You Know It Is Christmas When All The Pharisees Come Out


bethlehem star  Christmas

They have a real sense of their own self-importance. They think they are spiritually superior to others. They will judge and condemn others for doing things that they won’t do, or for not doing things that they do. They are purists, but follow manmade rules of purity.

They are, in a word, Pharisees. And let me tell you, Pharisees are alive and well in today’s church just as much as they were back in the days of Jesus and his ministry. And they are a plague today just as they were back then. In addition to having the typical “holier-than-thou” attitude, they are legalists, trying to force all believers to observe their manmade rules and regulations.

I say all this because we know Christmas is coming early – I have already had to deal with these misguided brethren who attack you and condemn you if you dare to mention the ‘C’ word. I have already had to unfriend some whackos who insist that if we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are on a par with devil worshipers.

They really are arrogant, clueless wonders who would make the Pharisees of old real proud. Indeed, there is nothing at all virtuous or Christlike about these confused believers who actually gloat and revel in their ignorance of all things theological, biblical, and historical.

They simply demonstrate their lack of humility and Christian grace. And covering up their ignorance with pseudo-spirituality is all very off-putting as well. I grow a bit tired of such folks to be honest. They are purists who condemn fellow Christians, and they are new legalists, the very sort that Paul and others regularly condemned.

I of course have written up in detail why we are not antichrists if we actually celebrate our Lord’s birth at Christmas.

And sadly we get the same lunacy from these misguided folks at Easter time, so I have written that up in detail as well.

But every year at these two times they come out of the woodwork like clockwork. Folks you never hear from all of a sudden emerge in rage and self-righteousness as they condemn you for actually being thankful that Christ was born. As I wrote in those two articles, of course we reject the consumerism and materialism, and celebrate these days for what they actually are all about.

But that does not stop these Pharisees from going on the attack. To be honest, I am so over these folks. If they actually studied things a bit, instead of relying on some nutjob conspiracy theorist on a YouTube video somewhere, they would see that they are completely out to lunch on these matters.

But no, their minds are made up, and no amount of evidence – both historical and biblical – will change their minds. They simply emote their way through life, attacking everyone and everything, instead of using their minds for the glory of God.

As such, most of these folks are unreachable, and I advise against wasting too much time with them. But for those who are open, and are asking honest questions about all this, then let me say a few more words (in addition to what I have already written in the above two articles).

A simple reading of Scripture should really put an end to all this foolishness. Just one verse should suffice, but I realise that Pharisees prefer the traditions of men over the clear teachings of the Bible. What about Colossians 2:16 for starters: “Therefore, let no one judge you because of what you eat or drink or about the observance of annual holy days, New Moon Festivals, or weekly worship days.”

Umm, does it get any more clear and straightforward than this? This really should be the end of the matter. It is crystal clear that Paul thinks such days are a non-issue, and we should never be judging our brothers over such matters. And Paul speaks to this in various other places.

For example, these purists and legalists need to read Romans 14 as well. Over and over again in this important chapter Paul tells folks not to let others judge you in regard to what you eat, what days you observe, and so on. As Romans 14:5-6 says,

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

And of course the entire book of Galatians is all about this. In it Paul takes on the legalists and Judaisers big time. The epistle has rightly been called an epistle of liberty or freedom. The whole theme of the book is that Christ has set us free from manmade laws and regulations, and we should not allow anyone to put us under new restrictions and burdens.

Indeed, Paul offers the strongest words of denunciation for such people, even saying that those who seek to do this should be “accursed” (Gal. 3:1-14). He uses some of his strongest language of rebuke for these legalists. Paul says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7).

He calls them “foolish” and says they have been “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1). He even had to publicly rebuke Peter over these matters (Gal. 2:11-21). And he is forced to ask this question of the problematic Galatians: “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

And the overarching theme of freedom in Christ is also forcefully proclaimed and celebrated. As we read in Gal. 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

In Gal. 2:4-5 he speaks about some of these battles of slavery versus freedom: “This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”

But these new legalists do not seem to like freedom in Christ, and want to put us all under new yokes of manmade legalism – all in their spurious efforts to remain “uncontaminated” from the world. Well I have news for these guys: the only way they will be so “pure” is if they move into a cave somewhere.

Every day they “contaminate” themselves with worldliness and paganism. When they fill the car with petrol, they may well have a pagan taking their money. When they deal with a checkout chick at a grocery store, she may be a Satanist. When they buy a loaf of bread they may be doing business with a raving New Ager.

We cannot avoid coming into contact with pagans and imbibing, at least indirectly, with all sorts of non-Christian practices, beliefs and activities. That is what we would expect as we live in a fallen world, and seek to reach out to our non-Christian neighbours. As one US friend said elsewhere:

“Once again the season has come in which legalistic Christians try to come off superior to everyone else, by harrumphing that “Christmas is pagan!” If you choose to be paranoid, you can find pagan connections in ANYTHING. The first violins were invented by pagans, so if you allow a violin to be played in church, you’re a pagan. Potatoes were first cultivated by pagans, so if you eat a potato, you’re a pagan. The Latin alphabet was created by pagans, so if you WRITE anything using the alphabet that the English language uses, you’re a pagan.”

Quite so. Let me conclude by saying that if you think I am pushing antinomianism or license here, you obviously know nothing about me. In my 3500+ articles, I would have penned hundreds arguing for a holy, cruciform life, warning against lawlessness and license.

As always we must find the biblical balance, and avoid unbiblical extremes. The idea that we can live like the devil because we are saved by grace is one such extreme to be avoided at all costs. But so too is the new legalism that would put us all under bondage of manmade rules and regulations. Both are wrong and both must be avoided like the plague.

