Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Spring Holy Days of the Gentile Christian Church Are Not Scriptural

As I write this, a couple weeks ago the world celebrated Mardi Gras (known by other names in other countries) and Ash Wednesday, then embarked upon Lent leading up to Easter. As many churches celebrate all of these holidays, Catholic and Protestant alike, it is important to take a look at these holidays and see if they are Biblical in nature or not.

Beginning with the first of the holidays in this list, we have Mardi Gras. Mardi is the French word for Tuesday, and gras means “fat.” In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” This name comes in part from the food that was consumed leading up to and including the day. Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years (pre-Christianity) to pagan celebrations heralding the arrival of spring, the hope of fertility, and the renewal of life. In the spring, the god who was so feted was Lupercus and the Romans named this festival "Lupercalia" in his honor. This festival was a raucous, drunken orgy with much merrymaking. It was held in Rome in February after which time the participants would then fast for forty days.  When Christianity arrived in Rome, and pagans converted, they did not want to give up their popular holidays. Think of how modern Christians resist the idea of forsaking Christmas, which has become a very secularized holiday, actually has no Scriptural basis, and in fact is based on a pagan holiday. Nobody wants to do it. It is a fun holiday on which we paste a Christian veneer and the deeply ingrained tradition is not something that people easily want to part with, even if it is not actually Bible based.  Neither did the people of Rome want to give up their holidays. As it seemed impossible to separate the people from their traditions, along with many other compromises such as renaming the pagan statues for Christian "saints" (Zeus became Peter), turning the vestal virgins into nuns, keeping the Babylonian priesthood of the Pontifex Maximus and cardinals, and etc., religious leaders decided to incorporate and Christianize these pagan traditions into the new faith, which was an easier method of transitioning without rebellion than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the debauchery and excesses of  Lupercalia, now renamed Mardi Gras, became a prelude to the newly re-purposed and renamed period of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The period is now said to be in commemoration of Christ's 40 days of fasting in the wilderness (actually Lent is 46 days in length as they don't count the Sundays). As Christianity spread to other European countries and from there to the other continents via missionary work of the church, so did Mardi Gras and its accompanying Lenten period.

Just as today people don masks and costumes (or merely go nude), the Romans also donned masks, dressed in costumes, and indulged in all the depraved carnal pleasures, as they gave themselves to Bacchus (god of wine) and Venus (goddess of love). The purpose of the masks and costumes were to disguise their identities so as to be able to anonymously engage in sexual misconduct, which they normally would not be able to do. Under the "influence of Bacchus," all kinds of debauchery was allowed. Today in New Orleans, they have a celebrity pose as Bacchus for the big parade as all sorts of debauched, depraved, and usually drunken people strut their naked or almost naked bodies,  engaging in lewd behavior and public sexual activities both hetero and homosexual. Woman flashing their naked breasts and crotch, and men their genitals is very common among all the tourists who come for the festivities.

The word carnival, another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, also derives from this feasting tradition: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat, from the Latin carnem for meat. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting. Hence the name "Fat Tuesday" or in French "Mardi Gras."

While there is more history attached to Mardi Gras, I believe this is enough to show the origins of the festival and the tone it sets.  In New Orleans, January 6 kicks off three things - Twelfth night, Epiphany, and the start of Carnival season which continues up to Mardi Gras. During this time, people live as carnally as possible in anticipation of the six weeks of fasting (whatever they choose to fast, it doesn't have to be food). Then, beginning twelve days before Fat Tuesday, nightly parades are held, which get bigger and more elaborate as the big festival day approaches. These parades are a mix of many things celebrating the sinful pleasures of life. In the final week, festivities intensify in New Orleans and surrounding communities, culminating in the biggest parades. Mardi Gras is so popular that it is accepted as a holiday in some parts of the South. On Mardi Gras, the revelry in New Orleans is non-stop with drunkenness, unbridled sexual activity including people having sex with strangers, and all kinds of perversions. Ash Wednesday is known as Trash Wednesday in New Orleans due to the filthiness of the streets.

The next holiday in this list of spring holy days is Ash Wednesday. This ritual “imposition of the ashes” is purportedly in imitation of the repentant act of covering oneself in dust and ashes as was done in the Bible. While Mardi Gras and Lent started much earlier in the church's history, Ash Wednesday was a later addition to the Christian liturgical calendar, first appearing in the tenth century according to historical records written in the eleventh century. Or rather its Christian practice dates to then. The putting on of ashes on Ash Wednesday goes back to the Norse practice, several hundred years earlier when it was done to celebrate the deeds of Sigurd, the hero of the Volsung Saga, a character perhaps better known as Siegfried from the Ring of the Nibelung.

In the pre-Christian Norse religion, the laying of ashes (ashes being representative of Sigurd), was meant to grant the Norse God Odin’s protection to a Viking warrior in battle. When the Vikings raided coastal towns in western and Mediterranean Europe they brought their beliefs and practices with them, included the laying of ashes on a Wednesday–Odin‘s Day–(another name for Odin is Woden, hence Woden's Day or Wednesday) which the Christian Church appropriated and inserted as a barrier between Mardi Gras and the Lenten period.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance. This is done in the shape of a cross. It's supposed to be a day of fasting, mourning, and penance. It might have the appearance of godliness, but it's not at all Biblical.  Disfiguring one's face to imply fasting is in direct violation of Christ's directive which was to not disfigure the face but to wash our faces and not let anyone know we are fasting.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;  That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18.

