A cleanheart isn’t merely forgiven, it’s also free of corruption, darkness and lies, inclined toward and aligned with its Creator, free to live according to His design. To the degree that our old man continues to dominate our lives, our heart isn’t clean, and we’re prisoners to sin (2Ti 2:25), which isn’t good. (He 12:14)
So, when King David found himself in a bad way with God, having sinned grevously, he asks God to create within him a clean heart (Ps 51:10); he wants a miracle, to be a new man.
God is certainly able to do this, yet one should know how God chooses to go about these things, to understand His methodology in such creative acts. It isn’t what we might think.
Our inclination may be to expect God to zap us such that we’re instantly holy, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the excitement. Yet this is a bit disingenuous; like claiming we desire physical cleanliness while neglecting to bathe.
So, while only God can perform miracles, He generally tends to work them through us as we engage with Him in His work. (Php 2:13) It’s no different here: He gives us instructions on how to clean our own hearts, and works the miracle of a clean heart in us as we obey Him, working through our obedience to cleanse us.
How then does God tell us to cleanse our own hearts, and put ourselves in order before God? By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and motives and constantly holding them up against the Word of God as a plumb line. (Ps 119:9) We hide God’s Word in our heart, so we know it from memory and are constantly thinking about it, so we won’t disobey Him through forgetfulness (De 26:13) or carelessness (Ps 119:11), then we commit to obeying all of it that we can as well as we can. (Ps 119:6)
This makes perfect sense, if we think about it for a bit. How can we even desire a clean heart if we’re still carelessly toying with sin, willing to disobey God, unconcerned about the trajectory of our lives? If we aren’t alert, paying attention, looking for where we might be missing His Way, asking God to help us, we’re acting as if we love darkness, as if we have no real interest in a clean heart.
So, though it’s true no one can fully cleanse their own heart (Pr 20:9), we can’t say that we even want a clean heart unless we’re willing to try, to take the first step and do what God says to do. As we try to obey Him He enables us, and does things in us that we can’t do for ourselves.
As we’re meditating on His word, as we find gaps between our behavior and God’s standard, we ask Him to quicken and enable us to align with Him (Ps 119:25), to make us go in the path of His commandments. (Ps 119:35) We ask Him to expose and correct the lies within us (Ps 119:29), asking Him for enabling grace whenever we need it. (He 4:16)
Since we’re seeking strength to do God’s will, we can be sure He hears us. (1Jn 5:14-15) We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice that He is transforming our character, step by step into the image of Christ. (Ro 5:2) This is how grace reigns in us through righteousness unto eternal life (Ro 5:21), enabling us to overcome sin. (1Jn 5:4)
To design is to envision an outcome and then purposelydetermine how to rearrange matter to achieve that outcome. The context might be physical, resulting in a tool or a machine, or metaphysical – symbols or imagery conveying meaning, or a combination of the two. Design is ultimately produced only by intelligence; unconscious matter cannot envision, purpose or determine.
Complexity is a measure of difficulty in design; more complex designs require more intelligence. When we encounter highly complex, inanimate designs we immediately recognize them, and we naturally ascribe the intelligent cause to humans; proposing any other cause is irrational.
Yet living creatures also have the appearance of profoundly complex and exquisite design, far beyond human capability, so it’s natural to infer the existence of a supreme Mind, a God, the Designer of the human mind, and to be inspired unto worship. (Ps 139:14)
But when we’re predisposed to rule out the possibility of a transcendent, intelligent Cause a priori, we invariably struggle with the apparent design of living creatures, desperately looking for a natural cause rather than a divine one.
Enter Charles Darwin, a mid-19th century biologist offering an explanation (Evolution) for how unintelligent processes might account for the appearance of design in Nature: organisms change (evolve) over time due to slight, random changes in offspring (Common Descent), some of which improve chances of survival; in competing for scarce resources, random (unintelligent) processes tend to eliminate inferior organisms (Natural Selection), favoring those more suitably adapted to their environment. Given sufficient time, Darwin supposed such processes might plausibly account for design throughout Nature.
