Paganism and the Church (part two)

Paganism and the Church (part two)

So comes our descent into the grand tradition of Christmas. The “holy” days or holidays as we know them. Full of culture, family, celebration, gifts, decorations, food, food, and more food. It’s a merry time, had by many. It brings out goodwill in the masses, a charity of heart to our neighbors. What could possibly be vile or evil in such a time as this? Indeed, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Who came that we might have life and that to the full. (John 10:10)

What traditions within our celebration of Christmas were first observed within pagan festivals? Specifically, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian beliefs. As well as similarity in the dates of the observance of the celebrations. Although, in the case of the Egyptian festivals, dates are not easily acquired because their calendar is, well, a wreck. Therefore in this instance, we will take the similarities of the festival and relate it the best we can. i do find it interesting that Satan is talked about as disguising himself as an angel of light, and each of these pagan traditions involves a sun god.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

In Ezekiel, we read a depiction of  Satan and his desire to rise to the place of God. He wanted to be above all the angels. Yes, we can see that Satan is an egomaniac, and any worship of him that he can generate, even indirectly, is to him a win. It is probably one of the many reason’s, not that any are needed, for God’s decree that we are not to worship him like the nations worship their pagan false gods. We are not to intermix worship practices but are told to eliminate them from our lives completely.

So this week, let’s look at some of the history of these festivals and our observance of Christmas, and you can decide which is right and how best to honor God. After all, it is you that will have to stand before Him one day and give an account, ignorance will not be an excuse, at least not anymore. For instance, although the early church did not have a specific day to honor the birth of Christ, we have a general understanding that it was still significant in the history and telling of Jesus as we read in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, and referenced in John. At some point in the first century around the time of Telesphorus, believed to be the second Bishop of Rome began a set-aside time to honor Jesus’ birth called, “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” It’s worth noting that at this time, the Nativity, was recognized in September along with the Feast of Trumpets.

In fact, for 300 years the Nativity was celebrated on many days depending on where one was in the world. The recognition of December 25, as Jesus’ birthday, was a move by the Roman Emperor and self-proclaimed Bishop of Rome Constantine. His desire was unity among the Christians and the pagans, as well as perhaps making Christianity more palatable for the pagans to convert. Saturnalia was a celebration of the sun god. It was celebrated from December 17th through the 24th. Part of the celebration included lighting bonfires in honor of the sun and with the idea of helping it defeat the darkness. When the days would begin to get longer generally recognizable around the 23rd. Although this date could be as late as the 26th. Later in 274 A.D. under the Roman Emporer, Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun and set the date as December 25th. In 320 A.D., Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Yule dates back to as early as the 4th century A.D. It would later become known as Christmastide. Yule was a 12-day festival that landed between mid-November and early January. Interesting to note that January 7th, which often ended Yule is for many the day they observe the Nativity or Christmas day to this day (a few exceptions observe the 6th). Coptic Orthodox located in Eygpt and the Middle East as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Although there are many reasons it is notable to say that during this time, two calendar systems were in use, the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed today. What is Yule, well they were original celebrations of the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Again the Egyptians worshipped many gods, including a sun god. However, their calendar was so confusing they didn’t even know how it worked resetting it often. So i will only state here that as we look at the traditions of these festivals more in-depth and begin to recognize how the church co-opted many of the pagan practices in their Christmas celebrations we will see Egyptian influence.

Let me close this entry with this, i am not in any way discouraging the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is clear that the early church remembered the Nativity. However, it is my goal to get us to think critically and honestly as we walk this narrow road together worshiping the One True God, as He desires, and not as the pagans do.

“. . . take care that you be not ensnared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?–that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods . . .” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (in part)

For more you can listen to my podcast cjwillpodcastit on most platforms.

You are loved,

cj

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

This is me wading into the muck of a cultural tradition steeped in paganism. The question, should Christians celebrate Halloween? The answer, first, let me ask you a question. If Jesus were alive today, would He attend a pagan festival, dressed as a zombie? No, given the many times in Scripture, we are told not to do as the pagans. Would He attend the festival to preach to the attendees? Unlikely, perhaps He would stand outside of it preaching? Maybe. We don’t know because there isn’t a pagan festival written in the New Testament, so what we have is Jesus’ words regarding worship and the Old Testament. So when in doubt, search the Scriptures and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tackle the idea that we are not to put on others our own convictions, which, i hear often. The verse most widely used is found in Galatians 5:1 — “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Another prominent verse is 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.‘” We could also look at Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 here, but we will touch on those in a bit. Our freedom gives us, well, freedom. But, not license to sin by committing idolatry. i have been reading and studying Halloween for some time now, and these are the things that i have learned.

