“This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the way of the nations.” Jeremiah 10:2a
A few months back, I had given my children (who are under 10) some specific instructions for things I needed them to do while I was off doing another task. I do this from time to time especially when I need a sequential number of things to happen in order to get out the door somewhere on time. When I returned, instead of finding the specific task completed, my daughter came to me with an elaborate art project she thought was a better investment of her energy. So, here’s a parent dilemma: I needed her task to get done but it’s not done – but there’s this beautiful piece of work she’s created instead that she sees as valuable. Do I praise the work because it’s beautiful and awesome and lovely? Or do I discipline her because she was flat out disobedient to my words?
She was 8 years old at the time, so she received gentle discipline. There was a choice of disobedience involved where she opted not to heed what was asked of her, even if it was with a smile in the name of fun and personal expression. While I do praise her work, it was out of place and, bottom line, was not what I asked her to do.
I’m so thankful for these lessons as a parent that directly reflect our Father God’s relationship with us. I wonder how many times I’ve brought Him my ‘artwork’ only for Him to graciously think…”But that’s not what I asked you to do…” As I see the activities of the mainstream church, I can’t help but think that Father is thinking the same thing. Is what we do pleasing to Him? If we take a cue from Martin Luther and use a ‘sola scriptura’ (scripture only) approach, God’s truth becomes quite clear and simple. Luther revolutionized the church out of a thick layer of religious baggage and I believe, still today, that we need to take that yet a step further if we use scripture, not tradition, as our only guide.
Deuteronomy 4:2 exhorts us in this way:
“Do not add or subtract a thing to what I’m commanding you. Observe the commands of the LORD your God.”
This is echoed in Paul’s writing in the New Testament to the Corinthians.
“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but obeying God’s commandments is everything.”
1 Corinthians 7:19
If we agree that the first of the revelation we received is Genesis and the last of it is John’s Revelation, where do we get all of the traditions the church does now? Is there something missing in the original revelation? If our actions do not reflect the commandments of God they must, by default, be the traditions of men. Let’s take a look at what Yeshua thought of men’s traditions from the Pharisees as recorded in Mark:
Yeshua told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites. As it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless, because they teach human rules as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
The specific context of this verse is the tradition the Pharisees added about the washing of hands, in direct violation of Deuteronomy 4. It was extra. And not commanded. And unnecessary. Good idea to the men? Yes. Pleasing to the Father? Not necessarily. It’s a burden. A HUGE question we have to answer in this passage is: What is useless worship? Traditions of men. What is pleasing to the Father? Following the commandments. Which commandments? The commandments given by the Father that are exactly the same as the doctrine of the Son, as given in the Law of Moses.
Yeshua replied to them, “My teaching is not mine but comes from the one who sent me. If anyone wants to do his will, he’ll know whether this teaching is from God or whether I’m speaking on my own. The one who speaks on his own seeks his own praise. But the one who seeks the praise of him who sent him is genuine, and there’s nothing false in him. Moses gave you the Law, didn’t he? Yet none of you is keeping the Law. Why are you trying to kill me?” John 7:16-19
In this short but potent recording of Yeshua’s words, we see a few very important logical assertions:
- The Father’s doctrine and the Son’s doctrine are the same.
- You can tell whether a teaching is from God by what’s already been revealed. The teachings match up – they are the same as what Father has already revealed.
- Yeshua seeks the praise of the Father, not His own praise or His own doctrine.
- The Pharisees are WAY out of bounds and are not in true worship of the Father or they would be accepting of the Son.
- The Pharisees are not keeping the Law of Moses. They keep their own law in violation of Deuteronomy 4:2.
Father God is eternal and Yeshua His Son is the perfect revelation of God’s righteousness. When He speaks of abandoning the commandment of God, He’s talking about eternal and valuable commandments that are to keep us from the traditions of men. If it’s not revealed as a commandment, it’s a distraction and not considered true worship of the Father. That’s one example of how the Torah is helpful and valid still today. It gives us a boundary by which we know we are being offensive to our Creator. With that in mind, let’s review the origins of the God’s holidays vs. traditions the church keeps today and test whether they are valid.