The next thing in this list of liturgical events is Lent. As Lent was officially instituted by the Catholic church, I will let them define its purpose. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ… One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”

So, according to the Catholic church, the purpose of Lent is to purify ourselves through self-denial and prayer, and make God’s Kingdom come. There are obviously some serious problems with this. First of all, no amount of good works, whether self-denial, prayer, fasting, abstinence, or any other work can purify us from sin. We cannot purify ourselves. Nor will it put within us a desire to do God's will or make God's Kingdom come. The only thing that purifies us is the blood of Jesus Christ. And the only way to receive that is through repentance and confessing Him as the Son of God and our Savior. And God's Kingdom will only come on earth when Christ returns. All of our works are like filthy rags, if we do them through our own efforts. Only those things done through Christ are of any merit, and even those do not grant salvation. They only gain us rewards in heaven, and keep our relationship with God in good standing.

Paul had this to say about self-denial. “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  (Touch not; taste not; handle not;  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?  Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” Colossians 2:20-23.
Lent is a doctrine of men that insists upon denying the flesh for the purpose of purifying yourself. As you cannot purify yourself, what is the point of this type of fast? Fasting is Scriptural, but it seems to be taught that it is in conjunction with prayer, for the purpose of focusing more acutely on the prayer to show God your sincerity and draw you closer to Him. It isn't to show God how you are trying to balance out the sins you have indulged in during Carnival and Mardi Gras through period of self-denial. 

So, where did the observance of Lent come from? We know that the people fasted for 40 days after Lupercalia, but is there an origin older than that from which they got the practice? The Babylonians had a tradition of weeping, fasting, and mourning for Tammuz which is very similar to Lent, and some have speculated that this might be the actual origin of Lent. In fact, the prophet Ezekiel saw a vision about people mourning over Tammuz at the Temple in Jerusalem. "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.  Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these." Ezekiel 8:14-15.

It is interesting that one of the Babylonian practices was to cross oneself in the shape of a "T" as a sign of Tammuz. One can see this remnant of Babylonianism in the practice of Catholics crossing themselves when they genuflect. The "T", originally a sign of Tammuz and which is now said to be the sign of the cross, is also the mark put upon people's foreheads when they receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

In A.D. 360, the Catholic Church at the Council of Laodicea officially commanded the observance of Lent and the people celebrated Mardi Gras (or whatever name you wish to call it by) to prepare for Lent. So the Roman church established this practice 300 years after Messiah’s death and resurrection. None of these practices have their origins in the Bible. They all seem to have their origins in paganism. And the church commanded the observance of two of these. Ash Wednesday and Lent. The Bible tells us what the commandments of men are to Him. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctines the commandments of men." Mark 7:7. God sees it all as in vain. It means nothing to Him except to be useless. We should not be adding celebrations that have their origins in paganism to our traditions.

While it is said that Lent is 40 days, in commemoration of Christ, it is actually 46 days. The Sundays are not included. I would like to know why that is. Is it because the original pagan day of Lupercalia was not 40 days before what became Easter, and so to make it fit the timeline, so they could put the Christian veneer over it, they just decided to not count the Sundays? Why of all days would you not fast on the day you go to worship God? (For anyone who follows my blog, you know that I don't believe Sunday is the correct day of worship anyhow. The Sabbath is, but the church celebrates it as if it were the Sabbath.)

While in the beginning people fasted food, which is the only kind of fast that I have found in the Bible, it has devolved into people "fasting" things which are almost meaningless, so that they don't really miss what they "fast." For instance, I know someone who decided to "fast" their online internet games. This person is not Catholic, she is a Protestant (some Protestants do observe this liturgical practice), born again Christian, as far as I know. I cannot understand why she does not see the trivial way she is celebrating it, if she is going to celebrate it. Does she really think that Christ cares about giving up forty days of online games? How exactly is that going to bring her closer to Christ? I do not doubt her sincerity, but I do doubt her discernment.

In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop says:

"Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the 'sacred fast' or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, with the full knowledge of all these abominations, 'went down to Egypt for help' to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate church, and who could find no more excellent way to 'revive' it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever think of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how low they had sunk, and it was also a cause of evil; it inevitably led to deeper degradation. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding revelries of the carnival, was entirely unknown...."

Alexander von Humboldt, a German explorer of the early 19th century wrote of the practice among the pagans in Mexico being held in the spring, the following:

"Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun." The idea of fasting forty days was a common pagan practice that evolved on separate continents. And it was done in honor of the sun in this case. Sun worship is really just another name for worshiping Satan.

It was also celebrated in Egypt, according to John Landseer in his Sabean Researches. He wrote that a period of forty days was held in honor of Osiris. As the Egyptian religion was the descendant of Babylonianism from Nimrod and Semiramis (Tower of Babel), as were the pagan religions of the other countries of the world, we should not be surprised to see this as a common ritual in all of them.

There is a spiritual undertone which indicates the spirit behind these traditions. Christ made it clear in John 4:23-24 how we are to worship. " But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Riotous debauchery, followed by a pagan practice and mock repentance is not it.  This is no more than ritual religious observance with, for a great majority of its practitioners, no real conviction behind it. It is lacking the vital element required by God. It lacks truth.

In 1 Peter 1:13-16 we are told "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

We are not to fashion ourselves after the manner of the pagans or imitate them, but we are to be holy. Being holy means to be set apart and different from the rest of the world. If we are indulging in pagan traditions, which are an abomination to God, how exactly are we being holy?

We have to be very, very careful about taking man-made traditions and elevating them to the level of God-ordained holy days, especially when they have pagan roots. In Matthew 15:3, Christ says, "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"  The Pharisees and scribes had incorporated all kinds of traditions and imposed them on the people. Traditions which not only were unBiblical in origin, but were anti-Biblical in nature. They actually transgressed the laws of God. It is no surprise that Christ seriously objected to this. In the same chapter in verses 6b-9, He said, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." These traditions make the commandments of God to be of no effect. It renders them null and void. Mark 7:9,13 "And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.....Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."  The consequences of following man-made religious traditions in place of worshiping God in truth is also addressed by Christ.  Matthew 23:15 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."  Traditions are not just harmless rituals. They can actually drive us away from God.

