Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spiritual Traps from the Days of Unleavened Bread, Part 3

In my previous two posts, we've talked about some reasons that keeping the Days Unleavened Bread can be spiritually dangerous. In part 1,we discussed the veil of spiritual blindness that comes from focusing on the Sinai Covenant. In part 2, we warned about the self-righteousness that keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread can foster. Today, we'll consider the confused allegiance that comes from mixing the wine and wineskins from different covenants.

Retaining extraneous practices from the Sinai Covenant can divide our hearts and our spiritual focus. Consider these confusing statements from UCG's Gary Antion, published March-April 2016 edition of the United News:

“God commands us to remove all leavening from our homes for the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-20). How diligently we do so is an indication of how badly we want to put sin out of our lives,” writes Gary Antion in the United Church of God's March-April United News.

Then, just paragraphs later, he writes:

“Use intelligence. You can go overboard in cleaning and be exhausted when Passover comes.”

Before you conclude this is the product of UCG's alleged watered-down doctrines, consider that this article first appeared in the Worldwide Church of God's Worldwide News in March 1986.

Contradictory statements like Antion's demonstrate why Jesus warned against putting new wine in old wineskins. If diligence in unleavening indicates our attitude toward rooting out sin, then we should give this task 110 percent. If having leaven in our homes this week is a sin; and sin separates us from God and jeopardizes our salvation, then nothing is too radical! It is better to inherit the kingdom with one eye than to enter the Lake of Fire with both (Matthew 18:9).

But if it's possible to “go overboard” in our deleavening, then we must admit that having crumbs lodged deep in the toaster at the end of this week isn't sin. And if it isn't, then does God truly expect us to do the rest of it? If not, wouldn't it make more sense to forego extensive physical preparations and instead focus solely on spiritual preparation?

The Churches of God fall into this trap regularly. Which should be our priority, preparation for the Sabbath or doing good where we have opportunity? In this fast-paced age, the two are often mutually exclusive. Should the average working COG member spend weeknights preparing his or her home and meals for the Sabbath or have other, more New Testament-focused priorities? That's not to mention the Sabbath itself. That's another topic for another day.

Or what about clean and unclean foods? These days, understanding the terms on food labels practically requires a degree in food science to decode. Does God expect us to spend our lives learning technical names to decode food wrappers? Is every unexamined cup of yogurt, marshmallow and Dorito a strike against us?

These examples may sound silly, but they're the logical conclusion of a religious system that teaches obedience to tenets of the Sinai Covenant factor into our salvation under the New Covenant. They also help feed the mistaken COG belief that we maintain our justification before God through our work, and that each mis-step puts our salvation in jeopardy.

The symbolism of the Days of Unleavened Bread sounds good on the surface. Of course they do! They were shadows pointing to Jesus and what He would do for humanity. But that is what they were – shadows revealing our need. Now that the Son has risen, we need to leave the shadows behind and walk in His light.

When you look deeper, the Days of Unleavened Bread reveal the holes in the COG teachings on salvation – that our works maintain our right standing before God. The symbolism sounds good on a surface level. Now that the Son has risen, we need to step into His light and leave the shadows behind.

I believe it's no accident that Jesus rose during the Days of Unleavened Bread. It's a beautiful picture of what He did for us. In the midst of our losing battle to make ourselves acceptable to God, Jesus came and sacrificed Himself for us. His resurrection interrupted that endless cycle. And yet some are determined to continue in it.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. We cannot serve two masters. When we try to fulfill the requirements of two covenants, we will fulfill neither fully. We must choose one and dedicate our lives to it fully. The law cannot save. Only a Savior can.

So how did you spend this week? What messages have you heard at church? Did most look back to Sinai, back Israel, or focus on the New Covenant in His blood? Did you celebrate a lavish, fabricated observance on the night that your Savior's scattered disciples mourned? Did you ignore the fact that Jesus rose because doing so is too Protestant?

Take heart. The shed blood of your risen Savior can cover these sins and many more. The fact that He rose proves that what He and His apostles said - that you are now truly unleavened.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Jodie said...

Your blog should have so many readers. What you write of, the truth of what you write is so sorely needed these days. It scares me how much the 'Hebrew roots" movement is taking over. I have friends, good, hard core, born again Christian friends who are starting to be enticed by this stuff! I even was swayed for a time right after my conversion 5 years ago.
But I have done a ton of studying since then and everything you write are the same conclusions, biblical truths I have come to understand. Paul. Man, Paul. How can one read him and still think the law is in effect.......I have a whole new appreciation for what the apostles went through during those early years, working with jew and gentile alike and trying to teach them about the NEW CREATION they all became under ONE. Jesus Christ. (not yeshua!!). :)
Thank you Martha, for this blog. I will be sharing it with others.

Martha said...

Thank you for reading and for your kind words, Jodie!

While we primarily address issues related to Armstrongism, we notice Hebrew roots becoming more and more popular. It's concerning, because it's even more legalistic and leads one even further from Christ. I, too, find it amazing, especially reading the last chapters of Acts, that some can teach Paul was so persecuted simply over the issue of circumcision. It would be comical if the teaching hadn't done so much damage.

It's a tough balance, though. Obviously folks like Peter, Paul and many in the early church did not disqualify themselves from salvation by continuing in these Hebrew practices. Understanding where certain practices came from and what they symbolize does give one a greater appreciation for Scripture.

However, when we start focusing on those practices rather than the One they foreshadowed, we are skating on thin ice. Many claim they find spiritual benefits to keeping these days. I think it's risky and leads us toward a road we should not travel. I'm glad to hear you agree.

Anonymous said...

It really is quite disturbing to find that people -- both in Armstrongism and Hebrew Roots -- focus on physical rituals in order to supposedly find salvation. Yet, the New Testament says that there is no salvation in the blood of bulls and goats. That is what happened at each and every Old Testament holyday: Holydays were based in animal sacrifices.

The question needs to be asked: How can holydays and the Days of Unleavened Bread lead to salvation? How does that work?

As far as we know, not a single ancient Israelite (save for some kings and prophets) obtained salvation and redemption through keeping Moses' Law. The holydays may have been a shadow of the Savior to come, but had no substance to "save" anyone.

Why would Armstrongists believe that keeping physical rituals could enable them to attain salvation or tithing buy them redemption?

Armstrongist ministers are not Levitical Priests and the Levitical Priesthood was the only source of fulfilling the physical rituals -- without animal sacrifices, there simply can't be a holyday celebration-- which anyone who reads Leviticus should be able to figure out for themselves.

The chief benefit of keeping the Old Covenant Law as physical rituals is being able to feel self-righteous, which, in turn, boosts dopamine levels and makes people feel good about themselves.