The Christmas season is approaching. Let's go to the Bible and learn how God instructs us to honor and worship Him.
[Robin Webber] I’d like to give you the title of my message right off the top so that you don’t have to guess, so that we can all go together here for the minutes that are ahead of us. And the title of my message is simply this – “Let’s Ask God, How Do You Want to Be Worshipped?” Let’s ask God, how do You want to be worshipped? For one that believes in the Word, and that is the Holy Bible, and takes God at His word, it can be a very long and lonely season from November through December every calendar year as the society around us observes December 25th , observes Christmas.
I remember growing up that there was a time when people didn’t put up Christmas items or Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving because that was thought to be rude, or not the way that you do things. Now, it actually almost begins before Halloween because of the commercialism that is associated with that event. So it’s not just simply after Thanksgiving anymore, but it’s actually before Thanksgiving. If you walk into a Walgreen’s or if you walk into a CVS, you see the entire staff stocking the goods and the shelves, and you see the different decorations going up, etc., etc.
As a Christian, as one that takes God at His Word, it can be physically lonely during this time of year, especially when the rest of your family celebrates Christmas, celebrates December 25th. It can also make you feel isolated, whether you be at school or whether you’re at the workplace, or whether you’re trying to reach out to your family or see them so involved in what many of us came out of so many, many years ago.
And I’m going to give you this message today because I want to strengthen you, and I want to encourage you during this time of the year. Because it’s never fun to be alone, as it were, when you see “everybody else doing it.” Whether you’re in high school, whether you’re in junior high, whether you’re in college, whether you’re at the office, and you see the hustle and the bustle, and you see people doing this, and you see people doing that.
And spiritually you know that you’re doing right, spiritually you know that this is what God would have us do. But it’s not enough just simply to not do something, you also have to know why you are doing it. And that’s why I want to give this message today. Not the Sabbath before, or the day before. Sometimes the Sabbath will come up, I have to smile, I’m saying this personally, some people give a message the day before on Christmas. Well, at that point, it’s too late. I want to give this message to you well before.
And my comment is to recognize that there are many people out there that sincerely keep these days, that’s not my point. I want you to know why God wants you to do what you do, and how to worship Him. Because this is not, what I’m going to share with you today is not just simply about Christmas, it can be about any holiday, of what to do, what not to do, as well as why we do what we do. Because it’s not enough to be against something, you also have to know what you’re for. You know why, friends? Because God doesn’t operate in a vacuum. God does not operate in a vacuum. Satan does operate in a vacuum. But God doesn’t, and He shares throughout the Scriptures of why we do what we do.
As I said, it’s seemly, everybody know when we’re out there, whether there are people that religiously keep Christmas, and/or we have the secular world that basically is worshiping commercialism and consumerism during this time, whether it be on the religious end and/or the secular end.
Let’s face it, we are a minority. We’re a small group, especially when everyone else is doing it. And we don’t just want to stand out to stand out. We have to stand out for a reason and know what we’re standing upon. And just because everyone else is doing it is not a reason for us to do it. Just ask Joshua and Caleb. Remember when everybody else was doing it, but there were two people that stood up, and knew that which was right.
It’s kind of interesting today when you look at the winter season and the winter break, you see everybody doing it. Even the Jewish community today, being Americanized over the last 140 years, has Hanukkah bushes. And that Hanukkah itself over in Israel was never a big, big holiday until the Jewish community became Americanized, and as soon as you become Americanized, you go that route of consumerism. So let’s understand some things here, and that’s simply this, is to understand that we want to walk the right way for all the right reasons.
It reminds me of the story of the party, the safari party that was going through the bush and going through the jungle, and they were hacking through the jungle with their machetes, and it seems as if they weren’t going anywhere. Then finally one person volunteered and says, “You know what? I’ll go up to the top of the tree, I’ll shimmy up that palm tree and see where we’re going, see where we’re headed.”
