Why am I Messianic? Why does it matter? And what does it mean?
That’s a lot of questions for what seems to be a simple matter of labels, but at the moment, there are a lot of people who are trying to figure out exactly what kind of Believer they are, what they should call themselves, and what they should do about any of it.
The words Messianic and Christian mean the same thing, (little anointed ones), and both the Hebraic version and the Greek version denote that the person is a follower of Yeshua haNotsri/Jesus of Nazareth. The difference between them is not just that they have different languages attached to them, but that with those languages comes a very different mindset and a heritage that shapes religious thought and practice.
Is Christianity is basically Catholic?
You cannot be a Christian and not have some ties, however distant, to the Roman Catholic Church. I can hear the scream of protest at the idea from a lot of very solid Protestant Believers in Yeshua, but what I said is true. The fact that one is ‘Protesting’ at all, means there was something to protest about. Originally, people were protesting the selling of forgiveness of sin in the form of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Clergy.
Next the movement morphed into getting away from what was in some Abbeys and Convents very corrupt behaviour, while that reform was used as an excuse to take lands and monies of the Roman Catholic Church…supposedly because the Government was better able to use the money for the people. Over time, being a Protestant became an argument of what to believe, and how to believe it, and people started adding on labels for their beliefs so that other’s would know where they stood, and whom to fellowship with more comfortably.
The question between all the labeled groups became a spiritual pursuit as well as the manipulation of power, people slapping charges of heresy against anyone they didn’t agree with…while never really understanding that the word heresy merely stated there was disagreement with the ruling opinion. Something termed heretical was not necessarily untrue, but a difference in interpretation or opinion, or even just offensive to someone else’s ideas.
When the Inquisition was in business, people agreed to disagree silently and were very careful in their speech lest they get into trouble with someone wanting personal, financial or political advantage because of that disagreement. The very accusation of heresy to the Roman Catholic Church was a matter of torturing, and burning alive those who would not repent and agree with the Roman Catholic views. Then, more and more, as the Scriptures were translated into local languages, there arose a question. Were people to take their instruction from a single group of powerful men who sometimes used the Scriptures to support their political and economic pursuits? Or, was every man to make up his own mind upon whom G-d was and what G-d wanted of those who looked to him for forgiveness and redemption by reading the Scriptures himself? After living under the Roman Catholic thought police, this was heady stuff.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the push to break away from the Roman Catholic Church were mostly former Catholic Clergy, and they did not strip from themselves very much of the Catholic Church. In reality, they didn’t think the Roman Catholic Church was wrong in itself…just in its leadership, or some of its actions, and perhaps in a few of its concepts. Not to worry, it could be fixed. And certainly, it was better than it had been…at least a little. In some countries, you could even argue a bit about things…carefully, politely, and with all deference to the official views, and not get into too much trouble…until a new ruler came, and changed the rules again.
Did Protestants ever really get away from Catholicism?
The Bible was eventually translated with fair accuracy into the many languages of the people, but the customs and traditions created by the Roman Catholic Church stayed on in nearly every form of Christian practice and belief. Over time a lot of that changed enough to not be so obviously Roman Catholic, but the roots of many pagan ideas stayed in all the Churches, and changed the concepts of the original Jewish Gospel that the Apostles carried to the entire world into something not as clearly of Yeshua ha Notsri, particularly when you realize that Yeshua haNotsri would have been horrified at what people attributed to him when he was called Jesus of Nazareth.
No matter how much the church buildings were stripped of statues and Crucifixes, no matter how much the songs changed, or the pattern of the services, or even what the sermons were about, and who taught them, Protestant Churches were still very much the daughters of the Holy Roman Church. Currently, all of the Protestant denominations are being pressured to re-combine with the Roman Catholic Church. Since many Protestant denominations no longer even see what the differences still are between what modern day Protestant belief is, and that of the Roman Catholic Church, a requirement for tolerance between all the various denominations of Christian thought is spreading very quickly.