Additionally, God prefers a different kind of fast than one that is strictly ritual and not heartfelt. Isaiah 58:5-7 says, "Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
Lastly the holy day of Easter has to be addressed. Before even getting into that, the very name itself screams paganism. As much as is known, which is not a great deal, Eostre, or Ostara as she was also known, was a pagan goddess of Germanic origin. Eostre is traced back to a "goddess of the dawn." As the goddess of the dawn, the sunrise was an important part of the celebrations, as were bonfires, eggs, and rabbits for the spring fertility rituals. This goddess was apparently starting to take a back seat when Christianity came along, but as with all things ingrained in a populous, some remnants remained, and the name "Easter" and the associations were added to the paschal season. We have sunrise services, Easter eggs, and chocolate bunnies.

In addition to the above associations, the timing of Easter was decided by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 to be the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. If we are to observe the Feast of Firstfruits, which is the correct feast day, which became the resurrection day of Christ when He fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits, it would be the Sunday after Passover, which is the 15th of Nissan or Aviv, the first month of the ecclesiastical year in Judaism. As the first of the month is determined by the new moon, and the new moon is two weeks away from the full moon, the 15th of the month would end up being in the relative same time frame as the full moon. And as the month of Nissan falls in the spring, it would also fall around the vernal equinox. So it is common that Passover and Easter fall around the same time, and most often fall in the same week, but the factors determining the dates are not the same, so there can be times when they do not fall at the same time.

Passover is determined by God's instructions. Easter is determined by association with the occult importance of the vernal equinox and full moon. They just happen to coincide most of the time. When it happens that they do not, because Judaism often inserts an extra month in their calendar every so many years, Easter does not fall on the Feast of Firstfruits. Easter's date of observance therefore has more to do with the pagan celebration of Eostre than the Feast of Firstfruits. This is not the way it should be. As the resurrection was the fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits, it should always occur on the Sunday after Passover. So are we celebrating a day which is not always really the right day? And should we be celebrating Passover as a part of this instead of ignoring it as a Jewish holiday? What does the Word of God say on the issue.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."  Exactly what feast is Paul speaking about? Easter was not a feast that the disciples celebrated. Passover was the feast they celebrated. And it seems that Paul is telling us to keep the feast - the feast of Passover - for the reference is that Christ is our passover.  Is the day of resurrection also to be celebrated? As it already existed as a feast day in Judaism - the Feast of Firstfruits, yes, it is also to be celebrated. But we have forgotten to celebrate Passover, relegating it to the trash as a Jewish holy day, not a Christian one. Instead we celebrate Good Friday (if you can call it celebrating), which even in that there is dispute that Jesus died on Friday, as that does not allow for three days and nights in the grave. It would be much better for us to celebrate Passover which contains all the significance of His death on the cross.

When Christ ate the Last Supper with the disciples, He was celebrating the Passover seder. When He picked up the cup and said "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins," He was actually renaming the third cup that is drunk in the Passover Seder - the cup known as the Cup of Redemption. (There are four cups, each with a different meaning.) When He broke the bread and ate it, He was breaking the bread known as the afikomen (see note below on afikomen). Both are important parts of the seder meal. What He was doing was re-purposing and renaming two of the Passover elements, not creating a new tradition with all the other elements removed. It was the same tradition, but with new meaning. Men are the ones who have changed the tradition by removing those two things from their original source. We have lost much of the meaning and significance of what He did and said at the Passover by removing those two elements from the seder and making them a la carte. He said that when we drank the cup (the cup of redemption of the Passover) and when we ate the bread (of afikomen), we were to do so in remembrance of Him. But people don't realize that it is the Cup of Redemption and they don't know the bread is the bread of the afikomen and what those two things mean within the seder.

[Afikomen- during the Passover seder, three pieces of matzoh are placed in a bag with three compartments. At a point early in the seder, the middle piece of matzoh is taken out and broken in half. Half is put back in the bag, and the other half is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden or buried to be found (resurrected) later in the seder. When searched for and found, the matzoh is broken into pieces for the guests at the seder to share and is eaten. To the Jews, this is a ritual for which they really don't have an explanation, but as Christians we can see the significance. The three pieces of matzoh stand for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The middle matzoh, the Son, is taken out and broken (for our sins) and it is wrapped in a cloth and "buried." When found (resurrected) it is eaten by those celebrating the Passover. This is the ritual that Christ observed with the disciples when He broke the bread and said, "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you."]

Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 "And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." As often as we drink the Cup of Redemption from the Passover seder and as often as we partake of the afikomen, we do so in remembrance of Him, which means, we were expected to continue to observe the Passover, but in a Messianic way, the way Christ did at the last Passover. And then we were to observe the Feast of Firstfruits in remembrance of Christ being the firstfruit of the resurrection. This is the way it was intended for us to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. How much more deeply significant is spending the time at a Passover observance going through the Scriptures, singing songs, and partaking of the lengthy seder meal with all of its meanings, instead of celebrating with an Easter basket full of eggs and bunnies and going to a church service. Look at what we have lost. The most moving celebration I ever had at this time of year was when I partook of a Messianic Passover seder. And one does not serve ham (which was an unclean animal and therefore not acceptable to the Jews) at a Passover seder. The meat of choice is Lamb, for the Lamb of God. Even the meat has a spiritual significance which we have abandoned in favor of serving one of the forbidden meats of the Old Testament. Considering that the meat has spiritual application, what does it say that many Christians serve it on Easter in place of Lamb?

