I have been a little stumped on what to write about for Yom Kippur. My week got hijacked by a burning need to understand covenant theologies vs. dispensational theologies and all the “progressive” versions of those theologies in between.
It wasn’t a completely unrelated pursuit.
Christians are often curious about how the Old Testament figures into salvation by grace through faith. This definitely raises the question of why I would be interested in writing about the Fall Feasts as someone saved under the New Covenant of grace, not justified by the law?
To be fair, I am going to write about the liturgical holidays too. Perhaps I have more of a thing for calendars than I do Levitical law!—and a thing for celebrating as many holidays as possible!
I do have a pretty interesting background theologically that gives me a peculiar love for both the Old and New Covenants.
I was born into a Portuguese Catholic family that converted to Pentecostalism. Yes, conversion is the appropriate word, just for information’s sake, because evangelicals of all denominations believe in a personal conversion moment where one is born again in Christ, which Catholics absolutely do not.
From Pentecostalism, my mother lead the charge as we journeyed into Messianic teachings, then into the fundamentals of Calvary Chapel born from the Jesus Movement, then into a charismatic inner healing ministry with prosperity doctrines as incidentals, then I personally branched out as a teenager to attend a Presbyterian church where I was first exposed to post-modern mysticism and spiritual formation disciplines. I also spent a lot of time singing at a Lutheran church in high school with all the High Church formalities and completed my “theological confusion studies” at Azusa Pacific University which in 2004 was just flirting with ecumenical and inclusive theologies where I visited the seeker-sensitive and emergent meccas– Saddleback and Mosaic– albeit unimpressed. I was impressed by the Billy Graham crusade that I went to as a freshman in college— I only went because Jars of Clay was playing at it. Witnessing one of Graham’s crusades kept the revivalist ember alive somewhere in my soul.
I also got to see Francis Chan an abundance of times in Azusa’s compulsary chapels. In reality he may as well have been my pastor in terms of percentage of sermons I sat under in my college years.
So what does all this have to do with Yom Kippur? I don’t know, maybe nothing!
But, you know, I think it does. The theologies and pastors I have sat under really all come from a heritage of restorationism in one way or another. Restorationism is that old Puritan desire to return to the biblical basics of the church.
The Restoration movement could ultimately be pinned on Luther and it has taken a multitude of names over the centuries. Now we call it emerging…(not my favorite term.)
We all have a sinking feeling, and perhaps a sincere concern, that we have added so many costumes, preoccupations, and presumptions to our religious practice that we render it void. I think many of us probably fear that our personal devotional lives have gone in the same way of becoming so pretentious that we are pretty useless to the cause of the Gospel.
See, I don’t feel that the Old Testament is the mold for clunky trappings and phony tall hats. I don’t think it’s antithetical to the New Testament. I think the Old Testament and it’s Old Covenant laws is Relationship With God For Dummies.
I have gleaned four core beliefs about God from tagging along on my mother’s spiritual sojourning. The following are unshakable foundations for how I read, interpret, and organize my understanding of the unity of the Bible:
- God does not change His mind. (Numbers 23:19)
- The physical and the spiritual are one reality, though mercifully, humans have a thin veil separating their perception of the spiritual activity in their physical reality. (Talk to anyone who has done hallucigenics, had a psychotic break, experiences prophetic dreams, has been a missionary, knows a Satanist, has read Genesis 3:7, knows anything about Eastern Orthodox or Catholic beliefs on the spiritual realm, has the unfortunate experience of having seen demons, or just entertains philosophical sytems other than Western scientific rationalism and materialism.) Based on the premise that we live in an equally spiritual and physical reality, I believe that God’s physical laws and promises are in no way separate from His spiritual laws and promises. In other words, Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham and have been grafted into the physical promises of Abraham along with his spiritual promises. My belief in both of these statements is ultimately grounded in that I see no significant difference, in the Old or New Testament, between how the physical and spiritual components of reality are treated.
- God is Triune in the Old and New Testaments. He did not become Triune over time, neither in revelation nor in relationship to humans. (Genesis 1, Judges 6, John 1-3.) Therefore, the Levitical laws were as much from the heart of Jesus as from the heart of the Father. (John 12: 44-50)
- God has always been more concerned with the heart’s condition than outward disciplines. That concept did not originate in Matthew 5– in fact Jesus turned up the heat on the law, judging the heart he made the law even harder to keep! Laws are to discipline the flesh. The more yielding a heart is the more free a person is from strict disciplines. (1 Samuel 15:22-23, Psalm 40:6, 1 Corinthians 8:1-10:13, and everything written about King David.)
Therefore, celebrating, and I do mean celebrating, any component of the Old Covenant does not automatically make a person a Hebrew Roots legalist. In my case, it’s just something I enjoy.
I don’t depend on the Day of Atonement to give me salvation for just one year. I depend on that atoning Good Friday long ago for my salvation forever.
I neither think that my works please God, nor do I disparage any work I do in pursuit of Him. I know where my eternal rest comes from. I know how it was that I became enrobed in righteousness. And remembering an earthly day of “solemn rest,” 1, 3, 7, or 52 sunsets a year as a foreshadowing of my Eternal Rest does not make me forget one iota that only faith pleases God.
By faith I know that God both demands sacrifice and is the sacrifice; that He simultaniously demands perfection and that He irrationally, literally, by choice sees me as perfect.
And if you choose to read Leviticus 23:26-32, regarding the institution of the Day of Atonement, let me give you the key words/phrases of faithful practice that are as applicable today as they were 3,000 years ago when the Torah was given:
- Be careful (1 Corinthians 16:13)
- Holy assembly (Hebrews 10:23-25)
- Deny yourselves (Matthew 16:24)
- Offerings of purification are made for you making you right with God (1 John 2:2)
- All who do not deny themselves will be cut off from God (Luke 9:24)
Be free in Jesus name. Even free enough to be unafraid of the Law– because in Jesus, it ain’t got nothing on you! (John 5:45)