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Tag Archives: Jewish traditions

Look Out for the Dogs

When I was in college, a dog attacked a child in our neighbor. While this girl survived, her face was scarred for life. Before this incident, this dog never had any issues with aggression. Yet, something happened, triggering this violent outburst. Perhaps, similar accounts in the first century inspired the apostle Paul to warn, “look out for the dogs.” The dogs are directed at a specific religious sect known as the Judaizers.

Look out for those dogs [Judaizers, legalists], look out for those mischief-makers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—Philippians 3:3-2.

This religious group infiltrated the leadership within the Church of Galatia. Unable to let go of their Jewish traditions, these zealots began to added stipulations to salvation. Forcing Gentile believers to be circumcised, the Judaizers broke Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 4:2. Therefore, when Paul compares these religious leaders to dogs, he is suggesting that they are ripping apart God’s commands.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh, Galatians 3:1-3.

In the passage above, Paul compares the Judaizers to practicing witches. This expression refers to the legalism and rituals that the Judaizers adhered to and practiced. While writing to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul recalls a visit to Berea, impressed by their careful consideration of new teachings. These noble leaders were a model for other churches to emulate, Acts 17:11. As you encounter similar legalism today, remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 so that you won’t be deceived by the next pack of dogs that comes along to invoke a power grab in your church.

by Jay Mankus

Placed in Right Standing with God

Joe Mantegna is best known for his role as David Rossi in Criminal Minds. While not part of the current cast, Mantegna first came to the forefront as detective Will Girardi in the series Joan of Arcadia. In the opening scene, Girardi is the new chief of police, taking over in Arcadia, a city full of corruption. As Mantegna confronts law breakers each episode, political pushback eventually results in losing his position. Despite being cast as a former altar boy in the Catholic Church, Mantegna’s character is an atheist who believes God is punishing him as he and his family face a series of ongoing trials.

But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!] 18 For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor, Galatians 2:17-18.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul references his previous life as a Pharisee, eager to adhere to a rigid and strict adherence to the Law of Moses. As the Church in Galatia is infiltrated by a religious sect known as the Judaizers, Paul warns these new Christians not to force Gentile converts to conform to Jewish traditions. Paul clarifies how to placed in right standing with God. This isn’t accomplished through following a set of rules in the Old Testament. Rather, the only way to be set free from being convicted as a sinner on Judgement Day is by placing your faith and sole trust in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:19-22.

The best example of being placed in right standing with God is a first century story shared by Jesus. This parable involves two sons, the younger who was tired of living at home. Bored and eager to get out on his own, this immature teenager wore down his father, giving into his demands. Like a freshman college student during their first semester, Luke’s word describe someone who wanted to be the life of the party. However, not long afterward this individual flunked out and became homeless, desperation sets in. Morally and spiritually bankrupt, this prodigal came to his senses. The prayer above is an outline for being placed in right standing with God.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction.  In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea.  One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene.  Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus.  Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced.  Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus.  Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen.  This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him.  It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants.  Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit.  Any type of change is difficult.  However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible.  Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted.  As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains.  For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

A Different Kind of Free

Paradise didn’t last long until temptation entered the conversation.  Since Adam and Eve were caught red handed with forbidden fruit in their possession, freedom has gone down hill.  Sure, freewill still exists, yet a different kind of free is necessary to escape guilt, shame and regret.

In their 2003 hit song Different Kind of Free, Zoe Girl raises this question.  Despite the pain of historic blunders, the future does hold the key to obtain a spiritual freedom.  While the world is busy keeping score, 1 Corinthians 13:4, God hits the reset button every morning, Lamentations 3:22-23.  The focus shouldn’t be on whether or not the Lord will forgive you for your transgressions in life.  Rather, will you let go of failure to forgive yourself or are you going to continue to beat yourself over previous mistakes?

The New Testament expresses a kinder and gentler God, full of grace and love, Romans 5:8.  Instead of shedding blood to atone for every time you mess up, the Lord has sent a different kind of high priest, Hebrews 4:15-16.  To replace this Jewish tradition, a human was led to the slaughter to die once and for all, 1 Peter 4:1.  Although no one deserves a second chance, a different kind of free is now available through Jesus, John 3:3-17.  Don’t wait to taste this everlasting fruit, Psalm 34:8.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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