What's the difference between Advent and Christmas? That's just one of the questions we'll be answering on today's edition of Core Christianity. Well, hi, this is Bill Meyer, along with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and this is the radio program where we answer your questions about the Bible and the Christian life every day. You can call us right now with your question. Here's our phone number, 833-THE-CORE. That's 1-833-843-2673.
You can also post your question on our social media sites, and of course you can always email us at questionsatcorechristianity.com. And I should mention, for those of you listening on the radio, not on YouTube right now, Adriel has a Christmas tree with him in the studio, his little buddy. Yeah, you know, here's the thing though, Bill, is it's not a real tree.
And I don't know about you, but I'm in favor of the real trees because they got the smell and all that, but this is, I mean, I think it'll do for our studio. Now, I know that you recently just cut down a tree, is that right? Is that something they allow you to do in Minnesota?
We can't do that in San Diego. At a Christmas tree farm, so it was official. Yes, it was legal, but we went out last weekend and we searched for the perfect tree, and my wife has specific requirements on her trees.
It has to be just high enough to where it barely touches the ceiling, and we have 10-foot ceilings to let you know, and it has to be the perfect shape, and then no brown needles. So I'm traipsing through the Christmas tree farm, looking for the perfect tree for her, and finally, after two hours, we found it. Nice. Well, I'm glad to hear that, Bill. And Merry Christmas to all of you, I mean, as we get closer, hopefully. We should do one of those polls, Bill, where it's like, you know, real tree or fake tree, because I feel like there's a huge debate going on right now. I keep trying to convince people back to the old ways of getting a real tree, but more and more people are opting for the plastic ones. I know it, man.
Pretty soon it'll be an AI tree, and then I'm really scared of what's going to happen. Well, let's get to one of our calls. We actually had a caller that called in and wanted to remain anonymous, and here's that voicemail. I have a condition called neurofibromatosis, so it makes it very apparent that there's something that matters. I have Christian friends who mean well, but they want to see that I am healed physically, and I would like to let them know that I am already healed through the grace of God. I need help in trying to convince these two people that I am healed.
Thank you very much. It sounds like, just to kind of reiterate that question, Bill, it sounds like this is someone who has an issue, a disability, and well-meaning Christian friends are saying, well, we need to pray that God heals this, that you're restored, and maybe they're pressing that. No, there's nothing wrong with praying for healing, of course. I mean, James talks about this, and I think there's nothing wrong with that, certainly, but at the same time, we also need to recognize, and, sister, it sounds like this is maybe the issue, that God is sovereign even over disabilities. I think about that conversation that takes place between Moses and the Lord in Exodus 4, verse 10. Moses said to the Lord, Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue. And the Lord said to him, Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
And he basically says, Go and do what I've said. Now, the point there being, God is able to work in and through our disabilities, and God is sovereign over them. That doesn't mean that, you know, we celebrate them, per se. No, and one day we look forward to, as believers, the full healing of our bodies, the full restoration of our physical bodies through the resurrection of the body that Christ has won for us. But we need to rest assured that even if we don't experience physical healing now, that God works in and through the difficult situations that we experience in life.
I think of someone like Joni Eareckson-Tada. I'm just a hero of mine and someone who the Lord has used mightily, and I've heard her talk about, you know, giving thanks to the Lord for the affliction that she's experienced in her own life, but seeing how God has used it to sanctify her and to magnify his own name, and really resting in the fact that God is sovereign over these types of things. And so often when people want to press the issue and say, well, we just need to pray that you're healed, they don't realize that, and it's a problem. And then there are some who would say, you just don't have enough faith. If you had more faith, God would heal you, and that's a real tragedy.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's sort of right in line with the prosperity gospel idea, right? Like if you're really walking with Christ, if you're really faithful to him, then you're going to have health and wealth and all these things.
If you don't have that, then it must be the fact that you've got some secret sin in your life. Well, that's just not the teaching of the Bible, certainly not the teaching of the New Testament. You think of Paul telling Timothy to take a little bit of wine to settle his stomach because of his frequent ailments. He didn't tell Timothy, hey, Timothy, you don't have enough faith.
That's why you're having these stomach problems. You need to pray harder. No, and certainly all of the disciples of our Lord, especially if you look at the New Testament, experience great suffering and great affliction for following Christ. And so we've got to let the New Testament here speak to us to clear things up.
Amen. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Our phone lines are open. If you have a question about the Bible, the Christian life, theology, maybe something going on in your church life that you're concerned about, here's the phone number. It's 833-THE-CORE.
