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Tag Archives: Judaism

How Jealousy Can Destroy a Church

The apostle Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica can be described as the tale of two Sundays.  As a former Jewish zealot, Paul visited the local synagogue and consecutive Sabbaths.  According to Luke, a first century doctor and historian, Paul engaged in a series of discussions and friendly debates.  Paul used the Scriptures to persuade these Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  By the third Sabbath, some Jews, a large number of God fearing Greeks and many leading women placed that faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

And Paul entered the synagogue, as was his custom, and for three Sabbaths he engaged in discussion and friendly debate with them from the Scriptures, explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence] that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),” Acts 17:2-4.

This rejection of Judaism didn’t sit well with a majority of the synagogue leaders.  Instead of continuing their friendly debate, unbelieving Jews became filled with jealousy.  Envious spirits provoked synagogue leaders to become hostile toward God, Romans 8:5-8.  The sinful nature influenced synagogue leaders to go down a slippery slope, combing Thessalonica for lowlifes and thugs to intimidate Paul and Silas.  This group stirred up trouble, forming a mob and throwing this city into an uproar, surrounding the house of Jason like a modern public protest.  This is an example of how jealousy can destroy a church.

And some of them were persuaded to believe and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and many of the leading women. But the [unbelieving] Jews became jealous, and taking along some thugs from [the lowlifes in] the market place, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and then attacking Jason’s house tried to bring Paul and Silas out to the people. But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too; and Jason has welcomed them [into his house and protected them]! And they all are saying things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] claiming that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things, Acts 17:4-8.

Jealousy has a long and undesirable past that is documented in the Bible.  Jealousy led Cain, the first human being born on earth, to kill his younger brother.  Jealousy persuaded King Saul to make several attempts on the life of David his predecessor.  Envy isn’t limited to the Bible as acts of the sinful nature prey on souls who deviate, rebel or stray from God.  As someone who spent 7 years as an elder in a church, it only takes one influential leader on a board to follow in the footsteps of this synagogue in Thessalonica.  To prevent a future event from escalating, Paul writes two letters to set high standards for church leaders.  Titus 3:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 detail qualifications to guard against jealousy from destroying another church.

by Jay Mankus

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The Sons of this Age

While sharing the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus makes an interesting observation.  Even in the first century, followers of Jesus did not treat one another as well as non-believers.  Perhaps, competition, immaturity and judgmental spirits began to cause infighting within the body of Christ.  Instead of demonstrating the love of God as salt and light, Matthew 5:13-15, religious leaders afraid to let go of Judaism stunted the spiritual growth of many new converts.

And his master commended the unjust manager [not for his misdeeds, but] because he had acted shrewdly [by preparing for his future unemployment]; for the sons of this age [the non-believers] are shrewder in relation to their own kind [that is, to the ways of the secular world] than are the sons of light [the believers], Luke 16:8.

In the passage above, Jesus refers to non-believers as the sons of this age.  To certain extent, many of these individuals would be categorized as amoral, not knowing right from wrong.  Yet, the parable of the shrewd manager illustrates that it’s never too late to change.  Despite whatever misdeeds you have committed in the past, God uses conviction to elicit repentance.  When the man in this story was fearful his position would be lost, a sense of desperation produced a series of business transactions to save his job.

And I tell you [learn from this], make friends for yourselves [for eternity] by means of the wealth of unrighteousness [that is, use material resources as a way to further the work of God], so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings, Luke 16:9.

The passage above urges readers to avoid legalism which stifles faith.  Instead of analyzing this or that, don’t be afraid to use earthly income to make friends for eternity.  While this context contradicts other passages above money, Jesus wants people to realize that material resources purchased by wealth furthers the work of God.  Essentially, what Jesus is saying is the sons of this age are like a harvest waiting to be picked.  However, the workers with the right mentality are few.  Thus, if you want to become fishers of men, set your heart and mind on things above.

by Jay Mankus

A Split Decision

In the context of boxing, split decisions occur when judges view a contest from opposing points of view.  Unlike unanimous decisions where there is a clear victor, contestants may sway judges by a great comeback or regaining control of a fight.  While modern technology and social media use round by round scorecards today, no one knows what the judges think until the final results are announced at the end of each bout.

 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, Matthew 12:25.

Throughout the course of each day, arguments tend to result in split decisions depending upon your worldview.  These disagreements can create divisive debates that divide rather than unite.  After President Trump’s comments last Friday in Alabama about National Football players kneeling during the national anthem, professional athletes, owners and most of the media created a firestorm.  After these attacks went viral, citizens from the heartland, Nascar and veterans chimed in to support their president.  A week later, a split decision still exists, with convincing arguments on both sides.

 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges, Matthew 12:27.