So he got up there, and started looking around, left to right, left to right, and he couldn’t believe what he saw. And then finally he yelled down to the rest of the safari, he says, “You won’t believe it. We’re in the wrong jungle.” You think that would have been enough. But the chorus, the echo that came up from the party down below was that, “Aw, come on down, we’re making progress anyway.”
The reason why I share that story, which is a little bit humorous, but we’ve all been on the palm tree or we’ve all yelled up, “We’re making progress anyway,” we know that there are many sincere people in America and around the world sometimes that say, dealing with Christmas, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas.” But that’s a wrong jungle. That’s a wrong jungle because He was never in that date of December 25th to begin with. It wasn’t about Him. It was about others. And it was about how people wanted to worship God, rather than how God stated that He wanted to be worshipped .
So what I want to do this afternoon is I want to just basically give you scriptures out of the Bible. I’m not going to deal with all the machinations, and all the details, and all the facts, and all the stories dealing with the holiday called Christmas. I will allude to a few to draw in some of our younger people.
But what I really want to do is not say what we’re against, but what we are for, and how you measure everything that you do, everything that you let into your life so that you will worship God. What does worship mean? “Worship” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon phrase woerthship, woerthship. Giving God His worth. Okay? You with me? That’s where worship comes from – to honoring Him, to glorifying Him.
But if you’re doing something for somebody because you think that’s the way that you want to do it…have you ever done that for your wife, or you’ve done that for your boss, or you’ve done that for a friend, and you’re thinking that you’re doing something for them, but they don’t receive it as doing. They say, “You might as well not have shown up. That’s not what I needed, that’s not what I desired, that’s not what I requested.”
See, friends, and those that are on the web, God desires worship. And Scripture tells us how He wants to be worshipped . And that’s what we’re going to deal with today based on very real Biblical principles. And what I want to share with you, this is not going to go away. Especially as the world continues and our life continues, that you can use these principles that I’m going to draw right out of the Bible, that are based upon Scripture for you to define your life, to enable you, and to allow you, and to make sure that you’re worshiping God Almighty the way that He wants to be worshipped .
Point number one that I’d like to give you is found over in Matthew 4, in verse 4, join me if you would there. The first principle, Matthew 4. In Matthew 4. Allow me to read it. “But He answered,” speaking of Jesus, and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
With that stated, that if we’re not to live by bread alone, but we are to live by every word of God, and we as Christians believe that this Scripture is the fullness of the revelation towards salvation that God has given us, so we have to find it between these two covers, that’s our faith. We have faith in God and we have faith that this is God’s word. And it says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word.” Not just the words that we like, but by every word.
So let’s understand something. So what does the Bible say, or not say, about worshiping God? Now, God wants to be worshipped, let’s keep that fact in mind. But He’s just not up there on a cloud, He’s not absentee. I want you to think through this for just a second, please. Wouldn’t you think that the same God that intricately gave instructions on designing the Ark, if you’ve ever read through those, that ultimately Noah built, or the intricate instructions that He gave about the tabernacle and how to construct it, or the intricate instructions that he gave about the layout of the Camp of Israel and where each of the tribes would be, surrounding of course the tabernacle in the middle.
Or as He describes Heaven above, the throne in Revelation 4, with all the different elements that He brings into it that are intricate. Or as He describes the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, with all the dazzle and all the different elements that are there. If He did all of that, don’t you think that He gave some instructions and some highlights and some details as to how He, too, wants to be worshipped?
Join me if you would in 1 Peter 1, in 1 Peter 1. Our big verse that we’re working off right now is Matthew 4:24 Matthew 4:24And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
American King James Version×, but I want to give you some subsets. In 1 Peter 1, join me if you would there. In 1 Peter 1, and let’s take a look at verse 16, which is actually an echo that comes out of the Old Testament, comes out of the Book of Leviticus. But in 1 Peter 1:16 1 Peter 1:16Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.
