Thursday, January 9, 2014

How the Devil uses Legalism at Christmas

By Lisa Grace

I attend services with a congregation that observes the seven festivals mandated by God. Even the prophet Isaiah mentions these will be observed in heaven.

Unfortunately, there are several festivals (and many more if you include such commonly observed days as the Lent season or Epiphany) or holidays we celebrate: Purim, Hanukkah, Resurrection day (commonly called easter the English translation of the pagan goddess ishtar.), Christmas, weddings, dedication days, baptisms, etc., that some say we shouldn't celebrate.

Many legalistic Christians like to fall back on the prophet Jeremiah 10:1 - 6 where Jeremiah is talking about following the custom of worship of false gods. ( Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.)
So the tree is neither good nor evil, and cutting it down is a waste of time. I think this is why many have migrated to plastic ones.

Since the Jewish religion sacrificed animals, he couldn't use that as an example of how not to worship heathen gods, so he picked one the Jewish people did not do at the time, which was the cutting down and decorating of trees to the false gods. He goes on in further verses making it clear these trees can do neither good nor evil, and that these false gods will be forgotten, Jer 10:10 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. which they have been forgotten.

For the last four hundred years or so though, Christmas trees have not been associated with false gods, but have almost exclusively come to signify the promise in Christ of life everlasting. Instead of taking these verses out of context, read the whole of Jeremiah starting at the first chapter, and it becomes clear it was about the Jews turning away from God, and you can see time and time again how Jeremiah laments the Jewish people chasing after pagan gods.

Taking Jeremiah out of context is a perfect example of how legalism can be used by Satan.
Let's look at what Jesus did. Did Yeshua (Jesus) celebrate other traditions not ordained (like the seven) by God in the Torah? Yes.

We know He celebrated at weddings, the festival of lights: Hannakuh, and Purim. We know He attended dedications, and was all for baptism (He even had one Himself when He was thirty, and was dedicated Himself at the temple eight days after His birth as was the custom.) Therefore we can conclude Yeshua (Jesus) was all for observing traditions that included and honored God.

What about His birthday and resurrection?
I run across legalistic Christians who seem to think celebrating these momentous occasions is wrong, or even a sin. They go as far as to say the celebrations of these events are pagan, but are they?
Let's look at Biblical proof. First from the word of Yeshua Himself. The Lord's Prayer offers the first proof. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV).

So was Yeshua's birth celebrated in Heaven? Yes.
Luke 2:9-17: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
Then in Luke 2:20: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

We are to celebrate, share and make known to all people OUR SAVIOUR is Born! The angels even describe how He will be dressed, in swaddling clothes lying in a feed trough! Certainly the angels were commended by God to release that tidbit of information because He wanted the Saviour found, worshiped, and praised. What kind of witness are we if we ignore His birth, the one the angels were commanded to come down and reveal to us through lowly shepherds? Is this news we keep to ourselves?
1) The angels rejoiced at his birth.
2) The angels were commanded to give the message and then told the shepherds to make the birth of the Savoir known to all people.
3) Christmas is the celebration and time to make known to all people the birth of our Saviour.

How does Satan (the adversary) use legalistic Christians to pervert the news of the Saviour's birth and the celebration of the news we are to spread?

The timing we celebrate
Many legalistic Christians say we shouldn't celebrate on December 25th because it falls so close to the winter solstice (December 21st in 2013, 2014, and 2015), which was commonly used to worship pagan Gods.

The truth is—any day is just as good as any other because we do not know what date it was. And if we followed God's calendar, the lunar cycle, the date would change from year to year anyway. It's legalistic to get caught up on a date since it wasn't revealed by God, it is not the "date" that is important to Him. There are plenty of times dates are revealed in the Bible.
The fact is, we do not know exactly what day Yeshua was born on. We can trace back what day he died on. However, the Jewish calendar, (God's calendar) is a lunar one, which means it does not follow closely the Roman one which is in common use today.

Yes, Yeshua was not born in the winter. The fact is we do not know what day or month He was born in. We can narrow it to a season. Roman tax season, which would be April, May or June.
So yes, the middle church picked a date close to the winter solstice to celebrate the Lord's birth. The winter solstice is not on a set date, it changes according to the movement of the sun. It fell on December 21st, 2013 and will fall on December 21st again in 2014. Sooo if you're going to be *legalistic* be aware that Christians are not celebrating it on the pagan celebration day, but four days later.

If Satan can get legalistic Christian to forsake celebrating our Lord's birth, and spreading the joy and peace they were commanded to, then Satan wins. Silencing the church is a work of Satan.

Pagan Elements are Integrated into Christmas
This is the most common argument used against celebrating our Lord's birth.
Who made creation? God.
Who said it was good? God.
What perverted it? Satan, sin.

Romans Chapter 1 is a powerful treaty against those who know God and see the works of His hand, then pervert it, and become "the inventors of evil things" Romans 1:30. Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things

That is what pagans do.
They take the creation and make it into the creator, or assign God's creations unholy meanings and attributes they have never had or were not intended to have.

By saying, "Well, trees were used for pagan purposes so we can't use them now to honor God" is ludicrous. The earthly Ark of the Covenant was made from a tree, so was the cross! A Christmas tree should do the same thing, be a reminder of our Awesome God. Satan stole it for a time with the use of pagan gods who are now forgotten BUT God takes back His creation to be a reminder of His ultimate sacrifice. If God did it by using trees for the ARK and the cross, we should take back His creation and use it for the purposes it was intended for: to scream there is one true God, He is magnificent, and worthy to be praised, and remembered for His humbling Himself to be born of an unwed mother, born in a lowly borrowed barn, and lain in a feeding trough among cow and sheep food.

As Christians we can stand firm and boldly profess that the creation is God's handiwork. If we don't he will replace us with stones! (Keep reading to see what I'm referring to.)

Pharisees were the equivalent of the legalistic Christians we find today.
In the book of Luke we come across an impromptu gathering of Yeshua's followers. They were so happy their Saviour and King was here they threw an impromptu parade and celebration for Him. Waving fronds, lining the road with their cloaks. They were showing their love, joy, praise, and respect for their King. (Just like we do at Christmas!)

And what did the Pharisees say to Jesus about this impromptu celebration?
Luke 19: 39: And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.

Interesting point here, the Pharisees admitted (by calling them disciples) that they were doing His will.

What was Jesus' answer to the legalistic Pharisees?
Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Praising the one true God is never wrong. This can not be stated enough. If you are rebuking someone from worshiping the one true God, you just might be legalistic.

What should Christians do?
1) Use every opportunity to turn people back to God.
2) Remove pagan elements from your celebrations. There's no need for a Santa Claus or an Ishtar bunny. Bring the celebrations back to what God intended. Celebrating Jesus' birth, resurrection, baptism, sacrifice.
3) If you are legalistic, think about Jesus' admonishments. If someone is using an opportunity to praise God, do not be a stumbling block. Praise God even louder, instead.
Satan will use legalism as a tool to turn baby Christians away, and fool weak believers into thinking their righteousness is anything more than filthy rags. Remember, Eph 2:8-9 It is by grace and faith alone, salvation is a gift of God. Law is a mirror to condemn, and you can bet that's what legalistic Christians are using the law for, to condemn others. But when they do, the mirror of the law is condemning them.

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