‘Tolerance’ and ‘Political Correctness’ is now more important in the Christian Church than what G-d has said to do. Everyone has become wary of being seen to be sitting in judgment on anyone else…even if the person is considering the behaviour of another person, and not the person doing the behaviour. More and more people say, “You have no right to judge!” even when we are told in the Scriptures to carefully discern what is good and what is not, and to tell others when they are doing something they shouldn’t. Soon, no doubt, the Inquisition will return as well.
Messianic Belief vs. Christian Belief
How then is Messianic Belief different than Christian Belief in the very same Messiah? Both Christianity and Messianism are derived from Judaism, but in Christianity, so much of what was taught by Yeshua and his disciples was pushed away as being only for the Jews. Increasingly, Messianic Believers in Yeshua have chosen to look not at just what the Western World made of what the Bible teaches, and what the Apostles taught in the opinion of those who had no Hebraic understanding of the source of the teaching, but at what was originally said. They have studied and seen that over time, changes were made to the doctrine laid down by G-d because of cultural differences, and the machinations of the Adversary. Thus they prefer to consult what the Scriptures say in the context they were said, which requires studying the mindset of First Century belief, as lived by the Apostles themselves, and not the Gentiles they taught. Messianic Belief is therefore still Judaism, even when practised by Gentiles.
To give you examples of the behaviour that is different between most Christians and most Messianics, we first need to study the behaviours that pertain to which calendar is used; to what time the day begins and ends; and which day of the week the Sabbath is considered to be upon. In addition to these daily, and weekly matters, Christians celebrate certain festivals as holy that Messianics simply think is the wrong behaviour for any Believer in Yeshua, because they are manmade festivals derived from the worship of pagan gods. Messianic Believers, on the other hand, celebrate some degree of the G-d given Moedim…the Appointments with G-d that G-d laid down as important to him.
The Calendar that Christians mostly use is a western concoction, assembled under the authority of Pope Gregory, and is termed the Gregorian calendar. This is a revision of the Julian calendar that was in effect in Rome at the time of the crucifixion. Messianic Believers mostly use the Gregorian calendar for secular matters and turn to the Biblical Calendar for when the Festivities that attend a meeting between G-d and his People are celebrated. Thus in the Christian Church, the main holidays of the year are Easter and Christmas, while for Messianics, they are Passover and Tabernacles (Pesach and Sukkot).
Which Day is Which…and Why?
Is this so important…the matter of days? Among Messianics, the understanding about what a festival is to G-d is usually the reason they stop celebrating Christmas and Easter. They are considered pagan in origin, because the Roman Catholic Church under Constantine, and the leaders of the Catholic Church as well as the Emperors over centuries combined all the symbols of the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses while stomping rather fiercely on any taint of Judaic thought, just as they decided to celebrate the 7th day Sabbath on the 8th day, because Sun worship was just as important to the Roman Government as any other religious day. Constantine himself did not convert from Sun Worship until just before his death.
As for the days of the week, well, they not only had different names, which is customary when changing languages and countries, but they started at different times of the day. Roman days were 24 hours in nature, and the day on the calendar changed at midnight of each day, although in practice the 24 hour day was divided into 12 hours each of light and darkness…and the length of the hours was what varied. The Biblical manner of counting the days are from sunset to sunset, just as YHVH stated in Genesis, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen 1:5
Are Christians Idolatrous?
Most are, in my estimation, dangerously close to it. If the matter was only these things, different days, different Festivals, it might be enough to impress on Christians the need to follow the Jewish Festivals, since they were appointed by G-d, describe the entire ministry of Yeshua, and are chock a block with symbols that help to explain a lot of the reasons to trust in Yeshua. Unfortunately, it is not just about a festival or two. The main differences between Christians and Messianic Belief are the nature of Idolatry and the need for obedience to G-d.
