Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sabbath Rest

Through the various traditions of Sabbath observance which have developed from the time of Christ, we have missed the true significance of the Sabbath rest.

The concept of Sabbath has been lost in the ideas governed by the churches, in an area which has a large portion of the bible dedicated to it. The Old Testament has Sabbath observances and festivals as it's central theme. The worship on special days was central to the faith of the Israelites. The Jews at the time of Christ had developed their religious system around these days, and the observance of a seventh day of rest was central to their society.

When beginning this topic in conversation, the first thing people ponder is which day of the week it is (I am not interested in this debate either – whatever you do, do it unto the Lord I say). As I broach this subject I implore you to clear your mind of all you have learnt, as what I am about to teach will set you free from such debates. There is an entire area of teaching which is hidden because when we say Sabbath we automatically think about a day of the week and church attendance.

That is not what Sabbath is about.

I grew up in a church where we observed the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath, as prescribed in the Ten Commandments. Although it is commonly thought today by many churches that the Sabbath changed to the Sunday, this is a church tradition and I challenge you to find such a change in the bible. I know, I looked. My first dilemma when I believed in Jesus therefore, having had this background of knowledge from my youth, was what do I do with this Sabbath thing? Well I prayed and prayed and eight years later here I am to tell you what I believe God taught me about the matter through the Holy Spirit.

Let's start at the beginning.

Genesis 2:2,3 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

This is the beginning of Sabbath, and it is in the understanding of the rest that God entered into, and the order of things into which Adam and Eve were created into where we start to see what Sabbath really means.

The following is an analysis from a Hebrew magazine ( of the original Hebrew translated as rested in verse 3 above;

"וַיִּשְׁבֹּת (vai-yish-bot)
The base word is שבת (shavat – the root of the noun shabbat/sabbath) meaning “to cease.” The prefix י identifies the verb tense as imperfect – will cease – and the subject of the verb as third person, masculine, singular – he will cease. The prefix ו means “and,” but also reverses the tense of the verb – and he ceased.”

This indicates that once the creative work was over, God entered a perpetual rest. There was no more work to be done. This is consistent with what Paul talks about in Hebrews 4:3b “ And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world”. Hebrews 3 and 4 speak about entering the Lords rest, and I will return there later.

So if God entered this rest, then why did Jesus say “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17b)?

I asked God this, and what I see now is that when God finished creating, he rested from the creative work. Adam and Eve were created into a state of perpetual rest. There was nothing to be done. There was no sin, no disease or death. This is key to understanding as when Adam and Eve sinned and brought about the punishment of death upon us, God began a redemptive work. It is this redemptive work which culminated in the death of Jesus on the Cross which redeems us and offers an inheritance of which most of us are being robbed, back to the state of perpetual rest.

Many reading this will be going back again in there minds to which day do we rest. A careful reading of Hebrews 3:7 through to 4:11 puts the focus on entering God's rest every day.

It is not a physical rest, but a spiritual one.

When I studied Jesus's teaching in Matthew 5 I saw how the ten commandments were still a vital part of learning God's way today. The way He took the law and expanded them to a spiritual meaning far beyond the letter of the law was an example to me of how the Old Testament should be read. So I diligently went about studying the Ten Commandments and got a lot out of them all, but when I got to keeping the Sabbath day my brain would seize up. How is that a spiritual concept? Some teach it as a principle of devoting a day a week to the Lord, and it no longer matters which one, but that seemed a bit flippant to me (while still a good principle in balancing a stressful life).

The word 'Sabbath' appears 154 times in the bible. How can something spoken about that much not be important?

I was taught growing up that the keeping of the Sabbath would be a sign that a person is a part of the true church. Now my studies have confirmed for me that the whole concept of Sabbath was a sign. It was a sign of the coming Messiah.

The Israelites had to work in order to redeem themselves. They had to have a strict sacrificial system in order to consecrate themselves. On six days they rested, and they also had a Sabbath year every seventh year, and what was known as the year of Jubilee every seven times seven years (49years). All of this pointed to the coming of Christ, when the redemptive work was completed and we could again enter the rest of God.

