We should learn from our mistakes. We can make a big deal about something today that absolutely doesn’t rate a little blimp on the issue scale later. In fact, many Christians have done this very thing.
Take, for example, Christmas. There was once a time some years ago that several felt that celebrating Christmas was wrong. There were sermons and writings that preached against Christ-mass. It was labeled a Catholic perversion and claimed to be satanic. It was widespread enough that Dr. John R. Rice, prominent Independent Baptist and prolific writer (I use an Independent Baptist example because of my background, but many parts of Christianity have had such episodes), felt compelled to write a book entitled I Love Christmas where he argued that Christmas was acceptable for Christians and that Christmas was wonderful on many levels. I imagine that 98% or better of current Independent Baptists would agree with every word he said. It was not, however, the case then.
There was a higher and vocal percentage the other way in that day. Some didn’t go all the way. Some said that Christmas was acceptable, but Christmas trees were heathen idols. They cited a verse in Jeremiah that they felt corresponded to a Christmas tree. It was about bowing before idol trees in that day. How they got a Christmas tree from the context or even the words of the verse is beyond me! But they did.
Fast forward to today. In the last 10 years I have only met three people personally that felt Christmas was totally wrong. I met two or three more that personally felt only the tree was wrong. There are more that think even the slightest mention of Santa is an attack of Christ. In my travels or on my Facebook newsfeed where I have friends all over the country and world I see Christmas everywhere, even among groups where it was once not acceptable. You would have never guessed that anyone ever really wrestled with that issue. It still exists (I had a dear lady write in conjunction with another of these posts that her family ostracized her over her celebrating Christmas), but it is as rare as a tax-cutting liberal.
Doesn’t it seem silly? I mean no disrespect to anyone who held or holds that position. It is your right and I support your right to hold it. Still, it seems odd to me. Just a guess, but I imagine a great majority of those reading this blogpost agree with me. Do you suppose that some who held it years ago, or were forced to hold it, feel silly about it now? Again, no disrespect, but anytime you have to back away from what you now find an unsupportable position, it makes you feel a little awkward. Take it from this Smoky Mountain guy whose grandmother talked him into sitting on a chicken roost when he had chickenpox as a boy!
I imagine there have been more than a few pamphlets and sermon notes trashed from those days on the subject of Christmas. Good riddance, but do you see the point? It doesn’t pay to get on a hobbyhorse not clearly mentioned in Scripture and ride it into the ground. Words pushed that hard taste bitter later.
Christmas is far from the only such hobbyhorse. In the 1970s there was a major push to not own a TV. Many smashed them in the yard or burned them. I know of many, and I mean many, who once held a position of no TV and have one today. They probably have watched a Hallmark Christmas movie in the last two weeks! They have guidelines for what they watch and rightly so, but the fact remains that a TV graces their living room where once it did not. Once it was preached against, but now it is not.
There is still a small group that still refuses to own a TV, but their numbers are too small to even be heard anymore. I respect them taking that position if they feel they should, but most of us simply don’t feel the Lord asks that of us.
The point is neither Christmas nor TVs. It is jumping on a hot button opinion where no Scripture in context can be cited. Make it a focus of your ministry today and you may look a little foolish tomorrow. It will be like some of those high school yearbook pictures you hope never see the light of day!
Do you think maybe we have a few candidates today to be the Christmas or TV of tomorrow? Will not having a projection screen later seem as silly as preaching against a microphone today? Will some other modern technology criticized today seem as odd in 15 years as preaching against central heat and air today? Some preferences today will be as off the radar in 20 years as Christmas and TVs are today. Some sermons preached now will be embarrassing then.
So we might ought to shore up the list of items we make a really big deal of. We should ask: does the Bible actually say this or am I in a fad that won’t stand the test of time? It’s a worthy question, wouldn’t you say?
So as you enjoy this Christmas–and I sincerely pray you have most blessed Christmas– you might want to ponder Christmas as a case study to decide where you really want to be.
May God bless you one and all as we stand victorious in the Christ of Christmas!
This was originally part of IBTR series–you can find all articles in the series here.