American King James Version×…well, let’s actually start in verse 15, that’ll be fine, “But as He that called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all of your conduct.” In all of your conduct. So it’s not just simply what you believe, it is not just simply theory, but it is your life’s action that is to be Holy before the Holy One. Because it is written, “Be Holy, for I am Holy.”
Now let’s take this thought for a moment, we don’t need to turn there, but all of us are aware of the account of when God called Moses to Sinai and said, “Come up.” And Moses came up, and there was the bush that was burning. And what was the one thing that God told Moses to do, before he did anything else? What was the action item as he approached the bush? Who can help me out there? Bill?
[Bill] Take off his shoe.
[Robin Webber] He had to take off his sandals, he had to take off his shoes. He had to unload his Nikes. See, God is holy. And as we approach Him, as we approach Him, He has expectations. He gives details. Sometimes He asks us to do things. Sometimes He asks us to stay away from things as to how we worship Him. And that is incredibly important. The first thing that we want to remember is that we base everything that we do on the Bible. We do not base our lives, we do not base our worship, on extra Biblical items or pronouncements. This is the Word of God. This is sufficient. This is what we draw upon.
The second point I’d like to share with you, this is going to be very simple as we go through it, is over in Deuteronomy 12. Join me if you would, please. Now, Deuteronomy is very important. For those of you that are just becoming students of the Word, let’s understand the Book of Deuteronomy that literally means the second giving of the law, the second giving. We first had it given in Exodus, and that is when they had just come out of Egypt, they were a new group, they were a new people, they had just landed on the other side of the shore of the Red Sea, and God gave them instruction, “If you’re going to follow me, this is what you need to do.”
Now, they’re about to go into the land, they’re going from being, in a sense, a pilgrim people, they’re about to become a settled nation as they cross to Jordan. And so God gives extra special information as they’re about to get into the crowded neighborhood of antiquity. And in Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×, let’s notice what it says, and let’s take God at His Word, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it. You shall not add to it, neither shall you take away from it.”
And there’s something about people, there’s something about folks that believe, in a sense, that they’re doing a favor to God, that they either add or they take away. In life and humanity, we have the adders, and the takers. Look, “Oh, no, I’d never do that.” And then the adders over here look at the takers and they say, “We would never do that.” There’s this pendulum that happens in human nature, we either want to pile on or we want to take off. And God says, “In My Holy Word, and in the Holy life that you live before the Holy God, as a Holy people is you do not add and you do not diminish.” This is Scripture. This is canon. This is God-breathed. This is what we ought to do. And we need to understand that.
The reason so often that we either add or we take away, friends, you know it and I know it, is because of feelings. We feel that God might appreciate this. And sometimes we add on more in our lives than God gave us, thinking we’re doing God a favor. And sometimes we take away because we think we’re doing God a favor. God says, “Do it.” Because Scripture, and being Holy is not about feelings alone, it’s about obeying God, even when it’s uncomfortable. In November and December and other parts of the year, obeying God shows that He is sovereign, and that we lean on Him and trust in Him that this life that He’s given us is for our good. So we need to understand that.
A part of that Word is found over in Exodus 20, join me if you would in Exodus 20. In Exodus 20, and let’s pick up the thought if we could in verse 1. These are the Words of God, and God spoke all these words, saying “I am.” His very name, the name of the deity, the name of the Godhead.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and you shall have no other God before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image,” now moving into the Second Commandment, “any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above or that is in the Earth beneath or that is in the water under the Earth. And you shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I am, I am the Lord your God. And a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children of the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy,” and notice, “to the thousands who love Me, and keep My Commandments.”
Now, let’s understand something. God makes two statements here. Number one, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” And we’re going to go to a verse later on that He does…He is the engine of our lives, and He doesn’t want us to put on any cabooses. He solely is Holy. He solely is God. And we are to be made in His image, not us trying to say, “We will worship You in our image how we feel like doing that.”
Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×, let’s just look at this verse, these are very big principles that I want to ingrain in your hearts and strengthen you and encourage you to be holy as God is holy. In Genesis 1, the first chapter. Let’s look at this where it says simply this, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’” Very plain. God is continuing, not only of the physical creation, but continuing from that to mold and shape us into His image.
And yet how often over the last 2,000 years, and even before that, a covenant people before that tried to take God and make Him over into an image that we like, that we feel is good, that will satisfy our longings, and that God won’t mind. Very interesting. Very important.
Ever since Eden, man has done the reverse, ever since Adam and Eve spotted the tree of good and evil. Interesting that a tree is involved, just as a side point. But it looked good. It was, as they say down South, it was purty. It was pretty. It was pleasant to the eyes. It looked attractive. It sparked. It drew people to it. It had that certain feeling of making Eve and making Adam feel good. When God said, “No, this is how I will be worshipped. This is how I will be worshipped.” And a part of that is My sovereignty that says, “You cannot partake of that tree. I’ve got something better for you, even when you don’t get it at first.” Very important.
Now let’s understand a third point I want to share with you. The third point is found over in 2 Corinthians 6. Just a basic Bible study, just sharing Scriptures, friends, to strengthen you, and to encourage you. And this is out of the New Testament. The Bible is one book, and God does not change His mind about these things. Let’s notice what it says here in 2 Corinthians 6. Let’s pick up the thought in verse 14 because this is going to build upon that first and that second commandment. 1 Corinthians…
2 Corinthians 6:14 2 Corinthians 6:14Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?
American King James Version×. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For 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 and I will be their God and they shall be My people.”
The great anthem of Scripture. “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Eternal. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you and I will be a father to you. And you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Don’t touch that which is apart from Me, that confronts Me. Now, remember what I mentioned in Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×, whatsoever, don’t add and don’t diminish. Because Israel was now going to be placed in that very crowded neighborhood, surrounded by pagans and surrounded by the Gentile community.
Join me now in 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.
American King James Version×. In 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.
American King James Version×, actually let’s go to verse 1, “Hear the Word which the Lord speaks to you, oh house of Israel.” Remembering in that sense under the new covenant, written in the New Testament that you and I are, as it says in Galatians 6:16 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×, “The Israel of God.” “Thus says the Eternal, do not learn the way of the Gentiles.” Don’t be a part of what is referred to in the Old Testament, and I think in the New Testament too, “as the nations,” which when spoken are those that are apart from God, that confront God. “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. And do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven.”
Now let’s talk about that for a second because this is very relevant to December 25th, and understand what we’re talking about. There’s an old expression, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” which is in the heavens. So we’re going to talk about that for a moment. Let’s talk about what has transpired over 2,000 years, especially in the time period from about 200 A.D. through about 400 A.D. and what came into the historical Christian community.
Many of us have heard of the word, “Saturnalia,” which is a festival that was based upon remembrance and worship of Saturn, a Latin god. It was a Latin celebration of the winter solstice. That celebration occurred from December 17th through December 23rd. As the sun was slowly moving towards its lowest cycle, it was becoming darker and darker and darker. And then with that winter solstice on December 23rd, all of a sudden you go from becoming darker and darker and darker, you stop, and then there begins to be that turning point where it becomes lighter and lighter and lighter.
The ancients had a certain fear, but they also had a certain longing for the light that was to come. It’s very interesting that in that one festival, in the Latin community of which Rome was a part, that during that time, there was private gift giving, there were festivities of lights, you couldn’t put enough candles in your shop along the cobblestone, there was a carnival atmosphere, there was continual partying, and it was interesting when I looked this up this morning that also the masters provided table service for their slaves. In other words, the owner of the company had a pre-Saturnalia party.
