Seeing God pt. 1

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Job both had it all, and lived a life that honored God. The Bible tells us that he was immensely wealthy, had thousands of livestock, hundreds of servants, and a good family. More important than his material wealth, Job was described by scripture as a man who was “perfect and just, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

If anyone deserved the continued blessings of God, it was Job. Yet, God allowed Job to lose everything. Why?

In Job 42:5, after having gone through so much suffering, Job said to God, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now I have seen you with my eyes.”

That was the goal God set forth from the beginning. God used everything Job endured to transform his faith to where God was more tangible to him.

In Job 19:25, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand upon the earth at the latter day.”

Job’s use of the word “redeemer” is interesting, because it usually referred to the process of being purchased out of a debtors prison, or debt-driven servitude. Job, until chapter 1, had been a rich man. He wasn’t a man sold into a debtors prison. Yet, here, he refers to his “redeemer.”

Job used that word because he understood that life was not about the wealth and experiences he had in this world. Life is about what happens in the next. He was looking forward to the Lord coming, and redeeming him from this life to the next. He had this faith prior to losing everything, and losing everything refined this faith as the book progresses.

Everything God does, He does to bring us into His presence. Once we understand and trust that concept, our life’s experiences take on new meaning.

The first step in this is to understand our redemption. Listen below as Pastor Leland Acker discusses what a redeemer is, Who our Redeemer is, and what we’ve been redeemed from.

Seeing God!

Seeing God

How could a loving God give you everything, and then demand everything in return?

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, recalled a Sunday morning Bible study:

A pastor read a passage from Genesis 22 where God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. Isaac was the son that God had promised for years, and Abraham and Sarah had gone through much tribulation while waiting on God to fulfill His promise of a son. Now, the son was here, and Abraham was being called to sacrifice him. (End of the story, God saw Abraham’s faith, and gave him a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac.)

The pastor offered some historical background, then said, “What does this mean for us?”

One man answered, “I’ll tell you what it means for me, I’m looking for a new church.”

The pastor asked, “Why?”

The man replied, “Because when I look at God, the God of Abraham, I feel that I am new a real God, not the sort of dignified businesslike Rotary Club God we chatter about here on Sunday Mornings. Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give then take a child, ask everything from a person, then want more. I want to know that God!”

The man’s assessment of God emphasized His power, and downplayed His love and grace. Likewise, many today emphasize His grace and love but not His power. A true understanding of God understands both, and sees the balance in the character of God.

For years, churches have preached about the love of God, and how He loves each and every one of us. We preach about His grace, and how He provides and cares for us.

Then, tragedy happens, and we don’t understand how that tragedy can be consistent with God’s love and care. If God is all powerful, in control of all things, and is loving, how can He allow such a tragedy to enter our lives?

We stumble for answers. Maybe God’s building our faith. Maybe He’s setting us up to be a witness for His glory. Maybe someone else will be saved because of our suffering. Yet, none of these explanations offer much comfort. Why should I have to suffer so that God can make a point?

The truth is, God does not make you suffer just so He can make a point. He does, however, use suffering to draw us closer to Him. Everything He does is to draw us into His presence. What does that mean?

In Job 19:25, after losing all of his property, livestock, wealth, and children, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and will stand on the earth in the last day.” He went on to say that after he had died, yet in his flesh would he see the Lord.

Job called the Lord his “Redeemer.” What does that mean?

A redeemer is one who rescues. In the Old Testament sense, it was a family member who raised the money to purchase a loved one out of slavery. The redeemer redeemed the family member from bondage and set them free.

Job was not a slave, yet he looked for his “Redeemer.” From what did Job have to be “redeemed?”

He was redeemed from the curse of his sin. Likewise, he was looking forward to the day he would be redeemed from the sufferings of this life. He was looking forward to the Lord’s return, and his redemption into everlasting life.

Job came to understand this, and thus in Job 42:5, he said “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”

Over the next few weeks at Life Point, we are going to gain a better understanding of who we are, and the hope we have in God. Furthermore, we are going to gain a better understanding of why trauma and tragedy enter our lives, and what God does to heal it. All of this with the intent to gain a better understanding of the Lord, a stronger faith, and a brighter hope.

Come see us. Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. at 599 Sunrise in Early, TX.

