Sermon title:  MAN-MADE RELIGION vs GOD’S

Mark 7:5-9, 13-23                Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 19, 2018

 

 

In our Responsive Reading this morning

we see our Lord Jesus coming into open conflict

with the religious teachers and preachers of his day.

 

It’s a conflict

that runs the entire course

of Jesus’ ministry here on earth.

 

He was always coming up against the religious leaders of the Jews.

 

But, here, he hits the nail on the head

as to why he was in conflict

with the preachers of that day.

 

It’s right there in Mark 7, Verse 7

where Jesus is quoting from the book of Isaiah,

and it says

7 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are but rules taught by men.'

 

And then he explains,

8 You have let go of the commands of God

and are holding on to the traditions of men."

 

He repeats the accusation,

when he goes on to say,

"You have a fine way of

setting aside the commands of God

in order to observe your own traditions!

 

Thus you nullify the word of God

by your tradition that you have handed down.

 

So, instead of preaching and teaching God’s religion,

Jesus says those preachers

were preaching your own traditions”

“traditions of men”

your tradition that you have handed down”

 

So, it was man-made religion,

not the commands of God

that they were teaching.

 

And that really wasn’t anything new.

 

Man-made religion has a long history.

 

After the nations were scattered about

when God forced them to stop building the Tower of Babel

each tribe or national group invented their own

‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’—

instead of remembering the true God.

 

The Greeks had a whole pantheon of ‘gods’

headed by Zeus

and including Poseidon, Hermes and Aphrodite.

 

The Romans adopted the Greek ‘gods’ and gave them different names

including Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury and Venus

also naming planets after them.

 

All over the ancient world,

kings and emperors declared themselves to be ‘gods’

and demanded worship.

 

That was obviously man-made religion—

worship of a man.

 

Examples of that are found in the Pharaohs of Egypt

and the Caesars of Rome.

 

In fact, as the Gospel of Christ spread across the Roman empire,

the governing authorities tried to force Christians

to worship Caesar,

by burning a pinch of incense on his altar.

 

They were told they could continue to be Christians

but had to worship Caesar too—

just put a pinch of incense on Caesar’s altar once a year.

 

Faithful Christians refused to do that.

They gave their exclusive devotion to Christ alone.

Thousands were executed as a result.

 

-------------------------------------------

 

Well over a thousand years before Christ came to earth

God intervened by stepping into that pagan world.

 

He did it in a very small way

by revealing himself to a humble man named Abram—

who God renamed Abraham.

 

Abraham lived like a nomad,

with his family living in tents

and moving about from place to place,

from one nation to another.

 

God promised Abraham that he would give his offspring

the land we know today as the land of Israel.

 

God renewed that promise to Abraham’s son Isaac,

and to his grandson Jacob,

who God renamed Israel.

 

After Israel’s offspring had spent hundreds of years

as slaves in Egypt,

God used Moses to set them free

and to lead them to the edge of that Promised Land.

 

God also used Moses

to give the new nation of Israel

the Ten Commandments

and some 600 other laws.

 

Those laws governed the new nation

occupying the Promised Land.

 

Many of those laws spelled out

how God wanted the Jews to worship him.

 

And that was the beginning

of true God-ordained organized religion.

 

The Jews quit practicing

the man-made religion they had known in Egypt.

 

Instead, they now began practicing the form of worship

that God gave them.

 

It was not man-made;

it was decreed by God himself.

 

As long as the Jews followed the laws of Moses,

they were practicing true religion.

 

But it didn’t last for long.

 

While Moses was on the mountain-top

receiving the Ten Commandments from God,

his brother Aaron made a golden calf, and idol,

and the Jews began worshiping it.

 

Moses whipped them back into shape,

but the same thing happened over and over again,

with the Jews leaving their God-ordained true worship,

and turning aside, instead,

to man-made forms of religion.

 

After the death of King David’s son, King Solomon,

political rivalry divided the Promised Land

into two nations

with the Kingdom of Israel to the north

and the much smaller Kingdom of Judah to the south.

 

Jeroboam, the King of Israel

didn’t want his people traveling south

to worship at God’s temple

in Jerusalem –which was in the other kingdom,

Kingdom of Judah.

 

So, he had a couple of golden calf idols

set up in his own territory

and he appointed priests to lead the people

in the worship of those false ‘gods.’

 

The southern Kingdom of Judah

did a little better for a while,

but they, too, eventually took up idol worship.

 

They stopped reading the books of Moses,

and they let God’s temple in Jerusalem

fall into disrepair.

 

God warned the Jews through a series of prophets,

and finally punished them.

 

He had the Assyrians and the Babylonians

carry off the Jews captive to distant lands,

and left Jerusalem desolated for 70 years.