That's 1-833-843-2673. And of course, you can always email at questionsatcorechristianity.com. Let's go to Tim calling in from Arkansas. Tim, what's your question for Adriel? Hello, Adriel. Thanks a lot, man. Hey, Tim. Thanks for giving us a call. Glad to have you on the air.
Hey, Richard, man. I haven't gone to church since the first of the year. I remember what the sermon was. It was, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.
And I've been trying to do that all year. I even named 2023 as the year of the cross. And I figure you've got to pick it up every day, but I haven't been going to church. Does that mean that I have left the faith that I am damned to hell?
Tim, I love your enthusiasm, brother. Can I just ask you a follow-up question? So what's the issue with, I mean, you want to take up your cross and follow Jesus, but you're not going to church, and you haven't gone to church since the first of the year. Is there something keeping you from going to church? Are you not able to go?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have my own excuses. I just want to know, if I don't go to church, does that mean I'm damned to hell? I've left the faith. Tim, let me just encourage you and say God calls all of us to worship, and at the heart of that is gathering together with the saints, with the people of God, to sit under the ministry of the word. I think this is in part how we fulfill the fourth commandment, you know, the command to honor the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Ever since, I mean, even the days of the New Testament, the disciples were gathering together on the Lord's day, we might call that the Christian Sabbath, on the Lord's day to worship God and to sit under the teaching of the Bible, to receive the sacraments of grace, the Lord's supper, not as a good idea, but as something that we need, you need, as someone who wants to take up his cross and follow Jesus. And so I think this is one of the commands that the Lord gives to us, and if we reject God's commands, it's not that we're saved by our obedience, but if someone knows that God is calling them to do something but they say, I don't care what God has to say, well then I think we have to ask ourselves a question, okay, where's the disconnect here? Because yeah, Jesus is calling me to follow him, to gather with the saints, but if I'm just neglecting his word, well, you need to do some soul searching, I would say. Brother, Christ calls you to meet with his people for your own good, especially in light of, you know, all the things that are happening around us, and this is precisely what the author of the Hebrews said in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 24, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near. Earlier in the book of Hebrews, the author of the Hebrews says we have to encourage each other day by day, while it is called today, lest we're hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and so I would say, look, if a Christian is not going to church just because, you know, they have their excuses, they don't want to go, that's an issue of obedience to God, and I would call that individual, I'd call you, brother, to repent and to get plugged into a solid church where the Bible is taught and where you can grow together with others, not just because God commands you to do this, obviously, but he commands it for your good, so you could be encouraged and nourished by the heavenly word of God, the body and blood of Jesus and the sacraments of grace. God promises to meet you there, and so you should want to be there, and so I just want to encourage you. That's a part of taking up your cross daily to follow after Jesus, and so, hey, if it's an issue of getting plugged into a good church, feel free to reach out to us again. I know our producer and our team would love to try to help you find something around you that's good and biblical, but you need to be plugged into a church.
God bless. You know, it's so interesting to me, Adriel, because he's certainly not alone. We have a lot of people who say, you know, it's just me and Jesus, you know, I don't need to go to church, I don't believe in an organized religion, there's a variety of different ways people put it, and yet if you look at Acts, you look at the New Testament church, you don't see any Lone Ranger Christians, do you? No, and in fact, being a Lone Ranger Christian puts you in a really precarious situation.
Peter says that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. It's in isolation that our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. That's why the author of the Hebrews says encourage each other daily, and so it really is a problem, and I think the problem has been reinforced by the fact that you hear so many people saying things like, oh, you don't go to church, you are the church, and I understand the sentiment there, but the fact of the matter is you need to go to church, you need to be plugged into the church with other believers who are encouraging you and who you can encourage as well, because we aren't, as individuals, the body of Christ. Together we make up the body of Christ. Each of us individually is a different member within the body. It's Paul's point in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and so if we're off on our own, not together with the rest of the body, we're ineffective, and we're going to wither. We're going to wither away, frankly, and so get plugged into a solid church where the word of God is taught. Amen. This is Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. We'd love to hear from you if you have a question about the Bible or the Christian life, doctrine, theology, something going on in your own Christian walk that you'd like prayer for. Here's our phone number. It's 833-THE-CORE.
That's 1-833-843-2673. We often receive questions about celebrating Christmas this time of year, and some of our listeners actually wonder if it's wrong to celebrate Christmas. We have a great free resource for you that answers that question. Yeah, Bill, every holiday season we hear the claim that Christmas is a pagan holiday, and the early church, in an attempt to appease the pagan culture, mixed pagan festivals with Christian themes. And that's how we got Christmas.
