Summary: This is a revamp of a message I did in 2000. Is your faith based symbolism or substance?


• It has been said, “The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.” (Christianity Today, 2001)

• Why would a Christian Magazine make such a statement about the Christian faith?

• Why has the church lost a lot of its credibility with society? Why is it that on any given Sunday our church will have around 90 people in attendance instead of the better that 145 that we should have here each week?

• Could it be that something is missing in our faith? Could our faith be placed in the wrong places? Do we not understand what God expects from us when we come to Jesus?

• At my home church in Vandalia, MO, the bulletin had a statement on the front that said, “Visitors welcome, Members expected” and “Every Member a Minister.” Why would my home church welcome visitors and EXPECT members? Why would they expect every member to do something for God? Is it unreasonable to expect something more from those who proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

• Could it be that for many of us, our faith is based more on Symbolism than substance?

• Sometimes we have deeper problems that take courage for someone to confront us with.

• Jesus is going to address the religious leaders about a problem with their faith.

• The people Jesus was about to address had a faith problem. They had a faith that was based in symbolism instead of any real substance.

 The religious leaders let the symbolism of their faith get in the way of a true relationship with God. These people got so wrapped up in their little man-made rules that they lost their love and passion for God.

 Jesus was always in trouble with these people because he did not keep their man-made rules. The religious leaders were so focused on their religion that they could not even recognize who Jesus was.

• There’s a little Pharisee in all of us. Harmful though it is, we find a lot of security in our iron bars and solid walls.... Tragically, this ball-and-chain mentality keeps us from giving ourselves in fresh, innovative ways to others. - Charles R. Swindoll (1934- )

• We fall into this trap sometimes. I have come across people who know all the “rules” they know how to say the right things, but along the way they have lost their faith and love for Jesus. They traded their love for Jesus for guarding rules that more times than not have very little to do with loving Jesus.

• I heard a sermon in chapel once in college where the speaker proudly proclaimed that he was a “Christian Pharisee”. Is that what Jesus called us to be?

• Is our faith about doing symbolic gestures in order to be deemed “clean” by God? Do we come to church all the time or occasionally as a symbolic gesture of “holiness” or do we come because of our love for Jesus?

• Today as we look at what Jesus says to the religious leaders, we are going to look at 4 markers that will tell us if our faith is based on symbolism or if it is a faith based on substance. The substance being Jesus and our love for Him.


Your Faith may be symbolic if…


• Jesus was invited to dine at the home of a Pharisee. It was tradition that a person was to dip their hands into a container of water to make sure that they were ceremonially clean. Jesus did not do this. The Pharisee probably had look on his face of surprise. Jesus starts speaking to him.

• Jesus had been criticized many times by the religious leaders for not doing this ceremonial washing (Matt 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23)

• The Pharisees were very particular about the ceremonies of the law to the point they added things to the Law to try to help people stay within the bounds of the law, but this just lead to legalism.

• Their traditions became equal with the Law in their eyes.

• The religious leaders were good at looking good.

• In verse 39 Jesus is going to expose the folly of their thinking as He reads the thoughts of this Pharisee.

• Can you imagine going to a person’s house to eat. From a distance, the table looks great. The finest china is set at the table. Then when you get to the table you notice that the china has old moldy looking stuff growing in the inside of them. The food from the last meal a few weeks ago is stuck on the inside of the china.

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