Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
[This blog is a specific response to a question that was fielded by someone beyond MBC, however, it helpfully speaks into a between-the-testaments mini-series I had been publishing in our C2C series]
When I visited Jerusalem a number of years ago, one of the men in my group caught ‘Jewish Fever,’ an unusual fixation with Judaism and the desire to become Jewish. It was the most bizarre thing. He started wearing a kippah (hat), eating Kosher and observing other Jewish rituals. He completely broke off from the group of Christians he had come with for the duration of his stay. What made this all very strange was he professed to be a convert to Christianity and had originally come from a Hindu background in India! Jewish Fever can make people do some strange things.
Yet this ‘Fever’ has another manifestation outside of Israel, among those professing Christians who take a fancy to all things Jewish, as if being Jewish, was a superior form of spirituality and practice to that found in the Christian faith: they come to meet on the Jewish Sabbath rather than the Lord’s Day, begin to observe Jewish customs and festivals and food laws, etc.
I want to contend why, in part, for ethnic Jewish-Christians, a continuation of aspects of their culture is appropriate, and why Jewish Fever is generally misguided and unhelpful for Jewish/Gentile-Christians.
This is founded upon the believer’s new identity in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant, as the fulfilment of past Biblical promises and covenants. The new has come, the old has passed (Mt 9:17; Isa 42:9). The Gospel is for the Jew first and then the Gentile (Ro 1:17). There is now no distinction between [the believing] Jew or Gentile, we’re all one in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:28). In fact, Paul says, a Christian (whether ethnically Jew or Gentile) is a true Jew in a spiritual sense and child of Abraham (Gal 3:7).
The Christian (ethnic Jew/Gentile) is in fact part of the New Covenant community of faith, which fulfils the former visible community of faith (the Jewish nation, see Ro 9–11). The Church is the realization of promises from Jer and Ezk of a New Covenant (Jer 31; Ezk 36).
The Law of Moses was the guardian (Gal 3:24); but Christ has come and it has passed (Mt 5:17–18; Lk 24:27; 2 Cor 1:20; Heb 8:13) and the believer (Jew/Gentile) is now part of a far better Covenant (Heb 8:6). The Old Covenant had certain practices associated with it; these were fulfilled in Christ. Those that were morally universal are now what the NT describes as the Royal Law. As for others, Sabbath gave way to the Lord’s Day; food laws to distinctive holy lifestyle (Col 2:16; Mk 7:19; Acts 15:20–21); covenant signs and festivals to worshipping in Spirit and truth and embracing New Covenant practices and principles and signs (i.e. the Great Commandment; Great Commission; Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, etc).
There is of course great continuity between the Covenants (e.g. grace through faith), however, there is great discontinuity (e.g. the essence of the Covenant and its sign—baptism).
In all this it must be remembered that the early Church was: first exclusively Jewish (Acts 11:19); then largely Jewish (Acts 9:20 [Paul’s strategy of synagogue preaching]; Gospel of Matthew, Epistle to the Hebrews, etc); and yet it—in varying degrees of speed—embraced its New Covenant image; it ceased to be religiously or visibly Jewish as it understood Christ.
So, a new identity, a new community and new community markers.
For Ethnic Jews
Now what happens if you are ethnically Jewish and you come to Christ? Do you give up all of your cultural-religious heritage? Religious, yes; but not your cultural, where appropriate.
Consider this. You’re culturally-Canadian and come to Christ. You get to keep your God honouring cultural practices (hockey as a sport) but not those that dishonour Him (hockey as an idol). Or you are a tribal African. You get to keep your love of hunting, but you give up its associations with animism. It is similar to how I would view Judaism, the Jewish-believers keeps those practices that align with the New Covenant/Christ/Christianity and jettison or modify those that do not.
Anything that is retained must be upon cultural grounds and not religious, for now they are in Christ.
What about those who have “Jewish Fever”?
