The New Shift in the Church: Why It’s Nothing to Fear
They say they're keeping the Torah...
So, one of your friends or fellow believers is talking about the Lord’s feasts, Sabbath, celebrating things like Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, maybe they’re keeping the laws of God, starting to follow Old Testament dietary laws or refusing to participate in things like Christmas too. You’re worried about them being so legalistic and wandering from the freedom we have in Christ. You’re concerned that as they follow all these laws from the Old Testament that they may be walking away from the salvation of Christ and choosing a life of meaningless works. You might even fear that they’ve joined a cult.
I hope this article eases your mind. I hope it sheds some light on what is happening to them and why.
Let me begin with my own story and then I’ll answer some of your questions for you. It’s only fair that you know where I am coming from.
Several years ago when I lived in Massachusetts, I had a friend who rejected Christmas. It was always a big deal as she skipped the office holiday party. She made no secret about her faith in Christ, even in a very secular environment, and that made it all-the-more odd that she refused to celebrate Christmas. One year, I asked the question. It was just 2 weeks until Christmas and she really didn’t want to answer me. She warned me, that what she was going to tell me might ruin my feelings for the holiday, that it might change me. I insisted on knowing, though, so very calmly she shared the ancient origins of Christmas and what she had learned and explained why she struggled to be a part of a church. I nodded thoughtfully, said I could see why she didn’t want to celebrate it but that I could not make the same choice at that time. She was respectful and unoffended.
Fast forward five years: I had moved away. I was re-married with a new baby. We had participated in a Passover Seder with friends the previous spring, and Hanukkah that winter but merely as a curiosity, alongside our usual “Christian” holidays. We were very involved at an Assemblies of God church. Things were good. Then one day, I was listening to a message and a certain verse was quoted. I recalled the conversation about Christmas that I had that day with my friend. I paused the message I was listening to and began digging into God’s word. The more I dug, the more I saw. The more I saw, the more I knew: I had to quit Christmas and Easter. My husband arrived home later that evening and I greeted him with this statement: “I am not going to church for Easter,” then about 6 weeks away. “And, I am no longer celebrating Christmas either.” He was startled, but as he looked further into it, he agreed.
We brought all our research to our pastors at that time and were basically appeased. We were assured they would look into it, that Easter Sunday would be referred to as Resurrection Sunday and that our kids could be excused from the egg hunt. It just wasn’t enough. Pretty soon, we began hearing rumors of people mocking our beliefs. We were told that celebrating the “Jewish” feasts was wrong, and that if we were keeping the laws of God, we’d be held responsible for all of it or we would find ourselves in hell.
It was a hard road — not one I would have chosen except by strong conviction. Nonetheless, we certainly heard the fears of our friends, pastors and family members who believed we had gone off the deep end, joined a cult, or rejected Jesus. So, coming from this side of things, I feel fairly well versed in your fears. I’ve heard quite a few of them afterall, so I hope I can address your concerns and ease your mind.
Fear 1: Have they rejected Jesus?
I cannot speak for all people who make the same choices as we do. Certainly, someone somewhere may have rejected Jesus. However, just because a person or a family begins to celebrate the feasts, rejects Christmas and Easter and is keeping the laws of God (Torah), does not mean they have rejected Jesus or His salvation work on the cross. Many of us refer to Him as Yeshuah, but that’s just the Hebrew for Jesus, so don’t worry.
In addition, we, and many like us, believe the whole Bible, both new and old testaments, are all about Jesus! Jesus is in the Feasts. Jesus is in the Law. Jesus is everything. When we celebrate the Feasts, we bring it back to Jesus. Some of us may even celebrate His birthday at a feast that is believed to be His birthday (Feast of Tabernacles). In fact, as you begin to study the Bible with the perspective of Jesus as a Jew, you begin to understand it all at a deeper level. The metaphor, idioms, analogies, parables and prophesies all begin to make more sense from the context of Jewish culture and ideology.Jesus is in the Feasts. Jesus is in the Law. Click To Tweet
Fear 2: They’re becoming legalistic.