The True Origins of Worldly Holidays & What God Expects
In Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, the Creator of the moons, stars, and seasons specifically declared what His appointed times (“moadim”) were. They tell His story, His plan, and His purpose for His people. The Creator specifically asked His people to agree to follow them as part of their worship and covenant with Him. They explicitly represent the exact timing of Messiah’s first coming, death, and resurrection, and they specifically lay out the time when He will return. This future time tells me that His appointed times are still relevant.
In Deuteronomy 13, we see this admonition:
“Worthless men may have come from among you to entice those who live in the towns. They may say, ‘Let’s go and serve other gods that you haven’t known.’ You must thoroughly investigate and inquire if it is true that this detestable thig exists among you.”
Later in the same chapter:
“Moreover, you must never take any item from those condemned things, so the LORD may yet relent from his burning anger and extend compassion, have mercy, and cause you to increase in number – as he promised by an oath to your ancestors – if you obey the voice of the Lord your God by observing all his commands that I’m commanding you today. Do what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.”
Here’s a logical summary:
- You will be enticed to go worship other gods that involve detestable things.
- Thoroughly investigate if this is true and root out detestable things. These are things that are detestable to the Creator – not your opinion of them.
- It’s your responsibility to know why you do what you do.
- God does not change. What pleases Him does not change.
Be sure you destroy there all the places where the nations that you’re going to dispossess serve their gods—upon the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. Tear down their altars, cut down their sacred poles, and burn them. Cut down the carved images of their gods to erase their memory from that place. You must not act like this with respect to the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 2: 2-4
The church today mistakenly believes that all things pagan can be adopted and sanctified. Unfortunately, nothing of the world, or the enemy, is pleasing to the Father no matter how much Jesus juice you smother it in.
The origin of Easter
The traditions we currently associate with Easter (colored eggs, baby animals, etc.) have been, in many accounts, associated with the worship of an idol in the Old Testament called the “Queen of Heaven.” Known as Ishtar, she was originally based on Semiramis, wife of Nimrod. Every carry over of any other god, male or female, started with them. She became the Assyrian and Chaldean goddess of fertility, and is associated with ritual sacrifice of the innocent blood of children. That’s such a thing that ‘never even entered the mind’ of our Creator (Jeremiah 19:5) and many historians connect it to coloring eggs, as with blood. Pleasing to the Father? Doubtful. Because of its sacrificial history, these yearly celebrations are high holy days for the occult where ritual sacrifice of babies born at home without birth certificates still takes place. Yes, really. The church is fiddling while this is happening and it grieves my soul. A question worth asking on your search: “If God gave us Passover and Firstfruits as His appointed times, why would He change course and choose what we now call Easter?” Or rather, who chose it for you? There is no such holiday in scriptures.
The origin of Valentine’s Day
This particular holiday was a Roman holiday set apart for an unknown god that was represented by a Lupus (wolf). It involved the arbitrary pairing of young men and women for 3 days for the purpose of frolicking and lust who had no binding commitment to stay together. This holiday was ‘sanctified’ and adopted into the church in the early centuries under the name of ‘St. Valentine’ to bring the pagans into control of the church. Helpful for the church? Yes. Pleasing to the Father? No. Nothing warmed over from the world into church doctrine is pleasing to the Father. Even if we don’t associate the practices with paganism, doesn’t God see it?
The origin of Halloween
This really should be a no-brainer. Death, sacrifice, and worship of spirits haunt this day. According to Deuteronomy 13, it’s your job to search this out. So, here’s your challenge. Find the origins of Halloween. Go! This is another high holy day of the occult that the church has tried to redeem instead of avoid as in Deuteronomy 13. It contains detestable, unclean, demonic things. Ghosts are demons and that’s not something to take lightly. Even if the church were to turn it into a harvest festival, the Feasts of the Lord also cover that base.
