The Lord Versus the Legalists (Mark 7:6-13) Part 2

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The Lord versus the Legalists

Undermining the authority of the Word with our traditions—

Mark 7:6-13 part 2


By way of introduction, let me see if I can step on everyone’s air hose!  What areas of life are you tempted to be a legalist?  No movies, TV, or computer games?  No dating, just courtship?  Minimum make-up, no jewelry, and only conservative hairstyles?  Just Christian music, soft rock or maybe country?  If you feed your baby on demand, you’re a bad parent.  Only homeschool, maybe private school, never public school.  Protest Disney, but support Chick-fil-A.  All birth control is evil.

Only read the KJV.  Tithing is wrong. Never mixed swimming.  Halloween is evil–Christmas good.  Only organic foods, never MacDonald’s.  Christians never wear Armani, and never drive Mercedes.  Spiritual believers rarely use credit cards, and never debt.  Don’t drink or smoke or chew or go with girls that what?  Do.  No dance or have tattoos, unless the tattoo says, “Jesus is Lord.”

Jesus is dealing with legalism.  Massive crowds just tried to make Him king.  The Lord told them He was the internal Bread of Life, but because they were not interested in internal transformation more than having more free bread, most of the crowds deserted Christ even though He has just healed hundreds.  Most likely in response to the massive crowds, religious leaders from the Jewish Mecca, Jerusalem, have come to find fault with Him, and they observe His disciples not washing their hands ceremonially, according to tradition.

So now in Mark 7, they’ve gathered around Christ like a school of fish accusing Jesus and asking why His men do not comply with their longstanding persnickety rules for washing.  Last week we studied their accusation in verses 1 to 5–today we will study Christ’s condemnation of their tradition in verses 6 to 13.

#1  The hypocritical legalists accuse the Lord  Verses 1 to 5

The Pharisees have gathered together and surrounded Jesus now to ask a formal question.  In verse 5 do you see it?  Why don’t your boys keep our traditions?  Our traditions are binding, they’re law–everyone who calls themselves a follower of the one true God is expected to obey.  So now our Lord gives these men a formal answer straight from God’s authoritative Word.  In doing so,

#2  The Lord condemns the hypocritical legalists  Verses 6 to 13

Jesus is extremely confrontational.  He tells them God’s Word is superior to your manmade, invented rules, and God’s truth teaches differently than your tradition.  He tells them they’ve not only violated the Old Testament Prophets, but they’ve contradicted the very Law they claim to cherish.  “You’ve trashed God’s principle for man’s preference, and you lost the Lord and Heaven forever because of your legalism.”

Honestly, what you see happening here is a failed mugging.  The scribes and Pharisees pulled out the switchblade of tradition in order to attack Christ (verses 1 to 5).  And Jesus pulls out the double barrel 12-gauge shot gun of God’s Word in response (verses 6 to 13).  They thought they had the superior weapon to get Christ, but they brought a knife to a gun battle.  And friends, Jesus hits them with both barrels.  Barrel one from the prophets in Isaiah 29:13, BLAM, Mark 7:6 to 8, and barrel two from the Law in Exodus 20:12, BLAM, Mark 7:9 to 13.  And these hypocritical legalists go down.

Jesus shows them their entire system is manmade, not God-designed.  Christians live by truth, not tradition–by internal renewal, not external rules–by commands, not customs–by the authority of God, not the attitudes of men.  Look at barrel number one.

First  You legalists violate God’s Word found in the Prophets  Verses 6 to 8

Verse 6, “And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 7 But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” 8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.’”

Verse 6 starts with, “And He said to them.”  Did you notice in His reply to the legalists Jesus doesn’t refer back to the disciples?  The religious leaders had asked, “How come your disciples don’t do this?”  But Jesus doesn’t bother mentioning the disciples at all–why?  Because they’re not the issue.  Their complaint against the disciples was not the issue–Jesus is now dealing with the true issue, the underlying issue of tradition over truth.

These men had elevated manmade rules over God’s revealed Word.  Why?  Manmade rules can be kept, followed, obeyed by men–letting those men pretend to be religious, godly and spiritual.  But it was only external, surfacey, appearance-change resulting in legalism–and the deadly fruit of legalism is hypocrisy.  So Jesus says these scribes and Pharisees standing before Him look just like the religious leaders back in Isaiah’s day.

In your outline . . .

