FAREWELL TO THE FLESH
Since we live in south Louisiana, I think it would be timely for this message concerning the Mardi Gras season. It’s that time again; the time for King Cakes, Purple and Gold decorations, costumes and decadence beyond description. This is the time when the true heart of sinful man shows it’s colors in reckless abandonment of all that is decent and moral.
I think it is important that we look at some of the things that are going on at this time of the year and see what God’s Word says about them. Too many people who call themselves “born again Christians” are easy prey to the pressures to fall into the Carnival atmosphere. The Catholics may be the man participants in the Carnival but there are just as many Protestants that jump on the bandwagon of Carnival with them.
The amazing thing is that the Carnival season actually brings out in people the opposite of what it’s very name is supposed to mean. You see, Carnival is the Latin word for “farewell to flesh or meat”.
We are nearing the time of Lent which is supposed to be a time of “sacrifice, penance and repentance” and a time of “reflection” for those who are of the Catholic church.
Lent is the 40 day period between Mardi Gras day, or “Fat Tuesday” and Easter Sunday. In this year of 2004, the Carnival season is underway as the Krewes prepare their parades and the final day of Mardi Gras comes ever nearer on February 24th. During that time most Catholics will give up something that they enjoy doing as a form of paying penance for their sins. During Lent, they are not to eat any form of meat on Friday in observance of the fact that Jesus died on the Cross and gave his life for them on Friday.
Some will give up chewing gum. Some may give up their cigarettes. Some may give up drinking of alcoholic beverages. Each one must make their own choice of what is a “proper penance” to pay for their life of sin and debauchery. The problem is that as soon as the 40 days of lent are passed, they resume the same old lifestyle. For a lot of them, I think it may take the whole 40 days of lent just to get all of the alcohol and drugs out of their system, but most don’t last that long before they fall off the wagon anyway, so it’s all just a show; a way to prove how “religious” they are; and a way to try to sooth a guilty conscious if they even have a conscious anymore, because many have a seared conscious that doesn’t even bring conviction upon them anymore.
1 Timothy 4:1-3, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."
Lent begins after the Carnival season ends but before that “time of repentance and reflection” arrives, the normal morality of people is cast aside and a time of absolute immorality replaces it. The problem is that the “normal morality” is no morality anyway, so then the immorality that replaces it is becomes nothing less than a flaunting of man’s darkest nature before the whole world. The time of “repentance” is not a time of repentance at all but only a return to the normal immorality. There will be plenty to repent of but this won’t be a true repentance, only a slow down in the committing of sin for a short season.
I doubt that you will see many lives changed because of Lent. I don’t believe that there will be a massive revival in the ranks of those who celebrate Mardi Gras just because Fat Tuesday ends and Lent begins. Oh you will see more religious rituals and observance of special events in the church, but the heart won’t be changed.
If there was really a time of repentance during Lent, there wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras next year to have to repent for.
The Bible says in 1 John 2:16, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
If there is ever a time that we need to heed these words, Mardi Gras is that time. The lust of the eyes can be filled to overflowing with the nudity in the streets and immoral acts out in open public view. The lust of the flesh knows no limits but people will push the envelope as far as they can for the next few weeks and, when these days are over, they will look back upon them and wonder why they did many things that they did, because they will recognize that they went farther than they intended to go in the celebrating of the flesh. The Pride of Life will be so visible in the proud look and the “in your face” attitude of the gay crowd, and I don’t mean happy.
Can we doubt what God says when he says that all these things are not of the Father in Heaven? This is a display of the depths of sin that the world has fallen into as man shakes his fist in the face of God and says “who cares what you have to say” and “what are you going to do about it?”
Now it is disturbing enough to think of those who are living in sin, the worldly crowd, who don’t claim to know God at all, taking part in all the events and parades of the Mardi Gras, but it is even more disturbing to me to see how many people who love Jesus will get caught up in the celebration as well.
Too many Christians think of the celebration of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big party with colorful parades and they don’t seem to see the immorality and godlessness of what is happening. Let me tell you this; whether you believe it or not, or whether you are willing to confess it or not; it you go down to Mardi Gras, (and notice I said “go down” because you are lowering every biblical standard in your life to do it); if you go down to Mardi Gras, you are putting your stamp of approval on everything that happens and you are identified, by association, with every act of sin that occurs.
The Bible has not changed. The words from Acts 15:20 are just as commanding today as they were the day that they were written, "But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood."
Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, "Abstain from all appearance of evil," are just as true today.
Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:11, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;" are just as commanding right now as they were in his day.