Life Got You Down? Our Next Series Might Be For You

Adon had been a faithful member of the church for years. He had trusted the Lord as his savior as a young man, had tithed regularly, donated to the church’s missions program, and had even accompanied a group on a mission trip to Central America. If more of God’s people were like Adon, greater things would be happening for the cause of Christ.

Adon had served God faithfully, asking nothing in return. Adon never prayed that God would reward him with a better job, nicer car or bigger house. Yet, when Adon’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, that changed. Adon prayed earnestly to God, begging God to cure his mother’s cancer, to heal her, and to restore her life. He prayed that her pain would subside, that the doctors would be guided to the proper treatment, and that a cure would be found.

For six agonizing months, Adon pleaded with God for this one miracle, the healing of his mother. Other folks had cancer, and other folks saw their cancer go into remission. But Adon’s mother continued to struggle with the disease.

Adon was told that the prayer of faith would save the sick. He was told that if he prayed in faith, God would answer. All Adon had to do was pray in faith, and claim the victory. Adon continued in prayer. He stayed faithful to the church. And he never doubted God’s love and power.

That is, until the doctor declared his mother to be dead, at 2:23 p.m. on a sunny Tuesday in October.

Why didn’t God hear Adon’s prayers? Was his faith incomplete? Did he falter? When did he doubt? Was his prayer not fervent enough?

If all the prayer he had poured out would not save his mother, what was the point? Why didn’t the scriptures that were shared with him work? Was his Bible broken? Is this all a lie? Is faith only good as long as he is serving and donating to the church?

Adon became disillusioned. And who could blame him? The person who was most precious to him in the world had just been ripped away.

If we are honest, I think most of us can relate to Adon.

But there is one man in the Bible that we can look to in order to learn how to handle these times of tragedy. Like Adon, Job was also a faithful servant of God. He was just and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. He gave generously, and prayed on behalf of all those he loved. Yet, in a matter of a few days, Job lost everything… his wealth, health, and kids.

The whole world collapsed on Job. Even his wife told him to curse God and die. And when his friends came, they said it must be karma… that Job must have done something horrible to deserve this misfortune.

Much theological truth is poured out during the debates between Job and his friends. Job’s faith remained in tact, and by the end of the book, he had received a revelation that few have ever seen. Job got to know God in a way you and I cam barely imagine.

In Job 42:5, Job says to God, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”

Up until now, Job had believed in a God whom he had learned about by the teaching of the word. But now, Job believed in a God he had seen with his own eyes. While God’s presence in the book of Job is clearly felt, Job gained such an understanding of the Lord through his struggle.

The book of Job offers us comfort by giving us that deeper understanding of the Lord. And if you are enduring a time of trauma, grief or bereavement right now, you are about to experience God in a way you never before imagined.

Join us on Sunday mornings in October to obtain a deeper understanding of God through our struggles. Morning worship begins at 11 a.m.

Receive! (Mark 9:36-41)

As the disciples argued over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus took a small child and placed him in the middle, telling the disciples that those who would receive little children would also receive Christ. In other words, if you want to honor the Lord, receive those whom can do nothing for you.

Listen to the above-posted sermon as Pastor Leland Acker discusses how we are to love others the way Christ loved us.

What the Perfect 21st Century Christian is Missing

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If you were to live up to every idealized qualification of the modern American Christian, what all would you do today? When we think of the ideal Christian, we often think of someone who:

  • Has a daily devotion time.
  • Has a daily prayer time.
  • Fosters/adopts children.
  • Donates time and money to charity.
  • Advocates for righteous political causes.
  • Reads daily devotion blogs, parenting/marriage websites, and attends seminars.
  • Active in church.

All of these are good things, and we do not want to discourage anyone from doing something that brings them closer to the Lord, or something that brings fulfillment and joy. However, if these things distract us from our main calling in Christ, then we are not only missing the point, we are drifting away from Him.

In Mark 9, Jesus told His disciples that some would live to see the Kingdom of God come with power. That must have been exciting news for the disciples, knowing that they stood a chance of seeing God’s glory, and having their faith validated.

The next few verses describe how Jesus then took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain, and as they were there, Christ took on His glorified form and proceeded to have a conversation with the resurrected Moses and Elijah.

These three disciples were not only witnessing the power and glory of God, but they were seeing two of their biggest Bible heroes in person. It had to be an awe-inspiring moment.

Caught up in that moment, Peter started talking.

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s build three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

It was at that point that the Bible tells us that a cloud overshadowed them all, and the voice of God spoke, “This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!”

