When my granddaughter, Hannah, was two years old, my daughter was reading a childrens’ book to her about the attributes of God. They got to the part about forgiveness.
Hannah asked, “What does that mean?”
Jasona tried to explain the concept to her.
Hannah asked, “Is that like God puts you in time out?”
“It’s more like God calls you out of time out,” Jasona said, as she turned the page of the book.
Hannah flipped the page back. “How does he do that?” she asked.
Jasona turned the page and said, “You pray to him and ask him to forgive you.”
Hannah flipped it back.
Jasona realized something was up, she asked, “Do you want to ask God to forgive you, Hannah?”
“Do you want to pray or would you like me to pray for you?”
Hannah pointed at her mom.
Jasona prayed, asking the Lord to forgive any sins that Hannah had committed.
She turned the page again.
That was not good enough for Hannah. She flipped the page back.
“Do you want to pray yourself, Hannah?” Jasona asked.
Hannah nodded, closed her eyes, bowed her head and started to talk to God.
Jasona realized that Hannah was talking about the toothpaste tube. A couple of days before Hannah had gotten into trouble for squeezing all the toothpaste out of the toothpaste tube.
The remarkable thing about this story, for me, is that Hannah, at age two, had realized that something she had done, had defiled her. She felt the conviction. She found the relief in the grace of the Lord.
My mother had lots of life lessons she passed on to me.
One of them was this: “If you squeeze the toothpaste tube, toothpaste comes out.”
This is true, but what is in the tube may be unknown to us, hidden deep in the heart.
What she was saying is, “Whatever is in you will come out under pressure.”
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
One day my daughter reprimanded Hannah, for something she had done to her younger sister, Audrey.
Later Audrey came to the kitchen and asked Jasona if she had ever done something mean to her younger sister.
Jasona answer that yes, she had.
“What did you do?” Audrey asked.
Jasona told her something she had done to Heather.
Audrey responded, “What were you thinking?”
Jasona said, “I don’t know, Audrey. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
After a few seconds, Audrey looked at her mother and said, “You were listening to the sin in your heart”
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Recently I heard another story about people when asked where their groceries come from answered, “From the grocery store”. I have always found it surprising when people say that. They may understand that the food is not produced in the grocery stores, but they give little thought to all the background that is behind that product to get it to the grocery store.
When I heard this comment a few days ago, it got me thinking.
I “got saved” more than 40 years ago. Up until almost 10 years ago I did not think much about the Jewish background of “Christianity”. Everything changed after I made my first trip to Israel in 2013. I came back from that trip stunned. For several months I could not even express what I had seen, much less understand it.
Someone asked me, “What was the highlight of your trip, Grace?” I couldn’t answer. I stared at that person for a several seconds, then said, “Chris, I can’t answer your question. I feel as if I am standing in front of an incredible stained glass window. You are asking me to remove one pane from that window to try to explain the whole thing. I can’t do that. It would not explain anything and in trying to do so I will ruin the whole picture.”
My visit to Israel was more than a paradigm shift, it was life changing. I started to see the Hebrew/Jewish background and context of my faith. I started to ask questions.
“What is this thing we do on Sunday mornings, and why is so different from what we read in the book of Acts?” I asked my husband.
I read several books on the history of the “Christian” church through new lenses.
I no longer thought of “Christianity” as a different “religion” from Judaism. I began to understand the continuum. “Christianity” was never intended to be a new religion. The Bible that I had been studying for so many years is Jewish, start to finish.
What an exciting, enlightening, enriching journey it has been for the past few years.
Jesus did not suddenly pop into history; He came through thousands of years of preparation in history—Jewish/Hebrew history. (it is His Story minus one s=history).
We skip the vast richness of our faith when we just pick up Jesus and don’t understand all the development of His-Story behind it.
Here is my analogy:
So many people pick up their food at the grocery store, but don’t know all the background that went in to getting it there. Yes, the food is nourishing but mostly unappreciated for what it took to get it to the grocery store.
So many people pick up their Jesus at church-and yes he is nourishing, and saving, and secured our future, but the taste is bland without savoring the cultivation and care it took for him to arrive.
A partial list of what I have learned since studying Jesus in his context
Jesus, Yeshua, was, and is a Jew
Replacement theology is wrong
Yeshua did not start a new religion
Our faith is Jewish, start to finish
The law was not abolished
Yeshua’s “fulfillment” of the law did not abolish it
Yeshua never broke the law–that would have disqualified him as the Messiah
Gentile believers were expected to attend synagogue and learn the Torah (Acts 15)
Yeshua did not change the food laws
The gospel is “Repent. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Heaven is not the goal, nor our home
Sabbath did not get changed to Sunday
Sabbath keeping is the 4th commandment
Paul was a faithful Jew all his life.
