Conviction or Commandment Part 2

an article by Joel Allen

[Mar 7:5-9 KJV]5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for]doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Sometimes traditions can be beautiful and hold great significance and purpose to the believer but they are and NEVER will be commandment. Some traditions can be hurtful and even bring confusion such as those that are obviously Pagan and hold symbolic meaning to other gods. Christianizing or trying to take Pagan holidays and make them holy commanded observances is wrong. At best I believe that taking holidays like Christmas and Easter and making them about Jesus is no different than changing the lyrics to an old rock song to sing to God. Can some people find purpose and meaning in doing that sort of thing? Yes. I believe so. Many come to Christmas Eve services and Easter Sunday services and genuinely give their hearts to the Lord. That, however, does not make it God’s best for His covenant people. Just like that converted rock song that you used to sing about sex and drugs even though the lyrics may have been changed, it carries with it old memories and connections to things that are best left in the past. Some people feel very strongly convicted about keeping Christmas and Easter but remember that these are not God’s commandments. You can find even greater significance and purpose in God’s commanded feasts like Passover and Tabernacles. Unfortunately, these feasts are forgotten by most and replaced with Christian traditional holidays that are not commanded by YHVH. Now this is not an article about feasts so let’s forge on…

The question you have to ask yourself is what are the commandments of God and what do they say? Remember that the commandments of God are not grievous or burdensome:

[1Jo 5:3 KJV]3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

The moment we begin to add to the commandments and mixing in our personal convictions these commandments can become burdensome and a problem for people. The Torah was always meant to be simple so that the wood cutter and the theologian could both understand and keep His commandments. God made His Laws simple but some religious men have added and turned it into something quite different, making it frustrating for someone to try to walk this path.

[Deu 30:11-14 NLT]11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

For many in our western culture we are not taught the commandments of YHVH. Many actually believe that church doctrine and things created by the Catholic church are commandments from God Himself and they are surprised when they realize that they are not. Just like Deuteronomy 30 God’s commandments are meant to be simple so you should not have to go to a priest, pastor or rabbi to know what they are (I am not saying that these teachers are bad either). You simply open your bible and read it for yourself. Do your own research. Question everything. Set all tradition and conviction aside for a moment and just read God’s Word for what it plainly says. I had to do this when my wife and I started to question what the Sabbath day was all about. My head was full of convictions and traditions as I had grown up in the Christian church and that Sunday morning perspective was all that I had. Every time I would read a passage of scripture about the Sabbath day and it was very plain and simple yet my head argued against it with traditions of men. Which would prevail?

Sometimes convictions and personal judgments need to be made? There are times that the written word of God just doesn’t have a black and white answer to. In these cases I believe that through prayer and discernment you may find direction through the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things. Paul several times in his ministry had to make these judgments such as in 1 Corinthians:

[1Co 7:25 KJV]25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

Paul clearly stated that there wasn’t a black and white commandment from God so he gave his personal judgment on the matter, citing his relationship with the Lord as his foundation he rested on. Even in the days of Moses when the man was gathering sticks on the Sabbath day the people did not know what to do so they held the man and waited for God to speak a judgment in that moment:

[Num 15:32-34 ESV]32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.

I believe that we should strive to keep God’s commandments as often and in as much reverence as we can. I also believe that YHVH gives us freedom within that obedience lifestyle to make judgments, and add personal convictions and traditions as long as it does not replace or negate His laws and ways. Some may say that tradition is adding to the commandments of God which is forbidden in the Torah. Is that really what it says?

[Deu 4:2 ESV]2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

If we hold a strict interpretation to this then what is adding to God’s Word? Anything beyond the Torah or maybe anything beyond Deuteronomy 4? What about the rest of the Old Testament like Psalms and the Prophets? Is that adding to the Word? What about the New Testament? It’s interesting that the same warning shows up in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation:

[Rev 22:18-19 ESV]18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

So what does adding to the Word mean? I personally believe that it is when we teach convictions or traditions as commandments. The moment we say that we are breaking God’s commandments by breaking the tradition of the church or elders then we are adding to the commandment. It seems like a subtle difference but the implications are very severe. For instance, if we get bent out of shape because someone doesn’t light candles on the Sabbath day and say the traditional blessings and we begin to chastise that person as if they are breaking a commandment we are in fact adding to God’s commandments. Why can’t we just be excited that that person is trying to keep and honor the Sabbath day? This is when the commandments get heavy. This is when they get confusing and impossible to keep. Let’s keep tradition as tradition and commandment as commandment. Let’ s remember that we are to prefer one another not pressure one another. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

Conviction or Commandment Part 1

An article by Joel Allen

One of the biggest subjects I deal with as a Pastor is over the confusion of conviction or commandment. What do I mean by that you may ask? Well there are times that certain people feel really strongly about certain things, even things concerning faith and their interpretation of the Bible. For example; Someone may feel strongly that television should not be allowed in the home, due to rank commercials and shows that could portray violence, bad language, or sexual material. However another person may feel strongly that television is ok as long as safeguards are put in place to limit the exposure to the afore mentioned things. Who is right? Which of these people mentioned are breaking commandments of God? Is there a scripture in the Bible that states, “thou shalt not watch TV?” How do we make judgments about what we allow in our homes? Is this a conviction or a commandment of God?

