And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 14, Number
In this issue:
Every year at this time the subject of whether we celebrate Christmas comes up. The answer depends on whether one is asking about the religious celebration of the birth of Christ or about the seasonal holiday of goodwill.
There is absolutely no Bible support for a religious observance of the birth of Jesus. Yes, the Bible records the event of His birth, and we thank God that our Savior came to earth. But the fact that the Bible records the historical account of His birth does not authorize us to have a religious holiday to observe it (the traditions of men, notwithstanding). There is no evidence of a “Feast of the Nativity” until the 4th century A. D. “Christmas” means the “mass of Christ” and refers to a special mass that was conducted to honor Christ’s birth. Clearly, it is a Catholic expression originating with the Catholic Church. The religious celebration of Christ’s birth is an invention and addition of men. It has not been ordained by God in His inspired word, the Bible. Therefore, we will not held captive to the traditions men have added to the gospel of Christ (Col. 2:21-23; Gal. 1:6-9)
Just as acts that are viewed as religious by some can also be practiced non-religiously (cf. circumcision, Acts 16:1-3; washing hands, Mk. 7:1-4; eating of meats sacrificed to idols, 1 Cor. 10:27), it is possible to celebrate this holiday season non-religiously. As a festive, joyous expression of goodwill, the seasonal traditions of Christmas can be kept by all. Yet, we must be careful not to give our endorsement to the religious additions of men that go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno.9-11).
Some may call us “scrooge” or say we do not believe in the birth of Jesus. These things are not true. We honor the birth of Christ, but we will do so God’s way, not man’s way. We must be careful not to think that God must accept whatever we say He should accept from us; remember Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). If one can give Bible authority for the religious observance of the birth of Jesus then we will retract what we teach on the subject and start offering religious observance of Christ’s birth. If that cannot be done, then join hands with us in being careful not to add to God’s word (1 Cor. 4:6).
Churches Close December 25
Joe R. Price
Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year. Beliefnet.com reports on megachurches that have decided to close their doors on the holiday and then promptly scolds them, “What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days? That it is OK to stay home and do one’s own thing even on Jesus’ birthday?” (“No Church on Christmas?”, Ben Witherington, beliefnet.com) “Jesus’ birthday”? Whatever the exact day of Christ’s birth, it is extremely unlikely to have been December 25 (Lk. 2:8). “Highest holy days”? That certainly is not speaking as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:8). There are no “high holy days” designated in the gospel of Christ (including His birthday).
Professor Witherington concludes his rebuke, “Shame on you megachurches. Repent and believe the Gospel, starting with the birth stories of Jesus.” One can easily find the record of Christ’s birth in the Scriptures. But one will search in vain to find divine commandment, apostolic example or a necessary conclusion that God sanctions, approves, endorses, expects and accepts men offering Him a religious celebration of the birth of Jesus. Using the same logic, we might as well begin having annual celebrations of the baptism of Jesus! Like Easter, church councils and church tradition authorizes and advances the religious celebration of Christ’s birth. The Bible, while recording the wonderful event, does not so command. We encourage Mr. Witherington and beliefnet.com to study the dating of the birth of Jesus as well as its religious celebration before asserting Christ’s birthday is December 25. (See “A Thing of Brass”, www.bibleanswer.com/thingofbrass.htm)
As for closing on Sunday, December 25, the megachurches are just following the will of the people - something they long since gave themselves over to do (Prov. 16:25; Matt. 7:21-23). One of the leading megachurches, the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL closed in 2005, the last time Christmas was on a Sunday (“When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off”, Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times). According to Mr. Witherington’s beliefnet.com article, “The rationale given in our local newspaper, The Lexington-Herald Leader, was: people are so busy and Christmas is supposed to be a family day, so this decision was made as a family-friendly gesture.”
Religion imposed by men is warned against in Colossians 2:23: “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” True worship is not regulated by how busy we are or by pitting family goals against worship goals. The conflict over whether to have services on December 25 exists only because men have introduced a religious holiday the Bible does not authorize! We must be content with God’s way of worship. Offering God worship He does not endorse is vain worship (Jno. 4:23-24).
God’s people anticipate and rejoice to praise and adore God for His wonderful grace and mercy, His infinite love and blessings, and for His name’s sake (Psa. 100:1-4; 22:22-23; Heb. 2:11). Worship is a wonderful privilege and a great responsibility. Its blessing must not be tarnished by injecting human will and tradition.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Sorrow for Sin
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:12-17
1. Sorrow for
sin plays a part in genuine repentance, 2 Cor. 7:9-10.
I. THE SORROW OF THE WORLD.
Momentary, but Void of Any Fundamental Change, 1 Sam. 15:24-30; 28:17-20.
II. GODLY SORROW.
A. God is
the Object of Godly Sorrow, Psa. 32:5-6; Lk. 15:17-19.
III. ARE YOU READY TO REPENT OF SINS, BE CONVERTED TO CHRIST AND BEAR GODLY FRUIT?
Ready Without Genuine Faith, Heb. 11:6; 12:14-16.
will not despise a broken and contrite heart, Psa. 51:17.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Report: India 2011
Scripture Reading: Acts 21:17-20a
1. Oct. 16-Nov.
14, 2011: Fifth preaching trip to India. Joined by Marc Smith.
I. THE PLACES.
States, Fifteen Places, 13 Churches.
II. THE AUDIENCES AND MESSAGES.
Different Groups of Liberally-Influenced Brethren the First Ten Days.
III. THE FUTURE, Jas. 4:15.
A. A More
Localized Preacher Training Class in 2012.
1. The past
five years of work has focused on calling preachers out of liberalism.
Doing the Right Thing
The Mt. Baker chapter of the American Red Cross held its Real Heroes award dinner Thursday night. Nearly twenty citizens from Whatcom and Skagit counties were honored for serving others by going “beyond their duty to help save lives” (The Bellingham Herald). Matthew Aamot was honored for helping police arrest a 15-year old with a gun who shot people at this year’s fair in Lynden. A group of teachers and students helped save a drowning girl. Another man for recognized for applying the Heimlich maneuver to a choking person.
What these folks have in common is they just did the right thing when it was needed. “The real hero is the officer who did the hard work,” said Aamot, a Custer resident and manager of Lynden Farm and Garden. “I just happened to lose my mind and chase a guy through the fairground.” (Ibid)
These are good examples for us to follow. Christians are to help others who need our help. It may not be a life-saving act, but by helping others we show our faith in God and our love for our neighbors (Matt. 22:39). Citizens of Christ’s kingdom treat others the way they want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).
Doing the right thing may not be immediately recognized. Even if these people had not been recognized by the Red Cross, their good deeds were still a blessing to others. We do good because it is good; not for recognition or pay back (Matt. 6:1-4; Lk. 6:31-34).
Jesus will eternally bless His disciples who “do the right thing” toward others (Matt. 25:34-41). The Lord sees you when you do the right thing. So, do the right thing “hoping for nothing in return”, and He will reward you in due time (Lk. 6:35).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 12/06/2011
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA