Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | August 20, 2017

Jesus, Politics and the Church: A New Covenant Perspective

We live in some crazy times.

When we expose ourselves to messaging that ultimately becomes a hindrance to abiding in love, perhaps we need to ask ourselves how necessary or vital it is to expose ourselves to such messaging. Personally, I can’t live in the “rest” of God and look at humanity through the eyes of Christ while continuing to expose my heart to the messaging that’s emanating from this world’s power structures; namely, the media, the political establishment, and other associations that are in bed with this world’s political and governmental order.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and ultimately, He’s not going to use this world’s political and governmental order to bring the change to people’s lives that’s really needed. Rather, He’s going to use human vessels (the likes of you and I) to demonstrate a different reality than that which is demonstrated through this world’s order. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, etc…. within the context of our relationships (with believers and unbelievers) in the midst of all of this world’s mess.

How do I love others as Christ loves me? Who in my relational sphere is the “neighbor” that Jesus would want me to reach out to, walk with through their suffering, love, encourage or bless in some way? I believe these are the questions we should be asking ourselves (and God) at this time. For the most part, mainline Christianity is not only asking the wrong questions, but is actively engaged in the wrong arena.

When Paul said that the world is “eagerly awaiting for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)”, I assure you, he wasn’t referring to people campaigning for Trump, Hillary or Bernie; nor was He pointing to the Family Research Counsel or other organizations (left or right, doesn’t matter) that are trying to enforce their value system upon society through this world’s political and governmental order.

Spare me your political conservatism or progressivism pitch. Jesus and His kingdom ways transcend both.

Jesus saying, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “the Kingdom of God is within you,” along with Paul saying, “We are foreigners on this earth” and “we’ve been translated into the Kingdom of His Son” is all becoming clearer to me. This is more than theology, folks. It’s reality, and has implications on how we live and operate in this world, as ones that are not of this world.

What this world needs is a living demonstration of the life and love of Jesus through the likes of you and I; a demonstration of the reality of an entirely different kingdom that transcends this world’s political and governmental order. God wins people’s hearts through love. The degree to which the Church embraces Christ’s kingdom reality and incarnates this reality through lives well lived in His love, is the degree to which true transformation of human hearts (and therefore, society) will take place.

 

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Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | August 6, 2017

Tithing: Exposing The False Narrative

It’s more than unfortunate that many teachers and pastors teach that “tithing” was established as an “eternal principle before the law” (through Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek: Genesis 14:18-20) and that it was also embraced by Christ after the law (Matthew 23:23), which therefore shows that tithing “transcends the law” and is a mandate upon the believer.

INCORRECT ON BOTH ACCOUNTS.

1) In Genesis, Abraham gave 10% of the plunder that he took from the spoils of war; wasn’t even his own resources. He did this ONE TIME (to Melchizedek). There’s no biblical record that he ever tithed again. How do we glean an “eternal principle” from a one time gift? How do we make “binding doctrine” from a poorly exegeted Old Testament proof-text?

2) In Matthew 23:23, Jesus tells the religious leaders of that day that they should pay attention to the “weightier matters of the law” (justice, mercy and the love of God) while not neglecting their “tithing” which was also in their law. Jesus’ audience is JEWISH LEADERS UNDER THE OLD COVENANT LAW. The New Covenant had not yet been ushered in since Christ had not yet been crucified and resurrected… the Old Covenant was still in effect and the Jews were therefore required to keep it.

THIS IS NOT POST-LAW! Jesus is teaching the law to those under the law. WE, AS BELIEVERS, ARE NOT JEWS UNDER THE LAW! To project this proof-text upon a New Covenant people as mandate is wholly and totally illegitimate.

Other teachers will soften their message a bit; they won’t say that tithing is a requirement, BUT…….. (and here comes the hook) they will say things like “since the law reveals the unchanging character of God, tithing (to the local institution, of course) is something that God would WANT us to do.

This is a very subtle, sly and manipulative way that pastors influence the psyche of believers to get them to give what they want them to give (10% of their gross income), in the way they want them to give it (to the local institution). The spirit of control is as the sin of witchcraft, whether functioning in it consciously or unconsciously.

If the law was truly given to believers as a helpful tool to “reveal the character of God,” or to “show us what God is like,” or to somehow function as a means of guidance for the believer, well, apparently the Apostle Paul missed that memo. He makes it clear that the law was “nailed to the cross with Jesus” (Colossians 2:14), so that we would no longer live by the oldness of the letter but by the newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:6). In 2nd Corinthians 3, Paul refers to the law as “the ministry of death and condemnation.” In Galatians 2:19, he states that he “died to the law that he might live for God.” And the author of Hebrews states that with the ushering in of the New Covenant, the Old has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

To try to propagate the idea that the law, as it relates to the believer, is “a revealer of God’s character” or “a means by which to show us what God is like” or “a guide for our life” and therefore “helpful to a believer’s life of faith” is ludicrous. It shows a stunning lack of understanding of the New Covenant and its implications on the life of the believer. Such teaching needs to be recognized for what it is; Old Covenant, performance-based legal bondage dressed in fine-sounding spiritual garb.

