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When tradition becomes more important than the reason for practicing it, we lose our focus on the Lord and His Word. See what happens when those who would put man's traditions and rules above God's law encounter the author of that law.
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Lord, we thank you for the great privilege of gathering together and being reminded of that truth. It's so much more than a song, for a song in itself is just a bunch of words, and what you're looking for is not people who are saying certain things, singing certain things, attending certain places. You never have.
You've always been about folks who walk in faith in humble response to you, so as we said earlier, I pray the Spirit would come and would make us humble and would allow us to see you for who you are and what it is that you want; not dead ritual, not empty attention, but hearts, hearts that are surrendered to yours. Would you use today in our time in the Word to accomplish that in us? In Christ's name, amen.
Let me put some words back up there we just sang.
I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart
That is where we're headed today. If I could remind anybody of anything, if there's one message that is, I think, absolutely essential to the church in the West today, it's the message we're going to get a chance to look at as we look 2,000 years ago at the religious institutions of the East. Christ brought them a message, and they came to him to be critical of him, and he responded in a rather straightforward way. I think, if he was coming to bring a message to the church in the West today, the message would be kind of similar.
We've been making our way through the book of Mark which talks about the Servant who makes this truth very, very clear to us. I want to remind you about some things, if you haven't been with us. So far, in this story about Jesus that's in the gospel of Mark, we see he has authority over men, over demons, over sickness, and even over the consequence of sin.
So far, in this little story of the person of Jesus Christ, we've seen, in his authority, it created some opposition with his companions, those who were just casually acquainted with him. There's been some opposition with his disciples, those who were close to him, and certainly with religious leaders, specifically over his attitude towards the Sabbath. We've seen that he was received in different ways by his enemies, by the masses, by his family, and again his disciples at varying times.
We saw his teaching on what true family was and on what the kingdom of God really looked like. We saw his power over the sea, over the demons, over disease, and we saw his conflict with a hard-hearted hometown. We saw the conflict that a hard-hearted ruler, Herod, brought about. We saw the hard-hearted hungry who just wanted a miracle worker and not a Messiah.
We saw his hard-hearted disciples who couldn't quite get the message, and now today, we're about to run into some hard-hearted religious people, and that's where we are in Mark 7. Just flip there with me. This passage right here is, if nothing else, amazing given the irony of it. Let me just remind you of what happened in Mark 6. Right before we get to where we are, before there was this delegation that was sent from Jerusalem to come into the presence of this man, he had just fed thousands of people in a desert region with one boy's lunch.
Then the crowds knew, somehow, though there wasn't a vessel there and a boat there, that Jesus got to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, even in the midst of a strong prevailing wind. Word was out that this guy could walk on water. You're going to find out the religious delegation had come, and just the irony of what you're about to see is amazing.
It's as if they say, "Oh sure, you can feed 5,000 men and their families and relatives with bread, but you can't get your disciples to wash their hands before they eat, so… Oh yeah! Sure, you can walk on water, but you can't get your disciples to use water to wash their hands, so you're no good." It's just the irony of it. When you look at the magnitude of what he's done and you look at the pettiness of their problem, it almost should make you laugh. Let's just read for a while here in Mark, chapter 7.
It says, "The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem…" This is, if you will, much like if some politicians and IRS agents showed up at your door, you would be that thrilled at that moment. "…and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed."
I want to make it clear here. This is not a problem with hygiene, nor are they coming to say that Jesus is disobeying the law as revealed by God through his servant, Moses, but they're after Jesus for breaking the traditions they as religious leaders had imposed upon the people. This is not a hygiene criticism, and this is not a rebuke of, "You're ignoring the Scriptures." This is, "You, Jesus, aren't doing what we tell people makes them holy."
Again, if you think about what makes somebody clearly from God… Is it the fact that they would go through some tradition or the fact that possibly they had such a relationship with God that the laws of physics and the natural are not always limiting them and they can feed a multitude with one lunch and they can walk on water and not drown in it? It says (Mark puts this in here because the people who first read this were like us, mostly a non-Jewish audience.),
"(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)
Again, these are all traditions that were put in place by religious leaders, at first for good reason, which we'll talk about, but it had lost its heart, and the traditions, in fact, had become more significant than even the Word of God.