Sounds almost like something that happens around offices the first, second or third week of December today, it’s called the office party. Except back then, there were masters and there were slaves. They would do something for their slaves that they didn’t do the rest of the year to make them feel special until December 24th, then you went back to being a slave. The poet Catullus called it, “The very best of days.” Oh, everybody looked forward to it. It was just the neatest time, it was the funnest time. If that’s a word, “funnest,” it might be bad English, but I made the point.
It was what everybody looked forward to because there was so many good things happening and there were feelings abounding. There was joy in the air, and people were coming together, and there was a rush and there was a crush to society. But that’s just the Saturnalia. Then there was what is called the “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.” You say, “That sounds like a doctor’s prescription at Walgreen’s. Let me repeat that again, there was the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.
You might notice the word “natalis.” Natal. Meaning “birth.” That was on December 25th. December 25th was the birthday of the unconquered sun. This would become intertwined with the Latin Saturnalia, which was just a few days before, as a time of festivity. And again, you couldn’t stock enough candles off the alley in the Roman shops.
This was not today, this was in pagan Rome. It’s interesting what Seneca, the philosopher and the statesman said, “It is now the month of December, when the great part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation. Everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations ,as if there were some real difference between the days devoted to Saturn and those for transacting business.” There was just a different feeling, a different air during that time.
It’s also very interesting what Pliny said, who was in the later 1st century, author and magistrate, he said this, he described his own private setting in a villa used as a retreat, and he said, “Especially during the Saturnalia when the rest of the house is noisy with the license of the holiday and festive cries, this way I don’t hamper the games of my people and they don’t hinder my work or studies.” Sound familiar with the month of December in modern-day America? Staying away from the fashion malls, staying away from the office buzz, just give us some peace and some quiet?
Friends, this was in Rome. This was centered around two things – worship of Saturn and worship of the “unconquered sun,” which became particularly popular in Rome, basically after Aurelian and moving towards the 300s, and therefore then moving towards Constantine, who, after all, was a devotee of the unconquered sun, that he then intertwined with his then-failing understanding of Christ. He himself thinking in type that he himself was a form and a type of Apollo’s. It’s a very, very complicated history.
What do we learn from this? Where did we go from this? As people, we’re expanding. And as historical Christianity was expanding, allow me to share one more thought and then come back on course, it was simply this – Pope Gregory, who was also known as “Gregory the Great,” who was a papal figure in the last part of the 6th century. As once again Rome was beginning to try to gain control over Gaul, of the Germanic tribes, and trying to gain control over what was then Britain…
Now, Britain had been Celtic, had been under the Roman Empire, but then we’d had the transfusions of the Anglos, the Saxons and the Jutes, which were Germanic tribes. So, in that sense, England had gone from historical Christianity, and now was once again embracing paganism and beginning to come out of it.
This is what Pope Gregory said, and please hear me. And this was his instruction to a gentleman named Augustus, in a letter that’s very famous to Augustus. In dealing with the Germanic and the Celtic people of England, saying this, “Thus, if they aren’t deprived of all exterior joy, they will more easily embrace the interior ones,” in dealing with traditions of the time of sacrificing oxen and feasting. In other words, what they wanted to do was to bring in their Germanic customs of worship, their Celtic customs of worship, and the Pope basically at that point say, “Be very gingerly about this.” Back off. If you’re having a certain religious celebration, let them slaughter their oxen.
Actually what would happen not only in Rome but also in England, what they used to do is if there was a temple, what they would do, they would keep that temple then as a church. And oftentimes then, the Germanic and the Celtic people would circle that temple that had been a pagan temple but now infused with historical Christianity, that they would circle their huts around it, bring in their customs, which I’m not going to go into all right now, other than the slaughtering of oxen and different items like that.
You begin to see this, you begin to see what we call in Theology, “syncretization.” Syncretizing. The merging of beliefs. Almost like when you take one color and another color, but they’re no longer what they were before, they’ve now become a new color.