Yet Darwin and his contemporaries were unable to explain how Evolution works at the required level of detail; they were clueless about the complex biological machinery of life because the tools enabling this level of research were unavailable until the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Now, we understand the molecular mechanism which drives Evolution: random anomalies (mutations) may occur during DNA replication which alter the structure of proteins, the building blocks of living cells; some of these changes are beneficial, helping offspring survive.
This explains, for example, the wide variety of Galapagos finches or African cichlids; Evolution nicely accounts for variations within a kind of organism (generally within the same family classification, micro-evolution), but it has not yet explained how the various kinds of organisms (family and above, macro-evolution) came to exist in the first place. Why not?
Differences between families of organisms, say between a finch and a swan, or between a cichlid and a shark, lie at the molecular level, in the myriad array of biological machines which make up living cells. Many of these machines are irreducibly complex: disabling any one of the component parts breaks the machine; such machines cannot be formed gradually, in a step-wise manner, continuously improving or altering their function: it’s all or nothing.
Consequently, after decades of intense research, scientists hoping to find a naturalistic explanation for the apparent design of living systems find themselves at an impasse: mutations in DNA replication cannot reasonably account for the large differences between diverse kinds of biological machines. It’s like proposing that blueprints (DNA) for sewing machines came from haphazard copying errors (mutations) to blueprints for washing machines, one step at a time, such that each intermediate machine (none of which were ever actually observed) worked as well as or better than the prior one. It’s unthinkable, patently absurd.
It should come as no surprise then to find that, to date (early 2020), no scientific publication of any kind explains exactly how random rearrangements of DNA could reasonably account for the design of any irreducibly complex molecular machine in any living organism, not even the simplest of these machines. The reason is obvious: each one comprises many very complex proteins arranged in very specific ways to achieve very complex functions, much more complex than a sewing machine.
The chances of randomly forming a typical, useful protein molecule from scratch, even if all (20 or so) required types of components are present, compares to blindly selecting a particular atom from among all the atoms in the Milky Way galaxy.
Even if we start with a similar but fundamentally different kind of supposed parent machine, the time required to randomly generate just a handful of the numerous mutations needed to form the specific proteins required by any one of these complex biological machines would be astronomical. In other words, even the simplest of the biological systems is so extremely complex that it is inconceivable for even one of them to come into existence via Evolution.
This scientific impasse is not based on an absence of knowledge (God of the gaps), but on overwhelming biochemical evidence that is only becoming increasingly problematic for Evolution as we learn more about how living organisms work. No reasonable alternative theories have been proposed which explain the scientific data, and given the overwhelming nature of the evidence, we have no reason to ever expect a naturalistic explanation.
The only rational conclusion we can now derive from science is that every living thing is designed by a very powerful Mind. The entire body of scientific knowledge in biochemistry points to this conclusion; there is zero evidence for macro-evolution.
Divine design is now more evident in living things than is human design in inanimate things, which we readily accept where we’re free from crippling bias. Design is clearly seen everywhere, being understood by us all, whether we happen to like it or not. (Ro 1:20)
The ability to reliably distinguish between male and female is critical for healthy community; we’re to treat older men like fathers and younger men as brothers (1Ti 5:1), and women distinctly differently as mothers and sisters (2), so gender should be evident by appearance.
To ensure this, God tells women not to wear clothing which pertains to men, and men not to wear women’s clothing (De 22:5a); this requires us to design gender-specific clothing to help us easily determine gender. As we resist this principle we’re an abomination to God (b), so it’s evidently quite important to get gender-distinction right.
In light of this, how do we relate with men claiming to be women, and women claiming to be men? Acknowledging that God makes us male and female, and that He makes no mistakes, is a good place to begin. (Ge 5:2) Sharing this understanding with those who who are interested is certainly also appropriate. (1Pe 3:15) But is it consistent with the law of love to refer to a woman as he, or to a man as she? (Ro 13:10)
We must be very careful here: our speech should always reflect the nature of God in us (Co 4:6); we ought to say what we mean and mean what we say (Ja 5:12), speaking always in His name(Col 3:17), walking in His steps (1Pe 2:21), doing what He is doing as He lives in us. (Ga 2:20) We shouldn’t compromise in fear(Pr 29:25), nor align our walk with ungodliness (Ep 4:17), but always speak the truth in love. (Ep 4:15)
This doesn’t mean we say whatever we think to everyone we know, without any filter or consideration; not only is this impossible, it’s generally unloving and unwise. We shouldn’t correct those who’re unreceptive (Pr 9:8): give that which is holy only to seekers. (Mt 7:6) We should carefully weigh our words (Ps 39:1), and be more prone to listen than to preach. (Ja 1:19)
Yet when it comes to choosing our words we must own them, and be very deliberate and precise. (Mt 12:36) Using a word pertaining to a female to refer to a male is to expressly violate this basic principle of gender-distinction, akin to providing him a dress, heels, lipstick and jewelry, and helping him put it all on. It is explicitly conforming our behavior to support and encourage perversion, a mindset diametrically opposed to God’s design.
It is inconsistent with the law of love to encourage or enable a person in their own deception, comforting them in a lie they insist on believing. Every man and woman is so by God’s design, a design that’s perfect and good. To actively align our speech with a rejection of this design is to violate the dignity God has bestowed on us, which cannot be consistent with love. To be a friend of the world by conforming ourselves to it’s rebellion to avoid upsetting or offending with the truth is to be an enemy of God, if anything at all is. (Ja 4:4)
Looking for a gender-neutral way* to communicate is perhaps one way to avoid direct conflict; failing to express an opposing view via a neutral expression seems better than actually aligning with perversion. Yet, even this might be viewed as a compromise: when perversion cannot actually be entirely ignored and must be addressed in some way, would Jesus confront it or modify His behavior to accommodate it?
These matters are not easy to sort through, and every situation can be uniquely challenging. God help us navigate these complex issues, and give us wisdom and grace to honor Him!
The sabbath law includes a command to worksix days a week (Ex 20:9), so we should be looking to be productive every day except Saturday.
Working is therefore good for us on every other day, even if we live in a culture mistaking Sunday for sabbath, unless we’re causing weaker saints to stumble, to violate what they mistake to be the sabbath, thus wounding their conscience. (1Co 8:12) In that case we might need to be discrete about it; if we’re a bit creative we can likely figure out a way to worship and fellowship with others and also get some work done on Sunday, resting on Saturday as God commands.
We know work is good because God is good, He designed us to work before the Fall (Ge 2:15), and He proclaimed it to be good. (Ge 1:31)
We can also see in this command that God has a particular job for each one of us: He says, “do all thy work.” There is work that is ours, and work that is not. A large part of being successful in life is figuring out what we’re designed for, finding our calling, identifying the work God has given each of us uniquely to do. It is then that we can apply ourselves, training, equipping, disciplining and preparing ourselves (2Ti_2:21), honing our skills and talents to serve Him with confidence and joy, trusting Him for strength to overcome, and to accomplish (2Co 9:8) what He’s granted us to do. (Eph 6:6)
When we’re living according to our design, obeying and honoring God as well as we can, we’re free, satisfied as we fulfill our purpose, complete in Him. (Col 2:10) It is here that we find meaning and fulfillment. (Php 1:21)
Day after day, as we prayerfully seek to labor for our Lord, working as unto Him (Col 3:23-24), we pursue our destiny: to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:23) There is no higher calling than to please the One Who made us. (Col 1:10)
The first principle king Lemuel’s mother teaches him is: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” (Pr 31:3) A man devoting a disproportionate amount of strength to pursuing women is one thing; giving away his strength in the process is quite another, and seems to be the larger point in the instruction.
A strong, confident man is naturally attractive to women, and this is a good thing, encouraging men to be strong in body, soul and spirit. (1Co 16:13) God has designed men with this capability and tendency so they can protect and bless women, since women are the weaker gender. (1Pe 3:7) God commands men to pursue strength and develop it (1Co 16:13), so men ought not neglect, compromise or relinquish their strength. (Ps 84:7)
Men should bring their strength to any relationship, especially with a woman, rather than looking to women to strengthen them. Women want to draw strength from men, to sense their confidence and capability, to be able to depend on them, to be supported, defended and protected.
