This post was to go up last weekend; well we never got to finish it on time, so here it is. Sorry for the possible suspense, or anxiety that it may have caused. :) In case you haven't read the first two parts of the series, here is Part One written by Melyssa and Part Two written by both of us.
The last post that went up was not to be an overarching attack on Christian’s celebration of Christmas. I am harboring no judgmental feelings or attitudes toward anyone. I don’t want anyone thinking we are a family of scrooges sitting at home praying for misery upon you and your family. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to spend time with you and have fun with you, and study the Word with you, we just will not be talking very much about Christmas trees, decorations, or presents. :)
Another thought that people have is: “Well, what do you have against Jesus’ birth??” Actually… nothing. We absolutely love the incarnation of Jesus. His story of entering into time as a man in order to save us from sin and redeem us from death, began in a manger in Bethlehem. It is an amazing story from beginning to end. Our choosing not to celebrate Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus birth as that is an event that consistently leaves us amazed and in wonder.
Also, in case you are wondering, our family is full of joy and happiness. It is simply that our joy has nothing to do with “Christmas spirit” and everything to do with enjoying God. We do not desire to rob our children of fun, nor do we desire to be unhappy, but rather we have found the things we enjoy about this time of the year really have nothing to do with Christmas. We enjoy family; playing in the snow, hot chocolate, making crafts and tasty treats, good food, and great times of worship through song and studying His Word. I still get awesome family time as I am on a school schedule, so I get two weeks off!! We choose to separate the fun and joy from the traditions as we believe that those traditions are not honoring to God.
That being said, the celebration of Christmas is only a small part in what has changed in our lives as God continues to lead us. We used it as an example, because not celebrating it makes us really weird to others, and I wanted to make sure that people knew where we are coming from.
The big issue that has been continually impressed upon is God’s holiness. That is the bottom line here. If I view God as the epitome of holiness, absolute perfection, then what should my life look like. Multiple places in the Bible demand holiness from the followers of God. We are to be holy as He is holy. (Lev. 11:44-45, 19:2, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 2 Tim. 2:21)
So, if God is holy, my life is to be a reflection of that holiness. I am not saved by that holiness, because it does not come from me. I am saved by His grace, and then I am given the ability to be holy as He is holy through His Holy Spirit. (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2, Rom. 8:1-17)
As we study the Bible, and we have been discussing this on Sunday mornings through Leviticus and studying the glory of God, we see that God takes His holiness very seriously. He is neither to be trifled with nor to be taken lightly. We have numerous examples of people in Scripture who did not respect nor fear the holiness of God and received swift punishment. God is holy and expects holiness among all who are near to Him.
As I said, I have no holiness in and of myself that I can approach God. Christ has taken my punishment and has given His holiness in my place. And once this happens I can stand before God and not have to die for my sins… all thanks to Christ and His sacrifice in my place!
Once I have experienced this amazing salvation, my life no longer belongs to me, it belongs to Christ. That means, all of my desires, traditions, and things that I think are important, are now to be crucified with Christ. So that now what is important to God and what He desires becomes mine. My identity is no longer Derrick, but now a follower of Jesus Christ. When people see me, I do not want them to see Derrick, but rather a reflection of God and His holiness. (Gal. 2:20, Luke 9:23, Gal. 5:24, Rom. 12:1-2)
The only way that we can learn of God’s holiness and what is important to Him is in His word. If we want to grow, we need to be faithful students of God’s Word. We must go to the Scriptures for all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to test everything. Everything that is part of our lives must be tested in the light of God’s Word. Christians today are ok with not digging deeper. We are ok with not growing or learning. But if we are truly followers of Christ, we must be willing to put everything aside for the sake of Christ. He is our life now. Therefore, in order to understand what God expects from us, we must be diligently searching the Scriptures and allowing His Holy Word to guide our lives.
I did not begin to understand the implications until about 4 years ago. Since then, God has impressed His holiness upon me more and more as I have continued to grow in Him. I have a long way to go, but more than ever my desire has been to be molded and shaped by His will. I still fight Him on things from time to time, but I desire to test everything I do, say, feel, and think by the Word of God. I do not want to have things in my life that I hold on to, simply because they are important to me. I want to be willing to let go of all that is not honoring to my holy and righteous, King and Father.
Christmas was something that simply did not pass the test. God’s strong words to Israel about mixing pagan practices with worship of Him finally did it for us. But Christmas was not the only thing to go. Another thing that had to go was my love for sports. I loved watching, reading about, and listening to sporting events. I could recite to you all kinds of stats and scores. But… how was God receiving glory through this? How was I reflecting His holiness in this obsession? Why would I not study His Word rather than study sporting events? Why would I not memorize His Scripture rather than memorize stats? My desire for His name to be exalted in my life led me to give up my obsession with sports.
Both of us can recount multiple areas in our lives that we have laid aside and put to death for His glory. Our plans, purposes, hopes, dreams, children, entertainment, hobbies, and… really everything, has been laid on the altar before God. The more we yield our lives to God, the more we give up and lay aside for His glory. And the more we lay aside, the more freedom we have felt. We can so easily become so encumbered by the worries, cares and traditions of this world. God is calling us to experience true freedom and true peace by separating us from the world and the world’s thinking. This freedom is felt more and more as we die to ourselves to become fully alive in Christ.
So, in the end, I am not that concerned with your stand on Christmas. However, I very much desire for all Christians to understand and experience what true freedom in Christ is like. Christmas has been a big one for us, but the more and more we separate from the traditions of men, we experience true joy and peace that Christmas never brought us.
So, what is it in your life? Where is your life more reflective of the world instead of the holiness of God? We have one call here on earth… to bring God glory. Where are you not reflective of the holiness of God?