VN520352 2014-12-21 Focus On Jesus, Not The Tree
One of the questions that always comes up is concerning Christmas trees. 1 Corinthians chapter 8. I’ll just read a few verses of it. “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogance, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known, as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods,” and that’s little g, “many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.'”
And that’s all there is. Somebody asked me to speak on this and, therefore, I am. The word idol, this is good. It’s gillulim. Short, funky, and long. Gillulim. That’s what the word is in the Hebrew and the Hebrew word means logs or block-like, a block of stone or shapeless things. If you read the prophets in context you will find that they make fun of the gillulim. They make fun of it and they degrade it all the time. They do recognize that some people actually believe in this kind of stuff and that’s what Paul was getting at. In the Hebrew the word is eidolon. I’m uncertain how it’s pronounced but you can see right there where we get our word idol. It comes right out of that, and that’s the Greek word for idol. Paul is a Hebrew so he would have had this concept in his mind when he was using this, and all this word means is image so you could say that if you look into a mirror and you see an eidōlon, it’s just the word for image, but when he talks about idols and stuff he is using this word, as log, block, shapeless things.
The most interesting part is the scholars say that this word here in Hebrew, the root, and they always have the root word and then it plays out into all these other meanings, and as they add different letters it adds to the meaning, but the root for this word, there are so many things that if we actually read the original and did try to clean it up we would be shocked, amazed, horrified, aghast. The root word for this is poo poo, dung, manure. I’m trying to use refined terms. So, when they talk about idols they’re just saying this is just a load of caca and that’s what they mean when they use the word idols. So, they’re making fun of that concept of idols. Now, ducking over into the Greek ideas, and we’re going to pick up a Greek goddess, little g, because Paul says there are gods and little gods, and all he’s saying is the little gods aren’t real but people think they are so he’s talking about that when he says there’s only one true God, but if there are and we know there are several because people try to worship them, and if you read in the New Testament you’ll finally come to the place where he says that if you sacrifice to idols it’s not really to the idol.
You’re actually paying homage to a demonic force that is there in conjunction with that, and then they play tricks on you to try to get you to do what they want. But, this little g goddess, her name is Hestia, that’s where we get Vesta, Vestal Goodman, and she was the little goddess, little g of hearth, home and communal feast. Now, knowing all that let’s go to Christmas trees. Is it okay to have a Christmas tree, and I get asked this every year, is it okay to have a Christmas tree, and one of them says well, but you decorate it and that’s what it talks about in Isaiah how they decorated their idols with gold and silver and yada yada yada. My deal is, it’s coming from Paul’s point of view, there are no such things as idols. Do you worship that tree when you bring it into your house? No. Do you pray to it? No. So, if you’re going to kick out the Christmas tree and say oh well, it has a bad origin because originally they brought them in, the Germans brought them in and they prayed to it and all this good stuff and they get very involved in pointing out how this is idol worship and all this, well if you’re going to do that then that Hestia or Vesta, she is the goddess of hearth, home and communal dinners and, therefore, churches should not have heat in their church buildings because she’s the goddess of warmth in the church or inside of homes and buildings and you should never have a communal feast because she is a goddess of that.
There are gods and goddesses dedicated to absolutely everything. I mean water, trees, rivers, rocks, anything at all, there is somebody that has prayed to it and said well, there is probably a god or a spirit and sacrifice. So, the people who are trying to say you can’t have a Christmas tree are just adding on things. It doesn’t mean that to us anymore. I like them, they’re pretty, that’s all. They’re a part of a decoration. They’re a part of the season. These people that say you can’t have them, well let them do without. If they can’t tell their family what Christmas season is all about because that tree is sitting in the corner well then take that out and let them tell their family why we celebrate and let them put a creche there. Oh no, that’s a picture, an image. We can’t do that. Whatever. Just explain to them, and it is time Christian people stop fussing over a tree or a creche and stop letting the media and consumers and stores and ads dominate the way they celebrate Christmas. Instead they need to stand up and say this is the reason for the season. Children, I’m going to talk to you and set it down. Now, we might have presents, and we might have a communal dinner, and we might have fun. That’s a-okay, but the reason is this.
