Summary: Learn from the mistakes of the Pharisees: (1) Don’t be too caught up by the outward, it’s the heart that counts; (2) Don’t be too caught up by what man thinks; it’s what God thinks that counts.
We are all creatures of habit. We do many things over and over again.
• There is nothing wrong with that. There will surely be routines in life.
• But the danger comes when we get so accustomed to them, that we no longer understand the reason why we are doing them.
• If fact, we may have lost its meaning and purpose and not realizing it.
This is what traditions can do to us.
We are going to look at the mistakes of the Pharisees today and learn two things:
1. Don’t be too caught up by the outward, it’s the heart that counts.
2. Don’t be too caught up by what man thinks; it’s what God thinks that counts.
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.
7 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."
Jesus can be very direct and blunt if He needs to: “You hypocrites.”
Matt 15:12 “Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
The first mistake – they were more concerned with outward things than the things that really count.
• They have the right words but the wrong attitudes (heart).
• Everything outward is right, but inwardly the mind and heart are wrong.
• Jesus says that is hypocrisy - look as if you are doing something religious and godly, but inside you are so.
Remember: The heart of Christianity is the heart. Question your heart in everything you do.
Did you do it out of love? Was it truthful and honest? Did you do it for your own glory?
• It does not really matter if your hands are clean, but it does matter a lot whether your heart is clean.
• You can pray standing up or you can pray sitting down and still never really pray.
• You can wash your hands a thousand times and still have sin in your heart.
• You can sing every song in the hymnal and still not know God.
• It’s not the outward form of the tradition that matters; it’s what lies in our hearts that counts.
What Jesus is saying go something like this:
• “You are using wonderful words, spiritual words, but you don’t really mean them.”
• “Your heart is far from me.”
• “You talk about love, but you don’t love. You talk about forgiveness, but you don’t forgive. You talk about acceptance, but you don’t accept.”
That is what tradition does to us sometimes, when you focus too much on the forms.
• It externalizes religion, makes it outward instead of inward.
• As long as we are fulfilling the prescribed outward form, we think we are acceptable before God.
It’s like “doing Christianity but without the heart.”
• This particular form of Christianity, which Isaiah mentions here – right words and wrong attitudes – can very well be our problem too.
• There is this danger of thinking that because we do things in certain right forms, right methods, using right words, etc. we are thus pleasing to God.
That’s why Jesus’ conclusion is: “They worship me in vain…” – no true worship is taking place.
• Because they were actually exalting tradition and not God.
First, worship must be genuine. It must come from the heart.
• It must be something you do inside of you which is deep and real.
• It cannot be superficial, it cannot be shallow.
• It cannot be something done with the mind but not with the heart.
Anything less is hypocrisy.
Second, worship is therefore personal.
We can participate in a service together corporately, but worship is only what is going on inside of you.
• It is "in spirit" - your spirit. It is your attitude toward the greatness and glory of God, your response to His goodness and His truth, which is worship.
• It has nothing to do with what your body is doing at the moment, whether it is bowing, or closing your eyes, or saying certain words, or whatever.
God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and in truth
• Worship therefore is something that goes on in the human heart.
• Not in a particular place, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well.
• All the external forms are there to help you worship God with your heart.
• They are there to help direct our focus to the One we are worshipping.
If our attention is being drawn to the forms (or traditions), then we’ve missed it!