The origin of Christmas
Again, this is the perfect example of something the church adopted lovingly into its arms in order to cater to the pagan. Christmas occurs around the historical birth of the sun god as we pass the winter solstice. We gain more light (more sun) and the days begin to get longer. So what happened? We slapped Jesus right on top of that and call it His birthday. Right? Wrong. His birthday was likely during the Feast of Tabernacles which was a festival that was supposed to be celebrated with great ‘joy’ and represents the fact that He ‘tabernacled’ among us in human form! (John 1:14). There is a thick history of imps and demonic Krampus-like behavior attached to this pagan holiday that was created for sun god worship. It’s a tradition of men and not represented in the revelation God gave to us. Christmas was illegal during the early years of our American history thanks to the Puritans.
The Father has revealed what’s acceptable worship to Him. The enemy is always offering up something counterfeit that’s offensive to our Father. It’s up to us to compare what we do with Scripture and either put it in the category of worthy or unworthy. Second Timothy 3:16-17 points to the scriptures as a way to pursue that righteous behavior that will reflect the testimony of the Spirit in us. It’s my very humble encouragement that you search out the origins of your practices and test them against scripture to see if they are worthy. Be fully convinced and aware about what you choose to do. It’s much more important to seek out the Creator than it is to go along with the culture.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36
“What Then Shall We Do?”
If we are truly interested in worship of the Father, we should DO what’s pleasing to the Father. He revealed to us in the Word what that is. We are called to be doers of the Word, not hearers only. There is no additional revelation that points to any of these pagan days as worthy of worship and, if we are obedient, we should put those things far from us. Instead, as given to us straight from the throne, Passover reminds us of our people’s deliverance from Egypt and our deliverance from bondage in Christ as our sacrificial Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread reminds us that Yeshua took sin (leaven) out of the world as we should hurl sin out of our own lives and houses. The Feast of Firstfruits so awesomely reminds us that Yeshua was the firstfruit of the resurrection, triumphant over death and the penalties against us. The literal fulfillment of these feasts during His first coming makes me question why we celebrate anything else. They’re holy and set apart. When did God make something unholy that He made holy? Anything else is unnecessary and a tradition of man. The feasts and festivals are His shadow – they reflect the precious journey of His Son and hope for His people. The ‘shadow’ makes them connected to His image, it does not make them irrelevant. After spending a year walking my children through the feasts and festivals, I can see their faith in their creator and savior increasing. The one who set it in motion is still guiding it today and He is alive indeed.
I’ll add a note here about personal days you consider to be special – such as the day you were baptized, an anniversary, or a birthday. We have the personal freedom to observe those days and I don’t believe the Word says that’s sin. What’s at issue here are mainstream days of worship for the masses with pagan roots that the church-at-large doesn’t challenge or investigate. When these traditions replace what was originally asked of us, that becomes an issue.
As we get older, as with my children, the ‘ignorance’ excuse with paganism becomes void and we start to become accountable. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. If you don’t consider yourself to be a child in the faith, you’re accountable. If you’re a leader, become sober minded about how you’re leading your flock. There’s a special place on God’s knee for those shepherds who lead their sheep astray.
“But it’s Fun”
But is it holy? Be holy as I am holy. Be set apart as I am set apart.
“If you keep my commandments, you’ll abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I’ve told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
John 15: 10-11
“This is what the LORD says: “Stand beside the roads and watch. Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is. Walk in it and find rest for yourselves. But they said, ‘We won’t walk in it!’” Jeremiah 6:16
Because most of the church believes the ‘law’ is irrelevant for us, we disregard God’s commandments and experience this disconnect between what true soul rest is and the fast food worshiptainment* the church offers us today. We do truly have rest and comfort in the Spirit when we accept Christ as our atonement, but aren’t Father’s ways still good? Don’t we want to continue to walk in ways that are pleasing to the Father and good for us? Every promise of the Spirit to us in the Old Testament is connected with walking in His laws, His ways, and His commandments. If the Spirit we have is not helping to conform us to be a more obedient people, what spirit is it that the church has?
