Christianity Today 11

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. 23:26 “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart,

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Mat 15:6 And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'” 10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

If we think about the Church in centuries past, it seems as if the professing Church has been attacked by great error from the times of the Apostles. Before that the nation of Israel seemed to have been afflicted with false prophets on all sides throughout the history of the nation. Since the time of the Apostles error and false teachers have been plentiful as well. It should not shock us that in our modern day there is a lot of noise and activity in the professing Church, but all of that helps hide the fact that the Gospel is hidden beneath ritualism and activity. God does not look upon the activity as such, but instead He looks to the heart. Not only does He look at the heart, He is sovereign over each and every heart. There cannot possibly be one good work that does not come from Him first, so all the activities and rituals which men do in the practice of their religions that come from self are idolatry.

The passage from Matthew 15 (listed above) is a devastating passage. The Pharisees were very orthodox regarding many things and they had the history as well. But, as with all people in all times, it is so easy to slide off into trusting in our traditions rather than Scripture. It is not that they could not have presented biblical evidence for their positions, but their interpretations and their rules and laws that they thought were biblical became nothing more than tradition. Some people don’t think that they are following tradition rather than Scripture, while others seem to be overcome by it over time. Anything we practice that is not fueled by a love of God in seeking God becomes a tradition. For example, we can have times of prayer that we do because of tradition and because we know we should pray rather than actually praying from the heart. We can offer a form of prayer with right words, but our hearts may not be in them.

When the focus is on the external actions, whether things we do that we call worship or perhaps what we think of as moral, we are more like the Pharisees than we are like Christ. There are major disagreements over which songs to sing and whether one should use instruments or not, but the real issue is and always has been the heart. When Jesus spoke about true worship, He said it was to be in spirit and in truth. He did not set out long guidelines and specifics, but worship must be from the inward man and it must be in accordance with truth. It is easy to focus on the truth and forget about the inward man. It is easy to say that worship must be lively and with flowing feelings and forget about the truth. The professing Church of the modern day seems to ignore the words of Jesus and fall to one side or the other. It is not that this is a minor issue, however, but to fall off one side or the other means that the practice is not biblical and true worship.

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