15 thoughts on “Christmas–A Case Study”
Another good article, Jimmy. If we would stick to expository preaching – saying what God said in His Word, it would save us from a lot of things we may be embarrassed of later on. Thanks.
It is amazing how many of these topics dovetail back to if we really are preaching God’s Word or mans!
Pastor Reagan, Stumbled across your blogging today. Must back away for a while. You are making way too much sence for me to handle all at once!
LOL! I know what you mean!
My father once told me that his “theme” on the non-doctrinal issues not addressed by scripture (directly or by logical extension) was “Never be dogmatic where the Bible is silent.” (I’m sure he got it from someone else, but I’m not sure who…)
I try to keep this in mind when I have discussions on issues of personal conviction. Stating the position you hold and the Bible principles that buttress your conviction or the personal experiences that have led me to the position- rather than trying to make it a “Biblical” issue that is black and white- is the proper approach.
I have, however, found that many (not most, but many) in the IFB circle seem to fall into the trap to make everything a matter of black-and-white, right-and-wrong, etc. (This may be an issue in other circles, but I’ve only ever been a member of IFB churches and have associated most, though not exclusively, with these folks.)
Taking, for example, the two issues you’ve addressed above (and I’ll throw in the “men shouldn’t wear shorts issue), I don’t believe that, in the “moment,” anyone is trying to mis-represent the strength of their conviction by inappropriately invoking scripture as the basis- and thereby making it a “take it” (and by “right with God”) or “leave it” (and be living in sin). But in hindsight, if we are honest with ourselves, there has been a tendency to invoke an absolute position.
It not only makes the holder of the position look “silly” (as you’ve noted above), but it also devalues the Word of God. How? By making what is actually the opinion of man (however educated, sincere, or esteemed he might be) equivalent to the word of a perfect God.
You can hold a conviction and feel very, VERY strongly that it is right (I have done so and continue to do so myself), but the temptation to invoke the Bible, when the issue(s) is not addressed directly or indirectly, is something to take very seriously.
You are so right that the issue is God’s Word! Thanks for sharing this thoughtful comment!
Amen Brother Jimmy! Merry Christmas!
Thanks Sue! I pray you and Bob had a great Christmas!
Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review
I truly enjoyed this article and I agree with you completely. We do not need to add to God’s Word, and we don’t need to take away from it either, we are warned of this in Revelation. We just need to preach it, teach it and live by it! Merry Christmas Preacher Brothers!
Thanks and I pray you had a great Christmas!
Pingback: 2013–The Year In Review | The Reagan Review
I guess I’m one of the silly ones. I made the decision just two years ago that my family would no longer celebrate Christmas. Here is some of my reasoning:
1. God is a God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4) and Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6). Christmas, as it is currently celebrated by Christians, is founded on a lie. From my study of Scripture, Christ was either born in Sept / Oct (during the Feast of Tabernacles) or in Jan / Feb. No exact date can be given because the Bible doesn’t gives the specifics required to come to an exact date conclusion. To tell people, therefore, that Dec. 25th is the birthday of Christ is to tell them a lie. I personally believe that God sent His Son during the feast of Tabernacles for the following reasons:
a. No Shepherd will be living outside with his sheep in the coldest part of winter. In fact, in this time of year, the sheep are even provided shelter from the cold.
b. The walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be treacherous in winter. It stands to reason that any wise steward of his Empire would have sent out the decree of taxing to take place during the warmer months when people could more easily move around. Also, since the Jewish people were required to go to Jerusalem for the Temple feasts (no doubt Jesus’ mother tried to keep the law), a poor family like Joseph and Mary would most likely not waste the money on two trips. They could travel to Jerusalem for the feast and stop by Bethlehem to pay their taxes. On a straight line, Jerusalem and Bethlehem are about 10 kilometers apart (about 6 miles). This could account for the inns being booked in two ways: 1. Many people who lived far from Bethlehem probably also made one trip (Feast and Taxing) and 2. Inns in Bethlehem, because of its proximity to Jerusalem would be used as over flow for those in town for the feast. Since Joseph and Mary walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem while Mary was great with child, they no doubt fell behind the group. This walk, on a straight line, is about 60 miles. This enter b. section is simply logically reasoning from the Biblical account of the time of our Savior’s birth. Since I believe the Bible clearly rules out a winter birth.