That the early church, before Rome changed so many of the traditions by compromising them with paganism, celebrated Passover can be seen in this passage from The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. He wrote: “The festival, of which we read in Church history, under the name of Easter, in the third or fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter…That festival [Passover] was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. ‘It ought to be known,’ said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive [New Testament] Church with the Church in his day, ‘that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.’” Not only was Lent was not observed by the first century Church, it would appear that Passover was the feast that was observed, not Easter.

As can be seen with all the information above, the holidays that the Church celebrates in no way can claim origin in the Scriptures (except for celebrating the resurrection). We have abandoned God's feasts in favor of pagan ones with a Christian overlay. Does God care? Too many Christians think that He does not, as long as they themselves want to believe the rituals are okay. I do not think that God takes sincerity (which is the excuse) into account. Uzzah was sincere when he tried to catch the ark of the covenant from falling off the wagon. God killed him for disobedience. Nadab and Abihu were sincere when they offered the wrong kind of incense on the fire. God killed them for disobedience. There seems to be a pattern here. Sincerity did not count. Obedience and adherence to God's ways seems to be what God cares about. Ritual, and especially ritual with no real heart repentance is meaningless to God. Hear what He has to say to Israel when they acted in this way, and they were observing the rituals that God had created for them, not pagan ones with a phony godly veneer over them. We should look at their punishments and heed the lesson.

Isaiah 1:11-14, 16-20 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them......Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.  Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:  But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Give Me Meat, Not Milk

Recently I spent most of the day at a Ladies Conference at my church. I will admit that I have never really enjoyed these kind of conferences, for several reasons. First of all, I am not big on large crowds of people and these conferences can sometimes pull in large numbers. I am much more a one on one or small group kind of person. I tend to have a few very close friends that I can count on rather than a slew of fair weather acquaintances. It is just my personality to prefer it that way. A second reason is that these conferences are usually geared towards subjects that specifically apply to  ladies, most of which tend to not be the most stimulating from an intellectual scholarly point of view. While I have no objection to these subjects per se, I am and have always been a scholar and prefer a scholarly presentation on some deep spiritual or theological subject rather than hearing for the umpteenth time "How to be a Woman of God,"with lots of personal stories, visual props, crafts, and entertainment. It seems that this is the recurring theme at every conference. It only varies in the presentation. To me there is very little difference between being a woman of God and just being a Christian who does their best to walk in holiness, and I long ago learned what the requirements of doing that were. It is now my responsibility to work on that knowledge, not to have it drummed into me at every opportunity, as if I am unaware of the requirement.  If I haven't learned it in the 60 years I have been a Christian, then obviously I am not going to learn it. That's not saying that other younger Christians don't need this lesson, but it would be nice if once in a while they geared the messages toward those who are mature Christians who learned all this long ago. The last problem for me is that these things often tend to deteriorate to an elementary school level entertainment production, as horrible as that may sound.

To demonstrate what I mean with that last remark, let me share what I experienced at my latest conference. As most of these things begin, we started with prayer and singing a hymn. So far so good. The speaker gave us handouts on the topic, which was Jeremiah 18. She was going to discuss the potter and the clay and all the lessons that can be learned from that comparison as to God's relationship with us and how God molds us. This is not the deepest spiritual lesson one can learn, as it is a rather basic lesson that one should learn as a new Christian. I call it a lesson from Christianity 101. She went over the basics of receiving salvation, and then our need for ongoing repentance and allowing God to bring into our lives what He does for our spiritual growth. It is most definitely one that should be taught to new Christians, and as this woman is actually what I would call an evangelist by spiritual gifting, I would expect that this would be the basic lesson that she teaches, no matter what Scriptures she might use to vary the presentation.

As she also seems to do these presentations with young people or children much of the time (being a pastor's wife), she has developed a method which she uses regardless of the nature of the audience. So, even though probably 85%  of the audience constituted people over the age of 55 in this case, we were treated to what would have been a very entertaining show for elementary and possibly as old as high school children. She put on the costumes of characters such as an old woman, and a haughty British schoolteacher (I understand she has other characters she uses from well-known children's books as well) and in those personas presented us with some elementary school science tricks. With each trick there was a spiritual application. e.g. colored water made clear by the application of some chemical shows us that Jesus washes us clean of our sins.  A bar of Ivory soap in a microwave (do not try this) will greatly expand, because Ivory is the only soap that has water in it. The application being that when we are indwelt with the Living Water of Jesus, we expand  with His love and grace. There were a number of such science experiments.  We also did a craft. We painted one of our hands with white paint and made a hand print on a black piece of construction paper, then put a red dot in the middle of the palm to make it look like Jesus' nail pierced hand, then wrote something underneath it such as "Paid in Full." I remember my children doing much the same type of craft in Vacation Bible School.

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of this, and I am not criticizing using these things in the proper venue. What my point in all this is, this is neither physically or spiritually age appropriate for women who are basically senior citizens, who for the most part claim a Christian walk with the Lord of decades in length. This should have been nursery school stuff for them. In other words like baby's milk. It was New Christianity 101, not Mature Christianity 501. It would have been excellent as a Vacation Bible School presentation for children. It was not what women of this age and supposed spiritual maturity should have been satisfied with as a spiritual learning experience, yet that is exactly how they responded. They were thrilled with the day and felt it was a such a wonderful spiritually enlightening experience. As awful as this may sound for me to say this, it should not have been. They should have walked away feeling a hungry for spiritual food instead of full. What was taught should not have filled a person who was spiritually mature and looking to learn something that would push their learning curve even further. They settled for milk. And unfortunately they settle for it week after week in church as well.

What disturbed me was not that this wonderful lady presented this, for this is her thing, but that this is all that these women expect or want in the way of learning. They were all impressed, and uplifted by it all, none of them seeming to see that it was way below what they should have been embracing in the way of spiritual education. By now, they should have long ago moved on from this kind of milk. We are told in Hebrews 5:12-14, 6:1-2 " For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." And in 1 Corinthians 3:2 "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."

