Does It Matter to God?

Does It Matter to God?

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Over the last two millennia, traditional Christianity has systematically laid aside the “feast days of the Lord” and established its own holidays. Christmas was established to enable pagan converts to come into church fellowship without forsaking their heathen customs and practices. Easter is a replacement for the biblical Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.

Even the weekly Sabbath was abandoned in favor of Sunday, the pagan day of the sun, supposedly to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection (though, as we demonstrated earlier, it took place not on Sunday morning but at the end of the weekly Sabbath at sunset Saturday).

Although we should immediately recognize that overruling God’s instructions is dangerous behavior, let’s consider, from the biblical record, whether such inventions and alterations are acceptable worship to our Creator God.

Changing God’s instructions

When God began working with the ancient Israelites, He intended they set an example of obedience to Him for the nations around them (Deuteronomy 4:1-8 Deuteronomy 4:1-8 1 Now therefore listen, O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers gives you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD your God has destroyed them from among you. 4 But you that did join to the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day. 5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it. 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call on him for? 8 And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
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). They were to be a model nation, showing other peoples that God’s way of life produces abundant blessings. Their experiences serve as continuing examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:1-11 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 1 Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.
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).

During their years in Egypt, the Israelites were exposed to Egyptian culture and worship. Notice what Unger’s Bible Dictionary says about this culture: “The Egyptian religion was an utterly bewildering polytheistic conglomeration in which many deities of the earliest periods, when each town had its own deity, were retained …

“Every object beheld, every phenomenon of nature, was thought to be indwelt by a spirit which could choose its own form, occupying the body of a crocodile, a fish, a cow, a cat, etc. Hence the Egyptians had numerous holy animals, principally the bull, the cow, the cat, the baboon, the jackal, and the crocodile” (1966, p. 291, “Egypt”).

Shortly after miraculously delivering the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, God instructed them how He wanted to be worshipped. He gave them His commandments (Exodus 20), along with statutes and judgments detailing how to apply them (Exodus 21-22). God revealed His feast days (Exodus 23:14-17 Exodus 23:14-17 14 Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year. 15 You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread: (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16 And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field. 17 Three items in the year all your males shall appear before the LORD God.
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; Leviticus 23) and gave directions regarding a priesthood, tabernacle and offerings (Exodus 25-31). God told Moses to climb Mount Sinai and gave him two tablets of stone engraved with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12 Exodus 24:12And the LORD said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them.
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; Exodus 31:18 Exodus 31:18And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
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).

When Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai for some time (Exodus 32:1 Exodus 32:1And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.
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), the people prodded his brother Aaron into fashioning an idol for them to worship. They essentially mixed the Egyptian form of worship with the instructions they had just received from God. The practice of blending religious beliefs and practices is known as syncretism.

After creating a golden image of a calf, Aaron proclaimed the next day a holiday—”a feast to the Lord” (Exodus 32:4-5 Exodus 32:4-5 4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a engraving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
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). They then “rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry” (Exodus 32:6 Exodus 32:6And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
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, NIV). This celebration combined God’s instruction with Egyptian religious practice and tradition.

We are not told why the Israelites chose this mix of worship. Perhaps they thought it was not a good idea to abandon all the familiar forms of worship at once and they simply practiced what they were accustomed to from their years immersed in Egyptian culture. Whatever their thinking, God was not pleased. He told Moses: “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them” (Exodus 32:7-8 Exodus 32:7-8 7 And the LORD said to Moses, Go, get you down; for your people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
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, NIV).

God shows from His Word that He expects more from those who claim to follow Him. He wants people to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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)—not with corrupted, vile practices rooted in the worship of other gods.

Consequences of futile worship

The Israelites were in no way justified in departing from the God-ordained instructions introduced in the wilderness. God was so angered by their actions that He was ready to destroy the nation (Exodus 32:10 Exodus 32:10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of you a great nation.
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). Only on Moses’ pleadings did God relent and spare them (Exodus 32:11-14 Exodus 32:11-14 11 And Moses sought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why does your wrath wax hot against your people, which you have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. 14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.
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).

