I know. It sounded like I was going to provide a step by step tutorial about how to both live in the world and yet live in God’s kingdom. Sadly, I’m just not that spiritual yet. However, I do enjoy slamming out blogs of things that I’m working through in my own life.
This week, I encountered and interesting situation. Someone had taken the words of a Bible teacher, believed them, and then acted on them immediately. For this, the person is to be praised, however, with every nugget of God’s truth and revelation comes the need to seek His divine balance. Divine balance? That sounds like a great marketing tagline… but I digress.
The most obvious example is when Jesus instructed his disciples to cut off their body parts if those body parts cause them to sin. Everyone knows our body parts cause us to sin so if they really believed his words and took action on them, there would have been a bloody mess on the ground. In a sense, Jesus was correct in that it would have been better to be a bloody pulpy mess on the ground rather than go to hell forever, but He also was standing before them as the Grand Solution to the sin problem. The balance is to know that the power of God that Jesus allows us access to is greater than the power of the flesh if we believe. In other words, there is no need to chop off your extremities and leave them for the fowl of the air if bow your head in humility and trust God for the power to overcome temptation. This paragraph went way too long…
In this specific issue, the teacher was preaching on the final judgement of God and the end of the world, and, of course, the soon coming of Jesus. This person was impacted by the Word of God and was instantly changed. I’m assuming that she started looking around the world and saw what the writer of Ecclesiastes saw – that everything in this earth is vanity and worthless. I imagine that in her heart she started to question whether her pursuit of education and dreams were worth it. I imagine that deep in her heart she started questioning whether or not she was even on the right path with God or heading down some path created by someone else. I imagine that she was in a state of deep sorrow, confusion, and possibly even depression. Why do I imagine this? Because I, too, was in this state.
When I came to the saving knowledge of Jesus the Christ, I was very despondent when I realized that no one else around me could see the light. I just assumed that if I shared the revelation that God just gave me that they would see, repent, and follow me on this most excellent adventure (that was an 80’s reference btw for you young lads). But they didn’t. In fact, I became as it were an alien to them. A nut bar. A religious fanatic. A cult victim… you name it. They did not see the light.
And man was I lonely.
However, looking back, I am so glad that I went through that. It confirmed so many scriptures, namely that Jesus didn’t come to bring peace but a sword and that He came to divide a home, not unify it. In essence, it yet again proved the Word of God to be ever true.
So, this person decided, I suppose, that there was no point in continuing her education and that she should just take my earthquake preparedness (I always preach that but never do it myself, sadly) advice and just sit back and wait for the soon-coming of Jesus. I commend her faith but unfortunately that is not a biblical position. It is lacking in balance. Here is the balance:
Matthew 24: 36-42:
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
You see, they were working like normal when Jesus came back. For students, you will be going to school – perhaps in the most boring class of your life – perhaps gazing out the window – when the Lord shall come and retrieve you.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.
You see, there is no avoiding our nasty toil, whether it be labour in the field, power-washing the cement, reviewing contracts or sitting in the most awful class in the education system. We must work and sweat while working because of the nastiness of the work. We’re made and designed to do it until the end of the ages. Sadly, the proverbial buttercup must suck it up. There are lots of other scriptures in the Bible about working with good work ethic if you want.
So, we are to live in this secular world (which hates God).
While living here, we are to work hard and be model citizens in the societies where God has planted us.
The whole time we are living in this world we are not to ‘reside’ or ‘stay’ or ‘build our kingdom’ in the world because we are not from this world. We are from another kingdom – the kingdom of light. God’s kingdom.
And so we must always find the balance between that temptation to bunker down with our assault rifle and await the certain persecutions against the brothers and sisters and living like sheep amongst wolves in this corrupt world while we await the New Jerusalem.
Thankfully the Word of God, if you read it all, will always, always, always, give you that much needed balance so get in the Word and ask God to show you the Way.
As part of my ongoing ‘battle against the spirit of christmas‘ which started years back now, I continue to dig in deeper each year. This year the fire was truly kindled when our family decided that we may not go to our church’s ‘christmas service’ next week as a form of ‘personal separation’ (call it protest if you want but we aren’t feeling any hostility) from a practice that we believe has pagan roots.
