It’s not a sin, but…

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Recently, Pastor Howard Bass posted a blog here at KNI entitled “False Teachers and Heresies” in which he listed some of the most serious errors being taught and practiced by a tragically large percentage of Believers connected with Israel in this season of history. I’d like to respond to that blog.

First of all, I want to say thank you to Howard for bringing up this topic. Frankly, it’s about time the leadership of the Body of Messiah in Israel started raising awareness and pushing back against these false teachings. I also want to address some of the feedback Howard’s blog generated because he listed “Torah Observance” among the heresies and errors being promoted by many in the Hebrew Roots movement. I think Howard did a pretty good job of explaining what he meant by that, but of course there were some who insisted on missing his point and/or taking offense.

There’ll probably be a similar reaction to this blog, but after three years of blogging here at KNI I’ve learned that there’s really no avoiding it.

Here goes.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify”

In my humble opinion/observation Torah observance is not a sin for Believers in Jesus, but it often leads to a very serious sin, the sin of pride. The spiritual pride and self-righteousness which almost inevitably comes from Believers “keeping Torah” leads to many sorrows, including splits and divisions within denominations, congregations and even families, endless arguments and bickering, cutting off of fellowship, acrimony, bitterness, hurt feelings and damaged people.

In other words, it might be lawful, but it doesn’t edify, it doesn’t build up. Quite the opposite, it destroys relationships, it causes chaos, confusion and disharmony in the Body and it creates divisions and acrimony that help absolutely NO ONE, except the Enemy.

Some people say they feel like they’re drawing closer to Jesus by “keeping Torah” as He did.

However, Jesus kept the Torah perfectly for a very specific reason which has no relevance whatsoever for me and you, unless someone out there feels called to live a perfect life so they’ll be qualified to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind like He did. If not, you should ask yourself what good it does to develop a feeling of closeness with Jesus of Nazareth if at the same time you create so much unnecessary, unhelpful and unprofitable distance between yourself and the rest of the Body of Christ. Even a very casual reading of the New Testament, particularly the Book of Acts, will demonstrate that this is not something Jesus would want His followers to do.

Another issue that Howard’s blog raised was those false teachers who say that “Torah observance” is not a salvation issue but it’s still necessary and good.

To that I would respond, if it’s not a salvation issue, what IS it about? What good DOES it do and what fruit DOES it produce?

Again, the fruit it mostly produces is pride, arguments, acrimony and division.

With that in mind, if you’re finding yourself spending more time arguing with Christians about the necessity of “Torah observance” than you do sharing the Gospel among non-Believers, you’ve taken a wrong turn. If you feel like you’ve “been called” to confront wayward pastors and elders of the local churches in your city about the lack of “Torah observance” in their fellowships, than you are making an extra-special error and have actually become an obstacle to the Kingdom instead of a servant of it. If you find yourself shunning fellowship with Christians over this issue and seeking out spiritual communion elsewhere, you are actually in very serious spiritual danger.

Now let me just take a moment to address something that one often hears from the “Torah observant” crowd, that they’re “not judging anyone” but that they’re merely setting an example which they hope others will follow because they hope they can lift their brothers and sisters in the faith up into true obedience, righteousness, etc.

The sheer absurdity, arrogance and dishonesty of this narrative is staggering.

To paraphrase Jesus’ parable from Luke 18, they’re  saying to God “Lord, thank you that you’ve made me Torah observant, I keep all the commandments and I eschew paganism, not like that “Christian” guy over there with his wretched Christmas tree and the bacon he eats. Gosh I sure hope he notices me over here with my “Torah observant” lifestyle so he’ll leave all that behind and live righteously like I do. You know what, I better not take a chance, I better hassle him about it endlessly (in a non-judgmental way of course) until he sees the error of his way, repents and starts living like I do so he can be righteous like I am.”

Brothers and sisters, here’s the bottom line.

Jesus’ lifestyle of “Torah observance” is barely mentioned in the Gospels. In my humble opinion, this is for the very excellent reason that it’s just not terribly important. In this respect it’s comparable to His mother Mary, who is also barely mentioned in the Gospels. The way some people turn Jesus’ “Torah observance” into a major theological point is comparable to the way the Roman Catholic Church makes a big deal out of Mary at the expense of what really is important.

What’s that you ask?

The most important thing Jesus ever did was die on the Cross as a sacrificial atonement for the sins of mankind. In the three years prior to that event he preached a Gospel of kindness, humility, faith, love, compassion, forgiveness and community. It is His sacrifice on the Cross that we are to identify with. It is His teachings that we are to incorporate into our daily lives, thoughts and attitudes.

THAT is how you obey the commandment to “be like Him” NOT by trying to do the impossible by being perfectly “Torah observant” like only He could do.

If we fail to do that, any efforts to live a “Torah observant” lifestyle are not only useless and unnecessary, they can and nearly always do become a stumbling block and a curse as we try to be obedient to Jesus’ commands to “feed my sheep” and “love our neighbor as ourselves” and share the Gospel with a lost and dying world and otherwise build His Kingdom.