Ancient Israel’s experiment with combining parts of God’s instruction with pagan customs and elements was a disaster. In punishment for this sin, 3,000 men lost their lives (Exodus 32:27-28 Exodus 32:27-28 27 And he said to them, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
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). Those who weren’t killed had to drink water polluted with the ground-up idol, pulverized into powder (Exodus 32:20 Exodus 32:20And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it on the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
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).

Being presumptuous—taking unauthorized liberty to do things such as altering God’s instructions for worship—is sinful. The Bible describes the Israelites’ actions as “a great sin” (Exodus 32:21 Exodus 32:21And Moses said to Aaron, What did this people to you, that you have brought so great a sin on them?
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, Exodus 32:30 Exodus 32:30And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up to the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
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, Exodus 32:31 Exodus 32:31And Moses returned to the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
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). God’s law is clear concerning presumptuous behavior (Numbers 15:30-31 Numbers 15:30-31 30 But the soul that does ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproaches the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.
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).

The principle holds true today among God’s people. Once we come to understand His truth, we have an obligation to take steps to obey Him. We recognize that the instruction and examples in His Word were recorded for our spiritual instruction and benefit (1 Corinthians 10:6-11 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.
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; Romans 15:4 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
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).

Additional warnings for Christians

The generation of Israelites who called for the golden calf apparently never learned to trust and obey God. Only a short time later, while preparing to go into the land God had promised them, they grew afraid of the land’s inhabitants and refused to enter (Numbers 13-14). As a result, God told them they would wander 40 years in the wilderness until all those who had refused to follow His instructions had died (Numbers 14:33 Numbers 14:33And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your prostitutions, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness.
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). After their deaths, God then began preparing the next generation to enter Canaan.

Part of God’s instructions included an explicit warning against incorporating pagan customs into their worship. Here are His exact words:

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’

“You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
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).

Regrettably, the Israelites often failed to heed God’s warning. Time and time again they let their fascination with the religious practices of those around them get the better of them as they lapsed into idolatrous worship.

In the 600s B.C. God gave three more warnings against this kind of behavior. First, through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:2 Jeremiah 10:2Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
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). Here God cautioned His people against following the gentile (non-Israelite) practices of worshipping the heavenly bodies (like the sun on Dec. 25) and against astrology in general.

In Jeremiah 10:3-9 Jeremiah 10:3-9 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. 6 For as much as there is none like to you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of nations? for to you does it appertain: for as much as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like to you. 8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities. 9 Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
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, God describes some of their idolatrous customs. They cut a tree from the forest, prop it up and decorate it with precious metals.

Although this account is specifically referring to setting up an object of idolatrous worship (Jeremiah 10:6-8 Jeremiah 10:6-8 6 For as much as there is none like to you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of nations? for to you does it appertain: for as much as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like to you. 8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
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), God’s command here, “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles,” applies to all pagan religious customs. Christmas trees, mistletoe and colorful lights that come from pagan winter-solstice celebrations, rabbits and Easter eggs as fertility symbols, and demonic concepts at Halloween, all fit this prohibition. Likewise a number of other modern traditions, such as New Year’s Day celebration and Valentine’s Day, also fit the prohibition—as they, too, originate in pagan worship. (You can search for more information on these at our Web site, www.ucg.org.)

In giving this instruction against learning the way of the gentiles, God wanted His people to avoid the type of sin their forefathers had committed with the golden calf.

A few years after the statement in Jeremiah, God again expressed His anger with His people: “For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them. Moreover they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For after they had slain their children for their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it; and indeed thus they have done in the midst of My house” (Ezekiel 23:37-39 Ezekiel 23:37-39 37 That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bore to me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. 38 Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths. 39 For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, see, thus have they done in the middle of my house.
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).