In sum, let me say this with the full authority of Jesus and Paul: If you want to celebrate the birth of our Saviour at Christmas, go right ahead. If you don’t want to, that is fine as well. But what is not fine is to judge and condemn your brothers and sisters in Christ if they do that which differs from your own convictions on this matter.

As soon as you start judging them and condemning them for their choices, you are no longer walking in love or Christian grace. You have then become a Pharisee, and for that, you need to repent.

Know Your God

2 Peter 1:12-21

Throughout the world, and even within the church, we can find a wide variety of beliefs about the Lord. To avoid confusion and deception, we need to recognize that His Word is without error and that it reveals the truth we need to understand about our amazing triune God.

The inerrancy of the Bible. Unless a person has a firm belief in this doctrine, all of his or her ideas about the Lord will be subjective. Scripture is God’s thoughts written without error by men who were governed by the Holy Spirit. Fulfilled prophecy is proof that this book is never wrong (Isa. 48:3).

An accurate understanding of God. The Lord is one divine being expressed in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are equal in every way, but their jobs differ. Think of the Father as the initiator, the Son as the implementer, and the Spirit as the energizer. All three were involved in creation as well as the plan of salvation.

The Son, who existed in eternity past, came to earth by being born of a virgin. He is the God-man, having added humanity to His deity. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death for our sins, rose bodily from the grave, and ascended to the Father in heaven.

The Holy Spirit is our power source. He indwells every believer in Christ, transforming character, revealing truth, and enabling obedience to God.

Our Creator wants us to know Him. Isn’t that amazing? He invites us to enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. Every day we have the privilege of opening His Word and speaking with our loving God. He’s waiting for you . . .

Come Forth as Gold

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

These words of Peter are certainly applicable today, but they have always been true. That proper character and testimony are of supreme importance to God was certainly recognized by godly Job in the midst of his heavy trials, for he claimed: “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). The context for this stirring statement of faith proves instructive.

Just as most people do, whether Christian or not, Job appealed to heaven for relief from his troubles (v. 3). Job felt he was suffering unjustly and wanted to state his case before God (v. 4), but more importantly, Job desired to know God’s will in the matter. “I would [i.e., desire to] know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me” (v. 5). He knew God well enough to know that God had a purpose in his suffering, and Job asked for knowledge of that purpose. Job knew God’s goodness, that He would not punish him for his questions, and felt that greater understanding would give him strength to continue. But without God’s revelation, Job knew he was unable to understand or even find God (vv. 8-9). God mercifully and lovingly allows trials to discipline, guide, and develop us. Such trials will, in the end, work to our advantage as impurities are removed, leaving behind only that which is lasting and precious.

The goal of our lives should be to bring “praise and honour and glory” unto our Lord, and if tribulation can best accomplish these goals, so be it! As David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Psalm 119:67). God knows what is best for us. He knows what He is doing, and we can rest in that fact. JDM

The Cleansed Conscience

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. —Hebrews 10:22

What a relief to find the writer to the Hebrews encouraging us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22).

A sprinkled conscience—surely this is a gracious thing for men and women in the world to know!

One of the most relieving, enriching, wholesome, wondrous things we can know is that sudden sense of the lifting of the burden as the conscience goes free—God giving freedom to that conscience which has been evil, diseased and protesting.

Peter wrote about this and called it “the answer of a good conscience toward God, [saves us] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

This is the kind of conversion I believe in—when your sins are cleansed and forgiven through the blood of the Lamb, you will know it!…

A transaction has taken place within the human spirit. The heart suddenly knows itself clean and the burden lifts from the mind and there is a true sense that heaven is pleased and God is smiling and the sins are gone.

Lord, I fall on my face before You in heartfelt worship. Amen.

Spiritual Twins: Holiness and Happiness

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings: that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:13

I want to bring you my postulate that most present-day Christians live sub-Christian lives. As a result, Christianity has been watered down until the solution is so weak that if it were poison it would not hurt anyone and if it were medicine it would not cure anyone!

Most Christians are not joyful persons because they are not holy persons, and they are not holy persons because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, and they are not filled with the Holy Spirit because they are not separated persons.

The Spirit cannot fill whom He cannot separate, and whom He cannot fill, He cannot make holy, and whom He cannot make holy, He cannot make happy!

My postulate further insists that the average modern Christian is not Christlike. The proof of this is apparent in the disposition that we find among the children of God. They have moral weaknesses and suffer frequent defeats. They have a dulled understanding and often live far below the standard of the Scriptures and thus outside the will of God.

To be honest, let us admit that the application of the gospel is being pulled down to the standard of the most carnal, the cheapest saintling hanging on by the teeth anywhere in the kingdom of God!

He Is Our Passover

He took bread… And their eyes were opened, and they knew him. LUKE 24:30-31

What a sweet comfort to us that our Lord Jesus Christ was once known in the breaking of the bread. In earlier Christian times, believers called Communion “the medicine of immortality,” and God gave them the desire to pray:

Be known to us in breaking bread,
But do not then depart;
Savior, abide with us and spread
Thy table in our heart.

Some churches have a teaching that you will find God only at their table—and that you leave God there when you leave. I am so glad that God has given us light. We may take the Presence of the table with us.

Then sup with us in love divine,
Thy body and Thy blood;
That living bread and heavenly wine
Be our immortal food!

In approaching the table of our Lord, we dare not forget the cost to our elder Brother, the Man who was from heaven. He is our Savior; He is our Passover!

Lord, just as You promised Moses that Your “Presence” would go with him (see Exodus 33:14), I pray that Your Presence will go with me wherever You lead. I will not go without You, dear Lord.