Monday, April 25, 2016


As worshipers we must guard against substituting mere tradition for TRUE WORSHIP. Jesus taught us why when He confronted the issue of traditionalism.

Tradition exalts people - Truth humbles people. 
Tradition creates pride - Truth creates holiness
Tradition is impersonal - Truth is intimate
Tradition only affects the outside - Truth penetrates the heart.
Tradition produces hypocrites - Truth produces servants of God.
Tradition is something you keep - Truth is something that keeps you!

Matthew's Gospel records that "the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread'" (Matthew 15:1-2).
The people who came to Jesus with this question about tradition were not insignificant people. They were the religious authorities among all the Israelites.They were the leaders who determined the standard of worship for God's people - or at least they thought this was their responsibility. 
 To the scribes and Pharisees, it was becoming very clear that Jesus' teaching opposed the accepted traditional standards.
The issue on which they chose to confront Jesus was the tradition of hand washing during meal. Were they worried about hygiene? Yes, hygiene was one reason for hand washing. But the leaders did not make the long trip north from Jerusalem to Galilee because they heard that the disciples were being careless and spreading disease. Their concern was for the ceremonial aspect of the tradition.
The religious leaders believed that to implement God's command of personal holiness it was necessary to avoid contact with anything the Scriptures might deem unclean. Eating was especially worrisome since it involved touching hand to mouth. A person who touched an unclean item and then touched his mouth, it was claimed, transferred the guilt into his whole body. Thus every Jew was expected to observe an elaborate hand-washing ceremony before and after eating.
The traditions of the elders, such as ceremonial hand washing, had been passed down orally through the generations of leaders. These traditions consisted of four elements: oral laws that Moses was supposed to have given in addition to the written laws; decisions made and precedents of judges; explanations and opinions of noted teachers; and votes of the Sanhedrin
In accusing His disciples of ignoring the teachings of tradition, the leaders were actually accusing the Teacher who gave the disciples such an example. In the leaders' minds, Jesus and not the disciples was the root of the problem.

Christ has an immediate response to their veiled accusation: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3). Now Jesus was turning the tables on the scribes and Pharisees by citing one of their laws that clearly contradicted God's law.
"For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God' - then he need not honor his father or mother." Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:4-6).
Jesus stated God's standard. God clearly commands His people to honor their parents and forbid us to speak disrespectfully of them (Exodus 20:20:12, 21:17). ANd since God forbids wrong speaking, He certainly forbids wrong actions. God's standard obviously prohibits us from doing anything that fails to honor our parents.
Yet the scribes and Pharisees held to a tradition that contradicted God's command. This tradition allowed a person to pronounce that any of his possessions were "Corban" (Mark 7:11), a gift from God that was dedicated to His use. A person could even pronounce a blanket oath over everything he owned.
Complete dedication to God is, of course, a correct attitude. But the religious leaders developed the tradition of "Corban" so that they could decline to help needy parents. If their possessions were dedicated to God, after all, they could not take these things away from God and give them to their parent! What was worse, the tradition allowed people to continue using their possessions for themselves even after they pronounced the "Corban." This practice was a common one in New Testament times.
"All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition," Jesus declares in Mark's account (7:1-13) of confrontation. And twice in this passage Jesus points out that "many such things you do."

These leaders presented an appearance of righteousness, but Jesus ripped away their religious facade. "You hypocrite!" He called the scribes and Pharisees - and then He went straight to the cause of their hypocrisy.
"Well did Isaiah prophesy about you:'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.'" (Matthew 15:7-8).
Jesus here quotes Isaiah 29:13, who compared the people's spiritual blindness to a closed book. The root problem for these religious hypocrites, Jesus says, is their failure to honor God from their hearts, not just with their words. As a result of their failure, "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). Drawing a contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who were obsessive about unclean food, Jesus turned to the gathered crowd and to His disciples, saying,
"Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man ... Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man" (Matthew 15:11, 17-21).
Jesus concluded that the religious leaders' worship was vain and empty. That is not to say that the scribes and Pharisees did not worship. They worshiped a great deal. They were very busy. But their worship was not honoring to God, and so it was pointless. Their hearts were not right; they were giving honor to traditions of men rather than to the God they professed to serve.
Each week, untold multitudes go to church for reasons other than communing with the LORD, enjoying Christian fellowship, and being instructed from the WORD. Some think it is good for business or enhances their social standing. Others make an appearance to display their piety. Some attend merely out of a sense of duty. Not one of these motives brings to God. But since we have our traditional sanctuary, our organ, our robed choirs, our priest or minister in his vestments, we can lay claim to "having a form of godliness, [though] denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).
Have we allowed our traditions and practices to obscure or even replace True Worship? Do we believe that, as long as we show up for services and do the "right" kinds of things, we are worshiping - even if our hearts are filled with greed, lust, anger, and pride?
(an extract from True Worship by David Whitcomb & mark Ward, Sr.)

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