*Your legalistic hypocrisy is just like the leaders in Isaiah’s time  Verse 6a

Read verse 6, “And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written.’”  I believe Jesus is intense here, if not righteously angry.  They just took a shot at his disciples, whom Christ loves.  They’re all self-righteous hypocrites who mislead His sheep.  They’re all surrounding Him in public, putting on a hypocritical show.  And they’re also dissing God’s Word, and arrogantly exalting their own manmade ceremonies.

So I believe there is some intensity in Christ’s answer, and possibly some biting sarcasm.  Where is it?  See the word “rightly” in verse 6?  It means splendidly, beautifully, excellently did Isaiah describe men just like you.  For a half-second they might have been flattered.  For a half-second they might have thought, “Jesus is on our team.”  You Pharisees are “excellent examples” of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Prophecy doesn’t mean Isaiah had Pharisees in mind when he proclaimed God’s Word, but that the Pharisees and scribes are exactly like the hypocrites in Isaiah’s day.  Mark records Jesus using a tense when he says, “It is written,” reminding us Isaiah’s words were completed in the past, but the truths of God’s Word still are just as true today as then.  In other words, “as it is written,” is better rendered, “as it stands written,” indicating this scriptural portrait Jesus is quoting from Isaiah stands permanently on record against you men.

Jesus is in their face saying, “All you men here are stunningly beautiful examples of hypocrisy!”  BLAM!  Literally, Jesus says it this way in Greek, “You, the hypocrites.”  The Greek word hupo-kri-tes has a mind-blowing etymology.  Etymology means how a particular word developed.  Hupokrites began by simply meaning one who answers.  Then it morphed into describing one who answers in a set dialogue, like an actor.

Finally, it now means not merely an actor on the stage, but one whose entire life is acting without any sincerity behind it at all–anyone who lives for God on the basis of performance, anyone who lives for Christ on the basis of mere dos and don’ts, any faith that is only demonstrated by keeping external rules will result in that person becoming a hypocrite.  Why–because that person believes he’s a good man as long as he carries out the correct acts or performs particular practices, no matter what his heart is like.  He can say he loves God and hangs out with God’s people, but still not have to deal with a wicked internal heart saturated with sinful thoughts, selfish motives, and proud motivations.

A legalistic Jew in the time of Jesus might hate his fellow man with all his heart.  He might also be full of envy, jealousy, concealed bitterness and pride.  But all that didn’t matter as long as he carried out the correct hand-washings and observed the correct traditions about cleanness and uncleanness.  Legalism focuses on a man’s outward actions, but it takes no account at all of his inward motivations.  He may be meticulously serving God in outward things, and bluntly disobeying God in inward things—that’s hypocrisy.

There is no greater peril to genuine faith than to allow your walk with God to become merely outward obedience.  It is a deadly mistake to identify spirituality with certain so-called religious actions.  Church going, Bible reading, careful financial giving, even prayer does not make a man a godly man.  The core question is–do you love God with your whole heart?  Is Christ your first love above all your other loves?  Are you willing to do anything for Christ?  And if you do love Him, of course you will study His words, worship Him weekly at church, give to Him sacrificially from what He gives you, talk to Him in prayer and confess any sin in your heart, and repent of any sin because you love Christ with all your heart.

These religious men surrounding Christ had all the traditional ceremonial washings down, but were failing to deal with anger, lust, greed, pride and bitterness in their hearts before God.  They’d cleaned up the outside, but were still super dirty inside.  So the Lord rightly calls them hypo-crites—notice hupo-kri-tes starts with a preposition hupo meaning under.  These are the people who attempt to hide their real intentions under a mask of simulated external virtue.

Hypocrisy is like an actor who pretends to be someone else.  The main quality of a great actor is the person who makes you believe that he is someone other than the actor playing a role.  John Wayne was always John Wayne in another role.  Arnold–get down.  But a great actor makes you think he is someone else–you forget he’s acting.  These religious leaders were trying to make people think they were godly spiritual men, but they were bad actors—hypocrites.

*That means deceivers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, frauds, snakes in the grass.  Hypocrisy is the picture of a man assuming an identity and character different from what he really is.  They professed to be followers of God, but were in reality followers of men.  They were careful of petty rules, and careless of the commands of God.