It says then in verse 5, "The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders…'" Notice, not, "Why do they not walk according to the Scriptures?" but "Why do they not act like our daddies have always acted?" "'…but eat their bread with impure hands?'
And He said to them, 'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.** But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.' He was also saying to them, 'You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.**
For Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death"; but you say, "If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God)," you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.'
After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, 'Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. ["If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."]'"
Mark writes, "When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, 'Are you so lacking in understanding also?'" Some of your Bibles say, "Are you so dull?" Yes. "'Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?' (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
And He was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"
Well, that's where we're headed today. We want to talk about that and explain that. Have you ever felt like that, like you can't get ahead? You do a bunch of things right, but it doesn't matter because you do some things wrong. Now I'll just tell you, I'm going to relate to the men here, ladies. There are times that sometimes we feel like that. We feel like we could be on our best behavior for so long, and then, man, there's one thing we don't do, and it's as if everything good we have done appears is out the window.
That is because, men, we did not know there's a point system the women have developed. Let me enlighten you and encourage you as I've been encouraged this week. I came across this. Here it is. I'll give you some points. If you make the bed, that's one point. If you make the bed but forget to add the decorative pillows, you don't get any points. If you throw the bedspread over the rumpled sheets, you actually lose a point.
If you leave the toilet seat up, you lose five. If you replace the toilet roll when it's empty, that's not worth any points. That's what a natural and normal human being ought to do. When the toilet paper roll is barren, and you resort to Kleenex, you lose some points. If you check out a suspicious noise at night, it's nothing. It's what you ought to do. We sometimes think that should give us points, but no, no. It's what you do. If you check out a suspicious noise at night, and it's nothing. Well, that's still not worth anything.
If you check out a suspicious noise at night and it's something, that's worth five points. Finally, you can register some. See, you've already thought you've been out doing your job. No, you don't get any points until you go look for the noise, and you find out that it's something. You check out a suspicious noise at night. You find out that it's something, and you pummel it with a six iron. That is worth 10 stinking points right there. You find out it's her father. You lose 20 points.
At social engagements, you stay by her side the entire party. Guys, that's a great deal. Right? You don't get any points for that. None. It's what's expected. You stay by her side for a while, and then you go off to chat with a buddy. You've just lost two points. Your buddy's name is Tiffany. You've just lost five points. Tiffany is a dancer. You've just lost 10 points. Tiffany has had some significant cosmetic surgery. You've lost a whole bunch of points.
For her birthday, you take her out to dinner. That's not worth anything, guys. That's what you ought to do…no points. You take her out to dinner, and it's not a sports bar. Now you get a point. Okay, it's a sports bar. You lose three points. It's all-you-can-eat night at that sports bar. You lose five points. It's a sports bar, and it's all-you-can-eat night, and your face is painted the colors of your favorite team. You've lost 10 points. You think you're just going out.
Here's one. You take her out to a movie. You get two points for that, guys. That's taking some initiative. You've decided the movie. You take her to it. You take her to a movie she likes. That's four points. You take her to a movie you hate. That is worth six points. You take her to a movie you like. You lose two. It's called "Death Cop 3." You lose 10. You lied and said it was a foreign film about orphans. You lose 15 points.
Finally, again, just men as a public service, I know you think you're walking on water, but you aren't washing your hands. That's what I'm trying to establish right here. When she wants to talk about a problem and you listen, displaying what looks like a concerned expression…no points. It's what you and I ought to do. When she wants to talk, you listen for over 30 minutes. Now that's five points. You listen for more than 30 minutes without once looking at the TV. That's 10 points. She realizes this is because you've fallen asleep. You lose 20 points.
That's funny, but sometimes, you know, you can be like that. You think you're doing what you need to do, and you're getting points. I mean, you're making some effort towards credibility, only to find out you're not making very many points. In fact, with these other things you're doing, you're losing them big-time.