Poor Peter had a habit of engaging his mouth before his brain was in gear, but who could blame him for his excitement. We can all understand his desire to treat Moses and Elijah with respect. However, in building tabernacles to them, as well as Christ, Peter was inadvertently proposing to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus. That was a mistake that God corrected.

Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Those were the scriptures that children learned and adults were taught to live by. While there was a lot to learn from the scriptures, it must be remembered that the scriptures testified of the redemption and salvation that would come through Jesus Christ.

Today, the story of the Bible, from beginning to finish, is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation according to the scriptures. That Gospel is the turning point of human history, and the foundational belief of the Christian faith.

With all the expectations thrown on us today, and all the different books, podcasts and TV shows vying for our attention, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and get so busy that we lose sight of God’s love for us. Nothing could be further from God’s will.

If the perfect 21st Century Christian has lost sight of God’s love for him, then he is missing the one thing God wants for him. He is missing a blessed assurance that God loves him, and will welcome him into His Kingdom.

The more we understand this love, the more at peace we will have, and the more effective we will be in Kingdom work.

So take time and rest in God’s love today. Focus on what He has done for you, and turn to the scriptures for a fuller understanding.

Where’s the Joy?

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In an epic rant on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, comedian Louis C.K. lamented that, “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.” In his rant, Louis C.K. noted advancements in technology, travel, credit availability and prosperity, yet the country as a whole was in a pretty foul mood.

Indeed, over the past 240, God has prospered America, yet America is not happy. We can have face-to-face communications via Facetime with loved ones overseas. We can fly across the entire country in five hours. We can access any tidbit of information known to man within a few seconds. Literally, the collective knowledge of man is cataloged by Google, and easily accessible from the smart phone you keep in your pocket.

Economically, there are ebbs and flows. Yet, the trend is for businesses to expand, consumers to buy more, and employment is readily available for most. Those who are entrepreneurially minded can check market demands and easily connect with prospective customers via the internet, which has leveled the playing field between the upstarts and major corporations.

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we can now stream our favorite TV shows when we want to. No longer must we set an appointment for Thursday nights.

Everything’s amazing, yet nobody’s happy.

Television shows endless scenes of protest, controversy, and news personalities drone on and on about the President’s tweets, and the political fall out thereof.

While Fox News may promote rising stock prices and lowering unemployment rates, no TV news network seems to want to tell the stories of the overcomers. Instead, every injustice is pointed out and inflated to foment conflict and division, which are good for politics and ratings.

Thus, the general public consumes this inflammatory content, then goes to social media to air out their frustrations. Thus, online arguments start, people continue to visit social media to participate in the argument, and online media numbers rise.

30 years ago, the general public had little opportunity to weigh in publicly on the issues of the day. Today, there are ample opportunities to do so.

Everything’s amazing. Nobody’s happy.

Today, our nation finds itself in a similar position as Israel did in Isaiah 9.  In Isaiah 9:3, the Bible says, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.”

Over several hundred years, God prospered the nation of Israel. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, cared for them as they wandered as nomads in the wilderness, and conquered the promised land for them. Once in the promised land, God prospered them with bountiful harvests, and a strong economy.

When Israel demanded that God give them a king, He provided them with strong kings who led the nation further into prosperity, and defended them against enemy invaders.

Under King Solomon, Israel reached the height of its prominence, strong not only in national defense, but also becoming a superpower.

God multiplied the nation. He gave them increase, yet their joy did not increase. Despite God’s blessings, Israel remained discontent. Discontent over the financial sacrifice made to build the temple, over God’s restrictions from engaging in the sinful conduct of the heathen nations around them, and discontent with the traditions they were given.

In their discontent, they squandered the blessings God had given them, divided the nation, turned to idolatry, and brought about destruction in their society. God had multiplied the nation, but the joy was not increased.

Everything was amazing. Nobody was happy.

Dark times had enveloped Israel. Yet, all hope was not lost.

In Isaiah 9:2, the Bible says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Though Spiritual, emotional and cultural darkness covered the land, people were beginning to see a light. Despite the sin and rebellion within the culture, God was shining a light upon them.

This Light was Jesus Christ, as the Bible foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Through His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ offered light in darkness. He offered deliverance from the darkness of the day by showing the eternal nature of things, and putting the things of this life into perspective.

