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Friday, January 27, 2006

Reconciling the OT and NT; Therapist Chick seeks answers

Therapist Chick writes:
I'll try this again, first time blogging. JR, I don't know how you feel about this, but I am wondering if God requires differently from OT believers and NT believers. God's truth remains the same. But OT believers seem like cavemen in their faith, more externalized with sacrifices and rituals, etc. In the NT believers have the Holy Spirit to guide them from within with maybe more capacity (Doesn't the Bible reference in Jeremiah 31 or 32 that 'there will come a time when no man/woman will need to learn or be taught the law for it will reside within them.') This may be the reason that OT believers were mandated to go in and annihilate whole towns of people and their livestock while NT believers are instructed by Jesus that 'he/she who lives by the sword will die by the sword.' It seems like OT believers don't have the 'soul' or sensitivity and had to learn everything the hard way. Wonder what difference would mean to individual responsibility back then and now? Perhaps after Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, more IS required of believers now. Just a thought. Regards,
First of all, i had to read your name as it showed up in your comment, "therapistchick," before i got it. i kept reading something different and I was like "why in the world would she name herself THAT?"

you ask a question that I want to be able to answer clearly, let me know if I need to clarify.

Man's Predicament; God's Desire
Consider the entire Bible the story of a people who need a relationship with God and a God who wants a relationship with people. The story is broken up into two parts: the OT, the NT. Worship is the expression of this relationship with God. When there is no relationship, a person cannot worship. Because of sin, which breaks the relationship, it is impossible to worship. God goes to extreme ends because He wants to restore the relationship. In our story, God wants people to worship him in the manner HE tells them--not vice versa (this is important). Sometimes the actors in the story tell HIM how they are going to worship and He doesn't like that. Sometimes they don't worship at all. So, they mess up; and he wants to get their attention so that the relationship can be restored for mutual enjoyment

The Signficance of Sacrifices
So, God instituted the sacrificial system. The Law (or sacrificial system) was the manner with which man approached God. Any infraction of the Law was sin. Sin completely separated man from God and needed to be atoned for through a sacrifice. The sacrifice acted as a covering (kaphar) over man’s sin so that a partial relationship with God could be restored (Lev. 1:1-9). These sacrifices were a reflection, or mirror, of Christ’s later work upon the cross (Heb. 10:4)

When Christ died and was resurrected, the opportunity for a complete relationship of man with God became possible. No longer did a sacrifice act as only a covering over man’s sin—the sin was removed (Heb. 10:1-18). Christ’s work on the cross is the avenue with which a sinner may have a restored relationship with his Creator (Rom. 3:21-24).

Sacrifice + Faith = Relationship
The sacrifice alone did not have the power to restore the relationship with God (Heb. 11:14). The one who sacrificed must also have faith in God. Faith that God is exactly who He says He is; faith that He will do exactly what He says He will do; faith that trusts Him to fulfill His promises. In the Old Testament economy, a person needed faith that would sacrifice even though the details of the sacrifice were unknown. God instructed the people to sacrifice animals, even though they did not know the details concerning Christ’s future sacrifice. This was an exercise of faith.

Remember, worship is the expression of a relationship with God. Based upon God’s command, Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac even though he did not understand the details simply because God said do it. According to Abraham, the sacrifice (Heb. 11:17-19) was worship (Gen. 22:5). Abraham had a relationship with God and was expressing it through his sacrifice. He had faith in God to fulfill His promise, even though Isaac—the son through whom the promise was to come—was about to be killed. Abraham’s "sacrifice" was his act of worship.

Christ's sacrifice is absolutely central to worship. Sacrifices in the OT, that mirrored (or pointed to) Christ’s NT sacrifice, was the act the Lord deemed necessary to restore the relationship with sinful man in the Old Testament economy because they acted as the substance (or action) of faith in God and ultimately are fulfilled in Christ! Sacrifice, coupled with faith, restores the relationship. A sacrifice is the expression of the human desire to restore the divine relationship and is needed to maintain the relationship. Without sacrifice, man would be separated from God because of His sin. There would be no forgiveness of sin without sacrifice. Therefore, in the Old Testament economy, sacrifice is necessary for worship to be authentic.

Christ's Fulfilled the Foreshadowing of the Old Testament Actions
Sacrifice is still required for worship in the New Testament economy. Let no person tell you that we do not need to sacrifice. We do. But, why are there no Christians lining up in Jerusalem, Colorado Springs, or Rome waiting to make an offering? The reason that we do not see these long lines is that Christ fulfilled the sacrifices and the feasts.

