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TRADITIONS and LIFE

By William R. Cunningham
Lesson for Sunday September 5, 1999

Introduction

What interferes with the way of truth very often is tradition and the teachings of men. Too often people are more likely to cling to the teachings of their church or favorite evangelist instead of discovering what God said. Jesus said

Matt. 4:4 (KJV) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Do we govern our lives according to the word of God or are we clinging to the beliefs and practices of our churches? What protocol do you use for your life? There are two primary religious protocols that we (Christians) can follow: Churchianity and Christianity. In this lesson we will examine the effect of the traditions of Churchianity on the life of the Christian and how Churchianity replaces the Christian protocol for governing one’s life. We will also examine some methods that can be used to return to a life of Christianity while being delivered from Churchianity.

Tradition

What is a tradition? The word tradition means:

  1. The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication.
  2. A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage.
  3. A body of unwritten religious precepts.
  4. A time-honored practice or set of such practices.

Intrinsically Neutral

Traditions are not intrinsically bad. As a matter of fact, the origin of the Bible is indeed in oral traditions. However, a problem arises when mere traditions of man are practiced over and above the traditions of God. Consider the following scripture.

(2 Th 2: 15 KJV) Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

The traditions referred to in this scripture are the teachings of Paul. Note the distinction between the oral traditions (teachings) and the written ones. So tradition of and in itself is not evil or bad. The question is whether one follows the traditions of man or the traditions of the scriptures, which to the Christian are the teachings of Christ. Again, I should point out that not all traditions of man are bad. The problem arises when these traditions replace the word of God in our lives.

The traditions of a culture or society are preserved even if a group of these people move to a different location outside of their indigenous land. For example, people from a different country may uphold their traditions and teach them to their children even after moving to the United States. These traditions are designed to preserve their culture even in a foreign land.

The church similarly developed traditions in an attempt to preserve the Christian way of life by separating themselves from the world around them. Rules such as not drinking, gambling, etc. were developed. These traditions should not replace the true knowledge of the word of God.

Tradition and God’s Word

Now let us turn our attention to the traditions of man, which interfere with the traditions of the word of God. Consider the following scripture, which is our text scripture.

Matt. 15:1 through Matt. 15:9 (KJV) Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Note the concern of the Pharisees. They were concerned merely with their tradition, which in this case had no scriptural basis. A prominent Jewish tradition was the ceremonial washing of hands before meals. Notice also that Jesus did not answer their question but instead pointed out a loophole in their tradition in regards to the word of God.

Judaism placed great importance on honoring one’s parents (See Exodus 20:12). It was considered one of the most important of all laws. This honoring of parents included, for example, financial support when they are up in age. Consider that anyone who curses mother of father was to be put to death. That is how serious this was. However, the traditions of the Pharisees allowed for a way to circumvent this law. A person could declare that the money, for example, that they would use to honor their parents with would instead be declared sacred and used for something else. This allowed a way for someone to fail to support his or her parents in lieu of a tradition.

There are some important points that you should understand about this particular incidence in the text scripture.

  1. The tradition was not a commandment of God
  2. The tradition being defended by the Pharisees interfered with the commandment of God
  3. The authority that the Pharisees had made the tradition seem like a commandment from God

Notice that Jesus continues with a synopsis of the situation. The Pharisees worshipped by deed but not from the heart. It is quite simple to do righteousness but it is another thing to be righteous. The Bible tells us.

Isa. 64:6 (KJV) But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

See also Ezekiel 33:13 and Daniel 9:8. Note the word righteousnesses. This word means righteous acts or deeds of righteousness. A practice of this is similar to someone believing that they can win approval from God by doing good deeds. Our righteous acts have no value apart from true righteousness. The Pharisees were concerned with and practiced righteous acts without truly having a righteous heart. Their hearts were not heavenly, rather earthly. See Matthew 6:19-34. So the traditions of the Pharisees were worldly and not godly. Consider the following scriptures.

Col. 2:8 (KJV) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

1 Pet. 1:18 (KJV) Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

Our salvation and the life we live should be based on Christ and his teachings and not by the traditions of men.

The Traditions of Man

The Traditions of man are not intrinsically bad or wrong. However, when these traditions are held in higher esteem then the word of God then a serious problem exists. We see from our text scripture that a pious life can be lived apart from a true heart for God. This piousness is external and therefore is thought to be real by observers. For example, we may go to church every Sunday, pay our tithes, pray three times a day, etc. We think that these are what God desires. How wrong we are. The traditions of man are founded upon rituals, preservation, and self-righteousness. Let’s talk about the later for a moment. Consider what Jesus said about the Pharisees.