You see, once the Jews in the Roman territories had rebelled against Rome, and needed to be minimized by the Roman Government, nothing was more important than ridding the popular, rapidly spreading mutating belief system of Christianity of any Judaicly inconvenient rules of living. The Catholic Church eliminated the 3rd Commandment from their liturgy in regard to creating an image of animals or humans, and promoted the use of painting and statuary in the name of religion while forbidding attendance at the feasts of Passover, First Fruits, and Tabernacles, and making it impossible to attend a Synagogue on a Saturday Shabbat by burning the Synagogues, and persecuting the Jews, Messianic, or not.
The fact that they also had people worshipping the carved figure of Yeshua on the stake made the reverence of Yeshua as the Son of G-d more important in the Christian practice of the Roman Catholic Church than the worship of G-d the Father. And in accordance with the many religions that had been mixed into Roman Catholicism, and by the regularly assigned prayers of the Rosary as penance for sin, it became common practice that Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, was prayed to more than G-d himself, even though Yeshua taught the Apostles to pray to ‘Our Father’, and never considered Miriam more than his uniquely chosen, beloved mother.
And lest anyone say that giving reverence to a statue of an Apostle or Yeshua or Mary, with or without babe in arms, is not really worship, and thus not actually idolatry…idols are the statuary themselves, and thus are sinful, no matter how beautiful they may be, nor how they are being used. The Protestant Church, in the beginning, changed little of this, but as time passed, some denominations banned even the symbol of the ‘cross’. But they never got back to the strict nature of G-d’s teachings from Mount Sinai…the ones he gave to the mixed multitude himself, thundering them out across the mass of people, and frightening them so much that they begged Moshe to stop G-d from speaking, just as they begged him to hear the remainder of G-d’s desires on their behalf.
Are we back to the Law again?
“But is that not legalism?” I hear being roared indignantly from the back of my imaginary church audience. “We don’t follow the Law, we are under grace!” Yes, we are under grace, because the following of commandments don’t give anyone salvation and never did. They gave people blessings if obeyed, and curses if not obeyed…and still do. The history of the Jews shows in excruciating detail every time the Israelites have gone too far into disobedience in the past. The Commandments are not ‘laws’ in the sense that the Greek word ‘Nomos’ is considered to mean, no matter how much people would like to think so. They are G-d’s instructions on how to live in order to be blessed by him,
and for the Jews, they are the means of separating out from the remainder of the world a nation to be devoted to G-d so that one day they might share what G-d had taught them with the rest of humanity.
Yeshua and the Apostles were not against the Torah or any of the rules that G-d had laid down for the Israelites. People often claim that Yeshua was a Pharisee himself because he agreed with the School of Rabbis under Hillel which were the Pharisees (Hillel was more liberal and lenient than his leading competitor) more than Yeshua agreed with the School of Rabbis under Shammai which were termed the Sadducees (Old-fashionedly strict, and somewhat intolerant, particularly of Gentiles). However, if you look at Yeshua’s actions, and much of what he taught, he seems to have been more of a Karaite…what Christians term Sola Scriptura…as it is written. Certainly, he knew just what was allowed, and what was not, which as the Ruach infilled haMashiach, makes perfect sense.
Nor were any of the first Believers, each of them a Torah keeping Jew, against the commandments of YHVH, nor were the Gentiles they eventually taught. The Nazarene Jews were only against the commandments of men as to how to carry out the details of their obedience to G-d. This kind of ‘Legalism’ is what the Pharisees were doing, and it was expressed as rules that protected the performance of the commandments of G-d for anyone presuming to consider themselves a good, non-Greekified Jew.
In a lot of ways, what the Pharisees were attempting to institute as common practice amongst all Jews was a series of ritualized behaviour that in effect were the upper class’s ‘in-crowd’ social rules. They wished to standardize the behaviour they valued amongst all the Jews, in order to promote the fellowship of Jews among Jews and to be doubly and triply sure to keep the Chosen People from transgressing the commandments. Why were they so concerned? Was it just man’s controlling nature, where one man seeks everyone else to do as he does so that he feels he is right…or even righteous?
