Do we have to celebrate God? Do we have to celebrate God the way other people do? What does God want us to do, and how does He expect us to know? Join AMBrewster as he answers these questions and more as we all work to give God the preeminence that’s due Him!
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
Discover the following episodes by clicking the titles:
“The Four Family Loves”
“Your Family Needs to Go to Church”
“Decision making and the will of God"
“The Circle of Learning”
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Today is part 4 of a 15 part introduction to the Celebration of God. This introductory material is extremely important because it’s setting the biblical foundation as well as unveiling the important facets of this program.
The Celebration of God can be seen as a calendar — a collection of dates and observances — but it’s so much more than that.
The Celebration of God is a philosophy, it’s a worldview that acknowledges God for Who the Bible reveals Him to be. But it’s also a tool to help us know God better and — by necessity — relate to Him differently in every area of our lives.
On June 7th, 2020 Paul Tripp reposted a study on his podcast called “Resist Spirituality.” It dealt with the incorrect idea that we can compartmentalize our faith. Many people talk about how Christians segment their lives into the sacred and the secular, but the biblical reality is that such a thing is impossible.
There is no sacred or secular. In a way, there is no divide between the spiritual and the physical. We are spiritual beings, and our faith is being exercised during every moment of every day. Our “secular” or “physical” choices aren’t a movement away from the spiritual, they’re our personal application of our spiritual choices.
For this reason and more, the Celebration of God is a program that helps us live in the reality of that fact. It teaches us Who God is and what He expects from us, and then it helps us make the spiritual choices that please Him . . . and that involves celebrating Him in every moment and decision of the day.
So, in the same way we can’t not be spiritual, there’s no way to not celebrate. The question isn’t whether or not to celebrate, the questions is whether we’re going to celebrate God or celebrate self. Are we going to be disciples of Christ or follow our own path?
So, the Celebration of God resource is a very robust and dynamic personal and family discipleship tool.
That’s why it’s so vital to lay the groundwork we’re laying. And today’s topic is one that has been excessively important for all mankind since the beginning of Creation. What kind of freedom do we have when it comes to celebrating God?
Is a church elder (or podcaster) supposed to dictate exactly how everyone is to worship God, or is each individual Christian responsible to create his own methods? Or could it be somewhere in the middle?
This conversation is so important for a podcast like this because this audience has lots of different experiences and beliefs, and everyone’s going to want to know how important it is that they participate in everything outlined in the tool.
Some will hate the idea that a faceless podcaster might suggest that a “good Christian” is going to do certain things in their celebration of God, and other’s are going to be concerned that if they don’t do everything exactly the same way everyone else does . . . they’re sinning . . . or — even worse — unsaved.
Well, like everything else in life, the Bible has the answers — there’s no need to fret or wander around in ignorance. So let’s look at the answers together.
I think what makes this discussion so difficult for many is that no one person knows everything, and it’s easy to find a verse or a passage and come to a conclusion about what it means — all the while we’re ignorant of another verse or passage that is necessary to inform our response to the first.
This is a powerful reminder of the fact that followers of Christ need to be intimately aware of the entirety of God’s revelation. There’s no part of Scripture we can argue is unimportant to us.
As always, my goal is not to cover absolutely every verse that applies to this conversation, but to gives examples of the bookends and the practical application in-between.
So, there are four main considerations for our topic.
1. God expects that we celebrate Him.
Two episodes ago we saw that we serve a God of celebrations. He created celebrations, and He commanded celebrations.
Last time we were reminded that though Christians may not worship God with all the same actions and traditions, they will all worship God in one way or another.
I won’t share any verses to support this point because I covered a number of them before.
But I do want to read Galatians 4:8-11 because the flip-side of this coin is that God not only expects us to celebrate Him, He expects us not to worship anything else. “However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”
The days and months and seasons and years did not refer to Christ-honoring observations but to pagan festivals and godless celebrations.
Now, this point is going to be an important one in the future as we consider whether or not Christians should participate in worldly celebrations like the modern commercialized Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or — the really controversial one — Halloween. But those are later discussions.
For now, we need to remember that God is to be celebrated and everything else we adore must be celebrated in a way that glorifies Him. Of course we must never worship anything to the degree that we worship God.
Moving on, it’s also important to note that . . .
2. God defines the heart posture in which we are to celebrate Him.
This is extremely important, and I’m going to use the Old Testament sacrificial system to illustrate this.
