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CHURCH CORNER: Some things simply are not to be mixed

Mixing ingredients is one of the basic joys of discovery: apples and peanut butter, boys and fireworks, teenage drivers and vacant, snow-packed parking lots. There are few things better than warm bread, fresh out of the oven, or steaming cookies with a glass of whole milk.

That reminds me of the first time I ever cooked something by myself: boxed tapioca pudding. That is when I learned the difference between a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon. Even our dog wouldn’t touch the final product.

In hindsight, not everything mixed together automatically produces the desired result. All ingredients in a kitchen cupboard are capable of being mixed, but they are not all intended for indiscriminate co-mingling. Those ingredients typically located under the sink would be dangerous to mix with those items in the baking cupboard.

The Bible has a great deal to say about the dangers of idolatry, but perhaps the most subtle syncretism (mixing things that were not intended to be mixed) is the one that looks most godly. The early Christian church struggled mightily with something that infects much of Christianity right through to this day: mixing Old Covenant commands into New Covenant faith.

All Scripture is God-breathed, but not all historic agreements were established with the same purpose in mind. It is all God’s word, but there are guidelines for how to properly mix the instructions (a.k.a. “rightly divide the word of God”) in order to contribute toward a valid belief in God.

Unfortunately, it is common even today to hear of sincere believers mixing former commands like tithing, Sabbath observance and the Ten Commandments into New Covenant faith. Claiming former conditional promises like success, wealth, and perfect health are equally popular. According to the Apostle Paul, those who disregard the changes implemented by Jesus by fulfilling the Old and instituting the New are no longer capable of believing in the genuine gospel. In fact, they have become “alienated from Christ.” That makes this a very serious issue.

Those who continue to promote expectations from the previous covenant cannot simultaneously cling to the covenant offered through the blood of Jesus. They are oil and water; they are not designed to be mixed in practice. They both reference Christ, but their purposes and their binding impact on Christians are not the same. They cannot be rightly syncretized. In short, Old Covenant observance is incompatible with Christianity.

The covenant foundation for Christians is Jesus himself, along with the writings of the apostles and prophets. Even what we are to understand of God through the Old Testament Scriptures depends upon the New Covenant revelations, for only in Christ is biblical understanding made clear.

The good news is Christians are not under the law, but under grace! Jesus has become our perfect standard. It is upon him that we are to fix our eyes. It is by his spirit that we are to learn how to live holy. It is to him we are to syncretize our lives.

The best way to learn how to bake like an expert is to study under the masters.

And so we are reminded that in all things Jesus will have the supremacy!

Further detail on this subject can be reviewed in the book “Wineskins” by the author of this column, Kevin Graham.

 

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