2 Peter 2:9 says, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” but how does the Lord deliver us from temptations? We stay out of temptations by staying away from things that will lead us deeper into temptation. How can we stay out of temptation if we expose ourselves to every sort of sin as seen in the Mardi Gras celebration.
If you will look at the Carnival season and Mardi Gras, you will see that there is some subtle Christian meaning to much of what is happening even though the real meaning is totally lost in the covering of idolatry and sin.
The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. Epiphany is the official date that kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.
Epiphany is also traditionally the first day that King Cakes are served. The King Cake is a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child.
In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, bakers now put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake; the recipient is then expected to host the next King Cake party.
The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism are purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power.
Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" in French. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from "to shrive," or hear confessions). For a lot of people it is also called Pancake Tuesday. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy products before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins so that those foods won’t be wasted.
In our day, the celebration of Mardi Gras has become a time when we forget any of these Christian meanings and we have replaced any “Christian” with nothing less than worship of idols.
God has given us his 10 Commandments that are the very foundation of righteousness and holiness. Those commandments are just as important today as they were when God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai on the tablets of stone. They have not lost their power to condemn. They have not lost their power to show us where sin lies in the heart of man. Jesus did not do away with those commandments; he fulfilled them for us. We have failed to live up to God’s standards. Not one person, ever born on this earth, except for Jesus Christ, was able to live without breaking those commandments.
Jesus died for us and paid our debt to the law and because of his sacrifice we can be made righteous even though we have broken the law because we could never pay that debt for our own sin.
But being made righteous through the blood of Christ doesn’t give us the right to continually break the 10 Commandments without facing some dire consequences.
Let me remind you of just one of God’s commandments that is so blatantly ignored during Mardi Gras. It’s found in Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Mardi Gras, with all of its parades and ballroom socials may look pretty, with a lot of glitz and glamour and people screaming “throw me something mister”, but just about every one of them is named and staged in honor of some pagan idol. You certainly don’t see a Krewe of Christ that parades down Canal Street or anywhere else, preaching the gospel, handing out tracts, singing gospel music and leading souls to Christ. I doubt that there would be many people lining the street screaming, “throw me Jesus, mister”.
Exodus 23:13 says this, "And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth."
What does circumspect mean? It means that we are to heedful of circumstances and potential consequences. In other words, be careful of what you are involved in and surrounded by because those things will have an impact upon your very salvation and your relationship with God.
God’s words of warning to the Children of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt, a type and shadow of your deliverance from a life of sin, still rings true today!
Deuteronomy 6:14-18, "Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God…. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers…"
Now how much more plainly can the Word of God say what we are supposed to do? We are to stay away from anything to do with idolatry! We are to keep ourselves from temptation because that’s how God will deliver us from it! We are not to go chasing after other god’s like everybody else around us, no matter what the excuse is for doing so!
If you go down to Mardi Gras and join in the crowd to celebrate and take part in all the parades, don’t tell me that it won’t have an effect upon your life and your relationship with God because the Word of God just said differently. You can’t play around with sin, stand in the midst of a sinful crowd, and take part in their revelry and not be affected.
God is a merciful, loving God full of grace and mercy, but I would fear for my life if I chose to tempt God and presume upon his love, mercy and grace by become a part of the crowd of idol worshippers.
For anyone who might think that going to parades aren’t taking part in idol worship, let me remind you of the names of just a few of those parades and who they choose to represent, then you tell me that they aren’t worshipping idols.
Krewe of Bacchus – Bacchus was the Roman god of wine – What a God to praise; a god that destroys inhibitions and wrecks families with drunken orgies. I’d rather worship Jesus Christ who gives me that “new wine” of the Holy Ghost, and a life with real love, true righteousness and a life with real meaning.
Krewe of Caesar – Everyone knows that Caesar was the emperor of the Roman Empire but let me remind you that he was also worshipped as a “man god” and carried absolute power. Those who celebrate Caesar are saying to the One True God, that they don’t need Him because they are their own god in control of their own destiny so get out of their lives.
Krewe of Argus – Argus was a Greek god of mythology that was a giant with 100 eyes who was their guardian. This parade runs down in New Orleans, but it also runs in Baton Rouge. In fact, it is running this very afternoon along with another parade that we will name shortly. Anyone who calls himself a Christian who will go and worship a mythological god with 100 eyes as their guardian has lost sight of what the Bible says about the True God.
Proverbs 15:3, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."
1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."