What I want to share with you is a very basic principle, let’s go to Isaiah 42:8 Isaiah 42:8I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
American King James Version×. Because again, what I really want to share with you, friends, is not just what Robin Webber is thinking about this subject, but what God says about how He wants to be worshipped . In Isaiah 42:8 Isaiah 42:8I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
American King James Version×, notice what it says, “I am,” there’s the name of God, “I am the eternal, and that is My name, and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.”
In the book of Exodus, it says that, “One of My names is jealous.” See, the bottom line, friends, is simply this, God not only wants to be worshipped , but He wants to be worshipped alone because it is only He who has an inherent life in Him, who is un-created, who is eternal, who is divine deity that is worthy of worship. Nothing else. It’s not about a feeling. It’s about a reality that God brings into our lives through His Spirit working in us, to allow us to understand that He is sovereign, and that He alone deserves worship.
Allow me now to give you another big verse. Mark 7, join me if you would there for a moment in Mark 7. And friends, what I’m trying to do, and I hope you understand this, out of love I’m trying to strengthen you and encourage you so that you will understand God’s admonition to us as much as He did to the Israelites of old, as you enter into the land and as you go back into the communities. “Do not add and do not diminish who I am and how I choose to be worshipped .”
In the Gospel of Mark, let’s look at verse 7, Mark 7:6 Mark 7:6He 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.
American King James Version×. “He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” A very strong statement. It’s a principle. It’s dealing with the scribes and the Pharisees. But I want to build upon that some, okay? What God is basically saying is this, is don’t confuse man’s ways and man’s traditions with the Holy worship I desire.
Now I want to share a thought with you, okay? May I? I’ve already talked about my ancestors, the Germans, and we’ve dealt with the Celts, some of you are Celtic so you say, “Leave me alone. Okay, that’s enough.” But let’s understand, even God’s Holy people, covenant people, at times chose not to worship God the way that He wanted to be worshipped . And I want to show you two very specific accounts, Exodus 32, join me if you would there please, in Exodus 32.
This is the story of the golden calf. But I want to share something with you, how this works. See, what happened, stay with me, what happened with Saturnalia and what happened with the birthday of Sol Invictus, is you began a merging of thoughts about God. Because Hippolytus, who was what they call the early church fathers, wrote that, “Who can be more unconquerable than the Sun of Righteousness?”
So, you began to see a fusion of thought based upon scripture out of Malachi, the prophecy about the Sun of Righteousness, along with what was happening on the ground in Ancient Rome and in the Latin Kingdom. So you see that. There began to be this, like two paint colors, and you put them together, and it wasn’t right. It was syncretized.
But you find that actually, in the book of Exodus 32:4 Exodus 32:4And 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.
American King James Version×, speaking of Aaron, “And he received the gold from their hand and he fashioned it with an engraving tool and made a molded calf,” the famous golden calf. “Then they said, ‘This is your god, oh Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Fact mixed with falsehood. Yes, they had come out of the land of Egypt. But now, they were ascribing that rescue out of the land of Egypt with this carved image, this idol.
So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it and Aaron made a proclamation, notice what it says here, interesting how it works. “Tomorrow is a feast to the Eternal.” Took an idol, took something out of…learned in pagan Egypt…took an idol, took something pagan, brought in the fact that they had been rescued, and then they proclaimed a feast to the Eternal. You talk about mind games. This is how it works.
Allow me to share another one. That even God’s people have got to be on guard, that our worship towards God is not based upon us making God into our image, but us striving to be in His image, and to worship as He desires to be worshipped. Join me if you would in 1 Kings 12. Perhaps a story that’s not quite as familiar. 1 Kings 12. Let’s pick up the thought in verse 25. Remember the story of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and then Jeroboam, who was given another kingdom, the kingdom of the North.
But do you think Jeroboam worshipped God? No, he didn’t appreciate the opportunity. We know this because he was afraid that he was going to lose the people. He had a feeling that if the people went down south back to Jerusalem to worship, that they wouldn’t come back.