During the first century, another controversy began to brew.  The Pharisees felt like Jesus was making a power play, introducing a new concept to Judaism.  This teaching was heresy in the eyes of religious leaders.  Jealous of Jesus’ ability to heal, a rumor spread about Jesus working behind the scenes with the Devil to fool everyone.  Using logic, Jesus began to poke holes in their theory, responding with the two passages above.  These words remind me of today’s current debate over standing or kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.  In the end, if America doesn’t come to a point where people agree to disagree, the end will be in sight.  Therefore, the next time you attempt to play the role of judge and jury, take a step back and let God be the ultimate judge.

by Jay Mankus

 

Something Greater Than the Temple

Traditions play an important role in life.  Religious traditions passed on by parents influence what you believe, especially early on in life.  During the first century, Pharisees displayed a holy reverence for Solomon’s Temple.  This passion for a physical place to worship the Lord soon became a stumbling block, limiting God’s power in their lives.  Subsequently, during one encounter with religious leaders Jesus refers to something greater than the temple.

 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here, Matthew 12:6.

Today’s Roman Catholic Church shares some of the practices of Judaism.  Modern priests play a similar role as great high priests in the Old Testament.  However, instead of sacrificing animals to forgive sins, confessionals are used to hear and forgive the sins of their congregation.  While there is a movement to encourage members to read and study the Bible on their own, traditions of the past have stunted spiritual growth.  Thus, the concept of a place greater than the temple is still foreign to many.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

The apostle Paul understood what Jesus meant by something greater than the temple.  Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, an earthquake destroyed the temple that the Jews held in high esteem.  This event opened the door for a transformation to occur, from the temple into your own heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Thus, using a priest as a mediator between God and man was no longer necessary.  Instead, followers of God need to view their bodies as a living temple of the Holy Spirit.  When modern believers make this connection, the human heart becomes greater than the temple.

by Jay Mankus

Remember Where You Came From

Whether your life has turned out to be a success, disappointment or some where in between, its always important to remember where you came from.  Depending upon how you were raised, you’ve likely developed stereotypes about certain occupations, places or people.  Over time these views will either be reinforced or shattered.  Whatever happens make sure you remain humble so you don’t miss out on meeting special people.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; Galatians 1:13.

Paul was a religious zealot who initially persecuted and gave the order to kill the apostle Stephen.  Thus, after his conversion to Christ many were hesitant to believe his faith was real.  This backlash inspired Galatians 1, a summary of his testimony.  It wasn’t until Paul began his missionary journeys when fellow Christians began to accept and embrace him as a genuine believer.

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, Galatians 1:15.

While my past isn’t as radical as Paul, I still have issues to overcome.  Years of stuttering stunted my communication skills and ability to draw close to others.  Periods of depression still cause me to withdraw at times, wandering away from the people I love.  Yet, because of God’s grace, I have hope for the future.  Despite my own imperfections, God sent His one and only Son to die for my sins.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down without accepting God’s free gift of eternal life.  When you remember where you came from, you will likely find a sinner saved by God’s grace.

by Jay Mankus

When Religion Drives You Insane

I’ve heard many nightmares of how seminary can radically transform individuals for the good and bad.  Knowledge has a way of puffing up egos, encouraging once humble individuals to question those currently in spiritual leadership positions.  Depending upon the ideology taught at certain institutions, the gullible, naive and ungrounded can be swayed to embrace religion over a relationship with God.  This is just one example of how religion can drive someone insane.

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane,” Acts 26:24.

In the case of Paul from Tarsus, his peers from the synagogue felt betrayed.  After a dramatic transformation on the road to Damascus, Paul’s Jewish friends didn’t recognize him anymore.  This resentment festered causing the chief priest and religious leaders to arrest Paul on false charges.  During his trial in front of newly elected governor Festus and King Agrippa, Paul testifies to his conversion to the Way, rejecting Judaism for a personal relationship with Christ.  Halfway through, Festus came to the conclusion that his new found faith was driving Paul insane.

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable, Acts 26:25.

So who’s right?  Are Christians insane for following an invisible God?  Are traditional religions crazy to holding on to traditions more than a thousand year old?  Or is there a middle ground, where faith and tradition can co-exist?  Matthew 10 sums up what Jesus thought about this topic, as religion can create division even within households.  Thus, while outsiders may call you names, tease or ridicule you, stand firm in the faith til the end.  The next time a friend thinks you’ve lost it, lean on the Holy Spirit to give you the words to make a reasonable defense.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34.

by Jay Mankus

 

A God Without Discrimination

Whenever two or more individuals attempt to co-exist, there will always be conflict, disagreements and differences in opinions.  Whether you examine relationships like Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel or Samson and Delilah, blame, jealousy and manipulation are bound to occur.  Unfortunately, the fallen nature of mankind usually leads to some sort of discrimination.

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us, Acts 15:8. 

In the history of America, considered one of the greatest countries in modern times, it too possesses sins against humanity.  A Civil War divided slave owners from the north who saw a day when slaves would be free.  For years woman weren’t given the opportunity to vote and youth were discarded like trash prior to child labor laws.  Each century has brought a new dilemma, with discrimination of some sort always at the forefront.

He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith, Acts 15:9.

During the middle of the first century as the church grew in size, cultural tensions arose to the surface.  Jewish Christians expected new converts to follow in the practices of Judaism.  Meanwhile, sects like the Judaizers began to add circumcision as a requirement to salvation.  This religious discrimination brought on a whole new sort of troubles.  Yet, as the apostles came together to discuss this matter, one thing was for certain.  Early Christians followed a God who did not discriminate, reuniting individuals through faith.

by Jay Mankus

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