I'm sure you've heard this as well. So we created a new resource just to address that question in particular, five reasons why Christmas isn't a pagan holiday. It helps to unravel some of the most common objections and misconceptions about the origins of Christmas. It'll give you an appreciation for the resilience of the church through the ages and explain why Christians can receive and celebrate Christmas with joy. And it's yours for free at corechristianity.com. We've got a friend or relative who might be kind of a Scrooge this time of year.
Hey, this would be a great little booklet to get them five reasons why Christmas isn't a pagan holiday. It's a free download on our website. You can get it by going to corechristianity.com forward slash offers. And of course you can always call us for any one of our offers at 833-THE-CORE. Also want to mention we get emails here at Core Christianity. If you don't feel comfortable calling, you can always email your question into Adriel. Our email address is questions at corechristianity.com. Here's an email from one of our listeners named Joan.
She says, Hi, Pastor Adriel. I'm wondering if you can explain the difference between Advent and Christmas. My church has services in December that are about Advent, and they are all about Christmas passages in the Bible. So how is this different than the actual Christmas celebration? Also, all the Christmas shows and movies I watch never mention Advent. They only talk about Christmas. So why does the church separate the two? Christmas shows and we just watched Elf last night with our kids, with some of the older kids, which was pretty fun.
I don't know if you've seen that one, Bill. Highly spiritual. Yeah, highly, yeah, deep ties to the gospel message. Advent and Christmas.
So a couple of things. One, early on the Christian church did celebrate the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ Christmas, and there was some debate about what day to celebrate that on in particular. But it does seem like that was an early feast, and over time there also became another celebration, or at least a period, a season that was observed in some churches traditionally, which was the season of Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. And just to say, it's not like these things are outlined in scripture, like this is what you have to do. You have to celebrate the days leading up to Christmas, and then on one particular day you have to celebrate the birth of Jesus and it has to be on this Sunday.
No, that's not something you see in the Bible. The only holy day we have as Christians under the New Covenant is the Lord's Day, Sunday, gathering to celebrate what God has done in redeeming the world through Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead in particular. But Advent, that season of Advent, Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means coming, and it's that period of where some Christian traditions at least focus on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not just his first coming, but oftentimes early in that season there's a focus on his second coming as well. And even in some places a focus on this idea that he comes to us spiritually by the work of the Holy Spirit, his presence now with us, and so not just the coming of Christ as in his birth, certainly that, but also his second coming, looking forward to the final judgment, and his presence now, his coming now with us by his word and spirit. And that leads into the celebration of Christmas, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnation of the Son of God. Now again, like I said, it's not like you see in the New Testament some place where it says you need to do this, you need to have this season of Advent and Christmas in your church. This is more of a tradition that developed over time in church history. Nevertheless, I think it is good for us to stop and think about the great things that God has done for us in redemptive history, and certainly the incarnation of the Son of God is one of those things. God the Son assuming humanity from the womb of the Virgin Mary so that he might restore our fallen nature, human nature, fallen through sin. I mean, this is at the heart of the Gospel message, and so it sort of gets at, you know, when people ask this question, is it wrong to celebrate Christmas, is it pagan, that sort of a thing? Well, look, if Christmas for you is just about, you know, materialism and consumerism, that's pagan, that's wrong. But if it's an opportunity for us to stop and reflect upon the fact that God has sent his Son into the world to redeem us, to heal us, fallen through sin, then it can be a wonderful thing.
And so yeah, that's a difference there between Advent, that time leading up to the celebration of Christmas, thinking about the coming of Jesus, his first coming and his second coming, and then Christmas as the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, that central moment in redemptive history where mankind in one sense was was healed, redeemed even through the birth of the Son of God. Great explanation. Thanks for that, Adriel. You're listening to Core Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Here's our phone number if you have a question about the Bible or the Christian life. It's 833-THE-CORE.
That's 1-833-843-2673. Let's go to Jason calling in from Missouri. Jason, what's your question for Adriel? Hi, Pastor Adriel. I was just calling because I've gone to a lot of different churches over the past like year or two, and just trying to find that one that fits me, like you were saying earlier, and that I can get stuck in with. And every time I've gone, you know, some that's a day, you know, a couple weeks, sometimes I go for months, and it's just none of—there's always that one day where they say something I just—that's not biblical.
I can say with a fact I know in the Bible that that's not in there, and you're preaching things that don't follow the Bible. And what would your advice be for somebody struggling with that? I just can't seem to find the church that follows the Bible like I, you know, interpret it, I guess.
