THE FOUR FROGS
The New Covenant & Other Christians
New Covenant Christians are a great enigma to our brother and sister Christians. They react to us in many different ways and very rarely understand what Yahweh is doing among us. We do our best to act in the true fraternity of Christendom and offer the hand of fellowship. Only seldom is it accepted and this lack of brotherhood has often been a source of great sorrow to many of our members. Yet it is, in a way, inevitable, as I shall try to explain using a parable of Kahlil Gibran. It is something we have grown used to.
Here, brethren and sisters, is the problem of Christendom. Each Church, each denomination, each Messianic assembly, each group believes it has the whole truth. And then when a new revelation from heaven comes to the earth showing how the various parts of the truth unite into a whole, that new revelation is rejected.
"Four frogs sat upon a log that lay floating on the edge of a river. Suddenly the log was caught by the current and swept slowly down the stream. The frogs were delighted and absorbed, for never before had they sailed.
"At length the first frog spoke, and said: "This is indeed a most marvelous log. It moves as if alive. No such log was ever known before."
"Then the second frog spoke, and said: "Nay, my friend, the log is like other logs, and does not move. It is the river, that is walking to the sea, and carries us and the log with it."
"And the third frog spoke, and said: "It is neither the log nor the river that moves. The moving is in our thinking. For without thought nothing moves."
"And the three frogs began to wrangle about what was really moving. The quarrel grew hotter and louder, but they could not agree.
"Then they turned to the fourth frog, who up to this time had been listening attentively but holding his peace, and they asked his opinion.
"And the fourth frog said: "Each of you is right, and none of you is wrong. The moving is in the log and the water and our thinking also."
"And the three frogs became very angry, for none of them was willing to admit that his was not the whole truth, and that the other two were not wholly wrong.
"Then the strange thing happened. The three frogs got together and pushed the fourth frog off the log into the river."
The truth has always been here. Ever since the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ) opened His mouth and preached the Gospel of Salvation, the truth has been known among men. But what have they done with it? They have divided it up. They have emphasised one part at the expense of another. They have split off into parties each emphasising its own truth. One emphasises baptism, another the Pentecostal gifts, another the Name of God, another the importance of more scriptures and a living prophet, another the Saturday Sabbath, another after its founder, and so on. And then they name themselves after their distinctives -- Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnsesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, and so on. They have then gone off to fill the void created by their over-emphasis on one doctrine or another, and where have they turned to? Usually to pagan philosophy and religion. The result: a mass of confusion. And each then claims it has the truth. They then war against each other until one comes along with a vision of the whole and, like the three frogs who were too proud to admit that they did not have the whole truth, they bind together into an unholy alliance and cast the greater light into the river.
I can just see the Master Yah'shua (Lord Jesus) shaking His head as He said the words: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8)? And were the twelve apostles to return to the earth today, which church or messianic assembly do you think they would feel at home in? Would you see them participating in a long, ritualistic Catholic Mass or hopping up and down talking gibberish in some charismatic, evangelical Protestant group? Or would you find them in some Mormon meeting repeating parrot-fashion: "I know the Church is true, I know President so-and-so is a true prophet?" Perhaps you might find them knocking from door to door selling "Watchtower" magazines? Maybe you'd find them at some anti-cult meeting crying "devil" and "heretic"? Or going around threatening unbelievers with hell if they don't believe in God?
These, friends, are the three frogs quarrelling on their log. They are so consumed with zeal for their own rightness that they can't see the reproach they bring upon the Name of Christ. And into this argument we, as New Covenant Christians, have come, and this makes them very angry. If we leave them alone they ignore us, but if we speak they cry "devil".
Now this is indeed strange since we do not bring a new religious teaching. Actually, there is nothing that we have brought forth that may be said to be intrinsically "new". Indeed, all the Christians we have mentioned are happy with us at different times. The Lutherans are delighted that we accept the Apostle's Creed, the Baptists that we practice baptism by immersion, the Pentecostals that we acknowledge and practice the spiritual gifts, the Mormons that we believe in contemporary revelation, the Jehovah's Witnesses that we don't practice pagan customs, the Seventh Day Adventists that we acknowledge the Seventh-Day Sabbath, the Messianic Jews that we accept the Festivals. Then, after a while they say: "But that's our teaching" and become upset as though we had poached something off them.
