Mark 7-8, Psalm 99
Traditions tend to be either completely man made or seek to add to His Word and are based on something with Biblical origins but are done in rote or ritualistic fashion stripping God out of the tradition in the process. Though baptism is a wonderful outward display of one's inward change in heart to follow Christ and be born again, it in itself neither saves or is necessary for salvation. For those who don't realize, Adolph Hitler was baptized as an infant. Likewise, the thief on the cross who we know from the lips of Jesus Himself is in heaven (Luke 23:39-43), yet was never baptized. The tradition of confirmation to assure that someone makes a decision to personally follow Jesus makes sense but must be done out of a personal desire of the heart not as a ritual forced upon 13 year olds in the Catholic and many Protestant faiths. Faith and a relationship with Jesus is always done out of free will and never out of compulsion or tradition. Many don't realize that Adolph Hitler acquiesced to his mother's wishes and in 1904 was confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church. Even celebrating holidays such as Christmas and Easter devoid of what they represent turn into mindless and empty rituals. They are not about gifts and trees and food and family but about Christ's birth and resurrection. There is a scene, I could have the source wrong, but I believe it was from a book called the "Auschwitz Escape", which showed the Jewish male lead in the story in shock when the concentration camp stopped the killing for the day, only to realize upon hearing the Nazi soldiers (statistically 54% Protestant, 40% Catholic ) in church singing loudly in celebration of Easter. They went back to the killing and mistreatment the following day. Traditions give us a false sense of security by following rituals mindlessly that we are in God's camp.
We read in Mark 7:1-3, "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders." They then confront Jesus and ask him in 7:5, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders,...". Though hand-washing is mentioned in the law, it, like all of God's law is done out of love to protect His people, in this case to minimize disease and improve hygiene. The Mishnah is the written version of the oral law that was passed down by the Jewish elders. While hand washing took up a minimal number of verses in the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) it represented 65 pages of intricate detail in the Mishnah detailing every facet of ceremonial hand washing. The detail included the amount of water: 1 1/2 eggshells of water, position of hands, how the hands could drip, how to rub, etc. One of my patient's husbands , named Shlomo, told me that in raising their children the focus is on the Mishnah over the Bible. In fact, to the Orthodox Jewish people the word of man in the Mishnah supersedes the Word of God in the Bible, stating from the Mishnah, "It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis than to contradict Scripture itself." Jesus responded by quoting Isaiah in Mark 7:6-7, "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.' "
So we must all stop for a moment and step back and ask ourselves why we do what we do. There are no grandchildren in heaven, only children. Many like to state that they or their loved ones are simply back-sliding. But the serious question which must be asked is whether there was ever any front-sliding. Did the fire ever spark. Even If raised in a serious, Bible teaching Christian household do our children follow out of obedience or love. Going to church is amazing and integral to our growth as long as we are going to be fed and fellowship, not just put our time in. Worship is amazing as we pour out our praise to the One who is worthy, but not if we do so distracted about the songs chosen, how well the worship leaders sing, what the person in the next row is wearing or what we will be having for breakfast. Prayers are integral but only if done in a personal way to the Receiver of our prayers, not in a rote and ritualistic fashion. Stepping out in faith often means stepping away from main stream society and looking different. This is our privilege and our calling, and we should not shy away from this, as Jesus stated in Mark 8:38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of Him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the Holy angels."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: