The Law Fulfilled Part Two – You Shall Know Them By Their Beards

Jesus tells us, as recorded in Matthew 7:16, “You shall know them by their fruits.” It may seem silly or even disrespectful to rephrase His words to be about facial hair, but it is actually a serious issue. Does true fruit include external religious practices? If so, then my HRM friends are set, because they have great beards. Some even have glorious beards, to which they add tzitzit (tassels on the corners of their garments), and other things like phylacteries (little boxes containing words of The Law tied to themselves), unmixed textiles, etc. To these they add observances of holy days, dietary laws, etc.

My HRM friends teach that the Scriptures say that we must keep all of the written Laws of God, “every word of YHWH,” at least those that we are able to keep. They don’t really mean every word. Of course men cannot keep any laws meant for women, and vice versa. Nor can we keep the ceremonial laws because we don’t live in a time or a place with a tabernacle, or the temple that replaced it, nor do we have a priesthood, not to mention that Jesus is the final priest and the final sacrifice made, “Once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Of course we can’t keep any of the laws dealing with the specific place and time of ancient Israel, because we don’t live in ancient Israel. And of course we can’t keep any of the laws dealing with slaves or indentured servants or oxen, because we do not live in ancient Israel, and most of us do not live in agrarian economies. All that really remains after we strip away all the things from ancient Israel in the Promised Land, is what is commonly referred to as the “moral law,” and a few pieces of the Jewish religion, namely the dietary laws, the holy days, unmixed textiles, tzitzit, etc. …and beards.

(Note: I have worn a beard continuously for nearly 20 years and I have, at times, let it grow long. I am not taking this line of argument because I oppose facial hair. I am taking it because it works well to illustrate my points.)

God has blessed me with the honor of spending time in deep fellowship with followers of Jesus from almost every culture of the world, and I have spent significant time walking alongside believers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Looking at the demographics of the followers of Jesus on the planet today, it is not a stretch to say that the majority of them cannot grow beards. My HRM friends would quickly reply that if these believers cannot grow beards, then just like women, they don’t need to worry about not “trimming the corners” (Leviticus 19:27) of beards they don’t have. This is a fair answer, but I believe that the beard issue points to something much larger. It is one of many evidences that the religion of ancient Israel was not intended to continue beyond the time of ancient Israel, because for one thing, it is not suited to every nation, tribe, and tongue, in every part of the world. But even more importantly, an attitude of rule-keeping is not suited to the new way of being we have in the Kingdom of God.

The Narrative of the Law

As I understand it, the HRM see the Old Testament and the New Testament as two parts of a continuous revelation to mankind. In this, the teachings of Jesus build upon the teachings of Moses, and all of it is for us today. After all, both collections of writings are most commonly bound into one book, leading one to think this. Jim Staley, a HRM teacher who emphasizes that Christians are under the Law of Moses, often makes the statement, “We read the front of the book,” with the implication that everything between the covers of our bibles has equal weight and application to our lives today (and also the implication that anyone who disagrees with him, doesn’t read the “front of the book”). After all, Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. Therefore Jesus was the one who gave us the Law of Moses. The problem with this approach is that it ignores the historical context surrounding the Scriptures.

The traditional approach is to logically divide the Law of Moses into groups of laws; moral, civil, and ceremonial. Moral laws are timeless truths such as the Ten Commandments and, even more concise, love your God and love your neighbor. Civil laws cover criminal justice, economics, and land. For example; an eye for an eye, canceling debts every seven years, and matters of the Promised Land. Finally, the ceremonial laws deal with the religion of ancient Israel. These distinctions are important because in them we can see a way in which some of the laws might apply to Jesus followers today such as do not murder; while some laws do not, such as the ceremonial laws which were fulfilled in Jesus. But this approach suffers two problems. First it is a list-making approach, seeking to define the New List for New Testament believers, which is a fleshly mindset. Second, there is no direct Scriptural guidance for creating the groups of laws.