Krewe of Mercury – Mercury was the Roman god that served as messenger to the other gods and was himself the god of commerce, travel, and thievery. What a befitting description of commerce and travel in our day! There are a lot of hotels in the area that are raising their rates for the Mardi Gras season as a way to price gouge people who want to attend the celebrations. Let’s all go out and stand on the sidewalk and praise the idol god that promotes all of these things, with our hands raised in the air trying to catch a few of the “blessings and trinkets” that come from his followers.
Krewe of Orpheus – Orpheus was a Greek god who is reputed to have had power to entrance beasts and move inanimate objects by the music of his lyre. Here is a god of music, who follows in the path of Satan who was in charge of Heaven’s music at one time. Satan has perverted music until it has become one of the major controlling factors for the heart of man. Music can stir the soul and lift us to a place of worship, but we had better be careful of being stirred for the wrong reason or worshipping the wrong god.
Krewe of Pegasus – Pegasus was the winged horse of Greek Mythology. It is a symbol of high flying imagination whose hoof was able to bring forth a spring of water that was to give life and heath. In the first place, I want to trust Jesus to bring the water of life to me and be my Great Physician, not some horse. Secondly, the words of 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 say this concerning imaginations, "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
Krewe of Jupiter – Jupiter was the supreme deity of the Romans, king of gods and men, and reputed to be the son of Saturn. He was equal to the Greek god, Zeus, king of all the mythological Greek gods. – This is another parade that runs through Baton Rouge as well. The Bible tells me that that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Why should I go and lift my hands to some idol god instead?
Time doesn’t permit me to go into all of the Krewes and parades but if you will research them you will find that there are none that give glory to the Lord. There are none who will lift his name higher. There are none that will tell the truth about sin. Even though there are some who don’t have an idol god as their theme, they only grow worse in their debauchery. Now there is even a Krewe of Mutts and a Krewe of Barkus and a Krewe of Elvis, who seek to lift even dog’s higher than Christ, or lift a dead rock-n-roll god to a place above Jesus.
The last one I want to mention is the Krewe of Rex – The term “Rex” means to play the king or to dominate. That’s exactly what the Parade of Rex is all about. He is the dominating King of Carnival and he is a false king, a false idol, if you will, that stands for all the powers of sin and the domination of the will of the flesh over the will of the Spirit of God.
In closing I want to say that one term that you will hear during the time of Mardi Gras and Carnival is the French phrase, “le be temp roulet” or “let the good times roll”. That’s the spirit of Mardi Gras true enough, but it isn’t what the Holy Spirit is saying.
You can let your good times roll if you want but remember to be circumspect. Remember that there is a price to pay for sin and that price is death.
There are always a lot of stories and reports about people who are hurt, injured and even killed at the Mardi Gras celebrations. Those things are bad enough but those things are only the least of your worries if you are a Child of God caught up in worshipping of idols.
You can stand on the street screaming “throw me something mister” with the rest of the crowd but you will get a lot more thrown at you than some plastic beads and trinkets. Sin of every kind is thrown at you. Immorality is thrown at you and you will be in the midst of it, putting your stamp of approval on everything that happens.
You can say that you are only going to see the glamour of the floats in the parades but I guarantee you that your eyes and ears will be filled with a lot more than the beauty of the floats. When Satan gets you into his trap, he will open the floodgates of filth and flood your mind and your heart with sin.
Christians, you must guard your heart, guard you salvation, and guard your mind. You can’t play with fire without getting burned. The danger to your body and your family in atmosphere of the Carnival Season is dangerous enough, but it is not nearly as dangerous as the consequences of sin in your life as result of idol worship and being in the crowds bent of sin and revelry.
Let us remain true to the Lord Jesus Christ and abstain from all appearance of evil. It’s far better to never get involved than to have to come to Christ asking for repentance for the sin we have indulged in.
Yes, I do believe Jesus will forgive even the sin of idolatry at Mardi Gras, but what kind of long term effect will it have on us, and upon our children. What kind of message are we sending to our children when we throw caution to the wind, disobey the commandments of God, and do what we want to do, no matter how many times we are warned to stay away?
I am convinced that anyone who truly loves Jesus won’t want to have anything to do with the sin, idolatry and debauchery of Mardi Gras. There is no safe parade to go to for they all stand for the same thing – MAN’S DESIRE TO FULFILL THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH BEFORE HE IS FORCED TO BOW BEFORE JESUS AS LORD!
Keep yourself unspotted from the world. You are the Bride of Christ and Jesus is coming soon. I certainly wouldn’t want to be standing on the street with my hands lifted toward some idol god, screaming for they have to offer, when Jesus comes. I would still be standing there when the church is gone.
Jesus is coming soon. Keep yourself and guard your salvation. We are only going if we are faithful to Jesus and we are found waiting for his coming.