Situations like these fall into a category I like to call convictions. There is nothing wrong with convictions. I have strong convictions for myself and my household as well. We as a family do not listen to secular or worldly music and in fact we only listen to Christian or Messianic Worship songs. Some other families we know do not have televisions in their home. Some do not allow internet access. Other common convictions I have encountered are:

  • How to keep the Sabbath day holy- Some people light candles and say blessings to open the Shabbat but some do not.
  • How to keep Feast Days- Aside from what the Bible plainly says about them, every family has different traditions and special things they like to do.
  • How to pray- Again besides some guidelines seen in the Bible we have no commandment as to how to pray only that we should pray.
  • How to worship God- We have some examples of worship and guidelines in the Bible but people worship God in different ways. Some like to dance, some play instruments, and yet there are so many ways to show your worship to God.
  • The use of doctors & medicine- Some people are on medications while others feel using doctors and medications are not the best course of action.
  • Being involved in politics & government- Some believe strongly that politics & government involvement is evil and we should not get involved while others feel just as strongly that it is our duty as believers to be active and vote and strive to better our communities.
  • Being involved in the military- Again strong feelings on both sides of the fence.

Whose right and whose wrong? Which opinion will God stand by? Well the fact of the matter is that it is these things that we fight about the most. The problem comes when one family has a strong conviction about something but another family may not and so a fight ensues throwing scriptures back and forth trying to sway the other family to their point of view. Sometimes good friends separate as a result of not agreeing about convictions. Should this be? If we can’t find the commandment in black and white should we be fighting and breaking off relationships? For instance is it really that important how you keep the Sabbath day holy or that you are actually trying to guard and cherish it?

Now that being said, commandment is commandment. Period. Keeping the Sabbath day holy and not profaning it, is not a conviction but a commandment. Commandment is something that we have to stand by no matter what. It is concrete and without compromise but convictions can change and that’s okay. I have had strong convictions about certain things and after a few years those convictions didn’t matter as much. Sin is the breaking of God’s commandments not breaking your personal convictions.

[1Jo 3:4 KJV] 4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Our convictions may be good and beneficial to us but they are not the definition for sin so why do we treat people as though they are sinning when they don’t agree with your conviction? Our diet is another area of contention as there are convictions galore about what is kosher and what is not. Some people spend more time reading labels than reading God’s word; more time worrying about physical diet than spiritual welfare. Should we eat organic non-GMO foods only? What about the person who can’t afford organic non-GMO foods? Even though it may be a healthier choice doesn’t make it commandment! So all of the disgusted looks to make that less fortunate person who can’t afford that healthy choice leave that person feeling dirty and almost like they are displeasing God. Remember a dispute that Yeshua and His disciples had with the Pharisees about eating with unwashed hands. This was a strong conviction by them that they were passionate about but they crossed the line when they accused Yeshua and His disciples as sinning. This was crossing the line making their conviction into God’s commandments.

[Mar 7:5-9 KJV] 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Let me make this very clear! I am not saying that tradition or even personal convictions are bad or evil. The problem comes when people, like the Scribes and Pharisees, begin treating their own traditions and convictions as “thus sayeth the Lord.” And worse yet you reject your fellow brother over this conviction while breaking the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. By this you are holding onto your conviction (even if it is a good habit or beneficial to you) while breaking God’s commandments. In Mark 7 the Greek word used for tradition is παράδοσις paradosis and this word is also used in Colossians 2:8

[Col 2:8 KJV] 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Not only did Yeshua spend a large portion of His ministry disputing people over convictions but the Apostle Paul (Shaul) also spent a large part of his ministry as well. In Romans 14 we read about a dispute between groups of people fighting about whether it was God’s will for us to eat only vegetables or meat as well. It’s funny how this chapter is used quite often to say that Paul advocated the eating of any kinds of meats including that which the Bible commands as unclean. This is not an argument about eating clean or unclean meats but about vegetarian diets versus eating clean meats. This was a struggle over convictions and not commandments. Paul also addresses conviction issues over special holidays or days revered over another. Clearly, as we can see throughout the entirety of the scripture that Paul is not advocating that it doesn’t matter what day the Sabbath is. He is addressing convictions about other national holidays or cultural holidays. For instance in the United States we celebrate the 4th of July as Independence Day while others may not celebrate. Since it is only a national holiday it is not commandment to keep or not to keep. Israel has many days that fit this description and although we are grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel we are not obligated by God to celebrate special days like Yom Hashoah or Tu B’shevat, or the fast days mentioned in Zechariah 7:5-6.
• The fast of the fourth month- remembering the destruction of the wall in Jerusalem
• The fast of the fifth month- remembering the burning of the great temple in Jerusalem
• The fast of the seventh month- remembering the killing of Gedaliah that sent them into exile into the nations
• The fast of the tenth month- remembering the siege of Jerusalem

If you feel you want to celebrate these days, GREAT! But don’t make others feel like they are less holy or somehow breaking God’s commandments if they don’t share your enthusiasm. Listen to Paul’s arguments and frustration:

I am convinced that the reason YHVH made the Biblical Feasts shadows is that there is only an outline in a shadow and no detail. Think about it, have you ever seen details in a shadow? So we can’t judge one another as to the details but that we stay in that shadow outline. I believe this is what Paul the Apostle was getting at in Colossians:

[Col 2:16-17 KJV] 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.

One thing is for sure though, we should be in the shadow of the Messiah. We should walk just as He walked by keeping the Sabbath day, the Feasts of the Lord, and keeping the Biblical diet. We also must remember that Yeshua is the substance and the details. In Him we breath and move and have our being. He is the Lord of the Sabbath . A large portion of His ministry on Earth was defending what He was doing on the Sabbath day and why He did not honor certain customs or convictions that the religious elite followed during that time. We have the same issues today and it consumes a large portion of the ministry time and effort. Ok I am going to have to close this article today so next week look out for the Part 2 of Conviction or Commandment. May YHVH’s wisdom guide you through these difficult subjects.