Itís My Party, I Can Cry if I want toÖ
Dreading the Holy Days
by Jesse Ancona
There is a terrible epidemic in the churches of God who keep the Biblical holy days: because of fights, schisms, doctrinal differences and divisions, we have come to dread Godís holy days as much as our secular friends hate Thanksgiving or Christmas because of their drunken, fighting parents, sullen relatives, and family in-fighting.
So, the Devil wins again.
If he canít stamp something out, he can pervert it into something ugly and worrisome, something that wearies our spirits. Some people start worrying about the Passover fights three months in advance! Friends take various sides, and dread the coming divisions.
And where, where is the fun, the joy, the spirit of a holiday? Surely, a holy day is more than a holiday, but it should never be less! We are commanded to rejoice, and these fights, sullen poutings, complaints, and spirit of judgement is against the spirit of all the commandments of God.
But itís not OUR party, and we CANíT cry if we want to. Itís Godís party, and if we donít want to come and enjoy it, the highways and byways are full of rabble that God can invite to His banquet. After all, if we donít want to congregate on Godís holy days anymore, or if we have been robbed of their joy, how hard will it be to convince us to stop altogether?
This is how it was with the Sabbath, historically. First, it was made a day of fasting, so people came to dread it, and Sunday was the day of feasting that followed (Samuele Bacchiochi, From Sabbath to Sunday). When persecution came, and the Jews were being killed, they were found out by seeing which chimneys had no smoke coming out of them on a Sabbath: the Sabbath-keeping Christians were killed along with them. Not only were the non-Sabbath-keepers not killed, but those who "kept" it lukewarmly, not minding doing some things, like lighting their fires, also got off scot free. So only the fervent Sabbathkeepers were killed. This was a lesson to all, how "God had protected them" by separating them from those Christ-killing JewsÖanti-Semitism became a survival mechanism, not just a reaction to the anti-Gentile hatred many of the Jews harboured against the Gentile Christians.
So it will be with the holy days. They will be kept lukewarmly by Messianics, who already only observe them in the evening, so as not to interfere with working the next day, during the daylight portion of the holy day; they will be kept dutifully but grimly by people who, by habit, still observe them, more and more observe them alone in their homes, like ex-Worldwiders, who have come, through their belief they have to have a "perfect" church, and must totally agree with everyone to the right and left of them. These people become so isolated, they have no impact, and no witness. Who is going to know, see, or care, if someone stays home and listens to tapes and reads books alone on a particular day? It is only the gatherings, the meetings, that will become a problem.
Legislation, like that proposed against bike gangs, is even stronger than the legislation the Romans used to keep the early believers in place: they forbad evening meetings of illegal societies. An illegal society was any society not explicitly licenced by the state. How would Messianics fare with this state of affairs? They already work in the daylight portion of the holy day: if they could not meet in the evening, they wouldnít meet at all, saying that "itís not essential for the New Covenant," and that would be it: if they wonít stand up to their boss to take a day off they have coming out of their holidays, which they are guaranteed to have by law (a boss must let you take a holy day off: other people have fought for that right that we so casually throw away), do you really think they are going to break the law and risk the police? I donít.
And for the "home churches," they normally meet at night, because that is easiest for everyone. They would now become targets. All the neighbours have to do is to notice all the cars, and call the police. Home parties would probably be restricted to a certain number per year, and would need a permit. Home churches would not be able to get a permit to meet every week. It would be like garage sales. One can have a certain number a year before needing to get a business licence. Enforcement is by complaint. Compliance with the law would bring unwanted attention to the home church. How many people would just decide to stay home with their tapes, or telephone or email each other instead? Phones are easily tapped, and most people do not encrypt their email, so this leaves evidence for future prosecution when such societies are declared illegal, because people may be meeting to plan crimes.
And what of those staying home alone, reading the Bible and listening to tapes? The tapes will soon dry up, as one by one, those providing them are declared illegal, and they stop, since they do not want to be prosecuted by the authorities: remember, some of these tape-providers are people who didnít even want to leave Worldwide until their pension was secure, and some try to get people to tithe to them. How many will be able to withstand the coming persecution, and who will stand by them?
Without the support of others, it is easy to become discouraged, and fall away. And even if we do not fall away, what is our witness, meekly hiding away, afraid to go to perfectly legal churches now Ė what will happen during the Tribulation, if weíre already shaking in our boots now?