As this is a big decision with possible implications for us and the church, I continue to study the topic. Today I came across perhaps one of the best articles defending Christmas for Christians. This article nailed down most of the items and did a fairly good job trying to defend them from a biblical perspective. I will, below, take the point, summarize it, and then comment on it:
The word ‘Christ-mas’ means ‘Christ’s Mass’
The author uses this as kind of a ‘proof’ of its Christian origin, saying that ‘Christianity took this idea from its Jewish roots’ and even goes so far as to suggest that there is a possibility that ‘the pagans may have adopted an already existing Christian celebration’. Unfortunately all other sources I’ve read up to this point suggest unanimously that Christmas didn’t exist anywhere near the first church until somewhere around 300AD. Most sources agree that it was put in by the Roman Catholics. And, just the fact that he pointed out the ‘mass’ is a good proof that this entire Christmas thing is rooted in ‘something outside of the Bible’. Mass is very much associated with the catholic church. Even if mass is considered an ‘ok ritual’ the question is ‘why the focus on Dec 25th’ and the ‘magnification of the day’? And the question remains for me “Is Christ the reason for the season or was a pagan celebration slapped with a Christian-looking label and finessed for the church to try to make it fit?” But this final quote is a good quote, and a good one to support Christmas as being ‘ok’ for Christians to join: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”
This section, honestly, is so weak that I didn’t read it twice. Almost every source I read and most academia are in agreement that Jesus was likely *not* born anywhere near December 25th. But this author worked very, very hard to build a big defence story for keeping it on Dec. 25th – which, is kind of interesting to me….
This section was also quite good. I also know that throughout the Bible the tree has significance and often positive. “Cedars of Lebanon” and such terms of strength. His Hosea 14:8 scripture find was a great one. However, it doesn’t wipe away the very most key point of the Christmas tree debate. It’s not about the tree, it’s about the ritual. No one would deny his tree support scriptures. There are also other wonderful symbols in the Bible like Jesus being the Living Water and the Rock. And the Holy Spirit being like a flame and such. So a tree may represent strength and the evergreen more so. No problem. However…. what happens at Christmas is the tree is (traditionally) chopped down, dragged inside, and decorated! Come again? First of all, I’ve always thought that God did a great job creating the fir tree by itself and made it look pretty great. I’ve not felt the urge to decorate them. Then there are songs like “O’ Christmas tree’ which, quite frankly, should creep out any born again believer. Of course, it also doesn’t wipe away Jeremiah 10 which seems to be painting a pretty vivid picture of a ritual of idolatry related to a tree. Read this and you will see that God is not a fan of this practice. Try as hard as you want, but you really do have to fight hard to deny that this tree thing is steeped in something ungody that has crept into homes and even churches. I remain firm against the tree, the more I study.
Interesting to read, interesting to learn about but I still see it as a ‘pagan tree concept brought into the church’. It’s very interesting to me how hard we fight to keep this tree in our homes! To me, this might be the biggest marvel.
Again, the author takes and focuses on the ‘christian history’ of the wreath but going back further shows that the wreath can be found in pagan rituals. I don’t have a big issue with this one so far because it kind of reminds me of the crown of thorns Jesus wore – but what has that to do with his birthday? Not much…. so… strike that one, too.
As a side note, I also tripped across this nice summary of mainly what I have come to believe about Christmas.
The current debate that we are having with some leaders at our church is whether or not it’s ok to ‘celebrate Jesus’ in this way and at this time or whether by doing so we are getting in bed with a ‘pagan thing’. Here are some bullet point questions that we are grappling with moving forward:
- Did the first century church ‘do Christmas’?
- Does it matter if the first century church ‘did Christmas’ or are we allowed to tack on some new things as we move forward?
- Is there any biblical basis for celebrating Christ’s birth?
- Did Christ Himself ask us to focus on it as one of the most important days of the Christian calendar or is that something we have done?
- If a ‘day’ was originally dark, pagan or otherwise (ie. satan’s birthday to be vivid) does that day hold any power over us?
- Can a ‘day’ be dark, demonic, dedicated to satan or otherwise?
- Is there a spiritual benefit to celebrating Christmas?
- If it were decided that Christmas was even ‘partly pagan’ is it ok to keep ‘doing Christmas’ for the sake of the unity of the church (ie. not going so might send them fleeing to other churches)?
- and more.
A few analogies that are in the middle of being debated are:
- If one were to take AC/DC’s Highway to Hell song, keep the music, and change the words to “Highway to Heaven’ is the song now redeemed and ok for church/worship? The analogy here is that the ‘Christians’ have taken a pagan holiday and then thrown a ‘Christian cover’ on it.
To counteract that example given, the following was given:
- If a building used to be a whore-house, night club, casino, or concentration camp execution chamber, could it be now used as a place of worship for the children of God to gather and worship? The analogy here is that yes it’s ok to ‘redeem a day’ if the motives are for Christ.
And so because of these two ‘truths’ I have yet been able to conclude my position. Both seem to be true and applicable to christmas.
It will be most interesting to see where this week goes.
I will attempt a post-Christmas review.
- Article by a 15 year ordained minister with his top ten reasons why he doesn’t do Christmas. The comments at the bottom of this post are also very thought provoking.
- This is a good article, from a reliable source. The article tries very hard to explain the history of the celebration of Christmas yet, even here it falls short of convincing me that Christmas deserves our focus. In fact, oddly it further cemented to me that history backs the pagan perspective.