And notice what it says in 1 Kings 12:25 1 Kings 12:25Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelled therein; and went out from there, and built Penuel.
American King James Version×. “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim and dwelt there, and also he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, now the kingdom may return to the House of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the House of the Lord at Jerusalem,” being the temple of Solomon, “then the heart of those people will turn back to their Lord,” Rehoboam, King of Judah, “and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam, King of Judah.”
Verse 28, “Therefore the king asked advice made notice.” This is after the golden calf. Are you with me? After David, a man after God’s own heart, after Solomon. They’re at it again. Those that do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Therefore, notice what it says, “The kind asked advice,” he made two calves. Aaron only made one. Two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, here are your gods, oh Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt. And he set one up in Bethel and the other he put in Dan. And now this thing became a sin for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan, and he made shrines on the high places, made priests from every class of people who were not of the sons of Levi.
Now notice verse 32, “And Jeroboam ordained a feast…” follow this now… “Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar.” Folks, this is what happens. At times, you will switch your worship of God from He who was un-created, who says there is no image…they made bulls. But that was not enough. Even though they linked it to the God who brought them out of Egypt, then what they did was…then he changed the dates.
It is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is in the seventh month, on the fifteenth day. He changed it to the eighth month, on the fifteenth day. Are you with me? This was syncretizing, and removing the holy people of God from a holy God, and putting into action idolatry, worshiping the creation rather than the creator, and not worshiping God the way that He wants to be worshipped.
So, what we see in all of this, we see examples of historical Christianity. We see examples of covenant people. We see the one that would become the high priest under Moses and how he tried to syncretize. We see the example of Jeroboam and how he tried to syncretize. We see the early historical church, how they syncretized. We see even the Pope Gregory, how he said, “Let the folks have it and worship God their way. Let’s not be too tough.” Where does that leave us?
Let me begin to conclude. Brethren, I’ve been very, very clear. And this is a challenge that we have always had as human beings, that we want to make God over into our image, rather stick with Genesis where it says, “I am God. And I am making you into My image.” See, all of us were created to worship God. Everything that we do worships God. Our thoughts worship God, our motives worship God, our actions worship God, our words worship God. Worshiping God in formality, and on the days that He asked to be worshipped on, also worships God.
Now, in all of this, and I think it’s very important for we that are in the Church of God, is to understand something very important, and I hope you hear me loud and clear. I believe that at times, because of what the world has done with the birth story, and with the resurrection story, that at times, wittingly or unwittingly, we’ve shied away from it. We need to recognize that these tremendous, miraculous events of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ, were kidnapped and sullied with paganism and with extra-Biblical traditions. And we need to take them right back.
What do I mean by taking them right back? We need to be very familiar with the birth story. We need to be very familiar with that incarnation story. We need to be familiar with the wonderful attitude of Mary, the wisdom of Joseph, the story of the shepherds. The wise men who didn’t show up the next day but years later, came and offered up the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh. We should understand those stories. We should understand the killing of the innocents in Bethlehem. That as God has given us the greatest gift that has ever existed, that an evil king was trying to thwart God’s miracle and God’s will, and to stamp out the one that would come as the Prince of Peace.
You and I need to talk about that, you and I need to share those thoughts. Our lives should be molded in the aspect that, yes, God came in the flesh, and it should not just be on one date that man sets aside, but every day in our lives should be molded by the story that God loved us so much that He sent His Son, and that Son was willing and did not grapple with Godhead, but came to this earth that you and I might be saved. We need to consider the story of the resurrection. We need to know every aspect of that story. We need to be instilled with that power of the empty tomb.
But it should not be gift-wrapped in paganism. It is not just simply on a date. It is not about a date wrapped up in paganism. It is about an existence that you and I understand, and we need to claim those stories, and we need to stand on those stories. Not when man puts them, but share the story as God puts it in the Bible.
