Paganism in the church?

Paganism in the church?

Okay, here it is, as i have been studying the Scriptures and origins of pagan tradition it has led me to a crossroads. As i will begin to point out over the next several posts. Here i begin to lay the foundation of my case. i encourage you, the reader, to put in your two cents. i do not claim to have all the answers. As my blog heading states, this is my journey with Jesus. It is a journey, and i am walking it out in view. i say that because as new information comes to light, it will no doubt, if true, alter my perspective on a topic or point. If what i am learning is accurate, it will absolutely change the way i worship and view the holidays.

Constantine was a Roman Emperor who ruled between 306 AD and 337 AD. A significant character in the mixing of pagan tradition and the early Church. For it was he who legalized Christianity in 313 AD. At the time, the church was being led to some degree by a man named Gregory the first; tradition from protestants would call him the first “Pope”; however, Catholics, of course, view the first Pope as Peter. It is clear that the traditions of the church find their origins post 313 AD, which means the early church did not worship in the way we traditionally have even in all of its evolution.

Before 313 AD, Christianity was illegal. It was mostly underground at this point as Rome looked to stamp out both Judaism and Christianity. It appears that Constantine had come into a new understanding, perhaps the salvation of his soul, i wasn’t present, so i will refrain from passing judgment and will simply let the fruit speak for itself. First, let’s examine the prince and ruler of this world, as described in Scripture. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we see who is at the root of the global rebellion against God.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'” Isaiah 14:12-14

In Ezekiel 28:12-19, we have another picture and an understanding that Satan was one of the most splendid of angels, and he desired to be like God and was cast down. Since his fall he has been leading a rebellion against God that began in the garden, “Did God really say,  . . .” His lie continues to this day. Satan has two methods to his rebellion, two fronts if you will, religion and materialism. If satan can distract you with religion or if he can distract you with materialism or better yet both at the same time, he will and in the end, separate you from God by defiling you with sin.

Satan has known the way of redemption from the garden, for in Genesis 3, God reveals that it will be the offspring of the woman that will eventually crush him. From that moment, he has been working, scheming, plotting, and planning against the offspring of the woman. He has done so through death and through copy. Since the Tower of Babel, we see the formation of many religions, and each of them has an interesting similarity to what satan knew of his demise. There are a mother and her son. Take a look at this:

Mother                                  Son                                 Region

Samiramis                            Tammuz                       Babel

 Ishtar                                    Tammuz                      Assyria/Syria

Asharoth/Astarte                 Baal                              Phoenicia

Isis                                          Horus/Osiris               Egypt

Aphrodite                             Eros                              Greece

Venus                                    Cupid                            Rome

Anytime you read in Scripture about Mystery Babylon, you can assume it comes from these traditions. And with all these mother, son traditions, it isn’t any wonder why we read time and time again of Kings and Pharaohs trying to kill the sons? Satan has been trying to destroy God’s plan from the beginning. Each of these fables from above also shares something else in common with Christianity; each of these son’s died and was resurrected. We will be getting into more of that in weeks to come.

Let me try to wrap up this post by setting the standard offered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

Rebellion against the Creator is the common thread of these and all world religions, and behind them is a demonic power. Why would we want to cross-contaminate, or intermix the worship of God the Creator and these pagan gods by introducing into worship pagan practices? As promised in my last few posts, we will look at the traditions of the holidays. We discussed Halloween last week. i felt the need to lay this foundation for the coming weeks. Next week we will dive into paganism and the Spring Feasts, followed by paganism and the fall feasts, ending with paganism and the church.

Please feel free to comment here any questions or helpful resources or on my Facebook page Coffee with Jesus or on twitter @cjwill73 or Instagram @simplycoffeewithjesus.

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

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

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. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

This passage from Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is highly regarded as justification for Christians to say, “I am doing this in worship of the Father, the other things don’t mean anything. I love God.” or some variation of the same. But, i ask you what Jesus was referring too here? It was customary for Jews to travel to Jerusalem to worship on particular feasts, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. There are seven Hebraic Feasts; i say Hebraic lightly i will get to that in a bit.

Jesus, in His referring to worshiping in spirit and truth, was prophetic, in that He was the Messiah, and therefore He is the feasts. Thus, the location of worship was shifting from a physical place to a spiritual place . . . One primary reason is that Jerusalem was in the hands of the Romans and would soon destroy the Temple, the reason for the pilgrimage. He, in no way, was saying, anything goes, instead expressing a more personal focus because the relationship was about to become intimate.

Let’s take a look at each of the three pilgrimage feasts. First, Passover, they would come to present their sacrifice to the priests, and the Passover lamb would be sacrificed. It was to commemorate or remember the Exodus from Egypt, where those who had the blood on the doorpost were passed over by the angel of death. The final plague before Pharoah would let the people go. John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This was Jesus, the Lamb of God. In observing Passover in real-time, in that year, Jesus, as the Lamb, fulfilled the Feast. We should honor it today as a remembrance of our Passover Lamb, who takes away our sin.

Second, The Feast of Weeks occurs seven weeks or 50 days after the Sabbath of Passover. The interesting thing about this feast, it is a remembrance of the receiving of the law, and with the law comes the knowledge of sin. Its institution was to celebrate the ripening of the wheat harvest. Which is even more interesting! Think of it, Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few, pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers.” (Luke 10:2) Here is the cool thing, just as they received the law on Mt Sinai accompanied by smoke, fire, and clouds; so on the day of Pentecost 50 days from the Sabbath of Passover the disciples were gathered, and tongues of fire with a rushing wind came as they received the law written on their hearts as the Holy Spirit was given. We are the workers in the field that God has given.

Third, Tabernacles, this feast was in remembrance of the Hebrew nations wandering in the desert living in temporary shelters. They would again make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and worship there. Looking to the future, it is symbolic of the return of the King and Jesus ruling and reigning among His people as we tabernacle together with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Here’s a cool fact, the Feast of Tabernacles was open to all people and nations to come and be with the Lord. Reminds me of the Sabbath day and the Day of Atonement, another feast in which it is stated that even the foreigner within your gates should do no work. As Jesus declared, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” so we should consider the Sabbath God made for us, to rest and reflect on the goodness of our Lord.

Each of the other feasts is equally significant, and in Leviticus, we read that they are not Hebraic but rather God’s feasts.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are My appointed feasts.‘” Leviticus 23:1-2

But we don’t really celebrate these feasts, we pass them off as being strictly Hebraic. However, that isn’t even implied in Scripture, for it is Israel who was to be God’s mouthpiece to the world. And as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we are all grafted in together as one people before God. Again here in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The intention of the feasts, most certainly the final one known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is to unify us in the worship of God. To draw our attention to the Most High.

If God, so intently, marked out His desired Feasts, for His people to honor Him. He was even reminding them that these were forever feasts, being both remembrance and prophetic. If Jesus observed the Feasts and the early church followed the Feasts, i feel it right to do so now.

Now let me ask you; if you were one of the first century Christians, and as such, you, as they did, observe the Feasts with both the remembrance factor and the prophetic one in mind. Looking back and looking ahead, would you allow for a mingling of pagan cultural practices to interfere with those feasts? Would you desire to take on the worship of pagan gods to enhance the worship of God? i hope that your answer is NO WAY! It certainly is God’s answer:

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, for they even burn their sons and their daughter in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Deuteronomy 12:31-32

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

(Note, read all of 1 Corinthians 10) “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” . . . “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 22

We are to flee anything evil. We are not to intermingle pagan worship with the worship of God. These things have not changed, and yet we do. The majority of Christians in the west and some beyond do. Christmas and Easter both have their origins in paganism. These have been central holidays within the church for centuries. Why did the church allow this to happen? How did they not see? Why am i just now waking up to the truth? This isn’t an undue hardship or yoke, this is central to the Worship of God. i am not talking diets or fabrics or circumcision, i am speaking to what the Lord desires and what we were ultimately created for . . . Worship. If you think it is evil to worship the Lord, then don’t, as Joshua said.

Now to Halloween, i once thought it was actually the one rooted most in the faith with All Saints Day, but i was wrong there too. It is ripe with its roots in paganism, and there is no redeeming it, nor should we try. There is no need for an alternative either, for we have seven feasts to the Lord, and each one is a party, a grand celebration! We are called to be different, to come out of the culture and be the Kingdom here and now. When Jesus said we were to Worship in Spirit and in Truth, i am certain He didn’t include pagan rituals in there regardless of your “intent.”

In my next few postings, i will be touching on Halloween and its true origins and then Christmas in the same way. i hope to show why i am choosing to walk away from these traditions. i will also write again about Easter, although i have already done that if you go back in my history of posts. This is a massive step for me, it hasn’t been easy, but it is right. i am becoming one of “those” Christians, and it is not a burden placed on me . . . It is actually a point of self-denial to put away the ways of the world that i might honor the Lord. To love Him with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, i am becoming one of those Christians, the one i should have been from the beginning. And you should too!

You are loved,

cj

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

Let me start here: if you have not read Jude (an introduction), stop now and go read it . . . it will make more sense that way. However, as a reminder to those who did read it let me refresh your memory. Jude is one of four brothers of Jesus and at some point led the Church in Jerusalem. He came to faith after Jesus’ resurrection. This same Jude then pens this letter and it is powerful! As a call to repentance, as a reminder of judgment, and as a warning to stay alert as we contend for the faith.

He doesn’t waste time with small talk, antidotes, or gibber, he is very matter-of-fact. In the verses, we will look at this week, we will see his heart, and his understanding as the brother of Jesus and leader of the Church. Let’s look at verse 5, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Here is an interesting point, there are a couple manuscripts out there as well as a few versions of the Bible that use “Jesus” in place of “the Lord”. Could these early manuscripts be more accurate to Jude’s point? i think so. Jude had come to an understanding of who Jesus was and was not ashamed of it.

