Ask Me Anything – Christmas Edition
Is it OK for our kids to believe in Santa?
That’s a good question. There is an early childhood belief in things that aren’t real. Young children can believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, elves, giants, and so on, in the world today. You could just talk about these things with your children. I personally don’t see great harm in it. I understand there may be wonderful believers who strongly disagree with me. Friends, I would respect your judgment with your children and with your family, and I wouldn’t dream of questioning it. If somebody gave a contradictory opinion to me on this and said, “Well, I’m not going to do it the way David suggests with my family,” that’s fine; I wouldn’t protest.
I believe God gives us wisdom and capability for our own family in these things. But I don’t see the harm in allowing young children to have some sense of make-believe, or a sense that there are strange and mysterious things out there in the world. I don’t see great harm in that. Now, I think that’s something only appropriate for young children. I couldn’t give you an exact age, maybe 7-9 years old. As they get older, it’s good for children to learn the definite difference between make-believe things and real things. As children become older, they should understand that Santa belongs to the world of make-believe things. You can even use the Santa story as a great entry point to teach them about St. Nicholas. The real Saint Nicholas was an actual man who was courageous and stalwart for the truth and the ancient counsels. At that time, there was great controversy over the deity of Jesus Christ, in the time of the Nicene Creed. Lessons like that have been taught.
Personally, I do see some good in allowing young children to have a sense of make-believe. I don’t find harm in it. Later, it’s important for them as they get older to understand the difference between the make-believe world and the real world. Again, that’s my opinion. These are things to which the Scriptures don’t speak specifically, so I would trust the judgment of every individual family to figure these things out for themselves.
How is it possible for God to redeem all things?
I’ve heard it said that God will redeem all things. But how is that possible? We know that not all of mankind will be redeemed and certainly not Satan or the other fallen angels.
Preachers, pastors, and Bible teachers often speak in what I might call “shorthand.” We use phrases and expressions to describe concepts which may not be the best way to state things. We’re trying to describe something that’s true and biblical, but maybe we don’t phrase it in the best way.
Let me explain what I mean by that in this: I don’t believe that God will redeem all things. But I do believe that God will resolve all things. Everything will be resolved. Everything will put be put in its right place. Those who reject the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ will be put in their right place. Their status and condition will be resolved. And Satan will be put in his right place.
Technically, I would choose to say that all things will be resolved in Jesus Christ and put in their proper place, more than I would use the expression that all things will be redeemed. “Redeemed” kind of gives the idea of “saved.” From the Book of Revelation, we know that Satan, and the Antichrist, and the false prophet who promotes the work of the Antichrist, this ungodly Trinity from hell, will be resigned to Gehenna, the Lake of Fire forever and ever. That will be their resolution. They won’t be redeemed in the sense of being purchased out from darkness and brought into the light. But their status will be resolved.
How do we worship in spirit and truth? Can you give an example?
In John 4:23, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
To worship God in spirit means that there’s an aspect of our worship that must be truly spiritual. In other words, it’s not all about the material. Rather, the essence of worship is about what is spiritual in nature. Some people need every material thing to be absolutely correct in their mind before they can worship God: the lighting, the ambience in the room, the musical style, the chairs, etc., must have a certain quality or feel a certain way.
All those things are material things. The essence of worship is not found in those material things. The essence of worship is found in what we offer up to God in spirit. Having too great an emphasis on all the material aspects of worship is dangerous and unhealthy.
Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. To worship God in truth means that we must worship God in a way that’s consistent with who He truly is. He is God. The true God is the God who is revealed to us in the Bible, in the Holy Scriptures. That is the God who truly is.
Though no one does it perfectly, we must endeavor to the best of our ability to worship God as He truly is. We must worship God, not as we imagined Him to be, not as the culture tells us He is, and not as we wish He was, but as the Bible reveals Himself to us. That is the God who actually exists. And therefore, that’s the God whom we worship.
We worship God in spirit, and worship Him in truth. We shouldn’t be singing false things about God. Now, I will say this about singing false things about God. We should allow some measure of poetic license in the songs that we sing; maybe not much, maybe just a little bit. But there should be some measure of poetic license. So, allowing for that, the songs we sing about God must be true. The things we say in our worship must be according to His Word.
What does “your life is hidden with Christ in God” mean (Colossians 3:3)?
Colossians 3:1-4 – If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Think of it this way. There is a sense in which, right now, Jesus Christ is hidden from the world. Now, there is also a sense in which Jesus Christ is quite evident to the world, but certainly there’s a sense in which Jesus Christ is enthroned in Heaven right now. We can’t see Him with the physical eye. He is enthroned in Heaven, risen, and seated at the right hand of God the Father on high. And He is hidden.
Well, as Paul says, our citizenship is in heaven; our identification with Christ is in heaven. There’s a real sense in which Christ is enthroned in glory, and we are in Him; we are raised with Him to heavenly places. Our life is found in those heavenly things more than it is found in earthly things.
We understand that the Bible teaches us a very practical Christian faith. We live in a real world, and we’re connected to the real world. Nevertheless, our very practical Christian faith has a heavenly connection with Jesus Christ, who is hidden from the world’s view right now. Even as Jesus Christ is enthroned and somewhat hidden from the world, we are in Him in that sense.
