I have a confession to make. It isn’t a pretty story and rather embarrassing but I’d like to share it.
Coming off a 1 day fast I was hungry for hot dogs - I eat Hebrew National (Kosher) all beef hot dogs, and while we rarely eat potato chips, there was something about those cheddar chips that had been sitting in the pantry weeks too long for their own good.
I cooked the whole package of 6 (bun length) hot dogs in a skillet, rolling them around as they browned for that grilled flavor, thinking I’d eat 3…I thought I was really stretching it to eat 3 at one sitting. Should I do a Chicago dog, with small peppers, relish, and mustard? The last of the sauerkraut had been used months ago the last time I’d eaten hot dogs so I couldn’t do a Kraut dog. Maybe the All American with relish, onions, mustard or ketchup? Hmmmm….so many possibilities, so little room in my stomach!
I settled on relish and mustard and a few sprinkles of hot sauce…and 3 of them, I thought that should do me. But you know they looked so good and if I put 4 on a plate I could make a square of them end to end and put a portion of chips in the middle, so that’s what I did…and they were delicious! When finished I didn’t feel like I’d eaten anything. The remaining 2 were still in the skillet, still warm, calling to me…
They can be dessert I said to myself…and just like that the final 2 were gone. Good dessert I thought…now I was full, not stuffed, just comfortably full…it had been so long since I’d had hot dogs…
But you know, I love dark chocolate covered cherries, and on a whim I had bought a package for myself when Chris and I were at the store last week…So I thought, just 1 or 2 of those dark chocolate covered cherries wouldn’t hurt to top off the meal….and somehow before I knew it 6 of them had disappeared along with a glass of ice cold milk!
They say your stomach is actually full 10 minutes before the signal reaches the brain to tell you that you are full. Usually when eating I mentally project ahead 10 minutes and stop there, but it had been SO long since I’d had hot dogs and chocolate covered cherries, and dark chocolate ones are so hard to find!
About 10 minutes later I felt like a bloated pig and was asking myself how in the world I could eat 6 hot dogs and as many chocolate covered cherries, especially after a fast. It had been a slippery slope with each step greased by my own rationalizations and flawed logic that explained this or that away to justify pigging out.
Looking for balance
And so it was I sat across the table from a man who had been deeply involved in a Messianic congregation, and was now horribly afraid for his salvation, and confused. Like me eating way too much while intending just to eat a moderate meal, he had experienced a spiritual slippery slope when he started simply learning about the Biblical festivals, but ended up afraid if he broke any of the Laws of Moses he would be doomed to hell.
He was asking what a balanced walk that included elements of Jewish roots looked like to a born again Gentile?
Why the law?
Up until Moses, the nations had their own laws they had observed, but at no time had God given mankind His own law. Mankind was ignorant of what God expected, which is noted twice in Acts:
“God…who in times past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He didn’t leave Himself without a witness in that He did good and gave us rain from heaven, and good harvests, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” and “…we ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold, silver or stone, created by art and man’s workmanship. And the times of this ignorance God overlooked…” (14:15-17, 17:29-30)
But when He gave His Word to Moses, mankind received a revelation: They were sinners. The law was given for that very reason:
“…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by doing the law no person can be justified, for the law brought the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20
This is why Paul said, “The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for unholy and profane…” and “…if there could have been a law given that would have given Life, then truly righteousness would have come by the law.” Galatians 3:21, I Timothy 1:9
The law was a teacher, to teach us we (were) sinners
“Before faith came we were kept under the law, hemmed in until faith came which would be revealed in its proper time. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster, our tutor, to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. So after faith has come, we are no longer under the schoolmaster. For you are all now the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Galatians 3:22-26
The Father’s goal was to adopt us, to make us His own children. He didn’t merely want to tell mankind we were sinners, He wanted to solve that sin problem so He could make us His children:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world…to be adopted by Him through Jesus Christ to Himself, which was according to the good pleasure of His will…” Ephesians 1:3-5
Jesus willingly became the adoption agency through His sacrifice on the cross, that blood being the currency used to buy our adoption into the Father’s family. That adoption also included something no earth adoption could: Our ‘spiritual DNA’ was changed - our spirit was born again, having changed from the family of death to the faminly of God. We are both adopted and born into the Father’s family!
“Giving thanks to the Father…who has translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:12-13
The slippery slope to 6 hot dogs: Why the law for Gentile ‘Messianics’?
When the apostles determined in Acts 15 and 10 years later reaffirmed it in Acts 21:25, “…there are many thousands of believing Jews zealous for the law, but Gentiles need not observe any such thing”, they confirmed that observing the Mosaic law is purely voluntary.
“Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross. In view of these tremendous facts, don’t let anyone worry you by criticizing what you eat or drink, or what holy days you ought to observe, or bothering you over new moons or Sabbaths.” Paul continues:
“All these things have at most only a symbolic value: The solid fact is Christ…I know that these regulations look wise with their self-inspired efforts at worship, their policy of self-humbling, and their studied neglect of the body. But in actual practice they do honor not to God, but to man’s own pride.” Colossians 2:14-23 (J. B. Phillip’s Translation)
Note he said they look wise - and no one can fault a brother or sister who wants to learn more of the law – but Paul said the end result is they honor man’s pride and not God, because God has provided Jesus.
If I observe the law I do so by choice, not religious compulsion. I eat Kosher hot dogs by choice, not religion. When I fast I do so that I may become more sensitive to the Father, not to get something from Him or thinking I must punish myself to show Him how sincere I am. I’m His kid!
If I wish to observe Friday (night) Shabbat, Passover, Yom Kippur, or not eat shellfish or pork, I do so by my choice and wouldn’t dream of imposing my choice on others nor claim it is a higher and better way. It is a choice. There is wisdom in the law, don’t get me wrong. There is higher wisdom in the fullness of Christ.
Can anything we do approach equality with the fact Christ lives in us? That is Paul’s point – there is nothing the Mosaic Law nor man can do to even approach what Christ did, so the key is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…to be more like Him….
More next week, blessings!