Halloween

Trick-or-Treaters as Image Bearers

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Growing up, I likened Halloween to banana-flavored Laffy Taffy. I didn’t love it or hate it—but if it were my only option, I'd reluctantly partake. My indifference to the holiday had little to do with the ethical debate Christians often have this time of year. I just thought it was strange. I didn’t like the idea of going to people’s homes asking for candy, or the jack-o-lantern’s taunting smirk. And I deplored the life-size inflatable replicas of my least favorite critter—spiders. I carried some of these sentiments into adulthood.

But every year, this holiday I once shrugged at leaves me in awe of God. When I look past the spider webs draped over bushes like cotton candy, and the thousands of tiny fingers swimming in bowls of sweets, I see kids imaging their Creator. Their imagination and creativity remind me that, in small ways, they are reflecting the likeness of their Maker.

Imaging Our Creator

It didn’t need to be Halloween for my brother and me to dress up. Growing up, we had active imaginations. We tied towels around our necks and pretended to be superheroes. We knew the world needed saving and assumed we were just the duo to complete the mission.

Sometimes our creativity frustrated my mother—especially when we used our “powers” to steal back “the holy grail” (also known as my mom’s favorite vase), only to break it when we returned to our “lair” (the dining room).

We loved to create—costumes, songs, paintings and more. At the time, we didn’t know we were displaying something about God.

If you only read the first sentence of the Bible, how would you describe God? You might say he is at the start of everything. He existed at the beginning. He is the main subject. But what is God doing? He is making things. When introduced in the Bible, God is creating.

Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (emphasis mine). In the beginning, God is making, forming and shaping the world with his spoken word.

On Halloween night, I wait to hear the doorbell ring. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else as I look forward to children arriving. Why am I excited? I want to see kids who didn’t buy their costumes from Party City. I’m excited to see what costumes they created with everyday household items.

One kid arrived at my doorstep as a washing machine made out of a cardboard box; his sister was a dryer. They glued an empty Tide detergent box and a few articles of clothing onto their "washing and drying machines."

Another girl, dressed entirely in red, stuck a bunch of colorful balls to her stomach and smiled as she held a bag of gumballs in her hand. The creativity amazes me because it shows what God is like. He is a maker and creator in a broader sense. They are like God in this regard, and many don't even realize it.

Making Something Out of Nothing

In Genesis 1-2, God creates the earth out of nothing. He speaks and nature exists. The Hebrew word for "created" in these chapters is bara’. It means to create, shape or form. The Latin phrase, ex nihilo, means to create something out of nothing. God does this in an ultimate sense.

While we do not create ex nihilo, we do create. We play a part in making, shaping, and forming things on earth.

When God gives Adam and Eve what is known as “the cultural mandate” in Genesis 1:28, he commands them to do what he does, but on a smaller level. They are to cultivate the earth. God calls them to develop and tend to the garden where he placed them. As one interpretation renders it:

“The first phrase, ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music.”[1]

While we develop and harness the social and natural world, we praise those that do so with excellence. We admire beautiful architecture and listen in amazement to our favorite songs and composers. We love innovation and imagination in kids and adults.

We acknowledge the beauty of creating in our everyday lives, and so do children. They paint, put on costumes, form animals out of clay, build cities with Legos, dress up dolls, pretend to be superheroes. Whether in a unique costume or a painting, as we praise our children for creating in their distinct ways, we must not forget to honor the ultimate Creator that formed our very beings.

This year, as you see children (and adults) dressed up, remember the image they bear in their creativity. In the little things, they reflect a creatively beautiful God who surpasses even their wildest dreams and imaginations.


SharDavia “Shar” Walker lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Paul. She serves on staff with Campus Outreach, an interdenominational college ministry, and enjoys sharing her faith and discipling college women to be Christian leaders. Shar is a writer and a speaker and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Christian Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

[1] Nancy R. Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 47.