The proper interpretation of Old Testament Law must include the historical and covenantal (or theological) context in which it occurs. It means that the 613 laws were given in a specific historical context. They were the terms of a covenant between God and the ancient Israelites in the Promised Land. We are not those people, we are not in that time, we are not in the Promised Land, and that is not the nature of the Spiritual Kingdom of God. Truly, this is the implication of Luke 16:16 (and Matthew 11:12-13) which states that the Law and the Prophets were preached until John (the Baptist), but now the Kingdom of God is preached. Where does that leave us? How does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 apply if the Law of Moses is “out of context” for us?

All Scripture [and for Timothy, these were the OT Scriptures] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Scholars propose that the proper interpretation of Old Testament Law is principlism, which is to “discover the timeless truth beneath its cultural husk.” Jesus used this method in answer to the Pharisees when they accused Him of breaking Exodus 34:21 on that Sabbath when the disciples picked grain. Jesus did not respond to their accusations by reinterpreting the Law, or citing another Law that takes precedence, or by pointing out the man-defined “fences” that had been built up around the original Law. Instead, He referred to a story of David from 1 Samuel 21:1-9. Hays says, “In essence the Pharisees criticized Him with the details of the Law [and the fences], but Jesus answered them with principles drawn from narrative.”

Another great example of this is when Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well. What is the spiritual narrative of humanity up to this point? Religion. As soon as the woman realized that Jesus was speaking about spiritual things, her conversation turned to religion. But instead of correcting her erroneous religious views (the Samaritans worshiped on Mt. Gerizim instead of the temple), Jesus acknowledged her views, affirmed that the Jewish religion has been the true one–because the Kingdom of God is its fulfillment–then proceeded to go beyond them both with the spiritual narrative of the Kingdom where true worshippers will be filled with living water that wells up inside them and spills out. Jesus had the perfect opportunity to reaffirm and purify the Jewish religion for this woman. Instead, He said that neither her religion, nor the Jewish religion was going to be true worship in the Kingdom. To see this paradigm shift in the source of true righteousness is to see through all religions. Jesus did not come to found a new religion called “Christianity,” and anyone else that comes along with a revised and “correct” religion such as Muhammed, Ali Nuri, or Joseph Smith, is already on the wrong track.

We definitely need to study and understand the Old Testament in order to properly understand its fulfillment in the New Testament. As for how it can apply to us today as born again citizens of the Kingdom of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will help us understand the principles to be found in the Old Testament, and how they apply in a timeless and universal way. This is how the followers of Jesus studied the Old Testament even before there was a written New Testament.

By Bearing His Fruit, We Keep the Moral Law – Not Religious Observances

While there are no Bible verses that bluntly categorize Law, the idea is all over the New Testament. Consider the following verses from Galatians 5.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, trimmed beards or shaved faces, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, big beards, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:16-23 modified to make a point)

Intuitively we can see that beards are clearly in a different category (“things like these”) than any of the negative or positive things that Paul lists. This is because the Kingdom of God, and our role in it, is spiritual. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and He leads us into genuine spiritual righteousness that looks the same for all His children across time, place, language, genetics, and culture–because it is an inward righteousness, a “moral” righteousness. Again the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. There is a paradigm shift from physical, earthly things to spiritual and heavenly things. Just as the administration of the kingdom is spiritual and our membership is spiritual, so is our worship spiritual. The physical things of the kingdom of Israel were merely the shadows of the spiritual realities that now apply to all cultures.

Insofar as our piety affects our righteous living, it is supposed to be invisible. Consider Matthew 6 where Jesus tells us to give to the poor, to pray, and to fast secretly. This is because the Only One to Whom these things matter, or with Whom we have communion in prayer, sees what we do in secret. We know this secret piety pleases God because He rewards us for it. But if it is true that we are still to practice the external observances of the ancient Jewish religion in order to please God, then it would be as if Jesus also said,

“Beware of growing your beard before men to be noticed by them…therefore when you grow your beard, grow it in secret, and your Father who sees your righteous beard in secret, will reward you.”

This silly and contradictory statement illustrates again that righteousness in the Kingdom of God is not of fleshly observances, but of relationship with God, resulting in continuous spiritual renewal.

Set Apart – Is This Our Doing or God’s?

