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Is It How You Feel in the Heart?
"It's how you feel in the heart," is the saying that most people have come to believe. Emotion seems to rule in a world where trust is hard to find, and our heart has become the best means to discern right from wrong. Yet what may be right for one person may be wrong for another, so this can stir up a lot of confusion. We must cling ever more to what we believe and feel in our heart to be right because who else can we trust? For a Christian it should be the Bible. We are instructed to embrace the word of God, never to rely on how we feel in the heart.
Dealing with the issue that "it's how you feel in the heart" is one of the most difficult points to approach. Our inner feelings can sometimes take priority over truth. The apostles never relied on their emotions, always on Scripture, and neither did countless others. It was because so many refused to compromise that Christ's followers became a threat to the Roman Empire, which had never dealt with such devotion to a Supreme Being.
Thousands upon thousands of faithful believers have been killed for keeping God's word. Twenty thousand alone were burned to death in A.D. 303. Is there any rationality to this horror? There is if you can understand why it happened, then, there is strength in comprehending the loyalty of these people. They died for one reason: serving God instead of serving heathen images. They refused to bow down to false gods, and in some of the cruelest ways their lives came to an abrupt end, but not in vain.
Christianity was not legalized until Emperor Constantine converted to the Christian faith in A.D. 313. Then all persecution was presumed to have ceased, which would mean a long-awaited peace, a time when they could openly express love for the Lord in spirit with enthusiastic faith. Little did they know their grateful prayers would someday turn into compromises, paving the way for mankind to slowly forsake the direction it was intended to go. Too many fell captive to "it's how you feel in the heart" because their desperate hearts could bear no more pain. They were forced to claim this thought or forced into death. Many continued to die, but most compromised.
The Romans found the customs of those they conquer quite adaptable to their own life-style. The newly established Roman Catholic Church outstretched its welcoming hand by accepting the heathen way as the Christian way of humbly accepting them. Of course, the heathens' way had to be reshaped in order to fit the Christian theme to fulfill the needs and desires of those times. They have continued to be reshaped as times change, desires change, and needs change. These celebrations became an open door, inviting those who may never have considered joining the church, especially on God's stern terms.
When it came to spiritual matters it is not inconceivable how these words were soon forgotten: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings (Heb. 13:7-9)
There should be no doubt that God does not reshape His word to meet the changing times. God is the same always; unmoved and unswayed. God doe not compromise to win souls. The Roman Catholic Church felt a need to compromise in order to acquire acceptance from all, but God encourages His people to hold tight to what was first delivered, knowing His word would one day be misguided.
Despite what appeared to be exciting festivals adding much upliftment and gaiety to the heathen people, their way lacked personal immortality that Christianity was greatly known for. This is when the mixture of the two world's never looked more appealing.
The compromise was simple: blend the heathen's adored customs and cherished rituals into the sacred promises of the Christian faith. The Christians, without giving up their love and devotion for Jesus could now enjoy the traditions of their once fellow adversaries. And the heathens, without giving up their lusty delight could find a deeper purpose in serving them. The trouble with paving tunnels is no one can see where they are headed in the dark until they spot the light at the other end.
Christmas, surprisingly enough, often involved handling legal affairs. Among those were the crowning of kings. One myth holds that Christmas was full of good omens and Arthur is believed to have withdrawn the sword Excalibur from its holding place on Christmas Day, thus establishing himself to be the the suitable king of Britain.
During more leisure moments, when no pressing business was pending, tournaments were sometimes a fun pastime. These sports are known to have been dangerous and it was not uncommon for men to be wounded. Sometimes they were even killed, while onlookers cheered with sadistic excitement. So thrilling were these tournaments they became expected as part of the Christmas festivities. Eventually these sports were civilized and have since continued throughout the Christmas/New Year season. The sporting holiday tradition is still very popular in various forms around the world.
Since Christmas came from heathen origin, many men of the cloth had to repeatedly remind some people that it was Jesus they were supposed to be worshipping, not the heathen gods in which this observance had first been dedicated to. In time, the church fathers hoped these other gods would fade into the past, disappearing behind the good name of the Lord. Christ became am image that would provide for the needs of all who believed in Him. A Christ far from the one His first followers came to know, love and obey. The end result from this reshaping strategy is evident: hearts have become filled with spiritual adulteration.