When the Bible says that Jesus “fulfilled the law,” it was in NO WAY meant to exalt the law in a positive light, or to somehow be an example of how believers should embrace the law or follow Jesus’ example in some sort of way! And this is where many pastors and teachers (like John Piper), through a misguided interpretation of this scripture, take believers into a confusing mix of law and grace which hinders one’s growth in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law in order to deliver us from it, and to introduce a new and better way to relate to, receive from and live before God; the New Covenant. It is nothing like the Old. It’s a better covenant, established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

The law was “our tutor to lead us to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24). We don’t look to the law to reveal the character of God; we look to Christ. We don’t look to the law to show us what God is like; we look to Christ. We don’t look to the law as a helpful guide to our life of faith; we rely on Christ and His Spirit which indwells our hearts. Jesus declared, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” The author of Hebrews states that Jesus is “the express image of God and exact representation of His likeness.” Through Jesus we see the unchanging character of God, and the demonstration of how life is to be lived in relationship with a loving heavenly Father. It’s in Christ (our union with Him) that we find all the sufficiency we need for all faith and practice.

And as it pertains to giving under the New Covenant, as people living in Christ, we are called to give to WHOEVER………. however, whenever and wherever as we are led by His Spirit. It’s really that simple.

 

 

Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | March 15, 2017

The Shack: A Movie Worth Watching

I went to see “The Shack” movie last Saturday with ten others, and we were absolutely blown away by how powerful this movie was! From the storyline, to the acting and everything in between, this was a top-notch production. I thought the movie did a wonderful job showing how even in the midst of our most unspeakable sufferings, the God of the universe is willing to enter into those sufferings with us to bring clarity, comfort, healing and restoration.

As you may already know, some on the “religious right” have been vocal in condemning the movie, giving dire warnings that it promotes universalism, along with other things that are at odds with the Christian faith. Now that I’ve seen the production, I can confidently say that such accusations are simply empty and without merit. In fact, every one of us who saw the movie last Saturday agreed that there’s simply no valid reason why an individual, especially a Christian, shouldn’t see it!

Below is a link to a recent article by Wayne Jacobsen entitled, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Shack.” Jacobsen consulted on the writing of the novel and formed the company that published it. The article discusses the movie, along with addressing the false accusations brought by some. It’s a great read for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the Shack, and hear how Jacobsen answers the critics. ENJOY!

https://www.lifestream.org/whos-afraid-big-bad-shack/

 

 

Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | February 4, 2017

“Contending With Communion” by Guest Blogger Allison E. Robertson

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14: 17-26)

What do you think about when communion comes around? Some churches do it every week, others every month or quarter. Those who do not believe in Christ are asked not to partake. Especially if you’re not Catholic. Oh boy, I learned that lesson fast!

I first questioned communion a few years ago at my great aunt’s church. I was angry and not “right” with God. I thought I’d bring a curse upon myself if I partook, so I didn’t and went to the bathroom instead. I actually walked around outside seething.

My second thought was about why we collectively agree to assault our taste buds with a stale wafer and a chaser of grape juice to background music.

A third thought occurred each time I took my Hindu friend to church and she inquired about participating in communion. Embarrassed, I tried to explain without any good reason why she couldn’t. My final answer was simply: “I don’t know.”

These thoughts swirled around in my head for months until I asked God outright, “Why can’t everyone partake of the elements?” I do concede that one should not simply eat and drink for ritual’s sake. But by what doctrine do we insist that only believers may partake? Did Jesus ever say, “Hey, do this in remembrance of me… only if you truly believe”? I also concede that taking the Lord’s Supper in remembrance will typically imply that one already believes, but overall, did Jesus say, “only if you accept the Spirit and understand what this all means, you can partake”? Church leaders certainly think so.

Then there was the Catholic mass I attended just a few weeks ago. I went with a new friend to learn about the Catholic service. I had never been before. After the announcement of communion, my friend whispered to me, “You can stay here while we [Catholics] go up.” To my chagrin, I scathingly said aloud, “Oh, you have to be Catholic to do communion, you can’t just be Christian.” My response got the attention of my friend, so I myself went forward to partake.