He offered deliverance from hopelessness by offering salvation. He purchased salvation by dying for our sins on the cross.

He confirmed our hope by rising from the grave and ascending to be at the right hand of God, where He ever lives to make intercession for us.

In Isaiah 9, God promised to redeem Israel from darkness through His only begotten Son. This promise is passed on to us in the New Testament.

In his rant on Late Night, Louis C.K. said that the demise of capitalism would probably be good for us.

“I think we need a few years of walking behind donkeys with pots clanging,” he said, as O’Brien added, “It’ll kind of put things back in perspective for us.”

Yet, the solution for our national situation, and our personal situation, is not poverty. An economic collapse may get our attention, but will not solve our problems in and of ourselves.

The solution for the darkness of our current generation is simply to see the Light. To turn to the Lord, put everything into perspective, have an eternal mindset, and quit looking for fulfillment in temporary earthly things.

If we do this, everything will be amazing, regardless of economic conditions, and we’ll be happy.

If seeing meant you’d have to believe, would you still want to see?

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In 1995, Joan Osborne took center stage on the American Rock and Pop charts with her break-out hit, “One of Us,” a song that explored the idea of God coming down to earth to live life as a common man.

Osborne’s vocals in the song were a higher-pitched, soft approach meant to mimic the innocence of a child’s questions about God. It may not have been the intent, but Osborne’s song opened the door for theological discussion, much of which centers around the fact that the premise of the song, God living with us, was fulfilled by Jesus Christ approximately 2,000 years ago.

Among the many questions and thought provoking ideas, the song asked one pointed question, “If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you want to see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe?”

Would you be willing to see God if it meant having to believe on Him, on Jesus, and trust Him to the point that you would give your life to Him? Would you receive a sign from God if it meant you would have to repent?

Or is it easier to remain in darkness, stay in doubt, and numb your Spiritual perception with plausible deniability.

This question was put before King Ahaz in Isaiah 7.

The Kingdom of Judah was under seige from the northern Kingdom of Israel and Syria. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Ahaz, King of Judah, that He would not allow this assault to stand. He then added this caveat, “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established (strengthened).”

Basically, God told Ahaz that He would stand up for him and fight for him, but if Ahaz did not believe, it would do him no good. Then, God put forth an offer in Isaiah 7:11, “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”

Here, God offered something to Ahaz that He hadn’t offered to anyone else. God was willing to confirm His presence, existence and love to Ahaz by giving a miraculous sign… and the sign could be anything Ahaz requested, either in the height above or in the depth below. Essentially, Ahaz was handed a blank check.

Ahaz was given the choice… see God and believe? Or refuse to see God and reject Him.

In Isaiah 7:12, Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt (or test) the LORD.”

Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe. And thus, the words of Jesus Christ were fulfilled in him, when Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).”

Ahaz’ rejection aside, God promised a sign.

“Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).” – Isaiah 7:14.

Though Ahaz rejected God and refused His sign, though Ahaz did not want to see, because he did not want to believe, God would send a sign, His only begotten Son who would be born of a virgin.

And while Ahaz did not live to see it, Christ was born. Being the Spirit of God indwelt in a body of flesh, the world got to see God take on the form of man and live life as a commoner. He lived, worked, suffered, struggled, hurt, mourned, grieved, prospered, and faced the same issues in life we face. Thus Hebrews 4 says He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

After living the life of a commoner, and relentlessly traveling, preaching, teaching and healing, Jesus went to the cross where He died for our sins, clearing us of the guilt and blame, was buried, and rose again the third day, conquering death. This was done in full view of thousands, with many writing personal accounts of the Gospel, four of which are recorded in the New Testament.

Joan Osborne’s question has been answered. The sign offered to Ahaz was given. The question is, do you want to see Jesus for Who He is? Do you want to believe? Or are you willing to ignore Him, in the hopes that plausible deniability will deliver you?

It won’t.

See. Believe. And watch God transform you.

Wanna Get Away?

 

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Let’s face it. Sometimes we just need to hit the “pause” button on life, and get away. Whether our escape is hopping a flight to LA for the weekend, engrossing ourselves in a good book, or an evening of Netflix, our need to escape the pain of life is real.

Unfortunately, our retreat into a good book, movie, or even a road trip often amounts to little more than a temporary distraction from what truly bothers us. While we have temporarily redirected our minds, we have not truly escaped what ails us. Hence, when the book is finished, when the movie ends, and when the road trip is over, we once again find ourselves discouraged by our present situation.

