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Mathew 1:17
Mathew 1: 18-25 Mathew 2: 1-23 Mathew 3: 1-17 Mathew 4: 1-11 Mathew 4: 12-25
Matthew 5:1-12 Part 1 Matthew 5:1-12 Part 2 Mathew 5:13-16 Mathew 5:17-26 Mathew 5:27-37 Mathew 5:38-48
Mathew 6:1-8, 16-18 Mathew 6: 7-15 Mathew 6:19-34 Mathew 6:25-34 Mathew 7:1-12 Mathew 7:15-23
Mathew 7: 24-29 Mathew 8: 1-17 Mathew 8: 18-34 Mathew 9: 1-13 Mathew 9:14-26 Mathew 9:27 - 10:31
Mathew 10:32-42 Mathew 11:1-31 Mathew 12:1-21 Mathew 12:22-50 Mathew 13:1-23 Mathew 13: 24-43
Mathew 13: 44-52 Mathew 13:54 -14:12 Mathew 14:13-21 Mathew 14:22-36 Mathew 15:1-20 Mathew 15:21-31
Mathew 15: 32-39 Mathew 16:13-23 Matthew 16:24-28 Matthew 17:1-13 Matthew 17:14-27 Matthew 18:1-14
Matthew 18:15-20 Matthew 18:21-35 Matthew 19:1-12 Matthew 19:13-30 Matthew 20:1-16 Matthew 20:17-34
Matthew 21: 1-11 Matthew 21:12-17 Matthew 21:18-22 Matthew 21:23-46 Matthew 22:1-14 Matthew 22:15-46
Matthew 23:1-39 Matthew 24:1-31 Matthew 24:32-44 Matthew 25:1-46 Matthew 26:1-13 Matthew 26:14-54
Matthew 26: 54-75 Matthew 27:1-26 Matthew 27:27-66 Matthew 28:1-20    
           

 

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Matthew 15:1-20

 

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.  But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother:  and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.  Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias [Isaiah] prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:  not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.  Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?  But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  Let them alone:  they be blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.  Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.  And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  Do not ye understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the 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 unwashen hands defileth not a man.” 

 

“So this Saturday is our Lifefest at Parkhill Park, and a band there from Bangor, Maine will be with us.  Then on the 21st, which is two Sundays from now we’ll be outdoors again, in the sports field next door, it will only be our second service, there will be no first service that Sunday.  Let’s begin with a word of prayer.  You know, there was a fire this morning, just in the neighborhood, evidently there’s been some injuries, and of course these cities around here, especially the one next door, hurting this week, people hurting from what occurred, tragedy with these four young people.  Let’s say a word of prayer, I was asked too to pray specifically for these families in the town next door.  So let’s pray together.  ‘Lord, as we gather at this time, having lifted our hearts in praise, now we’re going to look upon your Word.  Of course it’s all about you, and we praise and sing songs to glorify you, we study your Word to learn about you.  We want to thank you that we can come together and draw near to you.  I thank you Lord that you are the source of life and a source of comfort.  You tell us too, as your people, that we are to pray for one another and to intercede, to mourn with those who mourn.  And we recognize in our community, Lord, there are people even this morning, here we are today with our lives, but there are people right around us, maybe some even here that have gone through hard times.  Lord we lift to you these families, friends, who in the town next door right now have had a very difficult week, we just lift them to you, Lord.  The Duval family, the Gallant family, Scofield family, Vilafermosa family, we lift them to you, friends too of these young people that were lost in the accident there, and ask God, that you as a God of all comfort would indeed bring only what you can bring in a situation like this.  That you would bring comfort, that you would bring the Gospel, that you would bring light in the midst of darkness.  We pray that in the midst of this, even good would come, even some, maybe many would come to Christ.  So Lord we lift them to you.  We pray also Lord for those who have been injured in the fire, just nearby this morning, that for those who are physically suffering, we ask for physical healing and comfort too.  And in the midst of the loss, that yet hearts would turn to you, as the things we have in this life are but temporary.   And what’s important, really, is eternal.  So we ask Lord that you would minister and pour out your Spirit.  Now as we come to your Word, give us ears to hear, Lord.  Lead this time Lord, I pray even for words of wisdom, words of knowledge, straight from you Lord, to our hearts.  Holy Spirit be upon all of us, and even upon myself now, we pray in Jesus name, amen.’

 

Tradition verses the Word of God

 

Let’s begin with reading Matthew chapter 15, verses 1-20, the section we’re going to cover.  “Then 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?’  He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  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, ‘Whosoever 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.  Hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me,