God goes through extreme detail to explain to the nation of Israel exactly how they were supposed to sacrifice. Weights, measures, dates, times, waving, burning, it was all written out in fantastic detail. But then in Isaiah 1:14-15 we read: “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 ‘So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.”
Jesus gives us a similar example in the New Testament when He referred to the Pharisee tithing and praying in a way that everyone could see. Jesus made it clear that the Father was not pleased and that the Pharisee’s reward was nothing more than the pitiful adoration of men.
In Luke 16:15 Jesus “said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’”
And in Matthew 15:3 Jesus “said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’”
Yes, we can do the right things in the right ways for the wrong reasons . . . but that’s just as much a sin as doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
So, what should our heart posture be?
Well, it starts with loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, and then we exhibit that love by pouring it onto others.
Those are the two greatest commands, and they have everything to do with our hearts. We could also say, “our minds” — the place where we choose to follow God or go our own way.
Augustine basically said to love God and do whatever you want because he knew that any action motivated by biblical love would be pleasing to the Lord.
Now, this is where people get tripped up. Unfortunately, we can’t take the time right now to discuss biblical love, but — fortunately — I did a short series concerning exactly what God means when He talks about love.
I’ll include a link to those podcast episodes in the description of this episode because we can’t really go any further down this road unless we truly understand what it is to love God and love others. Otherwise we could end up like the Jewish people — dutifully following God’s commands on the outside — maybe even believing they were being loving toward God and their fellow man — but all the while God hated their sacrifices and celebrations because they were motivated by selfishness and idolatry.
The short podcast series I just referenced is called “The Four Family Loves,” and I would strongly encourage you to listen to that series with your whole family so that you can all be on the same page when it comes to God’s expectations for love.
Moving on . . . we’ve seen that God expects us to celebrate Him, and He expects us to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons.
3. In some cases, God expects us to do certain things in order to celebrate Him correctly.
I don’t have a ton of examples for this, because — honestly — God doesn’t have the same list of standardized practices for the Church as He did the Jewish people. We don’t have time right now to explain why, but for now it’s important to — at least — acknowledge it.
But there are some biblical examples we can cite: for instance, God expects the local body of believers to assemble for the purpose of loving God and loving each other — specifically through the communal practice of the one-anothers.
Therefore, it would be inappropriate to say that a Christian can glorify God by never assembling with the church.
I have another study I’ll link for you called “Your Family Needs to Go to Church.” In that series we look at the biblical expectation for our assembling for corporate worship.
Jesus was also very clear that the Lord’s Supper should be practiced by all of His followers. He illustrated for us the method, but it’s also important to note that He didn’t give much more detail. He didn’t provide dates or times or frequency.
Of course, in the broader discussion of celebration and worship, we understand that the entire Bible is filled with expectations for our life and godliness. When we’re commanded to be honest, being honest is one way we can worship God. When the Bible says that we need to admonish and rebuke and come alongside a sinning brother, He’s prescribed for us certain steps that absolutely must be taken if we don’t want to fail our Lord.
But, again, there’s a bunch of additional information He doesn’t prescribe.
In Genesis 4 we see Cain and Able bringing sacrifices to God. God had obviously commanded the sacrifices, and — based off the Lord’s words in verse 6 and 7 — God had also made it clear what kind of sacrifice should be brought. God confronted Cain about his poor choice, but instead of submitting to God’s expectations, Cain became angry and murdered his brother.
May we not be so foolish when we encounter God’s specific commands concerning our worship.
So, God does expect us to celebrate Him, and He expects us to celebrate Him in spirit and in Truth. And — in many cases — He’s extremely clear what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. But what does it mean that Jesus didn’t script out for us how to conduct a baptism? What does it mean that nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to follow a certain order of service for our church gatherings?
In fact, Jesus doesn’t even provide a script that people need to repeat in order to be saved! Can you imagine that? What may be considered the single most important “religious rite” in which anyone could ever participate (aka: calling on God for salvation) is left — in large part — to the whims of the individual doing it for the first time!
What should a person pray in order to be saved? Well, the Bible illustrates that if we confess with our mouths Jesus is Lord, and believe in your hearts that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:9-10). But no script is provided and no magical words are given.
So, based off the fact that God doesn’t dictate absolutely everything we should be doing and expect us to do it all the same way, finally . . .
