An Evil Practice

…the second commandment forbids bowing down to an image or likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. A picture of the Saviour purports to be a representation or likeness of him who is now in heaven or, at least, of him when he sojourned upon the earth. It is plainly forbidden, therefore, to bow down in worship before such a representation or likeness. This exposes the iniquity involved in the practice of exhibiting pictorial representations of the Saviour in places of worship. When we worship before a picture of our Lord, whether it be in the form of a mural, or on canvas, or in stained glass, we are doing what the second commandment expressly forbids. This is rendered all the more apparent when we bear in mind that the only reason why a picture of him should be exhibited in a place is the supposition that it contributes to the worship of him who is our Lord. The practice only demonstrates how insensitive we readily become to the commandments of God and to the inroads of idolatry. May the Churches of Christ be awake to the deceptive expedients by which the archenemy ever seeks to corrupt the worship of the Saviour.

Source

God is Insulted

“To devise any image of God is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is. … as soon as any one has permitted himself to devise an image of God, he immediately falls into false worship. And surely whosoever reverently and soberly feels and thinks about God Himself, is far from this absurdity; nor does any desire or presumption to metamorphose God ever creep in, except when coarse and carnal imaginations occupy our minds. …let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols (editor’s note: via X Mass and Easter), but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude.” — John Calvin

What is Legalism?

I see many Christians using this word toward Christians who obey God’s holy Word where they, the accusers, think there is liberty in a certain matter.  So, maybe this will help clear things up for those who use this terminolgy, even if you think you are right to use it.

From: Are You Legalistic? Legalism, Grace, and the Motivation for Obedience  By Dr. Robert G. Spinney

I. Were the Puritans Legalistic?

For several years I served as a professor at a conservative Christian college in the Chicago area. Perhaps ninety percent of my students had been reared in Christian homes and went to what we would call conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing churches. This always made for interesting classes. Although most of my classes were in American history, if I was quick on my feet, I could get into meaty spiritual issues, regardless of what subject I was teaching.

Indeed I recall one day in a U.S. history class where we were studying the Puritans. My students had read Edmund Morgan’s The Puritan Dilemma, a delightful biography of John Winthrop that discussed the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1620s. This book talked about the Puritans coming to America, their first years in North America, and their attempt to establish a Christian commonwealth.

It was an amazing story. This collection of godly men and women, most of whom were deeply committed to the Word of God, left families behind in Europe to come to an unknown and undeveloped America. That meant that they arrived in a wilderness with no politicians, no states, and no economy. They had to build a community from scratch. For the Puritans, this errand into the wilderness was a holy experiment.

So my students read this book about the Puritans.

If nothing else, what the Puritans tried to do was admirable. They tried to be serious about this holy experiment; they tried to apply the Word of God to every aspect of life.

I could tell during our class discussion, however, that even though my students had read this biography, and even though the book gave a favorable portrayal of the Puritans, my students did not share my love for the Puritans. They didn’t like these guys. They wouldn’t come out and say it, but you could tell that they weren’t regarding the Puritans as their spiritual heroes.

At some point in the discussion I stopped, and I asked my students, “Was there something wrong with the Puritans? You all seem kind of reserved, as if you don’t like these guys.” My students were silent. Finally one of my students, one of my brightest students, said, “Well, you know, the Puritans were . . er, . . . they were legalistic.”

I said, “They were legalistic?”

He answered, “Yeah, they were legalistic.”

I looked at my students and said, “Do you all agree with that? How many of the rest of you think that the Puritans were legalistic?”

Almost every hand went up.

So I went to the chalkboard, and I wrote down the word legalistic. Then I asked my class, “Would someone define that word for me, please.”

Silence.

So I waited. Finally I baited them. “Just give me an idea; just get us started. What does that word mean; what does legalism mean?”

No one said a word.

I continued, “How many people have ever used the word legalism before?”

All the hands went up.

I asked, “Do you guys think the Puritans were legalistic?”

Again all the hands went up.

“Can you tell me what it means?”

No definitions were offered.

Finally my one student, my bright student, said with much hesitation, “Well, they were just like, er, so concerned with obeying God all the time.”

As he spoke, you could tell he realized that this wasn’t a very good definition.

I asked, “Isn’t it good to obey God all the time? What’s wrong with obedience?”

Silence. Nobody said anything.

