4 thoughts on “Wanted: Pioneers!

  1. Hello John,

    I really appreciated your coverage of Matt 16:13-19 and it’s implications on Church discipline. Another nail hit right on the head! During your sermon your referred back to the old testament with regard to the precision with which God specified true worship for Israel toward Himself. Later on we see that deviation from his specifications, following false Gods, and offering worship to him using Pagan symbols brought the wrath of God down on Israel. This teaches me that self styled worship, or pagan worship rebranded as Christian and offered to God is not acceptable to God regardless of how much we might enjoy it. You later went on to speak of the need of the church constantly reforming to the Word of God and not operating by tradition. So true.

    I have a question with regard to Christmas that I’ll ask at the end.
    I think it’s fairly common knowledge that Christmas is a celebration founded on a pagan tradition of setting up and decorating evergreen trees, and exchanging gifts on Dec 25th known as ‘saturnalia’. It was a ritual that arose out of superstition about the sun dying and the human race potentially freezing and or starving to death due to cold and the lack of ability to grow crops. The celebration was to commemorate the rebirth of the sun as it began to rise again on Dec 25th. It’s not completely clear how old this celebration is, but it clearly dates to at least centuries before the birth of Christ. Another issue is with regard to celebrating birthdays in general. There are two account of birthday celebrations in the bible and both are carried out by ungodly people. Both events involved deaths. I don’t find any evidence that the Jews, or Christians participated in birthday celebrations.
    Additional common knowledge is that Roman Catholicism is responsible for rebranding a number of pagan celebrations for the purposes of political and religious unity. It’s no secret that Easter and Christmas originate from this activity.

    My question: How can bible believing / following Christians reconcile Christmas as true or acceptable worship to God?

    • Here’s how Dr. R. C. Sproul sees it:

      What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it “Mithrasmas.”

      We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground – sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.

      When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas.

      Elsewhere in an article entitled, “IS THE CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS A PAGAN RITUAL?” he writes:

      That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year.

      It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.”

      I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations.

      While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King.

      Incidentally, Easter can be traced to Ishtar in the ancient world. But the Christian church coming together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus is hardly something I think would provoke the wrath of God. I wish we had more annual festivals. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, celebrates with great joy the Feast of the Ascension every year. Some Protestant bodies do, but most do not. I wish we would celebrate that great event in the life of Christ when he was raised up into heaven to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. We celebrate his birth; we celebrate his death. I wish we would also celebrate his coronation.

      “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:5-8).

      • Hello John,

        Thank you for your quick reply and your consideration to my question. For what it’s worth the first paragraph I wrote regarding your encouragement to adherence to bible truth was connected to my discussion of Christmas. It’s about truth and accuracy which I not only desire to apply to church life as you laid out so well, but also to all forms of my worship given to God. Again, I’m glad I had a chance to listen to your sermon on church life.

        Since you quote RC Sproul, I’ll go ahead and post a couple of Quotes from CH Spurgeon regarding Christmas. With all due respect to RC, I consider a small number of his opinions to be outside of biblical guidelines and I would not have quoted Dickens if I were him given dickens motive for writing ‘A Christmas Carol’, it’s purpose, and of course high degree of success in performing it’s goal. Spurgeon was not perfect either, but for my money, Spurgeon will always trump Sproul if we are to defer to using quotes from men in an attempt to establish truth. Perhaps they will do nothing more than cancel either other:

        “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”

        “When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, “Is this a law of the God of Jacob?” and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty. (from Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)”

        In accord with your recent wonderful presentation on rules for proper interpretation of bible text I would like to attempt to place Romans 14 into it the context of audience of it’s time.
        Paul was addressing the conflict between Jews and Gentiles with regard to Jewish festivals and dietary laws and the Gentile’s freedom from these rituals. The Jewish festivals and dietary laws were in fact given by God in the first place. They were part of true worship of the living God at one time, and were now no longer necessary. Paul was in no way making provision for adopting pagan rituals into the church with this text. I don’t believe I would be able to use these texts this way either. In good conscience I cannot apply this text to Christmas celebration, or any other forms of worship used by other religions.

        I agree that whether one observes a day as special or not is not the important thing, that the important issue is doing all things for God, but am I following a different Jesus, or a different gospel when engaged in unbiblical practice?

        Joh 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
        Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

        • I am well aware of the context of Romans 14 and would agree with you that the verses quoted had nothing to do with Christmas. However, I believe it was quoted to draw out the principle that is indeed found in the text in order to make application to the subject at hand. As explained by my use of Sproul’s quotations, historically Christmas replaced a pagan ritual rather than being one.

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