Every one of us in this room, to some degree, battles with hypocrisy and hiding who we really are.  How we deal with that will determine what kind of Christian and what kind of church we will be.  This is one of the secrets to a happy, healthy church.  A church family that’s open and willing to admit sin and the condition of sinfulness, a church family that sees themselves as always getting better than what they really deserve, a church family filled with people who see themselves as the worst sinner they know, a church family who recognize that without Christ’s righteousness they’d be in Hell, and without His spirit right now they can do nothing for Christ–that family makes a healthy church.

Oh we battle with masks and how much sin should we actually admit to, but that openness to admit sin along with Christ and His Word being sufficient, makes a sweet church family.  Look at Mark 7–verse 6 is the first and only time in the gospel of Mark that the charge of hypocrisy is explicitly made against the Pharisees and scribes.  Luke states it three times, and Matthew multiple times.  But this is the only time in Mark Jesus lets them have it—BLAM!

And Jesus says history is repeating itself.  This kind of hypocrisy happened before during the time of Isaiah.  What was it like back then, and what is it like now?

1 Hypocrisy is speaking honor with a distant heart–you don’t mean what you say

Read verse 6b, “‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.’”  They gave lip service to God, expressed devotion combined with diligent detailed duty, but all of it with a distant heart.  They said they’re hot for God, but their hearts were cold as ice.

Honor from “honor me with lips” tells us these men prize God with their mouth.  And the Greek tense of honor tells us they were continually professing honor to God.  They’re not hesitant, embarrassed or timid to verbally admit they’re a big fan of YHWH.  But Isaiah, Jesus and Mark make a strong contrast, verse 6, “But their heart is far away from Me.”

Understand, Christianity is first and foremost a matter of the heart.  And authentic faith is intended by God to be an inside out experience.  Having a spiritually healthy heart makes the difference between being real or phony, being a godly person or a Pharisee, having a personal relationship or a fake one–the heart is crucial.

In Joel 2:13 NIV, God told the Israelites to, “Rend your heart and not your garments.  Now return to the Lord your God.”  Don’t put on an external show, deal with your heart before God.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 God reminds Samuel and us, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The heart is the authentic you, who you really are, where you desire, deliberate and where you decide.  The heart is the place of spiritual activity, the seat of your inner spiritual life.  The heart is the place where God meets you, the place of our fellowship with Him, the place God reveals Himself to us.  The heart in the Bible is often used to describe your desires, affections, priorities, how you think, and how you make life decisions.

A spiritually healthy heart is essential to a right relationship with God.  That’s why 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”  Like the Marines who’re looking for a few good men, God is looking for a few good hearts—genuine hearts.  But these religious leaders had distant hearts.  Though their talk was devoted, their hearts were dead.  Their speech was full, but their hearts were empty.

Verse 6, the Greek tense for “far away” from “but their heart is far away from Me” means continually distant.  Jesus isn’t talking about one bad day, or a season of struggle, but a way of life that is distant.  The word distant is used in parables to describe someone as a great way off–continually distant.  There’s a huge gulf between their talk about God and their heart for God.  They speak of full commitment to God, but their heart is empty.  In fact, the phrase “far from Me” pictures these leaders as actually continually holding their heart at a great distance from God intentionally–“God, you can’t have my heart.”  Hypocrisy is . . .

. . .  speaking honor with a distant heart–you don’t mean what you say

2 Hypocrisy is empty worship–you put on a show

Verse 7 begins with, “But in vain do they worship Me.”  As the Lord is speaking to these men surrounding Him, He knows and they know they’re dedicated to attending worship.  They go to the temple, they attend all the festivals, they offer all the offerings, they are the first there and last to leave.  Yet to their face Jesus tells them, as He quotes Isaiah, that all their worship of God is all in vain.  Vain means deceptive, pointless, futile, worthless, ineffectual—a waste of time.

The Lord told Israel this before in Amos 5:21 to 24.  These are strong words.  “’I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’”

When you go through the religious motions–going to church, partaking in communion, giving, reading your Bible, praying at meals and then doing it all over again because you are supposed to do it, but your heart is not in it, that is hypocrisy, going through the motions but not out of love and devotion to God.  You are putting on a show.  The audience could be us–it is probably your spouse, kids or parents, but it is a hypocritical show.  Beware, Christian, when your worship becomes empty-hearted waste.  Hypocrisy is . . .

. . . you don’t mean what you say

. . . you put on a show

3 Hypocrisy is teaching manmade rules as God’s Word–you are your own authority

Verse 7 adds, “Teaching as doctrines, the precepts of men.”  Jesus cuts to the heart of their dramatic error.  They’re teaching the ideas, applications and thoughts of fallen men as if it were the authoritative, perfect Word of God.  Precepts are a command, an authoritative direction.  Doctrines are a collection of truths that are taught.  They are teaching their traditions as if they were God’s truth.