You know what’s very interesting, and you know Susie and I have this talk sometimes. We’ll hear a story, we’ll hear a program on the radio, maybe out of a…on a radio, it’s on a religious station. And for twenty minutes, that preacher will be a-preachin’, as we say, and you’ll think it was something that you’d first read out of the Radio Church of God in 1962 about Christmas and its pagan origins. And it goes on the first 5 minutes, and then it goes on the next 10 minutes, and you go, “Wow! This guy’s really got it! This is incredible.” Because he’s just reading you some of the stuff that I’ve just shared with you a little bit today.
And then there’s almost like, you know how the rabbit vanishes in the hat with the magician? All of a sudden, the last five minutes, there’s a detour. After they talk about all the origins, and the verses like I’ve shared with you, that they’ll say, “But isn’t it wonderful to be able to give one another gifts? And isn’t it wonderful and fantastic that a family can come together.” And I’m just going, “Wow, did I miss something in transition?” They’re sharing the same verses that I just shared with all of you, they either believe that or they don’t.
Because worshiping God is not based merely on feelings. It’s based upon His sovereignty, and that He is not going to give us anything that is bad for us. Everything is good for us. You know sometimes people say, “Well you know, isn’t it better to give than to receive?” So we’re giving on that day. But I have a question for you, knowing our families, and cousins, and neighbors. How many people are just thinking about giving, and how many people are thinking about getting?
When you think of the days that God ascribes to us, and the days that we share that are found both in the Old Testament and the New Testament – I want you to hear me through on this for a second – the Biblical festivals, and those Holy Days, there is nothing about getting. It is all about God giving. It’s about God’s grace. It’s about God’s saving gifts to His covenant people down through the ages, whether Israel of old, or the body of Christ today.
God’s way is outward. It’s outflowing without any thought of return. How often did we hear over the years that what love is, is outflowing and outgoing concern away from self. Not being in a line at a mall with thirty people in front of you. I’ve done this sometimes, I’ve got to share…sometimes, I can get a little naughty when I’m in a line in December, and there’s thirty people in front of me. And I just say out loud, probably a little audibly out loud, all I say, “I wonder if Bethlehem was like this at all.” What is this all about?
To our young people, I want to share something with you. Not everything that glitters is gold. Probably the Tree of Life, excuse me, the Tree of Good and Evil, glittered. It looked like gold. The Tree of Life, though, is nourishing. The Tree of Good and Evil was based upon feelings. The Tree of Life was based upon obedience, and knowing that God has something really good for us. You know, we in the Church of God, you talk about family, you talk about feasting. God gives us that occasion.
When you look at Deuteronomy 14 and we just came off the Feast of Tabernacles, what did it say? “I want you to come together and I want you to rejoice.” I want you to rejoice. And I want you to think of yourselves as a family. Not only your physical family, but your spiritual family. You rejoice, and you have family time. But you do it in fear of the eternal. You do it in respect and in reverence, as it says in Deuteronomy 14, “Unto Me. You come to where I have placed My name.” And not only that, but I’ve told you how to prepare for it, so that you don’t have to go into debt for half a year, come out of it, and then get ready for the next one.
I wanted to share this message with you today a couple of months out, and not just a week before. I haven’t given a message like this for some time. I hope it strengthens you. I hope it encourages you as to how good our God has been to open our minds to see these scriptures, and by His spirit and by His strength be willing to be alone when everybody else is doing it. But recognizing, when it’s all said and done, we’re not alone.
Because God looks down at us and our families. He looks down at young people that are strong in the Word, that are obedient in His ways. And for them to recognize that they’re not alone, and that they’ve made a choice not to simply go after that which is pretty, but to go after that which is eternal. And that they’re not in the wrong jungle, but they’re on the right path. That they’re not trying to worship God their way, but to worship God His way, and with that there’s a blessing.