So, our life should be vitally connected to Jesus Christ who is enthroned in the heavens. He abides in us, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. We are very much identified with and connected to the enthroned Jesus Christ in Heaven.
Did the Magi visit Jesus on the day of His birth or at a later time?
The Magi visited Jesus later. Nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that they visited Jesus on the night that He was born. It seems that the Magi saw a unique star, whatever the exact astronomical figure in the sky was: a convergence of planets, a meteor, or something expressly put up there by God, we don’t know. They saw this unique feature of astronomy on the night that Jesus was born. Whatever it was, it helped them mark their journey from the east, which would have been the ancient Persian Empire, probably near modern-day Iran or maybe Iraq. From the Persian Empire, they traveled to Bethlehem.
They first met with Herod or his representatives in Jerusalem. Herod, in his murderous rage, sought to kill any children who might be potential threats to his throne. He gave the command for all the boys two years old and younger in the region of Bethlehem to be murdered.
This leads us to believe that, even with a margin of error, the Magi probably came several months or even a year after the time that Jesus was born. There’s no evidence at all that the Magi came the night that Jesus was born. I talked about this once in a Christmas Eve sermon. A dear woman named Carolyn came up to me afterwards and pointed out that when she was growing up in her home, her father, who was a wonderful believer, would arrange the nativity and always put the Wiseman on the other side of the room. He did this because he wanted to point out that they weren’t there the night Jesus was born; they were still afar off and came to visit later.
So, the Magi did not visit Jesus on the day of his birth, but rather, they came anytime between 6-18 months later; I don’t think it could have been much more than two years.
Were there really three wise men (Magi) who visited Jesus?
The Scriptures do not mention that there were three wise men. It is assumed because there were three gifts mentioned.
Absolutely. That is correct. The Bible does not tell us how many wise men or Magi there were. It does tell us that there were three gifts, of course: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. People have speculated that there were three wise men because of the three gifts.
By the way, according to Roman Catholic legends, the skulls of those three wise men are contained in an elaborate box that sits on the altar of the Kölner Dom, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Of course, they do not have the real skulls. We don’t know how many wise men there were, and we don’t know their names. But just as a mark of historical interest, the German city of Cologne (Köln) is a marvelous city to visit. If you do visit, you must see the Cathedral, the Dom, and look at the altar, specifically the golden box that’s on the altar. It is said to hold the three skulls of the Wise Men, but of course, it’s not the case. It’s just a tradition or superstition.
Does Christmas have any connection with the Jewish Festival of Lights (Hanukkah)?
No, it really doesn’t. Seasonally, it’s connected. But let me make a connection between Christmas and Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Hanukkah is not a holiday or feast that’s found anywhere in the Old Testament. The events that are commemorated at Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, happened in the period after the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanakh) was compiled.
It refers to God’s miraculous provision of oil, used as fuel for the lights, to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. It’s a beautiful story.
I find it interesting that there is Scriptural evidence in the Gospel of John of Jesus recognizing Hanukkah. It talks about Him being in Jerusalem, for the Festival of the Dedication, which is the way they referred to Hanukkah in New Testament times.
Here’s my point: Jesus commemorated a Jewish holiday that was not commanded in the Hebrew Scriptures. To me, that gives allowance for Christians who would like to commemorate Christmas. Because let’s face it, the Bible gives absolutely no command for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t give us a date for the birth of Jesus or tell us how to celebrate it. For that reason, some Christians have said that we should not celebrate Christmas.
I believe we have freedom in Jesus Christ. If you want to celebrate Christmas, you have liberty. I think Jesus’ participation in the Festival of Dedication (which we recognize as Hanukkah), as detailed for us in the Gospel of John, gives us the principle that it’s okay to commemorate things that really happened, but aren’t necessarily commanded to be commemorated. It’s okay. I don’t think it’s commanded; but it’s okay to do it. That’s the only connection I would make between Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, and Christmas. Both are extrabiblical celebrations which are permitted.
Did King Herod ever find out if the Magi found Jesus alive?
No, Herod must have died shortly after this. I would think that Herod probably assumed that whoever it was that the Magi is sought after would have been killed in the slaughter of the innocents commanded by King Herod. That’s my guess; we’re speculating a bit here, but my speculation would be that he wouldn’t have known. Herod died shortly after that time, and he would have had good reason to assume that the child who the Magi sought had been killed in the slaughter of the innocents.
Why was Jesus never called Immanuel after His birth?
Both Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14 refer to the Savior’s name as Immanuel, so why was Jesus never called that after His birth?
In ancient Near Eastern cultures and in the Scriptures, a person’s name was much more than a handle by which they were referred. A name was a very powerful representation of a person’s character, who they were, and what kind of person they were. When the Scripture says prophetically in Isaiah, and in its later fulfillment in Matthew 1, that the Savior’s name will be called Immanuel, it doesn’t mean that that would be His literal, given name. Rather, it describes His character, His person, and who He was.
