Handling Traditions in the Church P 5

Are Traditions Robbing your Church?  

To the Pharisees, Jesus robbed their bank and stole their possessions. And, to a point He did, as He took away their presumptions and false ideas and replaced them with the Truth and the true intention God had for them (Hos. 6:6; Micah 6:6-8). They did not want the truth or what God had; they only wanted their postulations and the power to rule from their self-importance. The questions we have to ask ourselves are, are we robbing God of the opportunities He tries to give us?  Do we mix them up with habits, pride, and traditions?  Do we make grandstanding pretences, showing off our faith while we have a heart full of soot? Do our passions line up with political agendas, or the precepts of His Word? Passion is paramount, but it has to be grounded in God’s Truth, not the ideas and desires of man. Seek initiative and inspirations from Christ, not from traditions. Do not adhere to your faith and practice though the filter of traditions or habits. Rather, filter everything through the clarity of God’s Word!  

What can you do to make sure your passions line up with the precepts of His Word, and not with your political agendas, traditions, or habits? 

In Mathew 15, we are called to not be defiled by hypocrisy or allow our traditions to trump our purpose. Jesus confronted, head on, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who had elevated their traditions over honoring and knowing God. This infuriated our Lord who called them to task and “gave them up” to themselves by saying, let them alone, which means, let their own evil ways bury them. It was total condemnation (Rom. 1:18-32)! They had their chance to repent, but the hardness of their will and the focus of their pride alienated them from the very thing they said they were honoring! Their traditions clouded them and their people from knowing the real God! Why such a strong stance from our Lord? Because, rituals and traditions can easily become equal to or even have more authority for men than God and His Word. They can elevate what is not important over what is. This is what many of us do today! 

Why and how did the Pharisees infuriate our Lord? How have you and your church perhaps done this in the past? How does your church do this now? What do you need to do? 

The Scribes and Pharisees relied on the repository of the wisdom of the people who came before, and those who discipled and taught them. This developed into the classic Jewish writings, and became their traditions and mindsets. Over the centuries since the captivity, commentary and the insights of another had become the norm in understanding God and the faith. Thus, the dependence was on traditions, not real faith or what God had plainly revealed. Perhaps the Scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus to evaluate whether He was a false teacher. What irony (Duet. 13:13-14)!  

Jesus pronounced total condemnation to the hypocritical Pharisees. Why? Was that fair? How about when church leaders today do the same? Should they also receive such reprimand? 

They had good traditions—or at least, they started out good. What Jesus confronted, the washing hands, was not about cleaning oneself before dinner or eating with filthy hands; rather, it was a specific ritual that the Pharisees followed but Jesus and His disciples did not. This tradition was meant to prepare one before God and give thanks for the meal, but as time went on, it mutated into legalism which consisted of how much water, how many rinses, the proper prayer, and so forth. It had no Scriptural basis, and was a perfect illustration of the pious, fraudulent Pharisees versus the Righteous Christ. 

What does your church need to do to seek the initiative and inspiration from Christ, and not just focus on traditions or personalities?

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Handling Traditions in the Church P4

Who or What is Sovereign in your Church?  

Read Matthew 12: 1-21 and 15: 1-20, as Jesus deals with this Himself! 

The tradition of the Sabbath had a great start and purpose that got skewed; it was supposed to be a symbol of God’s sovereignty and Lordship (Ex. 20:8). It was also meant to be a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ (Duet. 5:12). The Law had strict guidelines pertaining to the Sabbath—how it was to be observed, and not to be violated. These laws were intended to lead the people to understand and know God as well as to keep the peace and not allow people to corrupt or ignore it. Unfortunately, the religious leaders corrupted it by adding so many countless, additional ordinances that the people were too tied down to the extra laws to ever look up and embrace God’s Lordship. These extra laws became restrictions and, ironically, violated God’s law and intent. Think about it; how often do we do this today? 

Jesus reminded them of this and used Scripture to prove His point just as we are to do. It is ironic that the rules of the Pharisees were very precise, and if someone proved a point using Scripture, they had no recourse but to acquiesce to that point. Jesus obviously won the argument, yet they still plotted! Keep in mind: when you win the day by logic and reason through Scripture, even with kindness and tact, the war may not be over. It takes prayer and patience. Allow the Lord to work and make sure the parties causing the disruptions are being cared for too. 

Jesus’ argument, although sound and righteous, would have been appealing to the Rabbi or true follower of God. However, it may not have swayed a pretentious leader steeped in his pride and traditions. This is the same reason the Gospel influences so few today, or why a wise pastor’s counsel is met with hostility. Jesus’ message is blocked by the inclinations of people and their refusal to surrender to His Lordship. Jesus’ message will only persuade those who are impacted by the Spirit, and where His Will replaces theirs. 