You see, when books, Netflix and travel are our escapes, we never truly take refuge. We merely trick our minds into ignoring our problems for a few hours. The peace and happiness we feel during that time is not real, and we will soon be hit by reality again.

So, what can we do? Where can we truly turn when we need refuge from the trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis?

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

A refuge is more powerful than a distraction. A refuge offers real protection and escape from a problem. If you truly want to escape from and solve a problem, scripture says there’s one place you can turn. The Lord.

The Lord is our refuge. The Lord offers us true escape from the problems we face. All too often, we forfeit the true peace God can offer us by turning to mere distractions instead. God offers true deliverance from life’s problems, and He offers the strength to endure them. To learn more about obtaining peace from God, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Who Is This Jesus?

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In the Gospel according to Mark, scripture demonstrates who Jesus is by showing us what Jesus did. Throughout the book of Mark, you can see the various attributes of Christ, from His compassion, to His love, to His righteousness. You also see His power and His authority.

Mark continually demonstrates who Jesus is, culminating in two questions Christ asked His disciples in chapter 8, “Whom do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

Those questions forced the people, His disciples, and even us today, to consider and understand Who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. Indeed, this question has gripped the world since His crucifixion, when even the Roman centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Why is He addressed as Jesus Christ, and sometimes Christ Jesus? Is Jesus the Christ? And if so, what is the Christ? These questions are answered in Mark 8.

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am,” the disciples gave several answers. Some said that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Others said He was the reincarnation of Elijah. Yet others believed He was one of the Old Testament prophets risen from the grave.

King Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the grave to exact justice for his murder. Others in Jesus’ day believed He was a revolutionary, sent to overthrow the Romans.

The debate over who Jesus is continues to this day. Muslims believe He was a prophet. Many Jews believe He was a man of wisdom. Some believe He was a great teacher. Some a wise revolutionary who changed the world with His doctrines of peace and love. And some deny His existence altogether.

The issue, however, isn’t what others think about Jesus. It’s who YOU believe Jesus to be. Hence, the question Jesus asked Peter, “But Whom do you say that I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This was a huge confession from Peter. The Christ was the Anointed One God promised to Israel. This Christ would end sin, restore the Kingdom, and deliver the people from Israel. Peter understood, as scripture taught, that Christ would be the Son of God.

In this confession, Peter expressed his total faith in Jesus. The Christ, the Messiah, would deliver Israel. He was the One that the Old Testament foretold, that God promised, and through Whom God’s blessings would come.

Peter’s faith was that God would not only keep His promise, but that He had already kept His promise, and Jesus was the One through Whom God’s promises were kept. In this faith, Peter’s hope was in Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Indeed, our hope is in Jesus Christ, and Christ alone. Our hope for forgiveness of sins, for redemption, for eternal life, is all in Christ.

In Mark 8, Jesus then expounded on Peter’s answer by explaining that Christ must go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, turned over to the Gentiles, and crucified. However, on the third day, Christ would rise from the grave. It was at that point that Peter rebuked Jesus, saying “Be it far from you, this will not happen!”

Jesus then rebuked Peter, calling him Satan, and telling him that he loved the things of man, not the things of God.

Peter’s hope and faith was in Jesus. Peter trusted Jesus in all things, and knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Christ who would come and redeem Israel. Peter was a saved man.

However, instead of savoring the Spiritual salvation and eternal redemption Christ would purchase on the cross, and instead of resting in the love of God and seeing how all other blessings flow from that love, Peter desired the earthly victory of seeing Jesus crowned King, and the Romans overthrown.

Peter was a saved man, but his mind was still on earthly things. He wanted to see his nation restored. He wanted to serve in the King’s court. He wanted to be somebody. Though he were a saved man, his mentality was not really that different than the rest of the world. That’s the mentality that Christ confronted.

Like Peter, we too can become preoccupied with the things of the world. We look to the Lord to deliver us from an overbearing boss at work, or to provide us with the next promotion. We think that if we can just live up to God’s standard, God will bless us with an upper-middle class lifestyle.

We count our victories in terms of checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition given, and status symbols won. A significant amount of Christian literature and Sunday sermons teach that God will reward faith by giving us these victories. But, if checks cashed, promotions earned, recognition and status symbols are what we’re after, then how are we different from the rest of the world? We’re not!

