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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, September 11, 2011

“Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).

Although I am a graduate of the California State University at Los Angeles, and three theological seminaries, I received most of my practical training for the ministry from my Chinese pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, who taught Semitic languages and theology in the graduate department of Bob Jones University in the 1950s. He was my pastor in the 1960s and 1970s, and went on to succeed James Hudson Taylor III as president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan. Dr. David Innes recently reminded me of Dr. Lin’s outline of Romans 1:18-32. Dr. Lin’s outline was (1) Light revealed, Romans 1:18-20; (2) Light rejected, Romans 1:21-25; (3) Light removed, Romans 1:26-32.

That is a picture of what happened in the ancient world. Originally “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” (Genesis 11:1). But because of sin, at the Tower of Babel, “the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:9).

When the people-groups were scattered, some of them travelled far to the East to what is now known as China. Dr. James Legge (1815-1897) was a famous Sinologist. He was professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Oxford University for twenty years. In his book, The Religions of China (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1881), Dr. Legge pointed out that the original religion of China was monotheism, the belief in one God, whom they called Shang Ti (King of Heaven). He showed that originally the Chinese worshipped one God, two thousand years before Christ. This was about 1,500 years before Confucius (551-479 BC) and Buddha (563-483 BC) were born. Buddhism came to China from India, and was, thus, a foreign religion brought in to China. But the much older religion of the worship of one God, Shang Ti, was held for 1,500 years before either Confucius or Buddha were born. Of course, over the centuries, additional spirits were added and worshipped, but Shang Ti remained the supreme God of the ancient Chinese culture. Dr. Legge’s view is similar to that of Dr. Wilhelm Schmidt (The Origin and Growth of Religion, Cooper Square Publishers, 1972 edition).

Very early in history the Mid-Autumn Festival became an important holiday on the Chinese calendar. It took place at the time of the autumn equinox of the solar calendar, when the Moon is seen at its fullest and roundest. The earliest Chinese people did not believe that the Moon was a god. They believed that Shang Ti was the God who created the Moon and stars. Later many legends arose that culminated in Moon worship.

This is much like what has happened to Thanksgiving in America. Thanksgiving was started by the Pilgrims. They were Christians who came to America from England seeking freedom of religion. On the first Thanksgiving they worshipped God, giving thanks to Him for protecting them and providing for them. That was in 1621. Thanksgiving went on as a Christian day of remembrance and gratitude to God. It was proclaimed a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). But today, nearly 400 years after the first Thanksgiving, most Americans don’t think about God at all on Thanksgiving. The word “Thanksgiving” itself implies that there is a God whom we should thank. For many Americans today, even such a slight allusion to God’s existence is unacceptable. That is why so many of them now call it “Turkey Day.” Instead of a day to give thanks to God, for them it is a day to gorge themselves on turkey, drink beer and watch TV. So, these Americans are like the ancient peoples,

“Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature [created things] more than the Creator…”
       (Romans 1:25).

The change regarding Thanksgiving in America took place in only 400 years. So it should not surprise us that the Mid-Autumn Festival of the ancient Chinese gradually changed into the Moon Festival. It should not surprise us that the Chinese slowly forgot to worship God (Shang Ti) and gradually began to worship two people (Houyi and Chang’e, the Moon goddess) or a “Jade Rabbit” on the Moon, and even to worship the Moon itself – just as Americans gradually began to call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.” Thus, both the Americans and the Chinese “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature [created things] more than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25).

Today, is it wrong to eat a Chinese Moon Cake in the autumn? I do not think so – any more than it is wrong to eat turkey on Thanksgiving! A Chinese Moon Cake has an egg yolk in the middle of it, symbolizing the Moon. But as long as we worship the God who made the Moon, rather than the Moon itself, I see no sin in eating an egg-yolk at the Mid-Autumn Festival. There may be a few poor, superstitious Chinese peasants who still worship the Moon. But I have never met one, although I have been with the Chinese people for nearly fifty years. I gave a box of Moon Cakes to Dr. Lin, my long-time Chinese pastor, a few weeks before he passed away; I am sure he ate at least one of them. There was no idolatry in that. Dr. Lin preached the Gospel for over eighty years. He loved God with all his heart. But he saw no evil in eating a cake with an egg yolk in it, any more than he thought it evil to eat turkey on Thanksgiving!

There are people who think that Christmas trees are wrong because some ancient people worshipped an idol made of wood and covered with silver and gold (Jeremiah 10:3-4). One famous evangelist said this was a Christmas tree – and preached against Christmas trees from this passage every December. But how could this possibly be a Christmas tree, since Jeremiah wrote six hundred years before Christ was born on the first Christmas? Writing on this passage in Jeremiah, Dr. John R. Rice said,

No, the Bible does not forbid Christmas trees. It is true that heathen people have sometimes worshipped trees. They have also worshipped animals, worshipped the wind, worshipped the ocean, worshipped the sun. But there is no worship of idols in setting up a green Christmas tree as a decoration…No more than decorating graves with flowers on Memorial Day… Who thinks that electric lights on a tree, for the joy of little children and to brighten the home while people sing Christmas carols, are sinful? I love Christmas and Christmas decorations, and I do not think they are wrong. They are but an expression of that joy that is in the heart as I think how God became man, how the Creator became a baby, how “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich,” II Corinthians 8:9 (John R. Rice, D.D., I Love Christmas, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1955, pp. 11-12).

And so it is with Christian people in China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and among the Chinese people in Indonesia, America, and many other nations, who sit down for a family meal, give thanks to God in prayer, and eat a traditional Moon Cake at the Mid-Autumn Festival. Let them remember that the earliest Chinese worshipped one God, who created the Moon. Let them remember that Moon-worship was a later development, but Jesus came to bring us back to the original God of our most ancient ancestors. The prophet Isaiah said,

“Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim”
       (Isaiah 49:12).

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; Brown, Driver and Briggs; Gesenius; Dr. John Gill; Keil and Delitzsch, and James Hudson Taylor all said that the word “Sinim” (pronounced see-neem) refers to China (click here to read my sermon, “China in Bible Prophecy”).

Isaiah 49:12 is an important prophecy, foretelling the Chinese coming back to the true God in the end-times. The great revival going on in the People’s Republic of China is the greatest ingathering of new Christians in modern history. Today we are witnessing hundreds of thousands of Chinese coming to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ came to bring mankind back to the original God, whom our most ancient forefathers in all nations once worshipped. Christ has come to bring us back to God. Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. He rose from the dead to give you the new birth and life eternal. Please stand and sing hymn number seven on your song sheet!

To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
   So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
   And opened the Life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear His voice!
   Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father Through Jesus the Son,
   And give Him the glory, Great things He hath done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
   To every believer the promise of God,
The vilest offender who truly believes,
   That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear His voice!
   Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father Through Jesus the Son,
   And give Him the glory, Great things He hath done.
(“To God Be the Glory” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 1:18-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“How Great Thou Art” (by Carl G. Boberg, 1859-1940;
translated by Stuart K. Hine, 1899-1989).