Now obviously, that's humorous and fun, but it's really tragic that Jesus can do the things he's done, say the things he said, authenticate his words with his works, and that ought to score some serious points with people looking for a Messiah, who expected this Messiah when he would come would have the innate ability to forgive sins because he was Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, just like Isaiah said he would, that the lame would walk, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the dumb would speak, prisoners would be set free.
You'd think that would score some points with a Jewish crowd, but you're going to find out that all those things didn't score him any points, and all of a sudden, his disciples did not keep upon the tradition of the Pharisees, and he lost any credibility he might have had with them. It isn't right. It's not the way it should be, and the irony of it ought to jump out to us and get right there in our faces.
There's a little section right here we want to explain as we walk our way through. It starts off, and it just says the Pharisees… Now again, we sometimes think the Pharisees are these very powerful men. What we do need to know is the Pharisees were desperate to impose their sanctions of morality on the people, and they were constantly looking for an opportunity to impress upon the people what real holiness was; it was the way they lived.
Any time somebody contradicted that, they would come out with a full-frontal assault, and Jesus certainly was taking on the traditions of the Pharisees, so he was a threat to them, so they sent up a delegation to look at this Jesus and to find something wrong with him. Sure enough, the very first meal, they found it, and that was that his disciples did not go through the ceremonial cleansing all Jews go through before they eat, which is to say that this is not to wash their hands.
They could've washed their hands, but they did not go over to the ceremonial water pots that were there and get a fistful of water and wash their hands. Even when they had been in non-Jewish regions, they wouldn't cleanse themselves. Now let me just say, the reason this tradition started was to remind the Jewish people that they were to be set apart, not horizontally but vertically.
They were to be a holy people, and it was originally started to ingrain in them the truths God had revealed by Moses, which was to say, "Look, you ought to be a different people, a kingdom of priests, so every time you're out with a group of folks who don't know God, who are far from him, without hope and without God in this world, and you come back from there, you need to be reminded that the way they live is contrary to the way God wants you to live.
They shouldn't live any differently. That's all they know, but you know better, and when you come back, as an act to remind you that you are a different people with a different revealed truth that God wants you to take to the nations, you go through this act of ceremonially cleansing yourselves to remind you that you are a kingdom of priests, a nation set apart." See, it began in the past as something that's celebrated and that reminded them of something significant, but as one guy said, "A good reminder can often degenerate into an empty ritual."
More than an empty ritual, which you're about to find out, is it had supplanted God's law. It took the place of what God was really concerned about. Now thank goodness this doesn't happen today. Thank goodness you don't have folks who would say something like, "Hey, it's wonderful lives are being changed, but the folks whose lives are being changed aren't singing nearly enough hymns." Thank goodness we don't run into that.
Thank goodness you don't have folks who say, "Hey, I know folks who are far from God are being drawn near to him, but look at the way they dress." Thank goodness we don't have folks saying that kind of stuff today. Sarcasm. Yeah, folks will say, "What do you mean people are coming close to God? They don't worship at 11 o'clock. What do you mean they love God? They don't wear ties to church. What do you mean they love God? The guy up front doesn't even wear a robe. What do you mean they love God?"
Do you see a recurring theme here? You know there's nothing wrong with hymns. There's certainly nothing wrong with proper dress or a coat and tie, or there's nothing wrong with a robe, but you can put a stale heart inside a robe, and you can put a dead heart behind a praise chorus or a dead heart behind a hymn, and it makes no difference to God. You can take Communion, or you can get baptized with a dead heart, and it makes no difference to God.
The picture of what it was meant to represent is lost because you're going through an empty ritual and a dead act. What God wants is not a song because a song in itself is not what he desires. Y'all, that has been so consistent. It's what David realized in Psalm 51. "I'd sacrifice every bull in the valley to you, if that's what you wanted, but I know that's not what you want."
What God has always wanted was a…what? A sacrificed, consecrated, humble heart who's poor in spirit and cries out to him, "Lord, would you give me what I cannot give myself, which is forgiveness, grace, and mercy?" Then, maybe as an act of worship in celebrating that forgiveness, grace, and mercy, there are some things we do, but when we start to do those things without that heart, those things are empty and dead.