He did not “convert” to Christianity or get his name changed on the Damascus Road
Pharisees are not all hypocrites
Yeshua was a Pharisee
“Binding and Loosing” are legal terms, meaning prohibiting and permitting
“An eye for an eye” is a legal term having to do with monetary compensation for loss
The Sanhedrin is the high court, like the supreme court in the United States
“Old” and “New” Testament names are misleading
The Bible does not teach “original sin”
The “evil eye” is stinginess
“Treasures in heaven” is a euphemism for “Treasures with God” and does not refer to a place
I would love to hear your comments, questions, additions or corrections. I am still learning.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,* but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:21-29
Several years ago when my husband and I started to learn that Jesus, Yeshua, was a Torah keeping Jew, we joined a group that was studying the “Old” testament. The study is called “Shadows of the Messiah”. It teaches what Yeshua taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus—the entire “old” testament points to Him!
Our study group met in a church near our home. We met on a weekday evening. The pastor’s wife came to the first couple of lessons. When the third lesson started, the pastor of the church walked into the meeting—not as an attendee, but as the authority of his church. He demanded to know, “Who in this room believes that we are still ‘under the law’”?
The twenty or so people in the room were stunned into silence. No one answered him.
Now, several years later, my husband and I would have an answer for him, “Yes. Of course. Jesus did not come to abolish the law. He was a Torah Observant Jew, and as his disciple, we do what he did.”
After the confrontation from the pastor, the group moved their meetings to our home. We learned, and are still learning the importance of keeping the law.
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
“Workers of lawlessness?” ! Who were these “workers of lawlessness”? Those who thought they were doing things for Him. Did they not do mighty works in his name? So why did Yeshua call them “workers of lawlessness”? Because they did not keep the law!
One of the things we learned early on in our study of Yeshua and “the Law”, is that the word that is translated “law” in most of our English bibles, is “Torah”. Torah is the first five books of the Original Scriptures (the name we prefer for what is commonly called “Old Testament”). “Torah” means instruction, or teaching. Yes, God’s laws/commandments are part of it, but Torah is God’s loving instructions for life. Torah teaches us how to approach Him, and how to live with each other. When Yeshua comes back, Torah will be the constitution of the whole world. We had better learn to follow His instructions now and not be numbered amongst those who are “workers of lawlessness.”
Grace and Torah are not opposites. Grace and Legalism are opposites. We cannot do enough good, or earn our way into the kingdom of God by “keeping the law”. All of us before and after the incarnation are and were, dependent on grace made possible by Yeshua. That’s what he meant when he said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom”. He said, “No one comes to the Father (i.e. enters the kingdom of God) except by me. Since God doesn’t change, the rules don’t change. All the people before and after the cross are dependent on His grace. Abraham saw his day, and rejoiced.
So do we.
*Do you think Paul will be called “least in the kingdom of heaven”? Of course not. He was, contrary to teaching you may have heard, also a Torah observant Pharisee right until the moment he died. When he was brought before the chief priests and the council before being sent to Rome “he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Acts 23:6
He also said, “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.” Acts 26:4-5
My mother used to say that when you squeeze a toothpaste tube, toothpaste comes out. What she meant was, what is in your heart will come out when pressure is applied.
It’s a simple concept, but how often do you really understand it. Are we surprised when a burst of anger, hurtful talk, lies, or cruelty comes out of our mouths? Under pressure, what is in our hearts comes out of our mouths and sometimes it comes out in something other than words.
Pressure tests what is in our hearts.
After people have been married for a number of years, they often develop little codes to tell each other something. Tim and I have several of those little intimacies. We sometimes ask each other, “Do you think this is a test?” We always answer, “Everything’s a test.” The exchange comes from a play Tim was a few years ago called “The Journey”. At one point in the story one of the characters says to the other, “Do you think this is a test?” The answer was, “Everything’s a test, Snedge.”
The Lord will test our hearts to see what is in there. The Bible is full of stories of people’s hearts being tested. Just this morning I read the story about Joseph testing his brothers when they came to buy food from him in Egypt.
Abraham was tested.
Jacob was tested.
David was tested.
Solomon was tested.
Mary was tested.
Peter was tested.
Paul was tested.
Some of these people passed their tests, some of them didn’t.
Everyone is tested.
The ultimate question is not whether you passed the test or not, but what did you do after you failed a test?
Paul says there is a godly sorry that leads to repentance.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
When the pressure is applied, may what comes out be full of grace and mercy. Here is a remedy for you. When your tube gets squeezed, may this be what shows up.