History supports the fact that Christmas came about by manipulations, self-serving acts, and self-justified reasoning. It may be how you feel in the heart that has come to matter the most, but by using tactics like these, can feelings based on deception produce an honest heart of a sincere love?
The many devout men of those earlier days warned heavily against these practices Some even called them dangerous. One Christian scholar, Origen, for example, stated it was wrong to celebrate the birth of Christ as if He was were a king or pharaoh. During the Middle Ages, about the fifth through the eleventh century, Christmas took another turn of events. Hordes of pagan warriors swept through the north and east mixing their festive rituals with the Christmas celebration. In the ninth century, Alfred the Great had a desire to set twelve days aside for a more sacred dedication to Christ, but this, too, did not receive much welcome.
Throughout the twelfth century gaiety and excessiveness increased. Spaniards danced in the churches and Englishmen gambled with exhilaration while clerical warnings rang out against such sinful acts. The alarm had little, if any, effect. The lusty desires of the heart continued to thrive. With all the efforts to turn the tide back to God's true word, downfall was met with every attempt. Christmas persisted, becoming more and more the most bountiful time of the year.
One popular merrymaking event was mumming. Also known as guising. Guising (a word related to disguise) comes from a custom familiar with the Saturnalia festival. Wearing masks of animals heads and other assorted figures was a custom that gradually eased itself into becoming memorable plays. In due time, mumming became what we now call parades. Today, parades at Christmas make for such enthusiasm.
Excessive drinking, drunkenness, and brawling, as well as gambling were considered to be eventful pastimes during this season. Many centuries passed before Christmas established a firm image of home and family warmth. The new age of the Renaissance signaled the end of the Middle Ages, and during seventeenth century an explosion of wealth emerged. Colonial trade and home industry cultivated a different class of folks whose interests were more commercial, with their pleasures revolving more around domestic life. The stage was set for the success of Christmas. It now held the power to influence, all the more deeply, a family bond. Children became an important, sentimental part of the occasion. It is a part of Christmas that has been carried over today as one the highest priority. The familiar expression "Christmas is for the children” became a focus that would weaken the emotional vulnerability of almost any heart.
Initially, compassion for the less fortunate had already emerged. A strong humanitarian impulse began to reach out for the needs of the poor. It was in 1729 when one man decided to give twenty pieces of beef to those who had little comfort during this season. Countless impoverished souls, children included, worked in mines and factories for endless hours just trying to survive. During the Christmas season their depraved state could never have felt more grimmer, magnifying their affliction all the the more. Protest broke out on their behalf and, eventually, those who could afford the abounding pleasure of Christmas humbly surrendered to the torment of their own guilt.
Charles Dickens, a man for humanitarian reform as well as a novelist, managed to touch the hearts of even some of the most worldly intellects with his acclaimed story "A Christmas Carol". Today this story remains to be an outstanding treasure piece.
In 1871 a gigantic step plunged forth - The Bank Holiday Act turned Christmas into an official day of rest beginning with England, and then, America, nearly twenty years later. This act united Church and State, vowing a lifetime commitment. It was a quest the spirit of Christmas longed for fulfill so never again would it fear an upheaval such as the one in 1642 when the Puritans came to power. Form this point on the spirit staked its claim in a position where - if it were ever scrutinized - the church could not even dismiss it.
The Puritans were shocked and enraged at the Christmas festivities when they seized jurisdiction over England. Oliver Cromwells's stern hand command Parliament to declare Christmas prohibited, imposing a fine to those who persisted in observing it. The streets of London echoed a bold plea, "No Christmas. No Christmas." This severe attitude prevailed even after Cromwell's downfall in 1652 and the same anti-Christmas passion overflowed into America.
On May 11, 1659, a decree went out to the New World by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It read as follows (in its original context):
“For pventing disorders arising in several places wthn this jurisdiccon by reason of some still observing such ffestivals as were superstitiously kept in other counrys, to the great dishonnor of God and offence of others, it is therefore oredered by this court and the authority thereof, that whosever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either forbearing of labour, feasating, or sajd, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offense five shillings, as a fine to the county. And whereas not only at such tjmes, but as several other tjmes also, it is a custom too frequent in many places to expend time in vulawful games, as cards, dice and c, it is therefore further ordered, and by the court declared, that, after publication hereof, whosoever shall be found in any place wthin this jurisdiccon playing either at cards or at dice contrary to the order, shall pay as a fine to the county the some of five shillings for evy such offense" (From The Glory and Pageantry of Christmas by the editors of Time-Life Books. 1963 TIme-Life Books Inc. Reprinted with permission.)
