Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Should I approach Easter,Christmas as an Evangelist Tool.

Dr. Victor Dyman
It seems that almost every year around this time Easter and Christmas, the same question arises: what should we do with these major biblical events? Ignore? ‘Celebrate’ as the rest of the world? Or use them as an opportunity to speak to the hearts that are more open than usually during these times?
One thing we have always to remember that every decision we make MUST be BIBLICAL and not man-made tradition. Most often there are two objections in the cases like this: Christmas and Easter are of pagan origin; and any preaching on Sunday is the ‘mark of the beast.’
1.     1 Corinthians 15:3, 14. The birth of the Savior, His death and His resurrection are the foundations of our FAITH, and have nothing to do with pagan origin of the dates.
Well before Son of God came first time on earth Satan counterfeited His Plan of Salvation. Through the Babylonian counterfeit religions Satan staged the so-called ‘incarnation,’ ‘death,’ and ‘resurrection’ of the Babylonian deities. Purpose? To undermine the Plan of God that was to come.  How? Simply by pointing that Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection are not ORIGINAL.  But it was borrowed from the earlier myths. Thus, effectively rendering God’s Plan of Salvation suspicious to any seeker of truth in the following centuries.
Seventh-day Adventist do not celebrate popular Easter. Seventh-day Adventists from the beginning knew and early on have discovered popular understanding and popular Easter practices as having exceedingly unfavorable ORIGIN.  Many symbols such as the Easter bunny and eggs as well as the very word itself have extremely pagan roots.  Most people who don't know the origin of Easter paraphernalia are usually horrified when they learn what the Easter bunny and eggs were created to symbolize.  Seventh-day Adventists do not celebrate anything of this kind of Easter.  It is OUR JOB to educate people and separate the TRUTH from FALSEHOOD  THE resurrection of Jesus Christ is TRUTH and pagan rituals and attributes are FALSEHOOD.
Bible calls the event of Resurrection—as “of first importance.” 1 Corinthians 15:3 (NIV).  According to the Gospel Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Gospel. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  1 Corinthians 15:14 (NIV).
2.     Hebrew 4:9-11. Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the SUNDAY does not cancel the Holiness of the Sabbath DAY!
Resurrected Savior confirmed the holiness of the Sabbath day and in NO place of the Scripture does not institutes the holiness of the Sunday! Jesus was raised from the dead and Apostles long after that KEPT the Sabbath HOLY!
There are about 70 plus Scriptures about worshiping and teaching on Sabbath and there only 8 Scriptures about Sunday, the first day of the week and NONE of them makes Sunday HOLY!
3.     Acts 12:4 (KJV).  The WORD  Easter (as a resurrection) is a legitimate Biblical word. It was used by the Apostles and is mentioned in the Bible as an early part of the Sunday following Passover.  SO the word is Biblical to the CORE. And has nothing to do with pagan rituals or pagan worship. SO the Word Easter is in the Bible. The word Resurrection is in the Bible. Should we stop using a word if someone abused that word? Not at all! Think if someone will abuse Sabbath, should we abandon it on account of that? Of course, not!
4.     Bible speaks of only one Holy Day to be REMEMBERED as the Holy Day.
It is the Holy Sabbath of the Lord. Exodus 20:8-14. It is to be distinguished RESTING, by NOT doing ANY regular work, business, pleasures, etc. (ISAIAH 58). All other days are the same. Just work days. Days in which evangelism should be DONE.
5.     Acts 2:46. Christians are called to worship God EVERY DAY of the WEEK.
 “Every day they (disciples) continued to meet together in the temple courts…” Acts 2:46. How often? EVERY DAY! Including Sunday, the first day of the week.
6.     Isaiah 58. Sabbath worship vs. Sabbath keeping. NOT EVERY Sabbath Worshiper is Sabbath Keeper. But Every Sabbath Keeper is Sabbath Worshiper.
