…The state of the christian church today is an indication that the majority of Pastors are not doing their job…
There is a deep-rooted sickness within the Christian church of America.
With more and more so-called “Christians” coming out as being homosexual, along with the number of Christian singles who embrace and even encourage premarital sex, it’s an understatement to say that the Christian influence on America is being more watered down every day.
More and more “christians” can be found in bars and strip clubs, taking part in premarital and extramarital sex, and then waking up on sunday morning and going to teach sunday school. Teens are more and more likely to embrace the idea that they can somehow spit in the very face of their creator and cling to a homosexual lifestyle, while still professing their “christianity.”
The world as we know it is in a sad state. What Scripture prophesied long ago is coming true: what is good the world calls “evil;” and what is evil the world calls “good.” The whole world is flipped on its head in regards to G-d’s standards, and people are pursuing the lusts of their own flesh.
Certainly there is a beacon of hope to be found in the churches and other Christian circles of the world that can point people to the truth. But what we see instead is churches condoning and even preaching from the pulpit the “tolerance” gospel. This false teaching requires all people to conform to a standard that is anything but G-dly, in the name of “love,” which in truth is anything but.
Look at the number of young people who proclaim Christianity and then go out drinking, partying, and partaking in general debauchery on a regular basis. Look at the way that some young women dress on friday night after leading worship in youth group on wednesday night. Look at the number of unmarried young people who live together before marriage. Look at the rate of unwed pregnancy among young Christian women…
The distinction between Christians and their unbelieving counterparts is becoming less obvious with every passing day it seems. Sadly, there is little difference between the majority of self-proclaiming Christians and the rest of the world, with the exception of where they might be found on sunday morning before lunch time. Some might point to entertainment or education as key factors in the blending in of our appearance with the world. There may be some truth to these claims, but these alone cannot be the cause of the downturn in the morality of the Christian church.
These realities are frightening, and the cause is actually quite simple.
It’s not the music we listen to, although the thoughts and attitudes we allow into our minds will ultimately affect our demeanor and spiritual well-being.
It’s not the movies we watch, although we should shield ourselves from entertainment that does not edify the body or bring G-d glory (*cough*50 shades of gray*cough*).
It’s not the technology we embrace, though technology does bring easy access to subject matter that young people ought to be protected from.
And while the education system in America does the opposite of encouraging religious observation in young people, this is not the result of any of the other factors mentioned above.
So what is causing such a down-turn in the morality of even self-professing Christians? What is causing the decay in the factors that should separate the believing community and secular society?
I think it falls squarely on the shoulders of every individual who allows their preachers and teachers to be the sole source of scriptural instruction they receive, accepting everything they are taught as truth and never being so bold as to call into question their theology. As the leaders in their communities, it is the responsibility of teachers and preachers to properly teach the truth of G-d’s Word in a way that causes the hearts of their listeners to break when they examine their lives, realizing that their actions and desires are contrary to those of the Creator. This teaching should inspire them to return to the pure, unadulterated teaching of G-d’s laws in such a dramatic way that it becomes outwardly apparent to the world around that they have been redeemed.
I believe that the state of the christian church today is an indication that the majority of Pastors are not doing their job of teaching their congregations to fear G-d and His Word.
As I get into my reasoning for this sentiment, let me make a couple of foundational points upon which stand every point I will make, and which I hope will allow you to understand my thinking better:
- I believe all scripture is G-d-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, preaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that G-dly men may be equipped for good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- I believe that if something is stated in the Bible, it is absolute truthI believe that G-d is inerrant and infallible. His nature determines that He is incapable of change.
- I believe that because all Scripture is the inspired word of G-d and works in harmony to bring about the intent of the Creator, no scripture will contradict another. If it seems like it does, it is because we need to check our understanding, not because the contradiction exists.
When I was growing up I was taught that the pastor of my church was my “spiritual authority;” that somehow this man that I barely knew was my leader in regards to making G-dly decisions. This belief was so encouraged that at one point when I was considering going to school for youth ministry, my parents thought it wise that I discuss it with this pastor, to receive his “blessing.”
In another scenario, my siblings and I abandoned the youth group that we ministered at partly under the assumption that because the lead pastor/youth pastor of the church didn’t have any “spiritual authority” holding him accountable to his life and actions that he could not possibly be a worthy leader under which to serve the local youth (a notion which I now find absurd as there is no biblical foundation for it, and which I deeply regret for the arrogance my family and I displayed in the name of “G-dliness”).