The religion of Israel was given for many reasons, but probably the most important reason for the external observances such as beards (and diet, and days, etc.), is to set them apart from the cultures around them (Leviticus 20:26). The ancient Israelites, who are genetically enabled to grow full beards, were to let them grow in order to make them distinct from the nations around them.

Jesus says in Luke 16:16 that the Law and the Prophets were preached until John, but now the Kingdom of God is being preached. In other words, there is something new that has come with the Kingdom of God, and that new thing is embodied in born again followers of Jesus who have “a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well. He also told her that religion had ended when He said “neither on this mountain (the Samaritan religion) nor in Jerusalem (the Jewish religion).” Since the Jewish religion ended (see list below) with the coming of the Kingdom of God, how are we to be set apart?

Our set-apartness comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, from Jesus and the Father making their abode within us, and as we abide in Jesus the Vine, He causes His fruit to come out of us. People experience this fruit, this spring of living water, as it spills out onto them. For example, a coworker may be struck by a believer’s response to a work conflict and ask, “How could you handle that situation with such peace? You looked positively joyful when you responded to the attack in love. Where did you get patience like that?” (This is taken from an actual experience, so it’s not hypothetical.) And the believer would respond, “Normally, I would have lashed out and responded in kind, but a few years ago I met Jesus and His Holy Spirit came into me and these things, the peace, joy, love, patience, etc., spring up out of me…because I am full of Him.”

Imagine the same scenario but with a bearded twist. “A few years ago…and these things, the peace, joy, love, patience, and this glorious beard, sprang up out of me…because I am full of Him.” The coworker would rightly wonder what beards had to do with love, joy, peace, patience, etc. But if we are required to keep the ancient Jewish religion in order to be pleasing to God, then the beard is just as important as the fruit of Galatians 5:22. Furthermore, the beard would be as unexpected and miraculous to the believer as the supernatural love, joy, peace, etc. “Wow! This beard just came out of me!”

This may seem like a straw man argument. But the issue is that the HRM believes that not only are we still supposed to practice the ancient Jewish religion, but that we are required to do so. Therefore, to not grow a beard is sin!

But this illuminates the fundamental paradigm shift between what was preached until John and what is now preached–the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:16). This is it! To not be loving and joyful and peaceful and patient is certainly sinful. But the reason it is sinful is because the person is not full of Jesus, i.e. not born again. Where does righteousness come from anyway? Paul’s point in Galatians 5, and Jesus’ point in Matthew 25 (the sheep and the goats), and His point in John 15, and truly the point of being born again, is that Kingdom righteousness consists of fruits that grow out of us naturally when we are born again and filled with the Spirit. This becomes obvious when we sit down and try to be peaceful, or try to be patient, or try to have joy in the midst of unspeakable suffering. Religious observance is something we are able to do in our own strength, but true righteousness is impossible. It must come from God as His fruit growing out of our intimate, secret, born-again relationship with Him. This is a righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), because it must come from God Himself. Beards and spiritual fruit are two entirely different categories of things and they come from two entirely different directions, one from our flesh, and one from His Spirit.

This is what Paul is talking about with the “mind set on the flesh” vs. the “mind set on the Spirit” in Romans 8. This is what Paul is talking about when he says, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ,” in Philippians 3:9. It’s noteworthy that he is not talking specifically about the “Law” but rather the “law.” The issue is not with the Law of Moses, as if there is now a Law of Jesus we must obey, but the issue is with the idea of rule-keeping as righteousness.

Can a person who tries to follow the requirements of the ancient Jewish religion be born again, filled with the Spirit, and exude the fruits of the Spirit onto others? Of course! I am not suggesting that religious observance must negate the life of the Spirit. But I am suggesting that our religious observances, no matter what they are (ancient Judaism or Catholicism or Protestantism), are not moral, are not “required” by God to please Him, or walk with Him, or most importantly, for Him to bear fruit through us. How do I know this? I know it by how…

