Jewish roots without getting into error?
There was a man who was generous in all things, well-liked, never married, a business owner, and solid in character who loved the Lord very much. But having an interest in learning more about the Jewish Jesus, he went to a local 'messianic' congregation.
After his first visit 2 of the leaders made an appointment to visit him in his home, and in that visit and many, many, more visits, often 3-5 nights each week, they taught him. They told him he was incomplete in his faith, disobedient to the Lord for not observing the Mosaic law, and made him afraid he was missing God.
They taught him to ignore the book of Galatians, the letter of I John, and more. At first, he would frequently call and/or email me to get my opinion on what they taught him, but they were there and I am in another state...and he was won over by them, for they were relentless.
The result was he left his house church which his family also attended, choosing even to break all contact with his family. He became immersed in all things the leaders of his messianic congregation told him to do. Today, he has restored relationships with his family, but in a very limited way. His only fellowship is with members of his synagogue.
He hasn't corresponded with me since, not even when I've visited his family in their house next door - I am saddened by the loss of a friend, but it was his doing, not mine. And from what I hear, he is intellectually full, but spiritually empty and longing for more.
I could tell you dozens of stories of men and women who over the course of weeks and months, gradually followed the same path as my friend above, becoming immersed in the messianic to the exclusion of all else. Many of course maintain balance. But how does an earnest and godly desire to know more about the Jewishness of Jesus become an unhealthy obsession? (My series this month, 'Spiritual Addictions 2' covers the path to spiritual addictions in detail)
Paul wrote in Romans 10: 2-4:
"I know what enthusiasm (zeal) they have for the honor of God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand that Christ has died to make them right with God. Instead they are trying to make themselves good enough to gain God’s favor by keeping the Jewish laws and customs, but that is not God’s way of salvation. 4 They don’t understand that Christ gives to those who trust in him everything they are trying to get by keeping his laws. He ends all of that." (TLB)
Let's look at the progression a person takes down this path. The first thing Paul mentions is that they have a zeal for God. The Greek word is 'zelon' which can mean zeal, jealousy, even fury. The root word, 'zeo', means 'to bubble or boil over'. It means committed to something while also having a strong emotional desire for the object of their desire.
These people are zealous - boiling over in their desire for God and all things God. But he says, it is misdirected zeal. It is 'not according to (revealed) knowledge.'
The word he used to say it 'is not' according to knowledge, is the simple word 'kat'. 'Kat' is a negative, meaning 'against' - in this case 'against knowledge'. Their zeal is so overpowering they ignore what is revealed, in favor of a more complicated 'higher' knowledge - or at least their zeal tells them it is a more advanced knowledge.
Because of this misdirected zeal, ignoring what they have, which is Christ Himself in them, Paul says they go about trying to establish their own righteousness. Their messianic approach becomes a structure by which to approach God, or see Him through that structure; Not accepting Christ died for them to make them right with God, and Christ is already in them.
It is like the movement some years ago of the 'open heaven' meetings. Many a well meaning Christian went to a conference advertising they will have an open heaven, willingly ignoring that Christ is already in them and we can come boldly to the throne of grace. They were zealous but not according to revealed knowledge.
The reason many were willing to ignore what they knew to be true in favor of a 'fad' movement, is because they wanted short answers and a quick fix to their problems or situation. Christ in them would have them walk through the issues, growing in Him, and growing as a person - but that is hard, hard work. Unpleasant work. It is much easier in their zeal to run to an 'open heaven' meeting, which seems so spiritual, and hope a quick fix will come. It doesn't work that way.
People run to formulas and ritual because they don't know the Lord well enough. We are told the Christian faith is about walking in Christian character in II Peter 1: 5-8, and walking in the fruit of the Spirit/spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23, which cause us to live godly lives. We can do this because Christ is in us. Christ in us is everything!
There is nothing wrong with learning about our Jewish Jesus, the culture of the Bible, and the festivals and fasts - but if a person in their zeal leave the simplicity of Christ and revealed knowledge in favor of ritual and external laws which Christ already fulfilled, they fall into error. And that is what Paul was correcting in Galatians 3, which we will cover next week.
Next week - How Paul taught them to stay balanced in their knowledge of the Jewishness of Jesus
Until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org