I was watching as people filed through the line for elements. They did the “cross your heart” thing, took a Styrofoam-like wafer, and then sipped from a communal goblet. Ok, not too bad. However, I would absolutely not touch my lips to anything fifty people’s lips had already touched. Instead, I resolved to dip the wafer in the goblet. Wow, I was giddy. I got my wafer and did a little bow, eh, whatever. I dipped the wafer, and then as I turned, I absent-mindedly bit into the wafer. The priest called out, “You’re not allowed to do that!” I thought he was talking about the wine, so I said, “I don’t want to drink after anyone.” He meant “snapping the wafer in half.” I was supposed to put the whole thing on my tongue. It was a poignant experience… learning how even a Christian could be excluded from Catholic communion simply because they are Protestant and new to the service.

A common passage used for how to serve and partake of communion is from 1 Corinthians 11. Paul upbraided the church for desecrating the Lord’s Supper by not waiting for all to sit down at the table before eating the meal. Instead, they served their own families, ate individually, and filled themselves up while others went hungry. Paul was telling them to do it together and share the meal among everyone. Not waiting for one another so that the communion meal could be taken together as a family was what Paul referred to as “eating and drinking in an unworthy manner” and “not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Friends, taking communion “in a worthy manner” is a relational, community thing… not a “personal inspection for sin before you can partake” thing. Perhaps it’s this erroneous interpretation of the Lord ’s Supper which has caused the Church to exclude some from the table. After all, if you’re a believer, then you’re pretty much “clean” (as long as you haven’t sinned recently…), so you can partake. But if you’re not a believer, you are certainly “defiled with sin” and therefore cannot partake. But how can this all be, considering that Jesus ate with ALL of His disciples (including Judas) on His way to reshaping the entire faith into an inclusive one? How can this be, after Judas, the traitor himself, was eating right along with them… whom Jesus personally served at the table! How can this be, considering many disciples themselves struggled to understand and believe?

Christians these days, from what I’ve experienced, say they want everyone to belong and come as they are. Yet, once someone draws near, they are still not fully able to participate. Christians themselves are feeling excluded and tired of legalism. Yet it seems as though we are introducing others into exactly that by being exclusive at the communion table.

Jesus died and rose again to rip open the Holy of Holies, to allow everyone in, and we are laying out another hoop? What if, through taking the elements, a person can learn through symbolic actions God’s redemptive plan and actually come to understand Christ’s sacrifice and recompense for them? Though some may fail to accept Christ’s love, can we request that they not experience a meal with those who do embody his Spirit? What if, by allowing all to eat at the Lord’s Table, we invite non-believers closer? What if we all, believers and non-believers alike, held the elements as Christ’s words were recited? Couldn’t the Spirit work through that experience of touching and tasting, as well as hearing and seeing? Shoot, what if we were to ditch the whole juice and cracker thing and invite these people to dine on real food, to experience real love at a table together… all of us sinners, all of us shown mercy?

We all know how to eat good food. Judas knew that, and Judas was at the first Lord’s Supper. He got to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste along with the others. Even though he betrayed Christ, Christ did not bar him from the table. In fact, Jesus brought Judas closer before sending him on his way. I believe if Judas had repented like Peter, Jesus would have welcomed him back with open arms. But we can save that thought for later.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | December 14, 2016

The Church In Hiding

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Sadly, Christians can be some of the most insular people on planet earth.

During most of my 25 years as a believer, I was one of them. I attended a worship service on Sunday morning, another on Sunday night and another on Wednesday night. I attended a Bible Study on another night. And I participated in game nights and other social get-togethers… in the fellowship hall, of course. Most all of life revolved inside the four walls of that building which I called “church.”

I don’t think Christ ever intended for our gathering places to be our bushels. Yet whether we’re talking about the institutional church or house church or any other building where believers routinely gather, this turns out being the case more often than we may be willing to admit.

How will the world ever see our light shining before them to the glory of God if we’re always cooped up in our churches, fellowship halls or homes? How will they ever taste and see that the Lord is good? How will they ever see our love for one another, thereby knowing that we are His disciples?

Although some may say that we need to do a better job inviting people to “church,” I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Jesus did not say, “Invite your friends to come to your worship service,” but rather to go to all the world and make disciples. This involves relational engagement, actively getting to know someone, and being invested in their life, on their turf.

Now is the time to let our light shine before men…. to take it out from under our bushels and be relationally engaged with one another and our world within the arena of real life. Gathering together as a Body of believers in various places for our edification is invaluable, but if it doesn’t result in us demonstrating the love of God to humanity during our normal, routine everyday lives, then we’re missing the whole purpose for which Christ has deposited His very life in us.

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