Romans 12:1 NIV “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” But how do we do this? Look at verse two in the Amplified Bible; “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”
In the last few weeks we have been talking about the roots of our faith and the importance of being connected to the root. Looking back at Romans eleven we remember that the root of the tree is Biblical Judaism, the natural branches are Jews who believe in Messiah and the grafted in branches are Gentiles that come to faith. We have been grafted in to a Jewish root through the Jewish Messiah, Philippians 2:5 says we have the mind of Christ, a Hebraic way of thinking and not a Greek way of thinking, this is our topic for this week. We have talked about Constantine and how he bribed the church with stopping persecution if they allowed him to make changes but look at Scripture itself, Pharaoh said just worship here, don’t leave Egypt. Pharaoh provided a stipulation that would have kept them in bondage and would have eventually taken away worship again.
During the time of Jesus the Greek and Roman way of life was beginning to heavily influence the Jewish people. Antiochus endeavored to spread Greek culture everywhere; he did this by robbing the temple, suspending Jewish worship and forbidding Jewish ceremonies. Gymnasiums were erected and many priests neglected duties to play in the games. Look at these words from A History of the Jewish People in the times of Jesus Christ by Emil Schurer:
“Antiochus directed his energies immediately to a war of extermination against the Jewish religion. Throughout the whole land the Jewish religion was to be rooted out, and worship of the Greek gods instituted. The observance of all Jewish rites, especially of the Sabbath and circumcision, was forbidden on the pain of death; the Jewish mode of worship was abolished. In all the cities of Judea sacrifices were to be offered to heathen deities. Officers were sent into all the districts, charged with the duty of seeing that the commands of the king were strictly obeyed. Wherever anyone showed reluctance, obedience was enforced with violence. Once a month a rigorous search was instituted: if a copy of the book of the law were found in the possession of anyone, or if anyone had his child circumcised he was put to death. In Jerusalem on the 15th of Chislev of the seleucid year 145, that is, in December B.C. 168, at the great altar of burnt-offering a pagan altar was built, and on 25th Chislev, for the first time, a sacrifice was offered upon it (1 Macc i. 54, 59; this is “the abomination that maketh desolate of which the book of Daniel speaks). This sacrifice according to the second book of Maccabees, was rendered to the Olympic Zeus, to whom the temple of Jerusalem has been dedicated. The Jews were also compelled to keep the Dionysiac festival, crowned with ivy, marching in procession as devotees of Bacchus”.
Three years later at the same time we have the revolt and victory of the Maccabees which leads to the institution of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) that Jesus celebrated in John chapter ten. The purpose of all of this was to introduce and make normal the pagan practices of the Greek and Roman culture among the Jews. Fast forward to after the time of Jesus to that of Constantine and we see how and why the Church stepped away from her roots. The aforementioned quote is hard to read but it is the truth of that time and shows us why Constantine was able to do what he did.
Let’s look again at Romans 12:2 AMP “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and new attitude,…”
2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature all together); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the new and fresh has come!” Jeremiah 31:33 tells us that the new is the Torah being written on our hearts.
In light of the history we have discussed and the Scriptures we have read we can see that from the very beginning the enemy has desired to change the understanding and mindset of the Church. Amos prophesied that the tabernacle of David would be restored in the tabernacle there is no wall separating Jew and Gentile. Jesus came and took down the middle wall of partition and for centuries the enemy has built it back up and kept it in tact.
Jesus said the first commandment is to love God and the second to love our neighbors. The only way we can fulfill these commands is to know the Word and to teach it to our children. Our minds are not renewed by reading the Bible but by doing what it says. Over time in history everything that had been laid out by God was taken out of the Church. We quit celebrating the Feasts of the Lord, we quit honoring the Sabbath, our worship has become something it never was, we have by and large lost the biblical expression of dance. As we saw historically the desire to spread Greek and Roman culture in falling in line we have lost biblical expressions and holy days.
We need to renew our minds and recover the Hebraic way of thinking, The Scriptures lay out home life in a way that is lost in the Greek mindset. In Jesus day, the religious life was centered in the home not the Synagogue. The Mezuzah adorned the entrance of every home, the first thing you saw was the Word of God on the doorposts. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9 parents were instructed to teach the Word to their children to talk about it when they woke up, went to bed and when they ate. The Greek/Roman culture under Constantine made the newly built churches the center of religious life and banned meeting in the home.
As our minds are renewed in the Word we must recover a Hebraic view of God, standing in amazement of who God is. The Greek way of thinking launched the Church into theological debate which lead to the dark ages and the creation of countless denominations. Instead of trying to comprehend God’s vastness through our mere human intellect like Greek thinking has taught us, let’s once again embrace the majesty and mystery of God. Let’s put aside old church councils that outlawed the roots of the Church and once again embrace the root that we are connected to. The Jewish people also have an amazing reverence for the Scriptures. Something that is definitely lost in the theological books of Christianity. You can have a three volume theology that totals over 1,000 pages and only have twenty pages devoted to the Bible itself. The Synagogue was a school, everyone was taught and learned the Scripture. Each year the Jews celebrate Simhat Torah (Rejoice with the Torah) in this celebration the people of the congregation take the scrolls and dance around the sanctuary with them to joyful music. At age six Jewish children start daily study of the Torah in classes and by the time of bar mitzvah, most observant Jews are expected to have the Torah memorized and have a pretty good understanding of it.
Think about how far we the Church have come away from such respect of the Bible. Let’s say that we were to teach our children in this way and by time our sons and daughters turned thirteen we expected them to have memorized the four Gospels and Acts. Let’s say at age six we started daily taking them to another few hours of school before or after school to study the Bible. This is hard to imagine isn’t it? I can tell you that after reading on what a Jewish boy must accomplish before he can be bar mitzvahed I clearly don’t have the knowledge of the Word I should and that I want to have.
It is these types of things we, the Church, have lost in separating ourselves from our roots. I encourage all of us to take The Word of God more seriously than we do. We shouldn’t be letting our pastors study the Bible for us. A love for God should also mean a love for His Word. This week let’s continue the process of receiving what is being presented in this series. Father I ask that our hearts and minds would be open to seeing and reading the Word with a Hebraic understanding, as Scripture says we are new creations, help us go from a Greek and Western world mindset to a Hebraic understanding. Help us to read the Bible through the eyes of a Jewish Jesus. I ask that as we continue to go through this series you would break off old ways of thinking and renew us to our roots in the name of our Messiah, Yeshua we pray.
In the coming weeks we will look specifically at the Hebrew months and the Feasts of the Lord and how they relate to us as believers in Jesus. These posts will go in depth on how we think in a Jewish understanding, operating on God’s calendar and walking in and receiving the blessing from celebrating the Feasts that are found in the Torah, the five books of Moses.
I hope this series is being a blessing to you and along with this I will be posting on the Hebrew months as we enter them as well as doing other posts on the different feasts as we come to them. If you have a question or comment please leave it in the comments section. If I don’t have an answer I will tell you that I don’t know and hopefully I’ll be able to point you in the right direction. As we go through this series I encourage you to do some reading and studying of your own using the recommendations on the bookshelf page and using the resources available in the links.
A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ by Emil Schurer, Translated by John Macpherson; First Division, Volume I. pgs. 206-208.