That’s where they should put their foot down is explaining the reason we have Christmas rather than fussing over something like that, and all they’re doing is trying to add on things, make themselves look good. Look I’m so smart. Christmas trees, yeah, yeah, yeah. If you have a problem with your tree and you still think it might be heathen, I know this is a methodist thing to do, go get you a cup of water, pray over it, make it holy and then walk over and baptize your tree in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Sanctify it and then say this is set apart just for you and we’re doing this to honor, and make up your own little story about the evergreen shows eternal life, and the light shows Jesus and the stars and the angels, and the ornaments represent the gifts that the wise men brought. Most of the stuff that we hear at Christmastime are things that people just made up, little stories to go along. Go ahead and do it. If it gets the point across to the kids go ahead and do it. So, if you’ve got a Christmas tree yeah, and if you don’t want Christmas trees yeah. In other words, do what you want without guilt, but if you’ve got a friend who just can’t stand to have a tree you’ve got two options. Don’t invite them over at Christmastime or get rid of the tree if it offends them that bad.
Now, we could say we’re done but of course we’re not. Luke 2:1-20 about, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” I know you guys were talking about it when I got up and walked out. You started at 8? It works for me. I won’t re-read it. It’s the Christmas story. You know how hard that is? Every year you’re advised to read the Christmas story out of Luke chapter 2 and use that in the King James version and use that to speak to your congregation, and every year Sunday School classes all over America read Luke chapter 2 and so we don’t get to do that, but anyway Luke chapter 2. Caesar Augustus or whatever his name is said go out and tax the people so they were going out and taxing the people and Herod, the Idumean half Jewish king, Herod the Great, Herod the Evil. Herod was a great builder though. He built some beautiful buildings. He was in control and he was mean and crazy and we all know that.
In other words, the people at that time were living in very hard times and it was just hard times. The clergy was self-serving. They were making up new rules like you can’t have a Christmas tree and they kept dumping things on people and telling them you can’t do this, you can’t do that. The clergy was in it for the money, they were in it for the power, they were in it for the glory. The government was issuing these decrees you’ve got to march over here and sign these papers, and then you’ve got to go back over there and the taxes were high, and economic woes, and there we are kind of like now. At that point in time the Old Testament saints had a hope and that hope was that there was a Messiah who was going to come. Now, they had a wrong understanding of what He was going to do. We all know that. They had a wrong understanding of what he was going to do and accomplish. First he had to deal with the sin question and the judgment question from God because God is the main guy and if He is mad at you it doesn’t matter how we re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic or what you do on earth. If everything is condemned you’re just going down so He first dealt with that, and most churches, the issues they deal with are what can we do to make God happy? What can we do to please God? What can we do or how do we react?
True Christianity is so totally different than that. What God did was say, and this is the New Testament here, what God did say there is nothing, that’s Old Testament, there is nothing you can do to make me happy. Therefore, I am going to start the New Testament and I am going to send somebody down, Jesus, and He is going to do what is required that makes Me happy as far as my righteousness and righteous judgment. I am going to do this, and I am going to send Him down, and I will make Myself happy by dealing with the sin question and the righteousness question and I will deal with that. Once that is dealt with then we can move on to other issues like how we react with God. So, Galatians chapter 4, and I’ve quoted this often without actually reading it to you, go eat popcorn, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Go eat popcorn. Galatians chapter 4 if I’ve got it properly, chapter 4:4-7. “Now when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, saying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore we are no longer slaves, but we are sons; and if sons, then heirs through God.”
We are no longer slaves but sons and what it is saying is exactly that. You’ve heard me say this a lot lately, exactly at the exact right time and that coordinates with the prophesy of Daniel. At exactly the right time, Christ was born. He lived His life fulfilling everything that was prophesized about Him in fulfilling all the law that was required, and He walked through those gates of Jerusalem on the exact day according to the prophesy given in Daniel, on the exact day that He was supposed to enter. You can do the math and get to that point and show I, which is way over my head. He went in at that exact time and it said after that he was cut off but not for His own sins. That’s when He was crucified. So, everything happened at the exact time and it was completely ordered in the exact way it was supposed to be. We are in the same position as Dan said. We have self-serving clergy. You can go on TV and see them. You can come to churches on Sunday morning and see us. A lot of us are out there trying to do it for our own glorification or we’re not building the church of Jesus Christ. We’re building a glorified gathering so that more people will say, “Oh, I hold you in awe,” rather than serving and ministering and causing people to become disciples.