People like to be distinct. They pride themselves in being distinct. They like to stand out. When I was in the Ukraine at a Baptist meeting, I asked the minister if they believed in tongue-speaking. "Oh, you'll have to go to the Pentecostals if you want that," and wouldn't discuss the subject further. It wasn't his province. Now usually the three frogs aren't fighting -- they have a kind of uneasy truce, at least in mainstream Protestantism -- they don't tear each other to pieces like they did in the early 1830's, I'm happy to say. Instead, a kind of arrangement has been made: "You stay in your niche, and I'll stay in mine." Instead they concentrate on tearing apart the "cults" -- the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Catholics, and anyone else they happen to disagree with.
Now we as New Covenant Christians object to something in almost every Christian church and Messianic assembly -- some more than others -- but we don't make it a practice to wage war on those who have big differences with us. Whilst we certainly believe that doctrine is important, we also take seriously the saying of Yah'shua (Jesus): "He who is not against us, is for us" (Luke 9:50). Thus we would call all of the groups I have mentioned, and more, "Christians", however much we might strongly disagree with some of them. Each has truth, and every time that truth enters into the heart of an unbeliever, a victory is scored for Christ. They may not have all the truth, and they may have much untruth, but some good is being done.
I believe a time is coming when all denominational barriers are going to disappear. No longer are evangelical Christians going to scream "heretic" at Mormons, and Mormons scream "apostate" at evangelical Christians. No longer is Protestant going to fight Catholic, and Catholic against Protestant calling each other a "sect" or a "cult". There has been far too much in-fighting amongst Christians when the world is crying out for a Saviour. God sees past the doctrinal squabbles and into the hearts of people. He is seeking a righteous, holy people who are full of love. He is seeking for those who will sacrifice all for the sake of the Kingdom.
I would rather see Christians unite out of love for a desperately unhappy mankind than in an "anti-" crusade against someone or something. In the last war there was the "Anti-Hitler Coalition", as the Soviets called it. American and Soviet fought side by side in a common cause against -- when the war was over, and Hitler was defeated, they fought against each other. In Somalia the different political groups joined together to oust the dictator Barre, and then turned on each other. The result was chaos. People are good at uniting against, but they have enormous problems uniting for.
I, and all of us calling ourselves New Covenant Christians, are for Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Gospel. I'm not concerned in my relationship with other Christians whether we see the Godhead in the same way, baptise in the same way, look upon the gifts of the Spirit in the same way, or see the "enemy" in the same way. My concern is that Christians who have been touched by the love of Yah'shua (Jesus) and want to help people should join together is spreading that love. Teaching people to get on with one another, teaching them to be for rather than against, is far more important than doctrinal squabbles. I'm all for healthy doctrinal debate so long as it does not divide the Body of Christ into warring parties. I'm not interested in anti-Jehovah's Witness campaigns, anti-Mormon campaigns, anti-this, anti-that campaigns against other Christians. New Covenant Christians aren't "cult bashers", whatever that means. My concern is that the light we have should infiltrate all Christians and Christian organisations, leavening them like the yeast in the lump of dough. I'll not force that light on them, nor condemn them if they do not receive it. I will condemn no one to hell. None of us should. Only God can make such judgments.
Am I, in saying these things, advocating a liberal, pluralist doctrine? By no means. New Covenant Christians have a very definitive doctrine and we have no intention of compromising it for the sake of any so-called "unity". Our unity with other Christians is based on love and the basics of the Apostles' Creed, and not on the minutae of theology. Nevertheless, we have an intricate and complex theology, and we want to share it with those who are seekers after truth. But with those who are close-minded, we remain silent. That is the policy of this ministry.