Jesus said himself in Luke 4:16-21;

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it he found the place where it is written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has set me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'”

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, and proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor. This was the Sabbath year when debts were cancelled, slaves were set free and land was returned to it's owner.

I always thought that Jesus did healings on the Sabbath to get up the nose of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, but now I realise this was shallow thinking. Everything Jesus did pointed to who he was and what he came for. When he healed on the Sabbath, he was showing the almighty power of God which was going to be available to all of us who entered this state of rest. This is the place which Adam and Eve existed before sin entered. A state of no disease, sin or death.

There remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:9-11)

When the focus is taken away from having a day of rest, and placed on entering a perpetual rest where we can be free from worry, free from the sinful nature, free from disease and even free from debt then it opens up our minds to a very different concept of the commandment to keep the Sabbath.

We break the Sabbath when we worry about things that we should leave in God's hands.

We break the Sabbath when we try to earn our salvation through works.

We break the Sabbath when we don't trust God.

All of a sudden now, I can study Sabbath in the Old Testament and it gives a spiritual meaning just like Jesus did in Matthew 5 with other commandments.

The law is not changed, indeed it is fulfilled.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Downfall of man - Theology

The current mounting collection of theological works is based mainly on one thing – the knowledge of man. Humans trying to work out God, generally through the intellectual study of the Bible. This is the downfall of Man. Many wonder how on earth we could work out the will of God without intellectual study.

1 Corinthians 1:20 “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Why are we relying on the wisdom of the world when scriptures such as this are there as plain as day?

It is pure and simply a problem that started at the tree in the garden of Eden. Human reasoning was what Eve did when instead of listening and obeying the instruction of God, she thought about what the serpent had said and reasoned her way into eating the fruit.

If you read the story of Jeroboam in 1 Kings 11 – 14 we see that in 1 Kings 11:31 he is promised 10 tribes of Israel. This is God's promise to him, but he misses out on the inheritance and blessings because we see in 1 Kings 12:26 “Jeroboam thought to himself,....”. He was afraid that the required changes to the religious systems in order for him to be King wouldn't work, so he made up a heap of his own. He thought to himself.

This is the historical and daily difficulty we face both in churches and as individuals. We desperately seek God, but instead of believing in him we use human reasoning and the wisdom of this world.

Many of the traditions which have been around for centuries are as a result of a few people getting together and thinking about what is needed to please the people, just like Jeroboam did. What has happened is that we are loosing our inheritance and blessings just as he did also.

The giant fig is a grand tree, and it begins it's life by attaching itself to another tree and growing on top of it. God and his way is like the original tree, and the churches have become like the giant fig. Sure it looks magnificent, and we stand in awe of it's size. It is sturdy and strong and provides shade and shelter for animals. The original tree is what we seek, however, and the unadulterated truth of God is inside there somewhere slowly being choked out.

Maybe if we put the text books away and let our minds be quiet for a while and stop reasoning we could listen to that small still voice...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus and Religious Authority

During his Ministry, although Jesus taught controversially, and openly drew attention to the incorrect religious attitudes which prevailed, he subjected himself to the authority of the leaders of his time, both religious and political. He had power as the Son of God, yet he still humbled himself to the law and traditions he lived under.

Paul taught the new church regarding respect for governing authorities.

Romans 13:1,2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Jesus was a prime example of this, and the governing authorities where instrumental in the redemptive plan and ultimate crucifixion. During his ministry Jesus also specifically taught respect for the ruling authorities when he instructed that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:25).

Likewise Jesus taught respect for the religious authorities also. He taught in the temple within the existing structure, and before he pronounced his woes in Matthew’s gospel he specifically said;

Matthew 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

We must respect the religious authorities, and stop our interdenominational bickering.

Lets look at the church today. Shouldn’t the same principles apply to those who have been appointed as priests, pastors and ministers of various denominations? They are governing authorities for our churches, yet sometimes we judge them so harshly. Paul speaks of non-Christian governments as being established by God. How much more than religious leadership?

We are quick to criticise other churches, and even accuse some of being demonic. This is harsh. This is what the Pharisees did to Jesus.

Matthew 12:22-27 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

Isn’t this what we do when we accuse people of being associated to the devil? When we call a religion which claims to follow Jesus as being false or driven by evil spirits? Further on in this scripture Jesus says “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”(verse 30).