Yeah. Okay, Jason, an excellent question, and I know that you're not alone in this situation. So what do you do when you're going to churches, you're trying to find the right church, but, you know, you're visiting for a month or so, and you hear something from the pulpit that really bothers you, or you just say, okay, that's not biblical. First, I think you have to ask yourself the question, okay, is what was said, you know, where it's contradicting Scripture, at least where I think it's contradicting Scripture, are we talking about something that's core? I mean, gets to the heart of the Christian message is what's being denied the gospel of justification by faith alone, for example, like what was happening in the churches in Galatia. Or is this another kind of issue where maybe, you know, this isn't something that strikes at the vitals of what it means to be a Christian and a follower of Jesus, but I disagree with this pastor's interpretation on, you know, the gifts of the Holy Spirit or baptism or something like that, right? So I think we can do some, you know, it's been called theological triage, and you have to ask yourself, is this something that should keep me from fellowship here? And in some situations, the answer is yes, certainly. In other situations, I think that you can still join a church and be an active part of the church and benefit from the ministry of the church, even if you don't agree with every single little thing that's being preached or every opinion or idea that's presented.
Now, again, here, I want to be careful. I don't want to suggest that, you know, if they're saying things that are leading people astray, that you should just sit under that. No, but it is just recognizing that sometimes, you know, there are disagreements that we can have and still be submitted to the leadership of the church. The real issue, and I've seen this before, too, Jesus, is you want to be careful with this, is there are some people who never get plugged into a church because they can't find that one church that interprets every text just the way that they would.
Well, in a situation like that, I think that not being a part of a church is too costly, because scripture does clearly command us to gather together with the people of God, to grow together, to have accountability. And when there are questions, when you do hear something, you think, okay, I'm not entirely sure about the way the pastor took, you know, that passage there in the Gospels or that passage there in the Old Testament. It's an opportunity to grow together and to ask questions. Speaking as a minister of the Gospel, I love when people in the church come to me and say, okay, I have a question about how you exegeted that passage, how you preached that text. Can you help me understand this here? I disagree with you.
And frankly, I think that that can be a really good exercise. It helps you to grow together with the church, but also in your understanding of the Word of God. And so I would say you probably aren't ever going to find a church that sees every single text the exact same way that you do. Don't let that be an excuse or a barrier from you getting plugged into a church, like you need to be. If it's an issue that strikes at the vitals of the Christian religion, well, then yeah, don't go to a church where the Gospel isn't faithfully taught. But if it's just a disagreement in some other area, ask yourself, okay, well, can I continue to grow here and be encouraged by the ministry, even if I don't agree with everything? And especially if there aren't a lot of churches in your area, you may have to settle with some of that stuff. And so that's what I would encourage you to do. And may God give you wisdom as you prayerfully consider where the Lord wants you during this season. Thanks for reaching out. What if you go to a church where the pastor talks about the movie Elf?
From the pulpit a lot. I mean, I mean, yeah, no. I couldn't resist. Thanks, Bill.
Thanks. Listen, you could come to San Diego, come to my church. That's what I would say. Okay, here's a quick email question from one of our listeners, kind of ties in with what we're talking about. She says, we moved to an area where there are no churches that I'm used to going to. We're considering attending a Lutheran church, Missouri Synod. Are there any issues we should consider as Christians holding to Reformed theology, to taking communion from a Lutheran church? Oh boy, Bill, at the end of the broadcast with this difficult one, huh?
I like it. So obviously there are some differences between the two traditions. At the heart of those differences, some of it is going to have to be the way we understand the Lord's Supper and the way in which Christ is present in the Supper. So this is going to be a conversation that you're going to have to have with the leadership there. And frankly, I might be mistaken, but I don't think that they would allow you to take communion at a Missouri Synod Lutheran church unless you embraced their view.
And so there's a bigger conversation here and something that you're going to have to think through in terms of where you guys settled. Now, I happen to have plenty of friends that are in these churches, you know, Lutheran church, Missouri Synod Lutheran churches, where the gospel is faithfully taught. And I'm super grateful for them. We're not saying that we're out of communion with Christ or anything like that, but you're going to have to think about this for yourself and whether or not you're able to be there and participate in the sacramental life of the church with some of the differences that you have.
And it may be that those differences are too big. And so I appreciate the question. May God give you wisdom as well. And thank you for reaching out to the Corps. God bless. And be sure to join us next time as we explore the truth of God's word together.
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