I’ll say it again. Christ did not call us to make believers, He called us to make disciples. Believers will be saved and God loved them and He will take care of them, but what He wants is people who are going to make disciples, and most churches are out making believers and not so much disciples. They just want big numbers, and one of the biggest churches, Willow Creek, one of the first mega churches in America was up by Chicago when I was up there. Thousands and thousands of people went through the doors, and a few years ago I heard them talking and saying we were wrong. We created a huge church with huge numbers, but in reality we gave them no theology and while we’ve got breadth this way in numbers our people, theologically speaking, are really shallow and they’re saying we’ve got to correct that situation. I see it in other churches, and by golly I would be the same way and I am the same way. I told you last week I want to see the church growing. That’s one of the things I really, really want for Christmas, is a bigger church, but we have to try and hold that intention with while we’re creating a numerically larger church, we also have to create a church with greater depth and walk by faith with God.
All that aside, while the Old Testament saints were looking forward to the Messiah coming and that was their hope, and remember hope is a certain knowledge of an event that is going to happen that hasn’t happened yet. The definition of hope, Biblical hope, is not crossed fingers, it’s a knowledge of something that is coming. We’re sitting in the same position with our clergy and our governmental issues and our economic problems and all this stuff you watch on the news. If you want to be happy quit watching the news. We’re in that same kind of position, and our hope is exactly the same way theirs was. We are now saying we know for certain that the Messiah is coming and we have this certain hope that He is going to show up and it’s going to be a repeat. At the fullness of time, at exactly the right time He is going to come back, and the last week of Daniel we believe is going to be picked up and the 70th week will be fulfilled because Jesus said He came to fulfill the law and the prophets and none of the law or the prophets would be done away with until it was all fulfilled. He fulfilled the law of Moses and became the perfect sacrifice. He fulfilled all the prophesies concerning Him, but not one job or tittle or word spoken about Daniel or spoken about the children of Israel, that will not pass away until it is fulfilled.
So, we’re waiting for those fulfillments. The hope is we’re looking to that time when Jesus at exactly the fullness of time, will show up and kick that off and eventually get to the point where He will come back and reign and rule on the Earth for 1000 years. Things will be hunky dory and we will yeah and the problems will all be solved.
My dad went to war and he was talking one time about being on the ships going across the ocean over and on the ships coming back, and he was talking about how all the people were standing at the edge of the boat throwing up and one of them said, the captain walked up, this is my dad telling this and he says it’s true, the captain walked up to the guy and asked, “What’s the matter son? You got a weak stomach?” The kid answered, “No, I’m throwing up just as far as the rest of them are. They were getting seasick and this guy came up to dad and said, “The problem is, you’re looking at the waves and stuff and you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Quit looking at things and from now on look out there at that horizon right where the line is. Notice how it is stable and you keep your eyes focused on what’s stable out there and what is solid and unchanging and immovable. You focus on that and your seasickness will go away. He said that’s what the sailors have all learned, don’t pay attention to this, pay attention to the view out there and you’ll get over your seasickness.” Dad said it worked for him. I’ve heard other people talk about this. I heard a minister talking about it just the other day and it reminded me of my dad sharing his story. We are in the same position. We can look at the government, we can look at Ebola or whatever else is going on, we can look at all the racial issues that are going on, we can look at the economic issues that are going on and we can get very upset and seasick about it. But, if we will stand here instead and take the distant view and do what the Old Testament saints did, the proper ones, and look way off to that horizon and say the Messiah is coming back and that is a solid line out there, and I’m not going to get sick about these issues that are going on here. There is a brighter hope coming. There is a solid future coming and that is Jesus Christ will return at exactly the proper time with the fulfillment of the prophesies of Christ and things will change. I’m taking the long view instead of paying attention to what is here. I’m trusting Christ based on what I know is going on out there. It’s solid and we’re headed toward it so it’s going to happen.