It is also clear from these scriptures that the Pharisees themselves drove out demons, and the disciples got upset because others where using Jesus’ name to drive out demons who they did not consider to be one of them.

Mark 9:38-41“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
We have to stop bickering between different traditions and styles of worship. If the house of Satan in this object lesson would not stand, then if our own house is divided, that is the house of Christ, then what will become of us? I have all too often heard people speak of their own confusion in their journey of faith because each different church claims to have got it right, and is critical of other churches.

I have been witness to another phenomenon also. I have seen God use what many would say were cults, or false religions to draw a person near to him. I have witnesses genuine conversion in churches others would have criticised for their radical practices. I have seen that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

Why can't Christians get along?

I was sitting in church one day and from my heart I cried out to God, “What do you want me to tell them”. Deep in my spirit the Holy Spirit resounded “Tell them to stop fighting”.

Most people have an issue that they are passionate about because of the way they first discovered the reality of Jesus. Whether it was the method of teaching they were listening to, or revelation they received at the point of conversion. That the different denominations would bury the hatchet and get along is one of my passions.

You see, when God revealed himself to me he showed me something. At the time, like so many people I decided that it was too difficult to search for answers to the questions of whether or not there was a God, or if there was what he required from, because there were so many different religions and churches who all thought they were right.

What I believe God showed me was that he didn’t give a hoot about all the traditional practices in the various denominations. It was like superfluous rubbish and he saw straight to the heart of man. Like Paul says;

Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Now this being my passion, and something I was quick to sprout off at the mouth about, I was pushed to follow this conviction when I had to start attending a Catholic church. If you’re a Catholic, don’t worry I am not going to bag you out; I have noticed it is the favourite church to bag.  After attending a Catholic church for some time now, I must say I have been truly blessed by my time there.

You see we were moving to a small country town, and there were three choices of church, Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglican. Now my type of church would be one with loud music and dancing in the aisles, and none of the above was going to offer this. My husband, being brought up in a Catholic church and was keen to attend there.

I prayed, and I prayed hard. Surely there must be a different way. I was happy to tell everyone about how churches should get along, but this was too much, pushing me to actually attend a church I wasn’t used to made it personal. Growing up I was taught that the Catholic church was like the beast in Revelation.

I started studying all the doctrines of the Catholic church to try to get my head around it all. The more I looked, the more I saw that it was all bible based, and had in fact reformed somewhat to being quite in line with most other main stream denominations.

There was one thing I couldn’t get though, and that was the Mary thing. It has to be the biggest criticism of the Catholic faith. As I combed the Catholic website for some sort of peace on this issue God spoke to me, as always from the depths of my sole clear as I have ever heard him “what’s it to you if I took my Mother up before she died?”

I pulled my head in after that.
I have seen glimpses of the traditions that are criticised, but mostly I hear Jesus preached and the word of God read. Leave interdenominational bickering alone, and lets start loving one another, all of us.

Setting aside Human Wisdom

Many churches, no matter how liberal are constantly falling into the trap of using human wisdom instead of God’s wisdom. Even those that call themselves ‘spirit led’, start to follow the knowledge they attain.  Paul said “We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”(1 Cor 8:1-3)

This human knowledge has become the basis for many of our church infrastructures. The measure of leadership usually entails some form of academic achievement in ministry. The denominations usually have their preferred degrees or diplomas for the position they wish someone to fill. I am not saying all of this is bad, but is it not a worldly way?

What can be said of the congregations, how would they determine right from wrong amongst the controversies.

Human argument, human tradition. It is time to break free and truly follow the Spirit of Christ.

This is what the first apostles did. They taught revelation from the spirit;

“ This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor2:13)

There is a growing movement of teachers who speak from revelation from the Spirit. They are often opposed by those who hold to their theology from text books and tried and tested tradition, almost in fear of losing control. This is God though, this is how He works.

Arguments and controversies produce divisiveness in the body of Christ, yet the Spirit will give us wisdom and keep us focused on the most important thing.... LOVE.

My prayer for the Church (that is the body of those who believe in Jesus not the organisations) is Paul’s prayer in Eph 3:26-29;

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”