and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

When he had called the multitude to himself, he said to them, ‘Hear and understand:  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’  Then his disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’  But he answered and said, ‘Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone.  They are blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.’  Then Peter answered and said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’  So Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding?  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.’” [New King James Version]  As of a year or two ago, I was in the airport, my son is just about nine years of age, and we were in an airport.  And he’s at that age where washing his hands, you kind of got to keep on him.  We were in the men’s room and I had instructed him and encouraged him, ‘You need to wash your hands.’  So I’m washing my hands at the sink and he’s a sink or two down, and I noticed as he turned the spigot and he goes to put his hand under, he kind of pretended he was turning the spigot, put his hands under it like that, and then reached over to the soap and kind of pretended he was thumping the soap, nothing was coming out, and put his hands under the thing again, and it was just this little act, pretending he was washing his hands.  And so I caught it out of the corner of my eye, and said “Jonah, you need to wash your hands, now what’s up with that?”  To him, washing his hands is just a bother, and it’s just not important.  But obviously washing your hands, you know, you go into restaurants today, and in the restrooms you’ll see signs ‘Before you return to make food, make sure you wash your hands.’  It’s certainly got benefits physically. There was a story I read by Martin B. Han, I think I read it years ago in ‘Our Daily Bread’, but he told of a health teacher who wanted to teach his students the importance of washing their hands.  So he actually had them clean out the underside of their fingernails, and then he took what you get from under your fingernails and he put it, I guess, in a Petri dish of some sort, and they got the blessing of watching what grew.  A little time later they got the microscopes out, and he had them study what was growing there, just as a little example to them that you’ve got stuff down there that isn’t healthy. [As a matter of fact, washing and personal hygiene was first commanded in the Book of Leviticus for the Israelites, because God wanted them to be a healthy people.  And those ordinances for cleanliness where thousands of years ahead of medical science’s understanding of these things.  This is a known fact within parts of the medical profession.]   And of course you want to keep your hands clean before you eat your food.  Good health practice, but as we’re going to look today at this text in Matthew chapter 15, it doesn’t have a whole lot more value than that.  When you wash your hands physically, it’s got benefits, but it doesn’t have much more than that.  Although as you see, as often is the case with people, sometimes people will take something like hand-washing, and they’ll make it out to be something greater than it is, for various reasons.  In some instances too, they’ll even make it into religious tradition and observance, they’ll make it into something spiritual.  It’s unfortunate, but this is common with man, for man to do that with different things in life.  [Comment: But one must remember, God is ultimately the one who set the Jews on this course, with the ceremonial washings in the brazen laver before the priests could enter the Temple to serve.  Now this may have had physical reasons, too, as when priest got done with a sacrifice outside the temple, he was bloody and dirty in that sense.  But it also held spiritual symbolism as well, pointing to the New Testament sanctification process.  It’s just that the Pharisees took this washing thing beyond what God commanded, even in Leviticus.]  To take things that maybe have value in certain instances, or originally like Peter shared during the worship…it had value and it had purpose.  But for various reasons, because of time and the way the hearts of men are, things become a religious observance and a tradition.  And now what was originally intended for good has now become something that maybe is even confusing, and maybe even something that clouds out a better purpose of knowing God and walking with God.  That’s what happens with religious tradition.  It might start for a good reason, but then man makes it into something that is now more important, and it begins to really make it more difficult for people to just know the simplicity of walking with God, of loving God and worshipping him and enjoying his presence.  Now this is the case in this day here with Jesus with the religious leaders of the day.  You know, God had given the Law, and there was a real clear purpose of the Law.  The Law was given ultimately to lead us to Christ, it was a taskmaster, it was a teacher.  It shows me, it shows you that I do not cut it when it comes to the standard of God, I fall short.  Here’s the Law, the standard of God.  And now as I listen to the Law and I see the Law, I find out that I cannot completely observe the Law, that I often fall short because of the weakness of my flesh.  And what that does then is show me that I need help, I need something else [i.e. Jesus and the Father living in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, writing God’s Laws in our hearts and minds, cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 8:6-13.]  It shows me my need for a Savior, my need for Jesus Christ, that was the intent of the Law, to lead me into Christ. [Comment: In the Old Testament, the Law taught that you cannot obey it or God without God’s Holy Spirit, so ultimately the Law was a great frustration for most who lived in Old Testament times.  It pointed mankind to the realization that they needed Christ living in their lives as the pastor just said.  But in the New Testament times, the purpose of the Law, which is far from being done away with, is that of being a spiritual mirror, to show believers where the spiritual dirt---sin---is in their lives.  Paul shows us this in Romans 7.  Then through the indwelling power and might of God’s Holy Spirit, we go about cleaning up what God’s Law reveals in our lives.  This process is called Sanctification, and it is God-empowered, and thus possible now for all believers.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm.  The pastor did not fully explain both the Old Testament and New Testament purpose for the law, and that they are somewhat different, the old and new purpose for it.  This lack of proper explanation and understanding leads many into inaccurate conclusions about the Law of God, such as ‘It is done away with’ and such nonsense.  Why would God do away with something he promised to write in our hearts and minds?  Study the material on that link for a full explanation of Law and Grace, as far as it is possible for us to understand.]  Over time, and as we’ve been studying through Matthew we’ve seen this, as we come now to chapter 15, it becomes even more clear, the religious leaders missed the whole point, of taking the Law to make it this big religious works trip and this big system.  They even added layer upon layer with their interpretations of the Law.  And it’s become quite a deal.  But unfortunately, rather than being a tool to lead people to the Lord, they’ve made it this thing that’s just clouding out people’s ability to even see God in the midst of it, and it’s become quite a deal.  For you and I it’s impossible, apart from the grace of God [i.e. apart from God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, which some call ‘the grace of God’] to obey and follow the Law.  So the Law again was there to lead me to God and to his grace.

 

What was this Pharisaic hand-washing all about?

 