Dressing Up as Jesus for Halloween (and Every Other Day)

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As October comes to an end, the question on every kid’s mind is, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” If you’re a parent, you’ve probably overheard your kids discussing their wardrobe plans, or found yourself doing recon on Pinterest to figure out the year’s best costumes. The holiday aisles of Walmart and Target are fully stocked to help the less crafty among us outfit our children for the occasion. If Jake wants to be a ninja, all he needs is the right mask, a sword, and a black suit. Anna can be a princess by donning a crown, sparkly shoes, and a poofy dress. When little Kevin knocks on his neighbor’s door expectantly awaiting Snickers and Kit Kats, he wants his neighbor to see a fireman, not the little boy from next door who leaves his toys all over the lawn. So he wears the helmet, coat, and boots of a fireman. He pretends to save the day by putting out fires.

Wouldn’t it be great if we really could put on different clothes and transform into someone other than who we are? God’s Word has much to say about the kind of clothes we should put on.

WE NEED A WARDROBE CHANGE

Prior to repentance, the filth of sin covers us. When we live by the flesh we wear soiled garments all day long. Jude 23 teaches the appropriate response to sin is to, “hate even the garment stained by the flesh.” What we wear on the outside reflects what we look like on the inside.

God commands us in Ephesians 4:22-24 to, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Our old clothes are no longer appropriate; they reflect our old lives. The Bible says we used to wear our corruption. But if we are in Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we need new clothes.

Paul tells us to put off our old life of sin and to, “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). As image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27), we reflect him to the watching world. We must dress appropriately for this task. We can’t walk around with the stench of our filthy garments of sin clinging to us. We must instead, “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).

We must, by God’s grace, exchange our old life and its filthy clothing with the new life found only in Christ and his righteousness. God tells us how we should dress in Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Once redeemed, don’t continue to allow sin to stain your new wardrobe. James is very direct when he says, “keep yourself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

GOD CLOTHES HIS CHILDREN

God showed Zechariah a vision of him providing new clothes for the high priest, Joshua. Joshua was impure and God cleansed him of his dirtiness. He also gave him new clothes once he was clean. Zechariah 3:3-4 says, “Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ ”

Luke’s gospel tells of the prodigal son’s father clothing him by commanding his servants, “Bring quickly the bests robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet” (Luke 15:22). The prodigal’s status had gone from lost to found, and his father wanted his clothes to reflect that change in standing. He needed new clothes and his father provided them.

Isaiah’s heart was filled with gratitude for the new clothes his Father gave him. He says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).

God has been clothing his creation since the beginning. Genesis 3:21 says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” When we, by his grace, reject our old life and turn to him in repentance, he gives us a new wardrobe appropriate for his children. He clothes us in the beauty of the gospel.

SHOW OFF YOUR NEW CLOTHES

When our children put on their costumes this Halloween, they will want everyone to see their new look. Moms and dads will follow them around like paparazzi to document the transformation from little girl to Superwoman, or from little boy to Batman. As we watch our children dress up for the day, we can rejoice knowing we get to wear the new clothes our Father gives us for all eternity. Unlike our children, we don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.

We belong to God. He has adopted us and clothed us with the garments that reflect our new identity as heirs (Romans 8:15-17). We’ve traded in our filthy rags and are now clothed in his righteousness. We should be excited for everyone to see our new look, too!

Our spiritual clothing communicates identity and belonging. As God’s children, we must dress accordingly. Job says he dressed in righteousness and justice. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban” (Job 29:14).

What is your spiritual wardrobe telling the world? When others see you, do they see the righteousness of Christ, or do they see garments stained by the world?

Put on Jesus. Show him off. Let others see how your Father has dressed you.

We want the world to see what he looks like on us. We want the world to see what he looks like through us. We wear Christ for the glory of God.

Let’s show the world our new life and the wardrobe that comes with it. Let’s tell others how they can trade in their old, dirty rags for the finest clothes.

Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission

What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission? What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween — that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the West?

Loving Others and Extending Grace

What if we didn’t think of ourselves as “in the world, but not of it,” but rather, as Jesus says in John 17, “not of the world, but sent into it”?

And what if that led us to move beyond our squabbles about whether or not we’re free to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, and the main issue became whether our enjoyment of Jesus and his victory over Satan and the powers of darkness might incline us to think less about our private enjoyments and more about how we might love others? What if we took Halloween captive — along with “every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5) — as an opportunity for gospel advance and bringing true joy to the unbelieving?