It doesn't matter where you are on Sunday mornings. It doesn't matter if you read your Bible every day if you read your Bible as some good-luck charm, some lucky rabbit's foot, some spiritual vitamin you think is going to get you through. It doesn't matter certainly if you read your Watermark News when you get to heaven. It matters that your heart is engaged with his people in response to his love for you. That's the gospel, the gospel truth, and Jesus comes strong.
Notice what he says here. When he confronted with this in Mark, chapter 7, and you get to verse 5, the Pharisees and the scribes ask him, "Why do you break ranks?" If you will, "Why do you redefine what makes a man right with God?" Let me just explain something to you. The folks of that day believed that, to ignore tradition, the tradition of the elders which you see referred to here was to sin, and to follow the tradition was the essence of goodness and service to God.
When Jesus didn't do this, they said to him, "Why in the world do you act the way you act? We have a problem with the way you act." Now this is to me an amazing response because Jesus doesn't even answer the question. What you're going to see is not a justifying of his disciples' behavior, but you're going to see a tongue-lashing of dead religion. It's almost as if the disciples knew this was going to happen, and they go, "Oh, no. Don't ask him that. We've been there before."
You know, last night, as I was thinking one more time through this, I had some fun. I went to a website because I remembered from when I was a kid when I was being educated watching educational TV that I'd watch Moe, Larry, and Curly consistently. I would watch the Three Stooges. There was one film. (I went to the Three Stooges' home website.) It's called Punch Drunks.
It's a movie I remember seeing because it was a Three Stooges movie where Moe wanted to be a heavyweight prize promoter, a boxing promoter. He found this kind of good-natured, quiet waiter, Curly, but whenever Curly heard "Pop Goes the Weasel," he went ballistic and went nuts. Moe saw him one day being a genteel waiter, but "Pop Goes the Weasel" was played outside by one of those little hand-crank deals with a monkey on it, and Curly just wiped out the restaurant.
Moe got a great idea. "Let's put Curly in the ring. We'll hire Larry, and we'll have him play "Pop Goes the Weasel" on the violin, and there's no one who can beat Curly," and the plan was working famously. Curly got himself a championship fight, and then, all of a sudden, Larry's violin was broken. Curly was going down, and Larry ran out, stole an ice cream truck, drove it through wall, and when you heard "Pop Goes the Weasel," you went, "Oh no! Look out because here comes Curly!"
It's a long way to go to say, "I bet you. I bet you." That's just the way my mind works. Sorry. I had fun, if you didn't. I bet you, when the disciples were sitting there and they went, "Hey, how come you guys don't follow the tradition of the elders and you just act the way you want to act?" that Peter went, "Uh-oh, uh-oh. Look out. 'Pop Goes the Weasel.' You'd better clear the ring." Listen to his response. I'm telling you, don't just listen to it to them. Listen to it for you. Listen to it for us.
When we say to him, "How come you don't bless our attendance? How come you don't bless our habitual, ritualistic behavior? How come? I'm reading my Bible every day. How come? Some people who call themselves godly I know aren't nearly as disciplined with a quiet time or attending a mass or some other ritual as I am." Look out. "Pop Goes the Weasel." Here's what he says. No justification, just a tongue-lashing.
"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites…" Well, hello. Welcome to the ring. "…as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'" If that wasn't enough, he said, "Let me illustrate. Let me show you exactly what I mean."
What Jesus does right there in verse 6 is he goes, "You have a problem. Your definition of authority is different than mine. You elevate tradition over God's Word. Not only is that a problem, but also, your definition of what makes you holy is different than mine. You think external behavior is what makes God excited. I'm tell you, it's not your external activities. It's the inner attitudes of the heart. It's faithfulness, brokenness, humility which honors God."
You can go to every Christian school you've ever heard of. You can be at every church, every service that some religious institution offers, and if your heart isn't right before the Lord, he is not impressed. He says, "There's a problem here. Your view of authority is different than God's. Your view of holiness is different than God's. Let me illustrate."
Verse 9: "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." For example. "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death'; but…" Meaning, in contrast to that revealed truth.
"…you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."
