by Jeannette Haley
Have you ever caught yourself going along with the crowd without making a conscious decision to do so? I am sure we have all had this experience only to perhaps later wonder why we allowed ourselves to march to someone else’s drumbeat. On the other hand, you may never have stopped to ask yourself why you do what you do or realize how big a role conditioning plays in your life.
Some of the contributing factors that condition, or form, our opinions, ideas, concepts and beliefs are parents, family, friends, culture and religion. From the time we are born these external influences work to shape and mold our world view of life in general and habit patterns in particular. Admittedly, while all of us hold to certain family, cultural and/or religious traditions how often do we stop and question if they line up to God in Spirit and Truth?
People define the word “tradition” according to their own perceptions and beliefs. To some tradition means adhering to the practice of regular church attendance, paying tithes, unquestioned devotion and support of the pastor and participating in church activities. Other believers, however, view tradition as a set of man-made rules and regulations that are void of life and truth. Who is right?
The Word of God addresses both of these issues. For example, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” 2 Thess. 3:6. Disorderly in this verse means unruly or insubordinate. Obviously, such a person demonstrated outright rebellion against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The traditions Paul established for the New Testament Church are contained in all of his epistles and summed up in this statement,“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1 Cor. 2:2.
Concerning traditions of men, Jesus spoke sharply against them. You can read His words in Matthew 15:1-6 and Mark 7:6-9. See also 1 Pet. 1:8. Jesus soundly condemned the “traditions of men” because those traditions not only brought people into bondage but into rebellion against God as well. Clearly we cannot serve two masters—we cannot hold to the tradition of men and obey the commandment of God at the same time. In Matthew 22:36-40 we read, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
As Christians, our tradition should be our foundation, or Jesus Christ. The only traditions or ordinances for His body, the Church, that Christ Himself established are baptism and communion. A careful reading of the Book of Acts reveals that the early church was of one heart and of one soul”and that they did not consider their worldly possessions their own but rather shared with those in need so that none lacked. (See Acts 4:32-37.) This powerful church “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2:42. The result was, “fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles…” vs. 43. These people loved one another, were evangelistic and supportive of missions to the unsaved. In other words, their lives produced the fruit of the Spirit.
Through the centuries the remnant of true believers have found themselves at odds with the established, religious systems that demand conformity to their religious standards. We are all familiar with the great Protestant Reformation that was based upon the scripture,“The just shall live by faith.” And it is our faith that Satan wants to erode, pervert, sidetrack and destroy. Satan’s most powerful and subtle method of deception is to substitute religious traditions of men for a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
Multitudes of people believe they are heaven-bound because of their church traditions. The truth is genuine Christianity has nothing to do with bigger, better church edifices that are usually competitive monuments to man. It has nothing to do with expensive sound systems that can rock the neighborhood for blocks around the church. Real Christianity has nothing to do with weekly entertainment or with a “the show must go on” mentality. Jesus is not into endless church programs and activities that keep everyone so busy they have no time to draw apart to Him. These aretraditional cultural practices that most people rarely stop to question. Why? Because, humanly speaking, we all need to belong and to feel secure–need to socialize with people who, for the most part, believe as we do. Church activities can also serve to feed our religious pride and deceive us into thinking we are surely “saved”. They can also be a substitute for our own active involvement in sharing the Gospel with the lost.
Sadly, all too often the real Jesus is simply tacked on to our busy lives which leads one to live a sort of “Christian culture” rather than realizing true Christianity is a daily vital, living relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Heaven-bound Christians know that this relationship involves dying to self and obedience to God in thought, word and deed.
Today there is a famine in the land for the pure Word of God. People are hungry for the Bread from Heaven–thirsty for the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit. They are tired of being pumped up, put down, prodded, pushed and placated. There is a heart cry for the truth that sets free and for the real Jesus. They are sick of the religious games, the empty words, the hollow, repetitive, hypnotic choruses and the incessant appeals for money to build men’s little kingdoms on earth. In other words, some people are beginning to question their conditioning.
What about you? Are you tired of jumping through the religious, traditional hoops of men rather than following Jesus and being about your Father’s business? Are you truly satisfied being a spectator rather than a participator in serving the Lord? Have you spent time before the Lord and inquired of Him where He wants you to invest your time, energy and resources or have you been conditioned by the traditions of men, or worse yet, by a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Have you wandered off of the straight and narrow to follow a charismatic leader rather than Christ Jesus? Remember, Oh Christian, your church didn’t die for you, neither did your pastor or “prophet” or any other man (or so-called “ministry”). Jesus Christ is the only one died for your sins and rose again for your justification.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” Rev. 22:17. Will you come, just as you are? Jesus is waiting.