Continuing to teach Christians who are no longer classified as "new" Christians the same doctrines over and over of salvation, repentance, faith, baptism, the reality of a resurrection, and eternal judgment is not growing in the Lord. For some reason, pastors seem to think that these are the subjects that they should be teaching over and over and over instead of moving on to other things. These are the milk of our belief. These are the basic tenets which we should be taught at first, but then we should move on to other things. Scholarly things. When the Scriptures above were written, the New Testament was not formed. The epistles were merely letters that circulated among the churches. The gospel message was the milk. The meat of Scripture was the Scriptures which the people called the Talmud, or as we know it, the Old Testament. In other words, the Old Testament is the meat of Scripture. It is what, as mature Christians, we should be studying. The irony of this is that for the most part, a great many if not most of the clergy out there feel that the Old Testament is irrelevant and need not even be studied. As a side note, likewise they ignore the last book of the Bible, Revelation, as they also feel it is irrelevant to the Church as, at least in America, the Church does not think anything in that book applies to them. This despite the fact that God put a blessing on the book for those who read and heed it, so that they would be encouraged to study it.

While so many think the Old Testament has nothing to offer, God tells us  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:16-17. God considers the information in the Old Testament to be information which will 1) teach you correct doctrine, 2) offer reproof when needed, 3) correct your errors of behavior and understanding, 4) instruct you in righteous living 5) furnish you to be able to do the works God calls you to do, and as Hebrews tells us, also teaches us 6) how to learn to be discerning of good and evil, 7) to be skillful in handling the Word, rightly dividing it,  8) to be strong in righteousness, 9) to be a mature Christian, and 10) to turn you into a teacher of the Word rather than a babe, all which 11) perfects your faith which 12) teaches you how to know God better.

Not only will studying the Old Testament do these things for you, the New Testament cannot be fully understood or rightly divided unless one studies the Old Testament, for many things in the New Testament refer back or reference things from the Old. We are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 " Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  One has to study all of a subject to rightly divide it, and if you are leaving out the bulk of the information, how can one possibly divide it correctly? This is especially true of prophecy. Most of the end times prophecies are in the Old Testament. The book of Revelation cannot truly be understood without a massive amount of help from the Old. Not only the prophets, but even the Torah or Pentateuch as Gentiles tend to refer to it. These are Laws of God and Moses. The information contained in these five book, as well as the prophets, plays a large part in understanding Revelation. And prophecy is for the mature in Christ, not the babe.

In all the years I have attended church, and the many churches I have attended, including a number of different denominations, I find that with rare exceptions, the sermons always speak in some form or other of the milk of the Bible.  In fact, it is to the point of boredom. How many times can one go to kindergarten and get anything out of it? Once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you need to move on to algebra and then geometry, and then trigonometry, and calculus, etc. You cannot just find a variety of ways to teach 2  + 2 = 4 and expect anyone to learn any more about math. Neither can you constantly teach salvation and repentance over and over, no matter how many stories, or ways, or Scriptures you vary to teach it and think that your congregation is going to grow in knowledge. God has a very serious warning about not growing in knowledge of Him and His Word. Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." 

The story of salvation and the First Coming is what we are told to take out into the unbelieving world, so that they might be saved. But once saved, we are to move on and quit looking back at the First Coming and look towards the Second Coming, which should be the primary concern of the saved individual for his own learning and growth. The First Coming is for unbelievers. The Second Coming is for believers, and we should put our attention on that subject matter and learn all there is to learn about it. That is exactly why God put a blessing on the last book of the Bible. But without the foundation of a solid knowledge of the entire Old Testament, you will miss a great deal of what that final book contains. That is why so many people find the book so extremely hard to understand. Of course it is under those conditions. If you have only learned 2 + 2 = 4, you cannot do calculus, can you. The reason God put it at the end is because He expected people to read the Bible from the beginning to the end, but if interested in the end at all, people skip through the book and read only the last chapter, as it were, to find out the ending. The problem is, without understanding what is going on, the ending will make no sense.

God tells us that in the last days, there will be a falling away from truth, or what we call apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;" He asks if He will even find faith when He returns. Luke 18:8b "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"   He tells us that people will not want to hear the truth of His Word, because they have itching ears that they want to tickle. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." This is exactly why the Church is in such apostasy. They do not study God's Word and therefore they do not grow, and they are unable to discern false teachings, because they cannot rightly divide God's truth.

The clergy for generations has been guilty of not teaching the people God's entire Word, and as a result, we now have a Church which does not even know what God's Word really says. Man has corrupted His teachings with all sorts of lies and perversions and nobody is the wiser. And the Church has watered things down to not just milk, but skim milk and that milk is sour. We treat mature adults as if they are kindergarteners, having them do finger paintings and watching elementary science tricks to teach them the basics of Christianity, which they should have learned the first year they were a Christian. What are we thinking? Not only do we do it, but if I have to judge from the response of the women at the conference I attended, we revel in it and think it is the utmost in spiritual heights. We should be attending the equivalent of college lectures, not vacation Bible school. How did we get so lazy? Why don't we even care?

My pastor made a comment in our Bible study that he has heard many pastors say that they are just too busy to spend time on sermons, so they throw them together on Saturday night. This explains a lot of why the teachings coming from the pulpit are milk. I know that most of them also get their sermons from reading commentaries rather than studying the Bible. And lastly I have heard that being so "busy,"  many pastors are now downloading pre-written sermons off the internet and giving them. Given that this is the state of a great amount of our clergy, does it not behoove us to get into the Scriptures ourselves to mature in God's Word, since you are most likely not going to get it at church? Technically aren't we commanded to do that anyway, so we can be Bereans? Pastors are not learning God's Word, and therefore they cannot rightly divide it and so are adopting all these New Age teachings, all these false doctrines, and allowing Satan into the sanctuary in a variety of ways,  The people don't study the Scriptures, instead letting the pastors teach them what they think they need to know, and so they have no discernment and are led into apostasy. Then, because they have no maturity themselves, they let the church train up (or more accurately not train up) their children. Now instead of merely adopting the lifestyle of their parents with an immature Christian life as in past generations, they are leaving the churches in droves, because they don't have a vital growing relationship with Christ, and so the problem isn't just perpetuating itself from generation to generation anymore, it is deteriorating to the point of no return.