Follow with me because I want to just read to you from two paragraphs that one man did that explains it. I'm just going to read it to you as clearly as I can because people go, "What's corban mean?" As always, all our notes are posted on the website. You can get them later. "'Corban' was a dedicatory formula used in setting aside property for God and barred one from gaining profit from it." It was something the Pharisees had instituted.
"It only expressed an intention to give property and not its actual disposal. From Jesus' point of view, the command from the Decalogue…" This guy uses that word, which is to say, "The command from the Ten Commandments, one of which of the commandments is to honor your mother and father."
"…to honor parents soars above the command to honor vows. The Pharisees' tradition turned the law on its head by insisting that the sanctity of the vow [to this tradition] superseded the parents' right to support. The son can say to his parents that he cannot offer them any help because he has dedicated to God everything that could help them. He could claim that doing so would be a sin against God."
So, "Mom and Dad, I know you cared for me when I was yet a babe and I know now, late in my life, you need me to provide for you as maybe you're sick and unable to help yourself, but I can't do it because I told the Pharisees that I would give everything I have to the temple and dedicate it to the Lord, which is to say, when I die, they get it, so I can't give it to you because, right now, I can live off what I have, but when I'm done living, they get it."
It's a creative legal loophole to allow them to live the way they wanted to live without caring and loving those who God called them to care for and love. It made Jesus sick. "Jesus assumes that such a vow [made for any reason] is automatically invalid because it violates God's command to honor parents. One cannot elude God's commands by resorting to shrewd legal loopholes."
Let me just make a point right here before I read anymore. You probably have not said, "Hey, corban to Watermark, so I can't help those who are around me and that I love," but I want to tell you, there are areas in probably a lot of lives out here.
I had to sit and think hard and think through, "Lord, where have I created a lot of legal loopholes in my life so I don't have to really follow your law the way I should follow it as a follower of Jesus Christ, in the law of love, the law of service, the law of humility, the law of putting others before me? Where have I justified that I'm different than other people?" One of my favorite sayings, because it's so true of me, is the saying, "There's nothing quite so creative as a person in the midst of self-justification."
I'll tell you what. I have a terrible problem because God has blessed me with a good mind, so there are lots of times when I get a little convicted by the Spirit, so I say, "Well, step into the judge's room, and let's just have a little debate." I send up my defense attorney against the plaintiff of the Holy Spirit. I have some incredibly creative justifications for why that conviction in my heart the Spirit sends is one I don't need to listen to at that particular moment.
Maybe some of you have even come up with other creative reasons, maybe because God's going to use you in his or her life to bring them closer to the Lord, even though you know it says, "Don't mess around there." Maybe it's because you've decided God would never want you to be unhappy and to have to live with that spouse. "I mean, come on, if he's a loving God, he would want me to be happy. I'm not happy here, so I don't need to continue to serve my wife this way." Let me stop lest I don't mention yours and you think yours need not be considered.
There is nothing quite so creative as the person in the midst of self-justification, and Jesus is not impressed by our resorting to shrewd legal loopholes. "Jesus exposes these sticklers for the law as more interested in niceties than the requirements of love, more devoted to an unwritten tradition than the written law, and more concerned with property than care of one's parents. Because they set aside God's will for their tradition, Jesus annuls their tradition."
He says, "It looks pretty. It might fool them, but it doesn't fool me. You need to know I know what's inside that ritualistic behavior. It's a dead heart that's self-willed and doesn't know anything of God." You guys have seen that I have up here some water in case I get thirsty during my message. You know, I would just say to a friend…
I don't know if there are any young children parents have left in here, but if I was going to ask one of those kids to come up, or any of you, and say, "Let's refresh ourselves with a drink," and I would let you come up here and choose which one would be most satisfying to your need, which one would you choose from? Being a servant, especially on display, I have to let you go first. Sarah, where are you going to drink? She's going to come to the clean one, and who wouldn't?
She'd come right over here, and she'd open it, and I'd pour a little water. Would you? I'd say, "I'll gladly go over here, and I'll drink out of this one. You know what? If you would've let me choose first, Sarah, I would've chosen this one anyway. I would've come right over here, and I'd gladly fill it up.