Wanting to be Perfect is Dangerous
Oddly, the Jews began in the right way…G-d was specific in his directions to Moshe, and Moshe wrote it all down, including the commandment not to add to what G-d had given as commandments. Directions for the preparation of the Mishkan, the Ark, the tent coverings, all of the measurements, decorations, the instructions for the making of the robes for Priests and Levites, and for the High Priest were given in detail. Some things called by a term 3400 years old may be lost to us, but what we are to do is not marred by time, merely very simplistic. Obviously, nothing needed to be done that was not written down, else Joshua, when he took over the leadership of the Tribes would have added extensively to the Torah. He did not, and so, what small things…how best to write the commandments above a doorpost became, for the always travelling, tented Jews a matter of “How do we make it small and light?” That to me makes perfect sense for Moshe, or Joshua, to consult with G-d directly and come up with mezuzot…the small cases that each contain a scroll with the specific verses from the Torah needed. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21)
From Custom to Legalism
However, when people start telling you where to hang your mezuzah a thousand years later, and require you to have the scroll inscribed by the appropriately trained people lest there be a mistake in it, and so on…touching and kissing the mezuzah on any doorway they pass becomes superstitious, and legalistic…to outside eyes, and perhaps to inner eyes as well. To those living with the gradual change from having the same verses written on the lintel of the doorway to the discreet little mezuzah on the side of the doorway, I doubt it was noticed, except that it also made the bold declaration of the G-d given instructions of living that had once been a constant reminder of how to live into a token act of obedience that could be hidden from prying eyes during various persecutions.
But making a rule that re-shapes a specific G-d given instruction into a tradition that must be followed in specific ways? THAT is legalism…and what the word in the Greek language, ‘NOMOS’ means the customs that surround law, all that is customary usage in accordance with a law…not the underlying commandment that is taught of G-d for our benefit. Many people used the word nomos to represent all of the commandments, the Torah, and stated that the law is somehow bad…probably because it would make grace the more attractive, and win more converts. Yet Yeshua always talked about obeying the commandments.
nomos: that which is assigned, hence usage, law
Original Word: νόμος, ου, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (nom’-os)
Short Definition: a law, the Mosaic Law
Definition: usage, custom, law; in NT: of law in general, plur: of divine laws; of a force or influence impelling to action; of the Mosaic law; meton: of the books which contain the law, the Pentateuch, the Old Testament scriptures in general.
Going from a simple instruction to Legalism ( Nomos)
G_d from the beginning of the 7th day of creation desired that that day should be a celebration of all that has been accomplished, and all that is designed to accomplish things…work, in other words. And so Work was forbidden…the laborious lighting fires from rubbing two sticks together, to fetching the wood, cooking the food upon it, and carrying things to market to buy and sell. That seems simple enough, but since there was a death penalty for someone who broke the Sabbath deliberately, people came up with ways to make sure people were not late for Friday supper at Sunset.
However, there was no one at that time who was not aware of the light going dim, and the sunset lowering in the west…there were not any streetlights! Still, people watched out for each other, and there was always a bit of a push to leave off work early, go home, and wash up for the celebration of the week, and not having to do anything except eat, chat with friends and family, talk G-dstuff, play with the children…and water the animals and milk the cows and goats, because those things were outside of man’s control. A lowing cow is hard to ignore, as is a goat butting up against you to get your attention and take care of the milk buildup! And fetching water for them was something you simply did,
But a custom that is of recent inventon seems writen in stone these days. As an example, the ceremonial lighting of candles 18 minutes before sundown was not always in vogue as a means of making sure everyone was safely inside their house or tent, ready for the beginning of Shabbat. Instead, a group of people; a large family that of necessity scattered far from home on Fridays; or even the local synagogue, set two or three men to watch the afternoon sunset progress until the first glimmer of a star in the evening sky appeared. It was then the shofar of assembly was blown to announce the Sabbath was nearly at the door so that anyone straggling in from the fields late on Friday would hurry home.
No one was ceremonial about lighting candles, and saying prayers, or even much having lights at all, since they were expensive to use. They ate their dinner by the light of a dwindling fire and had perhaps a single oil lamp to keep them from stumbling in their tents when the fires were out. But in the 11th Century AD, living in the Diaspora might have made it difficult to see through heavy clouds over Europe and Russia rather than the mostly clear skies over Israel, so people turned to clocks to run their lives. And the brilliant idea of both providing light for the evening of Shabbat, and adding prayers to go with, well, it must have sounded very fine, and such a nice ceremony for the Sabbath dinner. Yet it would surprise most Jews to hear that this was not given as a commandment of G-d to Moshe. But what I resent is hearing a prayer at a candle lighting ceremony given that Blesses YHVH for giving us the commandment to light candles…when he did no such thing. It is breaking a commandment to thank G-d for a commandment added to what was really given.
Deuteronomy 4:2 (CJB)
2 In order to obey the mitzvot of Adonai your God which I am giving you, do not add to what I am saying, and do not subtract from it.
Why So Many Rules?
The Pharisees made rules to enforce the behavior that was commanded that keep Jews acting Jewishly…taking the idea of resting from work on the Sabbath to mean one should not lift a finger to help someone on that day; or in regard to the idea of ritual purity making sure that everyone arbitrarily washed their hands in a ritual manner before eating. It did not add to their state of ritual purity, and since sanitation was not at the time in view, it was simply a flourishing of just how ritually pure they were being. It was the same with avoiding Gentiles at all costs to the point of not entering their houses when all that was required was that a good, obedient Jew not touch anyone or anything suspected of being in an impure state prior to going to the Temple to make a sacrifice unless they immersed in a mikvah first, and waited to the next day. Granted, if they were presenting a sacrifice that same afternoon it might be relevant, but it became a way of distinguishing ‘them’ from ‘us’. Still, even these exaggerated changes in customs have reasons behind them.
After the Temple was desecrated in 167 BC by Antiochus Epiphanes by offering the sacrifice of a pig on an altar to Zeus, and the Jews were able to fight off that occupation of Judea, they still were in the position of attempting to purify the damage of years of attempts to wipe out Jewish culture, and replace it with a Greek one. Many Jews became hyper-sensitive to anything or anyone non-Jewish and made more rules to attempt to pull back into place a Judaism they saw slipping away. In the end, they overdid it, and even forgot the reason for the changes, and began to tell one another it had always been this way. Some Jews became completely hostile to anything Gentile, and after 2200 more years of intermittent persecution, still are.
People…even Jews…forget that G-d never wanted Kings over Israel, nor a Temple other than the Mishkan, nor formal liturgies, and psalms…all that was added by man, and perhaps even in the right spirit, because G-d agreed to the request to give Israel a king, and to build a fixed Temple in Yerushalayim, but I wonder whether he wanted any of it, or simply gave in to the request because his friend, King David wanted it so badly. G-d likes giving us whatever will not destroy us, particularly if he sees a way to use it to instruct us, and the Temple certainly centred worship firmly in Yerushalayim, but what about all that liturgy? When did that come into the picture, and how much was added by the instruction of man alone? The Temple Priests over time added music, and psalms, and dancers…really it sounds a bit like any Christian Church these days, but was it ever G-d’s idea or his desire?
Yet it is obedience to G-d that tends to come to mind first of all things in most Messianic Believers in Yeshua, even though they do not generally take on all the commandments of the Mosaic Covenants unless they live in a Jewish community. The Acts 15 Decree tells Gentile Believers in Yeshua that they do not have to convert to Judaism, nor do they need to take on the full obedience to every teaching in the Old Testament, particularly since it is trust that has a salvatory effect, not obedience. Yet, a lack of obedience to YHVH shows a complete lack of faith in him because it shows a lack of any desire to please him.