A weak, frail, incompetent man who refuses to strengthen himself as well as he can, sabotaging himself such that he depends on women for validation, does no one any favors in this; it is a perversion of God’s design. In looking for his strength, a woman may quickly sap what little he has, and find him unable to support and stabilize her in a crisis, or worse, find herself dominating and disrespecting him … causing the Word of God to be blasphemed (Tit 2:5) and frustrating them both. (Est 1:17-18)
When a man believes he’s weak without a woman’s affirmation, he buys into the lie that he’s not uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God, made directly in His image for a unique and significant purpose. This undermines his confidence, such that he becomes more fearful of women, more easily threatened and intimidated by them, and dependent on their acceptance in a way that defrauds them both of what God has designed him to be.
The truth is that Man is made in the image and glory of God differently than Woman, and this is good for both men and women. Man is made directly in the image of God (Ge 1:27); Woman is made in the image and glory of Man, in the image of God in Man: she is an image of an image of God. (1Co 11:7) This is intrinsic to God’s design, empowering a synergistic, interdependent one-flesh relationship between husband and wife which enables them to fulfill their mutual destiny together. (Ge 1:28) A man should respect this design, and guard his dignity here for both their sakes. (1Ti 2:11)
In pursuing strength, a wise man looks to God to strengthen him (Ps 18:32); he does not look to women. He is unashamed of involuntary weakness, and will routinely take stock of his particular aptitudes and capabilities, asking God to enable and quicken him (Ps 143:11), always growing stronger. (Pr 24:5) As he pursues God he finds dignity in God’s design, sufficiency in God’s grace(2Co 12:9), and power for his journeyin Christ. (Php 4:13)
Though unafraid to face his own weaknesses, a man ought not to seek weakness, voluntarily weakening himself, either by speaking so as to make himself appear inappropriately vulnerable or deficient, or by neglecting to discipline and exercise himself physically, mentally and emotionally. He should always act in a manner that engenders respect (Ec 10:1), both for himself and for others. (1Pe 2:17)
God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) This is true for all of us, for both men and women, but in a day of role-reversal corruption and proliferating anti-male sentiment, this reminder is particularly needful for men.
Some people are far away from the kingdom of God (Ps 73:27), and some are not. (Mk 12:34) What’s the difference?
Salvation is far from the wicked, because they’re not seeking God’s statutes. (Ps 119:155) They’re at enmity with God because they aren’t subject to His Law (Ro 8:7); their very nature opposes it. (Je 13:23)
Thinking we’re saved, or that we even want to be saved while we’re committed to sin is a contradiction; salvation is from sin (Mt 1:21), not in sin. (Ro 6:1-2) If we intend to sin and are unconcerned about it, we don’t want to be saved from sin at all — just from the consequences.
Coming to God implies wanting to obey Him, desiring to be aligned with Him, to live in intimate fellowship with Him (Jn 14:21); there’s no salvation apart from this. (He 12:14) Regenerate souls delight in God’s Law(Ro 7:22); we keep it as well as we can (Ps 119:94), and ask God to quicken us so we can obey the rest. (Ps 119:35-37)
Spiritual life produces obedience(1Pe 1:2) in those who are God’s workmanship (Ep 2:10); those who hope in God’s salvation do His commandments(Ps 119:166), obeying unto the transformation of their souls. (Ps 19:7) This is how we identify the children of God. (1Jn 3:10)
Let no one deceive us here (1Jn 3:7-8): unless we repent and turn away from our sin to God we perish. (Lk 13:3) Those who are willfully disobeying or neglecting any part of God’s Law as a manner of life have no hope of eternal life (1Jn 3:6); they’re self-deceived (Ja 1:22) and will be trodden down by God. (Ps 119:118) Those who are dismissing Torah wouldn’t be persuaded to seek God even if someone came back from the dead to persuade them. (Lk 16:31)
Fear of suffering eternally in Hell should move us (Jud 1:22-23) to seek the Lord earnestly, striving to enter the Way(Lk 13:23-24), until we know we have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) The infinite cost of failure here makes any other outcome entirely unacceptable to the rational soul.