So in conclusion, while it might seem that I am being very harsh in my criticism of a ladies conference, it is a symptom of a much bigger problem. A problem which is killing the Church. If we don't start getting into the Word, again as God warned in Hosea,  "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children."  Not only will we be destroyed, and no longer be priests for Him, but He will forget our children. And the way our children are leaving the churches, this prophecy is coming true. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

When Tradition is Held in Higher Esteem than God's Word

One of the main themes of the musical Fiddler on the Roof is “tradition.” There is a song that begins with those words, “Tradition, tradition! Tradition!” In Judaism, tradition is paramount even over the Word of God. It was this with which Jesus had a serious problem. The Pharisees and scribes had over the years added their own traditions (supposedly oral instructions from God that Moses never bothered writing down), as well as pagan Babylonian Mystery traditions (learned during the Babylonian captivity) to the Word of God. Instead of studying the Tanakh or Old Testament, they chose to write down their own oral traditions and commentaries and then each generation studied those instead of strictly studying the Tanakh, as they felt one could not understand the Scriptures without the insights and teachings of the “great rabbis.” The Mishnah and the Talmud became more important than the Torah (the first five books) or the Tanakh.

Jesus had this to say about their traditions. [The following two passages relate the same event.]

Matthew 15:1-9 “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Mark 7:5-13 “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

Notice that the Pharisees themselves state that they expect Him (and everyone) to follow the traditions of men. Jesus replies that they are not only rejecting, but also transgressing the commandments of God by holding to their traditions. They are making God's commandments of no effect, or null and void by their traditions, and even worse they teach their traditions to the people as doctrine in place of God's Word. Their traditions have superseded God's commandments and laws. They have set themselves up as a higher moral authority than God. Jesus also uses Scripture, or God's own words to point out that God has said that their worship of Him is in vain, since they are only teaching man's laws, not His.

In this particular passage, as an example of their hypocritical heart condition, Christ relates their tradition regarding the care of their parents, for the Pharisees had by their traditions given themselves a loophole to taking care of their parents, as God had commanded. They would “consecrate” their goods to the temple as Corban which meant it was designated as a gift for the treasury of the temple and thus could not go elsewhere, but they arranged that they could hold onto it as long as they wanted and give it when they wanted, for there was no prescribed time limit to have to fulfill the vow. So essentially they could have it done upon their death or if preferred, the gifting could expire upon their death, making it null and void, so that it could become an inheritance. This enabled them to keep their money, and nobody could say anything to them about it, for there was (deliberately I assume) nothing forcing them to take action upon their word. It was a phony promise to the temple and a way of ignoring their parents' needs. It is kind of like our politicians today. Plenty of promises, giving themselves raises and nice retirements, etc. and keeping what they owe the people they represent, from the people. History repeats itself.

Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites over and over for their multitude of traditions and man-made laws which they inflicted upon the people. Note the verse above in Matthew 15:7-8 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” There are many more verses where He is referring to them either directly or indirectly as hypocrites.

Matthew 6:2 “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 6:5 “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 16:1-3 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Matthew 22:15-18 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.......But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?”

Matthew 23:13-15But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

Matthew 23:23-29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,”

Matthew 24:51 “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 11:42-44 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

Matthew 16:3b-4 “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas ”

Luke 12:56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”

Luke 13:15 “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”

Jesus had a few other choice names for the Pharisees and scribes other than hypocrites. He also calls them vipers, fools, and He says how they are blind and an evil and adulterous generation and wicked within.

Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

Matthew 12:34 “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Matthew 12:38-39 “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: ”

Matthew 23:16-17,19 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?... Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”

Matthew 23:33 “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

Luke 11:37-40 “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”

John 9:40-41 “And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”

Lawyers also tempted Him and came under condemnation, although many if not most of the lawyers were also Pharisees. He accuses them of laying burdens upon people that were too great for them to bear, while they themselves did not practice what they preached. He also accused them of taking away the key to God's knowledge and while not studying themselves, they also prevented those who would study from studying.

Matthew 22:35-36 “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”

Matthew 10:25 “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Luke 11:45-47 “Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.”

Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

The Pharisees were always looking for a way to find fault with Jesus or tempt Him in some way. They sought to trip Him up so that they could accuse Him and put Him to death, as He was a thorn in their side with His flaunting of their traditions and showing the people that they were not the righteous leaders they claimed to be. It undermined their authority.

Mathew 9:10-11 “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

Mark 2:16 “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”

Luke 5:30 “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”

Luke 15:2 “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”

Luke 7:34 “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”

Matthew 9:34 “But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.”

Matthew 12:24 “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”

Matthew 12:2 “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”

Mark 2:24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”

Luke 6:2 “And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?”

Matthew 12:10 “And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.”

Mark 3:2 “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.”

Luke 6:7 “And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.”

John 9:16a “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.”

Matthew 12:14 “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”

Mark 3:6 “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”

Mark 10:2 “And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.”

Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”

Luke 13:14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. ”

Matthew 21:45-46 “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.”

Matthew 22:15 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”

Mark 12:13 “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”

Luke 11:53-54 “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.”

Matthew 22:34-35 “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him,”

Matthew 16:1-3aThe Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.”

Mark 8:11-12 “And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.”