Jeremiah clearly says that the ‘ancient ways’ are good for our soul. Yeshua clearly says in John 15 that His commandments are for the fullness of our joy. I choose rest and joy over fun. Call it fun, but please do not call it worship.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24
Furthermore, in Matthew 5, the law and the prophets were designed to be ‘light’ and ‘salt’ and contain the works that would proclaim Father to the nations as a light on a hill. We’ve lost that light in the name of fun and His name and His sheep are suffering in their souls for it. It’s not YOUR good works He’s talking about….they’re what HE considers to be GOOD!
1 Samuel 15 is a negative review of man’s good intentions. Here we have a black and white, not-at-all-confusing account of man’s good ideas vs. God’s Word. God ordered Saul to go up against the Amalekites and UTTERLY DESTROY them as punishment for how they treated Israel. So, Saul went up and did what he thought best: He captured the King and took all of the choice spoil so that he may sacrifice to the Lord. Dis. O. Be. Dience. Moral of the story? God doesn’t need your help. He doesn’t need your ideas. He doesn’t need your standards, expectations, opinions, or good intentions. He’s asking for your OBEDIENCE! Samuel sternly reminds him that God would rather not have a reason to receive a sacrifice. If you don’t sin, there’s no sacrifice required. Saul jumped right ahead to the love of sacrifice and completely bypassed the ‘willingness to be obedient’ part. His heart was way off base. Here’s the scathing review of his actions:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
So, today the church proclaims grace. Christ is our sacrifice. INDEED, HE IS! But, as Paul says, should we continue to sin? Never! Sin is the transgression of the law – of God’s commandments. He would rather we not sin instead of constantly parading the sacrifice around as those who continue to sin. Christ’s righteous perfection is the grace we get in between offering Father our artwork on the way to being obedient. Fall in love with being obedient. Be a sheep, not an engineer. We’re reminded of this in 1 John 3:
See what kind of love the Father has given us: We are called God’s children—and that is what we are! For this reason the world does not recognize us, because it did not recognize him, either. Dear friends, we are now God’s children, but what we will be like has not been revealed yet. We know that when the Messiah is revealed, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope based on him keeps himself pure, just as the Messiah is pure. Everyone who keeps living in sin also practices disobedience. In fact, sin is disobedience. You know that the Messiah was revealed to take away sins, and there is not any sin in him. No one who remains in union with him keeps on sinning. The one who keeps on sinning hasn’t seen him or known him.
“Pursuing the Power of God”
The power of the resurrection of Christ does NOT redeem all things of the world. It is the seal of the power of His Spirit to keep us PURE and unspotted from the world. As I mentioned, the Old Testament very obviously pairs the promise of the Spirit of God with an obedient, lawful, set apart people. The fruit of the Spirit is yielded in those who are transformed and obedient. If we are obeying the traditions of men we cannot be fully walking in the Spirit of God. That’s called being lukewarm. It quenches the Spirit. We’re literally letting the leaven of the world invade our churches and we are paying a spiritual price for that. We aren’t winning. So, I reissue the call in 2 Chronicles 7:12-14.
“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for a sacrificial temple to me. Whenever I close the skies so there is no rain, or whenever I command locusts to lay waste to the land, or whenever I send epidemics among my people, when my people humble themselves—the ones who are called by my name—and pray, seek me, and turn away from their evil practices, I myself will listen from heaven, I will pardon their sins, and I will restore their land.”
And the final word from Mark 12: 24….
Yeshua answered them, “Aren’t you mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power?
The Scriptures He was speaking of are what we call the ‘Old Testament’. They’re still relevant and they still reflect God’s heart and how He wants to be worshipped – and are directly connected to an obedient people who are filled with the power of His Spirit. These scriptures are the narrow path.
The fear of the LORD is where wisdom begins, and knowing holiness demonstrates understanding. Proverbs 9:10
*Worshiptainment is an activity that claims to be worship of God but is more for the entertainment for and procurement of people.