4. In the vast majority of cases, God gives us liberty to celebrate Him with various words, actions, and traditions as long as they are motivated by the correct heart posture.
I want to make 4 sub-points in order to illustrate this.
A. At times, men of God initiated celebrations that had not been previously initiated by God Himself.
This is cool because it gives us the freedom to institute for our families or congregations or ourselves special opportunities for celebrating God — even if it’s not specifically outlined in Scripture.
In Nehemiah 8:9-10 we read, “Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
“Yeah, but Aaron, Ezra and the Levites were priests!
Okay, then consider Esther 9:20-22 — “Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22 because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Mordecai was not a priest, he was not commanded by God to institute the feast of Purim, but it was worthy of remembrance as the people of God celebrated how Yahweh saved them.
The Celebration of God has certain elements exactly like this. In fact, the very first festival of the celebratory year is one that was created specifically for the Celebration of God . . . and it’s a big one.
B. Though we may have the freedom to institute unique forms of worship, Nothing we institute is allowed to contradict what God commands.
In Matthew 15:9 Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 when He proclaims, “But in vain do they worship ME, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
We’re not allowed to take our selfish desires and our worldly philosophies and baptize them in spiritual language or hang it off an obscure proof-text.
This goes back to one of our previous points . . . nothing we celebrate should dethrone God from our hearts in word or in deed.
So, if the Bibles doesn’t address it, how do we know if we should celebrate Christmas or Halloween or any of the other events on the Celebration of God calendar?
C. When it comes to things that God didn’t specifically command, we have freedom to observe it to God’s glory or not observe it to God’s glory.
At some point I would really love to unpack Colossians 2 and Romans 14, and I will strongly encourage you to read the whole passage in context in your own personal study of the Bible, but for now I’m going to read selected verses from each chapter and then comment on them.
Colossians 2, “6 As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority . . . .16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Here Paul provides a beautiful treatise on the motivation of our worship of God. It needs to be rooted in Him, and whether a man is telling us to do something or not to do something, we must stand firm in what we know will glorify God.
And now Romans 14. This is the famous passage about whether or not the first century believers should eat meat offered to idols. Paul both corrects the thinking of the weaker brother who had the higher standard in regard to his diet as well as correcting the unloving hearts of the brothers with the lower standards.
Then in verse 4 he says, “4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. [Now let’s jump to verse 22] 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
This episode is called “The Freedom to Celebrate God.”
To be transparent, we must acknowledge that we don’t have the freedom to refuse to worship God. Sure, He may allow us to worship ourselves, but there will be consequences.
We also don’t have the freedom to neglect the direct commands of God. But where God has not been specific as to how and what should be done, He provides everything we need to decide what is best. And the basic foundation stone of that choice must be that everything has to be done in faith without regard to what others are doing.
At times, men of God initiated celebrations that had not been previously initiated by God Himself. However, nothing we institute is allowed to contradict what God commands. So when it comes to things that God didn’t specifically command, we have freedom to observe it to God’s glory or not observe it to God’s glory.
Then the obvious question must be . . . how do we decide whether God would be glorified by my participating in a celebration or not?
D. God has given us everything we need in the Scriptures to make Christ-honoring decisions of liberty.
I did another study called “Decision making and the will of God” which will expand on the few points I’m about to make.
I hate to leave you without enough information to make a biblically informed decision, so I’m happy to share these other resources with you.
But, let me sum it up for you. In Scripture we see four principles for decision making:
I wish I had the time to share more verses with you, but we’re out of time, and the additional podcast episodes I’ve provided are filled with even more biblical passages to help you better understand the mind of God on the matter.
My friends, we have tremendous freedom in Christ — not to sin, but to celebrate Him.
I hope that we and our families will thrive in that freedom. I’m honored to be taking this journey with you, your family, your congregation, your spouse, your friends, or whoever else you’ve brought along for the ride.
I pray The Celebration of God will not become another empty ritual void of purpose and Christ-honoring motivation. I pray that it will provide us even more knowledge and understanding about God that we can wisely use to celebrate Him better.
I want you to search the Scriptures and pray carefully as to whether or not the Lord would be glorified by you and/or your family celebrating God with us in the feasts and days of rest, the sacraments and the most average moments of the most normal days.
You have freedom to celebrate God, and I hope you’ll take full advantage of it.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so other can join in the epic experience of worshipping our great God, and join us next time as we get a better understanding of the Command to Celebrate God.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.