Luke 5:21 “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

Luke 16:14 “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”

John 7:32The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.”

John 8:3-6a “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”

John 8:13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

John 11:47, 53 “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles..... Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

John 11:57 “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”

Matthew 20:18 “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,”

Matthew 26:65-67 “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,”

The Pharisees wielded a lot of power over the people, and disagreeing with them meant making yourself a target and outcast. Because of this many people, including some of the chief rulers and Pharisees who believed, were afraid to confess Jesus.

John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

John 7:47-49 “Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

Jesus warned His disciples about the Pharisees and their traditions and teachings.

Matthew 16:6, 11-12 “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.,,,,How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mark 8:15 “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Luke 12:1 “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-7 “Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”

Luke 18:11-14 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

As can be seen from the many passages above, Jesus had absolutely no use for the traditions of men and those who upheld them as being higher than God's laws, commandments, or Word. This should be a warning to us, but it seems that many have not learned the lesson. Today a great number of churches and denominations teach their traditions, some of which are actually transgressions against God, in place of God's Word, yet do not see the parallel between themselves and the Pharisees. They mock the Pharisees as being blind and full of sin, yet are as blind and as full of sin themselves, putting the traditions of men before the Word of God. Just as the Pharisees measured a man's spiritual life as a Jew by how he kept their traditions, far too many churches, pastors, and just regular Christians measure a person's relationship with God through Jesus Christ by how well they observe the traditions of the church, even when the tradition might be a transgression of God's Word. Or they do the reverse and take freedoms that God has given as a blessing and turned them into sins. They call evil, good and good, evil just as the world is doing, yet are completely oblivious to it.

Recently I came across a saying which I cannot remember the quote exactly, or who said it, so I will paraphrase what I remember and add to it what I feel is needed to complete the thought.

When you find that your favorite and strongly held views clash with the Word of God, do not start debating it. If you do, a sense of self-righteousness will emerge and pride and hypocrisy may be the end result, rather than a learning of the truth.

Over the years I have attended a variety of different types of churches, whether as a visitor or congregant. The one thing that seems common to all of them is that each has their own traditions. Whether it is the liturgical church with all of the pomp and ceremony that goes with the ecclesiastical times of the year, a non-liturgical church which has no formal order to the worship service at all, or anything in between, they all still have their traditions or things which they feel are a necessary part of being a Christian and without those things, you either aren't a good Christian or aren't a Christian at all.

I recall, after moving to our present home, something that I saw when searching for a church to attend. I walked into the foyer of a local church and a huge sign over the door into the sanctuary said, “Visitors welcome, members expected.” And indeed they were. Members expected, that is. They had Sunday morning worship service and Sunday school, youth group, and Sunday evening services on Sunday, mid-week prayer service on Wednesday, revival services yearly, choir rehearsals weekly, meetings of all sorts, conferences, retreats, etc., etc., etc. The church was a constant flurry of activity, as was the day of worship. No rest for the weary. And the members were expected to attend all services or meetings which were universal, as well as those which were specific to them. In fact, church took up their whole life. Church was and is their spiritual life, their social life, their family life (or in some cases replacement for family), their financial dictator, their babysitter, their substitute for their parental duties toward their children's spiritual education, their substitute for personal evangelism, and in whole, their entire life. This particular church also had an academy, so the school sports meant that members should, as much as possible (to support the school) show up for those games, so it was their recreational life as well, not only with the school games, but with inter-mural church games. It also provided their entertainment in the form of school concerts and programs. It took a grave (pardon the pun) excuse, for instance death, to have your absence overlooked and not have it brought to your attention as a lapse. But I also noticed that most of the members were content to have their entire lives be controlled by and revolve solely around the church. It provided a safe haven for them to not have to extend themselves to reach out to the world. They barely interacted with the community at all. It was as if they were a closed and gated community. Visitors were really only welcome if they were ready to embrace the church and let it control every aspect of their lives. There were other understood requirements as well as the attendance requirements. No socializing outside of the ranks with the heathen, no attending non-approved colleges, and absolutely no participating in unapproved activities. Things such as no alcohol, no dancing, and other such rules were unwritten, but known to be the standard by which a person behaved or they were outright said to not be Christian and became outcasts of the membership. It did not take me more than one visit to decide I was not going to attend that church as a congregant.

I have heard from the members of this type of church, that the reason for these extra man-made rules is not only to prevent people from sinning, but that they believe the forbidden things are actually sin (which they aren't). They are under the impression that to do these things, which are not forbidden by God (such as have a glass of wine with dinner, go ballroom dancing, or women wearing slacks for example) will without question lead to abuse of the privilege, and therefore sin (such as drunkenness or lasciviousness), as of course people cannot be trusted to use their own judgment on the matter or have self-control. So the freedom was removed and rules were created and enforced to make sure that people did not ever get close to the sin about which God did warn us. This did not occur with this generation, this occurred many years ago and has been handed down as the doctrinal truth or position of this church denomination. Is this not exactly the reason the Pharisees of Jesus' day gave for their traditions? They added numerous and onerous rules on top of God's rules making people's lives miserable, and taught them generation after generation. And if people did not keep the rules, they were not in good standing with the clergy or considered a good Jew. It didn't matter that these Pharisees were, as Christ put it, white-washed sepulchers themselves, and doing sinful things behind closed doors. They lorded it over the populous and held themselves up as righteous (self-righteous) examples. So too do the churches of today.

It is not just the type of church I described above that has this problem. As odd as it sounds, that church says that salvation is by faith through grace with no works required, yet they have all these works and rules that they insist upon. There are other denominations which do not preach born again salvation, they preach works, and so people's lives are tied up with attending services, observing all the ceremonies of induction into the mysteries of God, doing the works the church offers or approves, praying the prayers that they are taught to pray for penance, making sure they give the required amount of money, and etc. etc. etc. It seems that at either end of the spectrum, as well as in between, the traditions of the church tend to be the most important thing. Reading, studying, knowing, and obedience to God's WORD seems to be, if not irrelevant, at least not all that important.