How did such an idea ever get conceived!?
1 Corinthians 11 tells us that, “Messiah is the head of every man. The head of every women is her husband. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered,” (or accepts any other than Messiah as his head), “he dishonors his head.” No pastor does or should have any spiritual authority over any person or group of people other than his own physical family in any way.
Messiah is the head of every man. No man should attempt to take the place of Messiah by assuming the role of spiritual leader/authority of any man. If you accept another man’s claim that he is your spiritual head, or if you think you are the spiritual authority over another, you are dishonoring Messiah.
Having said this, I believe that it is the responsibility of pastors to teach the members of their church according to scripture. Pastors should be willing to accept accountability for the attitude towards G-d’s Word that their teaching inspires. The life of a pastor should be the very definition of a life in submission to G-d’s word.
While crucial to the entire salvation narrative, this instruction should not focus solely on what G-d has done for us, but should be entirely focused on living and walking in Messiah’s footsteps and how to do that. (1 John 2 comes to mind) This teaching of G-d’s pure Word should pour forth from the mouth and the life of the pastor(s) to the extent that it is lived out by the members of that church as a direct result.
So why do I think that the majority of Christian pastors are failing at their jobs? What sort of teaching ought to be coming from the pulpit as opposed to what kind of teaching is coming from the pulpit? Bear with me as I attempt to highlight Scriptures that I feel outline what a Biblical teacher should be teaching, and why this rubric in Scripture indicates a failure on the part of too many.
Let’s start with the words of Messiah himself:
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
“Therefore whoever shall break even the least of these commandments, and shall teach others to do so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven”
Matt 5:16, 19
Jesus is Jewish. I don’t know if he actually received His rabbinical ordination while here on the earth — wouldn’t that be ironic? — but he was at least widely accepted as being a rabbi, as evidenced by the many times He is referred to as such in the Gospels.
In traditional Jewish teaching, the “least commandment” is considered to be Deuteronomy 22:6;
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you in the way in any tree, or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall in every case let the mother go and take the young for yourself, so that it may be well with you, and you may make your days longer.”
It matters little whether or not this is the exact command Messiah referred to when he gave His warning. What we should be concerned with, according to Messiah Himself, is that someone who either breaks this commandment or teaches others to do the same — whether explicitly, or by telling them they don’t have to follow it “because XYZ” — that person will be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. This is the penalty for breaking even the least of the commandments! How much more weight do the others carry if this one is so heavy!
Is Yeshua the least in the Kingdom of Heaven? No!
Are we to conclude that Messiah said these things and then didn’t live by them? Hardly! That would make Him a hypocrite worse than the pharisees.
Even if this particular instruction is not the one that Yeshua referred to when He made His statement, there are certain facts that cannot be overlooked with a clear conscience by any individual claiming to be a follower of Messiah Yeshua:
- Yeshua (Jesus) is G-d
- Yeshua came to do the will of the Father, and not anything of His own (Mat. 26:39)
- Yeshua is not capable of doing anything apart from the Father, or else His claim that “I and the Father are one” would be a lie
- The only Scriptures in place at the time that Messiah tabernacled among us here on Earth was what is known today as the Old Testament.
- To think that Yeshua was somehow alluding to the fact that there would be additional words added to the Canon of Scripture and that in fact those future words were what He was speaking of is both illogical and fallacy. There is simply no indication in the language of the scriptures by which we can honestly come to this conclusion with a clear conscience.
We should strive to obey G-d to the best of our ability, to the glory of G-d:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
Jesus said in John 14:14 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
What commandments did Jesus give? The argument could be made that He gave a “new commandment,” to love one another, and that certainly is what we should do. But is this new commandment actually “new?” When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. So how is it new? Would it be safe to assume that the same way in which Jesus calls this a “new commandment” is the same way in which John uses the word “new” in 1 John 2:7-8:
“Beloved, I am writing to you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you…”
I think you can probably tell where I’m going here…
Let’s continue with more scripture that shows us how we are supposed to live if we consider ourselves followers of the One True Messiah, Yeshua. As you read through these, try to think of the last time your pastor expounded on any of them in their given context, and didn’t just use them to teach about grace:
“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does righteousness has been born of Him.”
1 John 2:29
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:18
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven? ’” (that is, to bring Messiah down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss? ’” (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”
That is to say, it is neither difficult, nor impossible to obey the commands of G-d, as even G-d himself says in Detueronomy 30:11-16
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? ’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? ’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your G-d that I command you today, by loving the Lord your G-d, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your G-d will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it
So, what does it even mean to keep G-d’s commands?
” Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”
1 John 3:4-6
Disregarding the Law = lawlessness. Lawlessness = sinning. These words are synonyms, interchangeable. Understanding this truth, this passage can also be understood this way:
” Everyone who makes a practice of disregarding the Law is practicing lawlessness; lawlessness = sin. You know that he appeared in order to take away lawlessness, and in him there is no lawlessness. No one who abides in him keeps on disregarding the Law; no one who keeps on disregarding the Law has either seen him or known him.”
1 John 3:4-6
Yeshua must have kept every aspect of the Law pertaining to His Tribe, gender, marital status, and geographical location, or He would not have met the requirement of being a “spotless lamb.” He would not have retained this “spotless” nature before The Father if He had used the excuse “I can’t keep all of it, so I won’t do any of it.” If we fail in our imperfect state to keep the law, we have sinned, but we have forgiveness as long as we have a contrite heart and seek repentance from G-d. We should then desire in our hearts to restore our relationship with Him by returning to the expectations He has for us, as laid out in His Word. If, however, we continue in our obstinance to refuse to keep the Torah (lawlessness) – disregarding is as “no longer relevant” to our lives – we “have neither seen him or known Him.”
My question for you, whether you are a pastor reading this or not, is this: If sin is defined as failure to obey G-d’s law, how do we sin if (as some pastors would teach us) the very thing that gives the definition of sin (the law) is no longer relevant to us?
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.”
The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 7, where he states that had it not been for the Law of G-d, he would have never known what sin is. Does this make the Law sin? Paul exclaims, “May it never be!” Am I guilty of tax evasion simply because I know that the law tells me it is wrong? No. Does that make the law regarding taxes evil? Never! The knowledge of the sinful nature of an act or behavior does not it itself create sin. The Law is simply an expression of the will of the one who gave it. It is sin that takes advantage of the weakness of our sinful nature which causes us to fall short. Not the Law.
For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
As new creations, our inner man ought to be in a constant struggle against this sinful flesh, writhing in pain when we succumb to temptation and sin. We should be contrite as a result of our hearts being broken over our failure to obey G-d’s commands.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
In contrast, it is the “new creation” inside of us that then enables us, by way of our newfound understanding of what G-d hates, to obey G-d’s law, putting off the law of sin. The entire purpose of the Law is to show us our imperfection, and to remind us of our need for redemption.
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.”
If however, like the Torah-observant Jews to which Paul refers, we seek to live out the Torah in a way that does not lead to a change in our hearts, thinking instead that it is the very act of obedience that creates righteousness in us, we miss the mark entirely.
When we realize that it is only by faith in Yeshua as the Messiah that we will be counted as righteous, and not due to our own efforts, that is when we will see the true point in carrying out G-d’s commands.
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to G-d for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for G-d, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of G-d, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to G-d’s righteousness.
Israel was not blind to the coming of Messiah because they obeyed the Torah. They missed the coming of Messiah because they refused to accept G-d’s word in it’s entirety, and only believed the parts that were easy to accept. They missed the coming of Messiah because they saw obedience to Torah as a means by which they could become perfect. They failed to see it for what it is: a measure by which we can know that we are imperfect and need redemption, and which in that revelation gives us the promise of redemption through a Redeemer.
For Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
That is Paul’s point here. He is not making the point that the Torah and Torah observance is worthless simply because those to whom it was originally given failed to see the goal of it. Hardly! We should learn from their example and not obey the Torah commands for their own sake, but for the sake of discovering Messiah! G-d gave us His Torah as a means by which we can see His faithfulness despite our shortcoming. Realization of the deity of, and faith in Messiah should be the end result of Torah obedience.
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Yeshua the Messiah and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in G-d, and G-d in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
1 John 3:22-24
“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before G-d, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
And James agrees:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
How do we “do” the word? At the time this letter from Yaakov was written, as with most of the other NT books, the only writings that were considered Scripture and referred to as the “Word” was the OT. So the only responsible conclusion is that Yaakov is telling us that we are to do the commandments of G-d! Try to remember the last time your pastor delivered a sermon on “being doers of the perfect Torah of liberty.” I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to recall a single instance.
We also see the importance of walking in the same ways as Messiah in 1 John 2:3-6:
“And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of G-d is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked”
To my point, too many pastors focus their sermons on G-d’s grace and favor and Holy spirit – all of which are vital parts of being a follower of Messiah. But at the same time they generally fail to ever teach about things like “How to love your neighbor;” “Keeping the commands of G-d;” “How to be a doer of the word,” or anything related to these topics. Any pastor who does teach on these things and encourages further study into these types of thoughts are definitely the exception to the rule.
We’ve let the text of the Gospel disappear under the interpretation of the Scriptures
I feel it’s necessary at this point to come to terms with you on something.
Even if you completely disagree with me about the relevance and importance of G-d’s Torah for believers in His Son Yeshua, it is my opinion that this next portion of this post contains truths that ought to be considered by every Christian – Messianic, Evangelical, or otherwise – if they truly desire to honor our Creator to the best of their ability.
If our pastors are continually keeping us busy with revisiting the elementary principles of the Gospel over and over, we will never move on to true maturity in in our faith in Messiah. We cannot afford to be coddled with the baby formula version of G-d’s word. There is simply too much at stake.
According to Scot McKnight in his book “The King Jesus Gospel,” 78% of children who are raised in evangelical homes who profess faith in G-d will not have any profession of faith by age 35. This is unacceptable! To reuse an analogy that a close friend of mine used, if an enemy was coming across our border and slaughtering 80% of our children, would we not take up arms and fight? This is exactly what is happening in spiritual terms. We should be enraged at the existence of such a statistic!
And sadly most Christians are so busy trying to “evangelize” new believers and collecting tithes that they aren’t even aware of this truth. Worse, most people who hear this would never even consider the possibility that the cause of such a terrifying statistic is that our pastors and teachers are teaching us the wrong Gospel.
We’ve become so caught up in seeking spiritual highs and “spirit touches” that we’ve lost sight of the true purpose in our worship. We’ve let the text of the Gospel disappear under the interpretation of the Scriptures.
So what is the true Gospel message?
If you’re among the majority of Christians (including myself) you were likely either raised in or brought into the Christian church being taught a Gospel that sounded something like this:
– G-d loves you and has a plan for your life
– Man is separated from G-d and cannot know his love, and because of this we cannot know G-d’s ultimate plan for us
– Jesus is G-ds only provision for sin, rectifying our fallen state, and putting us on a path to what G-d has planned for our lives
– If you accept Jesus you can know G-ds love and his plan for you, and fulfill G-d’s ultimate destiny for you.
What an awesome message! How exciting that G-d loves us so much that He gave His Son’s life in exchange for ours! Our hearts ought to rejoice at the thought of such awesome love like our Creator has for us!
But this is not the gospel.
This is a call to personal salvation.
Was John the Baptist ever recorded as preaching “repent so that you can know G-ds plan for your life?”
This bite-sized, easily-printable message has become so popular that it has overcome the actual words of G-d in Scripture.
The true Gospel message can be found in Acts 2:22-39
“Men of Israel, hear these words:Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by G-d with mighty works and wonders and signs that G-d did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of G-d, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. G-d raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that G-d had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus G-d raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of G-d, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that G-d has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our G-d calls to himself.“
The author of Hebrews gives us a list of things that are supposed to be elementary principles for believers, things that shouldn’t be rehashed and re-taught over and over again, because of the fact that we ought to be teaching them to others! Yet we rely on the milk of the word being taught to us, over and over again, because we’ve become dull of hearing, or too comfortable living our sunday church lifestyles. We’ve become too complacent in allowing our pastors to give the same call to salvation week after week, year after year, that we’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled into thinking that somehow this is the ultimate goal.
But the writer of Hebrews disagrees. Repentance and faith in G-d should be the primary lessons that we teach our children and new believers. Not mature Christians who should be teaching others, but instead continue to need teaching in the basic things. We fail to realize that our pastors should be pressing on beyond the call to salvation and moving toward instruction in the footsteps of Messiah.
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Messiah and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward G-d, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if G-d permits.”
But what do we see? Again and again the foundation is lain, and we are none the wiser, believing that we are being taught advanced things of Scripture. We are being robbed of the true word of G-d and being led away from the lives we ought to be living, and we can’t help but drool over the tingly feeling we got from the worship. We ought instead to be repenting (turning) from our dead works and returning to G-d’s expectations and Will, through the power of His Holy Spirit. This is the Gospel message.