It really is as odd as someone who is Japanese trying to pretend they are German; a Zulu a Russian; an American a Brit!
Jewish Fever, for reasons already mentioned, is religious nostalgia, spiritual backwardness, regressive, counter-productive, misguided. At its worst it can be divisive or elitist (as seen in the NT). It is pretending to be something you are not (if you are a Christian), and placing stock in something that Christ doesn’t commend. The heart of Paul’s letter to the Galatians addressed these matters: we are justified by faith in the Gospel and from the Gospel flows Christian practice. To be obedient to an obsolete law is not Gospel centric, at best it is foolish, at worst it is another Gospel.
Names being changed, statues being toppled, all a result of Cancel Culture. What is this?
Cancel Culture is the belief that anything that does not align with “modern sensibilities” or your view or ideology generally, must be cancelled, gotten rid of, purged, forgotten, if we are to liberate ourselves and create the world we desire to live in.
If he/she/they were slave owners, traditionalists, “homophobes,” etc, etc, they have no place in the remembrance of society, they must be cancelled.
From a historical perspective, Cancel Culture is troubling because it seeks to erase history and tell a different tale rather than recognize it, learn from it, understand it as part of your story and move on to new chapters of that story.
Politically it is disconcerting because this is the same strategy employed by Authoritarian and Communist countries. Identify the story that stands against your story and power, and cancel it. Those who used to be traditional liberals and moderates are more and more embracing what their very movement used to stand against.
Spiritually, however, Cancel Culture is most distressing for it foolishly believes that people are perfect. Reality check: if you look hard enough into any past or present figure—and even figures from your own group—you are going to find something nasty you could dig up. Why? Because no one is perfect (Ps 14:1a, Ro 3:10), we’re all sinners (Ro 3:23), even amongst the righteous we will not find one example of someone who never sins (Eccl 7:20).
Seeking to cancel our sin doesn’t change the reality. Instead we ought to recognize it and learn from it; to learn the chief lesson that if we want to become the person God desires us to be we need to ask him to cancel (to forgive) our sin—the shadiness of our past and present—and give us new life by His Spirit.
There was ever only perfect man, Jesus, and He was hated and killed for being perfect, yet He couldn’t be cancelled. He rose from the dead, is ascended into Heaven and calls on people to look ahead, look up, look to Him, if they desire a better life and future.
Marry in the Lord
When anyone asks me to marry them I will always agree to have at least one meeting, to learn about the couple, see where they are spiritually, get to know one another and see if we (officiant and couple) are a good fit. It’s a no-strings attached informal info session. At the very least it is an opportunity to share of the Christian vision of marriage and most importantly the Gospel. If we decide to proceed the couple commits to biblical premarital counselling.
Sometimes, sadly, because of sin and an unwillingness to do things God’s way on the part of the couple, I, by conscience and conviction, cannot proceed beyond this first conversation. This is of course done respectfully and charitably but must nevertheless be done. For example, I cannot marry same-sex or trans-gendered couples. Adultery, fornication, divorce and remarriage are also things that must be seriously explored. If the couple are not Christians I ask why a Christian marriage and will invest in a couple seriously interested in the ways of the Lord versus those interested in a Christian wedding simply because the Church has a centre aisle. I believe holy matrimony to be a sacred institution and so I am quite comfortable stepping outside of the common lens of seeing it as a form of evangelism (it is primarily an opportunity to disciple and not to evangelize, though in some cases this may be a positive side benefit). As someone who is lawfully allowed to officiate over wedding ceremonies I take the opportunity with all seriousness likening the responsibility to James 3:1, not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
You may have noticed that I left out one sort of couple, the blended couple, or a Christian seeking to marry a non-Christian. Should a Christian even entertain marrying a non-Christian? Should a Christian officiant preside over a mixed-wedding? Though some would argue it is a great opportunity to convert the non-believer, a work the Christian spouse can finish up, the classic evangelical response and consensus has been, and still is, “no.” The remainder of this blog will unpack “why.”