All those fussy, persnickety rules laid down by hair-splitting, legalistic, ancient rabbis were being passed down from one generation to the next as if they were God’s Word.  They were designed to form a wall of protection to keep God’s people from violating God’s Word, but the wall became so high and was so elaborate, it actually blocked people’s view of God’s Word.

We know they were doing this continually, non-stop, because the Greek verb “teaching” is present tense.  They kept doing this, didn’t stop, wouldn’t repent, and didn’t change.  What they invented was more authoritative than God’s Words.  What they said was more binding than God’s truth.  They were teaching man’s ideas as if it were God’s instruction.  These religious leaders standing there are being stripped of their self-righteousness, and exposed as hypocrites in need of salvation, as Jesus reminds them that . . .

4 Hypocrisy is ignoring God’s commands to live by your own designs–you escape God’s authority by following your own ideas

Verse 8 says, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”  You let go the commandment of God in order to cling to the tradition of men.  Their guilt was really not “adding to” the Word of God, but deserting God’s Word.  With this quote from Isaiah Jesus says, “You leaders are abandoning God’s commands, and by doing so you’re trying to release yourself from God’s authority–you’re trying to stop His leadership over you as God’s child.”

Like an underage child suing His parents to escape them, the leaders no longer want God telling them what to do.  Do you see the two key verbs in opposition in this verse?  Neglecting and holding:

Neglecting has the idea of releasing yourself from any obligation–they no longer wanted God telling them what to do.

Hold is a shocking word–it not only means to seize or grasp, and Isaiah chose to use this word  “hold” because it strongly conveys the idea of control, to be under their power and supremacy.  Do you get it?  They no longer want God’s rule because they want to be in control.  Do you understand verse 8?  They’re clinging to rabbi rules because they can control that.  And since those rules are under their power, they are supreme.  They’re now in the role of God over God’s people.  Jesus shows them they care more for the oral teaching of the rabbis than they do for the written law of God.

My beloved church family–whenever any human interpretation is substituted for the Word of God, whenever human approaches to Christianity take the place of the clear teaching of the Bible, whenever cool, relevant, topical teaching replaces exegesis which seeks to uncover the author’s intended meaning, the same evil legalism, externalism and hypocrisy will be present.  And this is going on all the time now.

Friends, legalism is always about control.  It’s about getting others to do what you want, not what God says.  And it’s about you doing what you want, and not depending on God’s Spirit and His Word moment by moment.  Just keep these rules, and you don’t have to die to self.  Just follow this plan, and you don’t have to depend on the Spirit.  Just keep these traditions, and you don’t have to follow His Word.  Legalism is not only hypocritical, external, self-worshiping, and defiant to God’s authority, but it is also lazy, seemingly easier.  But my friends, there is no shortcut to depending upon the Holy Spirit, and learning, then obeying the Word of God.

The Pharisees and scribes clearly violated the Prophets, and though they’re standing around Christ as He speaks, they’re squirming in their seats.  They’re uncomfortable, and most certainly getting angry.  They’re stunned, and must want to say to Christ, “Prove it!  Prove we hold tradition over God’s Word.”  So Jesus does.  The Lord uses just one of their major violations of the Law as proof they’re upholding tradition over God’s truth.

Barrel one, you violate the Prophets—BLAM!  Now barrel two, you violate the Law—BLAM!

Second  You legalists violate God’s Word found in the Law  Verses 9 to 13

In verse 9, Jesus states a general description of their hypocritical legalism.  Then in verse 10 to 13, the Lord gives a very specific example unmasking their hypocrisy as they prioritize their traditions over a part of God’s law.  Read verses 9 to 13, “He was also saying to them, ‘You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death”; 11 but you say, “If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),” 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.’”

The Lord starts with . . .

1 A general understanding of your hypocritical legalism  Verse 9

He was also saying to them, ‘You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.’”  One of the ways Mark starts a new phase of the discussion is to state, “He was also saying to them.”  What are you saying now Jesus?  You guys are great at embracing tradition over truth.  There’s irony, possible even sarcasm here as Jesus says you men are experts.  It’s the same word the Lord used in verse 6, translated “rightly”.

