Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why Do We Care?: Why the Jewish Holidays and Feasts are Relevant to Christians.

Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Galatians 3:29.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.                                              

Sometimes when you receive a blessing, particularly when it excites you in the deeper parts of your being, you want to share it with others...think the dude in Acts 3 who had never walked and then received the gift of ambulation.  The guy was pretty excited to share that with others as he went "walking and leaping" all about the church building!  A few years ago Karen & I began to feel something.  It was a nudge our hearts and an interest in our minds that began to connect the dots between what we knew as Christians and the foundation of our faith, and Judaism.  Along our journey and as we have attempted to express what we were learning, others have perhaps thought us either crazy or coming under the legalism of the Old Testament law. While I won't argue the crazy part, we do take exception to the legalism and we'll try to explain why.  Admittedly we have probably been guilty at times of letting our zeal outweigh our knowledge with the end result being obnoxious but the time has come to share the wonderful blessings that are found in understanding our Jewish roots.  The blessing lies in understanding that everything that we've been taught through the years within our Christian heritage comes into a much greater focus and takes on a new life and enthusiasm as we understand that everything we've done and taught as Christians has its prophetic underpinnings in Jewish tradition and practice.  

To begin to understand the connection between Judaism and our Christian faith one only needs to understand one thing:  Jesus was a Jew.  He lived as a Jew, practiced Jewish law and custom and even said that He had no intention or purpose to abolish the law (Matt 5:17).  One of the most unfortunate teachings that ever came into this world is that of "Replacement Theology".  That is, that Jesus did away with the idea of a Jewish nation unto Himself and that this nation was replaced by the New Testament church.  This is a dangerous teaching and totally ignores almost all prophetic words about the times in which we now live, i.e., getting closer to the coming of the Messiah.  

It is dangerous because it is backwards.  Paul talks about this in Galatians 3  when he speaks of  the promises of Abraham, that promise being that his offspring would be as many as the stars in the heavens and the sands of the sea and share in the blessings of God.  Lest we stop there and conclude that Paul is referring to those who are born again, consider what he said in Romans 11:  "Did God reject His people? [the offspring of Abraham].  By no means!"  What am I trying to say here?  God in no way, shape or form has rejected His people, that is, the literal offspring of Abraham which is Israel.  No, no, no! Quite the opposition!  God grafted us [Gentiles] into that deal not the other way around!  As Jesus stated, He didn't come to do away with it but to complete it.  Let me explain a little further exactly what God did for us [Gentiles].

I don't think that Karen and I ever fully understood this truth and exactly what God did when we got saved until we adopted.  In 2010 when we adopted, we already shared 6 wonderful children.  They carried our blood in their DNA.  They were ours and legally, everything that was ours is available to them  inheritance.  Our children were heirs to our stuff!  That included our estate but it also included our heritage.  They would not escape the Phillips disease (i.e., laughing uncontrollably about rather trite and trivial things), admonitions to "don't speak oppression [things that aren't consistent with God's word]", "swallow the frog [when dining in another home and you don't like what they serve!]", communion and yes, now family dinners on the farm.  Our children inherited all this stuff for better or worse.

But what about our adopted children?  Prior to 2010 they weren't part of the deal.  They wouldn't inherit a dime of ours, knew nothing about Phillips disease, never knew about swallowing a frog (at least as far as we taught it!), communion, family values, or family dinners on the farm.  They were outsiders drifting to their own winds [or in their case, DSS winds].  But then one day we found them and they were grafted in.  We initiated their grafting and we made it possible (just like God did for us through Jesus).  All of a sudden, they became of legal, equal status with our other children, i.e., they became heirs  through Russell & Karen Thomas, to everything that was ours to give them!  They became participants in our family and began to inherit all that our family has.  But what about our biological children?  Did we replace our other children who came through our loins with these new, grafted children?  Absolutely not!  Did our other children somehow loose their place in our family, life and "kingdom"?  To quote Paul, "By no means!"  They all share in our heritage now and they all receive the benefits of our "kingdom" and they all will share in things to come in our family.

There is one more question to answer in regards to this adoptive process:   Did we, Russell & Karen, throw away all the family roots and foundations that we had built through the years with our "natural" children at the point in which we adopted the new children?  Of course not!  We still pray with them, laugh with them, hug them, correct them, have cookouts at the fire pit and do all the foundational things that we have valued and practiced in order to build a strong family.  So here's the clincher:  why would we think that when we Gentiles got saved, i.e., grafted into the Kingdom of God with the blessings and promises that He made to Abraham and that materialized in Jesus, that God would throw away all those foundational things that He had built His family on for centuries?  The answer:   HE DIDN"T!  Again, consider Matthew 5.   He came to fulfill not abolish [put an end it, annul, make void] the law!  It was never Jesus' intention to make the law go away!

So there's the foundation for observing the fundamental elements of our faith found in Jewish law, custom, holidays and feasts.  They are the foundational truths and practices of the family so to speak.  Jesus certainly altered the deal and gave a new perspective to the law.  Why didn't He just say, 

"Ok, guys.  Here's the deal.  The old stuff, well, it wasn't working too good.  You guys just can't get it right and well, quite frankly the Father would have to send the whole bunch of ya to hell if we go by that stuff.  So we worked out a new deal.  Just forget all that stuff.  Here's the new deal".  

The reason lies in the mystery.  Paul talked about Romans 11:25 when he said,

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.              

and again in Ephesians 3:6

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.     

Debate as we will, but I don't see anything here that says God did away with anything.  No, the idea is much more along the adoption lines (also see Romans 8:16) and that now all of us kids, Jews & Gentiles, share in the promised blessings of Abraham!

So by now your seeing the connection and the truth that we are in this thing with the Jews not instead of the Jews, but why celebrate the Jewish feasts and holidays?  Isn't that legalism and the law that nobody can live by?  The answer:  it depends.  If one is holding the feasts and holidays thinking that they will somehow save them or even somehow position them in greater favor with God, then the answer is yes, that's legalism.  However, if you understand that God, in all His wisdom, set up this entire deal as a way to commune and promote healthy relationship with His creation, then the feasts and holiday celebrations take on a different meaning.  That meaning being, that they become events that remove us from the usual cares and concerns of everyday life and place us in an environment with God where we can enjoy His presence.  If you've ever done anything with your family, like 4th of July cookout, a Birthday dinner, or even attend church, then you understand this principle.  It is a time to be together, share life and in some cases, learn what the patriarchs are planning in the future....think, When are we doing reunion next yearWhen are we drawing names for Christmas? or on another level, I need to let you guys know what will happen should the Lord take me home".  The feasts are simply a revelation of Jesus and a reflection of the mystery.  They are the foundations of the family and to not participate in them is to miss an opportunity to understand what's going on in the family.

There you have it.  Long-winded I know and I apologize for that.  But that's why we observe the feasts each year.  I look forward more and more to these special times.  For those who might be reading this and wonder what the feasts are and when they happen, I will posting again in the next few days specifically about the spring feasts and the fall feasts.  In the meantime, L'Shanah Tovah Tekatevu...May you be inscribed for a good year!