Here it appears that Israel practiced one of the customs like those originally associated with the Saturnalia and worship of Saturn—the sacrificing of children—and then came to worship God on one of His Sabbaths!

Through the prophet Zephaniah God decried “those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord , but who also swear by Milcom” (Zephaniah 1:5 Zephaniah 1:5And them that worship the host of heaven on the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;
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). God is not pleased when people are double-minded (James 1:8 James 1:8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
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; James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
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) in their worship—accepting false religions and customs while professing to worship Him.

A consistent message throughout the Bible

Some people wrongly assume that Old Testament prohibitions against mixing paganism with godly worship were annulled during apostolic times. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To prove the continuity of God’s teaching in the New Testament, let us consider the city of Corinth. Here we find one of the most instructive examples about incorporating paganism into Christianity.

Strategically located just south of the narrow isthmus connecting central Greece with the Peloponnesus, this city sat on an important trade route. Its inhabitants grew rich by transporting goods across the four-mile isthmus, which saved merchants a 200-mile trip by ship. Worship of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love) had long been part of the city’s history. It also boasted a temple to Apollo, the Greek sun god.

What was Corinth like in the first century? “[Here] the apostle Paul established a flourishing church, made up of a cross section of the worldly minded people who had flocked to Corinth to participate in the gambling, legalized temple prostitution, business adventures, and amusements available in a first-century navy town …

“The city soon became a melting pot for the approximately 500,000 people who lived there at the time of Paul’s arrival. Merchants and sailors, anxious to work the docks, migrated to Corinth. Professional gamblers and athletes, betting on the Isthmian games, took up residence. Slaves, sometimes freed but with no place to go, roamed the streets day and night. And prostitutes (both male and female) were abundant. People from Rome, the rest of Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor—indeed, all of the Mediterranean world—relished the lack of standards and freedom of thought that prevailed in the city.

“These were the people who eventually made up the Corinthian church. They had to learn to live together in harmony, although their national, social, economic, and religious backgrounds were very different” ( Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Corinth”).

Paul’s instruction regarding other religious practices

Writing to this diverse group, primarily gentiles with a tradition of idol worship (1 Corinthians 12:2 1 Corinthians 12:2You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, even as you were led.
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), Paul addressed the issue of whether outside religious customs and practices had any place among God’s people:

“What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

“Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 14 Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
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; 2 Corinthians 7:1 2 Corinthians 7:1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
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).

Instead of renaming some of the pagan customs as Christian or allowing the new converts to retain some of their former practices, the apostle Paul commanded them to leave behind all of these forms of worship. He condemned the sexual immorality that was a common part of the fertility rites in honor of the goddess Aphrodite (1 Corinthians 6:13-18 1 Corinthians 6:13-18 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 14 And God has both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. 16 What? know you not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, said he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 1 Thessalonians 4:3For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:
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). No doubt the new church did not participate in winter-solstice celebrations honoring the sun god Apollo. Nor did they imitate these to honor Christ—as this would not have honored Christ at all.

Christianity that is faithful to the Bible teaches its followers that “our old man was crucified with Him [Jesus Christ], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6 Romans 6:6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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). If someone is strongly committed to following Christ, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
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).

Paul explains that we are not to retain our favorite past religious traditions. Indeed, “all things have become new”! As part of the “old man” (Ephesians 4:22 Ephesians 4:22That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
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; Colossians 3:9 Colossians 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds;
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), our former styles of worship must go.

As Jesus taught, we simply cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
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; Luke 16:13 Luke 16:13No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
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). We cannot simultaneously embrace two competing systems of worship.

We see the obvious continuity between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible; the new also forbids mixing pagan tradition with the “worship in spirit and truth” God commands (John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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).

Authority from man or God?