Actually, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that Christmas took a strong hold. The Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Dutch settlers traditionally observed Christmas but the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Quakers disregarded its observance. As time wore on, cultivating hands managed to nurture the seed back to health again. It was after the Industrial Revolution when wealth flourished, and Christmas thus took its ultimate turn of events. Time passed slowly but the spirit crept to power quickly. Not only did the spirit accomplish conquering nearly every Christian heart, but nearly every human heart as well.
The belief “it’s how you feel in the heart has fed the Christmas spirit full of rich contentment, both spiritually and materially. This comforting notion has had dominion of the heart for a long time. Many people are captivated by this idea for many reasons. Some have used and abused it for self-serving purposes, and many still do. It gives the sinister-minded person just the emotional reasoning they need to commit ghastly acts, and the mischief-minded person the justification to condone dishonest behavior. But this belief can end up our worst enemy, like the betrayal of a once trusted friend.
For whatever purpose this saying is used, it holds a person enslaved to a fallacy. Trusting the heart has fooled some of the most discerning souls and, because of this, Jesus strongly cautioned against it. He forewarned that Satan would appear as an Angel of Light with the realization that emotion “unruled” would ruin life.
“Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord,:" shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then will I declare to them, "I never knew you, depart from me, you evil doers" (Matt. 7:21-23).
When Noah came forth from the Ark he built an altar to the Lord. And being pleased with Noah the Lord said, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imaginations of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:20, 21).
“Do not listen to the words or the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, "It shall be well with you"; and to every one who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, "No evil shall come upon you" (Jer. 23: 16, 17).
No evil shall come upon you. These are the words everyone cherishes, claiming God knows their heart. Isn't this the heart that God said has imaginations of every evil thing? His explicit instructions are "Do not listen to words of such vain hopes, they speak the visions of their own mind”. The founders of the Roman Catholic Church had a vision. A vision that strayed from the Word. A vision of their own ideas. From the imaginations of their hearts the outcome has produced a world following the winds of doctrine full of vain hopes that have swept innocent hearts to the wayside.
God does know the heart and He can detect true feeling from falsehood. He knows that when love is based on a misrepresentation it is merely a feeling of truth, not actually truth itself, no matter how right one thinks it is. It's often difficult to distinguish if something is real or a counterfeit. Too many have learned this harsh reality the hard way. More than any other time in history mankind is being forced into a rude awakening of how witty deception can be. One must be cautious and heed these words:
“And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.”
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an Angel of LIght. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11: 12-15).
Satan has had his time to do his evil deeds, but time reveals what is hidden. What once may have appeared as Satan's advantage is now his enemy. The point is, not everything done in the Lord's name is right, no matter how right it feels in the heart. True love, true devotion produces the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Love and devotion masked with pretense will pierce like thorns of destruction. The end-time result will correspond to the deed. You will know the tree by its fruit.
So many people have grieved for trusting their heart. They thought they knew someone well whom they trusted, only to discover they never knew them at all. Too many times the words "I love you" have been expressed, when the meaning of love was never known. Numerous fraudulent religious leaders have deluded and conned millions, not only trying to rob their money but their souls as well. Who cannot help bow their head in sorrow at the end-time result from these many ordeals? Deception, whether it be trivial of immense, has certainly made trusting the heart look like a fool's paradise.
At the present, where "caution" is a must, why is it that people are observant toward the effects related to Christmas but forego any concern toward its origin? How come, when almost everything else is being checked out, Christmas is a thing to do without question? How long must we wait before the thorns of high pressure commercialism, poverty and greed, or price tagging love become exposed, once and for all, to reveal the tree on which they grow? Are not the signs evident enough? Is it the heart that remains blind? Perhaps the best explanation that can be given as to why Christmas has turned against the very people who given it substance can be found in these words:
Do not give dogs what is holy;
and do not throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under foot and turn
to attach you (Matt. 7:6).
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Copyright 1990 / ISBN: 0-533-08812-7 / Library of Congress Catalog Card No : 89-90466 (Out-Of-Print)