Speaking to God, the Psalmist says:
“Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness. THE ENTIRETY OF YOUR WORD IS TRUTH, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psalm 119:159-160 – caps are mine)
The word “revive” comes from the Hebrew “châyâh” (pronounced “khaw-yaw”). It means to bring life to again.”
Only God’s Word, left unmolested, can do that.
Our enemy, satan, knows this. Therefore, he has always challenged what God has said even as early as the Garden as he began his temptation of mankind:
“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
The devil is NOT creative at all. What he started in Eden he continues to do in the hearts and minds of people today.
In the Gospel of Mark we see that the Pharisees and scribes had journeyed from Jerusalem to Gennesaret to harass Jesus. This was probably a 2 day walk for them.
They did what religious people often do to this day concerning true worshipers of God (satan is not creative): they watched looking for something to use to pick Jesus apart.
“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered and 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. AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.'” (Mark 7:5-7)
Hypocrisy is when people say one thing with their lips or writing but practice the very opposite in their lives.
Jesus wasn’t being “judgmental” in the way it is used today (as an insult designed to make someone stop saying the truth about their sin.) He was, however, judging the behavior of the Pharisees by identifying it for what it was: hypocrisy. He correctly labelled them when He identified them as hypocrites.
Jesus goes on to make His point.
“‘For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men— the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’ He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’” (Mark 7:5-9)
The Pharisees were trying to make Jesus look unholy because He allowed His disciples to eat without washing their hands….a tradition that man (the elders) created. Jesus was about to show them something He observed about the Jewish leaders when He was still in heaven before He came to live on the earth:
“For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO CURSES FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"—‘ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.’” (Mark 7:5-13)
Jesus knew about “Corban.” Everyone knew about Corban since it was a common thing in Israel at that time; however, Jesus KNEW the spiritual significance of Corban.
Corban was, as we would say today, a “loophole”.
If a son did not feel like honoring his parents in their need with his money or goods he could say they were “Corban”, which meant “dedicated to God.” It gave the assumption that it would someday end up in the Temple treasury.
The priests, of course, loved this idea…this man-made tradition….because they could benefit from it. It did not matter to them that someone’s parents would have to do without nor did it matter to them that the son of those parents was sinning (dishonoring his parents) by using this loophole.
Jesus had a problem with this.
Jesus has a problem with all man-made traditions that are at the very least added to the Word of God and almost always contradict the Word of God.
Why does Jesus object to this? Well, He said why in Mark 7:13:
These man-made traditions make “the word of God of no effect.”
That term “making the word of God of no effect” literally means that it makes it ineffective or nullifies the Word of God.
God’s Word, left unmolested, has power.
“For the MESSAGE (or WORD) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved IT IS THE POWER OF GOD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 – caps mine for emphasis)
When we supplement or set aside the purity of God’s Word for man’s traditions we also set aside the power in God’s Word. This means that whatever God intended for all involved by saying it and commanding it in the first place.
God is intentional. He says what He means and He says it for the benefit of mankind.
When man molests God’s Word man effectively shields himself from the benefits God intends for him through obedience to His Word.
This is also true of adding things to the Word of God in matters in which God has chosen to remain silent. This is why there are several places in the Word of God in which we are told to not add to nor take anything away from the purity and simplicity of what He has said.
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverb 30:5-6)
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelations 22:18-19)
The fact that is on my heart today is that starting even before a pagan Roman emperor (Constantine) in the third century began to pollute the simplicity of the Lord’s Church with ideas he drew from his military and government style AND the worship of pagan “gods” around him, man began adding his own traditions to the Word of God. With Constantine’s involvement and influence this pollution gained a terrible momentum.
Today’s Church is littered with ideas, even after the Reformation, that we consider to be truth but that are not to be found anywhere in the Word of God.
We believe them and practice them because we trust that people before us who did that were correct.
They are, however, man’s traditions and NOT from God’s Word.
They are, in the words of Jesus, “making the word of God of no effect” in our lives and if we do not repent and stop teaching those who come after us that these false ideas are from God we will be guilty of what Jesus said the Pharisees and those before
them had done to the people they were supposed to be watching over: “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.”
Jesus places the responsibility on those leaders for handing down traditions of men which, for the people who practiced them, nullified the power of the Word of God in their lives.
What a terrible legacy!
It grieves me to think I may have had a part in this and I know…by my example I have.
We ALL have.
I’ll give a simple example. Many of us have identified ourselves as being a part of a tiny subset of the Church that Jesus built. Our identity will be with our denomination or congregation and, therefore, won’t really be with Jesus.
We routinely say things like “I am ________” (fill in the blank with the name of your denomination or congregation subset of Christianity). This communicates division from the rest of the Body of Christ.
We use terms like “My church family” – which disassociates us with all the other Christians that God considers to collectively be HIS family.
Neither of these ideas and, in turn, practices are found in the Word of God anywhere.
Both these ideas and practices, to some degree, make the Word of God to no effect….they cheat us of the power of being ONE BODY that God intends for us.
It’s biblically incorrect….and it hurts us and it hurts the establishment and growth of GOD’S Kingdom on the earth.
The sad thing is that these are just two of hundreds of ways we routinely inadvertently make God’s Word to be of no effect by practicing traditions of men rather than simply living out what God has said (and hasn’t said) about these things.
And please hear me: I did not say “YOU have done this.” Rather, I said, “WE do this.”
I’m guilty of this too…..and it HAS to stop.
Now, we can approach this in two ways:
1) We can do so in fear, which I believe would be wrong because if we did this we would be driven by fear. Fear would, then, become our lord and that is the place for Jesus in our hearts and lives.
2) We can approach it in terms of gratitude, love and obedience toward God and His Word. This, I believe, is how we are always supposed to live when God convicts us of our sin.
What follows is how I am trying to go about this course correction in my own life: I do not intend to change myself. That’s God’s job.
I intend to (and have been trying to practice consistently for some time) present myself to God for HIM to correct me.
I intend to receive His correction and repent…..agree in my heart that I was wrong and that God was right…and commit to practicing His Word in accordance to HIS truth and not my own ideas….nor the traditions of other mere men.
I suggest that in your meditation you do something I believe He has given to me to do: question every aspect of what we think Christianity is…..EVERYTHING. Ask the Lord, “Did You intend for us to do this…to live like this….to believe this….to have faith in this?”
Search God’s Word for these ideas. Be uncomfortable and ask someone else that you trust this question: “Where does it say that in the Bible?”
You might be shocked to realize how many of the ideas in which we have placed our faith (instead of simply in Jesus) never came from
God but are, in reality, man’s traditions.
These ALL make God’s Word to be of no effect in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
I don’t want to live like that any longer.
I CERTAINLY do not want to hand these beliefs down to those who come after me.
My experience has led me to believe that all true Christians desire to hear Jesus say these words to us:
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
May that be true for us all when we someday stand alone, face to face with our Jesus.
I pray that this article has been an encouragement to us all.
May we all commit to leave the Word of God unmolested in our lives.
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© July 1, 2016
(for use with permission)