Excerpts from The Gospel’s Message Within The Message

THE ESSENCE

“You have affirmed this day that the Lord is your God, that you will walk in His ways, that you will observe His laws and commandments and rules, and that you will obey Him.” (T)

“It is not anyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  (TNJB)

“Submit to Allah.” (Q)

All these are different ways of phrasing the same eternal truth.

Repeatedly, the Hebrew scriptures tell us to listen to – in other words obey – God’s voice – His guidance.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus tells us to pray that God’s will be done.  He also said that only those who do God’s will enter heaven, and that his family consists of those who hear God’s words and do them.

The foundation of Islam is to submit to Allah – to choose God’s will over one’s own willfulness.

By this we can see that a common thread that runs through these three religions of Abraham’s descendants is the teaching that we must become one in purpose with God, seeking, perceiving and choosing God’s will over our own.

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References for the above are:  Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 26:17, Isaiah 30:1, 65:12, 66:3-4 and Jeremiah 3:25, 7:22-28 We must listen to God.((T) refers to the Tanakh Bible translated from Hebrew)

Matthew 6:9-10 God’s will be done. ((TNJB) refers to The New Jerusalem Bible translated from Greek)

Matthew 7:21-23; Mark 3:31-35 only those who do God’s will go to heaven

Qur’an surah 2:112, 3:19, 83, 85 etc. submit to God

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A Hidden Message In The Prodigal Son Parable

Among the hidden messages in the gospels is one in the parable about the prodigal son.  The obvious message is that a young man lived carelessly, a sin of commission, and then returned home and was forgiven.  Not said but taken for granted in the story, however, is that he ran out on his responsibilities to his aging father.  He did not show respect for his father’s work-oriented lifestyle by copying it; he did not keep in touch with him, seek his advice or obey his rules; he did not get a job and send money home or stay home and help his father with his heavy work.  He did not “honor” his parent.  He failed to show love for his father in a multitude of ways.  All of this constituted a sin of omission, a more serious error.

When we turned away from God to choose our own will we ran out on our responsibilities to show respect, honor, obedience and love to our Creator.  We didn’t seek or heed God’s guidance, obey His rules, devote ourselves to His will or give Him the glory for what we were able to achieve.  Jesus brings us back to our senses with the First Law:  “The Lord our God is one Lord and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength.”  Turning back toward God and showing complete love for God is the second key to perceiving God’s daily guidance and preparing to return to God’s kingdom.

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In all these ways we show love for God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  From studying God’s words and living by His Law we gain understanding and discernment we can use every day as we go about our lives.  From tithing we are led to better development and management of our resources and others receive help from those who teach about spiritual matters.  In observing holy days it is as if there is a spiritual string attached to the observance and to our experience of God’s presence.  Coincidences occur that increase our trust in God’s nearness and power.  Praising God cheers us up too and helps keep our spiritual face turned toward our Creator.  And listening prayer results in awesome personal experiences of God’s intimate love and guidance that can transform our lives and the lives of those around us.  Thus by worshipping God we are blessed in a multitude of ways.

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When Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus he didn’t say the rich man was mean or base.  Indeed, he may have been a faithful son, husband, father and friend and a supporter of the synagogue.  After his death he showed love and concern for his brothers who were still alive by asking that they be spared his fate.  The difference between the rich man and Lazarus was humility.  Feeling that he already enjoyed God’s favor, the rich man was self-confident and arrogant, ignoring the needs of the poor in his community and not seeking guidance from God in how to be His servant while he was on earth.  There are no arrogant souls in heaven.  In heaven God’s sovereignty is acknowledged and whatever guidance He gives is listened to and obeyed.  He is the Potter; we are the clay.  Souls that return to being one in purpose with God are humble, obedient and loving.

This is the same teaching found in the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee certainly lived a commendable life.  He was actively seeking God and showing love and respect for God by living according to His Law.  But he spoke scornfully of the tax collector, showing that he lacked love and humility.  Without these keys to salvation he could not return to being one in purpose with God.

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One of the distinctions between Jesus and Paul concerns their teachings about the Law God guided Moses to write for the Hebrews.  Jesus lived and taught the Mosaic Law.  The reason the woman caught in adultery was brought to him was because he taught adherence to the Law.  The outcry among Jews against Paul when he began to advocate that Gentiles not keep the Law, and the distinct lack of outcry on this point concerning Jesus, is further evidence that Jesus taught the Mosaic Law. Jesus, however, taught that the Law should be kept without the rabbinic additions, and he especially emphasized that the intentions of the Law should be kept as well as its letter. Paul, as noted before, created a doctrine against law observance as a result of pressure from rich and powerful Gentiles at the first church where he preached, in Antioch. Did Paul believe that because he had made some sacrifices to preach the good news that he had spiritual credit and could bend the rules?  Jesus faced many challenges and never took that liberty. Pardon the analogy, but when God says the Law is your life and Paul says the Law is death it reminds one of the snake in the Garden of Eden who said God lied and we don’t really die (spiritually) when we disobey God.  Just as “Eve” (the beginning of humankind) believed the “snake,” (the lie) some believe Paul instead of God. Interestingly, God said through Moses that there would be a miracle worker who would tell people to not follow God’s Law.  God said this would be a test to see who genuinely loves God.  He told us this in advance so we could pass the test.  However, the Gentiles Paul taught had not read the Hebrew scriptures and were unfamiliar with the warnings given there concerning anyone who teaches against God’s Law. I would draw attention to just some of the illogic of Paul’s arguments against the Law. Paul said to obey God because it is right to do so.  But obey what of God if not His Law?  He claimed that Christians should follow the spirit of the Law, but threw out observance of the letter of the Law.  But what would you have the spirit drawn from if the thing itself has been thrown out? Writing to the Romans, Paul split the spirit from responsibility for the actions of the body and claimed the carnal mind is not subject to God’s Law.  According to this teaching, as long as you are thinking about spiritual things, even if your body sins, you will still gain salvation.  Paul said he served God’s Law with his mind but the law of sin with his flesh. Jesus indeed taught his followers to live by the spirit of the Law.  He taught mental purity as well as physical purity.  He taught love for others rather than mere tolerance.  He taught humility and long suffering, enduring material limitations however God guides.  And he taught that the truth will set you free.  If you seek God honestly, with your spirit, he said, you will understand his teachings about eternal truths and find the path to eternal life in God’s kingdom. All of these intentions of the Law Jesus drew from and based on the letter of the pure Torah Law written by Moses.  His interpretation of the Torah Law was different from that of the priests, but he did not reject the Law. Paul said if those who are of the Law are heirs then faith is void.  He didn’t prove this; it was just his proclamation.  In fact, by keeping the Law one’s faith is built on rock.  Faith/trust in God is built on the rock of experience gained by keeping the Law as Jesus taught it. Paul told the Galatians miracles were worked among them because of faith, not the Law.  Jesus did say that faith is necessary for miracles.  But that doesn’t mean Law keeping is not needed.  Miracles came through Law keepers such as Moses, Elijah, Elisha and other prophets. In the analogy that a woman is free from her marriage vows when her husband dies, Paul said Christians are free from God’s Law because JESUS died.  God, to whom we are bound by the Law, did not die.  So how can we be free from the Law?  Jesus, who lived and taught the Law and told us to follow/imitate him, died and rose again to show us that Law keeping is important to returning to being one in purpose with God.  And, in any event, Jesus is alive. Paul said that where there is no Law there is no transgression.  But spiritual Law always was and always will be; it is part of our definition as spiritual entities.  Before we articulated the Law we were accountable before God to seek it spiritually. Paul claimed the whole Law is fulfilled in “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Then, in his letter to the Philippians, he added to the Law by ruling we should love others more than ourselves. His teaching contradicted Jesus, who said the first and most important law is to love GOD with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  If we love God completely then of course we will be obedient to Him, and to His Law.  (See the book “The Torah Conscious Christian, Biblical Law by subject, paraphrased, with commentary,” for a study of Biblical Law.) To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “If any man is called to be circumcised let him not become uncircumcised…let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”  But to the Galatians he wrote, “If ye be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing…whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from grace.” Paul proclaimed that, “if righteousness comes by the Law then Christ is dead in vain.”  Jesus’ death and Resurrection draw us to heed his teachings about our spiritual nature – our need to live in humility, obedience and love — and God.  There is no logic to throwing out the Law because of Jesus’ death. Paul created the claim that Jesus abolished the Law, reconciling the Law and grace by the cross.  If grace (God’s love) could give us salvation without our choosing by our own free will to return to being one in purpose with God, then no cross would have been necessary.  God’s love would have been sufficient.  But though God loves us unconditionally, it is we who have turned away from Him by willful rebellion and only by willful obedience can we turn back, as Jesus showed. Though the Book of Acts records that leaders of the church in Jerusalem allowed Gentiles (not Jews) to be accepted without complete obedience to the Law, they explained they made that concession because Moses (that is, the Law) was read each Sabbath at synagogues in every town.  Apparently they expected that Gentile converts would learn God’s Law gradually by attending synagogue and, if not the parents, then the next generation would conform to it.  They in no way condoned the hostility Paul later expressed toward the Biblical Law. Peter concurred with their decision because, he said, God had led him to convert the Gentile, Cornelius.  Peter realized that God loves all people equally.  However, note that Cornelius was prayerful, upright, God-fearing and generous to Jewish causes.  He was not in open rebellion against God’s Law.  As a matter of fact, he sent for Peter at God’s direction so he could increase his spiritual knowledge. _________________________________________________ Postscript:  Paul is inconsistent concerning his treatment of the Law.  Perhaps this is because he tailored his message to whatever church he was writing to.  We should also remember, however, that the earliest pieces of copies of Paul’s letters that we have are from the 6th century and that they were “harmonized” in the 11th century to support the church’s policies at that time.  Paul writes in strong support of the Law at Romans 2:13, 7:13, 13:4, 8-10, 8:4-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14, 5:10; Galatians 5:16-26 and Ephesians 5:36. When we break the Law, we are testing God.  When we keep the Law, we are testing ourselves.  If you are already living by the Ten Commandments, try this quick and simple experiment.  Very likely you are not keeping the Sabbath according to the directions given in the Bible.  For four consecutive Sabbaths prepare all food for the Sabbath in advance, don’t do any chores and don’t require anyone else to work on the Sabbath.  Unplug your TV and computer.  Give an offering to God.  You may attend a religious service, read the Bible and other spiritual literature, but not to excess, sing, pray, meditate and rest.  Keep the Sabbath from sundown the day before until a little past sundown on that day.  At the end of the Sabbath put your ego aside, clear your mind and ask God to guide you in the coming week.  Keep a journal of what happens in your life during the four weeks of this experiment and review it at the end.  If you are brave and honest you will be able to see God’s intimate presence and concern for you during this time.  It takes courage and honesty because we are so accustomed to doing things according to human choice, and it is a humbling experience to obey even this simple law and choose God’s will over our own.  As you continue to test yourself (and increase your spiritual perception) by experimenting with Biblical laws you may find the book The Torah Conscious Christian, Biblical Law by subject, paraphrased, with commentary (from Amazon/Kindle) useful.  When you see all the laws in subject order you will see that they are not too difficult to live by.  The book also includes information about Jesus’ teaching and use of the Law and some ongoing debates about the Law. References for laws concerning how to keep the Sabbath are:  Exodus 34:21, 35:2-3, 23:15, 31:12-15, 16:4-5, 22-23, 29; Leviticus 23:3, 19:30; Numbers 10:10, 6:22-27; Deuteronomy 5:14-15, 16:17  Also, refrain from eating pork products during this four week period.  If you then eat pork the day after the experiment you may be able to detect the reason why God forbids it.

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