      1. Religious observance of any kind is conspicuously missing from the NT descriptions of spiritual fruit (the vine, the parable of sheep and goats, Galatians, James’s description of true religion, and myriad more)
      2. The mindset (Romans 8) of the Kingdom of God is spiritual in nature
      3. The heart of the ancient Jewish religion was fulfilled/completed/made obsolete (Hebrews) by the cross and the tearing of the veil (Matthew). What happens when you tear the heart out of a living thing? All of it comes to an end.
      4. Jesus tells the woman at the well that true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth and not through religion, neither her religion nor the Jewish religion (John 4)
      5. Paul says that the Law, which embodies the Jewish religion, was only in effect until Christ (Galatians 3:16) This echoes Luke 16:16.
      6. The Kingdom is for all cultures in all times (Genesis 12, 18, 22, Revelation 7:9), even for those men who cannot grow beards. (It is not a xenophobic gospel that wants to eliminate all cultural distinctions and languages and make everyone speak Hebrew and pretend to be Jewish.)
      7. And so much more…

There is a real danger in all of us (in me at least) to find our comfort and direction in religious observance, rather than in the often uncomfortable place of relying solely on our quiet God–our God Who only rewards us if we seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). He desires us to find our comfort in secret piety (which is the reward Jesus promises in Matthew 6) and to rely upon the dynamic leading of the Spirit for our moment to moment direction. And there is real danger of losing sight of salvation itself (Galatians) by focusing on “our righteousness” as opposed to His righteousness. To avoid these dangers is why God emphatically brought an end to the ancient Jewish religion on the cross, in the tearing of the veil, and finally in the total destruction of the temple.

The ancient Jewish religion had to end because it embodies the “observance” mindset, which is coming from the direction of the flesh (“I can do righteousness”), and not from the direction of trust in His indwelling Spirit (“I cannot do righteousness in and of myself”). Furthermore, it is culturally ill-fitted to all the nations of every tribe and tongue. Can both I and my brother from Vietnam grow beards? No. Can both I and my brother from Vietnam be filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore overflow the fruits of the Spirit onto others. Absolutely.

In summary, in the Kingdom, as born again ones, we are not set apart by what we can do for God, but by what He has done and is doing in us.

The Kingdom of God is Spiritual

The heart of the ancient Jewish religion consists of the sacrifices, the priestly service, and the temple, which are commonly (and logically) referred to as the “ceremonial” parts of the Law of Moses. The sacrifices, mediated by the priests, were the way in which the ancient Israelite was to deal with sin. The tabernacle, later replaced by the temple, contained the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelled, and which was accessible only to the high priest and only once a year. The common person did not have access to God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.

Now Jesus is our perfect High Priest, of the very highest order, Who offered Himself as the “once for all” final sacrifice, bringing the entire sacrificial system to completion. It was not abolished, it was completed. It served its intended purpose and now that song has finished playing. Likewise, the Holy of Holies in the temple was opened for every common person when the curtain was torn from top to bottom, i.e. without human hands.

Because of these events, the writer of Hebrews says we can enter into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-22). How can we do this? Obviously he is not referring to a physical thing. It has been disconnected from the ancient Jewish religion so that anyone, anywhere, at any time of day, in any language, without a sacrifice, without a priest, can enter into the very real presence of God. To enter into the Holy of Holies is now a spiritual reality.

The most well known physical mark of the ancient Jewish religion is circumcision, and yet in the Kingdom of God, we have a spiritual, non-physical circumcision that is “not made with human hands.” (Romans 2:28-29, Colossians 2:11, etc.) Indeed, this spiritual circumcision is just what was prophesied. Our circumcision in the Kingdom of God is now a spiritual reality.

The greatest physical public monument to the ancient Jewish religion was the temple. It was the very center of worship such that people came from all over the known world to worship God there. And yet, even after the physical destruction of the temple, we learn that it still exists but in a new form, a spiritual form made up of spiritual stones, and that God dwells within it. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 2:22, 1 Peter 2:5) The temple is now a spiritual reality.

Our lives in the Kingdom of God are spiritual realities. Indeed, this is the central narrative of the Gospels. Jesus is continually pointing the disciples to the spiritual coming of the Kingdom. In John 3, Nicodemus is thinking of physical realities and Jesus points him beyond to the spiritual, from physical birth to spiritual birth. In John 4, Jesus does the same thing with the woman at the well, from physical water, to spiritual water. In John 15 Jesus describes our lives as branches on the vine–no, part of Himself, the Vine. What can this be other than a spiritual reality? And the list goes on and on, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” “The Kingdom is within/among you,” we are new creatures in Christ (but our physical bodies are the same), we have been buried with Him (but not actually physically), crucified with Him (spiritually), and many more. Simply, the Kingdom of God is spiritual, not physical.

