And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:6-13 (ESV)
Ouch! Jesus called it like He saw it – and what He saw was worship with the lips and not the heart and worship through tradition. He was very clear that manmade tradition voids the word of God.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t have traditions? Of course not. He was speaking of our way of justifying our behaviors by calling it tradition. It doesn’t matter what we do in His Name if it’s not what He wants.
This passage causes me to stop and think. In our day, we see people invalidating the Word of God all the time to become politically correct. We justify our behavior by saying things like “Jesus never specifically spoke on that topic”, even though the topic is amply covered in both the Old and New Testaments. We allow women to take positions in the church that Paul specifically condemns, saying that it was a cultural issue. We sanction things that the Bible clearly disallows so that we can better fit into society, and we even allow anti-Biblical behaviors into our worship. What good is worship if you’re not truly honoring the One Who you say you love?
Take a look at your worship service. Do the songs honor God? Do you feel like you’re in a concert hall or a hall of worship (and this not disrespect to any particular style of music. There are some churches whose worship includes elements of a “stage production” similar to what you’d see in a secular concert – fog lights, effects, etc. Do those elements serve to focus our attention on God or on the worship team?). Is the church’s approach to prayer casual, or do you offer prayers with fear, trembling, and honor? Does your pastor speak truths from the Bible, with plenty of cross references and Biblical examples, or does he give more time to comics, news stories and anecdotes?
Let’s look inward as well. Does your home worship include daily Bible reading? Are “prayer requests” just a way to pass on gossip, or do you truly have a burden for others? How do you treat those who are less fortunate? Your enemies? Does your speech remain chaste, or do you sound like “all the guys”? If someone walked into your house without warning, would they know you are a Christian by your books, music, artwork or would they get the impression that Christians are just like everyone else? Do you try, day by day, to become more mature?
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” Matt 4:1-10 (ESV)
Satan tried to tempt Jesus. He offered Jesus everything to turn from God, but Jesus refused. Satan tempts us the same way today. He offers us all the pleasures of the world if we simply turn from God. When we turn toward the world, we forget how great our God truly is. When we look at the glittery offerings of Satan it’s easy to forget the gruesome way that Jesus died to purchase your salvation. When we turn from Jesus, our worship becomes mechanical. We’re not alone. Moses warned the Israelites about this problem long ago.
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. Deut 6:10-15 (ESV)
Our God is an amazing God, but He’s also jealous for our love. We need to worship Him in spirit and in truth and in honesty. People should see Christ in you. Your speech, attitudes, demeanor, dress and life should reflect the astounding love of God. we should stand in awe of what He’s done for us every moment of every day. I pray that as you continue through the path God has placed you, these words reverberate in your heart.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest
sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Psalms 96:9-13 (ESV)
God bless you. See you next week for a new study.