We will certainly speak against wrong theology but not in a spirit of railing accusation. We will denounce immorality, and do so strongly, for we make a distinction between ethics and theology. We will condemn abortion, promiscious sexuality, adultery, pornography, war-mongering, and all other evils, but we won't do it by shouting and screaming at the promulgators of these evils but try, through reason and love, to show them a better way. Such is the way of the New Covenant. Christians need to remember that any judgment we pass should be within our own house since that is our stewardship.
As those of you who are familiar with New Covenant Christians know, we have a very simple theology. We reserve the deeper mysteries for other times and places. Like the first Christians we want people to know the person of the resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) and to live His moral precepts. "If you love me, obey my commandments," He taught His disciples (John 14:15). That is what we aim to do.
I have a very simple approach to my religion. The New Testament contains some very deep theology which has divided Christians into many different theological camps. In part this is owed to Paul who was a brilliant theologian. He is rarely fully understood. Ordinary people find him quite hard to understand sometimes because he was addressing a particular people, namely, first century Jews, Greeks and Romans. It's not always easy for the sophisticated, scientific twentieth century man to understand him. Even learned scholars find him hard to fathom. I'm still trying to understand him.
Now I said that my faith was a simple faith. I, like many of you perhaps, have what is called a "red letter" edition of the Bible where all of Yah'shua's (Jesus's) own words are highlighted in red ink. My faith, rightly or wrongly, begins with the personal words of Yah'shua (Jesus). I build my faith and my life on what the Master personally said. And I do so because I believe they are the words of eternal life, succinct and to the point. Thousands of people were saved by them long before there were complex theologies and long before even the Bible came into existence. Modern Christians sometimes forget that the first Christians had no Bible, something hard for a fundamentalist Protestant to grasp. The first Christians Torah-observant Judahites and Gentiles who built further on the words of the Saviour and the communion they had with Yahweh through the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). It was that simple.
Our New Covenant fellowships are, I hope, like that. Our first line of witness are the words of the Master Yah'shua (Lord Jesus). We witness first and foremost of Yah'shua's (Jesus') own sayings; the interpretation of those words as made by the apostles come a firm second, however important. Yah'shua's (Jesus') own words are the authentic oral testimony of God's Only Son. They are the words which He Himself claimed He was simply repeating from what His Heavenly Father taught Him (John 8:28) within the context of a Torah-observant life. And yet we as a people are not built upon words alone for words are but a medium of communication, and there is a much higher medium. And what is that medium? It is the revelation of God. Peter got that message at Caesarea Philippi when he declared: "You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the Living Elohim (God)" (John 11:27; Mark 8:29; Matt.16:16).
Now, where did he get that testimony from? Was it from a Sunday School lesson? Was it from the Bible? Was it from a preacher? Was it from Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself? No, it was from none of these things. Yah'shua (Jesus) said to him: "Blessed are you, Simon BarJonas, for flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven" (Matt.16:17). And then note what He said, and note it all you Christians and Messianics: "Upon THIS rock -- upon the principle of divine revelation -- I will build My Messianic Community (Church)" (Matt.16:18).
Now, I'm not talking as the Mormons do about the Church being built up upon even more scriptures other than the Bible. This isn't what Yah'shua (Jesus) said at all. The Messianic Community (Church) isn't to be built upon one, two, three, or a hundred books of scripture. It is to built upon a direct relationship with God the Father, Yahweh, through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) the Son. The Messianic Assembly (Church) is built upon an inner KNOWING -- a knowing of the love of Elohim (God). That knowing isn't going to come from preachers like myself, or from teachers who indoctrinate you with theology. No, that knowledge is going to come from a personal experience with Yahweh Himself. Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not knocking preachers and teachers (if I were I wouldn't be up here now talking to you). The Body of Christ needs preachers and teachers in order to point people to the source of their knowing, namely Yah'shua (Jesus). That is our job. We are not the source of knowing ourselves, no more than the Bible or any other scripture is that source. Neither am I saying that you can believe whatever you want to -- God forbid! No. What I am saying is that you mustn't confuse a recording of a piece of music with the orchestra itself -- they're not the same.