TO worship on Sunday/Monday doesn't make person a Sunday/Monday Keeper. It doesn't take any holiness of the Sabbath Day as some worry. TO the contrary, it ADDS to it. How? We worship God EVERY day of OUR life and every minute of OUR lives, but THEN THERE IS A HOLY SABBATH—HIS DAY, a Holy MEMORIAL of creation and redemption—the day of complete REST, 1/7 of OUR time that serves as a SIGN of our allegiance and faithfulness to God! It is not just Sabbath vs. Sunday; it is Sabbath vs. ANY OTHER DAY OF THE WEEK! It’s that special.
·       Bible clearly states, that Jesus’ disciples were preaching, teaching, conducting their worship/evangelistic meetings ON Saturdays and on any day of the including SUNDAYS TOO. And they were not concerned that somebody will be confused by it. For example:
·        The very first gospel sermon preached by an apostles on the death and resurrection of Jesus was by Peter and it was preached on the first day of the week (Acts 2:14).  The Holy Spirit came down and the three thousand accepted Jesus as their personal Savior on the first day of the week (Acts 2:41).  
·        At Troas Paul preached to the assembled Christians on the early morning of the first day of the week and throughout the whole day. And the Lord’s Supper was given on that  Sunday (by the way this is the only mention of the Lord’s Supper to be given on Sunday, see Acts 20:6).
·        We should not be afraid that Sunday-keepers use these texts to prove Sunday as the ‘new Sabbath.’ If someone misuse the text, it is even more imperative for us to restore the true meaning of it.
·        REMEMBER again, preaching on Sunday that DOES NOT MAKE SUNDAY HOLY! Telling people about Jesus teaching them to obey God’s Laws CAN and SHOULD be DONE on EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK, including Sunday.
·        Seventh-day Adventist had ALWAYS (from the beginning) had their evangelistic meetings on the weekdays and on Sundays. 
·        If Apostles conducted their meetings and worshiped the Lord on any day of the week and on Sunday too (BUT NOT always, as Sunday keepers falsely claim)—it sets a Biblical precedent, a legitimate example to follow. This is not one of the ‘vague’ teachings that require lots of intellectual gymnastics.  NT passages are clear examples of Apostolic preaching on Saturdays, Sundays, and days and weeks in a row.
7.      WE have to GUARD the Sound teaching of the Bible and not the ideas of men. Men’s ideas are unreliable. GOD’S IDEAS recorded in His Word IS.
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season;… for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrineInstead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV).  
1 Corinthians 11:19 (NIV) “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”
Bible says that there will be people who will descent. There will always be panicking alarmists and attention seekers. Even in the God’s Remnant Church, which we believe is Seventh-day Adventist Church. There will always be some SINCERE BUT MISINFORMED people who try to ‘distinguish’ themselves for whatever reason by making unverifiable claims and agitating God’s people. You can’t reason with some of them. They are set in their traditions.
Of course, the problem with these people is that they do not read Bible as Bible should be red: they should. They never learned to reason for themselves. All they do is give‘lessons’ prepared by someone else. When confronted with verse of the Scripture they have never read they are lost and afraid.  They are afraid because they DO NOT KNOW how to reconcile these Scriptures about Sundays with the Scriptures about the Sabbath! And as a result they are in denial of these Scriptures and as best as they could (being in that condition) come up with their own man-made ‘myths.’ (2Peter 1:18; 2Timothy 4:4). There only argument I ever heard from them is, “I have not been brought up like this.” But is it a good argument?  If you would use that, what you would be? Can we do evangelism with that slogan? Seventh-day Adventist ARE people of the SOUND DOCTRINE, people of the Book and solidly stand on Biblical evidence.
 Predictable enough, those who turn away from the Word became critical, judgmental, anti-authority, subversive and quarreling. “Having the form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:5 (NIV).
Bible’s advice is clear: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)