I can see why you have this concern. Really, I can. But bear with me and hear this. When I walk into a store and don’t steal the candy bar, I am not being legalistic. I am just being a law keeper. When I drive the speed limit, even though everyone else is going 20 mph over, I am just keeping the law, not being legalistic about anything. In fact, if caught breaking either of the aforementioned laws, I would have to go to court and plead my case. My reason for breaking the law might be considered in my punishment, but it depends. If I was speeding while driving a laboring woman to the hospital I might be given a pass because lives were in danger. If I was speeding because I decided the law didn’t apply to me because I drive an awesome sports car, I probably will not be shown much mercy.
Keeping the laws of God, the Torah, is similar. In fact, God gave exceptions to the usual laws in cases of say rescuing a cow from a well. (Luke 14:5), but still commanded us to keep the Sabbath.
What you may be missing from talk of keeping the laws of God is that for many of us, we choose to keep the law, to obey God’s commands, out of Love for the Father. We aren’t trying to earn anything, we know we can’t! But we can do our very best to honor God by obeying guidelines He gave that are for our benefit. In fact, we consider the Torah the instructions for life – like a ‘how to live life to the fullest and be blessed’ manual.
Fear 3: They’re going to try to convert everyone
This one is so ironic, isn’t it? It’s funny how Christians can acknowledge that we are only trying to convert others out of love, because we have the answer – Jesus – to every one of life’s problems. But as soon as we see another Christian trying to explain a position, that is entirely Biblical, but doesn’t align with mainstream Christianity, we can no longer accept the same argument. That said, don’t worry. We might share what we believe. We might celebrate feasts and invite other believers to participate alongside us. We might bring it to our pastors, but while we do this, we also will be the first to admit that the work of conversion must be done by the Holy Spirit, and by the individual seeking of Biblical truth. We know, because He is the one who converted us. None of us would have arrived at this belief system or made this difficult choice to walk away from denominational doctrines we’ve long held, in order to walk a lonely and difficult path of following Jesus. And yes, we are following Jesus. If you ask the now-famous question, WWJD, you have to acknowledge that Jesus himself kept the law, that he celebrated the Lord’s feasts as prescribed in the Old Testament, and that he even kept the dietary laws of his people. He was a Jew, after all. So, WWJD? Well, it’s this.WWJD? Jesus kept the law and celebrated the feasts. So, WWJD? Well, it's this. Click To Tweet
Fear 4: What if they’re right?
If we are being honest, this is a very common fear, albeit an unspoken one. I know it’s a common fear, because I held it myself before I made the hard decision to take the leap. I know it’s hard because it means changing so much. It means giving up well-loved traditions. It means being rejected by people, scorned even. It’s the harder road. It’s not for the faint of heart. I understand. When I first heard my friend’s explanation of why she gave up Christmas, I shuddered. What if she was right? How would I ever explain this to my husband? How could I forego Christmas when my parents and in-laws and children all love it? How could I deal with my church family? It’s difficult. I won’t lie. We live in a Western “Christianized” world, where we attend church on Sundays and yard sales on Saturdays, where everything for almost two solid months each winter is focused on Christmas, where churches host egg hunts and trunk-or-treats, and we exclude ourselves from all of that!
And the thing is, the more you accept the ways of God as a divine master plan, the more your eyes are opened, the more the scales fall off. It’s like Pandora’s box and once it’s open, well, there’s no shutting it. The truth is out, and it has set you free. There’s so much freedom and joy and peace and wisdom inside, you could never go back to the old traditions of man. And that might make you weird. It might make you stick out at work or at school or at church. It might be difficult, but you might find it’s worth it.the more you accept the ways of God, the more your eyes are opened, It's like Pandora's box... Click To Tweet
I hope this has brought clarification and has eased your mind somewhat. I hope you can see that your friends who are making these changes haven’t lost their mind or rejected our Savior. I hope you can see that what they have found is a deeper meaning that God has revealed through his Spirit to a remnant. God will preserve a remnant for himself. He desires a spotless bride. We must make ourselves ready for his return and part of that is knowing Him. If He is the One who wrote the book, who gave us the instruction manual for life, He wants us to follow it, not out of legalism, but because He loves us, and it’s what’s best.
After all, God doesn’t change. (Malachi 3:6)God doesn't change. Click To Tweet
Peace to you.