Messianic Believers, if Gentiles, generally keep the Ten Commandments strictly, observe Kosher food laws to more or less extent, follow the precise ethical laws derived from the Commandments, and observe all the Festivals in a simplistic way, not taking on the dress or mannerism of Orthodox Jews unless they are in the process of conversion, and have been taught to do so properly. However, they mostly pay no attention to any of the legalisms unless they live with Orthodox Jews, and most do not convert, even to Messianic Judaism, lest they become liable to the whole of the Mosaic Covenant. Those that do convert usually have married into a Jewish family, or greatly desire the status of Jews as bearers of the Light of the Oracles of G-d.
Sha’ul of Tarsus specifically tells Gentiles not to convert if they were not Jews at the time of their calling into faith by G-d. Unless you live with Jews and are taught by Jews, it’s very difficult to get it right, and such attempts merely encourage a lack of belief in your salvation. Sha’ul, I think, was teaching people not to guilt themselves over things that did not apply to them, or were made impossible by circumstances. Most of all, he didn’t want people breaking fellowship over any of these differences.
1 Corinthians 7:17-19 (NJB)
17 Anyway let everyone continue in the part which the Lord has allotted to him, as he was when God called him. This is the rule that I give to all the churches.
18 If a man who is called has already been circumcised, then he must stay circumcised; when an uncircumcised man is called, he may not be circumcised.
19 To be circumcised is of no importance, and to be uncircumcised is of no importance; what is important is the keeping of God’s commandments.
Then is Conversion Forbidden?
Messianic Believers of non-Jewish heritage are not forbidden to convert to a full Messianic Jewish status, but instead, we are taught that we are simply supposed to obey G-d. If you take on the Mosaic Covenant, you have an obligation to keep each jot and tittle of those commandments. Even within a closely living Jewish community, and superb teaching of all the ins and outs of proper Jewish Halachah for that community, you might be actually breaking one of G-d’s commandments by following the Halachah of your shul.
Each of the commandments of G-d is important, even though some are not able to be followed at this time or place. We in the west have a multiplicity of Bibles available to us in over three-quarters of the world’s languages and can read them as we choose, and having read them, and examined what others say is the proper way of performing the commandments, or just the social norm for your particular group, we each must make up our own mind. Following anyone’s rules on how to anything without checking whether what they teach is Scriptural is sheer stupidity, and has led many Christians these days to refrain from keeping any of the commandments because they have been taught to think the commandments are too heavy to bear, and that is why grace was invented in the first place!
Yet Yeshua spoke to the Pharisees about their lack of obeying some of the commandments in regard to loving one another, as opposed to teaching the detailed finesses of ritual purification, and the exact nature of just how much of a tenth was a tenth when you were tithing.
Matthew 23:1-7 (NJB) 1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus said,
2 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses.
3 You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practise what they preach.
4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!
5 Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader headbands and longer tassels,
6 like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues,
7 being greeted respectfully in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
Matthew 23:23-28 (NJB) 23 ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law—justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, those not neglected.
24 You blind guides, straining out gnats and swallowing camels!
25 ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance.
26 Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that it and the outside are both clean.
27 ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption.
28 In just the same way, from the outside, you look upright, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Yeshua taught the obedience of the commandments themselves and particularly spoke to the obedience of civil law as proclaimed by the Pharisees when they sat in Judgement on these same commandments in the Seat of Moshe. Unlike today, breaking many of the commandments resulted in severe punishment, even death, so Yeshua was wise to warn the people to obey, even when they did not agree. Yet now that each man must face Yeshua at the judgment seat and not merely the Pharisees at the Seat of Moshe, I wonder that so many people are choosing to ignore the commandments altogether.