 

During that time of captivity in Babylon,

and over the centuries that followed,

Jewish religious scholars wrote volumes

adding their own laws and traditions

on top of God’s law.

 

In fact, some of their laws and traditions

contradicted God’s laws.

 

And that’s the situation Jesus found them

in Mark Chapter 7,  [ OPEN ]

where this morning’s Responsive Reading was taken from.

 

He found the Jews following their own traditions

instead of God’s laws.

 

Our Reading began with Mark 7, Verse 5,

but I’d like to look at the opening verses of that chapter.

 

Beginning with Mark 7:1, it says,

 

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law

who  had come from Jerusalem

gathered around Jesus and

2 saw some of his disciples eating food

with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed.

 

3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat

unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.

4 When they come from the marketplace

they do not eat unless they wash.

And they observe many other traditions,

such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

 

The Law of Moses that God gave to the Jews

has many provisions to keep them ‘clean’ or ‘kosher.’

 

But this business of hand-washing was not one of those laws.

It was something the religious leaders added, on their own.

 

And they tried to impose these laws that they made up

by pressuring others to obey them,

as we see in Verse 5:

 

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law

asked Jesus,

"Why don't your disciples

live according to the tradition of the elders

instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

 

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."

 

So, Jesus went beyond defending his disciples

against the charge of eating without washing their hands.

 

He also condemned those religious leaders

for teaching

their own laws instead of God’s laws.

 

And Jesus pointed out that they did it

in matters that were much more serious than hand washing:

for example,

they used their own man-made religious laws

as an excuse not to provide for their aging parents.

 

Remember, this was back before the days of Social Security,

back before the days of welfare

and disability payments.

 

So, old people were dependent on their children

to provide for them.

 

But these religious leaders

were teaching the Jews to use their man-made religious laws

to avoid fulfilling that responsibility.

 

9 And he said to them:

"You have a fine way

of setting aside the commands of God

in order to observe your own traditions!

 

10 For Moses said,

'Honor your father and your mother,' and,

'Anyone who curses his father or mother

must be put to death.'

 

11 But you say

that if a man says to his father or mother:

'Whatever help

you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God),

12 then you no longer let him

do anything for his father or mother.

 

So, a son who was following

those man-made religious teachings

might say to his widowed mother,

“Sorry, Mom. 

I know you don’t have much to eat these days,

now that Dad is gone.

But I can’t help you.

All my money is dedicated to God.

I can’t give you anything.”

 

That was obviously not what God intended

for the son to do.

 

But the man-made religion of the Pharisees

taught that it was okay to treat your mother that way.

 

And in Verse 13,

Jesus indicated that was just the tip of the iceberg:

 

13 Thus you nullify the word of God

by your tradition that you have handed down.

And you do many things like that."

 

And, as for the hand-washing nonsense,

 

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone,

and understand this.

15 Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean'

by going into him.

Rather, it is what comes out of a man

that makes him 'unclean.' "

 

But his disciples still didn’t get it

about the hand-washing business:

 

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.

 

18 "Are you so dull?" he asked.

 

"Don't you see

that nothing that enters a man from the outside

can make him 'unclean'?

19 For it doesn't go into his heart

but into his stomach,

and then out of his body."

(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

 

In other words, Jesus was not going to impose a Kosher diet

 on his Christian followers.

And that’s why Christians today don’t follow a Jewish Kosher diet.

 

20 He went on:

"What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'

21 For from within, out of men's hearts,

come evil thoughts, sexual immorality,

theft, murder, adultery,

22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

23 All these evils come from inside

and make a man 'unclean.' "

 

So, our Lord Jesus did battle verbally

with teachers of man-made religion.

 

He exposed their false teachings

that didn’t come from God,

but were instead man-made traditions.

 

We, today, need to do this, too,

because there are many man-made religions today.

 

And these man-made traditions today

do just as much harm—or more.

 

Just as false teachers in Israel over the centuries

introduced human traditions

in place of God’s laws,

in the same way, false teachers

have introduced human traditions

in place of God’s teachings in Christian churches.

 

Churches where this has happened

may no longer even be Christian,

even though the sign outside their building says they are.

 

We’ve seen examples in the news

over the past week or so,

as new information has come to light

about clergy sex abuse

and the hierarchy’s cover-up.

 

In just one section of Pennsylvania,

300 priests are accused of raping

more than 1000 little boys and girls—

with the bishops covering it up

instead of stopping it.

 

If we look at the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy      [ OPEN  ]

we’ll see how Paul described false teachers

and where their man-made teachings

really come from—

and how such religious leaders

have no conscience.