Some versions try to help you hear what Christ is saying by translating verse 9 this way, “How beautifully you are at setting aside God’s command in order to establish your tradition.”  You men have a fine way of setting aside–the idea is rejecting God’s commandments.  Jesus makes it clear this is not merely a onetime act, but a pattern they live and teach.  They continually reject God’s commandments.  Jesus uses a Greek term for commandment that points to the Ten Commandments, the ones they know from memory–the ones their Jewish faith values above all others.

Jesus says these men have rejected those authoritative Ten Commandments in order to keep (meaning embrace and focus on) tradition.  But look carefully at verse 9–it is your tradition, your rules are the rules that currently rule.  They are setting God aside in order to establish themselves.  They are nullifying the infallible command of God in order to confirm their own weak tradition.  They’re setting themselves up as god, not pointing to the one true God.  How wicked can you get, but also how foolish can they be?

Picture being in the midst of a storm and you have found refuge on top of the only solid rock surrounded by thrashing waves.  But then you decide to jump from the rock to grab onto a small stick in order to save yourself–you’re doomed.  How foolish.  That is exactly what these men were doing–leaving the rock of God’s Word and jumping to the stick of tradition to their doom.  Is it really all that bad?  Yes

2 A specific unmasking of your hypocritical legalism  Verses 10 to 13

To prove His point, Jesus illustrates exactly what they were doing.

a God’s Word commands you to honor your parents  Verse 10

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”  Every Jew understood that the fifth commandment to honor one’s father and mother included taking care of them as they got old.  Many Jewish traditions upheld honoring parents–they would even make strong declarations like, “A son is bound to support his father even if he has to beg for him.”

Moses was the human agent used by God to write Exodus 20:12, and the religious leaders surrounding Christ would have expressed a deep affection and sincere loyalty to this section of God’s Word.  After all, this is the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses.  To honor one’s parents meant to love them, regard them highly, show them respect and all consideration.  And honoring parents was so serious that Jesus adds a second command, Exodus 21:17 in verse 10 and, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death.”

To speak ill, revile, or insult one’s parents was a capital offence.  What’s that?  In the Old Testament, if you repeatedly didn’t honor your parents, they’d call the village elder to your house–then he’d call the other elders.  They’d take you to a local cliff, throw you over, then throw a large rock on your head–and if you weren’t dead, then toss other rocks on you till you were dead.  It was called getting stoned, and it was not as popular back then as today.  It was death for not honoring your parents.

And again, a normal expectation of honoring your parents was to take care of them when they were old, to provide for them, to directly or indirectly help them as they lose the ability to function on their own.  Just like your parents cared for you as an infant when you couldn’t care for yourself, as your parents grow older, children are to care for them when they can’t care for themselves.  One of my sons is always joking, “Better be nice to me or it’s off to Dingy Happy Acres Old Folks Home.”  But in their cold, hard-hearted, self-centered greed, the religious leaders created a tradition that would allow them to escape having to obey God’s Word in honoring their parents this way.

b Your legalistic hypocrisy creates an excuse not to honor your parents  Verses 11 to 12

But you say . . .” stop there.  In contrast to God’s Word that Jesus just quoted from Exodus, Jesus says in verse 11, “But you say”–you came up with this idea.  This is not God’s plan, God’s will, God’s Word, but your idea.  “You say” verse 11, “if a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God).”  This is their way–this is how they’d get around obeying the Word.  This is how they elevate tradition over truth.  This is how they set aside God’s Word for man’s ideas.

Verse 11 describes a son speaking to His needy parents.  In this culture, it is very likely his old parents are starving.  They can’t plow the ground any more, nor raise their own crops, so they’re coming to their son for help–for food.  But the son says, “Well folks, all I could give you is now Corban.”  Corban is a vow to God saying that all he could have given to his parents to help them is now dedicated to God.  And since Corban is a vow, now all his surplus is dedicated to God, the son actually by tradition can’t give that surplus to his parents in their desperate need because it belongs exclusively to God.  “Sorry, Mom and Dad, what has been devoted to God is holy and cannot be used for secular purposes.”

The son might then give 10% of the surplus to the temple and keep the rest, not having to give it away to starving parents now.  What about the 90%?  The Corban vow was very cool, because whenever the son chose he could unvow and reverse Corban just by saying the word Corban over his surplus again, thus enabling the son to use his surplus for his own purposes.  So this tradition was used by selfish children to not honor their parents and care for them.