Well, as we see with these religious leaders of the time, as it was true then, it certainly is true today, there are people all around us, it happens in our own lives at times too, where we make things more complicated than they need to be.  And so religious tradition, religious systems develop over time, and certainly in Church history it’s happened, and so all around us there is tradition and observance that in many instances, you know, people are getting caught up in this, and rather than finding a fulfilling relationship with God, they’re finding something that’s unfulfilling, something that’s unsatisfying, something that’s empty, something that’s not what it was intended to be.  You look at this text here, you see that this has happened, and one of the examples is this element of hand-washing.  Now the Old Testament did give certain instances where hand [and feet] washing was to take place, in some cases even in somewhat of a ritual.  But only in certain instances, with a select group of people.  One of the instances was Deuteronomy chapter 21, verse 6.  This was a time where God specifically said, in certain instances, you need to go through this little hand-washing  ritual.  And it was when there was a murder that took place in the community, and you could not determine who actually did it.  So God said for the elders of the city to get a heifer, to break its neck, and to then have the elders come together from that community, and with the priest there, the elders would actually go through a ritual of washing their hands above the heifer.  And it was a statement that was being made, they were saying ‘We have not done this with our hands, we’ve not taken the life of this person.  Neither to do we know who did it.’  So in a sense, ‘The blood of this animal in this ceremony is ridding us of the guilt of the blood of this person that’s been murdered, we don’t know how.’  So it had a specific intention in a certain situation.  You remember too, Pilate, in a similar fashion there later in the Gospel with Jesus, sort of goes through that similar ritual, in a sense, washes his hands of what was about to take place, and that was the taking of the life of Jesus.  So God required it in a limited place with specific groups of people.  [Look up and read Exodus 30:17-21 and 38:8.  This gives the other essential washing ceremony to be done by the priest in Temple service.  This ceremony pictures a vital image of true sanctification, explained somewhere in the text found within that link about ‘What is Grace?’ mentioned before.  But the actual commanded washing ceremony was only for the priests serving on the Temple grounds and within the Temple.]  But now these religious leaders over the centuries, they have taken what God intended and they’ve just elaborated and elaborated.  And now by the time of Christ, man, it’s a big deal to go through this ritual of washing your hands.  The religious elite are doing it all the time.  What had developed according to their tradition is that now at this time, if you were to be clean and holy and follow God, before every course of food in a meal you were to go through a certain ritual and wash your hands.  Now that could be pretty burdensome, especially if you don’t have the time, or if you’re eating a lot of courses of food.  I think of when I visit my relatives in France, we have a lot of courses of food, it’s an all-day deal to eat, you go from the bread, and you go to the cheese, then you go to the course of lettuce and salad, then you go to the main meal, and then you go to the course of the coffee, and it’s an all-day deal.  And the way it works back then is every time you would get up, and you have to go through this to make sure you were clean.  You couldn’t do this alone either.  But you’d put your hands together, and another person would take one and a half eggshells of water, and I don’t know how you’d measure that out, and you’d pour it over the person’s hands as they were pressed together like this.  But also while the water’s flowing over my hands, so the water’s making my hands ceremonially clean, but the water is getting defiled.  So it’s important that the water, when it went down my hands, it did not flow onto my arms, because it’s now become defiled it would defile my arms.  So you hold your arms in a certain way so that it would drip off of your wrists.  Well then after you do that, you’d put your hands down, and you’d take another eggshell and a half of water and they would pour it over your hands, and the water would drip off.  And then when that was done, with your left fist clenched you’d take your right hand and you’d rub your left hand, and then you would reverse, you’d take your right fist clenched, and you’d take your left hand and rub it like that.  And you’d do that every time.  Now, the tradition developed with the religious elite, so it became very important for you to do.  You know, God talked about being clean and unclean ceremonially, all of it ultimately pointing for a need for Christ.  [Also some of those clean and unclean laws had real health applications, like how to deal with cooking ware that rodents came in contact with, laws about deadly mildew, medically sound hygiene laws that were multiple thousands of years ahead of their time.  Some of these were both ceremonial and literal health laws, which now the medical profession has incorporated into their practice.]  But as a religious Jew at the time, you could become ceremonially defiled [which would have banned you from the Temple or synagogue services], and you wanted to  become clean.  So they threw in this tradition of washing your hands to make sure you’re clean.  Now you might have thought, ‘Well, that’s not that important, maybe like my son, ‘I’ve not done anything with my hands today, they can’t be that dirty or unclean, and God I’m sure knows.’  But then they developed some theology to make sure you practiced their tradition.  And the theology was, there was this demon named Shivna or Shivda, according to what reference you use, that actually at times could come at night and sleep upon your hands, sit upon your hands as you slept.  And so you’re sleeping and don’t realize it, but a demon is resting on your hands.  And so that demon has defiled your hands.  So no matter what you think or what you’ve done, it’s possible while you were sleeping, your hands became touched by Shivda, so you’d better make sure you go through this ceremony to wash your hands.  Go a little further with it though.  Your thinking, once you do, you’re undefiled, no big deal.  They then went on and taught that if you did not wash your hands this way, and you actually encountered this demon and not knowing it, that then when you ate with these demonically defiled hands, you could become possessed by that demon, Shivda, he could come in and enter your life and destroy you.  So now these religious leaders are teaching things, making you think ‘I’d better be going through this, man, because I don’t want to be controlled by Shivda.  Wow!  Out of control.  Right?  You and I are thinking, ‘That’s just foolish.’  Well they went further.  If you were a rabbi, and you were caught eating a meal or bread, eating food without having done that, you’d be excommunicated.  There is a story, I read reference to a story of a rabbi who nearly died, he was imprisoned by the Romans, he nearly died because he was given rations of water to keep him alive, but he felt he needed to go through this ritual to make sure he was clean, so he  used the water for that instead.  He nearly died as a result.  [And in the region of Israel and Egypt, when you are out in the hot sun, you need a minimum of two glasses of water an hour just to stay properly hydrated.  Now under the cover of being in the prison you wouldn’t need as much, but still, you’d need every drop they gave you just to remain properly hydrated.]  That’s what religion does.  It’s about a relationship with God, but when you get caught up in religion and religious tradition, and you begin to miss it, and you have this burden instead.  Sounds a little silly, but the spirit of what they were doing certainly exists today in many parts of the Church [Body of Christ].  We don’t necessarily have that type of hand washing thing, but there are things that have been developed, traditions that have become dogma, and as a result, people are missing the focus, maybe burdened, maybe their vision of God has been clouded by these other dogmas and traditions.  They’ve not learned or realized that you can just walk with God in the Spirit and have a joyous and beautiful relationship with him.  Well as we go through this text in detail, there’s a few points that we’re going to bring out about religious traditions, and here’s the few points.  1) First thing, when it comes to religious tradition, God’s Word stands primary, God’s Word stands over religious tradition, always.  God’s Word is the authority, not religious tradition, God’s Word.  2), Secondly, when it comes to religious tradition, it can actually distract from the true worship of God.  3), Thirdly, religious tradition can lead to a dead end.  4), And the last important point, and I put it this way, and we’ll go in and explain this, but it’s inside out as opposed to outside in.  That’s what’s important. 

 

1. When it comes to religious tradition, God’s Word stands over religious tradition, always

 

Well as you see in verse 1 here of this chapter, there’s some scribes and Pharisees that come from Jerusalem.  Now the scribes were predominantly of the sect of the Pharisees, these scribes that actually wrote down the Law [they were the ones that made accurate copies of the Torah and Tenach or what we would term as the whole Old Testament].   They were predominantly Pharisees, these guys are together, they’ve come quite a distance, they’ve come to Galilee, it’s a couple days journey.  It would seem from the passage they probably have come for the purpose of inspecting Jesus, this Rabbi they’re hearing about, that is certainly creating a lot of attention, and doing a lot of things in the Galilee area.  It’s probably why they’ve come.  As they’re there they then confront Jesus, and they confront him about this tradition of the washing of the hands, this tradition they’ve developed over the time.  They have at some point seen his disciples, partaking in bread, eating food without going through that.  Now, the important thing is, is a rabbi was responsible for the theology of his disciples.  But not only the theology, but the practice, the life practice [lifestyle] of those disciples was the responsibility of the rabbi.  So the fact that Jesus’ disciples are not adhering to this one particular tradition is a serious matter to these Pharisees and scribes, because it must be, they’re assuming, that Jesus is teaching or emphasizing something that’s having these folks not go through this.  It’s a big concern to them, it’s a big deal. 

 

“Why do you also break the commandments of God because of your tradition?”

 

Well you see in verse 2, that Jesus doesn’t deny their accusation, but instead he goes right to the heart of the whole deal.  And that is, he actually poses another question.  He’s dealing with their hearts.  They look at this tradition, and their traditions as so important, and that’s the real issue here.  He goes right to the heart of the matter.  He says, “Why do you also break the commandments of God because of your tradition?”  ‘You’re so concerned about us not observing, or my disciples not observing your tradition, but why aren’t you so concerned about the Word of God, and how you at times violate the Word of God through your traditions that you teach and uphold?’  Now the religious leaders, they didn’t see it that way, they didn’t see how they could possibly be violating the Word of God.  But Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of what they do, and that indeed they do.  They saw their tradition as on par with the Word of God.  In some instances, and we’ll quote some, they see their tradition as even greater, more weighty than the Word of God. 