What separates the Spiritual Christian from the worldly Christian, and from the rest of the world, is that we are content to endure whatever state God places us in, knowing that our true reward is when Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom. Our focus is not on this world, but on the next.

This focus brings us hope. That hope is built on the fact that when Christ died on that cross, He took the punishment for our sins. When He rose from the grave, He conquered death so that we can have eternal life.

That’s who Jesus is to us. He is the Only Begotten Son of God who freed us from condemnation by giving Himself for our sins, and rising again to conquer death. Therefore, He is the deliverer who will rescue us from the pain of this world and take us into His Kingdom where there will be eternal peace.

Is Tradition Bad?

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Are church traditions inherently bad? Does a traditional worship service indicate that a church is Spiritually dead? Does a contemporary service indicate Spiritual life?

Or is it the opposite? Does a traditional service demonstrate a commitment to the Word, while a contemporary service indicates a willingness to compromise truth?

To pose these questions is to ignore the one thing that God actually assesses, the condition of the human heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” In all we do, God examines our heart.

We can be the most religious, most progressive, most forward thinking, or most moral people in the world, but if our heart is not right toward God, none of it matters. If our heart is far removed from God, we are at odds with Him regardless of our actions.

No place is this better illustrated than in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus is confronted over the fact that His disciples do not participate in ritual hand-washing before eating.

In His rebuttal to their criticisms, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for disregarding the commandment of God in favor of the traditions of men (Luke 7:8). This verse, combined with the restlessness of Christians anxious to see change in their churches, has led to many using Mark 7 to attack ALL traditions in church.

Those who see tradition as the problem use Mark 7 to criticize the use of hymnals in church, the presence of pews and not chairs in the sanctuary, the lack of audio/visual aids to the sermon, and even the way others dress themselves. Such criticisms, however, miss the basis for the Lord’s contempt for the traditions of the Pharisees.

In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

The issue was not that the Pharisees had traditions. The issue ran deeper than the fact that the Pharisees elevated their traditions to the same level as scripture. The real issue was that the Pharisees’ hearts were far from God, yet they portrayed an aura of righteousness by hiding behind their traditions.

In learning from the mistakes of the Pharisees, we see that we must evaluate the condition of our hearts. To do this, we’ll apply three tests:

  1. If we are more focused on our own traditions than the Word of God, we have a heart problem.
  2. If our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God, we have a heart problem.
  3. If we express anger, bitterness, illicit lust, or other forms of darkness, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if we are more focused on our traditions than what the Bible teaches. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had the entire Old Testament, with its numerous passages teaching God’s love, grace and redemption. Yet, if you attended a Bible class taught by a Pharisee, you would be more likely to hear a lecture on proper hand-washing technique than you would about repentance and faith.

If our churches are spending more time teaching their viewpoints on Bible translations, politics, financial management or social justice, rather than the Gospel as revealed in scripture, then we are more focused on tradition than God’s word. If that’s the case, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God. That brings up the question, “What is the commandment of God?”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God are to love God, and to love your neighbor. Basically, the commandment of God is love.

The Pharisees abandoned the idea of loving one another when they challenged who was actually one’s neighbor, and when their tradition of Corban allowed them to neglect their aging parents. The Pharisees failed to follow God’s commandment to love, and this was expressed in how they observed their traditions. But make no mistake, their heart was the problem.

If our traditions hinder our love toward God, or our love to others, we have a heart problem. If we see people as the problem, different groups as opponents, or disdain those who don’t meet our expectations, we have a heart problem.

Finally, if we express darkness in our lives, it’s an indication that we have darkness in our hearts. Jesus explained that our problems have more to do with what’s going on inside us, rather than what happens around us. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we find ourselves focused on evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications (sexual immorality), then we have darkness in our hearts. If we hate someone to the point that we’d like to kill them, if we desire to steal, or if we desire others’ possessions, we have darkness in our hearts. If we rebel against God, we have darkness in our hearts.

That darkness within our heart is the problem. That’s what separates us from God. How we treat our traditions are merely the symptom.

Once we learn to examine our hearts, we can correct our thinking to return us to where God wants us. God wants us to learn from His Word, love others, and express the righteousness He has placed within our hearts. When we follow this plan, we’ll be too busy glorifying Him and reaching others to be concerned with what color the carpet in the sanctuary is. That will be a beautiful day.