The why centres around what the Bible clearly says. This is not an ambiguous area where there is some degree of flexibility, the Scriptures are quite clear on the matter. Let’s build from the less clear to the clear passages:
Whether you are considering marriage for the first time or are in a situation of remarriage, resolve today to be obedient to the Lord and only “marry in the Lord.” This should be the number one criterion you have in finding a spouse.
If you find yourself in a mixed-marriage, confess and ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and save your spouse. Surround yourself with a good church and strong Christian fellowship and may your brothers and sisters in Christ prayerfully support you.
As always, would love to chat if this or any blog generates an biblical or situational questions. These are difficult matters, let us wrestle with them before the Lord and with His help.
 If you cannot find a Christian spouse it is better to wait upon the Lord than settle for something less. He will honour your patience.
 Though I have met a select few upon whom the Lord had mercy and the spouse was converted, this shouldn’t fuel disobedience nor foster wishful thinking.
The Unspoken Sin
No I’m not referring to some sexual sin, or any other matter Christians can sometimes be silent on, but the sin of spiritual laziness or slothfulness, historically known as acedia, a sin which is rampant and largely unaddressed in contemporary Church culture.
In Cover to Cover we’re in the period of the Kings, which is characterized by this roller coaster of spirituality, sometimes a nearness to the Lord and the associated blessings and sometimes a departure from him and the related consequences.
As a pastor, zealous for the honour of the Lord, desirous that His people would glorify and enjoy Him, and that others would be led to do the same, it pains and even deeply grieves my heart when I see the sin of acedia in the world, but especially when it creeps into the visible church.
A past sermon on the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11 (July 27) taught us the vital spiritual lesson of Christian industry. The ant is our teacher on industry, initiative, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction or reward in our work. Like our Creator we were created to create. Like our God who is Spirit, we too are designed to be spiritual. Are we busy about our souls and winning and nurturing the souls of others? Do we have to be told, prompted or reminded to seek the Lord? Is He the sole purpose of our life? Are we storing up treasure in heaven? If we are like the ant—spiritually speaking—we will answer a hearty, “Yes.”
Do we take advantage of the spiritual means of grace that He has provided His people and Church?
Acedia is quite possibly the greatest sin of our age, yet its unspokeness makes it all the more dangerous.
If the seeking or worship of the Lord is our great call then not to be zealous in that pursuit, to not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is indeed criminal and injurious to our soul.
Oh the joy that Christ has in store for His people if they would but, in faith, be spiritually industrious! Acedia breaks my heart every time I see an instance of it; yet to the contrary, when I see spiritual industry my joy is made complete for the joy the other knows through their obedience to Christ's promises and commands.
If you are zealous for the Lord would you please join me in making the Psalmist’s prayer your prayer:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may delight in you? (Ps 85:6)
 From the Greek, an inert state without pain or care.
 A means of grace is a way that God has appointed through which, when trusted in faith, the believer derives His unmerited favour, or untold spiritual benefits.
The Flag of Our Times
Even though the rainbow is such a beautiful aspect of Creation and a reminder of God’s covenant with man to never flood the earth as a judgement for our sin again, it has been hi-jacked of late to represent a double godlessness in the spirit of Isa 5:20 and Ro 1:32.
The month of June was labelled “pride” month and the rainbow flag, taken up as a symbol of the LGBT+ community (there is an irony here), was flown from many school and government flag poles, hung in residential windows, etc. Those who fly it symbolically encapsulate Isaiah’s charge to ancient Israel, who celebrated calling “evil good and good evil.” Yet this flag represents more than simply the diversity of expression within this community (itself not a hegemonic movement either), it is coming to be a representative flag of our times.