 

The tradition of the Oral Law

 

But they saw it as the Word of God [their traditions], and that is because, you know, we have the written Word which we believe is the Word of God.  And they believe that the Old Testament, the Law, the first five books of Moses, was given to Moses, and of course God wrote some of it down originally, and then Moses did.  But the written Word was given by God.  They also believed that there was this Oral Law, you had this written Law which was given, but the Oral Law was also given to Moses.  And the Oral Law, these things that Moses was told, he orally, verbally passed on to Aaron, and to Aaron’s sons, also to all the entire nation at that time, to the elders.  They then taught that just before Moses’ death, that this Oral Law, Moses in turn passed it onto Joshua, and Joshua in turn to the elders, and it continued to be passed on from generation to generation.  And specific people, they taught, as it went down from generation to generation, they believe it was passed onto to Jeremiah, Jeremiah had this Oral Law.  It was passed on to Ezra, and it continued to be passed down.  Another name was Simeon.  Simeon is the guy we read about in the narrative about Jesus’ birth, this man that prophecies over the infant Jesus, they believe he was given, in their teaching, he was given the Oral Law that was passed down to him.  Eventually it was passed on to a guy named Gamaliel, you hear about him with Paul.  And finally, in oral form, to a rabbi  named Judah Haggadish, and this Judah Haggadish then compiled it in written form, digested it into the book which is now called the Mishna, which you can read about and read today. [It’s basically a Jewish commentary on the Old Testament Word of God, steeped in Jewish traditions, but with some sensible teachings as well.]  So, he says, about the Law of God, they look at their tradition as the Law of God, the Oral Law of God.  That’s what they taught.  Being in their eyes then as the Oral Law, it was on par with the written Law, in some instances even higher.  This was even taught at times, here’s one of the written statements, “The words of the scribes are lovely, beyond the words of the Law.  For the words of the Law are weighty and light, but the words of the scribes are all weighty.”  They actually said this, commenting about this Oral Law and written Law, that the Oral Law in some cases was more weighty, meaning, ‘The Word, the written Word, it’s there, man, but it’s sometimes light and fluffy though.  But the scribes, teaching of the scribes tradition, Oral Law, it’s always weighty, it always packs a big punch, that’s why it’s so important.’  Jesus responds, and you see the heart of what he responds, he says, ‘God’s Word, the written Word, stands over tradition, God’s Word always stands far above any man’s Oral whatever or traditional whatever, God’s Word is God’s Word.’  Man often tries to elevate his tradition, and tries to make it out to seem like it’s the heart of God, the Word of God, it’s the Law of God.  But absolutely, as he responds, the heart of what he’s saying, ‘Nothing compares with the written Word of God, nothing.’ 

 

What about tradition, are some ok?

 

Tradition certainly can be fine, tradition in a church is fine, there’s lots of tradition.  We look at ourselves as a Calvary Chapel, we say we’re untraditional, but there’s even tradition within Calvary Chapel, religious tradition.  When people come here at times, you know, we don’t have a cross in the back.  And, ah, why don’t we have a cross in the back?  Well, we don’t because we’ve chosen not to.  It’s not because the cross is not important, the cross is very important.  We put the emphasis on the cross being taught, the cross being experienced, not just pieces of wood together that you can visually see and saying ‘the cross is here.’  No the cross is in the heart.  [As Paul always was saying, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”]  The cross is something that is to be followed, the cross is something that Christ did for us, and it’s a new life.  So we don’t have a picture, maybe someday we may just have one, it’s fine either way.  So folks may come and go, there’s not the cross, there’s not the cross, and then we explain why, and some maybe don’t appreciate that.  What we have is a dove.  But the interesting thing is, we’ll say Calvary Chapel, we’re untraditional, but you know, you go into Calvary Chapel circles, Calvary Chapels have been going now for about 30 or 40 years, they’ll be people that come here from a Calvary Chapel, and we’d better have that dove up there, you know what I mean, we’d better have it [laughter].  I mean, if they don’t see a dove, they say, ‘Are you really a Calvary Chapel church?  You don’t have a dove up, I mean, what’s up?  I mean, are you really in the Spirit?’  You know, it’s just a symbol, we don’t need anything.  And maybe it’s better we don’t have anything, and we just put up a reminder, “It’s all about Christ.”  We sit here to know God in a personal intimate way, to learn about him, to encounter him.  It’s not about any type…and yet we have traditions.  And tradition, though, can be fine. 

 

Tradition can nullify the Word of God, causing us to sin

 

