(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Tim Keller entitled, Counterfeit Gods.
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
We all have traditions.
We put up a Christmas tree with all the chrisoms (the beaded ornaments often found on church trees).
We sing “A Mighty Fortress” on Reformation Sunday (closest Sunday to October 31) (we’re Lutheran after all!)
We put colored cloths on the altar called paraments.
Sometimes traditions can become very meaningful for individuals. They serve a purpose to encourage and build up one’s faith. This is a good thing.
But remember, an idol is something that is a good thing that becomes an ultimate thing.
When traditions become ultimate things, they become idols…even religious traditions.
Each of the three things listed above became a challenge to one’s connection to their church when they didn’t happen. When the practice of a tradition becomes more important than the heart of faith behind the tradition, it has become an idol.
Religiosity and traditions become an idol when we hold on to the traditions of men tighter than the teachings of Christ.
Jesus had to correct this thinking in his day. In fact, many of the “traditions” that the people of his day were following were ones that God had told them to do. Certainly there were others that were man made, but more than likely started with good intention to honor God in some way. The problem? People were more interested in doing the ACTIONS than having a God-fearing HEART. Here’s what Jesus said:
Mark 7:5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
When God reorients our hearts, we care more about the commands and words of God more than the traditions of men. Outward activity without inward conformity is idolatry of traditions of men.
God is ALWAYS interested in the heart first. Out of the heart that “fears, loves, and trusts” in God above all things, come all activities that are honoring to God. Traditions may be part of this, but we must never let the traditions of mankind overshadow the teachings of our heavenly Father.
Apply: What traditions of your faith have great value to you? What do they mean? Why do you do them? Under what circumstance would you let go of them?
Prayer: Lord, while I love tradition in my life, never let the traditions we have developed overshadow the truth and teaching you have given to us. AMEN.