The Tribulation may not be as hard for us as we thought. It might not take very much to dissuade believers from just giving up. A little fear here, a bit of ridicule there, some legislation, and many may lay down their Bibles and concede defeat without even realizing what has happened.
So, who will be martyred for their faith? If current believers are so lukewarm, God may raise up a whole new crop of people who are rebels at heart, and donít like being told what to do, who become intrigued by the very illegality of believing, and are stirred up to learn more about it Ė if God can start the church by turning around the heart of a Christian-killing Messianic-hating super-Pharisee like Shaul, and making him an apostle, then God could do this again. Who will fight for the faith? The ex-bikers, ex-prostitutes, ex-drug addicts? People who know the power of God, and who are willing to die for their faith? Maybe the "righteous" are too lukewarm to really withstand the test, and thatís why the prostitutes, etc., get into the kingdom before them.
God can raise up believers from stones. He doesnít need any current believer or any current church. So long as there are Bibles, he can do it. And if there arenít, He can, through his Spirit, inspire them to find them. The Waldenses memorized the Bible, since they didnít have copies themselves. The new believers can do the same.
And what will Christ say to us, after we huddle away in our homes, not lifting our fingers to help our fellow believers being martyred for Christ? After all, they were full of error themselves, so they werenít really "our kind," so didnít count. What words will we hear?
"I never knew you."
It was His party, and we were too busy with our own lives to go when we were invited, so we were replaced, easily, from the "dregs of society," who were more than thrilled to be called to His table.
If we canít meet together, now, in peacetime, when it is legal, because of our fear, we have no chance of standing in the Tribulation. We wonít be seared by the fires of martyrdom, because we will already have withered and dropped off the vine long ago.
Paul told us not to forsake gathering together, "as the manner of some is," so it is a Biblical command to meet. If there is no perfect place to meet, then we must meet in an imperfect place. But it is a command. And the holy days are commanded assemblies. Not just Sabbaths of rest, but assemblies. If we do not assemble when we are able to, we break the commandment regarding the day.
The Sabbath and the Holy Days are commanded assemblies! Some may not go, because they are afraid of their boss. They may have days off coming, and wouldnít hesitate to take a day off to go to a football game, or an African Violet Convention, but for a holy day Ė itís unthinkable. Or theyíre afraid of their wife, or husband. The things that make us compromise now should frighten us. How will we withstand real persecution? Maybe, for us, this will be as bad as it gets. Maybe, if we donít stand up now, God will spit us lukewarm types out of His mouth before the real trouble ever starts!
Iíve heard examples of believers in poor countries, who walk many long miles to be able to get to an assembly for the Sabbath or holy days. We wouldnít even walk across town! How will we withstand persecution?
If I have a Wedding party, and invite you to come, and you stay home, and think about what a lovely couple we are, but donít come, is that as good as coming to the party? How different is this from those who werenít invited? Well, I wonít be angry or disappointed or saddened by those whom I didnít invite, but Iíll be disappointed with you. Thatís how God feels when he makes an appointment with us, throws us a party, and we donít show up.
Staying at home and "thinking about Him" doesnít cut it. And it is invisible to the world, not a witness. The only ones who see us are God and his angels, who know where we should be, and Satan and his angels, who are pleased at how easy we made their job for them.
What is the solution? Be fervent. Insist on meeting on Sabbaths and holy days. Make it fun and enjoyable, and do not allow yourself to criticize others or get into disputes, and be good-hearted enough not to let others drag you into this, either. Celebrate with food and drink. Have a celebratory spirit, but donít go overboard into drunkenness, gluttony, and carousing. Keep the time holy and pure, but happy. Enjoy yourself, spread cheer and blessings. Make it fun for the kids, so they donít want to stop. Meet with whomever you can who wants to meet on that day, and donít judge them. Make it something you look forward to with pleasure, and look back on with good memories. Withstand the little temptations and pressures, now, so you can be counted worthy to be preserved from the Tribulation, or go through itÖso you donít "drop off the twig" before then.
While there is light, let us rejoice. There will be a coming famine, not only of food, but also of the Word of God. Until then, letís enjoy Godís special times with Him and with each other: and in the tougher times to come, weíll know how to have Godís peace and joy, despite the most outrageous circumstances.
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