“Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Psalms 19:13).
The latest non-issue was Starbuck’s red cups, said to be a substitute for anything Christmas-y. As I heard it, some of the Lord’s people were enraged.
When we posted a note regarding the silliness of such (ahem) courageous convictions, several people pointed out there was no issue, that no one had actually slammed Starbucks over this.
Good. They sell coffee, not Christianity.
Any day now–we’re posting this on November 20–we may expect to see Facebook pages devoted to supporting only commercial establishments that allow their employees to wish people a “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the generic “Happy holidays” or “Season’s greetings.”
The things God’s people make issues of.
Here’s one for you. Suppose the news this morning told of a department store chain–a Target’s or Macy’s, let’s say–that had decided it would ignore the Christmas season. Nothing dealing with the theme of Christmas would be carried in their stores.
Now, that’s not about to happen since stores exist for one purpose and one purpose only, to push merchandise. And if co-opting the Christmas season and making it their own will push sales, no matter the personal faith of the ownership, they’re on board.
But let’s say they did.
Imagine the uproar. Imagine the calls to boycott that chain. After all, Christians have to take a stand, right?
The simple fact is Scripture does not call for anyone to celebrate Christmas. It was man’s idea, sort of our gift to the Savior.
And for the most part, I suppose the Lord is okay with that. After all, the season in which we celebrate the incarnation has turned into one of the most charitable and compassionate times of the year. Which seems only appropriate. In our Southern Baptist denomination, a hundred million dollars is given at this time of the year in support of what we have labeled The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (Lottie Moon being an early missionary to China who so sacrificed herself for the cause, she evidently died of starvation early in the 20th century).
“Who has required this from your hand?” God asked His people Israel when they made issues of certain holy-days. “When you come before me, trampling my courts, whose idea was this? I am wearing of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:12-14).
God didn’t require it. He apparently has no chart for judging the best Christmas decorations and holiest celebrations.
But we Christians will fill that gap, won’t we? We will make sure that the businesses that want our dollars observe our holidays. Our holy days.
Whether their hearts are in it or not.
When as a preacher of the gospel, I proclaim something God has not said, I’m being presumptuous.
When I go somewhere God has not sent me, I am being presumptuous.
When I expect something God has not promised, that is presumptuous.
Hey–wonder what other Christian principles we can demand that the world honor?
We sometimes are of the opinion that a few of the Lord’s people sit around dreaming up slights and offenses which they can exaggerate into causes.
The world started having ball games on Sunday. Then, it started showing movies on Sunday and opening stores. Then, eventually, schools decided they could hold ball games on the Lord’s Day too.
We don’t have to like it, but we have no right to ask the world to honor our convictions.
I don’t like it that the world uses my Lord’s name as profanity. But the world is lost and does not know Jesus, so what else can we expect. Besides, using “Jesus” or “Christ” is actually a back-handed compliment the world pays Him, since the very nature of profanity is to use the holiest names one knows as slang.
The postage stamps do have a few Christmas-y pictures, but mostly they are of Frosty and the Peanuts gang and Santa. I’m okay with that, personally.
Until I went off to college, the church where our family worshiped belonged to a denomination that counted foot-washing as one of three ordinances (the others being the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). After all, did not our Lord say,”You ought also to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14)? He did. However….
Not a single time in the rest of the New Testament do we see or hear the disciples observing that command. They clearly took it–as should we–as a principle of spiritual service and not a literal command to wash feet.
I will say, for anyone to whom that is an issue, that more than once in my long ministry my church has had literal foot-washings, and found it to be a spiritual blessing.
But we do not require it of anyone.
Demanding that people pray in Jesus’ name can be presumptuous.
Our Lord did indeed say, “Whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do…. If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14) and He said, “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you” (John 16:23).
That seems clear enough.
Ever since that time, however, a large segment of God’s people seems to have devoted themselves to making sure that the rest of us are orthodox, that we say the magic words and include at the end of our intercessions, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
We have all known of preachers being forbidden to pray at public events because they refused to excise those words from their prayers, it being a matter of strong conviction with them. No one has received more criticism than Franklin Graham on this point.
There is a tiny problem with it, however.
The Lord’s Prayer does not contain the words “In Jesus’ name.” And yet, we pray that prayer in public forums all the time.
Neither do the prayers found throughout the New Testament include those words as a formula.
The point being that whether we always say those words in one way or the other is not what Jesus is calling for. In asking us to pray “in My name,” our Lord was calling for obedience to His teachings and a yieldedness to His will. In the various prayers which I have personally offered to the Lord since arising an hour ago, not one time have I said something like “Father, in Jesus’ name I ask….” And yet, every one has been offered through Jesus, in His service, for His will and His name’s honor.
When God’s people live inside their own conversations and their own prejudices and not in the Word, they will go astray. They will feed off one another’s fears and reinforce each other’s negativity.
“Man shall…live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” said Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3 and our Lord Jesus in Matthew 4:4.
Unless we do this, we live and function in our own strength, trust in our own ideas, and lean upon our own understandings. The result of that will always be fear of the enemy, distrust of the spiritual, and an excess caution concerning faith.
To go where He sends, do what He commands, obey what He says, and eschew what He has forbidden, this is obedience. Anything else is presumption.