Since God is so strongly opposed to altering His revealed days of worship (Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
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; Revelation 22:18-19 Revelation 22:18-19 18 For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
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), by what authority did human beings change the days we observe? Here is what The Encyclopaedia Britannica says about some early Christians: “Though many of [Jesus’] disciples continued to observe the special times and seasons of the Jewish Law, new converts broke with the custom because they regarded it as no longer needful or necessary” (15th edition, Vol. 4, p. 601, “Church Year”). Notice the lack of divine authorization. The people decided to make this change.

One humanly devised change in the early centuries after Christ was to worship on Sunday rather than the seventh-day Sabbath, the day authorized in the Bible. The same source acknowledges that “the New Testament writings do not explain how the practice began” (ibid., p. 603). Though some have theorized this change occurred in honor of Christ’s resurrection, we have already seen that this rationale is flawed because Christ was resurrected near sundown on Saturday rather than on Sunday.

Replacing God’s annual feast days with pagan holidays was also done in the same spirit. This same encyclopedia article makes this frank admission: “Unlike the cycle of feasts and fasts of the Jewish Law, the [modern] Christian year has never been based upon a divine revelation. It is rather a tradition that is always subject to change by ecclesiastical law. Each self-governing church maintains the right to order the church year” (p. 601).

When the kingdom of Israel divided after Solomon’s death, King Jeroboam of the northern 10 tribes soon changed the date of the annual autumn festival from the seventh to the eighth month of the Hebrew calendar (1 Kings 12:32-33 1 Kings 12:32-33 32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like to the feast that is in Judah, and he offered on the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 So he offered on the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast to the children of Israel: and he offered on the altar, and burnt incense.
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). So the first king of the new northern Israelite dynasty established a corrupting pattern in the nation’s religious life, one that eventually helped lead to the northern tribes’ destruction at the hands of the Assyrian Empire.

Throughout the northern kingdom’s history, the political and ecclesiastical leadership stubbornly persisted in “the sins of Jeroboam” (1 Kings 13:34 1 Kings 13:34And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.
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; 1 Kings 15:30 1 Kings 15:30Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation with which he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.
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; 1 Kings 16:2-19 1 Kings 16:2-19 2 For as much as I exalted you out of the dust, and made you prince over my people Israel; and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; 3 Behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4 Him that dies of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dies of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat. 5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 6 So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead. 7 And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the LORD against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him. 8 In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. 9 And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of his house in Tirzah. 10 And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead. 11 And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that urinates against a wall, neither of his kinfolks, nor of his friends. 12 Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet. 13 For all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin, in provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities. 14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 15 In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. 16 And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri has conspired, and has also slain the king: why all Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp. 17 And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. 18 And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died. 19 For his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the LORD, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin.
American King James Version×
; etc.), one of which was his unauthorized alteration of the date of a God-ordained religious festival.

Time to leave nonbiblical religious traditions behind

As creatures of habit, we can find ourselves following traditions that are contrary to God’s instructions. Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ pointed out that a devoutly religious group, the Pharisees, was in just such a situation. He told them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men … All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9 Mark 7:6-9 6 He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. 9 And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
American King James Version×
).

Just proclaiming that something is Christian does not make it so. No matter what our traditions have been or what rationalizations we may employ, the Bible is clear that we must follow our Creator’s directions on His days and forms of worship.

In Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
American King James Version×
the apostle Paul warns, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Similarly, one of the last messages in the Bible reveals this warning for people caught up in a great worldwide system that established itself in opposition to God: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5 Revelation 18:4-5 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
American King James Version×
).

We have a choice. We can choose the feast days instituted by God or the holidays substituted by men unwittingly deceived by Satan. The choices we make affect our destiny and impact our relationship with our Creator.

We can take great comfort in the meaning of the days of worship revealed in the Bible, since they represent the magnificent plan of God, who will give every human being an opportunity to understand and accept His way of life either now or, for the majority of human beings, in an age yet to come. If your eyes have been opened, you have a clear responsibility to make the right choice today. Will you now act on what you know?