But is Hell, the second death, actually eternal? What if, as some teach, Hell has an explicit finality to it, where souls don’t suffer forever but are rather extinguished, annihilated, such that they cease to exist? Wouldn’t that be more consistent with a loving God?
Annihilationism is the claim that as the wicked are destroyed (Mt 10:28) they cease to exist, that spiritual death is final and complete, an eradication of body, soul and spirit, producing a state of non-existence. The motive is to frame God as more reasonable and compassionate when eternal torment is not perceived to be justifiable. (Ro 11:33) After all, how could a loving God torture souls eternally?
To begin, observe that we can destroy something without annihilating it, say, by smashing a computer or a car and rendering it inoperative, incapable of fulfilling its intended purpose, forcing its components into an altered, unusable state.
Similarly, in death (separation of spirit and soul from body) spirit, soul and body continue to exist; none are annihilated. (Lk 16:22) So, verses including death and destroy do not, in themselves, imply Annihilationism.
Further, Annihilationism assumes sin has a finite degree (making infinite punishment unjust) and no benefit in eternal torment (making it unnecessary). But if Man’s unchecked sin is indeed infinite, in both intensity and duration, and if eternal suffering would bring glory to God, prompting worship in the righteous by uniquely revealing the nature of both God and Man, then Annihilationism is problematic. To verify this, let’s search the Scripture.
The Word states, as clearly as anything can be stated, that most souls will suffer consciously for eternity. (Re 14:11)This is not surprising, since we all, when left to ourselves, love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil. (Jn 3:19) This is deeply offensive and dishonoring to God. What should He do about it?
Conventional teaching has been that God angrily casts the wicked into a furnace of fire (Mt 13:42), consigning them there forever because they did not believe on Him in earthly life. (Jn 3:36) This punishment seems so harsh that many struggle to understand how this could possibly be consistent with God’s love and mercy, even if we see it in Scripture. Can anyone truly deservesuch an end?
How can God impose this kind of fiery punishment for eternity and yet be loving and just? It is impossible to rightly understand these kinds of things without the proper context; as with many other theological problems, the resolution lies in a full comprehension of the nature of Man.
Everlasting, infinite punishment would only be unjust if the wicked were not infinitely so, if their rebellion were finite in either intensity or duration. Yet, Annihiliationism would explicitly hide this reality from us, such that we could never experience the timeless nature of either God or Man. But isn’t this God’s explicit purpose in Creation, to reveal and glorify Himself? (Ro 9:22-23) If so, how then might eternal punishment reveal and glorify God?
When God has suffered the indignity of our sin long enough, suppose all He does is simply unveil Himself, showing us all Who He is and what He is like, unfiltered, exactly as He is. (Re 20:11) This will distill every place in the universe down to only one: the immediate presence of Almighty God. Infinite depravity will then begin to fully and intimately engage with infinite holiness, justiceand love.
This simple unveiling of God changes everything. Whatever is in God and of God is fulfilled and completed (Col 2:10), home at last, while all outside God is incapacitated (Mt 15:13), shaken to the core (He 12:27), unable to function as designed: destroyed.
As this climactic event unfolds, a permanent standoff develops: the wicked remain opposed to God and at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), while God remains infinitely holy, just and loving. These two natures are entirely irreconcilable; they cannot abide in harmony together, not even a little bit. Each side is absolutely intolerable to the other (Pr 11:20), and they clash with unfathomable violence and intensity. God’s indignant fury fills the wicked with terror(Na 1:6), yet there is no place to hide. The damned begin to suffer the real, ultimate consequence of their rebellion, destroyed by the very glory of the God they despise (2Th 1:9), the inevitable result of their own willful choices and nature.
Since God does not change (Ja 1:17), the only way this stalemate will ever end is if the wicked find it within themselves to repent and turn to God (Je 13:23), otherwise their punishment will indeed be everlasting(Mt 25:46), infinite in both degree and duration, according to their own nature. (Is 33:14)
So, as the wicked stubbornly continue in their unbridled rebellion, drowning in inextinguishable holy fire (Mk 9:43-44), they put their hatred for God on universal display, permanently showcasing themselves before God’s throne for the righteous to observe and contemplate. (Is 66:23-24) They are held by the cords of their own sin (Pr 5:22), in perpetual shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2)
In this state, what should God do? Must He annihilate His enemies in order to be loving and just?