The rainbow flag is not simply being flown during the month of June; it is gaining a popularity far beyond those who support the LGBT+ movement or sympathize with them. The pride flag is growing in popularity because it stands for the values of the age: post-modernism, diversity, difference, acceptance, “tolerance,” etc. In effect it is the new symbol of moral anarchy, that everyone can believe and do what they like and no one can tell them otherwise. It is the warrant to be licentious. It is an embrace of the pride of the diversity of sin. Now, someone need not be LGBT+ or even support this precise cause, the flag is taking on a new meaning as a symbol of your support for the right of others to sin so that you yourself may do as you please: Though they know God's decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them. (Ro 1:32).
As such the rainbow flag has become the flag of our times.
 The irony is that the very symbol they have taken up is actually related to a great judgement upon the world over its sinfulness.
 For example, many who identify as gay men or women, resent the fluidity expressed by the transgendered community. While the media presents the wider community as unified it is anything but.
 Here we see the intolerance of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean disagreeing with someone respectfully, but now it means accepting those of similar belief’s so long as you don’t challenge them.
A Reason to Meet, A Purpose to Exist
Covid-19 has been a challenging time for many visible churches.
During lockdown many closed completely, some for want of means of continuing virtually (etc), while others persevered into varied forms of creative ministry, gathering and worship. We continued to hold our worship services through live-stream, Life Groups and leadership meetings via Skype and Zoom and Facetime and communicated congregationally through our print and e-newsletter (along with many other means).
From June 12 places of worship in Ontario were permitted by the government emergency order to emerge from the lockdown returning to physical worship services at 30% building capacity. We safely re-opened our morning and evening services on the Lord’s Day, June 14, also continuing our live-stream for those at risk or still uncomfortable; a few other local churches did the same not long after. However, there are many, many visible churches that remain closed with all or most of their ministries shut down. Many of them cite health concerns for this, which is something genuine to assess, however, “where there is a will there is a way” (i.e. if you have a reason to meet and a purpose to exist you will labour to find a safe means to accomplish it. See also: 2 Ti 1:7). A participant of one such church confided in me his dismay at their church’s decision wondering if anyone would return come September?
You see, if something stops for a week because of a snow storm, it is not terribly life changing, but the moment you speak of ceasing to do something for weeks and months and seasons, it becomes habit forming and life altering (for good or ill).
This raises two important and interrelated points:
ONE. If a church’s god is the only God, perfect, almighty, all-wise and most holy, sovereign, loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abounding in truth and goodness, the rewarder of those who seek him and the judge of all who don’t (I’m referencing the 2nd London Baptist Confession, 2.1) and if you know this God through faith in Jesus Christ then YES, absolutely, you have a reason to bring Him the corporate worship He has commanded and to fellowship together with other believers. Nothing, not persecution, or want or pandemic will stop you from doing this. If this is NOT the case, then naturally why would you gather to worship a God who you think is not really real or worthy, or immanent or knowable or known by you?
TWO. If a church, made up of redeemed or purchased people—bought by the blood of the lamb—has been commanded by their Saviour to publish Good News to all people, a message of repentance and transformation, to glorify Him in all they do, a life lived in gratitude to their King, then YES we have a purpose to exist for we have a Great Commission to fulfil and God to glorify. If this is NOT the case, if church is only a social club or a good works hobby, couldn’t I spend my time better somewhere else?
IF you answered yes to the above questions but are still not gathering and labouring as part of your local church, then appeal to your church leadership, grant leave to gather with a small handful in your home or outside, or temporarily worship with another church.
IF you are still watching the live-stream from home and not personally and physically worshipping and serving and don’t have a legitimate health risk (i.e. you’re going to the grocery store, shopping, eating out and visiting family but not participating in your church) then it is time to lay down your excuses and do so. Live-streaming is a great outreach and it was and can be a short-term substitute, but it is a long-term compromise from the real thing; don’t grow comfortable with it.
Among many other things Covid-19 is affecting on the church and spiritual landscape of our land is the separation from the wheat and the chaff; with some churches being pruned and others experiencing growth. The churches that will continue post-Covid will have these two things in common: a reason to meet and a purpose to exist.
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