Kindness, faithfulness, humility.
It’s not really exciting, is it? It’s not a sensational message. But it is the same old, tried-and-true formula for moving your life closer to God. I want to show you some tangible ways to do that in this post.
Many in the Messianic world want a shortcut, a faster way to be especially pious. We flock to sensational teachings. Others spend significant portions of their religious lives devoted to countering that one bad ecclesiology, or that one really terrible Messianic ministry, or worse, that entire section of the Messianic world that disagrees about some aspect of nomology. We amplify secret knowledge – like the proper way to pronounce God’s name, for example – and we act as connoisseurs of the things of God, insiders to God’s revelation.
Yet our private lives tell another story. Mine does, usually. We lack in kindness, faithfulness, and humility. And it shows in our families, our homes, our private lives. We care more about having the right theologies and saying the right things than we do about people.
Combatting other people’s bad theology has taken the fore, and each person living for God a back seat.
The answer to “Should we Jews and gentiles practice Torah” has become more important than practicing Torah.
When this happens, we’re shown to be hypocrites, charlatans, religious fakes faithful in appearance only.
Practical ways to grow closer to God
I help run a Messianic Hebrew Roots congregation in Minnesota. I play guitar and sing each shabbat, drawing from the great legacy of Messianic music left to us by Messianic pioneers like Joel Chernoff, Levi Coghill, Paul Wilbur, Bruce Cohen, and so many others.
But every so often, when I get the itchin’, I give a teaching; deliver a message to the fine Messianic and Hebrew Roots folks at my congregation.
This past week I taught on something near and dear to me. No airy speculative theology, mind you, but some down-to-earth, pragmatic advice:
Practical Ways to Grow Closer to God
In this teaching, I explain some common errors I’ve seen growing up in the Messianic world. Torah terrorism, heresy hunting, infatuation with secret knowledge, ritual without relationship, majoring on the minors, to name a few.
I then show ways to avoid these problems and focus instead on things that are spiritually watering. Things like:
- Amplifying Messiah above every idea, world philosophy, above every pet theology. If you’re known for something outside of Messiah, things outside justice, mercy, trusting, maybe you’re focusing too much on things that aren’t so important after all. Don’t waste so much time on things that lead to spiritual dry land.
- Instead of heresy hunting, critiquing how bad other people are doing the religion thing, focus instead on what God’s doing. Standing in awe of God. Acknowledge God at work among the Jewish people and in the nations, and give thanks for it:
Thank you, Lord, for preserving the Jewish people through Judaism!
Thank you, Lord, for raising up billions of gentiles for your name’s sake!
Thank you, Lord, for your work in the Church and the mercies you've shown to all nations!
Thank you, Lord, for rebuilding Jerusalem! בונה ירושלם יהוה
Thank you, Lord, for grafting the nations into the commonwealth of Israel!
Thank you for ending the Jewish exile!
Thank you for restoring Torah in the 21st century!
Thank you, Lord, for softening the hearts of Jewish leaders -- increasingly so! – towards the Jewish Messiah!
- Pray regularly, consistently, privately. Develop a relationship with God by regular communication. Just as a marriage without communication will invariably grow cold, so a person’s faith.
- Study the Scriptures. Too many people use the Bible like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, rather than illumination. We should be studying the Scriptures to drive our theology, not the other way around.
- Have humility! Don’t be that “expert” newbie, the new-to-Torah guy who knows how to do it better than everyone else, better than the Jewish people…even though Jews have been practicing Torah for thousands of years, while you’ve been practicing it for a whole 8 months. Don’t be that guy. Approach in humility, like those in Zechariah 8.
- Equanimity, stable-mindedness. Most sensational religion is full of false hope hidden by excited zeal. That world is littered with charlatans, fake religious people who talk but don’t walk. We should avoid that world. Our faith should not be characterized by wild end-times predictions, conspiracy theories, new special revelation or secret knowledge. Don’t be swayed by the latest theological fads. We should instead be characterized by shalom nurtured through our prayer, Scripture study, and faithfulness to God.
- Major on the majors, minoring on the minors. Don’t be that guy who’s always obsessing about that one weird idea, that one eccentric theology, that religious minutia. Instead, be known for justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
Give a listen to the audio, check out my slides above.
Enjoy, fine Kineti readers. May God strengthen the Messianic movement and move us closer to him.