What if the holy arms of a loving God remain forever open (Ro 10:21), even to those in Hell (Re 22:17), offering mercy and pardon to any who will repent and turn to Him? (Is 55:7) And what if we begin to observe, in age after incredible age, that the damned will never return to God (Ps 81:15), not a single one (Ps 14:2-3), no matter what immense suffering their own relentless, stubborn blasphemy (Re 16:9) continually draws down upon their own heads? (Pr 27:22) If God ever does do such a thing, and the wicked play their hand as predicted, who could ever rightly complain against Him? (Re_15:4)
And if God did annihilate His enemies, how would we ever know how infinitely evil human nature truly is (Je 17:9), when God gives us up to fully pursue our own way?
Perhaps it is only then, as we actually experience eternity itself, that we will be enabled to fathom more and more the infinitude of our God (Ps 145:3), to glory in His infinite mercy (Ps 103:11), to experience the true nature of unregenerate Man (Ro 8:7), and agree that it’s inexcusable. (Ro 1:20) Perhaps this will enable us to begin to perceive the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through His Son (Ep 2:7), as we explore the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ep 3:8)
The eternal, infinite, willful, voluntarily self-imposed suffering of the damned will be a continual, tangible reminder of what we all are like without God, and what we all deserve. There will be no self-glory in His presence. (1Co 1:29) We will never forget what our Father has done for us. (1Jn 3:1)
Life is suffering, and suffering is hard; apart from God’s restraining grace, pain and hardship often produce bitterness. (He 12:15) Fear that we’ll become resentful in our suffering is to doubt God will give us grace to overcome.
God is certainly able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24); He’s able to make all grace abound toward us, so that we’ll glorify Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)
This motivates us to pray for ourselves (Ps 119:25) and for each other (1Th 5:23), encouraging one another in the midst of suffering (He 12:12-13), that patience will have her perfect work in us (Ja 1:4), and that God will perfect us — establishing, strengthening and settling us. (1Pe 5:10)
Believers are saved by hope(Ro 8:24), delivered from worry and despair by our confident expectation that, in the midst of suffering, God will strengthen us to the praise of His Glory (Ep 1:12): this is what He’s chosenus for, and predestinated us unto. (Ep 1:11) We’re His workmanship, created by Him in Christ unto good works, in which God has predetermined us to walk. (Ep 2:10)
Once we understand the purpose of suffering, that God’s design is to glorify Himself in us through it, we rejoice in tribulation (Ro 5:3), knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. (Ja 1:2-3) Patiently enduring trial enables us to experience God’s faithfulness, and such experience produces hope. (Ro 5:4) God is faithful to sanctify us, and He will do it. (1Th 5:24)
Look for His smile in and through suffering; it’s only in being willing to die for Christ that we may experience the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)
One of the Ten Commandments is: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex 20:8) God’s telling us to remember a specific day of the week and set it apart, keep it special, dedicated for His intended purpose: this day is for rest. (Ex 20:11)
Noting the correct day is where we must begin; God sets apart the seventhday, Saturday, and calls it the sabbath day. (Ex 20:10) So, working on Saturday breaks the command; it’s inappropriate except under extenuating circumstances, where basic necessities, health or safety are at risk. (Mt 12:12) But God is calling us beyond simply resting on Sabbath: He tells us to remember it.
Remembering the sabbath is being systematic, intentional and deliberate about setting it apart; God’s telling us to think about it, anticipate it, prepare for it (Mk 15:42), plan for a complete change of pace. This is where the spirit of the command is critical: God hasn’t formally defined work, and this is no accident; what’s work for one soul isn’t for another.
Work varies by context, so we must careful and prayerful to get this right. For example, a consultant should intentionally forget about work on sabbath; going for a swim or a run, taking a hike or gardening a bit might be quite restful for a working mind on sabbath, but a manual laborer should focus more on physical rest. One who seldom cooks might enjoy making breakfast on sabbath, but a homemaker might prepare sabbath meals ahead to improve her sabbath rest.
