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The Super Snoopers – 22-04-2013
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your
Trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and
Contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.”
The “Super Snooper” is the Christian who thinks that it is his spiritual duty to debunk anything pertaining to Christianity that is part of the prevailing culture. In fact this mission, which he or she embarks upon, isolates them from the world that they are called to reach with Christ’s Gospel and turns their witness into something more like hot mustard and vinegar than that of salt and light. Sadly the Super Snooper is proud of his position and never questions why his community of believers is small and ineffective and why his children have rebelled against the system. They defend these realities by affirming that they are the true “little flock and remnant.”
The truth however is that we do not preach against the culture wherein we find ourselves but against sin and ungodliness that afflicts every society. The prevailing culture in Jerusalem in Paul’s day was one of Temple ritual and observance of the Law and he knew that he would have to work with it rather than against it as he preached the Gospel. For this reason he bowed to the culture and did the things that it practiced in order to preach the good news of Jesus. (Acts 21:15-26) The Super Snoop sees this as compromise and failure.
The Target Area
High on the “attack list” of Super Snoopers are Christmas and Easter. At a superficial level their arguments seem plausible but on closer inspection they fall apart. In the western world the celebration of Christmas and Easter have become culturised. That is, part of the fabric of how people live and thus these celebrations constitute their way of life. The commercial world has recognized this and has therefore exploited this way of life as it does all of the prevailing culture. The fact that the commercial world exploits a ball game does not mean that the players on the field do so or the fact that big concerts are exploited by the commercial world does not mean that the musicians or artists do so. It also does not mean that we should never go to a concert or ball game. In like manner, all the Bible believing evangelical churches that I know, and I know a lot of them, always celebrate Easter and Christmas in its biblical context and use these celebrations to reach out to the world with the saving message of Jesus. It is a known fact that many unreached people attend Church once or twice a year at Christmas and Easter because of the culture they live in and thus the Church is afforded a unique opportunity to reach people with Jesus’ message of salvation. The Super Snoopers happily forego this opportunity and so lock their churches on Christmas Day and Easter. “It’s all paganism” they assert and they would rather see people go to a lost eternity than have them in their meetings on the 25th December! By contrast Paul exploited the prevailing culture in which he lived and became all things to all men that he might reach some! (1Corinthians 9:19-23) He even used a pantheon of pagan gods in Athens to do this! (Acts 17:22-34) There is no doubt that whoever built the statue in honor of the “Unknown God” did definitely not have the God of the Bible in mind. It was an unknown pagan god that the builder had in mind and Paul exploited this. The Super Snooper would never do a thing like this just as he wouldn’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th December because the day has pagan associations way back in the past.
The Hypocrisy of Super Snoopers
Sadly it escapes Super Snoopers that in order to hold their position they must reorganize the very calendar by which they live and do their business because all the days of the week are in fact named after pagan gods! So, they will celebrate births, weddings, anniversaries and even deaths on these days but definitely not Christmas or Easter and sadly they cannot see the hypocrisy of all this. I recently met a person like this and he invited me to meet him on Woeden’s Day at a certain time. Woeden’s Day is Wednesday! When I pointed this out to him he was unable to explain his position. He was a hypocrite by default not by intention and I lovingly pointed this out to him. The Super Snooper is therefore selective in his war with the culture around him; he has withdrawn from this culture and has thereby disconnected himself from the purpose of God and, unlike Paul, attributes wisdom and spirituality to himself by so doing. Many are sadly ensnared by this stuff.
An examination of Church history reveals that Christianity designated the celebrations of Easter and Christmas on particular days not to bring paganism into the Church but to demonstrate the triumph of the Church over the pagan origins of these feasts and days. To condemn the celebration of these days because of the ancient pagan root attached to them would be the same as condemning Paul for using a pagan idol in Athens to preach the good news of Jesus. We end up hypocrites!
The Testimony of Great Christians
Great Christians, that we all honor and respect, down through the centuries celebrated Christmas and Easter. No one can deny this and to assert that they were in some way blinded is arrogance at its best. They brought thousands, if not millions, to Christ and they used every opportunity to do so including Christmas and Easter; eternity will testify to this. The Super Snooper wills say on “That Day”, “Lord we knew you were holy and righteous and closed our doors on Christmas Day and Easter in order to honor You and so here I give You the “talent” back that You gave me. It has not been multiplied in honor of Your name.” I will leave you to consider what our Lord’s response will be but Matthew twenty-five verses twenty-four to twenty-eight might help you?”