You can't get to know me just by reading my sermons or my letters. It is only in a personal relationship that you can get to know me as a person. It is the same with God. You can't get to know God through reading the Bible and believing the words in it. You can only know Him through having a personal relationship with Him through prayer and divine communion. This is true Christianity. God is not the Bible, though listening to many Christians you would think that He was! The Bible is God's love letter to His people, a call to get to know Him personally.
How many times have you read articles by people, or letters written by them, and formulated an opinion that was so far off the mark that you were embarrassed when you met them in the flesh? I know I have! Our fantasy leads us into all sorts of strange pictures about people we've never met. How many Christian groups, denominations, or churches have been formed by people reading the Bible but not really knowing the author? Thousands! People have even murdered in the name of the Bible, practiced oppressive slavery in the name of the Bible, waged war in the name of the Bible. But they have rarely known its author as He really is.
Now many of you have heard me tell you the story of the psychologist who wrote a dry, stuffy book on psychology. A young women was given a copy by him once, read a few pages, got bored to tears, and then put it away on a shelf and forgot about it. Then she fell in love with him, married him and read the book from cover to cover. It was the most wonderful book she had ever read!
So it is with the Bible. You can't understand it or even use it, for that matter, without falling in love with the author. Only then do the words come alive. Without that love, the words almost are meaningless -- just words -- just shadows of something infinitely deeper, something concealed, something close yet far away.
And words can be, and will be, misinterpreted and misused. Recently I learned that one Christian group, known for its intolerance of other Christians, has just come up with the new doctrine that their members should "hate with all their souls" former members who have broken away from their group. True Christians can only recoil with shock when they here the Bible so flagrantly absused. And yet should we be surprised? South African apartheit was built on Bible teachings....teachings as interpreted by men.
As New Covenant Christians we are not too fond of worldly traditions. Neither was Yah'shua (Jesus). He criticised the Jews of his dayfor loving their traditions more than the Word of God (e.g. Mark 7:9). My dictionary defines a tradition as an opinion. We all have opinions, we wouldn't be humans if we didn't. What is an opinion? My dictionary says it is a "provisional conviction", a "judgment that cannot be proved". And yet far too many Christians go around with opinions as though they were Gospel law written on stone, condemning others who don't subscribe to them and consigning them to hell. How tragic! How intolerant! How un-Christian! I blush when I hear Christians behave in such a way. We should never let our unproven opinions stand in the way of our love for one another -- never.
My message to you today, brethen and sisters, is simple, and that message is taken from the red letters in my Bible and reads as follows:
May our Yahweh, the eternal Father, fill you with the love of the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ) as you obey His commandments. He promises you joy and a full life if you do. This is my testimnony, and the testimony of this people, in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
"The Son can do nothing by Himself, He does only what He sees the Father doing, and in the same way. For the Father loves the Son, and tells Him everything He is doing; and the Son will do far more awesome miracles than this man's healing. He will even raise from the dead anyone He wants to, just as His Father does. And the Father leaves all judgment of sin to the Son, so that everyone will honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. But if you refuse to honour God's Son, whem He sent to you, then you are certainly not honouring the Father.
"I say emphatically that anyone who listens to My message and believes in Elohim (God) who sent Me has eternal life, and will never be damned for his sins, but has already passed out of death into life....
"You search the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to Me. And yet you won't come to Me so that I can give you this life eternal. Your approval or disapproval means nothing to Me, for as I know so well you don't have God's love within you. I know, because I have come to you representing My Father and you refuse to welcome Me, though you readily enough receive those who aren't sent from Him, but represent only themselves. No wonder you can't believe! For you gladly honour each other, but you don't care about the honour that comes from the only God!" (John 5:24-27,39-44, Living Bible)
"I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Live within My love. When you obey Me you are living in My love, just as I obey My Father and live in His love. I have told you this that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow!" (John 15:9-11, Living Bible)
Adapted from a sermon given in Oslo, Norway, on 7 February 1993. Updated with Messianic terminology, on 9 December 2010
This page was created on 27 December 1997
Last updated on 9 December 2010
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