Jesus withdrew from the Synagogue, and a great many people followed Him! Since first century Judaism was so diverse, taking a lot of people away probably did not devastate the Synagogue, as others would join in with those who held the same views as they did. This also happens with some churches today. The Scriptural quote in this passage in Matthew is from Isaiah 42:1-2, and is sometimes called the “Servant Song.” It referred to the nation of Israel when it was written. There are four Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). Israel was God’s servant, yet she failed Him, disobeying by chasing after false gods and immoral practices. God called the people to be restored, while others took the punishment in behalf of the others, so not all would be destroyed (Isa. 44:1-4; 21; 42:18-19; 49:3-7; 52:13-53:12). Our goal in handling any conflict is restoration and learning so people can grow in faith and be better servants. Jesus came as the servant replacement. He is our substitute, and takes God’s wrath in our place (Rom. 1:18‑3:20; 2 Cor. 5:21). He is the ultimate Servant!

Handling Traditions in the Church P3

Synagogues or Today’s Church: Nothing has Changed 

The leaders of the Synagogues, as church leaders do today, would invite visiting speakers. Jesus was perhaps a visiting speaker in that service when He saw the man in distress. He took that opportunity to serve, as well as to confront their bad traditions and their hypocrisy.  Not all Pharisees were bad; many were pious and used their sect to motivate people to a deeper understanding and application of their faith. 

Synagogues would also host informal dialogues with visiting rabbis; this could be another thing that Jesus was doing. Most Jewish groups in that time did not permit any ministry on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was considered so sacred that the Pentateuch forbade any deviance from its practice. Thus, seeing Jesus gleaning or not washing his hands would have caused quite a concern. They saw Him as dishonoring the faith and Law. However, Jesus was not dishonoring it; He was fulfilling it! The majority group, the Pharisees, did not even allow praying for the sick. Other Pharisees did. The minority groups were also in accord, as the Essenes had even stricter rules, not allowing even an animal to be rescued. However, the Hillelites did allow for some ministry and prayer. This group grew to be the majority after Jesus’ time, up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Thus, some of the leaders would use Jesus to help persuade people to their views, while others sought to destroy Him. 

Does this look familiar, as with power plays in your church today? You see, our Lord faced this personally and so will we. Synagogues were also the place each of these various leadership sects would go to debate. Asking counter questions was a classic, rabbinic way to engage in a debate, and is still the norm today. Now, we sit down and discuss, bring people to the Word, and in prayer, seek an equitable solution that honors hard workers and glorifies our Lord. 

How much more was another standard, rabbinic method of analogy. This was to show inconsistency, pretence, and hypocrisy. They did not interpret the Law with any form of logic or consistency, and Jesus pointed this out to them with their own words and law; He used Scripture! Our Lord continues, stretch out your hand; this implies that there is a connection between our faith and Jesus’ healing power. The healing was given, but it also had to be received! The initiative needed to be taken (Eph. 5:14). Just as Grace is given, we still have to act on our faith to receive it. 

By doing what He did, Jesus infuriated the Pharisees and the Herodians so much that they literally planned to kill Him! When your heart is so hard that you block out the Will and desires that God has for you, you start on a path of chaos and destruction that you will not even realize because you will be clouded by your own delusions and pride. We must beware of this so it does not happen to us or to those under our leadership. People who hang on to bad traditions tend to do this; I know I have at times. They had their religion so mixed up and skewed that they saw an act of kindness as a crime.  Those who had political power used it to put people down. To plot against someone would indicate this group of Pharisees did not have the power to carry out their wishes and had to go behind closed doors. Otherwise, they would have brought Jesus into the courts and charged Him directly.

Handling Traditions in the Church P2

Jesus is Cornered about Traditions 

The Pharisees loved their traditions and sought to attack Jesus for not following them; they even accused Him of being a fake for not doing so. Yet, He cleverly thwarted the attempt of the religious leaders to prove He was a fake by turning it into a testimony of His deity. Yet, they continued to harass Him, not giving up. They followed Jesus, trying to snag Him again and again. And finally, the opportunity came. Jesus once again disobeyed one of their traditions. In their eyes, He did the unthinkable: He ate some food on the Sabbath and then helped a man in distress! They had their Jewish faith all mixed up and backwards, seeking to protect the Sabbath by adding more regulations to it, as well as showing more concern about traditions than about their fellow man. 

Because of this prevailing attitude, they refused to minister to or care for a brother in need. A handicapped man was in need, and the love and care he needed was not given. Instead, the bitter medicine of chastisement and condemnation was dispensed. Jesus made it clear that mercy and love are important, and that they would honor God rather than pretentious sacrifice or false, pious attitudes that clouded the Truth. In spite of all that Jesus did to prove who He was, and why He was there, the religious leaders hardened their hearts and refused to listen or even look up to see the wonders at their doorstep! They even accused our Lord of the very evil they were doing (Mark 3:1-6)!  

The question that this passage asks in the form of the example from our Lord is, “Do you use people, or do you serve them?” Remember, Jesus was God, who came to this earth to serve! If your church has a program that upholds its leaders and not Him, there is a problem! 

