Chapter TwentyPERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
We now come to what I consider to be the heart of this book. If nothing you have read thus far has challenged any preconceived ideas or denominational bias you may have regarding Scripture or God’s work in the earth today, this section most certainly will. At this time, I would like to encourage you to take a moment, if you will, to pray and ask God to prepare your heart to receive what you are about to read in the following chapters with an open mind, for it is this portion of the book that will separate the individual who thinks he or she has a heart for the truth from the one who truly does. I realize that this is a rather bold statement to make, but I do hope that you will approach this segment prayerfully. Anyone can say that they seek truth, but oftentimes it turns out that the truth they seek must be congruent with what they already believe. As human beings, we tend to strive for consistency in our lives. When something threatens our sense of normalcy, whether it involves secular or spiritual matters, we tend to recoil. When faced with the possibility of having to let go deeply seated assumptions in order to entertain a different viewpoint, we can sometimes struggle with what is known in social psychology as “cognitive dissonance.” This is the distress created in one’s mind when the paradigm or belief system one has long taken for granted as true is suddenly challenged or turned upside-down by new evidence to the contrary. Most people will avoid cognitive dissonance at all cost. In such a state of mind, there are only two paths one can take. The first option allows one to ignore the facts and to continue placing one’s confidence in others who are supposedly smarter and more educated than we are. One can continue to place their confidence in those things that are more widely accepted and popular, or one can restrict one’s exposure to new information or opinion that is more in line with one’s convictions. Keep in mind that in order to do this, one must be more concerned with what one believes than with what may actually be true. The second option allows that uncomfortable cognitive dissonance to become a motivator to discover the truth, whatever it might be. In regard to religious or spiritual matters, it will motivate one to reconcile Scripture and to align one’s life with God’s word and thus walk in truth. Ideally, option number two should be the desire of our hearts as believers:
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6 KJV)
Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. (Psalm 86:11 KJV)
I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. (Psalm 119:30 KJV)
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24 KJV)
I will ask that when we begin to scrutinize some of our more widely accepted Christian convictions and traditions in light of what the Bible says that you will not just accept or reject anything at my say-so, but that you will prayerfully search out God’s word for yourself to verify that what I present to you is true. I would also hope that you have done this from the very beginning. If everything we have discussed in parts 1 and 2 is correct, then we are left at a crossroads with a decision to make. We must determine how we are going to respond to the information we now have. Does it warrant a change in lifestyle on our part? If so, what should that change look like?
To answer these questions accurately and biblically, we must approach them from a proper perspective; and in order to do this, we must begin by determining in our own hearts whether we are willing to tolerate and live with error or if biblical truth is going to be of the utmost importance to us. This is something that we must each resolve for ourselves. Now then, understanding that there is always the exception, we will proceed under the assumption that no one in their right mind would ever knowingly prefer error over truth. So let’s take a moment to discuss the subject of perspective as it has everything to do with our understanding of biblical truth.
According to the New World Dictionary, the word “perspective” means “a specific point of view in understanding or judging things or events, esp. one that shows them in their true relations to one another” or “the ability to see things in a true relationship.” The key phrase here is “true relationship.”
As believers, our faith and Judeo-Christian heritage stem from what was originally a Hebrew culture. When God called out from among the nations a people for Himself, He chose Israel. When God gave His Law at Mount Sinai, He gave it to Israel. When the Father sent His Son into the world to save sinners, He did so through Israel. When He commissioned His followers and sent them out to make disciples of all nations, He commissioned men and women of Israel. When God inspired men to write His word for the benefit of all mankind, He wrote through the holy prophets and apostles of Israel. Again, when God’s word was first proclaimed, taught, expounded, and interpreted, it was done through the apostles, prophets, and teachers of Israel, a Hebrew people.
One of the things that God’s people were commanded to do when it came to authenticating prophecy, substantiating a teaching, or establishing doctrine was to scrutinize all things against the truth of God’s word to verify whether it was indeed of God. They tested all things against the Tanach, the Hebrew Old Testament, according to the commandment of God. Thus, when our Lord appeared on the scene and began His ministry, He often instructed those listening to Him to test what He said against God’s word and frequently quoted the Tanach to establish His claims. His disciples did the same. However, somewhere early in ecclesiastical history, there occurred a paradigm shift in the Church’s approach to God’s word and the way it was interpreted. As the Hebrew disciples became a minority and non-Jews became the majority in the early Christian assemblies, the method of Scripture interpretation lost its Hebraic edge. Along with the early Roman persecution of Jews and the desire of many Gentile Church leaders (i.e., early Church Fathers) to separate themselves and their Christian congregations from all things Jewish, came the idea that the New Testament writings were now the new standard by which all religious doctrine and various matters of theology were to be substantiated. Rather than proving all things by the established truth of the Old Testament, as had been done for ages, all things were now scrutinized in light of the New. Over the centuries, this backward mode of Scripture interpretation and its subsequent outcome, as generally manifested in mainstream Church doctrines and institutionalized theology, has helped to create a worldwide community of believers whose lives and beliefs are now in many respects contrary to what the Bible teaches and to what God originally intended. This is not to suggest, by any means, that the New Testament is in any way not God-breathed, Holy Spirit–inspired Scripture. On the contrary, it most certainly is! Nor is it meant to imply that all believers everywhere around the globe are operating in error when it comes to implementing God’s word in their lives. My point is simply that the original community of believers understood Scripture much differently than we do today. Yes, they lived in a different place and time and times have changed, but it goes much deeper than that. No matter how far removed we get culturally or timewise from the original source, if we hope to understand the Bible correctly today, then we should seek to comprehend the original mind-set of its writers and certainly that of the Author who inspired it because He does not change. So when I speak of a proper perspective, I do not refer to mere personal preference or opinion as every one of us would have his or her own personal view regarding a variety of biblical topics and issues. Instead, I am suggesting the concept of returning to a more Hebraic method of interpreting Scripture. I propose what some might call a messianic perspective to the exposition of the Bible, with “messianic” simply meaning “things of the Messiah.” What believer in Jesus (Yeshua) would not want to better acquaint themselves with the things of their Messiah? That is, after all, part of the overall biblical concept of repentance—to return to the Messiah. Therefore, we must keep in mind that our Lord was not a Catholic priest, a Baptist preacher, or a Presbyterian minister. Neither was He a reverend in a Pentecostal church. He was a Hebrew Messiah. It is important that we understand this because there is often a difference between what commonly passes for truth in most of our churches today and what Scripture actually teaches. As we shall see, exploring God’s word and the Christian faith from a Hebraic perspective will go a long way in revealing the difference. . .