We love grace, i love grace. We preach grace, i preach grace, and it is glorious! However, we mustn’t lose sight of Jesus. Jesus, actively a part of the Old Testament, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, saves us by His cross. He leads us free from the chains of sin, out of bondage and into freedom. As the Israelites out of Egypt and still, subsequently (lit. the second time) He destroys those who did not believe. Folks, there is judgment. There is a hell and it has been preached since the formation of the Church. Do not be led astray. We must continue to contend for the faith in a world that would pervert the grace of God, even some in the Church.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [e]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [f]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [g]strange flesh, are exhibited as an [h]example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

Pray with me for insight, for understanding, for fresh revelation into God’s Word. Let the Spirit of God speak to our hearts through these words written by Jude inspired by the Spirit. May we grow in wisdom and faith, as we seek to walk humbly with Jesus, contending for the faith. Until next week . . .

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, it is just two verses. Yet these two verses are immensely profound in their simplicity. You want to boil things down to the minimum and just look at the core of human existence? Then here you go:

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love towards us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!”

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, Praise the Lord. Worship Him. Because, He is faithful. His love is strong towards us and He is forever faithful. Thus, we should, Praise the Lord! No matter what you are facing, no matter what difficulties or trials befall you, Praise the Lord! In the good and in the bad, Praise the Lord! In the sun and in the rain, Praise the Lord! In life and in death, Praise the Lord! In sickness and in health, Praise the Lord! In the hardest of times and in the best of times, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj

Within the Veil

Within the Veil

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.” Matthew 27:51 KJV

Such a simple passage that is full of great meaning. The veil of the temple was a giant curtain. This curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the place where man dwelt, basically the rest of the temple. The temple was where the sacrifice was made for the atonement of sin. The Holy of Holies, beyond the veil, was only entered once a year for that purpose by the High Priest. Who first had to be consecrated before he was allowed to enter with the atoning sacrifice for the people.

Here in Matthew 27, we read that upon Jesus breathing His last, “It is finished,” the final atonement of sin offered by our High Priest, Jesus, was offered. The atoning work is done, the need of the veil that separated a Holy God from sinful man was no longer needed, and therefore torn in two. The thing that separated man from God, sin, was dealt a deathly blow. Allowing us to enter the Holy of Holies, God’s presence, on our own. We now dine within the veil. No longer does God dwell in a temple of meeting but rather in our hearts. We are the temple, individually and collectively as the church. Not a church as a place but as a people, a people of God.

We can now bring, on our own, our needs, our hopes, our fears, our sin, our repentance, our faith, our lack of faith, our weakness, and our strength, right into God’s presence. i can carry you there and you can carry me there alone or together, individually or corporately. You see the veil is torn in two! It is gone, it is finished. Jesus was the final atoning sacrifice for the sin of man. When we believe that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When we acknowledge Him as our Savior, we enter into the Holy of Holies. That is a very cool thing. To know that we have the opportunity to enter into the presence of Almighty God and He desires us to do so, is really awesome.

Yet, many Christians miss it, they miss the opportunity to sit in the presence of God and dine with Him. All is not lost, however, for to us, a promise is made, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

You are Loved,

cj

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

i enjoy social media, probably too much. i like to scroll down and read stories, look at pictures, watch funny and thought provoking videos…oh and post some too.  i like Facebook for its functionality in seeing what my friends are up to…sometimes the posts break my heart, not always because a tragedy had taken place but because poor choices are being made. Twitter is another place i enjoy visiting. It is quick reads, with occasional links to longer stories. Snap shots into ones thoughts or experiences or views on life, love and laughter.

i can get so wrapped up in it that i spend time thinking of hashtags, you may know them as pound signs or the number symbol. Which ever way you remember them the hashtag is a line or words run together that makes a point and links your point to others making the same point.  For instance a popular hashtag is #MondayMotivation so if i were to write something like, “Monday’s are hard without my #coffee #MondayMotivation” i would be linking my tweet or FaceBook post with others talking about coffee or Monday Motivation. i say all that as if those reading this have no idea what a hashtag is having just woken from an 11 year coma.

Colossians 1:15-20 reads;

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,

16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.

17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.

18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.

19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20         and he reconciled all things to himself through him—
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

Let me put this into present day terms we might better understand, Jesus is our hashtag. When we live our lives in Christ, we live them linked together with Him and those that are linked with Him are also linked together by #Jesus. It is both and, not either or…we are linked if you are in Christ. Which means we are living each others lives, living the experiences, challenges, hopes, fears, triumphs, AND failures together. Our life joining hashtag is Jesus and with HIM comes community. The world says FaceBook or Twitter or by a half dozen other social networks we can share with others but the Word says, Jesus, and together, we are one, experiencing life together.  Let me close with this, life, is more than a hashtag, Jesus is more than a hashtag but if the language you speak is hashtag then #Jesus because #lifeismorethanjustahashtag.

You are loved,

cj