What then is the proof of these spiritual realities in us? My HRM friends would say that the obedience of the beard is physical proof of the spiritual reality. Indeed, one time when discussing this topic, one said, “Show me how to not murder…spiritually. To obey the sixth commandment requires physical obedience.” Jesus addresses this in Matthew 5 where He describes (in the negative) a person who does not murder because he does not hate, and this reveals the glorious and beautiful truth of being born again. The miraculous proof of the spiritual reality of being born again is that something actually (in a sense, physically) happens in a person’s heart. Just like the Creator of the universe, who is spirit in nature (John 4:24), intersected the physical timeline of human history in the man Jesus, this meeting of spiritual and physical occurs in every person that becomes a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Once this miracle occurs, a person has a completely different set of motivations and is filled with a supernatural love for his neighbor such that disobeying the sixth commandment becomes impossible. Obeying the fourth commandment becomes natural because our entire being is at rest as we trust in God, and the Spirit leads our physical bodies to appropriate, well needed rest roughly once a week. And so on with the rest of God’s commands, which are obeyed in spirit without even thinking about it.

When a person is born again, righteousness comes out of him from the inside, because of Who dwells there. The direction of obedience has changed from “I can do it,” to “I can do nothing apart from You God.” It is true that the struggle between the physical and the spiritual realities in the born again man continue. To keep oneself focused on the spiritual reality requires discipline. Discipline is obedience. The HRM believes that obedience is to the Torah, because it was carefully spelled out by the agency of God Himself. I agree on the origin of the Law, but He gave it to the ancient Jewish people, living in the promised land, and it was preached until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). Since we are not those people, at that time, nor in that place, nor in that kingdom, what does obedience look like for the born again citizen of the Kingdom of God?

The obedience of the born again man is best described in John 15, where Jesus tells us to abide in Him. If our physical obedience to the spiritual realities comes out of us naturally, then it follows that the “work” we must do is to remain filled with the Source of Living Water, to remain plugged into the Vine; for apart from Him, we can do nothing. To abide in Christ is a lifelong pursuit, and the subject of many excellent books such as Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ, Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor’s Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, and A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, and many more.

Do Not Go Back Under Religious Duty

With this picture of the nature of righteousness in mind, Paul’s letter to the Galatians becomes crystal clear. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2) Indeed, which law do we obey to become born-again and filled with the Spirit? There is no such law, which could explain some of Nicodemus’ perplexity in John 3. Perhaps Nicodemus had come to Jesus that night to hear the Rabbi (John 3:2) expound upon the Law. Instead, Jesus opened his mind (blew his mind) to an entirely different way of being, and this way of being is the only way into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Where is this found in the Law of Moses, or in any list of religious rules? Nowhere. It is a completely different way of being, a completely different mindset.

So if we have a completely different way of being and a completely different mindset, why should we try to bolt on an old way of being and an old mindset? Does God even desire to relate to us that way, now that the veil of the Temple has been torn, and now that the once-for-all sacrifice has been made? (In other words, now that the Jewish religion is over.) Paul asks this of the Galatians in the next verse, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?…Does He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?” (Galatians 3:3-6) Which law do we obey to hear God’s voice? Which law do we obey to prophesy? Which law do we obey to heal the sick? Again, the new life in the Kingdom of God is a totally different paradigm than the old life of religious observance, and Paul warns us about the dangers of mixing the two.

Why Am I Pursuing This Discussion? What Do I Hope to Gain?

You may wonder what I hope to gain from all this study. It is very clear that I and my HRM friends have hermeneutical lenses that determine how we understand verses like 1 John 5:3. I don’t think that I am going to convince my friends to think otherwise, and they certainly have not been convincing to me. So what is the purpose of such a long discussion if not to win “converts” to my point of view?

