Focal Passages: Matthew 15:1-11, 17-20
Every church has a culture. For example, the way a church approaches corporate worship or how it does ministry is often an indicator of the culture. There can be a variety of factors that drive the culture.
Sometimes it is religious tradition that drives the culture of the church. Other times it is influential people
in the congregation. Of course, the ultimate factor that should drive the culture of the church is the Word of God. Unfortunately, many churches have minimized the role of the Bible and made it subservient to the opinions and thoughts of its leadership.
This is not new to us today. Even in Jesus’ day the religious leaders had substituted their traditions for God’s commands and felt it necessary to impose them upon the Jewish community (Matthew 15:1-2).
However, when the religious elite attacked Jesus about his disciples’ dietary practices he quickly rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocritical lifestyle. He pointed out that their traditions had become an end in themselves and although they honored God with their lips their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8).
What lessons can we take from Jesus’ words? First, God’s Word must always be our authority source, not the traditions of the past. Do not misunderstand me. Traditions are important and can be helpful, but they should never take precedence over scripture. Second, we should evaluate our traditions in light of God’s Word. I’m certain in the beginning the Pharisees had honorable intentions. As time passed they allowed their traditions to override God’s commands, and consequently their hearts grew far from Him. If we are not careful, this too could happen to us. We may think we are worshipping God, but in reality we are simply going through the motions of a religious tradition. Finally, we should know that God’s intention is to change us from the inside out. In other words, true Christian growth does not come from external activity, but by the inward transforming power of God’s Word on the heart. What is driving your worship – tradition or God’s Word?