2. The imagery of Christmas (Santa, tree, yule log, wreath, misletoe, lights, etc…) all have their origins in pagan worship some of these traditions / signs all the way back to Baal worship. This is easily researched and clearly documented, and the original pagan practices are still practiced in many parts of the world. Many Christians, who use those images, say, “I’m not worshiping an idol on Christmas, I’m worshiping Jesus Christ.” But God makes it clear in His Word that He doesn’t accept this type of worship: “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). The Bible says that you cannot find out how people worship a false God and use that way to worship the true God. It is an abomination.
3. God cannot be pictured. His essence and attributes cannot be captured in an image. He is the invisible God, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15). Jesus Christ is the risen, resurrected Lord who was once humbled, but He will never be humbled again. Many Christians, however, unconsciously limit the greatness of God and victory that we have in Christ by placing Him back in the body of a babe when they set up their manger scenes. All the while, they forget this Scripture: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4).
4. When was the last time you went to a birthday party and the “birthday boy” sat idly by while everyone gave gifts to each other and none to Him. Don’t get me wrong, we read his birth story first, but after that, he is just an after thought. How sad!
5. “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). This verse, as no verse in the Bible does, doesn’t deal directly with Christmas, but we can take it as instruction in righteousness. If Christmas was truly a celebration of the birth of Christ, it wouldn’t get the fanfare that it currently enjoys. See also I John 2:15-16 and John 15:18-20.
6. God has given the Christian 52 Holy Days (holidays) a year. There is one every seven days, and they fall on the first day of the week. We call that day, the Lord’s Day, and it is the day we both celebrate and remember His resurrection.
PS > Don’t misunderstand me, the virgin birth is an important Bible doctrine. The incarnation is amazing and a necessary part of the Gospel. Christmas, for now, is still a good evangelistic tool and should be used as such if the Gospel is preached. But the LORD of Glory is no longer a helpless babe in a manager; His is the soon coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
These are some of the reasons that my family no longer celebrates Christmas. It was not an easy decision to make. People have a strong emotional response to Christmas and there are plenty of pleasant things about the time of year. Why, with all the good (especially the feelings), how could it be bad? In our studies of Scripture and history, we were hoping to be able to just “clean up” Christmas and continue celebrating it, but God, through His Word, wouldn’t allow us that conclusion. The historical position of God’s remnant, for over 1800 years, didn’t celebrate the birth of Christ (or Christmas) at all. In fact, it saddens me that those within our movement used to take a strong stand against it, but now you’d be hard pressed to find a pastor who knows the true origins of Christmas. Of the few that do, many of them don’t have the courage to speak up about it in their churches. I fear that I am starting to sound like a “Self Appointed Guardian of Truth”, but one last comment: It is my conviction that a ‘Truth Revolution’ within our movement would include a move away from celebrating Christmas as it currently is celebrated.
I am a firm believer in soul liberty and that you should not violate your conscience. Thanks for putting your comments here for others to see.
Just to drop a quick note, (I by not means wish to discuss each point above), Luke 16:15 is in a context where real actual sin is being rebuked. The pharisees, who were lovers of money (as in greedy men who take advantage of people to gain more for themselves). They were ridiculing Jesus for his previous parable about letting money control your life. But “God knows your hearts” that “you are those who justify yourselves before men. While riches and personal gain are exalted among men, it is an abomination.” If you apply this to Christmas, then you would also have to apply it to anything that the general public likes. Any holiday would apply. Any pleasure would apply. But no, Christ was referring to loving money and letting the sinfuless of greed control and define them. The point was not “human tradition” that may or may not be dirty for some, but actual human sinfulness that is sinful for all. Just like a lot of things, I think that one person can do it with a clear conscience, and others can’t. I can listen to modern Christian music and worship God in tears and be built up in Christ. Others hear it and feel fleshly. There’s nothing wrong with being different. That’s one of the great things about the Church. It’s full of unique people who have unique relationships with God. It’s a beautiful opportunity to practice love in spite of our differences.