Jesus condemns this tradition in verse 12, “You no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother.”  Even though Corban had not been invented for this evil purpose, the religious leaders were anxious for more to be donated to the temple, so they upheld this application of the Corban vow, even though it was unloving, cruel and a cover for greed and selfishness.  So what were . . .

c The consequences of your hypocrisy in not honoring your parents  Verse 13a

Pressing home their guilt, Jesus says to these men, “thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down.”  “Invalidating” means to nullify the Word of God, to deprive it of its authority, to view the Word of God as irrelevant–like it’s a nuisance.  They made the Bible something that has no effect for the sake of their tradition.  This was no accident.

Rabbi Eleazer said, “He who expounds the Scriptures in opposition to the tradition has no share in the world to come.”  WHOA!  They intentionally deprived God’s Word in general (verse 9) and the fifth commandment in specific (verses 10 to 13) of all its authority.  Why?  In order to get more money for the temple–greed!  And Jesus adds in verse 13, “by your tradition which you have handed down,” meaning they kept passing this tradition on.  They continued to teach it and esteem it for the next generation.  They were not going to let this abuse of God’s Word stop–they will continue to make sure the next generation follows it to the letter.  And possibly the saddest comment of all is . . .

d This example of legalistic hypocrisy is just one of many  Verse 13b

The last phrase of verse 13, “and you do many things such as that.”  This was only one example of you violating God’s Word with your tradition.  There are many more violations, potentially hundreds of ways you have set aside God’s special revelation to you in order for your ways to supersede God’s will, your traditions to trump God’s truth.  The verb “to do” is present tense, telling us the fifth commandment is only one sample of many violations constantly going on.  We all battle with legalism–do you see it in your life?

#1  Do you see legalism in your life?

Have you taken the time to examine your heart for rules or practices you’ve elevated above God’s Word?  It could be you view your past experience or feelings as just as authoritative as God’s Word.  Or you elevate commands like do not commit adultery, but ignore commands like do not neglect gathering together weekly, rejoice always, give sacrificially and serve with your gifts.

Or you elevate some personal preference to a level where others you disagree with are mocked, belittled or maligned.  Will you admit then confess that you value an approach, a practice, an event, a style above the Scripture itself?  Today, what would Jesus say to you about legalism?

#2  Do you have a conviction about the Bible as sufficient?

Did you catch the tragic decline of conviction concerning the Word that was manifested in the verses we just studied?  They were teaching manmade doctrines as God’s Word in verse 7, laying aside God’s Word in verse 8, rejecting God’s Word in verse 9, finally robbing God’s Word of its power in verse 13.  Like these religious leaders, are you loyal to the Bible in name only, but do not obey it with your heart and life?

Are you one of those Christians who will defend the Bible in general, but you can’t explain it to anyone specifically?  Do you talk about it, but don’t live it?  Are you one who has a doctrinal position, but you can’t actually tell anyone where those truths are located in the Bible?  People who revere manmade traditions above the Word of God eventually lose the power of God’s Word in their lives.  People who wimp out and actually hold no conviction about theology also lose the power of God’s Word in their lives.

#3  Is your walk and worship from the heart?

Be afraid, believer–God is calling you back to sincerity.  God is pleading with you and with me to worship from the heart, to offer ourselves to Christ and hold nothing back, to be a living sacrifice right now and all week long, 24/7.  Do not fall into routine, and if you have, right now, right now, confess and repent–do not leave here the same as you came.  Do not come back next week with the same empty routine.

Walk with Him from the heart this week–that will involve God’s Word, prayer, dependence upon the Spirit, fellowship, and a heart-driven desire to obey Christ in all things.

#4  Are you genuinely related to Christ?

There are so many who come to church today and go through the motions like they always have, but Christ is not their first love.  They do not hunger after Him the other six days a week.  They never love Him with all their heart.  They are never filled with the Spirit, they never really treasure God’s Word, nor seek Christ first, die daily, pray, fellowship with God’s people, faithfully attend worship because they want to, give sacrificially from a joyous, hilarious heart, and serve Him because how can they not after all He’s done for us?

If you’ve been living with an empty heart for a long season, then turn to Christ, cry out to God to open your heart, give you faith to believe, and repentance to change.  A legalist will try to save themselves–you can’t.  Depend on Christ to rescue you–cry out for Him to save you.  Trust in the work of Christ on the cross for your sins, and believe that He is alive and risen from the dead right now.  Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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