Pointing again to the word I had written on the blackboard, I again asked, “Can anybody define this word?”

Let me tell you about my students. Even though this was a conservative Christian college, the students never used the word eschatology, they never used the word justification, and they rarely used the word sanctification. But they could deploy the word legalism at the right moments; they knew that word.

Finally after a long period of silence, my good student, my bright student, said, “I think you’ve convinced us that we really don’t know what that word means.”

I suspect that this situation is not unusual. Legalism and legalistic are words that we Christians use with reckless abandon. Yet I’m not sure that we can define this word accurately. In fact, I am fully confident that if I were to pass out index cards and ask the men here in our church to define the word legalism, we would get at least ten different definitions. But that doesn’t stop us from using the word. We use the word all the time, as if we knew what it meant, and as if we all meant the same thing when we used it.

I think this is a bad assumption. I don’t think the students in my classroom were that unusual at all. I think they were a typical representation of conservative, evangelical, Bible- believing Christians in America. We are not sure what legalism is, despite our frequent use of the term.

Read the rest here

Is a Christian’s Decision to Celebrate Christmas a Part of Christian Liberty?

Romans 14:1-13 — This passage is speaking of Jews who were observing the Old Testament Jewish holy days/festivals and dietary laws even though they were now believers in Christ; but they were also judging their Gentile brothers-in-the-Lord who did not observe the Jewish customs. Likewise, the Gentile Christians were judging their Jewish brothers who were seemingly caught-up in ceremonial law. Paul was thusly saying, “To you Gentile Christians — leave the Jewish Christians alone, because they are not violating any Scriptural commands by their actions (i.e., it’s a “disputable” matter [doubtful or gray area] and not a moral issue). To you Jewish Christians — it’s okay for you to observe the Jewish festivals and dietary laws because they were given by God in the Old Testament, and thereby, are considered to be previously approved worship forms, but don’t judge your Gentile brothers, because there is no Biblical command for either of you to continue to observe these things.” (Actually, it wasn’t “okay” [see IV.C. below], but Paul allowed it as an act of an immature/weaker brother [see II.G. above].) If a moral issue is involved (i.e., a practice that is covered in Scripture), then this passage and its application to Christian liberty (i.e., the freedom to engage in practices not prohibited by Scripture) would obviously not apply. And as brought out earlier in this report, the celebration of Christmas appears to be such a moral issue, because its celebration is not only not from God, but is from ancient paganism itself!

1 Corinthians 8:4-13 — The Gentile Christians, who had been raised in an idolatrous system, were having a problem with their Jewish brothers who were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. (Apparently, this was the only “healthy” meat available.) Similar to the Romans 14 passage above, Paul says that eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols is not a moral issue, and thereby, is not prohibited. However, Paul does not say that it is okay to go into the pagan temple itself; in fact, in other passages (1 Cor 10:14, 18-21), Paul specifically prohibits getting involved with the pagan feasts. In other words, it’s not a moral issue to partake in the byproducts of a pagan religious system (note, however, that there is no indication here that the Jewish Christians were using the “idol meat” as part of their worship), but it is not okay to partake in the religious system itself (because the corrupt character of the participants would be harmful for believers). Rather, we must be separate from the worldly system (2 Cor 6:14-7:1). Therefore, when items (byproducts) associated with a pagan religious system not only develop religious associations of their own, but have been integrated into what would otherwise be true Christian worship (as the celebration of Christmas has clearly become in our culture), then we should pull away from them so that there is no confusion over our allegiances.

Galatians 4:9-10;Colossians 2:16-17 — Both these passages of Scripture refer to the Jewish holy days under Old Testament law. If Christians were not even to observe the Old Testament holy days — days that did have divine sanction, for a time — they certainly don’t have the liberty to observe pagan holy days!

James 4:11 — James is saying that Christians may only judge a brother on matters determined in God’s Word (i.e., moral issues). If a matter is not covered in the Word, then these are matters of Christian liberty (á la Rom. 14:1-13 and 1 Cor 8:4-13), and he who judges in these areas of Christian liberty is, in effect, judging and condemning the Word of God as being an imperfect standard to which the judge, thereby, refuses to submit. On the other hand, since we have clear Scriptural precept that condemns the things that go on around December 25th in the name of Christ, the celebration of Christmas does not appear to be a matter of liberty, but one of moral conduct.

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/xmas/celeb.htm