I know the container is kind of nasty but let me tell you something. In my sovereignty in knowing what's inside these two, I'll drink from that one all day, gladly refresh myself. That vinegar water is not very good. It looks clear. It looks better, but when you put a gallon of vinegar in about four gallons of water, it leaves a terrible taste.
This one was still a little wet when I filled it, and we dropped it, and it got muddy on the outside, but inside, what really matters is really clean, and it's refreshing. You can sit down and probably not sing a little bit later for us again. I mean, it's a crazy little illustration, but this is what God said in 1 Samuel 16, a very familiar passage.
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance…" See, when God looks to be refreshed by worshipers, the kind of worshipers the Father seeks are worshipers with hearts, who aren't wearing certain clothes, who aren't singing certain songs but who, in spirit and in truth, love him.
When I want to be refreshed, I'm going to go to pure water. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to clean up the outside as we go along, but I'll tell you, this is dangerous. It looks so good. Doesn't it? It is bitter and repulsive and will not refresh you. It'll make you sick. I promise. Sweet Sarah was nice enough to point. She was here when I poured the vinegar in. She knew what she was doing. The Lord looks not at the outside and neither should we.
As God looks at us this morning, listen to what it says. It's not up there, but 2 Chronicles 16:9 simply says, "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth…" Looking for people who, on the outside, look good. Right? No. Looking for people with short hair, not for folks with ponytails. Right? Looking for folks who aren't pierced or tattooed. Right? Looking for people who hold hands and smile with their spouse on Sunday. Right?
I have to tell you something. One of the things that's keeping us from being, I think, the church we want to be is we're really pretty people, and there are some folks who need to know the Lord, and they go, "I maybe would like to know their Lord, but I don't feel comfortable walking in there because I don't look like them, and I feel like sometimes I have to look like them to be welcome here."
That means we have to work at that. That means you have to make an effort that, when you see somebody who doesn't look like you, to not judge the outside, not be a respecter of person but to realize something powerful in you can touch something good in them and can let them know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. He'll clean up the outside. He always does, but there are a lot of outsides that are cleaned up that he never gets to the heart.
I'll make a couple of observations in this passage here. Sometimes, living according to tradition of the elders is to live out of touch with what is wise. You know, you have to be careful here because tradition in and of itself is not a negative thing, but you need to know (I am convinced of this), to just say, "Our daddies did it. Therefore, we have to do it," is a terrible mistake. Tradition is a chain which is ties us to cultures and generations of the past, but we must continually ask ourselves, "Why did our daddies do what they did?"
If we do what our daddies did without the good hearts of our fathers, we're in trouble. Let me just walk you through what Jesus said here. Proverbs 14:12 is a little verse that just says this. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." There are certain traditions that seem right, but I'll tell you something. Traditions, practices, behaviors, if they make us look holy, they're not always the way God says you should be holy.
Look what it says in Mark 7. We'll walk you through here. We just had it, but I put these verses together for a specific reason. If you'll look there with me, it says in verse 7, "…teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." Which is to say, you exalt your own opinion. Then, in verse 8: "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."
Follow with me. Look at verse 7 in your Bibles. "…teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." That's Jesus' first point. He says, "What you do is exalt your own opinion. You make it scriptural." Secondly, what you'll do is, in verse 8: "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." You start to lay aside God's Word, and you don't go to God's Word for instruction. You go to your own traditions, so at first, God's Word is neglected.
Then, thirdly, verse 9: "You are experts at [nicely] setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." In other words, now when you try and figure out what to do, you ignore God's Word. You exalt your own opinion about what is right. You just for a second neglect God's Word, and then, you altogether ignore it.
Finally, in verse 13, he says, "…thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition…" In other words, you reject it altogether. Notice the progression. It's not that complicated. Exalt self, and while you're exalting self, you're neglecting God's Word, until finally, we go, "What's your hang-up with Scripture? You reject it altogether. It's no longer authoritative in your life. It's the progression of dead tradition.
Let me just really quickly share with you some core values we have here. It says, in our beliefs and governance, in our core values and convictions, this. "We value as a body…" In other words, which you're about to read, we're saying, "We'd rather shut down and quit existing as a body than compromise on any one of these things."
