DADDY DIDN'T TELL ME TO DO THAT
"They had a story to tell too. 'And just look at what's been happening here -- thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus! But there's also a problem because they are more zealous than ever in observing the laws of Moses. They've been told that you advise believing Jews who live surrounded by Gentiles to go light on Moses, telling them that they don't need to circumcise their children or keep up the old traditions. This isn't sitting well with them." Acts 21:20-21 (The Message).
Tradition versus truth; culture versus Christ. This issue is as old as the church itself and older. It was the struggle Jesus had with His religious opponents then, and it continues to this day.
The Judaisers were a sect of Christianity which insisted on obedience to the Mosaic Law as a condition for salvation. They not only adhered to it themselves but they also imposed it on Gentile believers. The sign of their compliance was circumcision. Gentiles had to submit to circumcision first before they could be a part of the church.
Paul quickly recognised the danger in this practice. He wrote a heated letter to the church in Galatia which was being harassed by these false teachers, exposing the error and implications of this teaching. To add anything to the work of Jesus on the cross was to nullify the grace of God and plunge people back into slavery to the law which was unable to deliver them from the power of their sinful natures.
Tradition can a powerful weapon in the devil's arsenal if it believed above the Word of God. Take, for example, the so-called "Christian" festivals of Christmas and Easter. The very names of these seasons have deep roots in paganism and the occult. If anyone mentions this truth, the heckles of many Christians rise, and they fiercely defend what they are doing because they believe they are celebrating the birth and death of Jesus.
But the church is doing exactly what God hated and opposed in His own people. In both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, the people worshipped God, so they thought, by doing it their way, mixing their pagan practices with worship of the God who had revealed Himself to them. What was the fruit of this mixture? Social injustice, oppression of the poor and wicked living. They even went as far as burning their children to the god, Molech in the name of worship.
We only have to look at the fruit of these "Christian celebrations" to identify their root -- wasteful use of God's resources, drunkenness, gluttony, debt, carnage on the roads, loneliness, suicide, greed, discontent and so much more. The fruit always exposes the root.
If we have embraced Jesus and bowed to Him as Lord, we don't need a day or a season to remember either His birth or His death. Who He is and what He did is woven into the very fabric of our lives. He told us how and when to remember His death -- through baptism and the Lord's Supper. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." 1 Corinthians 11:26 (NIV).
Jesus told the Pharisees, 'You nullify the word of God by your tradition.' It is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that gives us access to the Father and to the grace that accepts us because of Him. Any effort on our part to win the favour of God by obeying laws or trying to impress Him by our "goodness", cancels His grace, puts us back into slavery, and separates us from Him again.
Slavish adherence to traditions like Christmas and Easter are only the tip of the iceberg. How many other traditions have crept into the church from the world that have nothing to do with what Jesus came to do and to tell. How much religion is there is our belief systems that occupy us and distract us from the true worship of God.
James puts it in a nutshell: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 (NIV).
We must never fall for any lie that overrides God's Word and sets human wisdom or tradition above what He has said. His Word is our standard. Let's follow our Master who told the devil, 'Daddy didn't tell me to do that!'
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