A Holiday Season Enigma

Yes, I was once one of those people who scoffed at the Gospel.

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Good Friday? Easter?

Today is “Good Friday,” a day in which many memorialize Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and I have a few thoughts about that:

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for twenty-seven years, and like all Catholics, I was heavily steeped in the church’s liturgical calendar. Every day was either a “solemnity,” “feast day,” or “memorial.” The most important days on the Catholic liturgical calendar were obviously Christmas and Easter.

After reading God’s Word for several years, I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile Catholic teaching with Scripture, so I stopped attending mass. After a couple years of personal spiritual turmoil, I finally prayed to Jesus Christ, repented of my sins, and accepted Him as my Savior by faith alone! Thank you, Jesus!

As a new Christian, I found that the calendrical religious celebrations that were a staple of Catholicism no longer appealed to me. In Christ, one day is the same as the next. The formalism and ritualism of these “holidays” were empty substitutes for a personal relationship with Christ that comes only by trusting in Him as Savior by faith alone. My faith in Christ was/is not based on a calendar. There were also a couple of other objections I had to these “holidays.” As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it (c)hristianized pagan religious celebrations in order to attract and appease new converts. Some of the traditions of these “holidays” are rooted in paganism. Not only that, but in modern times, “holidays” like Christmas and Easter have been increasingly commercialized and secularized and have lost their religious connection in the minds of many/most.

Yet, there are many blood-bought, born-again believers who treasure these calendrical celebrations. Their thinking is different from mine. They see nothing wrong with commemorating the birth and resurrection of Christ. Instead, they see these celebrations as positive affirmations of their faith that they can share with family and friends.

For a few years following my acceptance of Christ as my Savior, I was strongly opposed to celebrating these “holidays,” but I’ve since changed my thinking. While I don’t go out of my way to celebrate these popular “holidays,” I understand many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord see them as a good thing. In Christ, we have the freedom and liberty to view these matters differently. Each individual Christian must follow the Lord’s leading and decide for themselves without condemning others. I personally view these “holidays” as fantastic opportunities to get together with unbelieving family and friends and bring up Jesus and the Gospel. I have done so many times and will again this weekend, Lord willing.

Today is Good Friday, but I’m not thinking about my Lord’s death on the cross for my sins any more than I do any other day. That’s the glorious, indescribable beauty and joy of walking with my Lord, Savior, and Shepherd on a daily, make that hourly, make that heartbeat-to-heartbeat, basis. There’s no need to anticipate religious “holidays” on the calendar when you’re walking hand-in-hand with the Lord every single day. But many of my brothers and sisters in Christ really enjoy these days, so I say, peace, and have at it in the Lord! When you wish me a “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy Easter” with love and goodwill in the Lord, I will reciprocate in kind.

I know there are some believers who feel very strongly about not recognizing these “holidays,” and I get it. But each Christian must determine what is right for them.

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” – Romans 14:5-9. See all of Romans 14, a wonderful instruction from the Lord on this issue, here.

IMPORTANT: Most people have heard of Jesus Christ and know that He died on a cross two-thousand years ago, but they don’t understand what that means for them personally. The Bible says we are all sinners and we all deserve eternal punishment, but God loves us so much He sent His Son to this Earth to live a perfect life and die for our sins as our substitute. But He didn’t stay dead. In three days, He rose from the grave, beating sin and death. He now offers the free gift of eternal life to everyone who repents of their sin and trusts in Him as their Savior. Jesus died for you. He was thinking of you when He was hanging on that cross two-thousand years ago. Will you pray to Jesus on this Good Friday and accept Him as your Savior? After you have accepted Jesus, ask Him to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” – John 1:12

Many, many people will attend a church service this Easter Sunday, but only a fraction of them will be trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Going to church doesn’t save. Being a good person doesn’t save (because no one is actually good). Believing intellectually about a man who died on a cross two-thousand years ago doesn’t save. Each and every person must come to Jesus Christ in prayer and accept Him as their Savior by faith alone.

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

Today, the vast majority of people across this nation will be gathering with family and friends to share a big meal, exchange gifts, and maybe even watch a little football or basketball on television as they celebrate Christmas together. Although the day is meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, most who gather won’t have much if any thoughts about Him. They have never received the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. For most, it’s just a secular holiday that revolves around seasonal decorations, food, drinks, and gift-giving. For others, Christmas is just another part of their ritualistic works religion, i.e., “We celebrate the birth of Jesus the Savior but we must merit our way to Heaven.” Huh?

As we believers and followers of Jesus Christ gather with unsaved family and friends today, let’s use this opportunity to lift up our Savior and proclaim His Good News in whatever way we can!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming into this world to pay the penalty for sin, so that those who repent of their sins and place their trust in You will have forgiveness and eternal life.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:11

A Christmas Microcosm

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I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a joyous Christmas day with family and friends. As I’ve mentioned before (see here and here), a long time ago we didn’t celebrate Christmas for a couple of years because we had learned a lot about it’s pagan roots, but we now believe it’s better (for us) to use the day to spread the Gospel.

Our oldest son came over for Christmas dinner with his family. He doesn’t know the Lord. We also invited one of my sisters for dinner and to spend the night. Her husband died a couple of years ago and she had no place to go for the evening. She isn’t a believer either and we’ve had several “discussions” with her about the Bible and Christianity in the past.

Well, before dinner I led a prayer thanking the Lord for the food, that we could be together as a family, and that we could celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Who came into this world to die on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.

In conversation after dinner, our son tried pulling my leg by saying “Merry Christ-MASS” to me and stating that most people viewed the day as a secular holiday with no connection to Jesus. I answered that, despite the views of others, I connected the day to Jesus (as he already knew) and that we hoped he would someday have a relationship with Jesus as well. My wife and I take every good opportunity we can to tell our two sons about Jesus, even if it’s only a short couple of words.

After our son and his modern family left, we sat on the couch and talked with my sister. The conversation quickly turned to spiritual matters. My sister was raised Catholic as I was but doesn’t normally attend church. I thought all of my five sisters were agnostics/atheists from the conversations I’ve had with them but this one now admits to desiring a connection to God at this point in her life. Well, that’s a start! The last couple of years she paid the Catholic church down the road from her to have some masses “said” for our deceased parents to shorten their stay in purgatory. She attended mass on Christmas morning but she definitely doesn’t like certain aspects of the the contemporary ritual including the changing of some of the familiar wording of the prayers we were taught as children, that some people lift their hands up while singing and praying (she blamed that on the influence of “Southern Baptists,” no fooling!), and that everyone now has to hold hands while saying the “Our Father” together. She thinks it’s absolutely detestable that she’s required to physically touch anyone during mass. We had a long talk about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. She is very much against the Bible, especially after seeing a “documentary” on the History Channel about the alleged “spurious” origins of the Bible. Although she doesn’t trust the Bible, she believes in God but isn’t altogether sure about Jesus (this coming from someone who attended Catholic schools for 12 years – no Bible knowledge, zilch, zero, nada). We talked and argued, argued and talked. At the end of the conversation she agreed to visit our church this coming Sunday just to see what it’s like. We’re hoping she has a sincere desire for the truth but it seems tradition is the most important thing to her and she definitely won’t find that at our church. Would you please say a prayer for my sister? I finally hit the sack at 1 AM, which is a CRAZY hour for an old fuddy-duddy like me to stay up.

After my sister left yesterday morning, my wife and I just bummed around all day, we were so tired. I picked up Christmas day’s newspaper and right in the A-section was a full-page ad from the Hobby Lobby folks exhorting people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior (see photo). Love it! Praise Jesus! But in the very same section of the paper was an article from local columnist David Andreatta (see below) in which he describes his experiences as a “Chreaster,” a hands-off, nominal Catholic who attends church only on the big holidays; Christmas and Easter. Andreatta speaks for the vast majority of Catholics. The Gospel of salvation by Gods’ grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is not preached at Catholic mass. Instead, Catholics are taught salvation comes through receiving the Catholic sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments and church rules. But most members just don’t buy it anymore. Why should Catholics have to sit through the boring ritual week after week when their pope says even atheists will merit Heaven if they’re “good”? Andreatta writes, “Chreasters like us take the Golden Rule seriously, we just don’t see a link between “walking in love” and sitting in a pew every Sunday.” Andreatta speaks for most Catholics. For both nominal and practicing Catholics, the bottom line is attempting to live the “Golden Rule.” But God’s Word states none of us live the Golden Rule, which is why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to die on the cross to pay for our sins, and offers the free gift of eternal life to all those who accept Him as their Savior by faith. There they were; the two very different gospels in the same newspaper on Christmas day; the Light and the darkness.


Christmas with the Chreasters
David Andreatta
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Sunday, December 25, 2016
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/columnists/andreatta/2016/12/22/andreatta-christmas-chreasters/95759380/

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” – Isaiah 55:6-7

Jesus and Christmas

My wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior back in 1983 and shortly afterward startedshep attending an independent fundamental Baptist church. I had a burning desire to read as much as I could about the religious system we had left, Roman Catholicism, and how it compared with Scripture. Some of the books and pamphlets I ordered focused on the pagan origins of “Christian holidays,” cautioning believers not to participate.

When I was a Catholic I already knew that Christmas was not the actual birthday of Jesus. According to the Bible the shepherds and their flocks were still in the fields during the night when Jesus was born, meaning the actual birth date was probably before October.

The Catholic church doesn’t dispute that the December 25th date isn’t Christ’s actual birthday. Pagan Rome celebrated Saturnalia, a week-long festival replete with orgies in honor of the god, Saturn, from December 17th to the 25th, which coincided with the Winter solstice. The institutionalized church adopted the festival and rechristened it as Christ’s birthday. Several of the holiday’s customs can be traced back to their pagan origins.

Millions of cultural/nominal Christians and even non-Christians will be celebrating Christmas on the 25th. There’ll be lots of decorations, gift giving, office parties, singing of carols, and packed church services. But most people won’t be contemplating who Jesus really is and the reason why He came to this world. Most don’t want to know. People love their traditions, rituals, and liturgies but don’t you dare mention Jesus within a casual conversation! They openly scoff at an invitation to accept Jesus as their Savior. “Me? One of those born-agains? Ha! Not in a million years! Now please pass the egg nog.”

When we were new believers we decided not to celebrate Christmas for a couple of years because of its connection with paganism. Extreme? I don’t know. Can any reader of God’s Word imagine Paul, John, Peter, or the other writers celebrating the reformed Saturnalia as the Lord’s concocted birthday?

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” – Galatians 4:8-11

But looking back I think not participating in Christmas may have hindered our witness more than it helped. After all, who doesn’t celebrate Christmas? Our families thought we must be members of a cult! So we relented and went with the flow in a limited way. We still do.

But every day with my Lord and Savior is the same for me. I don’t celebrate one day over the other. But I also understand that for many of my Evangelical brothers and sisters, Christmas and Easter are very special celebrations and that’s fine. And hopefully we can all use the Christmas celebration as an opportunity to speak to others about WHY He came.

Help us, Lord, to use this holiday to tell someone about the GOOD NEWS of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Thank you for coming here to die for our sins and for the free gift of salvation you offer to all those who accept you as their Savior.

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” – Romans 14:5-6 

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23