A lot of people including Christians, you say, “Hey, how are things going?” and they say things like, “Oh, I’m hanging in there. I’m striving to keep up with God.” I have one guy that comes in. He always says’ “ I’m being just as good as I can be Doyle”. There is nothing else and he honestly thinks that that is the way he is going to get into heaven. I’m doing as good as I can do. Therefore, when I get to God and He says why should I let you in I can say I did everything I could possibly do. I was being as good as I could possibly be and it’s all I, I, I, I, I and that is not the way it is supposed to be. A lot of churches and ministers are like don’t you put up a tree. I, I, I, all based on what you’ve got to do to make God happy, but what God says is if you want to make Me happy then you tell Me about what Jesus did. You say Jesus lived the perfect life. Jesus died the perfect sacrifice. Jesus says that if I trust Him I will make it to heaven, and then everything we have is focused on Jesus rather than upon ourselves. We know according to Old Testament none of us will make it to heaven by being good enough so it is the wrong response to say I am doing this, I am doing that, I am blah, blah, blah. That’s the wrong response.
We need to focus on something that is solid and sure out there on the horizon and that’s the Word of God, and it doesn’t matter what prophecy. Prophecy just means the Word of God, straight from God’s mouth. It doesn’t have to do with future telling. Anything that God said, the speaking of the Word of God, that’s what prophecy is. So, even the promises in the New Testament, those are just as much prophecy as the Book of Revelation or the Book of Daniel or the Book of Ezekiel. They are just as true and just as solid, and we need to start saying, “ I am not striving to achieve this. I am trusting the Word of God which is solid, and here is a scripture that I’m using to trust in Him and to walk by faith. Here is His Word and I trust in His Word, not in what I accomplish, but I’m trusting Him to accomplish in my life the things that He said He would do. He lived the perfect life. I’m trusting Him to sanctify me, set me apart. I’m trusting in Him to meet my needs and we’re going to jump off right there. Philippians 4:19 says He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory, and the word kata is the word according, and that word in the Greek, if you look it up in Strong’s or in Thayer’s dictionaries, it says that it is something that is being given from a higher power, from a higher plane, from a higher level to the lower level. It’s coming from up. It’s going down here.
The idea is, the emphasis isn’t where the riches originated. According to the emphasis, is not where it came from, but the endpoint of where it arrives. The word also is one of those words that means 24 hours a day, day by day He is going to meet our needs, kata, every day, coming from a high source to us at the lower level. He is saying My riches are coming to you. That’s My point. The terminus is you. You walk by faith and you are receiving then by faith, not by earning but by faith, and you say I am trusting. Why should I bless you? Because Jesus Christ died and He gave me an inheritance, and He is going to meet my needs from here and it is terminating with me. I am going to be blessed. Looking at the horizon. The Word of God says I am going to be blessed. I don’t care what my circumstances are. I’m looking at something solid, the Word of God. I am going to kata, be blessed. That’s the Word of God. So, if your circumstances look bleak and everything is going on, and right now Noble is getting very, very hard hit and we’ve got all this stuff that’s going on right here at Christmas, but instead of getting upset about everything that’s going on, we as a church, need to say kata. According to His riches and glory, kata His riches and glory, they’re coming from the high level and it’s terminating with us. With you, with this church, and it’s not what I have done, it’s what Christ has done, and I’m trusting His word as a solid point in my life. No matter what’s going on, kata, it’s coming my way.
I am now done. Have a Merry Christmas. Shall we pray and go home? Father, in the name of Jesus we thank you for the kata, for Your solid Word, for that horizon point, for the fact that Jesus is coming back and He is going to come right at the perfect time and we can trust Him. We are trusting Him. He gave us the faith even to trust. It’s all Him, all Him, all Him, and we thank You for what He did, and we thank You that the reason that we choose to celebrate Christmas is Him. Thank you also that today, the shortest day is over with and very soon we’re going to start noticing the light is going to get better and better and better and longer. We’re looking forward to the time when we’ll actually be in the eternal light in that city where there is no need for the sun or moon or the stars because Jesus will be the light. Father, we’re looking forward to that future solid point that is coming, that is in our future. Once again I ask that You bless everybody here. Keep them safe. We do thank You that Laverne is doing better and we’re trusting You to meet her needs, kata, and we’re also asking the same blessing on Viola and all the other people that are on the prayer request list. Father, get us through this season to the glory of Your Son Jesus Christ. Keep us safe and help us to praise and worship You and not those nasty little idols. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.