  1. It dates back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. In which the Celts believed that a portal between worlds, life, and death, was opened. They would dress up in costume to ward off evil spirits.
  2. The Celts date back to 1800 B.C. However, The existence of the Celts was first documented in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The Roman Empire, which ruled much of southern Europe at that time, referred to the Celts as “Galli,” meaning barbarians.
  3. In the early Church, roughly the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween.
  4. It was believed that if the church incorporated some of these traditions, it would make it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity.

There is so much more i could write regarding the traditions and origins of those traditions but suffice it to say all of them are pagan. Therefore, they should be avoided. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 6:13-15 we read:

“It is the Lord your God, you shall fear. Him you shall serve, and by His name, you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, we have Paul instructing the Thessalonians to avoid evil.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . .”

Two things here stand out. First, abstain from EVERY form of EVIL. Would you say that Halloween in its former and present state is filled with evil? i know i sure do! Second, “sanctify you,” sanctify means to set apart from. As Christians, we are to be different than the world not blend in so well that no can tell the difference. Let me share a few more verses just to add some perspective for our thought.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11

“He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

We could discuss here the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but i will just add this . . . The intent here is to not be a stumbling block to others by our understanding.  So let me pose the question, are you confident in your celebration of a clearly pagan festival isn’t laying a stumbling block for your neighbor? That is the test! Let me end this with a passage from Ezekiel and really, the reason i am writing was inspired here.

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:18-19

Can you warn someone of wickedness, evil, and idolatry, and still keep the same festival you are warning them about? No, you cannot. So, therefore, in my humble opinion we as Christians should not partake of the pagan festival known as Halloween regardless of its human tradition. Let me add, this was a natural conclusion, but a difficult decision. Why? Because i love tradition and i grew up on Halloween. i even helped my sister put on a haunted trail for a park she worked for not many years ago. However, my conviction over this grows more and more every day as i see the day of the Lords return getting ever closer. We must wake up and proclaim the truth!

You are loved,

cj

Have we wearied the Lord?

Have we wearied the Lord?

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17

This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”

Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.

You are loved,

cj

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Hello, is this thing on? This week we have seen the “Global Climate Strike,” the “UN Climate Summit,” and countless celebrities mumbling; the President had a “Religious Freedom Summit” as well. The conservatives and the liberals are yelling back and forth at each other, pointing fingers of blame and guilt, no trial, no evidence, no reason, no understanding, no . . . Anything. With all this back and forth without discourse, discernment, or simple plain old listening, we are only a divided people that at a distance appear dysfunctional and confused.

It is happening in the church also, constant bickering without understanding. We are being tossed by every wind of change, discontentment, and interpretation, and the devil can’t be any more satisfied. We have been talking about putting on the “new self” the past few weeks, and although this is somewhat in line with that series, this is also a stand-alone topic. Let me share with you the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus.

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-17

We need to heed Pauls words here, as teachers, pastors, evangelists, and the like our responsibility is to equip the saints, the church, for the work of ministry. Sadly i see less and less equipping and more and more dividing, even with talks on unity. Because the unity that is being pushed is a false unity. There is no choice in the matter it is, for the most part, forced and therefore misleading in every way, and temporal at best.

Listen church, our focus needs to be Christ. He is sufficient for all things. Literally, we will lack nothing if we find ourselves in Jesus only. The devil wants us divided on everything so that we hold nothing as truthful. The tone of the discourse in the world is full of hate. Even when it screams peace. The stage is being set for a peacemaker. Hear me now church, the peacemaker the world is about to receive isn’t about peace. It will be a false peace, and it will fool many, even if possible, the elect. Do not be deceived, be watchful, in prayer, and seek Jesus above all else that you might stand against the schemes of the devil.

Putting on the new self requires an open heart and listening ears. It also requires a singular focus on Jesus-Christ, period. Once we take our focus off of the author and perfector of our faith, we begin to lose all perspective. We must be singularly minded in order to be successful in life, ministry, and attaining to true peace. But the world hates us! Jesus said, “as the world hates me, it will also hate you.” Those who are being puppeted by the king of this world cannot stand us, and we do not win by conceding. We love, but we speak the truth, we do for others without expectation, and we live in unity as a body of Christ because in that unity is where the world will recognize Jesus.

You are loved,

cj