Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 7:16 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Holiness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 7:1-23 (ESV). Human Traditions (vv. 1-5) Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” There are many people who profess the name of Jesus Christ who follow the traditions of humans over the teachings of Christ or in place of the scriptures and what they teach. They are more concerned with externals than they are with what is going on inside their own hearts and minds. And, I am not speaking merely of those we often call “legalists,” either. I believe there is perhaps even more man-made teaching being followed in today’s modern church gatherings than there is in many fundamental evangelical church gatherings. So, what are some human traditions which have been passed down from generation to generation within the church here in America? And/or, what are some human-based practices of today’s modern church which supersede the teachings of God’s word? Well, for one there is the matter of politeness. Many people are more concerned with what their culture teaches as “politeness,” to the point to where they will not share the true gospel of salvation, and they will not confront anyone with sin or expose false teaching because, to them, that would not be polite. Even if people are behaving unseemly within the gatherings of the church, they will not call them out on it. They would consider that rude. And, so all kinds of provocative behavior may go on within the meetings of the church because the people of the church are more concerned with being liked than they are with the spiritual condition of the people who need someone to speak the truth in love to them. In the modern church movement, they are being taught to not offend people with the full gospel message, but to tread lightly, and to give it to them in piece-meal, only many never do get to the part about death to sin and living to righteousness. Or else they just water it down totally to make it more palatable and more acceptable to their listeners. They never do intend to get to the crucified life because they are convinced that only Jesus had to die, and that we are not required to die with him to sin and to live with him to righteousness, in the power and working of the Spirit within us. And, so their confessions of Christ are surface only, and the gospel never really takes root in their lives. They go through the motions of having “church,” but it is based in human flesh and in entertaining people and in making them feel good about themselves, and in having a “good time,” but not in humility of spirit, submission to God, obedience to his Word, and in true worship and honor of God. So, what this does is open wide the door for a false grace gospel which gives free license to continue in sin. I believe, in fact, that it is the objective of the altered gospel presentation, perhaps in most all cases. In other words, if you profess to know Christ, but you have once again gotten caught up in sin, then you can either be miserable knowing what you are doing is wrong until you repent, or you can repent and stop sinning, and start obeying God’s word again, perhaps for the first time ever, and live in peace, or you can change the gospel to fit your lifestyle so that you can continue the way you are without guilt and without remorse. And, I believe that is why we have seen such a decline in the preaching of the whole counsel of God because people are trying to make the gospel fit their lifestyles, rather than have their lifestyles conform to the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. More Than Words (vv. 6-13) 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; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 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)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” But, Jesus is not interested in our human traditions. He is not pleased with our religious performances and our facades of righteousness. We can look good on the outside, go through all the right motions, and have everyone like us and think we are good Christians, but if it is lip service only, or external performance only, and our hearts are far from God because we refuse to repent of sin and to follow him in obedience, then our worship of God is in vain. We are wasting our time and our efforts for nothing. God/Jesus is not interested in hearing just words. It means nothing to him when we mouth the words “I love you,” if we don’t live like what we profess. Jesus said the way we show that we love him is by keeping his word; by obeying his commands. He does not demand sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but he does require that we walk in his love, in his truth, in his ways, and according to his Spirit, and that we no longer conduct our lives (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh. “I am not perfect” is never to be an excuse, though, for continued willful sin against God. God has provided a way out for us from temptation to sin, and he expects us to take it, and to not yield to our sinful flesh now that we have been crucified with Christ to sin and have been resurrected with him to new life. Jesus didn’t die merely to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness while we live on the earth. What Defiles Us (vv. 14-23) And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Many people may work on behavior modification, and will try, in their own flesh, to clean up their lives, and to improve their performance, so that they appear to be nicer people and more socially acceptable. From all outward appearances, they may seem like good Christian people, but they never deal with the sinful heart. And, so they continue in sin and never truly experience a regeneration of heart of the Spirit of God, because there are attitudes, thoughts and behaviors which they will not let go of, and which they will not submit to God’s Lordship. They may look religious on the outside, and may even do good deeds, but they are not saved. They are still bound for hell, without hope, and without God because they never did submit to death to sin and living to righteousness under the control of the Spirit of God in their lives. They want to “do things for God,” but not obey him. They want to decide what they are willing to do for God, while withholding their hearts from God. It is a lot like a spouse refusing to commit to faithfulness and fidelity, and trying to prove his or her love through external performance or through words only. But, God is not interested in just words or in performance. He wants our all on the altar of sacrifice laid, our hearts under the Spirit’s control. In Holiness / An Original Work February 1, 2016 Praise the Lord all you saints! Worship God in holiness. Trust in Him! Do not faint! Believe in His righteousness. God is faithful in all things. He delivered you from sin. Follow Him where’er He leads. Witness daily. His words heed. Trust in Him! He is truth! He has not forsaken you. Rest in Him! Let Him lead! He will meet all of your needs. When you go through trials deep, He’ll be with you. He’ll not sleep. Walk with Him throughout your day. Read your Bible. Kneel and pray. Give to God all your heart! From His mercy ne’er depart. Jesus died for your sin! Walk in vict’ry. Live in Him. Jesus paid the debt we owe. From our lives His love should flow, Living for Him ev’ry day, Loving others, His words say.