And what if those of us taking this fresh approach to Halloween recognized that Christians hold a variety of views about Halloween, and we gave grace to those who see the day differently than we do?

Without Naiveté or Retreat

What if we didn’t merely go with the societal flow and unwittingly float with the cultural tide into and out of yet another Halloween? What if we didn’t observe the day with the same naïveté as our unbelieving neighbors and coworkers?

And what if we didn’t overreact to such nonchalance by simply withdrawing? What if Halloween wasn’t a night when Christians retreated in disapproval, but an occasion for storming the gates of hell?

The Gospel Trick

What if we ran Halloween through the grid of the gospel and pondered whether there might be a third path beyond naïveté and retreat? What if we took the perspective that all of life, Halloween included, is an opportunity for gospel advance? What if we saw Halloween not as a retreat but as a kind of gospel trick — an occasion to extend Christ’s cause on precisely the night when Satan may feel his strongest?

What if we took to the offensive on Halloween? Isn’t this how our God loves to show himself mighty? Just when the devil has a good head of steam, God, like a skilled ninja, uses the adversary’s body weight against him. It’s Satan’s own inertia that drives the stake into his heart. Just like the cross. It’s a kind of divine “trick”: Precisely when the demonic community thinks for sure they have Jesus cornered, he delivers the deathblow. Wasn’t it a Halloween-like gathering of darkness and demonic festival at Golgotha, the place of the Skull, when the God-man “disarmed the powers and authorities [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” at the cross (Colossians 2:15)?

Marching on Hell

What if we were reminded that Jesus, our invincible hero, will soon crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20)? What if we really believed deep down that our Jesus has promised with absolute certainty, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). What if we realized that the gates-of-hell thing isn’t a picture of a defensive church straining to hold back the progressing Satanic legions, but rather an offensive church, on the move, advancing against the cowering, cornered kingdom of darkness? What if the church is the side building the siegeworks? What if the church is marching forward, and Jesus is leading his church on an aggressive campaign against the stationary and soon-to-collapse gates of hell? What if we didn’t let Halloween convince us for a minute that it’s otherwise?

What if Ephesians 6:12 reminded us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”? What if we remembered that it’s not our increasingly post-Christian society’s Halloween revelers who are our enemies, but that our real adversary is the one who has blinded them, and that we spite Satan as we rescue unbelievers with the word of the cross?

Resisting the Devil

What posture would Jesus have us take when we are told that our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)? Naïveté? Retreat? Rather: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (verse 9). What if we had the gospel gall to trust Jesus for this promise: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)? And what if resistance meant not only holding our ground, but taking his?

What if we hallowed Jesus at Halloween by pursuing gospel advance and going lovingly on the attack? What if, like Martin Luther, we didn’t cower in fear, but saw October 31 as a chance to serve notice to the threshold of evil? What if we didn’t turn out our lights as if hiding, but left a flaming bag on the very doorstep of the King of Darkness himself?

Orienting on Others

What if we saw October 31 not merely as an occasion for asking self-oriented questions about our participation (whether we should or shouldn’t dress the kids up or carve pumpkins), but for pursuing others-oriented acts of love? What if we capitalized on the opportunity to take a step forward in an ongoing process of witnessing to our neighbors, co-workers, and extended families about who Jesus is and what he accomplished at Calvary for the wicked like us?

What if we resolved not to join the darkness by keeping our porch lights off? What if we didn’t deadbolt our doors, but handed out the best treats in the neighborhood as a faint echo of the kind of grace our Father extends to us sinners?

Giving the Good Candy

What if thinking evangelistically about Halloween didn’t mean dropping tracts into children’s bags, but the good candy — and seeing the evening as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with the unbelieving as part of an ongoing process in which we plainly identify with Jesus, get to know them well, and personally speak the good news of our Savior into their lives?

And what if we made sure to keep reminding ourselves that our supreme treasure isn’t our subjective zeal for the mission, but our Jesus and his objective accomplishment for us?

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. – Jesus in Matthew 9:37–38

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

Originally posted at DesiringGod.org. Used with permission.