August 31

Matthew 15-16, Psalm 88

I was raised in the Episcopalian religion, my wife in Roman Catholicism. When my mother died 30 years ago, my wife and my sister-in-law were walking up to receive communion in the Episcopal church when my sister-in-law stopped and told my wife that they were not allowed to receive communion outside the Catholic church. My wife continued on and received. The next day, when my wife retold the story at work (she was a teacher in a Catholic school), the nun and principal said that my wife was wrong and that my sister-in-law was right.  Not challenging, but truly inquiring, she asked the nun where it says that in the Bible. Though my wife was not a believer, her answer jarred my wife. She said she didn't know, for she and the other nuns were not encouraged to read the Bible. This is not against the Catholic church but a concern whenever one blindly follows the rules of a religion in a rote fashion believing that brings them into a relationship with God.  Most young adults are having sex and living together which doesn't seem to bother many religious parents. What troubles them is when they don't get married in the church.  Most young couples do not go to church and are functioning agnostics which also doesn't really bother many as long as they are in love and able to support themselves. When these agnostic couples have there children, it is not raising them in a house without God that troubles most religious parents, but that they don't baptize their children which troubles them.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:8-9, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Jesus always cared about the heart or the internals, not the externals which often led to a hypocritical demonstration of religion. He goes on to warn the Pharisees and scribes (the religious establishment of that day) in Matthew 15:3, "...Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" He clarifies the problem in 15:11, "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." He expands on this in 15:19-20. Jesus then warns His disciples in Matthew 16:6, "...Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Jesus then explains what he means to His disciples and we read in 16:12, "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  The doctrine of the Pharisees was legalism which emphasized a heartless following of rules and regulations (Paul expanded on this in Galatians). The doctrine of the Sadducees was liberalism, which denied angels, miracles, a resurrection, just focused on making you a better person while on this earth (Paul expanded on this in Colossians).

Like most people my age, as a child I was confirmed at age 12-13. Also, like many my age I couldn't wait to get away from church and promptly stopped going for a long time, for my heart was not in it. I was merely being obedient. It wasn't until age 27 when someone prayed the Word of God over me at my mother's death, which prompted me to start reading the Bible that I repented and entered into a relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. When we look at ourselves and those around us we must reflect on the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Jesus calls us into real relationship, which means He wants our heart, not some superficial lip service and outward demonstrations of religion. This requires commitment and dedication not half-heartedness. Martyred missionary Jim Eliot said it well, when he said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster