Religion, Traditions and Our Need for a Savior
Mark 7:1 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.) 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 ."
The people that we talk to about the Bible who seem the most cold, reluctant and unwilling to discuss or listen are usually those with strong religious backgrounds who have become set in their ways of traditional thinking and theology. Some have decided to simply trust in a religions organization or some spiritual leader without attempting to study the Scriptures themselves or even think critically about the things that they believe about God and the Bible. The Pharisees were the most religious group of people in the time of Christ. They were well educated in the Law of Moses from a purely academic or technical point of view and even then our Lord had to correct the way that they thought on several occasions. They were legalists that tried to follow the very letter of the Law in an attempt to gain favor with God and they even went so far as to add to the Law so that they could be even more “righteous”. Those additions to the Law became the standard and anyone who did not follow their man made traditions were considered condemned. These religious leaders had set themselves up to be an elite group who thought they had all the answers. They believed they were more spiritual and closer to God than anyone else. Jesus certainly did not agree. Just read Matthew 23 to see what he thought of Pharisees! Look at the attitude of the Pharisee in the passage below:
Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Notice what Jesus says about sinners here:
Mark 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick . I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
This spiritual application reveals that the so-called “self righteous” do not think they need a savior. But those who are sick (the sinners) realize their condition and understand that they need a doctor. That doctor is our savior - Jesus. Jesus says that money collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom before the religious leaders! Why? They have not sold their mind, heart, and soul to religion. The sinners can see their spiritual need for a savior:
Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Religion and tradition seem to be the greatest barriers keeping people from seeing their need for Christ. To the observers, the religious organizations represent all of Christendom and they are not interested in learning any more about them. Those within these organizations have become blinded by the traditions and doctrines that have been taught to them and they see no need to seek the truth. They feel as if though they already found it. Religion has a hold on many people. They feel that if they do the right things, say the right things, and act the right way then the favor of God will be upon them. They have been deceived into thinking that religion is the ticket to heaven. Thus talking to them any further about the truth seems to fall on deaf ears. It is easier for them to trust the man behind the pulpit or their denominational leader than it is to study the Bible on their own. Many people have justified their lack of searching for the truth by hiding behind many different masks. The most popular are: “I don’t have time”, “It s too hard”, “Who knows which religion is right.” There are many more reasons that are given. But are we not talking about all of eternity? Everyone should take some serious time in his or her life to really investigate the Bible to determine the truth! We have heard many excuses for not wanting to spend time learning. But the traditions of religion certainly seem to be the most unnoticed of them all.
We pray that no matter what religion or tradition you have been taught, that you will be willing to see that we all need a savior and that no organization holds the ticket to heaven. Be willing to test what you are being taught by reading God's Word.