Jesus went into their Synagogue, and performed a “terrible crime” by showing them their true position concerning the Sabbath—of which they were in denial. In the Old Testament, there was no prohibition to healing on the Sabbath, and it was always lawful to do good deeds. Yet, the religious leaders felt otherwise. This was the “going-ons” of the Church of their day. A synagogue was the central religious institution for the Jews. These houses of worship came out of the period of the exile by the Babylonians. They provided a place where Jews could study the Scriptures and worship God. Prior to the exile, they would take pilgrimages to the Tent Meeting/Temple in Jerusalem, and the Levites would be in their towns, homes, and clans, teaching and ministering. Most of Levites dispersed into the general population and their priestly sect no longer served a function, so elderly men took up that role and started schools of apprenticeship to train younger men to serve. This is where the Rabbis, Pharisees, and Sadducees came from. These synagogues were built in any town where there were at least ten, married Jewish men to form a congregation. This was their church and besides the names and cultural issues, not much has changed (Acts 13:15; 14:1; 17:2; 18:4).

Handling Traditions in the Church P1

Read Matthew 12: 1-21 and 15: 1-20, as Jesus deals with this Himself!

Does your home church have traditions that are so honored, the purpose of your church is skewed or people are not being led in the right direction? How about a Christmas pageant with all the planning, personality conflicts, and stress where Jesus is forgotten about even though He is the One Who the activity is supposed to be about? Perhaps there is a person who wants to command and control and “lord it” over others, or maybe someone—or multiple some ones—are trying to keep something alive that does not make sense, or are not willing to allow positive feedback or help from others and thus the process of mutual faith and cooperation is absent. We have all been there or will be soon, so let’s see what our Lord says about this so we can be better prepared and handle this right. 

Does your home church have traditions in which you like to participate? Do these traditions provide comfort to you or others? If so, why? And, is that bad? Why, or why not? 

Consider this: in just about every church, there are good traditions and bad ones. The job of the capable leader is to lead the people to do what is good, keeping the good ones rolling, always seeking to improve, and being capable to also lead them away from bad programming or reform it back to being good and effectual for the church and the glory of our Lord.

Is Spiritual Maturity Important in the Church?

Look what we at the Schaeffer Institute found: 

We are called to spiritual growth—that is, the formation of the investment of faith Christ gives us that we give back to Him in dividends. This is a deep conviction of our faith, a practiced submission that shows our obedience, and a life of personal and relational maturity. We have to listen to God; if not, we will not learn and then we will not grow and then we will not have a life of transformation and growth. Instead, we experience a storm-tossed sea of life, wayward in every perspective because our eyes and ears are not upon our Lord (Hebrews chap 1-6; James 1). 

Eighty-three percent (83%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said their people were content in their Christian faith. 

Eighty-one percent (81%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said they had no regular or effective discipleship program or effort to mentor their people at their church. 

Eighty-one percent (81%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said there was no primary teaching from the pulpit to challenge or deepen their people’s Christian formation (spiritual growth and biblical application) at their church. 

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said they either are or will focus on new trends or ideas to try fix something they feel is not working right. Seventy percent (70%) stated this is where their primary time is spent, whereas only 22% of those sought answers for their church problems from God’s Word, good theological sources, or going to more trained and experienced pastors for advice. 

More here:

http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=44952&columnid=4545

Acts29.org is about continuing the work of doing Church…

The principle focus of us for the last 15 plus years is seeking why so many churches are failing!
 
This is what we found, and it is not pretty: Our churches are not glorifying Christ because we are failing at knowing and growing in Him personally. We are not able to teach others when we are failing at following His Word and Christ alone! Remember, it is His Church and we are the caretakers of it. Thus, we must act according to our call and His precepts.
Did  you know that it is blatantly evil to twist God’s truths to fit our whims and rationalize our sin. It creates a bad “who” and a bad “how we are.” Do not allow this in your church! We have to be willing to prevent, discipline, and even kick out the manipulative and deceptive people in our churches.

· The Real Issues!

· Patterns that are Visible! 

· Opportunities for Growth!

We will fill this Blog with solid research, insightful articles, practical curriculums, essays, tools, and resources to help you prepare your church to grow in Christ and glorify Him! Our articles and studies have been carefully, exegetically prepared with careful, steadfast, inductive analysis and word studies of God’s most precious Word. We do not add anything to God’s Word that is not already there nor do we take away from insights and ideas that are there. 

These blog entrees will be the real deal, what God may have to say to us. These are offered to you so you may understand what is in His Word and in your church, to appreciate, comprehend, and to be challenged to grow richer and deeper in your relationship to Christ and be better used for Church Leadership Development and then to others around you. 

It is our intention to use this blog as a sounding board for the Schaeffer Institute, to post some of our research findings on what is the Church universal and your church is up too, 

See our home site: www.churchleadership.org

The entity of the resources on this blog will be research made practical!