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Truth or tradition? Man’s way or God’s way?

SETTING THE PACE / Living life with an eternal perspective

The law of non-contradictions states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. In other words, it is impossible for two things to contradict and both be true. This is why God has given us His divinely inspired Word. His Word is absolute truth and is the standard by which we shall live.  

When Jesus walked on the earth, there were always people trying to trap Him. The religious were the worst. They wanted to catch Him saying something heretical or doing something sinful so they could discredit Him and prove Him to not be the Messiah. Jesus cannot be trapped because He is perfect in all of His ways.  

On one particular day, the Scribes and Pharisees (experts in Jewish law), saw Jesus’ disciples doing something they considered unlawful, which made them defiled or unclean in their eyes. They were eating food with unwashed hands. We might think this had to do with cleanliness and sanitation, but that was not the issue at all. The issue for the religious leaders was defilement and impurity. They believed that if you broke their law, you were considered no better than a leper and deserved to be judged.  

The problem  was  their law, their tradition, not God’s law. Nowhere in  the  Old Testament did it require common people to wash their hands before they ate. The only requirement was for priests to wash their hands before they offered sacrifices. The religious leaders had created their own law and made it superior to God’s law. They were holding Jesus’ disciples and everyone else to their tradition, not God’s. They were essentially more concerned with the external than they were the internal, which is why Jesus said, “You hypocrites, you honor Me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me. You worship Me in vain. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”  

As I have reflected on that scenario, here are three quick applications:

First, tradition centers on man, but truth centers on God! Tradition causes us to look at others and evaluate them based on what we think, while God’s truth causes us to look to God and evaluate ourselves based on what He thinks. Not  all tradition is bad, but tradition that is placed on equal or greater value than God’s truth is devastating. People bound by man’s tradition bend the truth to fit their lives, but people bound by God’s truth, bend their lives to be changed by the truth. There is only one truth and it is God’s Word. We must center our  lives on that.  

 Second, tradition focuses on the external, but truth focuses on the internal. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were consumed with outward appearance instead of internal heart change. They were more concerned with looking right to men instead of being right with God. Tradition causes us to be consumed with external conformation, but truth causes us to be consumed with internal transformation. The Bible is clear, “Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.” We must always remember that God cares most about our hearts. Doing the right thing from the wrong heart causes us to worship God in vain. The only worship that pleases God comes from a heart that has been radically changed by the saving grace of Jesus.

Finally, tradition elevates man’s word, but truth elevates God’s Son. Tradition puts man on center stage, but truth puts  Christ on center stage. Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It is the truth that sets us free, and Jesus is the truth. The beauty of God’s Word is that it points us to God’s Son, and as the Bible says, “Whoever finds the Son, finds life.”  

This week, ask yourself this question: “What controls or consumes your life?” Is it tradition, man’s way of doing things, or truth, God’s way of doing things? We must strive to live our lives to please God, not man. Yes, we are to love our neighbor, but not strive to let man dictate what we believe or how we live. As we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will love our neighbor as we should. Do not be bound by tradition. Be bound by the truth. See you next week!

Jeremy Freeman


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