What is also of interest is that while the churches teach that if you do not adhere to their traditions, you will not only not be a good Christian, but you will be a bad witness, it is not the unbelievers outside of the church who look upon you as being a bad Christian or witness. It is the people within the church that judge you so harshly. I have found that by following God's rules alone, that when I witness I have more respect from people for not being a hypocrite, by not having added a bunch of rules of my own. They are presented with a God who is not the hyper straight-laced and joy depriving God that He is presented as being. They learn that He wants self-control and obedience, but that His yoke is easy, not burdensome when it is understood correctly. I never compromise God's Word by saying that a sin is not a sin, but I show why the sin is detrimental to their lives and why God forbids it. It is a much harder thing for a person to defend their traditions through Scripture, (since they are not defensible) and so that leaves a bad witness behind as them being a self-righteous hypocrite, for nobody is sin free, and people watch you to see what your life presents. If you have sin in your life, but hold yourself up as morally superior to God, you will not make a great impression. Self-righteousness is not something that impresses unbelievers.

God wants love, mercy, and obedience. While that may sometimes include taking a Christian to task for a bona fide sin that is taught in Scripture, it does not mean that we have the right to judge a person's relationship with Christ by our own traditions and viewpoints. God's Word is clear about sin and how to deal with it in the body. Beyond that, we should not judge others freedom in Christ, nor should we expect them to live up to our own man-made rules. Nor should we make our churches into social clubs and gated communities. We are to go out in the world and spread the gospel. That means we have to interact socially with unbelievers, as Christ did. We should not partake of their sins (and there is a distinct difference between sin and freedom in Christ) any more than He did, but we should be befriending them, so that they get to know our relationship with Christ, so that we can lead them to Him. We should not be accusing the brethren who are doing this of not being Christians, because they don't adhere to our traditions.

As an example of this, I know a pastor who decided to hold a Bible study at a VFW. The church had strict rules against alcohol, and this VFW had a bar (of sorts). Well, the pastor came under condemnation for being in the building. Seriously people? You condemned a pastor for trying to bring the gospel to our veterans just because he was in a building that housed some alcohol? It wasn't like he was serving it nor was it even available at that time of day. (Not that serving alcohol is a sin anyhow. Only drunkenness and alcoholism are the sins that would apply here and they didn't in this case.) It was a ridiculous accusation against him and it wasn't long before he gave up the Bible study. I don't know if that was because of the controversy and condemnation or the lack of interest, but no matter, it was wrong to condemn him bringing the gospel to the world. This is what bad traditions do. They get in the way of salvation.

Now that bad traditions have been discussed, it is important to recognize that there are God's traditions and rules, and they must be kept. We have only two ordinances or traditions. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We should be observing those traditions, because God has told us to.

We also have rules for obedience. We should give of our money to the Lord (although each person is to determine in their heart what to give) because we are told to by God. We should gather with other believers for fellowship and worship, especially as the Day of the Lord approaches, but nowhere did God specify that it had to be in a church, or on a Sunday (I will get to this problem in a minute), or that it had to have a certain kind of order of service, or had to be multiple times a week. He just said to gather with other like-minded (that's a hard thing to find) believers to give us fellowship, corporate worship of Him, growth in knowledge as we study, and to support and help one another. We are to pray, and when two or more are gathered in His name, He is there too, but nowhere does it say that we have to attend the weekly prayer service on a particular night of the week. We should pray without ceasing. What pastors should be teaching on prayer is not the traditions of attendance, but the need to have a relationship with God where praying is akin to breathing. You do it automatically all the time without even thinking about it. It should be that effortless and continual. Prayer times with others is a bonus, but not a weekly mandatory requirement. The more you learn to make it a part of your life like breathing, the more inclined you would be to gather with others to pray. And you would not have to beat people over the head to put in an appearance for the sake of appearances. That is not being there because of a heart desire, it is merely fulfilling an obligation.

We have many other things we should be doing – witnessing, using our talents, working on bearing the fruits of the spirit, confessing our sins, and other things which God has told us to do. We are to be obeying the Ten Commandments. Now as mentioned above, I want to address one of those things. Most if not all Christians will agree that nine of those ten are things we absolutely should or should not be doing. We should have no other gods before Him, we should not take His name in vain, we should not make graven images, we should not kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness or covet. We should honor our parents, and lastly the one commandment that tradition has taught us to sin against for practically two millennia, we are to keep the Sabbath holy. Man's tradition, NOT God's Word has said that we are to forsake the commandment of God (which is an eternal covenantal sign as well as a commandment) and adhere to man's tradition instead. If you do not believe this, then read my article on this here Man took a commandment of God, just as the Pharisees did, and rejected it and transgressed it replacing it with their own tradition and then made it into a doctrine.

The argument is made that people cannot be trusted to not sin, therefore rules must be made to create a hedge for people. This takes away the instruction that God gave us to learn to have self-control. How can a person learn self-control if they are never challenged to have to exercise it. These traditions keep people from growing. Then instead of preaching and teaching self-control, to work at a relationship with God that is so part of one that one doesn't know a moment without His presence, they preach against the objects of “sin”, such as alcohol, or dancing, or slacks on women, or buttons, or electricity, and the “sin” of not attending services or praying the requisite prayers for penance or whatever the so-called “sin” is. What they need to teach is how to grow in the Lord and study His Word, not just read it through a hundred times. Preaching rules only gets outer conformity to traditions. Preaching how to grow in a relationship with Christ teaches how to not sin against God's commandments by the heart's choice.