      1. First and foremost, studying and writing about these things have been an act of worship as I gain more understanding of His Kingdom, and what He has done for humanity, and in me. The subject of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the born again children of the King just gets deeper and the water tastes sweeter. Wow!
      2. I know my HRM friends have a strong desire to love God. Indeed, their passion for obedience is born out of the desire to be 100% sold out to God. I am inspired by that, and I want that to describe me too. These discussions inspire me to get on my knees and seek all that God has for me.
      3. God is gracious toward us in our limited understanding, and so we should extend that grace to others who see things differently. I hope through these discussions that Bo, and my other HRM friends will grant that grace to me, and see that my understanding is not shallow and is “honestly come by,” to quote my HRM friend.
      4. If we can see each other through the eyes of grace, then I would hope to find common ground so that we can fellowship with one another more often.
      5. Increase my love for my HRM friends as we work through these things and as I pray for God’s blessings on them.

Appendix A: Perpetual

In Exodus 27:21 we see that the burning of lamps outside the veil of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, or tent of meeting, was “olam,” or “perpetual,” a “statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.” But what part of this was perpetual? The tent of meeting was replaced by the temple, so that’s not perpetual. The temple itself has been replaced by a spiritual temple made up of human “stones” indwelt by God, so the physical temple is not perpetual. The lamps no longer exist, so they are not perpetual. Aaron and his sons are long deceased, so they are not perpetual. Their line is no longer the priesthood (it’s now under Melchizedek), so that’s not perpetual. The Ark of the Covenant is no longer with us, so that is not perpetual. Finally, the “veil” that shields the Ark of the Covenant, while carried over into the physical temple, has been removed forever, being torn from top to bottom by God Himself, because the way to Him is never again to be through the mediation of religion.

“Perpetual” in Exodus 27:21 does not mean “eternal” but rather, “ongoing.”

The fact that the veil is not perpetual is profoundly important to the new way in which we have access to God in the Kingdom. This also points to the fact that the Law is not unchanging, but is adapted to historical and spiritual context. The place of worship changed when the “perpetual” tabernacle was replaced by the temple. The “perpetual” mode of worship changed after the cross for so many reasons and in so many ways that time and space do not permit enumeration. But a good example is Hebrews 7:12 when the author points out the change in the “perpetual” priestly line from Aaron to Melchizedek, “For when the priesthood is changed, the Law must be changed as well.”

Appendix B: Islam

My HRM friends talk about how they see HRM as a new movement of the Holy Spirit in our time. There is another new movement of the Holy Spirit going on in our time amongst the followers of Islam. Perhaps you have already heard of it, but there are well documented cases of people in closed Muslim countries seeing visions or having dreams in which Jesus appears to them to give them instructions on how to know Him. A typical story is like that of a woman who dreamed that Jesus came to her and told her to go to a specific coffee shop the next morning and look for a specific man, whom she had never met before, and that he would give her a book that would tell her how to know God. The next morning she goes and finds everything exactly as He said, and the man gives her a New Testament through which she meets Jesus and is born again. This could be just a fanciful tale if it were not for the fact that stories like this are incredibly widespread and that there are revivals erupting in places like Iran, in spite of all the power of Man against it. I can give you several books, articles, and personal testimonies if you want to know more.

It is noteworthy that in none of these cases that we know of, where Jesus meets these people personally, are they led to become Jewish (Law of Moses/Torah) law keepers. Instead, they are led to freedom from religious bondage. What is the HRM gospel for Islam? Is it that Jesus will set them free from the “wrong” set of religious rules in order to be under the “right” set of religious rules? Is it, as you suggested earlier, that Jesus is leading them into salvation as spiritual babies, and later, as they grow in maturity (and possibly meet some HRM proselytes), He will lead them back to an external religious form that looks strikingly like Islam? No! A thousand times no! No, Jesus set them free from the religious bondage of Islam, replacing that with an intimate relationship with Himself, resulting in an inward righteousness, resulting in revival as the joy of this freedom spreads naturally and organically like the yeast of the Kingdom. And in Iran, this revival results in transformed people whose personal encounter with Jesus is impervious to pain, torture, and imprisonment. This is true fruit

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