We witness the beginnings of the cultural influences on the early Christian Church when the Roman government under Constantine in the early fourth century recognized the Christians as a legitimate religion. Many pagan practices by other religions throughout the Roman empire were adopted into the church for the purposes of appeal and general acceptance by the masses.
Of course these pagan practices were not adopted without them being altered to fit into the Christian faith, never the less, the practices of the early church were not adopted by the masses but rather the practices of the early church were adapted to fit the cultural of the day.
This was the beginning of the apostasy of the church. Even though much of the beliefs of the church were not overtly challenged, the day by day practices were. No longer was it popular to live according to the simpler, self denial principles of the Kingdom of God and the Apostolic order established for the functioning of the church because it was deemed un-necessary now that the state was actually no longer the enemy of the church.
Unfortunately many of the saints at that time did not realize that even though it appeared that the government now favored Christianity, Satan still didn't. Realizing that persecuting the church was having little substantive results, Satan took advantage of this and convinced many believers that God adapted to the governments of the world and provided alternate standards for the church to live by. Ever since that day we have continued to add, change, or even ignore the standards set out for us, believing that if our hearts were right then God would understand.
God did not understand Saul's argument in 1 Sam 15 when he was sent to destroy Amalek, and on that very day he was rejected as being King of Israel.
Invariably when we introduce new things into our practices, beliefs and worship of the Lord we are introducing things that both the church and the world can accept, if not even embrace. If the world finds our traditions, celebrations, and other cultural programs that we introduce into the church as appealing then we can be assured that they are carnal in nature. There is nothing about the message of the cross and the principles of the Kingdom of God that is appealing to the carnal man.
It is only to those that have been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit that can embrace those things of the spirit. If the unregenerate, or our flesh, enjoys it then it can not be of the spirit.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7: 7 -9)
Many people argue that they recognize that many unbelievers celebrate Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays but that we have an opportunity to do it the right way, or in a holy way, or in a way that keeps Christ as the center of the celebration, yet if we are not to do these things to begin with, then it is only our carnal nature that is revealed. We have no choice in being separate from the world if we are remain citizens of his Kingdom. Many of us have embraced these celebrations because we have completely misunderstood the distinct difference from being part of the Kingdom of God, being in the world but not part of it.
Celebrating the Lord's supper and communion is the only celebration that we are told to do in remembrance of Christ. Jesus directs us to remember this in Luke 22:19 and Paul in 1 Cor: 11:24.
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. (1 Cor: 11:24)
In John chapter 4, the apostle John establishes that we mustworship God in spirit and in truth.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:17-19)
We can find many more scriptures that teach us to stay within the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles and we are admonished to not depart from them. God does not give us license to interject honorable or cultural things into our worship and daily living as believers regardless of the cause, mostly for the reason that he knows our carnal nature and it's tendency to fall away from the truth if given the opportunity. He is righteous, we are not, and in our haughtiness it is easy to forget this. So lets return back to the original tenants of our faith, and most of all repent of the cultural corruption we have, in our carnal nature, included in our lives.
It is not enough to recognize this, we must also repent and flee from these pagan influences and practices in our lives because if we don't then whether we admit it or not we are worshipping the pagans behind these activities, and not God himself.
How this must grieve the Lord when we foolishly choose to wrap paganism in the hollow images of the one who died for our sins.
A few examples of practises and beliefs rooted in paganism:
- Predestination, i.e. fate
- Burials involving religious ceremonies and rituals
- Spiritual advisors and counselors
- Oratory crowd manipulation
I do encourage you to study this topic personally as well. The Internet also has many good references that are more historical in nature, but aside from this historical confirmation I wanted to search this solely through scripture and waiting on the Lord so that we could be solidly guided by the word of God, for that is sufficient.
In Christian Fellowship,