"We value openness to change and flexibility, believing that such a climate is conducive to personal, relational, and spiritual growth. We will be structured to allow for change, freshness, and innovation. We strive to keep tradition in perspective, and we constantly, therefore, ask whether every tradition or practice is optimally serving the biblical purpose for which it was originally designed."
Do you understand there is nothing about us here that is for or against the historical practices of the church in that they are just practices? We will never stop doing something if it's biblically commanded, but the washing of hands was not biblically commanded, and neither was certain attire and certain hours of worship, and neither were certain songs. If there's something better that will help us do what that tradition originally helped us do, we'll start a new tradition which keeps with the grand tradition of worshiping God with a heart that is filled with Spirit and truth.
That's the tradition you never compromise on. That's where you never bail. Will we ever stop baptizing? No. It's not a tradition. It's a God-ordained practice. Will we ever stop celebrating the Lord's Supper together, being reminded of his body and his blood? No. It's not a tradition. It's a God-given command. Will there be other things we might change? Yes, if it will help us do more than just give a song because a song in itself is not what he desires. Let me read it to you this way.
"The Bible does not tell us to use only certain styles of music or to present our message only through words. The Bible does make it clear, however, that we are to find ways to effectively bring the message into all the world in order to make disciples. We believe this will require careful scrutiny of everything we do, new practices and old, and a willingness to change when necessary within biblical parameters, in order that we, by all means possible, might save some. That is the great tradition, that we by all means possible might save some. That's our heart."
Now this is what this means. I want to lay this next little section out as quickly as I can for you. We know, right now, as part of what we're doing, there are some very mature, godly people in here who do not choose or would not choose to have certain songs sung if it was just their worship service they put together.
They would prefer maybe the person who communicates God's Word to them would look differently than I do, but they, in all humility and wisdom are here because they want to participate with this body in reaching others for Christ and not just reaching them but then calling them to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
Those of you who have come to know Christ in this last year we've been together, we want to let you know something. We have set the deck for you so you might feel welcome here, but please don't let us make you think you are the most important thing in this room. You're not. We did what we did to welcome you, and now we're in a radical program of discipleship with you so, when you become mature, you can help us set to deck for the folks who are coming next.
I am so glad you love the music, some of you here, but listen. Please, don't elevate the way we worship and the way we do music to a place where you go, "It'd better never change, or I'll find another church," because you can just go ahead and find another church right now because we're not about our music. We're not about our dress. We're not about when we meet. We seek to be about our hearts.
It's the mature in Christ who ought to be expected to make the biggest sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom, and I can look out and see some of my friends in the Postmarks ministry who I know many of them, to a person, are doing that. That's not to say many of them don't love the music, but they have made sacrifices in being here.
"We cannot focus on building a church that is comfortable to us, that meets all of our needs and fulfils all of our desires. We must focus on being a people who constantly decorate our lives, corporate gatherings, and acts of service with that which is welcoming, useful, and challenging to the hurting, hopeless, and curious. We have to welcome what is unfamiliar to us so that we can allow others to become familiar With God." That's the heart of Christ. That's the heart of worship, never compromising God's Word but sometimes changing our traditions.
Let me give you another little point that I get when I look at this passage. Who you're going to listen to is going to determine everything about who you are. Who you listen to is going to determine everything about whose you are. Why do I say that? Jesus, in this little section right here said in verse 11, "…but you say…"
Then in verse 14, Jesus says, "Listen to me…" Those of you who watch late-night TV, do you wonder where Charles Stanley got that? "Listen to me. Listen to me." That's where he got it. Listen to me. Who you listen to is going to determine everything about whose you are. Jesus said something amazing.
He said, "… [I tell you] unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." That's radical. Paul wrote Timothy that, one of the things a young pastor should do, was to read publicly the Scriptures. Can we listen just for a second to Jesus, so you can determine whose you are? These are selected verses.
From John 3:3: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" In verse 5, he said, "Truly, truly…" In other words, listen. "…I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
In John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life…" Not he who attends certain sacred ritual places. "…he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." John 6:47: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."
John 8:12: "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'" John 8:23: "And He was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.'" Who are you listening to?
