Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Jesus: He's Kind of a Big Deal

Much like xHWA, writing at this time of year has become a tradition of mine. It's taken me so long, in part, because I was having a hard time deciding what to write. After all, the time we have available for blogging is getting to be so infrequent that it's hard to know whether anyone is reading As Bereans Did anymore.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I can make a decent guess about some of our web traffic. We noticed that, ahead of this Christmas season, COGWA has added an article explaining that the American and Canadian Thanksgiving holidays are acceptable to the Lord, possibly in response to our tongue-in-cheek efforts to connect them to paganism. Apparently COGWA has decided that, though many modern customs associated with Thanksgiving "may not be pleasing to God, they are not rooted in paganism" and don't subvert the truth presented in the holy days.

Additionally, COGWA notes that Purim and Hanukkah are not commanded festivals, but that they are mentioned in the Bible. Presumably, they are acceptable because they commemorate important events, even miracles, in Hebrew national history.

Hmmmm. I'm debating whether it's even worth my time to dignify that assertion by stating the obvious about the birth of our Savior, whenever it actually happened...

Nope. It's not. Moving on...

We also noticed that UCG added a few paragraphs to its annual reheated article about when Jesus was born dismissing the traditional ancient Jewish belief that many prophets were either conceived or born on the same day of the year that they died. Rather than addressing or discrediting our sources, or considering whether this may have been a factor when the original date was set, they brush it off by saying that it "shows how far people are willing to go to justify the Christmas date."

In addition to the false claims about the Saturnalia, we noticed that UCG is still perpetuating the myth that colonial America banned Christmas because of its pagan origins. COG organizations tend to romanticize these "brighter moments" in history, completely ignoring the fact that the early Puritans rejected Christmas because it was viewed as Catholic, not because they believed it was pagan. And, much like the Waldensians, the Puritans neither kept the Levitical holy days; nor did most worship on Saturday.

Many of the COGS desperately try hitch their wagons to the Puritans, and especially the handful of Baptist Sabbatarian sects of New England. This link is absolutely not true - the COGs stumbled into their brand of Sabbatarianism, prophecy and rejection of mainstream Christian holidays through William Miller, the Great Disappointment, Ellen G. White and others in the Seventh Day Adventist movement, which spawned the Church of God-Seventh Day, which spawned the Worldwide Church of God. If the COGs truly wanted to get back to their Puritan "roots," they would also distance themselves from the evils of dice, card playing and wearing colorful clothing; then also place strict limitations on the consumption of alcohol. I won't be holding my breath.

As xHWA explained, those who perpetuate these myths in the COGs seem not to be interested in exploring the truth. We've given logical, reasoned alternatives to their narrative. Heck, we've even given them our sources. They're pretty obviously reading what we have to say. Rather than doing any serious research, they dismiss it with a sentence or two, then copy and paste the same arguments they've been making every December since the 1940s.

Honestly, in a way, I can understand. We at ABD absolutely understand what it means to consider that what you've been taught might not be the whole truth. It can cost you your family, your friends, your social support system and your identity. And though these were hard enough, it didn't also cost us our livelihood or our retirement. The COG leadership is fully invested in this narrative, in every sense of the word. If what they teach about the paganism in mainstream Christianity is a lie, then they have no reason to exist.  

Since they're not listening, I'd like to talk to you.

I'm not interested in convincing you to celebrate Christmas. Sure, it would be nice not to be sighed over and whispered about behind our backs. It would be nice to share this meaningful time with family. But I'm sure they feel that way about the Feast, too, so I'm not going to throw stones. And I'd have to be pretty foolish to try to tell you that you don't need to celebrate the holy days of the Sinai Covenant - but do need to celebrate Christmas - to be right with God.  

In fact, that's exactly what I want you to understand - there's nothing you can do to make yourself right with God. Keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread doesn't make or keep you right with God. Celebrating Easter doesn't make or keep you right with God. Keeping a seventh-day Sabbath doesn't make or keep you right with God. Going to church every Sunday doesn't make or keep you right with God. There is no obedience checklist that secures your salvation.  Yes, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that obedience to the teachings of the New Covenant, its Testator and His apostles are part of Christianity. We were bought with a price, we obey our Lord as best we can, following Him and growing more like Him. But our obedience is the result of our faith and the Holy Spirit in our lives; it is not the cause.

There is only one thing that secures your salvation: God's promise to forgive your sins and gift you with eternal life. That promise comes by grace when you place your faith in that covenantal promise, sealed in the blood of His Son Jesus. It was Jesus that made it possible. He is wasn't a step in the holy day plan - He WAS the plan, from the foundation of the world. The holy days, the sabbath, the Sinai Covenant, the law and the prophets were all shadows of the Light of the world, the only Way. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17-20, if Christ is not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. And that is why Jesus is, in layman's terms, a Big Deal.

We will all stand before God one day, giving account for the way we lived our lives, for every idle word that we spoke. The Bible tells us that faith in Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, the path to God. It tells us that if we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. In that day, you will not be able to point your finger at your minister for relegating Him to a minimal role in your religious system. You will stand on your own.

It was a Big Deal when Jesus Christ was born, because that birth set our freedom in motion. Jesus Christ's teachings and ministry were a Big Deal, because He preached the forgiveness of sins and our new birth. Jesus' death was a Big Deal, because our lives can be saved through the blood He shed. And His resurrection was a Big Deal, because it meant that He was Who He said He was, and that we could have faith in His promises of forgiveness, being born again and receiving eternal life. Your ministers might not make a big deal of those things, but your Bible does.

There's no law that said you had to read the biblical accounts of Christ's birth yesterday or today, just like there's no law that says you must read accounts of His resurrection on the anniversary of its occurrence. But read them - without criticizing the arrival of the wise men or the timeline of when Jesus rose from the dead. Recognize these accounts for the miracles that they were, regardless of when they took place, and what they mean for your life. They were given to you by a God who loves you in order to instruct you, to encourage you, and to give you hope - not coincidentally, the same God who established Jesus as the the plan, the way, the solution for your sin and mine from the foundation of the world.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent.

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him... (Colossians 1:15-22)

Now THAT's kind of a big deal.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this article, it was brief and to the point. When debating Armstrongists or other sabbatarians on Facebook I have asked them to elaborate what Jesus actually means to them. I ask about what it means to them that God sent His Son to save us. I've asked what the resurrection actually means to them. I've even asked what His atoning death means to them. You know, I have almost received no answer whatsoever from any of them. The most common response is they will quote "if you love me keep my commandments" without ever once thinking about what His commandments actually are, and thus they start talking about their own obedience. I've also had a few admit they didn't know what I was talking about, some go silent and even block me, and one actually told me I sounded corny. They seriously DON'T understand the significance of Jesus' birth, life, death, or resurrection. All they can talk about is sabbath, sabbath, sabbath,....law, law, law (but wait, just not THAT law) or worse yet...Ellen, Herbert, or some COG leader of their choice. It's downright tragic. Anyway, thank you for posting "Martha"...see you on Facebook.
Child Survivor