The False Assurance of Tradition
Tradition. There is nothing which gives men a false assurance like human tradition. The poison of tradition promises security but subtly brings damnation. It tells a man that he can be the captain of his own ship, the master of his own way when in reality he is a stowaway, imprisoned in sin. It promises heaven on the back of human exertion thus neglecting an essential tenant of the Gospel; no work can earn salvation. Salvation is a gift of God, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2). If salvation were dependant on human engagement in tradition, then who would receive the glory for salvation? Man. If man were to receive even part of the glory for his salvation then God would cease being the full source of our salvation. No. Salvation is fully the work of God, whereby He saves a soul to the praise of His mercy and grace. We see in Mark 7 that Jesus confronts the tradition of men in no light manner. It begins as Jesus' disciples are violating the Jewish "laws" of purification. Many of these laws were added by men seeking power. Seemingly this was one such case. The Pharisees and Scribes see Jesus' disciples neglecting to wash their hands and quickly issue their judgment. Jesus interjects and offers a scathing critique of tradition stating:
"You have the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8)
Men desire to hold something in their hands. They desire to hold something that will give them assurance that they have been made right with God. Neither Pope, nor tradition, nor good work, will give the security man seeks. The only security that man can find rest in is the blood of Christ. Good works last for a fleeting moment, Papal figures die, and tradition changes as cultures change. Only the blood of Christ will never change. Place your trust in the blood of Christ and the security you will find therein will never fail nor forsake you (Deut 31:6). However, Jesus does not end his critique here. He goes on:
"You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition." (Mark 7:9)
Religion also has an aesthetical appeal. We have made religion a thing of beauty. Be warned Church, some of the most beautiful things of the eye, are some of the most pervasive things for the soul. Religion without Christ may look orderly. It may cause one to say, "That moved my soul!" but surely that is all it will do. It will not show a man his great need for a great Savior. Religion will have the appearance of godliness, but inside it is dead. Religion will dress up a corpse with the finest linen garb and some of the finest perfume but religion will never change the fact that it is a corpse. Lifeless. Dead. Decaying. Do not be weary of the things which appear simple. Jesus came as an ordinary man. He did not come dressed in the garb of a pope. He did not flaunt his authority. Yet here on earth men flaunt power and wisdom under the guise of religion. Jesus came as an ordinary man but Jesus now reigns as an extraordinary King. The things of God may not appeal to the eye, but surely they will appeal to the soul. Greater than the richest of kings is the poorest adopted son of the King, Jesus. Religion may draw a crowd, but it is the pure preaching of the Word that will lead men to the Kingdom.
Beware of the temptation to sacrifice the message of the Cross for the appeal of man. Tradition may fill the pews on Sunday, but keep in mind that it is also tradition that will fill the depths of hell with the falsely assured. Religion may not wear the garb that it did when Jesus walked the earth, but its close cousin has taken its place. Men still seek to replace the Word of God with the word of man. In many places, we have replaced legalistic religion with an antinomian religion in order to increase the attractiveness of the church. We bash those who preach the truth, while we neglect the commands of God. Men still cling to tradition to fill the pews and neglect the Word of God which fills the Kingdom of God. Rest not on tradition. Rest on the living and active Word of God. Preacher! Always keep close the words of the prophet Isaiah:
"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Isaiah 29:13)
Preach the Cross. Shepherd! Bring your flock to the Cross by way of the Word. Avoid at all cost the ways of men seeking to draw people in all-the-while starving the people placed under his care. Strike the hearts of the people with the sword of the Word! It is better to have a people broken by the Word and comforted by the Lord than a people falsely assured by the traditions of men and comforted by their sin. Preach the Word!