Too much Grace?
So set on the idea of Grace are many people who believe themselves to be Christians that they might find themselves face to face with Yeshua at the future Judgement, and find themselves being told that Yeshua does not know them…primarily because they did nothing but live in disobedience.
People are all to often taught by other Christian Believers that the New Birth is the sole narrow gate they must enter, and indeed, it is the beginning for all of us. We must be born from above, from the Holy Spirit of G-d to be ‘saved’, and have the beginning of the changes enacted in us by the Ruach haKodesh. But if we do not show our love for G-d by obeying him in our conduct towards one another, and by our desire to please him, will he think the initial ‘rebirth from above’ to be enough?
Apparently, this is not the case.
Luke 13:22-27 (NJB) 22 Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem.
23 Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them,
24 ‘Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
25 ‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself standing outside knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us,” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.”
26 Then you will start saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets,”
27 but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from; away from me, all evil doers!”
Thus there are some distinct differences between Christians and Messianics. None of the issues should be a point of contention, for if we both love Yeshua, we should be able to talk about it…but sometimes this is not at all easy. Any Christian seeking to walk after Yeshua and to become like him will read how he behaved, how the Apostles taught all Believers to live, and having studied all 1050 described commandments in the New Testament will look a great deal like a Messianic Believer, and vice versa. Those Believers, Christian or Messianic, love Yeshua and try to do as Yeshua wishes them to do.
Christians and Messianic Believers are much the same. They are saved by their trust in Yeshua and their picking up of the stake…or cross, every day, and trying not to be swamped by the world around them. Both Christians and Messianics often use the same heavy wooden crucifix to hold themselves up when they are exhausted, or even as a life raft when they lose their footing because they’ve been hit with a worldly tidal wave.
Knowing why you love Yeshua
The real difference between Christians and Messianics is not merely keeping different festivals, or being careful to walk in the way that Yeshua did in the first century. I think the real difference lies in the desire to know Yeshua as he was – as a Jewish man, not as the Greco-Roman man the Christian Churches teach.
Messianic Believers value the entire complex history and culture of the Israelites and attempt to understand the Scriptures in the way they were written by the Jews…and not how they were interpreted in a University of Higher Criticism. Messianic Believers may not act any more Jewish than anyone else in the western world but they want to understand why everything in the Scriptures ties together as it does, and that is difficult to discover unless you understand the Hebraic mindset they were written in. Messianic Believers study Yeshua’s life, and Yeshua’s culture to try and understand why they are so obsessed with him, why they adore him, and how they can become more like him.
Once some friends told me that all they wanted was to live a ‘simple’ faith, and not struggle as I did with all there is to learn and understand and make sense of. They liked having a touch of the Hebraic information given to them now and again that underlies all of the Christian Bible stories and adds a bit of depth and understanding to the simplified narrative the Christian Church often places on these stories, but they did not want to understand more. They did not want to work so hard to be like Yeshua, at least not a Jewish Yeshua.
So why try so hard?
As for myself, I don’t obey very well much of anything…not in my estimation, at least. I spend so much time trying to understand all there is to know that perhaps I do not do as well as I could. I can’t always tell if I am doing what is righteous in G-d’s sight.
But when the sun is going down, I notice it. When Friday comes, and with it Shabbat, and a day off from the world, I notice it. When I break a commandment, even one that is not just of the Ten Commandments given by YHVH, I notice it. And in hearing the reading of the parashah each week, and hearing the sermons by the Messianic Pastors and Rabbis I follow, along with my scrutiny of the Scriptures and the many books I read, when another subtle insight into the layering of those Scriptures is shown me, I notice it.
Sha’ul taught us to pay attention to what G-d wants, and that if we did not do as others in the same church, or the same shul did, not to worry about it. The point was to be very aware of G-d and what G-d wanted us to do….not what man wants us to do.
