THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Should we celebrate different religious ceremonies?
By Gary Meredith
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Continued from Page One
Yet we are not unprotected in those situations. As Jesus told Paul in a vision:
"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:17-19In fact, Jesus counseled a man who wanted to wait to follow Jesus until after his father's funeral: "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60). We Christians are not to be tied down by pagan customs, as Paul said: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
A final warning from our Lord: "Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26).
3. Some thoughts and questions to pray about in more specific circumstances
As mentioned before, you may be the only "Bible" your unbelieving family and neighbors ever read. It's good to take that mission seriously!
Remember, whatever situation you find yourself in was precisely engineered by God before time began (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). It is not random, but rather part of his plan for you and ALL your family and friends. Why do you suppose He put you in these exact circumstances? What part of his plan for your life does this fit into?
As a believer, you know that all people are made in God's image (Genesis 1:25-27), with a sense of eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a God-shaped vacuum that drives them towards the Lord, a vacuum that nothing and no one but God can fill. God wants all people to seek and find him (Acts 17:27) and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) because He loves everyone in the whole world (John 3:16). Other religions can point vaguely towards God (e.g., we should be good and not evil, we are spiritual beings and want eternal life, etc.), but they can never save. There is only one Way, one Name, that can (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) .
It may be that someone in your family understands that their religion is actually an "empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors" (1 Peter 1:18). And that one of them may say to you some day, "Thank you for being a faithful witness to Christ. I despised you at the time, but in my heart I knew you were right. Because of your courage and faithfulness I am now a Christian."
Paul was in the same circumstances when he arrived in Athens. He was greatly distressed by the false religion there, but he didn't want to be obnoxious to those who welcomed him as a visitor. So rather than tell them they were all going to hell if they didn't repent and believe the Gospel, he started from what they got right, then explained what they didn't yet know. Acts 17:16-31 is an unsurpassed model of tolerant Christian outreach to unbelievers.
One last thought: Christianity survived for over 2,000 years (not to ignore God's sovereign control) thanks to the faithfulness of God's people to bear true witness of the Gospel even unto death. Christians in the Roman Empire had a much harder choice to make than you or I do. If a Roman greeted someone, "Caesar is Lord," the other person was supposed to reply with the same words. Many chose to respond with the truth, "Jesus is Lord," which often brought a death sentence. Yet God used the persecution of these martyrs to spread the Christian faith in ways no human could have ever planned, down through history all the way to you and me. It continues today, in China for example, where faithful witnesses are helping bring some 20,000 Chinese to the Lord every day. The price they pay is often prison, beatings, labor camps and even death. Like the Apostles of long ago, they are honored to be "counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." (Acts 5:41)
We'll give Isaiah the last word in this answer:
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Image Credit: mosoxiso; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Celebrating-Holidays | Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | Family-Life | God-Father | Personal-Relationships
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