Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till Heaven and Earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these Commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches Them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Looking at the Laws of the Old Testament, the Commandments of the New Testament, and the variety of opinions among Christians, confusion can overwhelm us. It can deter us from church, and more importantly, from Jesus--which is the enemy's chief goal.
Jewish tradition teaches 613 commandments.* One Christian ministry teaches 1050 commandments.** Consider the flavors of faith--each with different rules, often at odds: Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopal/ Anglican, Eastern Orthodoxy, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Amish, Quakers and about 41,000 more.***
(Side note: in typing the word 'denominations,' I kept mistyping; it came out 'demon-in-nations.' Hmmm. Ever heard the saying, 'The devil is in the details?' Much more so, God.)
So here's the thing: I believe Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures and released us from Old Testament Laws--unless they are repeated in the New Testament. 'Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the Law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor' (Galatians 3:23-25).
'For He Himself is our Peace, Who has made both One, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His Flesh the enmity, that is, the Law of Commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself One New Man from the Two, thus making peace' (Ephesians 2:14-16). 'For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes' (Romans 10:4).
Here's the next thing: I believe differences in the practice of faith can peacefully co-exist. 'Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind' (Romans 14:4-5).
So, if the rules of your faith do not match the rules of my faith, let's refocus: 'Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12:2). Because when it's all said and done, the flavor of our faith is far less important than the love we show beyond the walls of the church.
To Be Continued...
* 613 Jewish laws: http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm; http://www.aish.com/h/sh/se/48945081.html
** 1050 New Testament Commands: http://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands
*** Data on denominations: http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm
Helpful articles on how Jesus fulfilled the Law: http://www.gotquestions.org/abolish-fulfill-law.html; http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/how-christ-fulfilled-and-ended-the-old-testament-regime; http://www.cbcg.org/franklin/SA/SA_fullfilllaw.pdf
Declining church attendance: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/have-americans-turned-aga_b_1756788.html
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Sermon On The Mount series.