Romans 14:1-6 (NJB) 1 Give a welcome to anyone whose faith is not strong, but do not get into arguments about doubtful points.
2 One person may have faith enough to eat any kind of food; another, less strong, will eat only vegetables.
3 Those who feel free to eat freely are not to condemn those who are unwilling to eat freely; nor must the person who does not eat freely pass judgement on the one who does—because God has welcomed him.
4 And who are you, to sit in judgement over somebody else’s servant? Whether he deserves to be upheld or to fall is for his own master to decide; and he shall be upheld, for the Lord has power to uphold him.
5 One person thinks that some days are holier than others, and another thinks them all equal. Let each of them be fully convinced in his own mind.
6 The one who makes special observance of a particular day observes it in honour of the Lord. So the one who eats freely, eats in honour of the Lord, making his thanksgiving to God; and the one who does not, abstains from eating in honour of the Lord and makes his thanksgiving to God.
Following Torah is not hard, and indeed, Yeshua spoke of it being a light burden…unlike the yoke of the Pharisee’s. Most of the commandments that we are able to keep in these non-temple times have to do with loving one another and loving God. The Festivals during the year tell of Yeshua’s mission, and that he is come back to finish what he began on the stake, and can be celebrated entirely in and around your home, although having a Synagogue can be a blessing to be with others who do what you do. Certainly, I wish I had a local Synagogue to connect with other than online, but Abba will open that door for me when it is time for it to be open. As it is, I meet almost nothing but Believers in Yeshua wherever I go…Abba sees to it, and never lack for fellowship
I delight in contemplating all these things, and so do other Messianic Believers. It is not enough for me, as a Gentile with Jewish Heritage, to be told, do not eat this or that, or to do this or that, but is far more illuminating to study what G-d has said we should do because it is what he wishes.
I am not primarily interested in what man says about what days are holy unto them. I am first concerned with what G-d thinks is holy, and then very understanding of what others think is holy, even if I disagree. I even like learning Hebrew, even if all the dots and squiggles don’t fit very well in Southern California, where there are few people to practice the language with, particularly knowing that I learn slowly at the best of times. It gives me a high awareness of all things godly…even though I do godliness very badly.
I like understanding a bit more, here and there, every day, of Yeshua and of his time, and how that fits with today and what the future will be like when Yeshua rules this planet, and we become the government. Most Christians do not understand that the Kingdom of G-d is on the Earth and that we, in new, incorruptible bodies with the exact details of what G-d wants us to do in regards to the commandments will be written into our very being, and thus will be ruling and reigning with Yeshua.
We will be the police, the judges, and the DMV one day, and help the remaining humans rebuild what is left of our planet. I like being aware that I understand the bits and pieces of the progression towards Yeshua’s return, and that I am so aware of its soon coming for reasons that Christians do not teach or discuss. Perhaps practising that awareness is all that Messianic Believers are doing that is different than most Christians…that, and becoming aware of the peculiar mindset of our very Jewish G-d while being a bit more strict over what we think we as a Believer should do or not do.
I do not think being Messianic gains me anything except an increasing understanding of the Scriptures, and how they fit together. I can do nothing of myself that can please G-d without Yeshua and the grace he provides. I do know that I would not give up the strange differences I live in now as a Messianic Believer unless G-d required it of me. It is far too interesting a way to live, and I know that somehow it has changed me.
I want those that think themselves good Christians to see the need to review the Scriptures, and see if they can come up higher in their walk, as they would put it, and study the commandments they think are ‘legalistic’. I worry that some of them will miss the point of grace altogether by relying on that grace a little too much. Grace is given to cover our inability to carry out the commandments, not so that we do not have to attempt to obey the commandments.
And though I try to walk out the commandments given us in Scripture, I thank G-d every day for the grace I am given in Yeshua. There is not one of us who trust in him for our salvation and redemption, no matter our style of study and worship, that does not need it.