While we must not be careless with the sabbath, treating it like any other day and doing whatever we like (Is 58:13), we also need to be careful not to make sabbath a burden, as did the Pharisees of old. (Mt 23:4) Becoming preoccupied, rigid and judgmental about what can and can’t be done on sabbath can destroy its spirit and purpose. Specifics are generally going to be a matter of individual conscience, and this is by design; we should each be careful to please our own master here. When the sabbath is no longer a delight, a true day of rest and peace unto our spirits and souls, we’re missing the whole point.
As a general rule or precept, we should stop laboring, pushing ourselves, doing what we normally do to provide for ourselves and those under our care. The daily grind, the routine, mundane chores and demands of life — these should be off-limits — so long as we aren’t violating the law of love: keeping sabbath shouldn’t cause us to neglect those in need. (Lk 13:15) Whatever facilitates rest and comfort for our selves, families and communities is within the spirit of sabbath.
Creatively obeying from the heart is how we find God’s heart in sabbath; He’s for our total health and well-being, and that’s why He made it. (Mk 2:27)
Christian liberty is God encouraging us to determine for ourselves how best to follow Him: we each stand or fall before our own Master. (Ro 14:4-5) He isn’t encouraging us to sin(Ro 6:15), to break His law (1Jn 3:4), but to apply His precepts in extra-biblical matters in ways we believe most pleases Him. It’s something He calls us to do from the heart as we follow Him, rather than blindly conforming to man-made tradition.
A very challenging scenario for early Christians was whether to eat food that might have been sacrificed to idols. (1Co 10:28-29) It wasn’t technically sinful, but many weaker souls didn’t understand, so extra-biblical discernment was required in each particular situation. When one was offered food in a public context, either in the open markets or at a particular feast, one couldn’t be sure if it had been sacrificed to an idol or not, and how others might view this.
For mature believers, knowing rituals can’t contaminate our food (1Co 8:4), Paul resolves this with a don’t ask policy (25); it isn’t actually a matter of sin since no food belongs to an idol. (26) But if someone points out that some food’s been dedicated to an idol, then abstain to avoid causing others with a weak conscience to stumble. (28) Love limits freedom for conscience sake, not for ourselves but for others.
Taken out of context, this principle might be abused to claim that God doesn’t care what we eat now; no matter what kind of food’s available – don’t worry about whether it’s God’s design for food, biblically clean, or not. After all, Paul does say in the same context, “All things are lawful for me.” (1Co 10:23)
Yet taking such principles literally in isolation produces absurdity. If “all things are lawful for me,” then murder, sodomy and blasphemy are fine now? Of course not! And even if we limit this to food, is cannibalism OK now? Or poisonous frogs, cockroaches and flies? Not at all. Contextually, it’s clear that Paul is saying every creature God has sanctified as food for us in His Word is lawful and good (1Ti 4:4-5), regardless what ritual has been performed over it.
When wrestling with passages like this, trying to understand the relevance of Torah in our lives, particularly dietary law, we must divide the word honestly, rightly harmonizing each text with the whole of scripture. It’s true that Paul doesn’t explicitly delineate how every single law in Torah is still relevant for both Jew and gentile, yet he shouldn’t have to: Jesus does, as clearly as it can be done – it’s all relevant for everyone for all time. (Mt 5:17-18) Saints are classified by our mind towards it (19), and all who break it as a manner of life are guilty without excuse. (Ro 3:19)
Paul never says Gentiles don’t have to obey certain parts of Torah, breaking God’s Law up into pieces, some of which are irrelevant. This can’t rightly be done (Ja 2:10); we get this mindset from those who’ve corrupted the Word. (2Co 2:17) Instead, Paul asserts that faith establishes Torah(Ro 3:31), and that it’s all good when used as God intended(1Ti 1:8), pointing out that our old man hates it (Ro 8:7) and our new man delightsin it. (Ro 7:22) Once we’re aligned with Paul, serving Torah(Ro 7:25), we won’t be asking which laws we mustobey, but which ones we’re allowed to.