In addition there is no harm in decorating one’s home during these celebrations, with a Christmas tree! Even the Lord God of Heaven decorates His great messianic Temple with trees. (Ezekiel 41:18-20) Actually, many of us decorate our homes anyway with trees! One can enter many homes and find them done out with small decorative trees. The thing is, we do not worship these trees and in all my sixty-one years of living under the sun I have never seen a real Christian, or anybody for that matter, worship a Christmas tree. Have you? It is merely a thing of beauty and it goes back to the great Reformer Martin Luther who encouraged Christians everywhere to decorate trees with candles in honor of Jesus’ birth. The Super Snooper will of course try and make his case against Christmas Trees by quoting Jeremiah ten verses one to five which has to do with cutting down trees and decorating them with the express intention of worshipping them as gods. Christmas trees have never been put to this use and this is why almost all the great preachers of history have endorsed them and decorated their homes with them.
The Real Casualties
A home beautifully adorned to honor Jesus is a place of blessing, warmth, love and precious memories. Christmas and Easter in our home was always traditional, still is, and the precious memories of family and friends together, reading the Word of God, praying and giving thanks to God for the gift of Jesus’ life and death, will remain with us forever. We took strangers and lonely people in at Christmas time and shared the wondrous love of God with them. Was God pleased? I think so. By contrast the Super Snooper locked his home and Church, hid away and said “Humbug!” Sadly, the real casualties in all of this were his children. They entered the homes of fellow Christian friends and saw the beauty, felt the warmth and wondered why they couldn’t share in all of this? For these kids Christianity became a “kill joy” and when they went home and enquired of their parents why they didn’t celebrate as other Christians did they were told, “Because these Christians are not as spiritual as we are and are doing pagan things!” How else could they answer? In most cases, and this too I have seen in all my years of church planting and ministry, these children rebelled against the Christian faith and departed wholly from the Church. I could tell you story after story in this regard.
The Ongoing Saga
Sadly, all of this doesn’t stop with Easter and Christmas but spills over into other areas of faith and practice. For instance, I know Christians who will not use the name of Jesus in a culture that is traditionally gentile and Christian. They will quickly rebuke you and demand that you use Jesus’ Hebrew name only; Yeshua. In the Jewish/Israeli world this might be a “key” but even here I have discovered that Israelis, who I lived amongst for fourteen years, prefer Gentile Christians to use the word Jesus. But to be counter culture in a predominantly Christian culture is not smart or helpful towards leading the people of this culture, who are only familiar with the term Jesus, to Christ. Again, upon enquiry, their churches are small, out of touch with the culture around them and, to be honest, strange. I have been in many of these and have looked for the sign “exit.”
More problematic still is the fact that many pro-Israel Christians begin to propagate these things in their churches resulting in pressure groups forming that in the end cause division and schism. This should not be as it brings the legitimate Israel ministry into disrepute and puts ministers on their guard about allowing it to enter their churches. This too I have seen over the years. To have a biblical understanding of Israel should make one an added blessing to the local church and not a source of confusion and more than ever these Christians should have a heart for global missions if they love Israel; for when the “fullness of the Gentiles have come in then all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26) Paul exhorts us to me mature in our understanding and not given to doubtful disputes and things that are not essential. (1Corinthians 14:20)
In the end, I would far rather have overflowing churches on Christmas Day and Easter than empty ones and I would far rather have homes beautifully decorated that build precious and godly family memories than empty and barren ones. I would prefer in every way to hear the wonderful stories of the Incarnation and the death of Christ read to family and friends, accompanied with prayer and praise to God than silence and I would prefer to sing the great and marvelous Carols of the Church on Christmas Day than have the doors of the Church locked. I find great joy and peace as I meditate quietly on Good Friday on all that happened to my dear Savior and I happily join the great throng of those who enter the House of God on Easter Sunday to celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus.
Quite frankly, we don’t need any more “unreformed Scrooges’ but what we do need is godly families that will take advantage of the prevailing culture, as Paul did, to share the Good News that Jesus has conquered death for all people and calls all people everywhere to respond to His love through repentance and faith is His finished work on the cross.