In my last entry I wrote about the Christian Reformation. I wondered aloud if the spirit of reformation continues today and if we would fall into the same traps that Luther did. Today my mind is consumed with thoughts about a continued reformation, what that same spirit of reformation looks like today.
Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and others caught the vision of reforming the Christian faith. Though the “Fathers of the Reformation” did not agree on all things, the Protestant Reformation was based on one major issue: “Sola Scriptura“: going back to the Bible as the sole source of our beliefs and how we live out our faith while testing everything we know against the Scriptures to determine if what we know is true or false. What we know of as The Reformation took Christians back to the foundation of their faith – the Word of G-d. But this was only the beginning. There was much that needed to be stripped away, much that was to be revealed.
As the social and political upheaval that this reformation spread through western civilization, it was an incredibly painful movement. The winds of reformation brought deep divisions between various groups of people and intense persecution for those that one group or another considered heretics. We were zealously searching for truth yet each of us were sure that we held on to more truth than “the other guy”. We cannot study the history of Europe or the birth of America without having an unbiased grasp on the Reformation. Modern Europe, the USA and other countries today are direct results of The Reformation and it’s outworkings.
In the past 500 years G-d has moved in various groups of people bringing reformation and revival. Each time there is a “move of G-d” we do what we’ve always done: we set up a monument and camp out at the base of that monument. This isn’t anything new for us, we’ve always done this. We make an idol of a thing that represents something that HaShem has done in the past. We did this when we made our own golden calf, when we honored the bronze serpent, even with an ephod on more than one occasion, and so on. It is not wrong to memorialize a move of HaShem but when we can’t see past the thing He did or the thing that reminds us of what He did, that’s idolatry. We make an idol of a move of G-d or a spiritual revival and we do not move past that one moment. This has happened in the Christian world over and over in the past 500 years or more. Sometimes we have our own little trinkets and other times our ‘idol’ is a particular belief or doctrine. Today there are over 1500 different denominations recognized under the christian umbrella in America alone. And what is a denomination anyway? Simply put, a denomination is one named part of a whole.
When the Children of Israel spent their 40 years in the desert, they were being led by HaShem. When He moved, they moved and when He stopped, they stopped. He allowed them time to set up camp and stay, giving them time to digest what Moses was teaching them and allowing them work it out in their lives. But He always moved on and the people always followed Him. I have often wondered how many people decided that they liked the last oasis that He had brought them to and didn’t want to move on with the group anymore, they wanted to stay and set up camp permanently right where they were. I wonder when Israel moved on to the next oasis just how many people might have been left behind of their own choosing. How many people missed the continued move of G-d, His continued teaching, the Land of Promise.
My husband has always told me “You can’t steer a ship that doesn’t move.” Sure you can turn the rudder all you like but what difference does it make when the ship is anchored? If the spirit of reformation that was alive and documented as early as the 1100’s has continued to move in the last 500 years, what has that looked like? I think it has looked a lot like the Children of Israel in the desert for 40 years. I think that as falsehood and error have been slowly stripped away and each new truth revealed, HaShem has allowed us time to digest each new revelation. When He has moved again, we have lost some of our number to those who didn’t want to uproot their camp from the last oasis. Now each oasis that this journey of reformation has brought us to has people living at the memorial of that move, and often times they have missed out on the revelations that have come after the rest of the group moved on. Each oasis memorial has grown in their faith and the reforming spirit has continued to effect each camp but we have a lot of camps and ironically, each camp thinks that they are the correct ones while the others are much closer to heresy than they may realize. LOL The irony is that we don’t even recognize our own arrogance and unloving treatment of the Church as a whole. We’re all part of the same body yet some of us have deep disdain for “that heretical toe” or “that foolish finger”. We are simply unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that we we beat our brothers and sisters nearly to death sometimes with the plank in our own eye while we stew over the small speck in theirs. It’s our fallen human nature, and the beast we feed the most is bound to be the strongest.
If our journey of reformation started with a deep desire to find out who our Messiah truly is and to know Who the King of the Universe is, we must go back. This spirit of reformation has been all about taking us back to our foundation, back to the truth, back to our G-d. Today, should we go back 500 years to the reformation? No, back farther. Back to Constantine and The Council of Nicea? No, back farther still. I believe we need to go back to the days of Yeshua (Jesus). But even with that, we may need to go back farther still just so we can understand what the average common Israelite understood in the first century.
When we read the Gospels and the letters penned by the Apostles, how do we expect to understand the fullness of their messages when we are not only 2,000 years removed from their day but we have grown up immersed in a culture that is so vastly different from theirs? How are we to “have ears to hear” when we can’t get past things like “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” and other head scratchers such as “…whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” or “except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” and “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” How on earth are we supposed to hear these words with the same “ears”, the same understanding, as the people who physically stood in the Master’s presence and heard His teachings? What do we do with passages that seem to be telling us to dismember ourselves or gouge out our own eyes?
If we are to go back to the Scriptures as our primary, or even our only, source then we will need to do a lot of un-learning and reprograming. What do I mean? I mean that we need to learn to think hebraically, to read the Bible with Hebraic eyes and hear it’s words through Hebraic ears. After all, the Bible is a collection of Jewish writings to primarily the Jewish people about the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, the G-d of Jacob/Israel. We have grown up in a Western/Greek society and we desperately long to understand a Hebraic book. (see “My Big Fat Greek Mindset pt 1 and pt 2” or Greek vs Hebrew Education and other articles/links in the sidebar)
Investigating the difference between Hebraic thought (the Biblical pattern) vs. Greek thought (the Western pattern) will produce amazing results as you study the Scriptures! But there’s more, that’s just a start. If we ever hope to understand our Messiah more fully, we need to understand the G-d He worshiped. We need to worship the same Creator King that our Master did and in order to do that, we need to go back farther. We will need to go back to Moses. Moses, who spoke with HaShem face to face as a man speaks with his friend. This same Moses that HaShem used to teach the Children of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness, following the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. It is through Moses that HaShem gave us His teachings, the Torah. If we are truly grafted into Israel, counted as a fellow heir with our Master and with Israel, then we are a part of this people in the eyes of HaShem and it is as if WE TOO stood at Mt Sinai and agreed to the terms of the Marriage Covenant.
I believe that the spirit of reformation that has been conceived, birthed and is growing to fullness has come to the stage where the Church is beginning to understand the Hebraic roots of her faith and her oneness with Israel, and that Israel is beginning to have a chance to recognize, for the very first time, that Yeshua the Messiah is not a false prophet but He is indeed the one who is to come, the one greater than Moses. We are beginning to realize that we are all part of one whole and that it is much bigger than we previously thought, while at the same time the road is much narrower than we once thought too. It is an exhilarating journey, like “drinking from fire hydrant with only a straw”.
Our Father Abraham by Marvin Wilson
Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus by David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Jr.
King of the Jews by D. Thomas Lancaster
Grafted In by D. Thomas Lancaster
Our Hands Are Stained With Blood by Michael Brown
The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg
Part 3 in this series is: Reformation Today