Lasting Principles form the Spirit of Prophesy and General Conference Biblical Research Institute:
1.      Festal days (like Christmas, Pentecost, and Resurrection) should be used to faithfully represent Christ and to shed the light on the pathways of others.
“Let us seek to faithfully represent Christ on the coming festal days by imitating His example as He went about doing good....As Christians who profess a living faith in the near coming of the Son of man, keeping all of God's commandments, let us make earnest efforts to draw near to God through Jesus Christ and make a covenant with Him by sacrifice. In our principles of action we must be elevated above the customs and fashions of the world. Christ came to our world to elevate the minds of men to the divine level, and to bring them into sympathy with the mind of God…
Christmas day, (or Easter, for the same manner! comment is mine, V.D.) precious reminder of the sacrifice made in man's behalf, should not be devoted to gluttony and self-indulgence, thus exalting the creature above the Creator. Let us who are partakers of this great salvation show that we have some appreciation of the gift by rendering to God our thank offerings. If we would indulge less in feasting and merriment upon these occasions, and instead make them the means of benefiting humanity, we should better meet the mind of God. It is a pleasure and gratification to exchange gifts with our friends, but are there not nobler and more glorious objects for which we may give our means, and thus do good by shedding light upon the pathway of others?
A word to the wise is sufficient.--Review and Herald, December 11, 1879.
2.      Christians are responsible to fill the holiday with the ‘meaning’ which is opposite to the worldly and pagan.  
“We are now nearing the close of another year, and shall we not make these festal days opportunities in which to bring to God our offerings? I cannot say sacrifices, for we shall only be rendering to God that which is His already, and which He has only entrusted to us till He shall call for it. God would be well pleased if on Christmas each church would have a Christmas tree (note, Christmas tree has an extremely unfavorable pagan origin, very similar but no better than Easter! Note is mine, V.D) on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? Will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts the actions and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree. The tree may be as tall and its branches as wide as shall best suit the occasion; but let its boughs be laden with the golden and silver fruit of your beneficence, and present this to Him as your Christmas gift.”
 A word to the wise is sufficient.--Review and Herald, December 11, 1879.
3.      Make the coming holidays an occasion to honor God.
“We are rapidly approaching the season of the holidays, and many conscientious ones are now questioning what course they may pursue that will be pleasing in the sight of God... But it is our privilege to depart from the customs and practices of this degenerate age, and instead of expending means merely for the gratification of the appetite, or for needless ornaments or articles of clothing, we may make the coming holidays (note: plural noun, she is not talking just about Christmas ONLY, but ANY other Biblical event, NOTE is Mine, V.D.) an occasion in which to honor and glorify God. We advise all our brethren and sisters to make a decided reform in regard to these festal days.” 
A word to the wise is sufficient.--Review and Herald, December 11, 1879.
4.      Festal Days are designed by God to remind us various ways and aspects of our REDEMPTION.
“Well would it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of Tabernacles--a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them during their journeying from Egypt, so should we gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing us out from the world, and from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and truth” (Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 540, 541)
5.      NO issue should be made with the respect of the time of the Resurrections of Jesus since the actual day is unknown.
 “Toward the conclusion of this [the second] century, Victor, Bishop of Rome, endeavored to force the Asiatic Christians, by the pretended authority of his laws and decrees, to follow the rule which was observed by the Western churches in this point. Accordingly ... He wrote an imperious letter to the Asiatic prelates, commanding them to imitate the example of the Western Christians with respect to the time of celebrating the festival of Easter. The Asiatics answered this lordly requisition ... With great spirit and resolution, that they would by no means depart, in this manner, from the custom handed down to them by their ancestors. Upon this the thunder of excommunication began to roar. Victor, exasperated by this resolute answer of the Asiatic bishops, broke communion with them, pronounced them unworthy of the name of his brethren, and excluded them from all fellowship with the church of Rome.” [Mosheim, Eccl. Hist., cent. 2, part 2, chap. 4., para. 9, 11.] This, says Bower, was “the first essay of papal usurpation.”
The Great Controversy 1888, p. 686

6.      Holidays are the opportunity to reach public with the fuller message of Christ.

“Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. Unquestionably the resurrection was of enormous importance to the apostolic church, for it figures prominently in the evangelistic messages from the apostles as recorded in the book of Acts. No issue is made about the date when it occurred, however, other than to note in a factual manner that the resurrection occurred on the first day of the week. There is no suggestion that the resurrection made a new day holy. In the Bible is to be found only one holy day of the week, the Sabbath, formed as a part of the creation process by God Himself, and never suspended. For that reason we observe only the Sabbath as sacred or holy time….
      Although there exists no clear biblical reason for observing Easter as a religious festival, in parts of the world the public is so oriented to Easter observance that it is a time of year when they become open to special studies in the Bible. An opportunity opens to reach out to the public with the fuller message of Christ, often with good response. Under such circumstances Easter and its surrounding events can lend themselves to evangelistic outreach without, however, assigning any special religious meaning to the day itself. Wherever there is opportunity to advance the message of Christ without compromising biblical truth, the "wise as serpents, harmless as doves" counsel of Christ is appropriate.”
Copyright © Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®
A Note About Easter,  Ed Reid

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