When I was growing up, there was a figure of speech commonly used: saying that somebody’s name was mud. It meant that that person had a bad reputation. It never meant that people went around calling him Mr. Mud; it meant that their name was associated with a very bad reputation.
Likewise, the Savior’s name would be called Immanuel to depict His character but would not need to be used as His given name.
What does it mean when Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”?
Colossians 2:9 – For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
First, this verse tells us that Jesus Christ is God. Think about both of those terms “all” and “the fullness” together; it tells us absolutely, comprehensively, that whatever God is, it is contained in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not some junior God or lesser God. He is God. Of course, we understand this as part of the wonder and amazement of the Trinity: God the Father has all the fullness of the God, God the Son has all the fullness that God, and God the Holy Spirit has all the fullness of God. There’s one God in three Persons, but in no sense is Jesus Christ a lesser partner in the Godhead. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily.
I have no doubt that Paul wrote that to answer or refute some of the false teaching that was coming before the believers in Colossae. That teaching would have been an early form sort of a pre-Gnosticism, which would have not had much appreciation for Jesus Christ bodily. That’s why Paul says, notice this, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” In other words, there is a tendency for some people to think that because Jesus Christ had a real flesh-and-blood body, that somehow, He was less than God. And Paul is answering, “No, that’s not true at all.”
We do not accept that division between the body and the spirit that says, “There’s nothing good or nothing Godly in the body.” No, the body is affected by the fall, but that’s fallen humanity. That’s not the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ.
Does God still heal people?
What’s your view on healing a sick body? Do you think it’s possible to still get healed?
Yes, it’s perfectly possible. God still heals people today. Here’s my understanding of healing. I believe that absolute and perfect healing was provided for the believer by the Person and work of Jesus Christ, especially what He did at the cross and in His sufferings. By His stripes we are healed.
The perfection of that healing is given to us in our resurrection. Ultimately, the Christian will never face sickness or death or weakness in any way; we will have a bodily perfection in the resurrection. God delights to give a preview of that work through acts of healing which come before the resurrection.
I believe, I’ve seen, and I know that God heals people today. He doesn’t necessarily heal every person in every circumstance. Sometimes He heals people, and we go, “God, why did you do that?” And there’s other times when it seems that God does not immediately heal somebody, and we wonder, “Lord, why didn’t you do that?” We don’t have the answers to all those questions. But God remains a miracle working God.
If God forgets the sins of His people, why are they still judged when everyone is judged?
Who all gets judged when God judges everyone, if He forgets our sins when we are saved?
Revelation 20 describes the Great White Throne Judgment. There are many people who believe that judgment concerns only those who are not saved and have not found rescue or salvation in Jesus. Everyone will face a judgment of some kind. Those who are the people of God will face a judgement of their lives. The Bible says that we will face the judgment seat of Christ, the Bema Seat, and be judged by the fruitfulness of our lives. But that is not a judgment for eternity. That’s not a judgment of our sins; that’s a judgment relevant to reward. So, we will each face some kind of judgment, but believers will not be judged on the basis of their sins.
What is a “homemaker” as referenced in Titus 2:5? What did this look like culturally, and are there Biblical examples of this?
Titus 2:4-5 – That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
I would say this: the place of a woman in a home, as a wife or mother, is not exactly the same as the place of a man, of a husband or father. A woman, as a wife and mother, has her own things to contribute to the making of a home. If we speak in generalities, we understand that women tend to set sort of the temperature or tone of the home. A wife and mother can bring so much light and vitality and creativity to the home. We’re not trying to say for a moment that it’s impossible for men as husbands and fathers to do this, but in a general way of speaking, women cherish and build and make the atmosphere of a home.
This is something the Bible says that older women in the church should be training younger women how to do. Of course, it would be crazy to think that this means that a Christian woman who is not married or doesn’t have children is worthless. But many Christian women will be married and will have children; it’s been that way through the centuries, and it’s even true today. They have a particular role in making a home: in making the home a vital, godly, comfortable, nourishing, restoring place for their husband and for their children. And again, this doesn’t mean that the husband has no role in this, of course, but the wife has a vital, essential role. I think that was true culturally in Bible times, and I think it’s true culturally today. I think it should be true that a Christian wife and mother should say, “God, how do You want me to contribute to making my home into a place of peace, a place of rest, a place of blessedness, a place of laughter, a place of happiness, and a place of that honors You? How do You want me to make the home?”
Does the Christmas tree go back to the groves of Asherah?
Does the Christmas tree go back to the groves of Asherah? Is that bowing down to an idol?
No, the Christmas tree doesn’t go back to the groves of Asherah. It’s true that different cultures in biblical times and places have used trees in pagan worship, and sometimes sexually immoral worship. But that isn’t the origin of the Christmas tree. I understand that the Christmas tree originated with Martin Luther; I think there are a few different ideas or legends about the origins of the Christmas tree. So no, the historical development of the Christmas tree really has nothing to do with pagan religions of Bible times or any other time. Whether or not you want to have a Christmas tree, you’re free to have a Christmas tree in Christ, and you’re free not to have one. But no, I do not believe it’s true at all. Even though people make claims about this, I don’t think those claims have a solid historical foundation.