 

It’s in the 4th Chapter of First Timothy, beginning with Verse 1:

 

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times

some will abandon the faith

and follow deceiving spirits

and things taught by demons.

 

2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

3 They forbid people to marry

 

--That’s where the teaching of priestly celibacy comes from.

And that policy of forbidding priests to marry

helped give rise to seminaries

attracting homosexuals and pedophiles

to become priests.

 

Once the hierarchy’s 

consciences [were] seared as with a hot iron

their consciences were like scarred, calloused skin

that no longer feels anything.

 

With their “consciences seared” they could tell hypocritical lies

and cover up the harm

that the priests kept on inflicting

on innocent little boys and girls.

 

And this isn’t anything new.

 

500 years ago, Martin Luther wrote that

“The church of Rome . . . has become

the most lawless den of thieves,

the most shameless of brothels.”

 

He compared the Vatican hierarchy to a house of prostitution.

 

Jesus and the Bible writers

used similar strong language

in condemning man-made religion.

 

So, we shouldn’t hold back from using strong language, too.

 

In fact, Matthew 15:12 tells us that

 

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked,

"Do you know that the Pharisees were offended

when they heard this?"

13 He replied, "Every plant

that my heavenly Father has not planted

will be pulled up by the roots.

14 Leave them; they are blind guides.

If a blind man leads a blind man,

both will fall into a pit."

 

So, it didn’t bother Jesus

that the Pharisees were offended

when Jesus spoke so strongly about them.

 

And we shouldn’t be worried

when people today are offended by our message.

------------------------

 

And it’s not just the Vatican’s religion that is man-made.

 

There are many groups today that call themselves “Christian”

but that are really teaching man-made doctrines.

 

And some of those groups attract great crowds and fill churches.

 

The Gospels tell us

how our Lord Jesus fed 5000 people miraculously

with just a handful of bread and fish.

 

Those 5,000 people

showed up again the next day, but Jesus told them,

“You seek Me, not because you saw signs,

but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

 

When he preached a hard message to them

instead of supplying more bread and fish,

they quit following him. 

 

Some churches draw crowds of 5,000 today

by offering them a rock concert

instead of the Word of God,

and by ‘setting aside the commands of God

in order to [follow man-made] traditions.’

 

Some really are preaching the Word of God

along with the rock concert,

but there are many

that are holding back

from preaching what God says

about “sexual immorality,

theft, murder, adultery,

greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”

 

Some may hold back from preaching

those hard things from the Word of God

for financial reasons.

 

The Apostle Paul warned about that

at 1 Timothy Chapter 6, beginning with Verse 3.  [ OPEN]

 

He pointed out there that

financial gain motivates some false teachers.

 

The big crowds that rock concerts attract

bring in more money

than the smaller audiences

who are willing to hear

what the Bible says about sin and repentance.

 

In 1 Timothy Chapter 6, beginning with Verse 3

Paul wrote,

If anyone teaches false doctrines

and does not agree to the sound instruction

of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,

4 he is conceited and understands nothing.

 

And then Paul refers to them as

“men of corrupt mind,

who have been robbed of the truth

and who think that godliness

is a means to financial gain.”

 

Men who are in the ministry

for financial gain

are not going to give you

the pure Word of God.

 

At Colossians 2:8 Paul told us to be on guard.

against such preachers, when he said,

“See to it that no one takes you captive

through hollow and deceptive philosophy,

which depends on human tradition

and the basic principles of this world

rather than on Christ.”

 

Loyalty to God

requires us to

“preach God’s message...

even if it isn’t the popular thing to do.” (2 Timothy 4:2 CEV)

 

And the emptying of churches

all across Europe and this country, too,

shows that God’s message isn’t popular today.

 

In his 2nd Letter to Timothy, Chapter 4,

the Apostle Paul warned about this.

 

In 2 Timothy 4:2 he said,

“Preach the Word;

be prepared in season and out of season;

correct, rebuke and encourage—

with great patience and careful instruction.

For the time will come

when men will not put up with sound doctrine.

Instead, to suit their own desires,

they will gather around them

a great number of teachers

to say what their itching ears want to hear.

They will turn their ears away from the truth

and turn aside to myths.”

 

The best protection against such man-made religion

is to have the true religion in your heart and mind.

 

When you turn to God in prayer,

repenting of your sins,

and accepting the forgiveness Jesus gives,

God sends his Holy Spirit into your heart

to teach you and guide you in the way of truth.

 

And then continue to read the written Word of God.

 

Prayerfully read it so often

that the Bible shapes your thinking.

 

It will keep you safe from the peddlers of man-made religion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s pray               Hymn # 353  Onward Christian Soldiers