Tradition!

Many in the church today seem to have a negative view of the word, “traditions,” and perhaps in some instances they should.

In Mark 7, Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition,” or as Matthew 15:3 and 6 record, why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

This statement of Jesus followed His quoting to them from Isaiah 29:13, which states: “this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus said they were “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

But are traditions all bad?

Paul told the Thessalonians, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) He also told the church in Corinth, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2)

Just a few verses later in the same chapter, when Paul was instructing the women of Corinth to cover their heads while praying, he referred to this instruction with the Greek word “sunétheia,” which indicates “a custom, habit, or practice,” something that becomes “intimate” or “customary” through repeated usage.

So how are we to judge which traditions are valuable and which should be thrown out?

Notice from the verses that we have listed that the Bible does not exalt or denounce ideas and practices based simply on whether they are “old,” or “new,” but rather on whether or not they are conducive to godliness and in line with Biblical doctrine.

  • If the keeping of a tradition requires us to set aside God’s word, it must go.
  • If observing a particular tradition causes us to break God’s commandments, it must be abandoned.
  • If the process of learning our traditions “by rote” has resulted in heartless, mechanical worship, something must change.
  • If we are teaching our traditions as though they were the very words of God, we must stop.

On the other hand, if our traditions call us to godliness, enrich our spiritual lives, and bring honor to God, all without violating His revealed will, they are to be cherished and prolonged.

But what if a particular tradition is not causing any harm, and violates none of God’s commands, but some find it pointless and wish to abandon it while others think it continues to be useful?

A similar situation occurred in Romans 14.

Old dietary and holiday traditions still existed among new converts form Judaism to Christianity. Disagreements arose about the usefulness and validity of these old traditions now that the Christ had come. But Paul did not exactly pick sides. Instead, he seamed to confirm to them that either position was potentially acceptable: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”

To see more of what council the church in Rome was given, read through Romans chapter 14.

Advertisements

Making a Change

We noticed last week in our study of the prophet Hosea that Israel seemed to have an ongoing problem with worshipping statues of calves. We know this problem started all the way back in Exodus 32 when the people made two golden calves to worship even while Moses was still up on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments from God.

Hundreds of years later, they were still stumbling in the same old ways:

“With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, ‘My anger burns against them!’ How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.” (Hosea 8:4-6)

“And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” (Hosea 13:2)

For that matter, many have remarked that the entire Old Testament reads like a roller coaster ride with the morality and corresponding prosperity of God’s people going up and down, up and down, over and over again as the people fail to learn their lesson.

But is that not human nature? In 2 Peter 2:22, we are told that it is a “true proverb” that “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We fail time and again in the same exact ways.

So what are we to do about our recurring sin problems? The scriptural answer is that we must have our minds totally renewed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A common saying goes that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The alternative, of course, is to do something new in your search for new and different results.

What will you commit to doing something this week that is new or different from what you normally do? What change can you make that will invite God to be your king, friend, and mentor like never before? Will you commit to making some change in your routine? To giving something up in order to focus more on Him? What about stepping out of your comfort zone in a new way? Or talking to someone about a part of you that has long been hidden? When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and make us new.