John 8:31: "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'" John 8:42: "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.' Why do you not understand what I am saying?" Listen to me.
"It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Do you y'all see that Jesus sometimes is pretty straightforward? Let me read you a couple of more.
In John, chapter 10, verse 1: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber." Therefore, he said to them again in verse 7, "Truly, truly…" Listen to me. "…I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers…"
Do you know what's so amazing in the privilege that I get to sit up here and look out? I know right now. I see eyes that are glazed, and they're looking away. They cannot listen to what Jesus is saying, and the only reason I can is not because I'm a paster, but by grace, he penetrated my thick heart, and he let me see my great need. Boy, I am not better than a single person in this room. I am a recipient of grace, and I read these words that you might be too.
Verse 8: "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them." Verse 9: "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them."
Listen to me. Christmas is about him not running. Christmas is about him coming and letting the wolf put him in his jaws so you might live. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." We have a good shepherd, and he bids you come. Who you listen to determines who you are.
Let me just close with this. You are not what you eat. When I was growing up in Kirkwood, Missouri, at North Glendale Elementary School, and they taught me that: you are what you eat. I stand before you today and say, "Mrs. Hazelton was wrong." You are who you are, and who you are when you're alone is, alone, who you are, not when you're at mass, not when you're at church, not when you're in the public presence of others who will be just shocked at your rude behavior.
Who are you in your heart? See, Jesus knows. He knows if there's water in there or not. He knows if there's vinegar, even though the outside looks clean. "…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.""He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" Let's pray.
Father, I pray for my friends who are out there who today just heard your Word by the miracle of your preservation of it. They heard you get offended one more time at hearts that are just dead, that are far from you, not maybe because of their outward behavior but because of their inward stiffness and callousness.
I thank you, and I remember when my heart was there and, even this last week as a follower of yours, where my heart got there and how you persevered with me and you stripped me. The plaintiff, in the conviction of your Spirit, just silenced my defensive, creative, justifying nature. I pray now for my friends that their self-justification and creative explanations as to why they're not accountable to you would be stripped away.
I pray for my friends in here who have been a part of some religious traditions that don't talk about the necessity of, the importance of, the centrality of, and the irreplaceability of Jesus Christ and that, today, they would come to this Good Shepherd who laid down his life for them and they would not listen to the traditions of men but they would listen to the proclamation of truth, of this one who is highly offended at the idea that the traditions of men supersede his very Word.
I pray they would step into the ring with this Jesus and that, in grace, Lord, you would smack them with the power of your Word, and they would find life and forgiveness. I pray, Lord, you would take our hearts, all of us, our hearts of stone away and that you'd put a new one in its place and you would let it be, Lord, like your own, not consumed with ceremonial washings but consumed with goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, love, joy, peace, patience, and humility before the living God. Would you do that for your glory and our good?
Shane, thank you, and thank you because I am absolutely certain of the heart you sang that song with. You know, there's nothing worse than when you're trying to serve folks and you kind of go, "I missed those words." You know what? He doesn't care, but it would offend him to no end if we nailed ever word, missed not a single note, but our hearts were far from him. I'm sorry that I think, you know, you stumbled through that for an illustration, man, but thanks.
I'll tell you. It's so great for me. We don't just get the folks who up here because they're talented. We get them up here because we trust their hearts. It's so good for me to worship with them when I know their hearts are engaged. Some of you out there, that song, you need to say today, "Lord take my heart." We're going to sing one more song, and I want you to just make it your prayer. We learned it earlier, "Give us clean hands."
If it's your desire today that your hands would be cleaned and that you would cross that line of faith and say that Jesus is the means alone through which your heart can be cleansed, I would encourage you to come. Some friends and I will be here afterwards. We'd love to talk to you, and we'd love to spend some time with you.
If you know Christ, as I do, and there are issues in your heart you just need to deal with. I know you look good today, but how's your water doing? As him to cleanse you. Ask him to get it right. Go and make amends. Ask your spouse, ask your kids, ask your coworkers for forgiveness. What's the Lord require but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly, not elevating what seems right to man but to live according to the Scriptures no matter what it costs.
Father, give us clean hands.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 6:6 through Mark 8:38.