My Story: Index
Continued from part 4...
The journey home from Israel was quite eventful. We had some major engine problems, an injured crew member, an emergency stop in the Canary Islands, crew members quitting to fly home to the States, and some problems with the Spanish government, who put our crew on house arrest in the port of Tenerife. When it was all said and done, the trip lasted about 2 weeks longer than it should have.
All that extra time wasn't a problem for all crew members, however. Some of us (myself included) quite welcomed it. I didn't have much else going on in my life, anyway. Not until I started learning more about Messianic Judaism.
One evening, my friend Debi started talking to me about the Sabbath. She said that she thought believers should keep the Sabbath. I asked why. She then gave me a book, and asked me to read it. She said it had really gotten her to think about the commandments of the Old Testament, and how they might still be relevant for Christians today.
The book was called Restoration, by D.T. Lancaster. I quite confidently took it from her and said, "Ok, Debi. I'll read it." But not at all did I expect it to influence me.
As soon as I began to read it, I realized that, if it was true, then I needed to undergo a significant paradigm shift. Before I read that book, I understood that some of the laws of the Old Testament had been fulfilled by Jesus, and thus no longer were meant to be practiced. Ever. They were gone for good. After I read that book, and several other similar ones, however, I understood that none of the laws of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the sense that they no longer were meant to be practiced. How did this happen to me?
Just before reading that book, I had come to a very meaningful realization, which I had prayed quite a bit about. My prayer was, "God, what's the one thing you want us to be concerned with? What's the most important thing on Your priority list?" The answer came when I understood the following argument (at the time, I didn't express the argument this way, but now, after having taken a course in logic, I try to form arguments like the following).
Premise 1: The most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (and the second is like it, etc. etc.)
Premise 2: To love God means to keep His commandments (1 John 5:3, John 14:15).
Conclusion: Therefore, the most important thing is to keep His commandments.
In other words, I realized that God wanted obedience above all else. (keep in mind, I realized this before I read Restoration.)
This was a big realization for me. First of all, to a charismatic, evangelical-type Christian, it sounds totally legalistic, and Christians usually avoid legalism like the plague! Second of all, it wasn't what I had always been told was the most important thing, i.e. faith in Jesus. However, I think I was able to reconcile and put behind me these two concerns when I reconsidered what faith in Jesus was. I started to see it as a form of obedience in and of itself. Faith in Jesus, I reasoned, could be seen as a form of obedience to the commandments "Repent, and accept Jesus into your heart." According to this understanding, obedience was the foundation of faith in Jesus. Obedience brought salvation through faith in Jesus; it was the root of faith itself! So, after reasoning through these issues, I was even more convinced that obedience should be my highest priority.
However, (still before I read Restoration) something was really bothering me. It was the question "well, what commandments do I keep?" Surely, if obedience to God's commandments was the most important thing, then there had to be a list of them somewhere. I didn't know of any list, per say, except for the commandments that were mentioned throughout the New Testament. (I didn't really consider the commandments of the Old Testament) So, I started reading a brand new New Testament with pen in hand, and underlined every single sentence or fragment that could possibly be considered some sort of commandment. If the verb was an imperative, I underlined the sentence. I also started to write out those sentences in list form, which grew to several pages very quickly.
As I did this, I noticed that many of the commandments of the New Testament were pulled from passages of the Old Testament. They were direct quotes. So then my question became, "what commandments of the Old Testament are still in effect, and which ones have been fulfilled?" I was beginning to think that I should err on the side of caution, and keep more commandments than necessary, rather than keep less commandments than necessary. Honestly, I wasn't really sure where to draw the line. And that was about the time that I read Restoration, which spoke directly to that very issue.
One of the main premises of Restoration is that the New Testament has been grossly misinterpreted by the Church, mostly as it regards the commandments of the Old Testament. Indeed, if the conclusions of the book are true, then the Church has been very wrong about the commandments. But how was I convinced? What arguments changed my mind?
Those are what I'll write about next.
Go to part 6...