What are dead works? Dead works are works which do not lead to a changed heart.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord G-d, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
So what does it mean to repent from dead works? Does it mean we stop living according to the Torah commands, thinking that because they can’t save our souls that they are worthless? This idea assumes that the Torah was ever intended to bring salvation to any person at any time. It was not. The purpose of any law is to reflect the will of the law giver. G-d gave His perfect law as a means of allowing His children to learn His will. When we realize this, we can see that His giving of the Torah at Sinai was an act of grace, and not the angry backlashing of a tempestuous god who wanted to teach a rebellious people a lesson.
We repent from our dead works by accepting G-d’s grace for our inability to please Him with our works. We repent from our dead works when we cease trying to attain righteousness with our actions, and realize that only through our faith in Messiah will we ever be counted as righteous. This change in our hearts ought to create in us a desire to obey His law as an expression of love and gratitude for the sacrifice He made for us. Not as a means to gain His love.
- A person who professes faith in G-d and does acts of righteousness, but continues returning to his sin, shall not have his righteous works counted as righteous because he has not truly laid down his evil deeds and returned to G-d’s commands (repentance).
- Equally so, an unrighteous person who turns from his sins and keeps the commands of G-d (true repentance) will have his righteous works counted in place of his sins.
- True repentance involves accepting the forgiveness given to us thru Messiah’s sacrifice.
- This repentance is worthless if we do not restore our relationship with G-d by returning to His word and realigning our lives with His will (His law)
So what are dead works?
Failing to accept G-d’s forgiveness for our inability to obey His commands (repentance), and thinking that we can rectify this with our actions, is a dead work. It is fruitless. It doesn’t bring about any kind of restoration. On the other hand, repenting from our sins and returning to true obedience to G-d’s Word out of submission to His will (restoration) is a work of faith. This type of work is not fruitless in that it brings about a restoration of our relationship with the Creator as a result not of our own actions, but as a result of G-d giving us His mercy through our repentance.
When your child is disobeying your will (the command/instruction given to them), as a parent you don’t expect them simply to cease from their rebellious act. The natural next step that you expect of them is to return to obeying your command (restoration). In the same way, the logical next step for a sinner after turning away from sin (disobeying G-d’s will) is turning back to obeying G-d’s commands. No parent loves their child more because they are obedient. Neither does the Father love us because we are obedient. We should never think that our righteous works will merit our salvation. Too many people, however, think that disobeying them will merit their salvation. The reciprocal of disobedience is obedience. If we are not disobeying, we are left only with the option of obeying, or else we have not truly ceased disobeying. We do not truly have repentance if we refuse to submit in obedience to G-d’s commands as a result of His love and sacrifice for us. Our works become lifeless if we don’t have faith in His promise to forgive us when we fall short.
And there is a delicate balance that exists between our faith and our works. We see this very balance all throughout the book of James.
We even see in the words of Messiah Himself that deeds done in righteousness will count for something on judgement day.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
What does a wedding garment have to do with faith or salvation?
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
This is simply the perspective of someone who attended what could be considered a conservative mainstream “non-denominational” church for 21 years. Despite the teaching I was receiving, G-d placed a desire in my heart to obey Him for real, not just emotionally or with good intentions, but tangibly where possible. When this happened, it became clear to me for the first time that there is no “mystery” about what His will is. There is not mystery about what it means to “walk in the way he walked.” These things are clearly spelled out in scripture for anyone willing to listen and obey. (Deut. 30:11-14, Romans 10:5-8)
However, when it comes to giving practical teaching on what it actually looks like to live the life of a believer in Messiah beyond the initial acceptance of G-ds gift of salvation, it is my opinion that most pastors offer little to nothing to their congregants.
If our pastors are not teaching us to follow the perfect Law of Liberty in order to walk in the actual ways that our Messiah walked, then what are they teaching us?
According to Deuteronomy 13, any teacher who teaches his listeners to go away from the commands of G-d is to be considered a false teacher, and to be put to death in order to purge his evil. It has nothing to do with whether he’s making money from his teaching, or selling a book on his teaching. It says nothing about these things. What matter is where this teacher is pointing people: towards obedience to G-d’s Word, or towards rebellion from it.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
In what other context would a worker be allowed to continue in his profession if he was not obeying the requirements of the job as determined by the one who put him into the position to begin with? Why do we allow our teachers to continue teaching us contrary to the Scriptures in the name of “grace?”
If our pastors are not teaching us to return to G-d’s Word and obedience to His perfect will (the Law of liberty), then these pastors are not doing their job.