Every part of the Hebrew religion, Judaism, pointed to Christ. For example, the Temple was the meeting place between God and man. The Temple mirrored Christ’s role. Christ came and fulfilled the Temple’s purpose and He became the meeting place between God and man. Instead of people going to the Temple, believers go to Christ (John 2:18-21, 4:21-23)! Not only the Temple, but Jesus also fulfilled the Old Testament Feasts (John 7:37-39). Believers are fulfilling the Old Testament by being born of the spirit. Also, the Passover festival and the sacrificial lamb are fulfilled in Christ because He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world and there is no longer any need for a Passover. He is our Passover (John 1:29, I Cor. 5:7). Jesus is the High Priest of high priests (Heb. 4:14-15). We no longer sacrifice because Jesus is the eternal sacrifice for our sin (Heb. 9:11-15). All parts of Judaism are shadows of things that were to come. Shadows that could not be grasped, but the reality of them is found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 10:1)! Everything, including the manner of worship, changed when Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament. Christ fulfilled the Old Testament means of expressing and maintaining their relationship with God.

The Expression of Relationship with God Today
In the lives of believers living in the 21st century, how do we worship? This is the key question. Sacrifice is still necessary for worship to be authentic. Sacrifice is still the action that is the substance of our faith. From the beginning of the Law until now, this has not changed; but the object that is sacrificed has changed. No longer do we sacrifice lambs, bulls, or goats. The manner in which we worship, the expression of our relationship with God, is still through sacrifice; but, the sacrifice is now our lives in service (Rom. 12:1-2). As in the Old Testament economy (despite their ignorance), Christ’s sacrifice is still central to worship. Just as the Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice of our lives point back to Christ’s sacrifice. Christ is central to worship. This sacrifice of our life in service is rooted in love, and is directed towards the ones that God loves. By loving one another we are fulfilling the second greatest commandment. By sacrificing our lives for our neighbors, thus, loving them, we are loving God because God loves them.

God’s divine love towards us drives us to worship Him. But, we must come to worship Him on His terms—not on our own. Our response to His love, His sacrifice, is to sacrifice our lives, in love, to one another (I John 4:11, Rom 12:1-2).

Our Sacrifice Points to Christ
Our act of worship is to present our lives as living sacrifices—dead to self-life and to the pattern of this world.
“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Immediately following these verses, Paul begins to talk about spiritual gifts and the body of Christ. Why? He is teaching the Roman church how to worship! He is teaching them how to express their relationship with God.

Love is valuing another person more highly than yourself leading to action for the other person’s sake. God’s love and glory were displayed most visibly at the cross. Our greatest display of love toward God is through sacrificing our life in service to the one’s that God loves, because we love them and because we love God. Our motive for worship is love. Our worship to God is not based upon an emotion; rather, it is based upon our love for Him.

Our Worship
How does a believer know how to sacrifice or worship? Imitation. No longer is our example of how to live the Law; rather, it is Christ. Scripture gives the most awesome illustrations of worship. Entire sections of Scripture are devoted to showing the Christian how to worship. Ephesians 4-6 are about the Christian life and loving people. The following are examples of how we can love one another:
4:1-3 “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…
4:25-32 “Lay aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin…He who steals must steal no longer; but, rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome talk proceed from your mouth…Be kind to one another tenderhearted forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
5:1-22 Be imitators of God…walk in love…there must be no filthiness and silly talk or coarse jesting…Be not partakers [with sons of disobedience]…understand what the will of the Lord is…do not get drunk for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…
Then, the author of Ephesians begins addressing specific groups of people. He talks concerning wives and husbands, children and parents, masters and slaves, etc… Philippians 1-2 is about expressing our relationship with God and with our neighbors. First and Second Corinthians and the Gospels all show us how to live our lives in worship to God. The Scriptures teach believers how to worship the Lord, or express their relationship with the Lord, by sacrificing their lives for other people. The Scriptures teach us practical truths that instruct us on the principles of how to worship. Sacrificing for another person is showing your love for them, and by showing your love for other’s you are showing you love for God. Scripture teaches us the worthy sacrifice.

Therapist Chick, sorry about the verbosity and redundancy; but I wanted to make sure to communicate key points clearly. When you talk about "written on our hearts," you're talking about the Holy Spirit which only a few people in the OT experienced and only at key times. It is, however, a mistake to view to radical a distinction between the old and new testament; it is more biblical to see it as a continuation. Remember, Christ said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Christ didn't make it obsolete, he fulfilled it's high requirements and feasts. So, when we read things of the OT that we don't understand or think of in modern terms as archaic and incompassionate, it is often helpful to ask what does this teach us about God, Jesus Christ looked at through the eyes of a fulfilled law. When you said, "Perhaps after Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, more IS required of believers now" you're probably right. I hadn't thought about that however I would be cautious in adding to Scripture or tagging on righteous requirements for salvation.

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Thoughtful Readers Speak:
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JR, thank you for your response. I appreciate your time to explain. I DO think that NT believers have more individual responsibility to make moral and Godly decisions because we have continued, progressive revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. Without this, there is limited understanding. I'll keep reading. THANKS again.
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