Sunday, January 3, 2016, 1:50 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, What Joy!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 15:1-20 (NASB). Tradition vs. The Word (vv. 1-6) Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘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.’” The Pharisees were big on following traditions passed down to them from their religious ancestors, some of which may have been based originally in biblical teaching, but were added on to and expanded to take on meaning or application not necessarily originally intended. Such was the case here. At the core of these traditions was man-made religion based in human thinking and reasoning, and the twisting of the Word of God. They were man’s attempts to appear righteous by keeping a set of external rules and regulations. They wanted to look good on the outside to impress people with their spirituality, but it was based in outward performance, while wickedness reigned within their hearts. They were more concerned with the letter of the law, specifically in areas of outward performance of rituals or traditions, than they were with the spirit of the law. Jesus often chided them on their hypocrisy and their lack of love, mercy and concern for other human beings. I believe this still exists today, though it may take on a slightly different form. It is still man-made religion, and it has primarily the same objective, only the package it comes in now is that of what I call “false grace,” i.e. a grace that teaches that one can merely say a prayer and that person now has escaped hell, has heaven secured, but nothing is required of him or her, i.e. no repentance, no obedience, no holy living, and no honoring of God as holy. It is another teaching based in human tradition, but is not supported scripturally. It is also a religion based in self and what self gets out of it, and of claiming the righteousness of God absent of submission to the cross of Christ. There seems to be no concern for surrender to God, or surrender to his will, and a desire to please him. This man-made religion, thus, has no power to transform hearts away from sin and to following Jesus Christ with their lives, because it is based in self, and not in God and in his Word. They give lip service, but their hearts are far from God, because it is all about them and not about God. If it was about God and their love for him, they would desire him, and would want nothing more than to follow him with their lives in obedience and in surrender to his will, rather than trying to find religious excuses for continuing in sin without guilt and without remorse, i.e. this “grace” gives free license to continue in sin and still have heaven. Explosive Tongues (vv. 10-20) After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” The Pharisees hated Jesus Christ because they saw him as their competition. He opposed them on multiple levels, he confronted them with their sins, and he exposed them for what they were. They were jealous of him and of his popularity among the people, and they felt threatened by him, i.e. they were afraid of losing their own positions of power and influence over the people if the people started following Jesus. They hated him, too, because he claimed to be God, who he is. So, they made it their mission to go after him and his disciples to try to trip them up or to try to discredit them in hopes that the people would no longer follow Jesus. But, Jesus knew what was in their hearts, and he was able to speak directly to the real issues at the core, and to show them what was truly in their hearts. When we, who are followers of Jesus Christ, speak the truth of God’s Word, and we confront sin, expose wickedness and lies, warn of divine judgment and call people to repentance, we will be hated as Jesus was hated, and we will be treated in like manner as what the Pharisees and others treated Jesus. We have to note here that his severest critics were not the people of the world, but those of the Jewish faith, i.e. those who were then the people of God, and not just the people, but the leaders of the people. So, we can expect, too, that some of our severest opposition will come from those who call themselves followers of Christ, and even from the congregants and those in leadership within organized religion. When our opposition feels threatened by what we are teaching from God’s word, they may come out against us with great fierceness and aggressiveness, with their tongues exploding with all kinds of accusations against us, such as they did with Jesus. They may use such techniques against us as twisting our words or putting words in our mouths we did not say, or trying to make it about us, and not about what God’s word says. In other words, they might redirect the blame so as to make it sound as though what we are teaching is something we made up when truly it comes directly from the word of God. They may try to say that truth is in what the majority is saying, but majority opinion does not necessarily mean it is right. Or, they may accuse us of being hateful, bigoted, extremists, prejudicial, judgmental, intolerant, non-accepting of people different from us, etc., or those who are teaching works-based salvation, and even use the word of God out of context to try to prove their point. They are blind guides leading the blind, and both will fall into the pit. What Jesus is saying here is that externals do not save us. We are not purified and cleansed of sin by going through religious rituals or by following man-made religion and traditions. We are not saved by going through religious exercises, either, which includes saying some magic words just so that we can have our escape from hell and our promise of heaven when we die, while not honoring God. Mere words do not save us. We are saved by God’s grace, through faith and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of the works of the flesh lest we should boast that we somehow attained our own salvation (See: Eph. 2:8-9). But, then verse 10 (of Eph. 2) says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” James said that faith without works is dead. Faith in Jesus Christ is not absent of works, but they are the works of God which he accomplishes in and through our lives as we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives in conforming us to the image of Christ and in making us into holy vessels he can use for his purposes and for his glory. When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and we are given all we need to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. We no longer conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh or make excuses for sin now that we are under grace, but by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and we are walking in the Spirit. True religion, i.e. true faith in Jesus Christ does not negate the very purpose for which Jesus Christ died. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel of our salvation. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not after the flesh but who walk according to the Spirit. Coming to Christ means death to sin, and being transformed in heart and mind away from sin to living for God and his righteousness. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin but rather it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. So, if someone is feeding you a lie, telling you that if you say certain words that you now have an escape from hell and a ticket into heaven, but God requires no repentance and no obedience, then know that there will be many on the day we all come before God who will hear “I never knew you, depart from me,” because they had all the appearance of godliness, i.e. their confession of faith, but their hearts were far from God, i.e. there was no evidence by their lifestyles that a genuine heart transformation had even taken place. The Bible says that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue walking in the darkness (in sin), we are liars. It says if we say we love God or we know God, but we don’t keep his commands, we are liars. We don’t know God and we don’t love him (See: 1 John). This is not talking about sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but it is talking about our lifestyles and where our hearts are in relation to God. So, make sure your heart is in the right place today. Repent of your sins and turn to follow Jesus Christ with your life today. Oh, What Joy! / An Original Work / July 8, 2011 Oh, what joy! Oh, what peace There will be when Christ you meet. Oh, what love He imparts, When Christ comes within your heart – Saving you from all your sins; Holy Spirit, now within, Teaching, guiding you each day, As you bow your knees and pray. Oh, what joy! Oh, what peace When you sit at Jesus’ feet, List’ning to your Lord speak; Obey Him throughout the week. Oh, what grace He provides; From our past we step aside; Turn from sin; cleansed within; Walking with Christ; died with Him. He paid the price for our sins, So our new lives we begin, Living for Him ev’ry day, Doing all that He did say. Oh, what grace He provides When we walk at Jesus’ side; Follow Him where He leads, Loving others; their needs meet. Oh, what joy! Oh, what peace When Christ Jesus soon we meet. He will come in the sky To take home with Him, His bride. We are waiting His return. For our Savior, our hearts yearn. We keep watch in how we live. To our Lord, our hearts we give. Oh, what joy! Oh, what peace; Live with Christ eternally! Reign with Him; His kingdom; We will be forever Home.