Let us “be diligent to present ourselves approved to God, a worker that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (II Tim. 3:15). There are some things that are innately evil, and dedicated to the purposes of evil. These are clearly forbidden by God in His Word and are not to be entertained or tolerated by the believer. Idolatry, witchcraft, sexual perversions are just a few of the things forbidden. For a complete list of things God hates and that will get us in trouble read II Timothy 3:1-7 and Revelations 21:8.
Objects connected with witchcraft and idolatry were burned in the book of Acts along with other accursed objects used in magic rituals and paganism. These were specific items dedicated to and used in the occult.
“Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts 19:18-19)
Or objects that were forbidden by God.
‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” (Josh. 7:13)
The debate over what was necessary and what was no longer needed to sanctify the believers was an ongoing discussion in the early church. Was circumcision or keeping the Sabbath still to be part of the New Covenant? The arguments and the final conclusions drawn are recorded in Acts 15:6-11 with the special stipulations for all believers listed in Acts 15:29.
There were no special directions about holidays or holy days or ceremonial foods or the need to continue the traditions of the law that had been institutionalized by the Scribes and Pharisees. They were simple to “abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (Acts 15:29)
This did not quiet the discussion for long, however, as Paul had to address the idea of “things offered to idols” again in I Cor. 8:4-13. He tells us that idols are “nothing” and therefore, these so called “gods” are irrelevant to us who know the One true God, (v.5-6). But, of greater consideration, he tells us, is the fact that some of our brethren might be offended at our eating of meat offered to idols even though that meat was routinely bought in the common meat market of the day.
Paul goes on to narrow the issue to one of conscience, both that of the eater and the conscience of the non-eater. Some still have a weak conscience and fear that eating the meat would be honoring the demon-god it was dedicated to. Others would go ahead and eat neglecting to be sensitive to the conscience of the weaker brother.
But as sure as Paul was that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.” (I Cor. 8:8), he was sure offending a weaker brother was not acceptable to God. He concludes the matter with an admonition to brotherly love saying if we “sin against the weaker brother, we sin against Christ.” (I Cor. 8:12), “therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble”, (v.13)
Eating or not eating food and drink does not disqualify or commend us to God. We are saved by accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. The refusal to accept the death of Christ as the payment for your sins and the ransom of your life is the only “deal breaker” for getting to heaven.
There are no magic formulas of food and drink or good behavior that can get us accepted by God. To allow ourselves to be set up under such legal constrictions of the Law only again brings us into the grip of the Accuser who uses Guilt to press charges against us for anything he thinks might stick.
Paul approaches the subject again in Romans 14:1-6, expanding the consideration beyond the argument of foods, in his discussion of how to handle “the disputes over doubtful things” (v.1) to include days. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5).
Again he concludes that we should not put a stumbling block in front of one another, reminding us that we will are all the servants of the Lord and will stand before Him some day when everything gets straightened out. (v.10)
He reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not defined in food or drink, but in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.” (Rom. 14:17-18)
In verse 20 he takes a closer look at the matter saying “All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense…”. “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” (v.23).
This opens up another can of worms because, technically, if we want to get technical, as there are a lot of things we do all the time that are prompted out of fear and not faith. Are all those things then sin? Or does our lack of confidence open us up to getting judged by the Enemy who is just looking for a way to implicate us so he can press charges against us and can punish us for “breaking the law”?
“All things are pure”, but like Paul tells Titus, “to the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) Paul goes on to say, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (I Cor. 6:12)
In other words, now that I am not under the Law, all things are lawful for me, BUT, now, even though I could get drunk and carry on, I DO NOT WANT TO! The New Covenant of Grace has changed my heart. I do not find my help or my goodness within my self or from keeping a certain prescribed set of laws, suggestions and false comforts the Enemy would offer me to ease my pain. I no longer want to see how close I can live to the edge of the cliff of misconduct and still be within the legal guidelines of the Law.
To live on the edge, is to come again under the jurisdiction of the Law Jesus fulfilled. The Law brings me under the power of the Enemy. I am set free from the Law that could not justify me, even if I could keep it. I am called to a higher calling, to abide in the Lord my righteousness.
In Colossians Paul defines our completion in Christ and cautions us to beware lest anyone cheat us with philosophy and empty traditions, and the principles of the world. We completed the requirements of circumcision in Him, raised with Him, made alive together with Him. Therefore do not fall into the old traps of man fear in judging ourselves or one another by what we eat, or when we worship.
These activities can breed a false humility and turn genuine worship into angelology and judgmentalism. We become filled with vanity and puffed up by our own sense of self-righteousness. Therefore, because we have died to being held under the demands of these things we are free from them. We would be foolish to go back to being controlled by the regulations of the world. Things like “do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” are deceptive. They cannot make the doer of them perfect or more acceptable to God. They can only blind us to the lies of the Enemy and bind us again to the expectations and commandments and doctrines of men. These appear to be pious exercises, but in reality, are of no value against the indulgences of the flesh.
Technically, we are dead. Our lives are hid with Christ in God. Any continuing activities, including our celebration of any particular day or the lack there of, must be led by the Holy Spirit. The Enemy is looking for ANYTHING he can use to get a reaction out of us. He even uses our desire for righteousness and justice to provoke us to move back under the dictated of legalism. He uses our desire for holiness to argue points of discord and set up schisms in the Body of Christ.
So, before you chuck the Christmas tree and stop singing Christmas carols at the expense of offending a weaker brother, family member, or child, it might do you well to remember Paul’s ultimate admonition in the Law of Love, that if my not celebrating Christmas causes my brother to sin, I will celebrate it and take every opportunity to share the true meaning behind it. So if the bottom line for celebrating Christmas is love for others, out of a pure heart, then go for it. And let there be “on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)