(Mat 5:20 KJV) For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 23:27-28 KJV) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. {28} Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

God was not impressed with the scribes and Pharisees. They did righteous things but were not really righteous. The same holds true for us today. We can choose to live by the word of God or we can appear to live by the word of God.

Application

The important thing to realize is that the Pharisees allowed their traditions to take precedence over the word of God and they imposed this belief on others. How does this manifest itself in our lives today? This ultimately manifests itself in the decisions that we make. We will factor in what we think is right according to God, our desires, and the things we need when we make decisions. Deciding on a job, trip, venture, or spouse will be severely effected by the protocol that you live by.

Church

One of the greatest influences in a Christian’s life is the church (the organization). People tend to believe whatever the pastor or elder says without regard for the truthfulness of his or her claims. Church has become a platform for indoctrination and in many cases a form of occultism. Christians that actually read the Bible, understand the scriptures, and seek truth are a minority. Most Christians, from my experiences, are not concerned with knowing the scriptures for themselves. Most Christians, from my experience, are only concerned with what the pastor tells them or what their church believes. Truth in the word of God is not important and therefore not sought after. This is Churchianity at its best.

Churchianity

Churchianity is a word that describes the ritualistic and traditional tendencies of the traditional or typical church. Churchianity is not centered on Jesus Christ. Churchianity includes Christians (ignorant) and non-Christians, all of which believe that they are saved. Churchianity spreads the lies of its rituals, beliefs, dogma, and traditions on the unsuspecting and ignorant congregation. Not only that, the Churchianity leaders promote ignorance by placing themselves in high esteem and authority over the people and by not promoting knowledge of the word of God. Rarely will you hear preachers tell you to study your Bible, ask questions, speak what you believe. Instead, Churchianity usually tells us to be quiet and just believe what the pastor believes.

Practicality

We said earlier that the protocol (tradition) that you follow would influence the decisions that you make. Many people will heed the voice of their pastor and quit their job or leave their spouse. Why? They do these things merely because the pastor or elder says to do them. Consider what the Bible says in regards to decision making.

(Prov 3:5-6 KJV) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. {6} In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

They key is the Lord and not the teachings of others. In order to trust God we must know what He says. In order to know what He says we have to seek for ourselves. After knowing the word of God and trusting him, we can have confidence that he will direct our paths. Sure we will learn from ministers and pastors and teachers. However, they are not the source for Biblical truth. Consider the time when you were in school. Did you merely listen to the teacher and then take the test? No! Instead you listened to the teacher and went home to study diligently so that you would be prepared to take the test. It was important that you understood the material and that you sought that understanding individually. The same applies to LIFE! We still are responsible for learning and knowing what God says and applying his word to our lives individually. This occurs apart from a church, religious organization, or personal preference.

Decisions

Decisions are made by first stating the problem, gathering information, determining possible solutions and selecting the best or most appropriate solution. This sounds easy but the actual decision making process is more complicated. It includes the conscience, morals, beliefs, convictions, personal preferences, likes and dislikes, and overall disposition on the subject matter. This is where tradition enters in. If you are established on the traditions of men then your decisions will be made with those man-made traditions as a component of the decision making process. Your hope will not be in the word of God for direction, rather the teachings of your church or the general traditions that you have accepted. To say the least, you may go in a completely different direction then what God intended for you to go.

Traditions sometimes manifest themselves by rules and regulations. A person may believe that they can’t marry a certain person because their church doesn’t believe in this or that. However, you are the one responsible for knowing God’s instruction on the matter and the facts of the matter in order to make an effective decision

Faith

Living according to the traditions of man just about eliminates the need to live by faith. All you have to do is follow the rules given to you and everything will be OK. Living by faith requires that you are sensitive to the voice of God, that you know God’s word, and that you are aware of God and acknowledge him in all decisions. Living by faith does not go by the rules of man. Living by faith operates on the principle of adhering to God’s word.

Conclusion

What protocol do you use to govern your life? What is the basis of your decision making processes? What do you weigh possible solutions against during the decision making process. I pray that the foundation of your life is the word of God. I pray that the significant component to your decision making process is the word of God. I pray that overall, the traditions of God (the word of God) are more prominent in your life then the traditions of life. I pray that you truly live by every word that comes from God.

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