Matthew 15:4-6, “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.”  The problem is, we tend to start elevating it, it starts to cloud out the sweetness of just knowing God and walking with God.  Now you have to have this certain deal, you’ve gotta wash your hands, or you’ve got to have this certain little ritual, and no longer can you just sing the praise songs in your car, no longer can you just simply pray at work, and just walk with God through the day.  Instead, you’ve got all this stuff you’ve got to be part of.  That’s what happens with tradition.  And Jesus is coming right at the heart of the matter with these guys.  They’ve elevated their tradition to such an extent that people have been led astray, and it’s clouding out their ability to see God.  You see, as he responds to them, and he uses as an example one of the traditions, but you look in verse 6, he actually says “By your tradition, you’ve actually made the command of God of no effect.”  ‘You’ve nullified the Word of God by your tradition’, is one particular one that he quotes.  ‘And you’re going against the heart of God, you’re actually violating, you’re disobeying the Word of God.’  And as you see in the verses that he uses, in the whole sense, he says, ‘Here’s the Word of God, here’s what it says if you don’t obey it,’ verse 4, ‘let him be put to death.’  ‘And what you do, you come up with a tradition that violates the Word of God, and you’re actually putting people in a place of being judged by God, of being in sin and being disobedient to God.’  It’s a big deal that they’re doing this.  You know, God’s Word, as he shares here, God’s Word is clear.  ‘You say we’re not washing our hands, but let me say this, God’s Word is very clear to you,’  he says, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’  And how many times is that repeated in the Bible, it’s repeated a number of times.  There’s few instructions in the Bible to the child with a parent, very few instructions.  But consistently the instruction is, ‘Kids, honor your Mom and Dad, vitally important to do.’  If you want to glorify the Lord and please the Lord and walk with the Lord, honor Mom and Dad.  It’s absolutely important and imperative that we do that.  Now in our culture, we’ve kind of taken that as a culture and thrown that out the window, and today it’s hard to even know what honor is.  But as Christian parents, the Word of God says, train your kids in a way that they understand, ‘Honor Mom and Dad.’  Kids, teach the kids in the church, that kids leave the church understanding ‘I need to honor Mom and Dad.’  That’s imperative, it’s important, it’s the first, Paul says it’s the first command with a promise, “That it may be well with you and you may live a long life on the earth.”  So it’s important, there’s a heart that goes with honoring Mom and Dad.  For the young people here, sometimes, you especially if you get to this service, if you’ve been downstairs for awhile, you’re now in the age of your life where you start questioning Mom and Dad…Teenagers start thinking ‘You know, I know a whole lot better than my Mom and Dad.’  ‘Boy, they’re from the old fogies, old-timing, clueless, I’ve got it figured out, and I can’t wait to get out of this house, because they don’t know what they’re doing.’  [And as you get older, and older, your Mom and Dad start getting smarter and smarter again---isn’t that amazing!?]  And you go through that, it’s part of learning independence, and learning for yourself how to reason and to test and to question.  And some of that’s natural.  But dishonor is dishonor.  And there’s a heart that goes with honor, it’s a heart that will carry you throughout life, it’s a heart that glorifies God where I give honor to those that are in authority.  I’m not a puppet, I’m not a robot.  Ultimately I follow God, and if I have an authority above me that’s trying to lead me in a way that’s contrary to God, then I can’t follow that authority in that area.  But I give honor to authority.  And so, to honor Mom and Dad, imperative.  It’s throughout the Word of God.  Though, the religious leaders, you wonder how this got started, this tradition, there is a tradition that got started, and that was this thing called Corban, Matthew actually gives us the word, it’s called Corban.  The Bible had these vows, the Old Testament, you could give vows, and vows were important, you’d better follow them.  But they took this vow thing a little further and they said that, you know, when you’re older.  Now in that culture, to honor my Mom and Dad, also it was understood in the culture, that when Mom and Dad got older and began to struggle physically, that I was to give them honor, I was to help take care of them and provide for them.  That was part of that honor.  And so, to be a family, a Mom and Dad who had a lot of kids, that was considered wealth, because when you got older you had a lot of kids that were going to honor you and help provide for you.  Great Social Security.  [That Social Security system exists in India, and is why farmers have so many kids. But if a child can go to college, he or she then takes off and is never heard from again.  So, understandably, farmers in India don’t want their kids going to college.  I don’t know if it’s still this way over there now, but it used to be that way.]  Well they then taught with this tradition, and it started I’m sure because of selfishness, but they said this:  ‘Mom and Dad comes knocking on your door, and say, ‘Hey listen man, we’re going through a hard time, Dad and I are just barely getting by, hey son, what can you do, can you help us out a little bit here?’  They had this thing called Corban, where you could then say, ‘Mom and Dad, I love you, but here’s the thing, I have dedicated,’ Corban means gift, ‘I have given as a gift to God my entire life, and all my possessions.  All I have, all that belongs to me is God’s.  It’s therefore holy.  And I realize you’re struggling, but I can’t give you anything, because this has been devoted to God.’  Interesting, though, in this tradition, you still had access to your stuff, it was still at your disposal, you could still use it as you so chose.  But nobody else could touch it.  It was devoted to God.  And I would assume that when you died it was given later to the Temple or whatever.  Well he says you’ve got this tradition, but you are actually causing people to stumble and violate the heart of God [and the 5th Commandment, one of the Big Ten], and the Word of God.  Moms and Dads are coming and saying ‘We have need’, and they’re saying ‘Corban, Corban, can’t help you out.’  And they’re not giving honor to their parents.  So with your tradition, you’ve actually nullified, causing people to violate the Word of God, and to go against the Lord…[tape switchover, some text may have been lost]…Well the point in all of this, clearly, is God’s Word is the authority, his written Word.  That is to be the authority in our lives.  That stands over any practice, over any tradition.  Vitally important, then, that I always go to the Word of God when I determine what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do.  I don’t just listen to a man.  I don’t just listen to a religious leader.  I understand what the Word of God says, and I follow the Word of God.  [Comment:  There are many areas within the Word of God that are what we call grey areas, where differing genuine Christian groups have differing beliefs as to proper interpretation, and as the spiritual evidence shows, these groups exhibit the indwelling Holy Spirit.  But we should all be in agreement with the primary doctrines, while showing respect for each other’s differences of belief in the secondary areas.  That’s not what this is about.  This is about tradition verses the clear teachings of the Bible, clear meaning the primary doctrines and teachings.]    You know, as a church, we are, compared to other churches untraditional, we don’t have a lot of tradition, religious ceremony observance that we follow.  And that’s partly because it seems in the Book of Acts, the early Church, and the Word of God, to walk with God is a simple thing.  It’s not a complicated thing, it’s just knowing him and walking with him.  And so we are untraditional.  And there are times where there are traditions that people have that, as I look at the Word of God, clearly violates the Word of God, though they might be part of the Church [Body of Christ], they clearly are violating the Word of God with their tradition.  And so we don’t have those traditions. 

 

Church hierarchy came through tradition---not Christ!

 

For instance, in leadership myself, we don’t have titles.  So, I may be the pastor, and there may be others that are ministering as pastors, but we don’t have this title, people call me Steve, they don’t call me Reverend, they don’t call me Father.  And why?  Well because of clearly what Jesus says a little bit later, Matthew chapter 23 [he’s referring to Matthew 23:9-12.  Read it, makes it pretty clear].  We either can go with tradition or we can go with the Word of God, and this is what the Word of God says.  “But you, do not be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  Do not call any one on earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers, for one is your Teacher, the Christ.”  He specifically says, don’t have anyone call you rabbi, don’t have anybody call you teacher as in the sense of giving you honor that is required, you know, you come to me and call me Reverend, ‘That’s dishonoring me if you don’t call me Reverend.’  And what Jesus is saying, he’s not saying that I’m not to call my Dad father, at home, my earthly father.  He’s speaking about in the Church, giving titles so that now there’s a division, and now one is higher than the other.  So now that when you approach me, you give me honor because I’m above you, you call me Father, you call me Reverend, because I am in a place above you.  He says ‘No way, it’s Jesus Christ, and it’s the Church, it’s me and my people.  That’s the two levels---Christ and you guys, together.  That’s the way it works.  [Comment: he’s talking specifically about a hierarchal structure in church government, and this is a big issue in some churches and in Church history, particularly the history of the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Church of England.  Many denominations have developed this type of hierarchal structure, which separates and elevates their clergy from the ordinary members in ways Christ never intended, and it also makes accountability of the ministry difficult to maintain, allowing corruption to creep into this hierarchal structure, to the detriment of the very lay members they are supposed to be serving and ministering to.  This is a serious flaw that has even crept into the true Body of Christ in various denominations and settings.  Hierarchal structure can allow for serious sins within the clergy to be “swept under the rug.”  The early churches of God during the times of the apostles were either semi-autonomous or autonomous, with general oversight of all the congregations in the hands of the apostles only where and when needed.  Also there is power in hierarchal structure, it tends to garner religious and monetary power that properly belongs within the local congregation.  The Calvary Chapels are semi-autonomous, and tend to follow the Biblical model for churches and congregations.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm to witness the evils that can and often do accompany a hierarchal structure.]  So we don’t have that tradition, it’s a tradition, it’s not the Word of God. 

 

2. Tradition can distract a person from the true worship of God

 

Matthew 15:7-11, “Hypocrites!  Well did the prophet Isaiah prophesy about you, saying,

‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips.  But their heart is far from me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

When he had called the multitude to himself, he said to them, ‘Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’”  We also don’t have a tradition of encouraging people to repeat prayers, rote prayers that you say over and over and over.  And here’s this rote prayer that you say it over and over and over and over, and you say it over and over and over.  Why don’t we do that [in Calvary Chapels]?  The reason we don’t do that is because of the Word of God.  God’s Word says explicitly, we just studied it, ‘Don’t do that.’  You remember earlier, a little bit earlier in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said “When you pray, do not use vain repetition as the heathen do, where they think they will be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him.”  It’s a simple deal.  Also we don’t have the tradition or the teaching or the theology, it’s become dogma actually in certain circles [that you have to go to an individual who will then go to God for you], that when you pray, man, just go to God, you don’t have to go to an individual.  There aren’t other ones you can pray to [like praying to other dead Saints or Mary], the Bible’s clear, you pray to God.  And when I pray to God, there’s God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, I see examples in the New Testament of all, so I ‘Hey Jesus, hey Father, Holy Spirit please work in my life’, that’s the way I pray.  That is the example.  Jesus said in Matthew chapter 6, verse 9, when you come, come directly and say this, this is how you pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…”, the point being, that’s not a written ritual prayer, come to God directly and speak to him.  Look at Hebrews, you have bold access to the Throne, the Bible says there’s one Mediator between God and man, and it’s Jesus Christ, I don’t need anything else.  So we don’t have these other dogmas or traditions.  And I could go on and on and on, because over the last 2,000 years there’s a lot of things that have developed within the Church, that are very similar, not the washing of the hands, but other things that have come into the Church.  [Comment:  see and read Paul Johnson’s “A History of the Church”.  It’s heavy wading, as it is mostly a history of the Catholic Church, and how all these dogma’s got started.  But Mr. Johnson does a thorough job of showing how all these traditions and hierarchal structures got started.  I’m currently wading through it, it’s heavy reading, but very informative about how all this got started.]  Well, with that, Jesus boldly, man, he comes so boldly, he just blasts these guys.  He says in verse 7, ‘Hypocrites, hypocrites, man you’re playing this religious game, trying to act all spiritual, making it seem spiritual, you hypocrites, you hypocrites.’  And he defines what a hypocrite in his eyes is, a hypocrite is  where your lips and your words are not in sync with your heart.  That’s a hypocrite.  You’re professing things, you’re going through ceremony, you’re acting a certain way, but your heart is not in sync with that.  That’s hypocrisy, he says.  And he quotes Isaiah, ‘Well did Isaiah say, these people draw near to me with their mouth, honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  We see here that when it comes to religious tradition, it can be, it can be a distraction from true worship of God.  It can even become very hypocritical.  When people are caught up into religious observance, they may feel very spiritual, they may feel very emotional, it may have this sense of ‘This is spiritual, I’m going through these ceremonies, I am saying these things, doing these things.’  But if there’s not an intimate connection with God in the heart, it’s hypocritical, it’s a distraction from actually knowing God, because it’s about knowing God, it’s about walking with him.  It’s like Adam and Eve with God in the Garden before the fall, that’s what it’s about, that’s what Christ has come to restore, me walking with God again.  And so, now if I’ve got this religious stuff, these things, man, I’ve got to go through that, and I can’t just be out in the park and go, ‘Oh man, God, I love you, I just worship you, Lord, I just want to talk with you, I want to hear your voice.’  You can’t do that anymore, because you’ve got this thing.  It can become a distraction to knowing God intimately and to walking with God.  And so it’s actually vain, he says it’s vain, it’s vain worship, it’s futile.  It’s not real.  You know, I’m going to share a few points, I never do this, if you’re here for the first time, rare is the day that I do this.  But I thought today it would be appropriate, in love, to just say the truth, in love.  So I’m going to mention a few things about another religious ‘Christian’ group, not to put down, but just to share a truth with you.  And to maybe with somebody’s that’s listening, that’s trying to reason this through.  I say this actually having been doing this, pastoring here for ten years.  And I’m really just going to regurgitate what I hear from people that come from the Catholic Church and then come here.  I was not Catholic raised, so I go from what you have told me about Catholicism.  But looking at it, it seems that some of the things that Jesus is saying here has become a potential trap to being a Christian in Catholicism.  Now in Catholicism there is the real Jesus, he’s there.  For that reason there are Catholics that know Christ and love him [that would explain why Jesus says in Revelation 18, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”  (You have to take Revelation 18 in context with Revelation 17)].  But at the same time, and some of you would certainly say this, you’ve told me the stories.  Because of the traditions that have grown and grown over the years in Catholicism, many have gone through years of going to Mass, years of being in the Catholic Church, and never found Jesus.  ‘I was raised Catholic, I went to Mass every single weekend, I went to every possible one you could go to [that would be every day], I was in it all, I went through all the different classes, I never found Jesus, I never found Jesus.’  And that’s the point that he’s saying here, when tradition becomes such, that it’s now a distraction.  He’s there, but how did I know that he was there?  I was doing all these things, going through all this observance.  It’s for that reason that a lot of young people who have been raised Catholic, we see this in the North County, so I say this in love to the Catholic Church in our area, you need to reconsider.  [Again, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm.]    Young people have been raise, I mean, we get calls from people that are doing church studies, saying, ‘Why is your church growing?  And why aren’t the Catholic churches in the area growing?  What’s going on?’  Well, the reason is, it’s about a relationship, it’s not about a religion.  And when you have young people where all they’ve tasted is religion, in the end they’ve said ‘This is not satisfying.’  ‘There’s nothing here that’s impacting my life and making a difference in this world.’  And so they get to the point where they say ‘I want nothing to do with this anymore.’  They’ve not encountered Christ, they’ve not walked away with something real, him.  That’s what Jesus is saying here, he’s saying religious tradition can be a distraction from the worship of God.  You can have this ritual, but it may not be reality.  It’s a ritual, it has this experience, but it’s not reality, meaning, you’re not actually touching God and getting to know God and walking with God.  He says they draw near with their mouth, but their heart is far from me.  They’re doing the deal, but the heart is not there.  I read that, I think of what Paul said in 1st Corinthians 13, speaking of the love of God, Agape’ love.  It’s all about the love of God, knowing the love of God, experiencing the love of God, and living the love of God.  1st Corinthians 13, verse 1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [Agape’], I have become sounding brass, or clanging cymbal.”  And that is true of a lot of people that are in church, they’re a clanging cymbal, they’re a sounding brass, because there’s not love for God, truly, and the love of God [in them].  “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”  Paul says, man, you can go through religious extremes, and it can be completely vain and completely futile, because you’ve not known God, you’ve not entered into a personal relationship with him through his Son Jesus Christ.  The whole purpose of this whole book is to lead us to Christ, so that we would know him and walk with him. 

 

3. Religious tradition can lead to a dead end

 

Verses 12-14, “Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?  But he answered and said, Every plant, which my Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  Let them alone:  they be blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”  Well, after speaking pretty boldly and bluntly with these religious leaders, the disciples are quite uncomfortable.  So, verse 12.  I mean, this is mind-blowing to them.  This is mind-blowing, because tradition goes so deep within us.  When you get or are raised in tradition, where you start to follow a path of religious tradition, it can go so deep into you, it’s hard to shake it.  It’s hard to see beyond it.  And what he’s saying, these man have been raised in tradition as Jews.  He’s coming to share the life of the Spirit, new life in him.  And so it’s mind-boggling, and he’s also ticked off the religious leaders, verse 12, so they come and they say to him, ‘You’ve ticked these guys off, man, you really offended them.’  These are the guys, when they came to the area, I’m sure you know, they came in their little entourage, the crowds just part, these are the religious elite that just showed up, ‘and you’ve made them angry.’  ‘These are guys that we submit to, traditionally we’ve submitted to them, and you’ve made them pretty angry.’  Well he, as you see there, he’s not concerned about that, doesn’t even care, his response.  And the reason he doesn’t care, is his point is, ‘What they are and what they’re doing is not of God.  Therefore it does not effect me, I stand for the truth, I’m going to share the truth, and that’s what matters, God’s opinion, the Father’s opinion of me, that’s what matters.  These men, it’s not of God, so it’s not going to endure. I don’t have to give an account to it.’  That’s the way he responds.  And so I see in his response, in verse 13 and 14, when it comes to religious tradition, his point, that it can lead to a dead end, it can lead to a dead end.  Not only is it vain and empty worship potentially, if it becomes the focus…but if it’s not of the Lord, and often it’s not of the Lord, therefore it’s only going to be uprooted.  He says, ‘Every plant that my Father has planted is of the Father, but if it’s not been planted by the Father, it’s going to be uprooted.’  These guys, what they’re doing, God has not done this work, this teaching is not of God.  He’s going to uproot it, it’s not eternal, and that’s the deal with that.  So, the end of it, the point is, the end is dismal, the end is destruction, the end is futile, when you are following in tradition, religious tradition, and that has become your focus.  Now, it’s ok, some people will come here, and they don’t connect with this style of worship, so maybe they go to a place that’s more liturgical, and they connect with that.  That’s fine.  We have different styles and different personalities.  One is not better than the other.  The problem is when the liturgical and the tradition and the ceremony becomes really the focus, and that is what I am seeking, and that is what is making me feel spiritual.  And if that be the case, Jesus is saying the end of that is a dead end.  The end of that is a fall.  He says these guys are blind, and they’re leading the blind.  And to be following somebody that can’t see is usually not a good deal.  If they don’t know where they’re going, and you’re following them, that’s not good.  I heard Ken Graves once, Calvary Chapel Bangor a little while ago on the radio, him and these guys had gone into a school in Bangor, they have a Christian school up there, and this particular school had shut down in their area and were donating lockers to them, so they had gone in and taken out the lockers, and they had this one day, just a short time to do it.  Anyway, the got done, and they left something deep in the bowels and heart of this school, this facility.  And they decided, as guys do, to do something silly, they decided, ‘Let’s go in there’, and it was dark, it was night-time, no electricity in the building, ‘Let’s go see if we can go and get it without using any light.’  They told a story of them falling down and cutting their legs, and bumping into things, and getting bruises and cuts and scrapes, and they had a great time, because they’re guys.  Right?  [laughter]  This was a blast.  So, he says, the blind leading the blind, you fall into a pit.  It’s a dead end.  If you’re here today, and you have been following religious tradition, for one, in the end it’s futile, it’s empty, it doesn’t take care of your sin, it doesn’t give you a relationship with God, and in the end it doesn’t take you anywhere.  It’s empty, it’s a pit. [Comment:  Some will point to those who keep the 7th day Sabbath and Old Testament Biblical Holy Days as following traditions.  That is not so, these folks do so because they have chosen these days as their personal days of worship, because they sincerely believe that is what God commands them to do.  That is an integral part of their Christian conscience, which Paul in Romans 14:22-23 said was to be respected.  These folks are not to be lumped in with the other groups that are steeped in religious tradition.  These days to them are not tradition, but commanded assemblies.  If you want to know the real truth of the matter, Sunday observance was actually a tradition brought about in force by the Roman Emperor Constantine, and prior to that by the proto-Catholic Church in Rome, which exercised a growing authority and influence over many churches not just in Italy, but all across North Africa and Alexandria in Egypt, and then into Greece and Asia Minor as time went on.  Again, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for a history of the original Christian Church as it started out in Jerusalem and moved north into Asia Minor, and http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm for the Constantine history, where Sunday worship was enforced, upon penalty of death for non-compliance.  Now I sincerely believe some Sunday observing Christians and even denominations can be true, Holy Spirit indwelt believers as well.  But let’s not be mislabeling Sabbath keepers as being steeped in tradition.] There is life in Christ, and it’s abundant life.  Open your heart to Christ, so that you know that you have Christ.  And when you have Christ, you have life.  Paul said to the church in Colossi, Colossians chapter 2, verse 8 referring to this, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men.”  Beware, beware, lest somebody cheat you by their tradition.  “According to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ”, beware lest you get ripped off, because you’re getting caught up in men’s tradition, and you’re missing Jesus Christ.  Beware.  Well Jesus says, ‘Leave these guys alone, don’t debate with them, don’t argue with them, it’ just futile, it’s not going to go anywhere.  If somebody does not have the Spirit or is not interested in the Spirit, you’re only going to debate and it ain’t going to go anywhere.  Lance Havner put it this way, he said, “A bulldog can lick a skunk any day, but it just ain’t worth it.”  [laughter]  So, the blind leading the blind.  He says, ‘Let it go.’  Interesting, do you ever meet any Pharisees?  Do you know any Pharisees?  By and large, the sect of the Pharisees has disappeared, it doesn’t exist anymore.  There are some that try to follow their traditions, very isolated groups.  But the Pharisees are gone.  [Comment:  Now this is interesting.  I get this from my experience with the recent revival of the Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus.  They say that it was the Pharisees who survived the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, and it was their teachings that infiltrated into the Jewish synagogues throughout the Diaspora and within Judaism itself that has continued to this day.  When I discovered that the nation of Israel, and many Messianic Jews themselves were keeping the Day of Pentecost, or Shevuot, on the wrong day, I learned it was because they were following Pharisaic tradition for determining the proper date, and not the simple Biblical instructions found in Leviticus 23.  So Pharisaic influence is not dead in Judaism, not be a long-shot.]  These guys thought they were the big cheese, the big deal, but they don’t even exist anymore.  They’re gone. 

 

4. What counts is inside out as opposed to outside in

 

Verses 15-20, “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.  And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the 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 unwashen hands defileth not a man.”  Well, one last point that Jesus makes.  He develops it.  You know, he goes to the multitudes, he loves people.  These guys [the Pharisees and scribes] are prideful, he rebukes them.  He’s going to do that consistently from now on, rebuke the religious elite, turn to the multitudes, show compassion, share truth with them, generally in the form of a parable to get their attention.  And then the disciples will ask for interpretation, and he’ll get alone with the disciples and he’ll give them some class time and some teaching.  He does that here.  And as he does, he makes this point, and it’s this point, you know, I put in my words, ‘What counts is inside out, as opposed to outside in.’  He says what matters is not that you wash your hands.  It’s good to do for healthy reasons [hygiene].  Certain times in the Law there was a point, because it was making a statement.  But to wash your hands is not the thing, it’s not the focus, the focus is the heart.  It’s not what goes into the body, it’s what comes out.  What comes out is what’s important.  Exactly, in verse 11, it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, not the foods, not the contaminated particles from your hands, not the drink, it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles the man, but it’s what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man.  Meaning, the heart, the heart is what is ultimately coming out of the mouth.  The words that you are saying, in general, the way they’re being said, it’s the heart.  James chapter 3, verse 6 speaks of the mouth defiling, and ‘The tongue [James says] is a fire, a world of iniquity.  The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body.  It sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by hell.’  [Comment:  If you find that hard to believe, look at the results of the inflammatory oratory speeches of Adolf Hitler, which inflamed the unsuspecting German people to wage a cruel war against the world.  That’s one solid example of the evil power within the tongue, and what was in Adolph’s heart.]  The tongue defiles, because of what is said, the poison comes out of the heart.  So Jesus says it’s not the meat, it’s not the drink, it’s what comes out, it’s the heart.  So, in fact in Mark chapter 7, Jesus actually says a statement.  Matthew chooses not to include it here, we don’t know why.  But he actually says, “all food is clean.”  He makes that point, all food is clean, you can eat anything, it’s not a sin to eat anything, it’s all clean.  But, my wife and I were discussing this last night, it’s not what goes in, it’s what comes out.  But let’s face it, I need to monitor what’s going in too.  For some people, food becomes a sin.  You have gluttony.  For some people drink becomes a sin, you have drunkenness.  So I do monitor what’s going in.  And the way I monitor it, and determine what’s going in, I monitor what’s going out.  And if what’s coming out is gluttony, and what’s coming out is a lust for food, I then limit what I eat.  Or if it’s stumbling with alcohol, I then don’t touch that liquid.  That’s how I determine.  It’s my heart that is what determines it.  [Comment:  All Jews, Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus (now numbering in excess of 500,000) and all Sabbatarian Churches of God sincerely believe the Mosaic food laws were set down by God for our good health.  They would thus teach the Mark was stating that all food is clean in context with Leviticus 11.  The early Christian Church in Jerusalem, and the very ones who wrote this abided by those food laws.  But another interesting thing, I have had cancer in my family twice, my father died of cancer and my sister just survived breast cancer.  In each case, the cancer specialist and associated nutritionists gave both my father and sister a food list of what to eat and what should not be eaten due to the fact that the “not to be eaten foods” encouraged cancer growth.  Every major forbidden food found in Leviticus 11 was on their list of forbidden foods.  One principle I have found that applies in most cases is that all Scripture must be taken in context with all others, proper interpretation is additive, not subtractive.  It’s your health, or as some say, “It’s your funeral.”] 

 

‘I can’t do that, so you can’t do that’ mentality

 

You can go on and on, this is a great principle of Christian faith, we often get legalistic, and we often go, ‘Well, I can’t do that, so he can’t do that, and nobody can do that, if you want to be spiritual be like me, if I can’t do it, none of us can do it’, and we go on and on.  So we say, music, for instance, you get down to the music, and some will say ‘Rock music is of the devil, period.’  And so we’ll have young people in our church listening to Christian Rock, some of it is really jamin’, it’s Christian noise, it’s not Christian Rock anymore.  Rock is Rock, but it’s Christian noise.  And they’re listening to this stuff, and someone else goes, ‘How can they listen to that!?  That’s evil.’  Well, what goes in is not the issue, it’s what’s coming out.  And if that music is going into a seventeen-year-old’s ear, and is going into his mind, but what’s coming out of his heart as he’s hearing that word and that beat is worship for God, it ain’t wrong for him to be doing that.  It’s what’s coming out.  And so, I look at what’s coming out and I determine, maybe for me, I put on that Rock music, and I’m on Route 2 going 90 miles an hour [laughter], that’s a problem, you know what I mean, that’s a problem.  It might be ‘I praise you Lord’ but [what he’s getting at, is that music with its beat is “Fight or flight music”, it has that effect.]  [laughter]  I shouldn’t be listening to it.  It’s a sin for me.  Same thing with movies. Some people say “TV, bad, sin.”  But you might sit down and watch a program on TV that actually encourages you, and how does it work?  It’s the same thing, it’s not what goes in, it’s what comes out.  [I watch historic or based on history war movies.  I’m a history nut.  But watching that stuff helps me put God’s plan into historic context, and gives me a continuingly updated view of what Satan’s world is like and how God’s plan is going to work with that, toward the redemption of mankind in the end.  I put those movies in historic context.  Others watching them, it may encourage them toward violence, sin for them, not for me.  This pastor has called this one right on the money.]  And so you have things going in and now you’re watching TV and you’re watching things, and it’s causing you to lust, big problem here.  I need to turn off what’s going in.  You’re watching the TV and it’s causing you to be angry or violent, or distracting so much of your time, that you’re looking at men and people more than you’re looking at God.  You monitor what’s going in, as you monitor what’s going out, that’s the deal [and it’s different for everyone].  So he says ‘It’s not what goes in, it’s what comes out.’  But I determine what’s going to go in by what I see coming out as a result.  And so, tradition, tradition, men are all caught up in the ceremony of the outside, man, they come in, they’ve got the garment on, and they’ve got the voice, and they’ve got all the smells and all the candles, and all the bells, and it looks so spiritual, and God looks down on the heart and he goes “It’s vanity, it’s vain, there’s no heart here, there’s no heart for God.”  It’s all about the heart.  So when it comes to religious tradition, the four points again, 1), God’s Word stands over religious tradition, God’s Word is the priority, is the standard, is the authority. 2), When it comes to religious tradition, it can be a distraction, it can be a distraction from true worship of God. 3) When it comes to religious tradition, it can also lead to a dead end, if it becomes the focus.   4), And when it comes to religious tradition and ceremony, what’s important is what’s going from the inside out, not what’s going from the outside in.  Let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given somewhere in New England]

 

Related links:

 

History of the beginnings of the Catholic Church, an example of where tradition can lead, with the resultant dangers:   http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch3.htm          

  

The small, persecuted true church during the same period of time:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation2-12-17.html  

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